Friday, April 29, 2011

Just in from Washington

New Clean Water Act Proposal Threatens Farmers

Washington--The Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released proposed Clean Water Act rules on Wednesday that would give the federal government control over an expanding amount of private farm and ranch ground.

Don Parrish, senior regulatory specialist with the American Farm Bureau Federation, said the proposed new rules threaten farmers and ranchers across the country because they would add new federal regulatory control over farms and ranches. He said the proposed rules are a clear infringement on private property rights and would likely have little impact on water quality.

“This guidance should shock all of agriculture because it creates an overly broad view of ‘waters of the U.S.’ and it gives the federal government authority to regulate any body of water anywhere,” Parrish said. “Plus, it gives the federal government new authority to dictate land-use decisions. If this new regulatory guidance is put on the books, farmers and ranchers will face more Clean Water Act permitting requirements, more federal control of their land and they will be strangled with even more red tape.”

The EPA and Corps have established a 60-day public comment period on the proposed new guidance. AFBF will submit comments outlining the extreme harm the regulations will bring to agriculture, Parrish said.

Meanwhile, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) said the guidance “builds a foundation for the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to regulate essentially any body of water, such as a farm pond or even a ditch.

“Once again the EPA is trying to broaden its jurisdiction without authority to do so,” Lucas told the Radio Oklahoma Network. “Changes to the regulatory scheme of the Clean Water Act should be done through notice and rule-making or legislative action. Issuing a guidance document is informal and ambiguous. If this is important to the administration, I urge it to reconsider this approach and move forward with a transparent rule-making process.”

Washington Post article

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Just in from Washington

2011 Cattle Market Off to Stunning Performance

Washington--The cattle market has put on a stunning performance so far in 2011, according to John Anderson, livestock economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation.

“While fed cattle prices have dipped a bit in the last couple of weeks, the recent rally has obliterated all previous price records,” Anderson wrote in the April 2011 AFBF Livestock Market Update. “These remarkable cattle prices have been supported by strong wholesale beef prices.

“Retail beef prices have also been very strong, posting new record highs in each of the past three months. Higher prices accompanying higher production points to strong beef demand. Export demand has certainly been very good. So far this year, despite considerably higher wholesale prices, weekly beef exports have significantly exceeded 2010 levels, which were also quite strong.”

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Just in from Washington

USDA Ups Beef, Pork, Vegetable Retail Price Forecasts

Washington--The Agriculture Department raised its forecasts for retail prices of beef, pork and fresh vegetables in its monthly analysis of the federal government's consumer price index for food released Monday, but left its overall food-inflation forecast for 2011 unchanged at 3 percent to 4 percent.

Retail beef prices are forecast to jump 7 percent to 8 percent in 2011, up from the March forecast of 4.5 percent to 5.5 percent. USDA also projects retail pork prices to climb 6.5 percent to 7.5 percent, an increase of half a percentage point from March.

“I suspect when December arrives we will see increases of 4 to 6 percent” for the year in overall prices, said Bill Lapp, the president of Advanced Economic Solutions in Omaha, Neb. “The pressure on food prices is clearly on the upside.”

Bloomberg article

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Spring time in Idaho!

Another afternoon storm in Southwest Idaho, this one brought heavy winds, rain, thunder, lightning and hail. Steve Ritter caught the action from outside Emmett.

Just in--

Poll Shows How Consumers are Coping with Rising Food Prices

Des Moines--The results from a new poll released by theCenter for Food Integrity indicates consumers are coping with the rising cost of food by changing their shopping behaviors. The poll, posted on the organization’s Best Food Facts website ( shows that 37 percent of the respondents are clipping coupons, 32 percent are buying fewer name brand items and 17 percent are shopping at discount/warehouse stores in an effort to keep the household budget in the black.

Best Food Facts interviewed Dr. Helen Jensen, an economics professor at Iowa State University, about the survey results and her thoughts on how American families are dealing with the higher cost of food. In addition to the options listed in the survey, Jensen suspects people are also cutting back on food eaten or prepared away from home.

“Clearly, rising food prices are increasing their share of budget spent on food,” Dr. Jensen said, citing statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor. “The share of income has increased from 11 or 12 percent to almost 13 percent … a very clear indication that people are spending more on food.”

Monday, April 25, 2011

Governor's Cup

Steve Ritter photo

Horse racing season returns to Idaho

Emmett--Lt. Gov Brad Little greets Mr. Softy in the winners circle after the horse wins the Governors Cup race at the Gem County Fairgrounds on Sunday. The horse is owned by Amber and Robert Leland with jockey Todd Thomas aboard. The easter Sunday race card was the third and final day of racing at the Emmett track and now valley horse owners are anxiously awaiting the July opening of Les Bois park in Boise.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Andrus returns to Farm

Andrus, originally uploaded by Jake Putnam.

