Monday, January 31, 2011

Batt Wins Ag Summit Lifetime Achievement Award

Citizen Batt, An interview with the former Governor and Idaho’s most famous Onion farmer

Interview and photo by Jake Putnam

What’s your earliest memory of farming?

Well my Dad, we had four siblings, two sisters, two brothers and he had us doing farm chores as soon as we could walk. I remember at six years old I was digging up wire work out of lettuce. We were always doing something out on the farm.

What brought you into politics?

I was involved in farm organizations that proved to me that you could get things done collectively. I had no political aspiration. My brother was in the legislature for a term but didn’t like it and quit. I got into it but never ran more than six years; I had my own term limitations. I just think it’s a good system if you don’t make it too political. I think people tend to lose their objectivity particularly if they are in too long. I was an advocate of term limits, but I can see why they’re probably unconstitutional.

Are we losing touch with where our food is coming from?

It’s really too bad, everyone should have the experience of growing their own food; it’s one of the finest you can have. That said, agriculture has become so efficient that we’re depending on fewer true famers all the time. They’re being replaced by a lot of big operations, so it’s very difficult to get the same experience. I think it’s one reason that gardening is becoming so popular; but it’s a good substitute.

You were one of the Founding fathers of the Food Producers of Idaho, how did that happen?

It came to be because we were having difficulties with farm labor organizations. We were being accused of some very bad practices which we were not guilty of and I think Doyle Symms and a few others thought we needed to get organized and present the true side of farming and its relationship with labor.

Your legacy as governor and lawmaker will forever be tied to epic water battles, is water still the activist lynch pin it’s been in the past?

It was and is the life’s blood of Idaho agriculture. All the other facets of Idaho life would drastically change a limited water supply and we wouldn’t amount to much economically.

How did you balance the Endangered Species Act with Idaho water demands during your administration?

We had to make sure there were scientific basis for all uses of water, I don’t think it’s ever been demonstrated that if they took all of Idaho’s water that it would do much for the species so, we argued on that basis. We did agree to divert a certain number of cubic feet down the river each year which we thought was adequate, which we could afford at the time.

What attracted you to hops, it can be a very difficult crop to grow, yet your operation thrived?

My family, my cousins and uncle were into Hops before I was. They made some good money at it, so I thought I’d give it a try. It’s a very interesting crop and as you know, labor intensive. Other than that it’s just a beautiful, fine crop to raise. I still dream about it now.

In the farm world you are best known for onions, tell us about your operation and how the operation grew through the years?

I always raised a few onions but thought the packers made too much money, so I partnered up and opened my own shed. I wanted to try and cut out the middleman. It grew into a fair sized operation through the years. It was very interesting and I made a little money on it.

As mentioned before, Food Producers of Idaho was born out of Caesar Chavez movement, and yet you were one of the first farmers to take a stand on civil rights in Idaho; Your thoughts on farm labor?

I worked with my laborers and hired hands all my life and learned to admire them all. The people I used to work with, the first gang from the dust bowl days blew in from the Midwest to out here. They were very industrious people and then we started importing braceros from Mexico, we even had prisoners of war and I had a great deal of empathy for all of the workers. I worked with them side by side. I became aware of one thing: A person is a person and should not be looked down upon for being farm labor or any other occupation. But there was a great deal of discrimination practiced particularly against Mexican workers. I didn’t like that and made sure that all were treated on an equal basis as we could. I tried to keep from hiring illegals. Our hired hands have been most helpful, I couldn’t have done it without them, and worked to give them as many rights as we could give them.

You were instrumental in building the Wilder labor camp?

Yes we put in a housing project, my cousin Wendell was a big gun in it and it was a model in all labor camps at that time. We had some real bad ones before then. It was obvious that we needed new ones and I worked hard on field facilities. We didn’t have any toilets in the field. The disgrace! To make people go a quarter mile away to a ditch? We took care of that more or less. Of course I formed the first Human Rights Commission in Idaho, not only for that group but others who felt discrimination in Idaho and there was plenty at the time. I’m proud of Idaho for doing it; in a way I think we are one of the most tolerant of all states now. It’s a balancing act to look out after all of those rights without intruding unnecessarily on other people’s lives with too much government, I think we have a good set up here.

You served during a time when there was a sense of civility in government; you had respect for those across the aisle. Have we lost that can do attitude?

It’s a shame. I’ve been digging through some of my old clippings. There was an amazing difference in the way we treated each other not only in the legislature but everywhere. Most striking was in the legislature where people really had respect for each other and argued things on a reasonable basis and came to the proper conclusions. I think we did a really good job. The press was much more objective back in those days. They gave us credit for good things as well as bad, and gave us the benefit of the doubt whenever they could. It was just a far better procedure than it is now.

You were friends and worked closely with Cecil Andrus in the legislature:

That’s a very good friendship in which I’m very proud. We were not the only ones to develop teamwork and friendship across the aisle; it was very common in those days. We’d argue like heck in the daytime and then have a cool one in the evening and talk things over. Sure, we were proud of our parties, we didn’t make them the dominant part of it; it was all about Idaho.

Probably something many don’t know about you, you’re a writer, a poet, a jazz musician and composer, anything new in the works?

I wonder why I quit. I’m 83 will be 84 next month, it’s hard to concentrate on things like that.

And your music?

I still play a little music; whenever I can, I love it.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Idaho Ranch Life

The Great Winter Cattle Drive
By Jake Putnam, photos by Kimmel Dalley

Elko--Dawn broke clear on the morning of January 3rd outside of Deeth, Nevada.

Cowhands unloaded horse trailers then saddled up nearly a dozen horses in bone-jarring cold. The rolling desert was dusted with snow, Blackfoot rancher Chris Dalley set out to move his cattle to greener or at least better pastures on this cold January day.

