Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Monday, October 24, 2011
2011 Idaho Potato Crop Marks the 75th Anniversary for the Idaho Potato Commission
Milestone Year Kicks Off with a tribute to the Farmers and State's Rich Natural Resources
EAGLE- The 2011 Idaho potato harvest season is in full swing and the 319,000 acres that will be harvested are expected to yield more than 12 billion pounds of Idaho® potatoes. The majority of these potatoes (62%) will be used to make processed products such as frozen and dehydrated; 29% will be shipped fresh; and 9% will be grown for certified seed.
Friday, October 21, 2011
Agriculture Labor Issues Troubling
By Frank Priestley, Idaho Farm Bureau President
A Treasure Valley orchard owner who recently placed a help-wanted ad seeking workers to pick fruit for $12 to $15 per hour learned how difficult it can be – even during a period of relatively high unemployment – to hire farmworkers.
In a story reported by Mitch Coffman at IdahoReporter.com, the orchard owner had about three months worth of work and based on production, pickers could earn upwards of $15 per hour. However, in spite of Idaho’s 9.1 percent unemployment rate and Canyon County unemployment pegged at 12 percent, workers did not surface and the farmer eventually ended up asking the local sheriff’s office to send out a work detail in order to get the fruit picked before it spoiled.
This experience is unsettling on many fronts and it shores up a long held belief among the agricultural community that migrant workers aren’t taking jobs away from American citizens. It also helps to solidify the need for a guest worker program that rewards immigrant workers who are willing to fill a need. It’s also interesting how trends point toward increasing demand for local food but not many people, even unemployed people, are willing to perform the hard, often tedious labor required on Idaho’s farms and ranches.
“I just look at these reports that say there are 10,000 unemployed in Canyon County, but there really aren’t many people that want to work,” the farmer, who requested anonymity, said according to IdahoReporter.com.
When existing programs fail to satisfy labor needs, the Idaho Farm Bureau supports a system under which supplemental labor from other countries could be imported on a timely and flexible basis to work on farms and ranches. The current H-2A program does provide several thousand temporary farmworkers in Idaho every year. However, H2-A is overburdened with needless paperwork and bureaucratic roadblocks that make it inefficient. The program badly needs to be streamlined in order to allow workers to cross the border legally, to go to work, and then return to their homes in their native countries.
While H2-A does provide workers on hundreds of Idaho farms every year, workers are often detained or turned back at the border. Employers are frequently unable to find the workers they need when they need them. Complicating the matter is the fact that Idaho’s dairy industry, the largest sector of Idaho’s workforce to employ immigrant farmworkers, needs those workers for 12 months of the year.
Idaho Farm Bureau does not condone going around the system that’s in place to provide farmers with a steady, reliable workforce, nor do we condone workers taking matters into their own hands and violating the borders of this nation. However, finding people, regardless of their citizenship, willing to put in long hours working on the land is a difficult proposition, as this incident in Canyon County demonstrates.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Friday, October 14, 2011
Simpson Supports Regulatory Relief for Job Creators
Votes for bills to ensure EPA regulations on Boiler MACT, Portland cement, are reasonable and achievable
Washington, D.C. – Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson joined his colleagues in the House of Representatives in supporting legislation to bring needed regulatory relief to America’s job creators. Last night the House passed H.R. 2250, the EPA Regulatory Relief Act, and last week passed H.R. 2681, the Cement Sector Regulatory Relief Act, with bipartisan votes. Both bills provide the EPA with the opportunity to re-propose and finalize achievable rules impacting the manufacturing sector.
H.R. 2250 would impact four rules announced by EPA earlier this year affecting boilers, process heaters, and certain solid waste incinerators in the United States and set standards, including “maximum achievable control technologies” (MACT), under the Clean Air Act. As currently written, the rules would cost industry $14.4 billion and would put 224,000 jobs at risk. Even EPA recognizes that the rules are not practically achievable and requested a 15-month extension from the courts to re-propose the rules, but the request was denied. The bill provides EPA with a 15-month extension to re-write the rules, ensures that the new rules are achievable by real-world boilers, and extends the compliance deadline to allow industry adequate time to comply. Simpson is a cosponsor of H.R. 2250.