The newly appointed House Ag Chairman Ken Andrus has returned to his Lava Hot Springs ranch and back to his daily routine of feeding sheep and cattle. "I enjoyed the first day being back, now it feels like work again," he laughs. Andrus said he didn't hear about the Chairmanship until adjournment. "Personally, I don't need the appointment, Im humbled and a bit scared, but Ill do my best."

Strong Bacon Demand Pushing Pork Belly Prices to Record

New York--Pork belly prices are on pace to set records this summer as demand for bacon skyrockets. The big jump in bacon use is coming mostly from fast-food restaurants and casual dining establishments that are adding bacon to everything from salads to ice cream sundaes.

About 44 percent of U.S. consumers will eat bacon within a two-week period, which is a record high, according to consumer research conducted by the NPD Group, a Port Washington, N.Y.-based market research firm. Much of the growth comes from cooks using bacon as an ingredient to enhance the taste of a dish, according to the NPD study.

Market Watch article

Friday, April 22, 2011

Just in--

Vilsack: Farm Program Cuts on Table

Des Moines--During Tuesday’s Iowa farm tour with EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said farm program cuts will be on the table as the government seeks to reduce spending. But he cautioned against cutting too deep

“As folks look at this budget discussion, we need to make sure there is a proper balance between reducing spending but not limiting our capacity to expand the economy,” Vilsack said.

“There will not be painless reductions,” he said.

The Agriculture Department and President Barack Obama have proposed “some modifications and adjustments” to farm program payments, according to Vilsack. In particular, they are reviewing direct payments, he said.

Associated Press article

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Just in from Washington

Stallman Heralds Administration Action on Panama Trade Pact

Washington--American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman called the Obama administration’s announcement of a deal to advance the Panama free trade agreement “welcome news for America’s farmers and ranchers.”

“U.S. farmers and ranchers could face losses in market share in Panama to our competitors who have trade agreements with the country. Panama has duty-free access to the U.S. market, while our products face excessive tariffs when sold to the Panama market,” Stallman said. “Once implemented, the Panama FTA will level the playing field for U.S. farmers and ranchers by eliminating these tariffs.

“The Panama, Colombia and South Korea agreements will create expanded markets for American farm and ranch products and boost our overall economy. Together, the three agreements represent nearly $2.5 billion of additional agricultural exports from the United States and would support as many as 27,000 new U.S. jobs.”

AFBF statement

Just in--

Jackson: EPA Not Targeting Agriculture
Prairie City, Iowa--EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack paid a visit to Gordon Wassenaar’s Prairie City, Iowa, farm on Tuesday where the EPA head once again stressed that her agency will not regulate farm dust as a pollutant.

Jackson also said EPA has no plans to impose pollution regulations in the Mississippi River basin like those being used to clean up Chesapeake Bay and voluntary measures should be given the chance to work. “I am ruling out the need for us to move directly to a regulatory mechanism when we have folks stepping up and are willing to do the conservation measures,” Jackson said.“We all want clean air and clean water. EPA is not targeting agriculture. Instead of letting someone else carry the message out here, I'll carry it out here myself,” Jackson said.

DTN article

Des Moines Register article

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Just in from Washington

Congressional Opposition to Clean Water Act Welcomed

Washington--The American Farm Bureau Federation appreciates the bipartisan support of 170 members of Congress in challenging “regulatory guidance” that the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are considering for the Clean Water Act.

In a statement released Monday, AFBF President Bob Stallman noted that the guidance would take an overly broad view of “waters of the U.S.” In addition, it would serve as a road map for EPA and the Corps to designate nearly all water bodies, and even some dry land, as subject to federal regulations that dictate land-use decisions.

“If unchecked, the guidance would lead to more Clean Water Act permitting requirements, more litigation and less economic growth at a time when our nation needs it most,” Stallman said. He pointed out that the proper procedure for putting federal policy in place is either by proposing formal rules after taking public comments into consideration or proposing legislation for Congress to consider.

AFBF statement

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Just in from Washington

House Floor Action on Budget Resolution Starts

Washington--The U.S. House of Representatives began debate on House Continuing Resolution 34, the fiscal year 2012 budget resolution. The American Farm Bureau Federation has not taken a position on the budget or any of the substitutes.