“Usually we just haul them home and start feeding them, but I found this place and it’ll last us,” said Dalley. “Depending on the weather we’ll get another month to six weeks, and we don’t have to feed so much hay.”

In life imitating art, the great winter cattle drive of 2011 had the look and feel of the 1972 John Wayne movie, “The Cowboys.” In the film, Wayne had to replace his drovers with kid cowhands after the pokes left him for goldfields. Chris Dalley had six pint-size drovers helping him on this morning, but all started riding in diapers, freezing cold or not this was a group of seasoned cowhands.

"The secret to staying warm,” said 12 year old Naomi Dalley, “dress in layers and keep hand-warmers in your pockets,” spoken like a veteran drover.

At first glance the desert looks inhospitable this time of year but under the snow is crescent wheat grass and lots of it. The Dalleys needed move the herd to Clover, Nevada to get to the new range, about 50 miles across the Starr Valley.

"It’s just high desert grass,” said Chris Dalley. “Cows do so much better because it’s natural for them to graze it, so they’ll do much better grazing even if they have to dig for it and they do better grazing than feeding. I got cattle at home and the range cattle look better.”

Twin Falls County Farm Bureau Board member Brett Meyer also pitched in, he’s known far and wide for his cowboy skills as well as 18 year-old Tanner Hawkins and 11 year-old brother Trayce from Weiser, not to mention Naomi and 9-year old Quinci Dalley.

"This was the first of many winter drives to this location, this is good range” explained Kimmel Dalley. “We dealt with temperatures from 5 to 15 degrees but settled in around 10-degrees until the sun went down then it got very cold, and two days we were still pushing cattle in the dark.”

The first day was the longest, but the drive went off without a hitch. When nightfall came the drovers all retired to a nearby ranch and got warmed up after the long day."We stayed in the bunkhouse, found something to eat and then played a game or two and went to bed. I slept really well and I got to sleep in a bedroll,” said Naomi Dalley.

On the second day it was cattle drive ‘ground hot day’ explained Kimmel. They picked up where they left off the day before; saddled up and drove cattle again till just after dark. "We didn’t see any coyotes; but saw lots of antelope running around,” said Chris.

With two days down there was a growing feeling of pride and accomplishment amongst the drovers despite the cold. "But you know it wasn’t that bad," said Chris. The last day we got pretty cold. If you get too cold you can get off your horse and start walking and that warms you up it thaws out your feet.” Dalley added that the kids could get off their horses whenever they wanted to get in the truck but for the most part toughed it out.

On the third day the cattle were tired and the crew spent a lot of time picking up stragglers. “We had a cow that wouldn’t move, I went to get her and she came at my horse, well the horse kicked her and that didn’t help things. So I went to get my Dad and she attacked my Dad,” chuckled Naomi.“That old girl figured she was done,” added Chris Dalley. "She was just mad, she wanted to chase around the bush. I got her up close to the road, threw a rope around her, backed the pickup and loaded her in the trailer. She was just done and tired; it was quite a trek in three days.”

"Kimmel Dalley says the cattle drives are priceless in teaching kid’s life’s lessons. “They learn how to deal with cattle, how to read body movements, horsemanship. Also the way we take care of the cattle is also very important, patience. Brett Meyer talked to the kids about ‘pushing through the pain until the job is done’.

Chris Dalley says that’s what it’s all about. “That’s why we run cattle; we run cattle to raise a family. I want my kids to be involved in it like I am, that’s the whole key-- have them come, help, and enjoy it.”

"The kids never complained one time about the cold. “The second night, we drove them cows for three miles in the dark. Those kids just hunkered down and I like to see that, I love to see my kids enjoy what I enjoy doing.” Kimmel adds: “We can always have fun, in work and in play, they learn respect and how to work hard and that nothing in life is free.”

The Great Winter Cattle drive of 2011 will live on in family lore with friendships and family bonds tighter than a cinch strap.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Just in--

Near Wilder Idaho, Jake Putnam photo

Round- up Ready Alfalfa Approved by USDA

Washington-In a surprise move late Thursday, The U.S. Department of Agriculture granted non-regulated status for alfalfa.

The decision comes as a crushing blow to radical environmental groups because the decision came with no-strings attached. The groups had successfully blocked the sale of the genetically engineered alfalfa for nearly four years and the group’s success had bolstered their confidence in the war against GMO products.

Growers fear that the decision could skyrocket GE seed prices. But developers Monsanto and Forage Genetics say alfalfa will come with the same tech fee charged when the seeds were banned four years ago. That fee should be about $125 per bag for the intermountain area.

The President of the Forage Genetics, Mark McCaslin, says there’s plenty of seed available for farmers when they start spring planting just two months away..

Farmers plant more than 20 million acres of alfalfa each year in the U.S. and iIt’s the fourth largest crop in the nation. GE alfalfa joins three other major crops including 93 percent of the U.S. soybean crop, 86 percent of the corn crop and 93 percent of cotton crop. No word yet on the pending sugar beet crop of 2011.

Just in from Washington

Vilsack: President Follows Road Map Laid Out by Farmers

Washington--Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said President Barack Obama’s State of the Union delivered Tuesday followed a roadmap laid out by the nation’s farmers.

Vilsack said the president emphasized that the government needs to spend less and spend wisely and get serious about deficit reduction, and the U.S. must take the lead globally in innovation. The secretary said this is the same formula used by agriculture.

“If you look at farmers and ranchers around the country they recognize they can’t be overburdened with debt; they’ve reduced their debt significantly, they have embraced innovation so they’ve become far more productive, and as a result, we have seen significant increases in exports, which helps the bottom line for farms and ranching operations,” Vilsack said.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

YF&R profiles

Caroline and John Anderson


John Anderson runs one of the largest dairies in the State, he, wife Caroline and family live in Jerome County. I caught up with the Anderson's at the YF&R Leadership Conference in Idaho Falls.