“As originally published, the Boiler MACT rules could strike a severe blow to the manufacturing economy. Not only are the rules far more restrictive than actually needed to protect the environment, but they are cost-prohibitive and not achievable in the real world,” said Simpson. “H.R. 2250 gives the EPA the time it has requested to re-examine these rules and come up with reasonable, achievable standards that protect the environment without further damaging our economy.”
H.R. 2681 proposes similar extensions and directives to EPA regarding rules impacting the Portland cement manufacturing industry. The rules currently proposed by EPA would impose extremely strict standards on the industry that are both cost- and technology-prohibitive and simply cannot be met by many facilities within the compliance period. The cement industry estimates that nearly 20 percent of domestic cement production would be shut down if the current rules were enacted. Simpson’s Interior and Environment Appropriations Act for FY12 includes language preventing the Portland cement rules from being implemented.
“I am concerned that, in spite of the industry’s efforts to collaborate with EPA on creating standards that would be achievable and beneficial, the agency has ignore the industry’s concerns and proposed to implement regulations that not only are cost prohibitive but for which no technology currently exists,” said Simpson. “These rules are clear examples of the impact that EPA’s overzealous regulatory agenda is having on job creation in this country. Companies impacted by these rules are paralyzed by uncertainty about whether they will be able to afford hire new workers or even to continue operating. In passing these bills, the House is taking important steps to provide for more job creation in this country.”
H.R. 2681 passed last Thursday by a vote of 262-161, while H.R. 2250 passed 275-142.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Farmers and Ranchers Welcome Ratification of Trade Pacts
WASHINGTON– Congressional ratification of three bilateral free-trade agreements between the United States and Korea, Colombia and Panama, as well as approval of Trade Adjustment Assistance, is welcome news for farmers and ranchers, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.
“Now that Congress has approved all the components of the trade package, swift implementation is critical, so we can restore a level playing field for U.S. farm exports to these three nations,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman.
“Over the past four years, Korea, Colombia and Panama have opened their doors to our competitors,” Stallman explained. “Congress and the administration have now given us the opportunity to improve our competitive position in these markets. The economic growth generated from the agreements will improve our economy and create jobs here at home,” he said.
Combined, the three FTAs represent nearly $2.5 billion in new agriculture exports for America’s farmers and are expected to create economic growth that could generate support for up to 22,500 U.S. jobs.
Congress Passes 3 Free Trade Accords
Washington--Congress passed three long-awaited free trade agreements on Wednesday, ending a partisan standoff that has stretched across two presidencies.
Final approval of the deals with South Korea, Colombia and Panama is a bipartisan victory for President Obama and proponents of the view that foreign trade can drive America’s economic growth, in the face of rising protectionist sentiment in both political parties. They are the first trade agreements to pass Congress since Democrats broke a decade of Republican control in 2007.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Emmett--Fall round-up on the Lazy R Ranch is underway. Owner Al Moses and his family are spending a lot of time in the saddle flushing stubborn cows out of the brush and down the mountain. Warm weather is keeping the cows brushed up and in the timber and harder to find. "It's not cold enough for them to want to come home yet", said Moses. (photos and story by Steve Ritter)
Zebra Chip Finds Its Way to Idaho’s Potato Fields
MOSCOW, Idaho – A potato pest from points south has reached Idaho, University of Idaho Extension specialists with the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences confirmed this week. It was reported last month in Oregon and Washington. There are no known health safety or nutritional problems associated with zebra chip.
Zebra chip is named for the dark bands that develop in potatoes infected by the bacteria that are carried by psyllids. The tiny cicada-like insects related to aphids are normally found in warmer regions than the Inland Northwest’s prime potato country.
A threat to potato quality for growers and processors, zebra chip can reduce the value of both fresh and process potatoes. It particularly affects processed products such as French fries and potato chips by creating darker chips and fries.