The budget resolution would cut $6.2 trillion in government spending and reduce taxes by $4 trillion over the next 10 years. While the budget resolution assumes that certain program changes will be made, the recommended changes are not binding on the committees that will write the legislation that implements the budget targets. Descriptive text accompanying the resolution assumes that the next farm bill will achieve $30 billion in savings over 10 years.

Several of the high-profile assumptions made by the budget resolution include the adoption of trade agreements, turning Medicaid into a state block grant program, changing Medicare into a modified voucher program and repealing health care reform. It also assumes that the top individual income tax rate will be reduced to 25 percent and that estate taxes will continue with a $5 million exemption and 35 percent tax rate.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Just in from Washington

President Obama Signs Form 1099 Repeal

Washington--President Barack Obama signed into law legislation officially repealing the 1099 reporting requirement included in last year’s health care law. Under terms of the repeal, businesses will no longer be required to issue 1099 forms to all vendors from whom they buy more than $600 worth of goods or services in any year, beginning in 2012. “I was pleased to take another step to relieve unnecessary burdens on small businesses by signing H.R. 4 into law,” the president said. “Small business owners are the engine of our economy and because Democrats and Republicans worked together, we can ensure they spend their time and resources creating jobs and growing their business, not filling out more paperwork.”

Farm Bureau backed the 1099 repeal and thanks the president for signing it into law.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Fuel Depot

Fuel Depot, originally uploaded by Steve's Photo Library.
Steep gas prices are hitting producers hard

Boise--Gasoline jumped 5.6 percent last month and has risen nearly 28 percent in the past year. Consumers paid an average price of $3.81 a gallon nationwide on Friday according to the travel group AAA.

Food prices rose just 0.8 percent last month, but the largest increase in almost three years. Prices for fruits and vegetables, dairy products, chicken and beef all increased. Coffee costs rose 3.5 percent.

Manufacturers, food processors and other producers are facing higher costs for oil, grains and other commodities. But only some of those increases are reaching the consumer. Many retailers are reluctant to pass on the higher prices for fear of losing price-conscious customers.

Farm Program Cuts Part of President’s Debt Reduction Plan

Washington--Cuts in farm program payments are part of President Barack Obama’s plan to reduce the federal debt by $4 trillion over the next 12 years. And a White House Fact Sheet associated with the president’s budget outlines cuts in mandatory programs, including the farm program.

Obama set a target of reducing the annual U.S. deficit to 2.5 percent of gross domestic product by 2015, compared with 10.9 percent of GDP projected for this year. He called for deep cuts in military and domestic spending and ending tax cuts “for millionaires and billionaires.”

“We have to live within our means, reduce our deficit and get back on a path that will allow us to pay down our debt,” Obama said.

Bloomberg article

White House Fact Sheet

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Albino deer on the run

Albino deer on the run, originally uploaded by Jake Putnam.

Boise--The white Albino deer in the Boise foothills is celebrating its third birthday. She was spotted yesterday foraging the hillsides 6 miles west of the Statehouse in the hills.

Farm Season 2011

Steve Ritter video

The 2011 Farm Season is off to a slow start

Emmett--Wet weather has farmers praying for a few hot days of sunshine, but weather forecasts call for a series of storms every other day through the weekend. Farmers say they need three sunny days for optimal planting conditions...something that has eluded them thus far.

The 2011 Farm Season

Robert Blair photo

Input costs take a sharp hike, farmers looking for ways to save money

Boise--Just as Idaho farmers were getting to the point of making a decent living thanks to favorable market prices, another dark issue has come into play that could topple the fragile balance between farmer profit and debt.

Input costs have climbed so dramatically that many farmers are scrambling to cut corners in order to break even, despite projected favorable markets across the board.

Farmer Mike Garner of Raft River, Idaho started the season under the input cloud. “They’re up significantly everyone knows what fuels done at the pump versus last year, we have to live with those prices and it’s not going to be easy. Commodity prices are higher and we’re thankful for that, but it seems we can never get the break we need to make money.”

The United State Department of Agriculture projects that farm expenses this year could top the $286.6 billion, the second highest mark on record while Purdue University Ag economists say that costs are up 13-percent from 2010. Most of the input hikes are coming from skyrocketing fertilizer prices.

“For rotational corn, our estimates show variable costs in 2011 up around 13 percent compared to 2010,” said Bruce Erickson, director of cropping systems management at Purdue. “For winter wheat we’re estimating that costs will be 13 percent higher.”

Idaho farmers like Garner are looking at their options. “We cut where we can without cutting production, we’re trying to do things more efficiently. We look at everything we do and make cuts, we will apply elemental sulfer every other year, we can skip a year without much problem, we can do things like that. If I can cut a pass across a field, Im going to, we can save $15 to $20 bucks and acre there and we will look at minimal tillage.”