A State report shows that Dairy made a big comeback in 2010, but it’s still a very tight market, what’s happening in the industry?

I think it’s a bit of a misconception that dairy has bounced back. 2010 was a better year especially compared to ’09 where we had lower feed costs and the milk costs were decent. Guys were able to make money, but there was a big hole to dig out of in ’09 in the dairy industry as a whole. Milk prices, while they look okay for 2011, with our feed prices, it looks like a break-even year similar to ’08 and’09. So we’re optimistic, I don’t know if that’s the word or not. We’re optimistic about milk prices but not feed prices.

What about herd size?

That’s the frustrating thing; we get these reports saying that milk was up 2-percent over last year yet herd sizes increased again. I guess that was surprising news with dairymen. I think really it’s just a function of guys looking at the bottom line and how they can milk more efficiently and lower their costs per hundred- weight. The easiest way to lower costs is to make more milk with your fixed costs. It’s more a function of guys trying to survive and doing what they can, that’s why you’re seeing the increase in milk prices. It certainly isn’t the profitability of it that’s driving it up, its guys just trying to stay in business.

Labor continues to be a concern—

Not just diary but across all agriculture. If it becomes even more difficult to get more labor it’s going to be harder to operate, it would affect dairies as much as anyone. Labor is definitely a concern that everyone has. Is there reform that could help? Yes, but it’s got to be the right kind. You have to allow people to come in and legally work. As long as they are here and obeying the laws, we certainly need it.

How’s the availability of feed this year?

As far as dairies are concerned corn, corn silage, grain corn and hay, I don’t think anyone knows what’s going to happen with hay, there’s a bit of a shortage of it right now. I don’t know if anyone knows where hay will be next year. Look at future markets on corn; it could have a huge impact on our feed prices.

So in 2011 what’s the outlook?

Our hope is to just to get through survive and break even in 2011 and we will be happy.

Livestock Recovery Applications due

Cattle on the range--Putnam photo

Farm Service Agency Applications Due by January 31

Boise--Dick Rush, Executive Director of USDA’s Farm Service Agency in Idaho would like to remind eligible livestock producers that January 31, 2011 is the final date to submit applications for two 2010 livestock disaster recovery programs known as LIP, ELAP. These disaster assistance programs are part of the 2008 Farm Bill that provides a safety net for farms and ranches subject to natural disasters.

Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) applications must be submitted by this date to request benefits for 2010 eligible livestock losses. The same deadline applies for eligible producers to submit their Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP) application for losses that occurred during the 2010 calendar year.

Both LIP and ELAP provide assistance to eligible livestock owners and contract growers who have experienced livestock deaths in excess of normal mortality due to adverse weather, including floods, blizzards, disease, wildfires and both extreme heat and cold.

The ELAP program provides benefits for eligible weather-related losses to honey-bees and farm-raised fish. In addition ELAP provides assistance to producers with eligible losses of livestock due to wolf depredation.

The notice of loss for 2010 livestock death loss and eligible losses under both ELAP and LIP programs must have been filed the earlier of; 30 calendar days after the livestock deaths occurred in 2010, or 30 calendar days of when the 2010 loss was apparent. The producers must ensure their 2010 LIP and ELAP applications as well as all supporting documentation and producer eligibility are received in their county office no later than January 31, 2011 to be considered as “timely filed”. Filing a notice of loss is only the first step. A producer must also file an application for either LIP or ELAP.

For more information on these supplemental disaster assistance programs and others, please visit your FSA county office.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Just in from Washington

Tidewater barge on the Columbia River

AFBF: Inaction on FTAs is Hurting U.S. Economy

WASHINGTON-- The inability of Congress and the administration to move three stalled free trade agreements is hurting U.S. economic growth, testified American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman today before the House Ways and Means Committee. Combined, the Korea, Colombia and Panama agreements would add an additional $3 billion to the U.S. economy through agricultural trade.

Once fully implemented, the Korea free trade agreement would trigger $1.8 billion annually in agriculture exports. Gains in exports through the Colombia agreement are estimated at $815 million, while the Panama agreement is estimated to increase U.S. agricultural exports to more than $195 million.

“These trade agreements are not only important to the bottom line of America’s farmers and ranchers but the economic health of our rural communities and the overall U.S. economy,” said Stallman. “There is a long supply chain made up of American workers who get products from the farm gate to foreign consumers. A decline in our exports means a decline in work for those who are a part of that supply chain.”

The Agriculture Department estimates that every billion dollars in agricultural exports supports 9,000 U.S. jobs.

Because the agreements have been stalled for years, a proliferation of trade deals negotiated by U.S. competitors doing business with the three countries have put U.S. agriculture at a disadvantage.

“The debate is no longer simply about generating potential export gains but about how to prevent the loss of existing export markets,” said Stallman, who referenced the billions of dollars being lost in exports to competitors because of the stalled agreements.

For example, from 2000-2009, the Chilean wine market share in Korea rose from 2.4 percent to 21.5 percent, while the U.S. share fell from 17.1 percent to 10.8 percent. In Colombia, the U.S. overall agriculture peak market share was 46 percent in 2008, but dropped in 2010 to 21 percent, being taken over by Argentina.

A recently completed Panama trade deal with Canada threatens to give Canadian exporters a significant competitive edge over the U.S. for products such as beef, pork, beans and various processed foods if the Canadian trade deal enters into effect before the U.S. agreement.

“Inaction has proven to result in loss of market share and forfeiture of economic growth,” said Stallman. “The U.S. government’s inability to move these agreements benefits our foreign competitors while harming U.S. producers and American food supply workers.”