The dark coloration results from changes in stored sugars that caramelize when the potatoes are processed. Potato products showing signs of zebra chip are removed before packaging due to their appearance.
The presence of zebra chip in Idaho was confirmed in Idaho by USDA Agricultural Research Service tests of samples from a potato processor. The affected potatoes were tracked to a field in Jerome County. Several confirmed reports also recently were made in Twin Falls County. Although the pest was found in several fields, the number of plants infected initially appeared low.
Intensive sampling at the Kimberly Research and Extension Center showed the insects had infected several varieties, said University of Idaho Extension potato specialist and storage researcher Nora Olsen.
“The question is whether this is an artifact of the unusual weather we had earlier this year or whether this is going to be a long-term problem,” Olsen said.
For potato growers and processors, zebra chip can present serious concerns because it will affect the quality of processed potatoes. Potatoes are Idaho’s top crop, generating an estimated $915 million in 2010, according to the USDA. Good prices and yields are expected this year.
Zebra chip has a smaller effect on markets for fresh potatoes, those baked or mashed by homeowners, Olsen noted, because the flaws are less noticeable.
For growers, zebra chip does not pose the economic threats presented by some other pests because it does not lead to field quarantines or major trade disruption. It can add significantly to their costs of production, however.
Joe Guenthner, a University of Idaho agricultural economist who specializes in potato economics, said zebra chip can cause growers in warm areas significant losses. Guenthner is a member of a research team studying zebra chip issues that was funded by a five-year, $7 million USDA grant.
“Finding a new pest is not good news for growers,” Guenthner said, “but they’re used to dealing with pests and they’ll find a way to manage it.”
Idaho State Department of Agriculture, Idaho Potato Commission and University of Idaho Extension potato specialists met this week to determine the extent of zebra chip’s presence in Idaho and begin work to control it if necessary.
The potato disease was first detected in Mexico in 1994. Six years later zebra chip was found in Texas. By 2007, it was found in California, Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska, noted Phil Nolte, University of Idaho Extension seed potato specialist at Idaho Falls.
Nolte has tracked zebra chip for several years. He wrote about the potato disease and the psyllids that carry the bacteria that cause it in 2009.
“Now all that remains is figuring out how to manage the problem,” Nolte said. Weird weather or time have brought zebra chip closer to home for University of Idaho extension researchers who were already on the alert for it.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Monday, October 10, 2011
Moscow--As the Idaho Potato harvest continues across the state, The Producer’s Jake Putnam visited industry insider Joe Guenthner at the University of Idaho, to get an academic perspective on this year’s crop. Guenthner is Professor of Agricultural Economics at the University of Idaho, where he specializes in the economics of the potato industry.
What’s been going on in this rollercoaster potato market this year?
“Prices have been volatile, they’re coming down from record high prices to prices that are still profitable but in the direction they’re heading they be in the ‘break even’ levels soon. That’s to be expected it’s harvest time. That’s when prices are the lowest and supplies plentiful. Growers have been making money on potatoes and I see that continuing, not all the time but in general it continues to be a profitable crop.
Contract potatoes are up and gone, now we’re moving into the harvest, what’s the outlook?
Some of the processers did not contract enough to meet their needs, demand is increasing for frozen fries, that’s good news and they have been out in the market across the continent buying on the open market just to supplement dwindling supplies, that’s good market news.
Looking ahead to late November and December, what does the market hold?
I think there will be extended periods of profit crisis, I think in general this crop will be a profitable crop.
With high input costs, a late start, what do you think about the 2011 crop overall?
I’m bullish on the 2011 potato crop. In the long run I’m bullish, I’m a former potato grower and I love the product and the people in that industry. This is one of a series of good years.
Friday, October 7, 2011
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Meridian--Thousands of elementary school students have attended the annual Meridian FFA Ag Expo this week at Meridian High School. The kids visit various display stations manned by FFA students where they learn about agriculture and how it benefits the world. (Steve Ritter photo)