Average per-ton fertilizer prices from April to November jumped from $520 to $736 for ammonia, $503 to $661 for diammonium phosphate, and $501 to $526 for potash, according to USDA.

Commodity prices have risen “but when you start looking at input costs, our margins are the same but the risks are exponentially higher,” said Ron Moore, chairman of the Illinois Soybean Association. “Fertilizer prices have gone up 50 percent in our area since last summer.”

Farmers are doing research online and flooding sites with tried and true ways to save money. The University of Nebraska is offering tips to farmers listing 5 ways to hedge against rising input costs:

Prepaid Inputs. Seed, fertilizer, fuel, chemical, and others offer discounts and attractive financing terms for purchases before planting. For fuel, many dealers allow farmers to split price fuel for planting and harvesting and sign contracts for future delivery. Some will give the farm a better price if there is storage for a season’s worth of fuel to be delivered during the off season. Full tanker loads that can be delivered to the farm also may be discounted. Fertilizer dealers may offer some of the same opportunities for early delivery and/or truckload quantities.

Bulk Containers. Buying seed or crop protection chemicals in bulk containers also means lower prices.

Group Purchasing Power. Some farmers are pooling their input purchases to get price breaks. The key is to get a pool large enough to get a quantity discount, such as with tanker loads or bulk containers.

Competitive Pricing. The competition among dealers is getting tighter, it's good to see who can deliver your products at the most competitive price and in a timely manner.

Price Guarantees. With the 2011 crop, locking in input prices will help nail down profit margins. If input prices are unsure, the margins could be much smaller when the crop is actually delivered and sold after harvest. With increasing volatility and more interest in forward marketing, early pricing of inputs is becoming more important to the bottom line.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Soil wet, farming off to a slow start

Emmett--Farmer Vaughn Jensen is biting at the bit, planting for the 2011 wheat crop is more than 30 days behind schedule because of wet weather. In this clip Jensen is testing the soil between storms to see if he can plant.

Just in from Washington

Simpson Defunds “Wild Lands” Initiative in Final Budget Bill

Washington, D.C. - Congressman Mike Simpson issued a statement regarding language he included in H.R. 1473, the final budget bill for fiscal year 2011, that would prohibit the Department of Interior from using taxpayer funding to carry out its controversial Wild Lands initiative.

The Secretarial Order, which was put out shortly before Christmas, requires the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to inventory its lands for wilderness characteristics, and Simpson has expressed grave concern that the initiative will increase the number of lawsuits filed against the agency and make it more difficult to manage public lands.

“The longer this initiative has been out in the public, the more concerns I hear about the impact it will have on ranching, energy production, recreation, and even the BLM’s own ability to manage their lands,” said Simpson. “To that list, I would add my own deep concern that with this initiative, the Department has overstepped its authority. Only Congress has the authority to create new land designations, and I intend to restore that authority by including this provision in the CR.”

Simpson is the Chairman of the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, which oversees funding for the Department of Interior, including the BLM.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Ranchers Worry about Rustling

Steve Ritter photo

Rustling on the Rise in Gem, Adams, Valley Counties

Ola, Idaho—At a crowded meeting hall ranchers here are worried that modern day rustlers are stealing them blind.

In the three county area, Gem, Adams, and Valley more than 35 livestock owners reported losses. One rancher lost 22 of the 150 cows turned out, that’s a burning 14 percent loss. Ranchers say with high input costs this season, it’s too much loss to overcome.

“I own just over a hundred head, I bring in another two hundred over the summer, when you’re small like me, lose six head that’s quite a bit of money for us, you know.”

This time of year rustlers target calves because they can fit in a small horse trailer and be sold before they’re reported missing.

“There’s a few pairs missing and that raises a red flag in the county. There are a lot of horse trailers running around up there that we don’t have any idea who they are, again that raises the flag. But we need you guys to tell us what you’re seeing and we’ll take care of it,” said Lynn Gibson, State Brand Inspector.

Gibson and the Sheriffs’ Departments from the tri-county area met with ranchers and urged them to be the eyes and ears of Law enforcement.

“We need for you guys to tell us anything you see that’s out of place, doesn’t matter what it is, if it doesn’t look right to you, if it’s somebody you don’t know, tell law enforcement. We can check it out follow it and see what goes on, then we’ll get to the bottom of it,” said Gibson.

The most powerful anti-rustling tool is an effective, low tech device that lets rustlers know they’re being watched: Windshield stickers. The stickers record the time, license plate number of vehicles parked at back country trail-heads, hotspots where rustling is rampant.