AFBF is urging Congress and the administration to expedite consideration of the three free trade agreements.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

YF&R profiles on Ag

Drew Brammer,(left) explains the finer points of machinery high tech to Bob Smathers, and Jake Putnam of the Idaho Farm Bureau. Steve Ritter photo

Drew Brammer: Good year on the Palouse

Idaho Falls--Drew Brammer is part of a large wheat operation on the Palouse; he got into farming right out of the University of Idaho, he and wife Markita are excited about the future of farming. I talked to Drew at the Young Farmer and Ranchers Leadership Conference in Idaho Falls.

How did this year’s wheat crop shake out?

This year all the wheat we harvested has sold. We wish we hadn’t sold it all because we thought that $6.75 a bushel looked pretty good. Now, I’m hearing from the world markets like Australia that they can’t ship wheat for eight to six months until they get their infrastructure back. Russia burned up last summer in drought they’re freezing out and might not have any wheat. Everything that we are looking at points to a very positive market; the demand for wheat is on the rise. We are wishing we had more wheat to sell but our crop coming up looks pretty good. The fields are melting and we just saw it bare-off a couple of weeks ago.I think with the moisture the pea crop looks pretty good.

Do you think more people will plant more wheat with the current market conditions?

I do, I think there will be a lot more spring wheat this year because of the positive market outlook and out-weighing the other options in our area beans aren’t doing as well as they as they used to, we have some disease issues. People see that when wheat gets above $8-dollars around harvest time they'll look at forward pricing and growing more acres of wheat, if that’s the thing that pencils out the best then there will be a lot more spring wheat planted this year.

What’s the latest on the Port of Lewiston; will that hamper shipping this year?

Actually they are shut down right now. It sounds like the river will be opened by the middle to the end of March. There is some extra trucking available right now. I think at the Port they planned ahead and hauled out as many barges as they could to store up extra space for this time when the river is shut down and there’s also some going by rail and semis but a lot of people planned ahead because they’ve had an extra surcharge that they have been charging us the last couple of years in advance of this whole deal.

Wheat made money this year, was there an investment in equipment or was the money banked for a rainy day?

I've seen quite a few people I know address the emissions issue and invest in the new equipment coming out this next year because it has the required emissions gear that people have been scared about. I’m not sure how it’s all going to work. They all went up to the next level of compliance but still it was across the board some people think inputs are going to be higher this year. It never fails when the market price goes up so does input costs. I think for the most part people were kind of holding on thinking they need to be cautious about what’s going to come, especially this year. Diesel might be $5 dollars a gallon, gas $4 dollars. Overall I think people are being cautious.

Red Tape Impacts on Farming and Ranching

Drivin Cattle on the Clover Highway, Kimmel Dalley Photo

AFBF Outlines Regulations Impacting Agriculture

Washington-- The American Farm Bureau Federation responded to a request in December from Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, seeking information on the negative economic impact of government regulations on farms and ranches.

In a letter sent to Issa earlier this month, AFBF President Bob Stallman said the list of recent federal regulatory actions that have had or may have a negative economic impact on agriculture is long. Stallman provided an outline to Issa of the more important regulatory actions.

Farm Bureau continues to keep watch on regulatory issues being discussed on Capitol Hill. These include legislative attempts to suspend the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations of greenhouse gases; oversight of the regulatory process used by EPA and other agencies; the REINS Act (Regulations by the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act) introduced by Rep. Geoff Davis (R-Ky.); and an effort by members of Congress to use the Congressional Review Act to increase accountability by the executive branch to Congress.

At AFBF’s annual meeting in Atlanta, delegates unanimously adopted a resolution calling for greater congressional oversight of EPA. AFBF is working with members of Congress and other organizations on these efforts.

Monday, January 24, 2011

YF&R profiles

The Tubbs family likes to ride together--Putnam photo

The Tubbs Complete their First Year as YF&R Chairmen

Idaho Falls--Austin Tubbs and wife Maysi run a ranch in the foothills outside of Malad, Idaho. They are completing their first full year as YF and R chairmen. I caught up with Austin at the annual Leadership conference in Idaho Falls.

What’s the purpose of these Leadership conferences?

This is our annual YF&R leadership conference, we hold this every year and we go to different locations throughout the state. The purpose behind the event is to bring Young Farmers and Ranchers from our state together to help build leadership skills, to help them understand what Farm Bureau can do for them, their operations through legislation, through various organizations and also to have a good time. We get to meet each other and it builds you up so that you don’t get discouraged in your operation. We are all in agriculture together.

Tells us about the theme of this year’s conference?

Standup and Speak out is the theme of this year’s conference. We had felt that it’s a brave new world and the media seems to play a bigger role in the world today. We feel that agriculture is going to be left behind or there maybe misconceptions of agriculture; so our farmers and families involved in agriculture need to take a stance and tell our story. People don’t understand what agriculture is anymore. We need to seize the opportunity to tell them by different means, such as Facebook, or in other social Medias, our story.

Over the past year what’s been your greatest challenge?

We have a great committee, we haven’t had any major challenges in the YF&R program, and in fact this is our biggest conference we have ever had. We contribute that to our committee but more important to the county chairmen that get down and do the hard work of getting people involved with YF&R.

Have you experienced any enlightenment with this job?

Oh, you know it’s been a pleasure! Being a chair, I get to sit on the IFBF State Board and it’s a great opportunity to learn all aspects of Farm Bureau and see how things evolve. To me, it’s just been a learning experience and it’s something I enjoy.

YF&R profiles on Ag

2010 a Good Year for the Risenmays

Idaho Falls--Idaho Farm Bureau YF and R member Greg Risenmay farms with his father and wife Leslie on a big rolling farm outside of Osgood, Idaho. The operation includes 2500 irrigated acres, potatoes, forage corn, wheat and alfalfa. I caught up with Greg at the YF&R conference in Idaho Falls.

How will you remember 2010?

You know our crop was really good, we felt we were harvesting potatoes that the size might have been down a little bit, but all things considered it was a top quality crop, yields were respectable and the market was the real story, its real strong and looking up.

Did you hold potatoes back?

We market them throughout the marketing season, just based on market price. We don’t do forward contracting with buyers. We have a sales organization that sells them as we package them. We're in a Co-op group and we average the price from harvest time to late in the summer when we run out of crop, so we kind of share the ups and downs as a group.

Are you encouraged after a good year?

Yes, I was just talking to my Dad the other day, we talked about the optimism in the market. We couldn’t be happier with the movement we've had. It looks like we will finish even stronger than we started, its good and we’re happy.

Going into the 2010 season did you think it was going to be a good year?

Yes, we struggled the year before but we had high hopes and we surely haven’t been let down.

What will you do next year to keep yourself competitive?

It all boils down to making money. We don’t plan on planting more potatoes than last year. We figure a more consistent pattern is the best for the potatoes, so we are not planning on planting more. But there's talk that we might be able to get some contracts with processed potatoes, the contracts look good so that’s of interest to us.

What are your plans for rotation crops?

We are looking to forward-contract with some winter red wheat, that’s a rotation crop that we grow quite a bit, generally we don’t contract too much if we do, we contract just 50-percent of any crop. This year I think we will get pretty close to that 50-percent contracted and hopefully for harvest delivery. The markets are good and with the wheat it’s not like a homerun crop but it’s something you can count on being a good crop

Saturday, January 22, 2011

YF&R Leadership Conference

YF&R Leadership Conference, originally uploaded by IdFarmBureau.

Joel 'The' Bear' Benson supervises the great YF&R bear hunt.

YF&R Leadership Conference

YF&R Leadership Conference, originally uploaded by IdFarmBureau.

One of the popular activies at this years Leadership conference, nerf -bear hunting!

YF&R Leadership Conference

YF&R Leadership Conference, originally uploaded by IdFarmBureau.

Doug and Heather Barrie at the YF&R Leadership conference. Doug says it was a great farming year and that showed at the conference, attendance swelled to a record 200 members.

YF&R Leadership Conference

YF&R Leadership Conference, originally uploaded by IdFarmBureau.

Austin Tubbs delivers opening remarks at the YF and R Leadership Conference in Idaho Falls. Tubbs urged members to Standup and Speak about their farm operations.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Idaho YF&R Conference

Stand Up, Speak Out
Idaho Falls-The Idaho Farm Bureau's Young Farmer and Rancher group are holding their annual Leadership Conference in Idaho Falls. The Theme Stand Up, Speak Out is resonating throughout the hallways of the Shilo Inn in Idaho Falls.
The conference gets underway this morning with a Marketing Feeder Cattle seminar with Rod Sharp from Colorado State University. Clark Johnston will present his marketing seminar at 10:30, The group is hearing a presentation from INEL then taking a field trip to the Anheuser Busch plant in the afternoon.

Young Farmer&Rancher Leadership Conference 2011

Last year's conference in Boise, Ritter photo

YF&R Leadership Conference Underway in Idaho Falls

Idaho Falls--The Idaho Farm Bureau Young Farmer and Rancher Leadership Conference kicks off this afternoon at Shilo Inn in Idaho Falls.

Profitability, increasing government regulations and the impact of activist groups are the top concerns of Idaho’s leading young farmers and ranchers, according to a survey conducted by the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Despite the challenges, 80 percent of those responding to a recent AFBF survey found that YF&R members are more optimistic than they were five years ago, while 82 percent say they are better off than they were five years ago.

The informal survey shows young farmers and ranchers have a high level of apprehension about government climate change regulations, with 79 percent of those surveyed expressing high or very high concern.

A huge majority of those surveyed expressed concern about the impact of activist groups on their farm and ranch operations. A total of 85 percent were concerned or very concerned about activist groups. Only 7 percent expressed little or no concern.

Respondents were asked to rank their top three challenges, and the majority said it was profitability as the top, followed by government regulations, competition from more established farms and ranches, and willingness of parents to share management responsibilities.

And when it comes to what steps the federal government can take to help farmers and ranchers, 23 percent ranked cut federal spending as No. 1. Boosting U.S. agricultural exports ranked second, selected by 14 percent of respondents. Providing greater help to beginning farmers was third at 11 percent.

Young farmers and ranchers are also committed environmental stewards, with 68 percent saying that balancing environmental and economic concerns is important for their operations. The survey says 58 percent used conservation tillage on their farms. The majority of those surveyed, 57 percent, plan to plant biotech crops this year, while 43 percent said they do not plan to do so.

The survey also shows the Internet is an important tool for young farmers and ranchers. Nearly 99 percent said they have access to and use the Internet, with the vast majority, 72 percent, saying they have access to a high-speed Internet connection. Only 20 percent rely on slower dial-up connections and 8 percent turn to more costly satellite connections.

The social media site Facebook is very popular with young farmers and ranchers. Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed have a Facebook page. Ten percent of the young farmers say they use the micro-blogging Web site Twitter, while about 12 percent say they post YouTube videos.

Communicating with consumers is also important, with 77 percent of those surveyed,saying they consider reaching out to the public about agriculture and their operations an important part of their jobs as farmers and ranchers.

“They're recognizing that we need to get out there and talk with our consumers, and they are doing that,” said Jake Putnam, Idaho Farm Bureau Media Manager.“Social media is just another tool in the communications tool shed its a nifty way to reach people who buy and eat the food that we produce, we will have a workshop on all of this on Friday.”