Larry Hayhurst of the Idaho State Police told ranchers that the simple reporting technique pin points suspicious activity. “Write the license plate number down, send that information to me or Lynn, put the sticker on their windshield, it lets to lets them know they’ve been observed and you’ve been there, you’re actually being a good neighbor, it says ‘hey, we believe in multiple use’, it’s a pretty good deal.”

The ISP logs 300 to 500 reports of lost or missing cattle a year and authorities fear those numbers could double when the final number counts come in thanks to a sluggish Idaho economy. Because of the high numbers in the three-county area, Gibson says they’ve set up random road blocks and deputies are stopping all trucks and trailers carrying cattle in an attempt to slow the cattle traffic.

“That all started the past two years. We put up the signs and the signs say that all livestock must stop. It’s random but effective, we can set up on any given morning in one place, and then move to another location in the afternoon, another place at night. We can stop all traffic that comes through and check who is going where; it’s been a good tool to track who has been doing what and when and where,” said Gibson.

One rancher said that some of the cattle loss could come from normal attrition, wolf kills and cattle dying from eating poisonous plants, but with a large number of cattle missing he told the group its probably theft.

Rancher Tom Blessinger of Emmett told the group he’s convinced its modern day, high tech rustlers. "There were 191 cows missing last summer, some bulls, a horse and at least a hundred calves; someone is rustling our cattle," he said

Rancher Joe Kennedy is spreading the word to his neighbors. “Like they’re doing in this meeting today, call the brand department if you see anything strange if you don’t know people that are around. I use a game camera in the woods and it lets me know a lot of things it helps a lot and friends out in the woods helps a lot.”

Cattle rustling was a hanging offense a hundred years ago in Idaho. Thieves know it’s easier to steal a few calves than robbing a bank, the Brand Inspectors stress that rustlers are stealing because the chances of getting caught are small, and the rewards, great.

Brand Inspector Gibson offers homespun advice for ranchers: “Trust your neighbor but branding your calves; is really important.

How to fight rustlers:

-- Brand your animals. With a brand, they are more easily returned.

-- Count your cattle as often as you can. The earlier you know they are missing, the better chance authorities have of finding them.

-- Report suspicious vehicles.

-- Get to know local law enforcement.

-- Keep calves away from road access.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Just in from Washington

Stallman Expresses Concern on Cuts to Safety Net

AFBF President Bob Stallman said America’s farmers and ranchers are willing to do their part to help balance the nation’s budget and cut the crippling federal deficit, and Farm Bureau applauds efforts to put the United States back on a path toward a more responsible federal budget. But he said Farm Bureau is concerned about cuts that might impact the safety net that supports farmers.

“It must be pointed out that even before any cuts, farm program expenditures have been falling for years,” Stallman stressed.

"It is vital that decisions to cut farm program spending be made with a recognition of the cyclical nature of our farm economy and its ties to a global economy that can be even more volatile,” Stallman said. “The cost of our safety net varies by market condition. For example, even before any proposed cuts, projections indicate a downward trend in farm program spending in the 2011 fiscal year. Expenditures will be down by about 13 percent compared to the 2010 fiscal year.

That is a clear sign our farm bill works as intended and costs less when commodity prices are higher.”

AFBF statement

Friday, April 8, 2011

Just in

Snowpack levels up in march

Boise, ID, April 7, 2011 – The Natural Resources Conservation Service’s snow surveyors recently completed the April 1 snow measurements and found that March’s above average precipitation ensures an adequate summer water supply for Idaho's numerous water users.

“With more snowy days than sunny ones in March, snowpacks increased measurably and now range from 100-140% of average for most Idaho basins,” said Ron Abramovich, Water Supply Specialist with the Idaho NRCS.

Streamflow forecasts also increased. “With the good precipitation in March, most people would have thought the March streamflow volumes would be higher than they were,” Abramovich said.

“But most of the 60 plus stations that we use for water supply forecasting were in the 70-95% of average range.”

That’s because most of March’s precipitation fell as snow in the higher elevations. Streamflow forecasts range from near average in the Salmon basin to 150-160% for southern Idaho's high desert rivers.

What does this mean for Idaho’s water supply? Irrigation water supplies will be ample with most reservoirs holding enough supplies to last through the summer. Water is being released from some reservoirs to make room for the anticipated snow melt.

Most of southern Idaho's reservoirs will fill except for the large storage facilities such as Salmon Falls, Oakley and Bear Lake. However, their water users will still have adequate irrigation supplies based on current storage and projected inflows.