In addition, the Internet is an important tool for the group to access both general and farm news, with 84 percent saying they use the Web for that function. Seventy-two percent said they turn to the Internet to collect buying information for their operations.

The survey also reveals the group’s strong commitment to agriculture, with 96 percent saying they consider themselves life-long farmers or ranchers. “Young farmers and ranchers share the same traditional hopes and values that have always guided agriculture,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “This survey shows that the future of American agriculture is in caring and capable hands.”

Just in from Washington

AFBF President Stallman's Statement On Obama’s

Executive Order on Regulatory Reform

WASHINGTON--The American Farm Bureau Federation welcomes the President’s focus on reforming the regulatory process. Today, farmers, ranchers, and countless other business owners face a long list of federal requirements that are eroding their bottom line; they come in the form of regulations, “guidance”, and any number of other agency pronouncements. All too often, these agency actions are far from transparent and lack full consideration of economic impact – let alone any effort to minimize that impact. The most recent and notable example is the Chesapeake Bay total maximum daily load (TMDL).

“The President’s Executive Order notes that the regulatory system should promote economic growth, be based on the best available science, allow for public participation and an open exchange of ideas, and use the least burdensome tools for accomplishing its ends. EPA’s Chesapeake Bay TMDL rule fails on all these counts. For example, EPA failed to analyze (or at least failed to publicly disclose) the economic impact that would result from its TMDL, even after repeatedly promising to do so. If the new executive order is to have any meaning, we expect it will result in the reconsideration of EPA’s Chesapeake Bay TMDL. Otherwise, we have to wonder whether this Executive Order will bring about any real change.”

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Legislative News

Idaho Farm Bureau Hosts Freshman Lawmakers

Boise--The Idaho Farm Bureau Federation welcomed a handful of newly-elected lawmakers at luncheon Tuesday.

"One of the things we are proud of saying is that we are a grassroots organization. What that means is that our policies--our official positions on a variety of issues, start as resolution from a member at the county farm bureau level," said Idaho Farm Bureau President Frank Priestley, who addressed the incoming lawmakers.

Priestley went to say that the IFBF promotes one of the most critical elements of Idaho's economy. "Idaho agriculture was directly or indirectly responsible for $21-billion dollars in total sales, 20-percent of the Idaho's total sales. Ag also generated nearly 157-thousand jobs, 17 percent of the State's total workforce."

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The 2011 Farm season

Feed Prices: Major Factor for Livestock Profitability

Washington--Feed grain prices will be a major factor for profitability for livestock producers this year. With many analysts expecting corn prices to reach $6 per bushel, profit margins will be reduced and risk management will be critical.

Gerald Shurson, professor of swine nutrition and management at the Department of Animal Science at the University of Minnesota, said high feed prices may cut the profit of pork producers by 80 cents per slaughter pig. High feed costs could mean just a breakeven year for pork producers.

Cattle prices are high, which means cattle producers can still make money, despite higher feed costs, according to Darrell Mark, Extension livestock marketing specialist and associate professor of ag economics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. However, he said risk management will be critical.

Chicken prices, especially prices for breast meat, should move up to cover higher feed costs, according to Bill Roenigk, senior vice president for the National Chicken Council.

--From the Progressive Farmer

Monday, January 17, 2011

Cost of Living

Ethanol and Food Prices: What Experts Say

Washington--Recent news stories about higher food prices often try to make a connection between food prices and the demand for ethanol, an incorrect assumption on the part of ethanol opponents that significantly downplays all the impacts and pressures that affect food prices, noted Bart Schott, president of the National Corn Growers Association, in a recent Ag Professional piece. Studies conducted after the 2008 spike in corn prices help demonstrate this, according to NCGA.

In an April 2009 Congressional Budget Office report, the agency estimated that from April 2007 to April 2008, the rise in the price of corn resulting from expanded production of ethanol contributed between 0.5 and 0.8 percentage points of the 5.1 percent increase in food prices measured by the consumer price index. Over the same period, certain other factors—for example, higher energy costs—had a greater effect on food prices than did the use of ethanol as a motor fuel.

According to a January 2010 report for the United Kingdom’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, “The impact of biofuels on the 2007/08 price spikes is often over-stated. Rather, the evidence suggests biofuels were one of the various drivers of demand in years leading up to the spike, but that many commentators are ascribing too much weight to biofuels as a trigger of the spike.”

The Agriculture Department is forecasting a 2 percent to 3 percent increase in the CPI for all food in 2011. Farm Bureau continues to monitor retail food price trends through its quarterly marketbasket surveys.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

AFBF Annual Meeting Wrap

Farmers near Osgood, Idaho get the 2010 crop in. Jake Putnam photo

Delegates Urge Congressional Oversight of EPA

ATLANTA--Asserting that the Environmental Protection Agency is “implementing an aggressive regulatory program that burdens the nation’s farmers and ranchers,” delegates at the American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting today urged Congress to “pursue vigorous oversight” of the agency.

They cited a recent expansion in EPA regulatory actions aimed at agriculture that ignores farmers’ and ranchers’ “positive contributions to environmental protection.”

In approving the “sense of the delegate body” resolution, the delegates said “congressional action is necessary to restore common sense to environmental regulation on our farms.” EPA, they said, is limiting the use of private property, “encroaching on state land use and water quality planning efforts,” and impeding economic growth.

To change those regulatory trends, the delegates urged Congress to assess the impact EPA’s actions have had on agriculture, conduct a “critical examination of how the agency uses science,” and “determine an adequate budget for necessary agency activities.”

The resolution also asked lawmakers to consider legislation to “halt” EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gases.

Friday, January 14, 2011

AFBF Annual Meeting Wrap

AFBF Calls for Strong Farm Safety Net, EPA Oversight

Atlanta--Delegates at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 92nd annual meeting voted to maintain a strong farm income safety net, address dairy price volatility and urge greater oversight of regulatory actions by the Environmental Protection Agency. As Congress prepares to draft a new farm bill later this year and in 2012, the delegates reiterated their support for extending the concepts of the 2008 farm bill.

“The 2008 farm bill has worked as farmers and ranchers have weathered market ups and downs over the last four years,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “It’s important to maintain a program that protects our nation’s food, fiber and fuel supply and the consumers who rely on agriculture’s productivity.”

Farm program baseline funds should not be diverted outside the farm bill, the delegates said. The new farm bill should maintain a strong “safety net” that consists of direct payments, a simplified Average Crop Revenue Election program and the countercyclical, marketing loan and crop insurance programs. Overall, however, they adopted policy that provides flexibility to move forward with farm policy within the budget framework that will become clearer later this year.

A new direction in dairy policy is needed, according to the delegates, to reduce milk price volatility. Recent years have seen both historical but short-term highs and devastating longer-term lows in milk prices. A resolution approved by the delegates says, in essence, that the dairy price support and Milk Income Loss Contract programs have not performed adequately.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Cuttin wheat

Cuttin wheat, originally uploaded by IdFarmBureau.

Chicago--More good news out of Chicago; the U.S. wheat ending stocks for 2010/11 are projected 40 million bushels lower this month as a reduction in expected feed and residual use is more than offset by higher projected exports.

Exports are projected 50 million bushels higher reflecting the pace of sales and shipments to date and reduced competition with lower foreign supplies of milling quality wheat. At the projected 1.3 billion bushels, exports would be the highest since 1992/93. Most of the increase is expected in Hard Red Winter and Soft Red Winter wheat.

Global 2010/11 wheat supplies are raised slightly this month as increased beginning stocks are mostly offset by lower foreign production. Global ending stocks are raised 1.3 million tons with increases for EU-27, Argentina, and Australia, more than offsetting the U.S. reduction.

Agriculture's Brave New World

Social Media Helps Farmers Connect With Consumers

ATLANTA, January 12, 2011 – Farmers and ranchers attending the Grassroots Engagement with Social Media issues conference at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 92nd annual meeting picked up pointers on how to effectively share their stories and connect with non-farmers.

During a fast-paced presentation, rancher Jeff Fowle and organic dairy farmer Emily Zweber outlined how they have used social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, blogs, YouTube and LinkedIn to connect with non-farmers. Both strongly emphasized the importance of the “human element” and the need to be genuine when using social media or else any attempts are destined to fail.

“Keep it relevant and simple, and make it personal,” Fowle advised when it comes to using social media to forge connections with people interested in learning about how their food is grown. Accomplished on several platforms, he describes Facebook as “social media on training wheels” and a good place for newbies to get started.

Zweber said scheduling time for social media “like any other farm task” and viewing it as a component of an overall marketing strategy has paid off. In addition to organic milk, she and her husband, Tim, raise beef, pork and chickens for direct marketing.

“People do care about what we do on the farm. Everything we do is interesting to non-farmers,” Zweber said.

Dan Toland of the public relations staff at Ohio Farm Bureau and Mace Thornton, deputy director of public relations at AFBF, also offered tips on getting started with social media and how this type of communication is being used by agriculture in general at the session.

Fowle is president of the Ag Chat Foundation, which strives to empower farmers and ranchers to connect communities through social media platforms. Fowle and Zweber, Farm Bureau members in California and Minnesota, respectively, were part of a squad of guest bloggers who posted their perspectives on events and activities in Atlanta to the AFBF Annual Meeting Blog on

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Just in from the AFBF Annual Meeting

2011 Livestock Outlook Characterized by Tight Supplies

ATLANTA--The livestock outlook for 2011 is characterized by tight supplies of beef, pork and poultry which bodes well for producers, but the optimism is tempered by higher feed costs, according to Ron Plain, Extension economist with the University of Missouri.

Plain sees further tightening of the meat supply this year. He said the key to success for livestock producers is to increase demand, which is best achieved through an improving economy. Plain presented the livestock outlook during the 92nd annual meeting of the American Farm Bureau Federation.

“The big uncertainty is meat demand,” Plain said. “Meat is something a lot of people in the world fully enjoy eating and they will eat more of it if they have money in their pockets.”

If the U.S. and the world can move beyond the recession, the improving economy means people will have more money in their pockets, which will bid up the price of meat, according to Plain.

As for the export outlook, Plain said the dollar is becoming steadily weaker and that is good news for U.S. meat exports.

AFBF Annual Meeting in Atlanta

Mike Rowe with Farm Bureau Member Janice Person, Photo courtesy of Person.

Mike Rowe: Farmers Need To Be Their Own Advocates

ATLANTA--Farmers became a big part of “Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe” when Rowe took offense at the saying, “work smarter, not harder.”

“What a silly way to separate knowledge from skill,” Rowe told attendees at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 92nd annual meeting Monday. Rowe decided to celebrate people who work both smart and hard and knew farmers and ranchers do both.

“It seems like every time I go to a farm, there’s some type of issue,” he said, recounting what happened after three farm episodes aired.

On his series “Dirty Jobs,” that airs on the Discovery Channel, Rowe helped a hog farmer with an operation near Las Vegas gather leftover food from casinos, which the farmer cooked in his Rube Goldberg invention and then fed to the hogs. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wrote to him, concerned that the warm food was harming the animals. The Environmental Protection Agency feared gas escaping from a hose under a truck hood might be toxic when in fact it was steam.