Abramovich added, “How the snow melts and fills our rivers and lakes greatly depends on spring air temperatures and rain.” The three month extended forecast calls for wet, cool weather.

The Snow Survey and Water Supply Forecasting Program is developing a web-based tool that will allow users to access data and perform data analysis. Visit the National Water and Climate Center web site at to try out the tool and provide feedback on the tool’s operation by June 3, 2011.

View April’s full report on snowpack, precipitation, runoff and water supply predictions at and click on the ‘Water Supply’ link.

Let Freedom Ring

Tax Freedom Day Arrives April 12

Washington--Tax Freedom Day will arrive on April 12 this year, the 102nd day of 2011. This means that Americans will work more than three months of the year before they have earned enough money to pay this year’s tax, according to The Tax Foundation. Tax Freedom Day arrives three days later in 2011 than it did in 2010, but nearly two weeks earlier than in 2007.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Legislative News

BOISE - The 2011 Idaho Legislature adjourned just after 2:30 pm Thursday ending one of the toughest sessions in recent history.

President of the Senate, Lt. Gov. Brad Little, slammed the gavel in the Senate at 12:30 and two hours later House Speaker Lawerence Denney banged the gavel across the Rotunda ending the long, contentious session.

"We balanced the budget in the face of the most severe economic crisis many of us have faced. And we did it without additional tax burdens on Idahoans," said Senator Brent Hill of Rexburg.

The lawmaker’s controversial votes on education reform ending tenure, restricting collective bargaining, and introducing merit pay for teachers will go down in the history books along with salary allocations and increased technology in classrooms.

Idaho Lawmakers also cut the state Medicaid program by $35 million, but figure in the loss of federal matching funds and the cuts total $108 million.

The Senate worked long hours in a race against the clock to get done and the last votes killed a sales tax rebate for alternative energy investors.

Irrigation outlook

march precipitation boosts snowpack across the state

Boise – The Natural Resources Conservation Service’s snow surveyors recently completed the April 1 snow measurements and found that March’s above average precipitation ensures an adequate summer water supply for Idaho's numerous water users.

“With more snowy days than sunny ones in March, snowpacks increased measurably and now range from 100-140% of average for most Idaho basins,” said Ron Abramovich, Water Supply Specialist with the Idaho NRCS.

Streamflow forecasts also increased. “With the good precipitation in March, most people would have thought the March streamflow volumes would be higher than they were,” Abramovich said.

“But most of the 60 plus stations that we use for water supply forecasting were in the 70-95% of average range.”

That’s because most of March’s precipitation fell as snow in the higher elevations. Streamflow forecasts range from near average in the Salmon basin to 150-160% for southern Idaho's high desert rivers.

What does this mean for Idaho’s water supply? Irrigation water supplies will be ample with most reservoirs holding enough supplies to last through the summer. Water is being released from some reservoirs to make room for the anticipated snow melt.

Most of southern Idaho's reservoirs will fill except for the large storage facilities such as Salmon Falls, Oakley and Bear Lake. However, their water users will still have adequate irrigation supplies based on current storage and projected inflows.

Abramovich added, “How the snow melts and fills our rivers and lakes greatly depends on spring air temperatures and rain.” The three month extended forecast calls for wet, cool weather.

The Snow Survey and Water Supply Forecasting Program is developing a web-based tool that will allow users to access data and perform data analysis. Visit the National Water and Climate Center web site at to try out the tool and provide feedback on the tool’s operation by June 3, 2011.

View April’s full report on snowpack, precipitation, runoff and water supply predictions at and click on the ‘Water Supply’ link.

Just in from Washington

Simpson Lauds Bill to Limit EPA Authority

Washington, D.C. – Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson today praised House passage of legislation to limit the EPA’s regulatory authority. H.R. 910, the Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011, clarifies that EPA does not have authority to regulate greenhouses gases under the Clean Air Act. Simpson, who chairs the House Interior and the Environment Appropriation Subcommittee that oversees EPA’s budget, is a cosponsor of the bill.

“To me, it is pretty clear the Obama Administration’s climate change regulations circumvent the legislative process and take the decision about how to address our nation’s energy future out of the hands of the American people,” said Simpson. “The Administration is basically trying to use the EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act to force Congress to pass cap and trade legislation that is widely opposed by the American people, all without regard for the impact that it would have on our still-fragile economy. “

H.R. 910 responds to the EPA’s decision that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare and subsequent regulations put out by the agency to regulate greenhouses gas emissions from stationary sources. The bill includes a number of exemptions to ensure that existing vehicle emission standards and other programs continue to operate, but it prevents the EPA from imposing regulations that would constitute a significant energy tax on American families and businesses.