Rowe visited a laying hen operation in Buckeye, Ariz., which he said enabled him to give an honest, fair look at caged egg production. Because “we deal with feces from every species,” Rowe used a bobcat to clean up chicken manure that accumulated below the cages. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said his skill with the bobcator lack thereofhad come perilously close to endangering the health of the workers at the farm.

Before a visit to a Craig, Colo., sheep ranch to assist with castrating lambs, Rowe asked the humane society about the preferred method for the procedure and was told how to use a rubber band to accomplish the task. However, he learned that the lambs recovered quickly after the ranchers’ method of clipping and extracting the genitals but would be in pain for up to two days if rubber bands were used. “I saw with my own eyes that it was a kinder, gentler way to do it for the lamb,” he said of the rancher’s procedure.

That got Rowe to thinking: if these experts and agencies were wrong about what they saw on “Dirty Jobs,” what else were they wrong about?

American farmers are surrounded by angry activist groups, each with its own agenda, he said. “Our country is asking you to do more with less every single year and I see a lot of other agendas pushing at you. The rest of the country needs to understand what you guys do on a day-to-day basis. We are not sufficiently astounded that you guys feed [the world] every day.”

Rather than a spokesman, agriculture needs lots of advocates, Rowe said. These advocates can each use their talents to tell their story. He cited Troy Hadrick, a Farm Bureau member in South Dakota whose YouTube video attracted the interest of a furniture company owner who now sponsors a Nascar entry that promotes agriculture during races.

Rowe himself has produced two “brown before green” specials that showcase farmers’ work to care for the earth. “You find a farmer and scrape off the dirt and you’ll find one of the greenest people on the planet,” he said. Saying he was flattered at having been asked to be a spokesman for agriculture, he told Farm Bureau members, “I do believe in my heart of hearts that you are your own best spokesmen.”

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Idaho Farm Bureau at AFBF Annual Meeting in Atlanta

Atlanta--Idaho Delegation at the American Farm Bureau Annual Meeting in Atlanta has reason to smile. The Idaho Farm Bureau won the coveted Pinnacle Award for the second year in a row.

"It's the highest award for States in Category III (memberships between 25,000 and 75,000). The Idaho Farm Bureau had five state achiever awards and three President's awards placing Idaho in the top award category," said Idaho Farm Bureau's Rick Keller.

American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman presented the awards during AFBF’s 92nd annual meeting

Stallman announced winners for overall outstanding program achievement combined with membership growth. The Arizona, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas and Michigan Farm Bureaus received Pinnacle Awards.

The Awards for Excellence and the President’s Awards were presented in five program areas:

  • Agriculture Education and Promotion
  • Leadership Development
  • Member Services
  • Policy Implementation
  • Public Relations and Information

The winning states and the number of Awards for Excellence categories won by each include:

Alabama (4), Arizona (4), Arkansas (4), California (5), Colorado (4), Florida (3), Georgia (4), Idaho (5), Illinois (5), Indiana (5), Kansas (5), Kentucky (5), Louisiana (4), Maryland (5), Michigan (5), Minnesota (4), Mississippi (3), Missouri (4), Montana (3), Nebraska (4), Nevada (4), New Jersey (1), New York (5), North Carolina (3), Ohio (5), Oregon (5), Pennsylvania (5), Rhode Island (1), South Carolina (3), Tennessee (5), Texas (4), Utah (5), Virginia (4), Washington (4), Wisconsin (5) and Wyoming (2).

A total of 25 President’s Awards were presented. These are the “best of the best” awards presented for excellence in each of the five program areas to states by membership category size.

The winning states and the number of President’s Awards won include:

Arizona (3), Idaho (3), Illinois (3), Kansas (2), Michigan (5), Missouri (1), Montana (1), Nevada (1), Oregon (1), Tennessee (2), Utah (1) and Virginia (2).

Kentucky Farm Bureau was also recognized for reaching 500,000 members.

Rocky Bailey of Fruitvale, Idaho spends his winter riding his 800 Polaris Dragon snowmobile on Cuddy mountain in the Payette National Forest. Trail blazing through timber and boondocking over the mountains is a required skill to ride in this neck of the woods. Ritter photo

Snowpack tracking above normal

Boise– Snow survey crews from the Natural Resources Conservation Service measured Idaho snowpacks last week and results show that the Gem State is on track for an adequate water supply this year.

Above normal fall rain and snowfall along with December’s storms is good news for the water supply forecast. Combine that with average reservoir carryover and the water supply for 2011 looks promising.

NRCS conducts snow surveys at the end of each month from December through May to make snow runoff predictions and water supply forecasts used in managing Idaho’s water resources.

“The La Niña storm track dominating the weather this winter usually brings lots of moisture to the Pacific Northwest,” said Ron Abramovich, NRCS Water Supply Specialist. “So far this year the track is staying further south and that is affecting the snowpack in Idaho’s Panhandle.”

The Panhandle Region and Clearwater basin have the lowest snowpacks in the state ranging from 82-98%. “This La Nina pattern is expected to continue through mid-winter, so there is still time for the Pacific Northwest to get its due,” said Abramovich.

“Southern Idaho is on the northern edge of the storm track so basins south of the Snake River are fairing very well with snowpacks ranging from 129 to 155 % of average,” said Abramovich

The deeper than normal snowpacks across most of Idaho are good news for backcountry recreationists. This year’s snowpack lacks last season’s weak layers. But snowpack conditions change over time so stay informed of the current avalanche danger at

For more information about snowpack, precipitation, runoff and water supplies for specific basins, please view the complete January 2011 Water Supply Outlook Report online at and click on the ‘Water Supply’ link.

More information on these changes as well as other informative data, graphs and maps are available from our snow survey Web pages at

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