“Businesses in Idaho have made it clear that they cannot afford to invest in job creation with burdensome, expensive regulations hanging in the balance,” said Simpson. “It is imperative that Congress clarifies that the Clean Air Act is not the appropriate statute under which to regulate climate change to provide the certainty that job creators need to get our economy going again. This is why I included language in H.R. 1 to prevent EPA from using funding to implement greenhouse gas regulations and why I am a cosponsor of H.R. 910.”

H.R. 910 was passed by the House of Representatives this afternoon by a 255-172 vote.

Milk and Egg prices up

Tracking Milk and Egg Trends

Washington--For the first quarter of 2011, shoppers reported the average price for a half-gallon of regular whole milk was $2.25, up 1 cent from the prior quarter. The average price for one gallon of regular whole milk was $3.46, up 11 cents. Comparing per-quart prices, the retail price for whole milk sold in gallon containers was about 25 percent lower compared to half-gallon containers, a typical volume discount long employed by retailers.

The average price for a half-gallon of rBST-free milk was $3.23, up 13 cents from the last quarter, about 40 percent higher than the reported retail price for a half-gallon of regular milk ($2.25).

The average price for a half-gallon of organic milk was $3.70, up 10 cents compared to the prior quarter—about 60 percent higher than the reported retail price for a half-gallon of regular milk ($2.25).

Compared to a year ago (first quarter of 2010), the retail price for regular milk in gallon containers was up about 3 percent while regular milk in half-gallon containers was unchanged. The average retail price for rBST-free milk decreased about 10 percent compared to the prior year while organic milk was up about 1 percent.

For the first quarter of 2011, the average price for one dozen regular eggs was $1.62. The average price for a dozen “cage-free” eggs was $3.20, nearly double the price of regular eggs. Compared to a year ago (first quarter of 2010), regular eggs decreased 7 percent while “cage-free” eggs increased 10 percent.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Fuel Containment Rules

What You Need to Know About EPA’s Fuel Containment Rules Webinar

Boise--Join in online tomorrow Thursday, April 7 at 8:00 a.m. MST for a webinar with guest presenter Adam Lyman, Professional Engineer. If your farm stores, transfers, uses, or consumes oil or oil products such as diesel fuel, gasoline, lube oil, hydraulic oil, adjuvant oil, etc, you’ll want to participate in this free informational webinar.

Mr. Lyman will explain the SPCC program and discuss which farms are required to complete an SPCC plan by EPA’s deadline of November 10, 2011. Greg Weigel, EPA and Clint Evans, NRCS will also be available during the webinar to answer questions about the SPCC Plan.

To participate simply log on to the website at If you are unable to participate in the live webinar, a recording of the webinar will be posted on the website Thursday afternoon.

Food Prices

Retail Staple Food Prices Rise in First Quarter

WASHINGTON-Retail food prices at the supermarket increased during the first quarter of 2011, according to the latest American Farm Bureau Federation Marketbasket Survey.

The informal survey shows the total cost of 16 food items that can be used to prepare one or more meals was $49.07, up $2.10 or about 4 percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2010. Of the 16 items surveyed, 13 increased, two decreased and one remained the same in average price compared to the prior quarter. The total average price for the 16 items was up $3.53 (about 8 percent) compared to one year ago.

Shredded cheddar cheese, vegetable oil, ground chuck and flour increased the most in dollar value compared to the fourth quarter of 2010. Together, these four items accounted for the majority of the quarter-to-quarter increase; shredded cheese increased 47 cents to $4.63 per pound; vegetable oil increased 29 cents to $2.88 for a 32-ounce bottle; ground chuck increased 27 cents to $3.10 per pound; and flour increased 52 cents to $2.51 for a 5-pound bag.

Other items that increased in price since the fourth quarter were boneless chicken breasts, up 22 cents to $3.32 per pound; orange juice, up 17 cents to $3.14 for a half-gallon; toasted oat cereal, up 17 cents to $3.05 for a 9-ounce box; Russet potatoes, up 14 cents to $2.64 for a 5-pound bag; bread, up 13 cents to $1.88 for a 20-ounce loaf; whole milk, up 11 cents to $3.46 per gallon; sliced deli ham, up 7 cents to $4.91 per pound; eggs, up 2 cents to $1.62 per dozen; and sirloin tip roast, up 1 cent to $3.96 per pound.

“Home cooks shopping for staples to make their favorite shepherd’s pie or chicken pot pie recipe will definitely leave the grocery store with lighter wallets this quarter,” said John Anderson, AFBF economist. “As anticipated, the increased consumer demand for meats and dairy products that began in 2009 and continued through 2010 remains evident as we look forward to the middle of 2011.”

Most items showing an increase in retail price from quarter-to-quarter also showed year-to-year increases. Compared to one year ago, ground chuck was up 18 percent, potatoes were up 17 percent, chicken breasts were up 13 percent and flour was up 11 percent.

“Retail price increases for some foods are likely to continue throughout the year, as it takes time for farmers to increase the size of their herds to accommodate increased demand,” Anderson explained.

Although bacon dropped 46 cents per pound (to $3.86) compared to the last quarter of 2010, it was 20 percent higher than a year ago. Bagged salad dropped 3 cents to $2.66 for a 1-pound bag compared to the prior quarter and Red Delicious apples remained the same in retail price from quarter-to-quarter, $1.45 per pound.

The year-to-year direction of the marketbasket survey tracks with the federal government’s Consumer Price Index ( report for food at home. As retail grocery prices have increased gradually over time, the share of the average food dollar that America’s farm and ranch families receive has dropped.

“In the mid-1970s, farmers received about one-third of consumer retail food expenditures for food eaten at home and away from home, on average. Since then, that figure has decreased steadily and is now about 16 percent, according to the Agriculture Department’s revised Food Dollar Series,” Anderson said. USDA’s Food Dollar Series may be found online at

Using the “food at home and away from home” percentage across-the-board, the farmer’s share of this quarter’s $49.07 marketbasket would be $7.85.

AFBF, the nation’s largest general farm organization, has been conducting the informal quarterly marketbasket survey of retail food price trends since 1989. The mix of foods in the marketbasket was updated during the first quarter of 2008.

According to USDA, Americans spend just under 10 percent of their disposable annual income on food, the lowest average of any country in the world. A total of 71 shoppers in 29 states participated in the latest survey, conducted in February.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Rural Economic Development

Hughes Announces Internet Agreement with AFB Inc.

Washington--Hughes Network Systems announced today its agreement with American Farm Bureau Inc. to offer Farm Bureau members in participating states who activate a new HughesNet high-speed satellite Internet account a discount on the monthly service plan fee. AFB Inc. first made the announcement in January.

Many Farm Bureau members live in areas that don’t have access to affordable, high-speed Internet service such as DSL or cable and will benefit from this new agreement, according to Ron Gaskill, managing director of AFB Inc. Currently 16 state Farm Bureaus plan to offer this new benefit to their members, Gaskill added.

“We are pleased to offer HughesNet for Farm Bureau members who live and work in areas where high-speed DSL or cable Internet access is not available,” Gaskill said. “Farm Bureau members who activate a new HughesNet account will benefit by getting the nation’s No. 1 satellite broadband service at a discounted monthly rate.”

Hughes news release

AFBF news release

Monday, April 4, 2011

Experts: Farmers, Ethanol Not to Blame for Higher Food Prices

Des Moines--The Associated Press reports today that experts are saying farmers and ethanol producers are not responsible for higher food prices at the grocery store.

“It’s a whole slew of things that have influenced that price,” said Chad Hart, an agricultural economist at Iowa State University. “When you look at the cost of our food, it is related to the cost of corn, soybeans and wheat and cattle but also the cost of oil, gas, diesel and unrest in other parts of the world.”

Associated Press article

Just in from the Statehouse

Boise--Legislative insiders bet that the 2011 Idaho Legislature could end this week if everything goes as expected and if Republican leadership can strike a deal across the isle with key holdouts.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Just in from Washington

Forecast: Second Biggest Corn Crop Since World War II

Washington--Analysts polled by Reuters are expecting U.S. farmers to plant the second-biggest corn crop since World War II and the third-biggest soybean crop ever. “It could be step one in curing record-high food prices,” said Darrel Good, an agricultural economist and professor emeritus with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

USDA forecast in February at its annual outlook conference that U.S. farmers will plant an additional 10 million acres of major crops this year. The chair of USDA’s World Agricultural Outlook Board first made this prediction at AFBF’s annual meeting in Atlanta in January. The Reuters survey shows analysts expect 91.8 million acres of corn and 76.9 million acres of soybeans. USDA will release its annual prospective plantings survey on Thursday. “The biggest question is if farmers can come up with an extra 10 million acres,” said Mark Kessler of Harvest Equity, a consultant to farmers on risk management. “From what I see, the cropland in Indiana, Illinois and Iowa is already being cropped fully.”

Congress considers Farm Bill this week

Washington--House Ag Chairman Mike Conaway finally get the House farm bill to the Senate this week, but it all depends on House Republic...