Friday, August 31, 2012

Just in from Washington

Stallman Announced as “Farm Bill Now” Rally Emcee
Washington--AFBF President Bob Stallman and Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, have been announced as the masters of ceremony for the upcoming “Farm Bill Now” rally.

The event, hosted by AFBF, NFU and a coalition of other agricultural organizations, will take place on Sept. 12 at 11 a.m. on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. The “Farm Bill Now” rally is being held in an effort to raise public awareness of the need for Congress to pass a new, comprehensive, five-year farm bill before current farm programs expire on Sept. 30.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Just in

Parma--Onion harvesters are rolling near Parma moving produce to local
packing sheds. The area is known for the spanish sweet variety of onion
that is considered an all-purpose onion that stores well. (Steve Ritter photo)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

USDA Awards $26 Million in Conservation Innovation Grants

Washington--Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Friday announced $26 million in Conservation Innovation Grantsawarded by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service for projects across the country that test and prove innovative approaches to conserving America’s private lands.

The grant winners, who will pay 50 percent of all project costs, will demonstrate innovative approaches to improving soil health, increasing pollinator and wildlife habitat, protecting water quality and producing on-farm energy savings.

Twelve of the awarded grants are for development of water quality trading markets—a first for NRCS—to demonstrate how farmers and ranchers can help municipalities, utilities and others overcome high pollution control costs.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Just in!

Beef Daily: New School Lunches Weak on Protein

Washington--As many schools kick off the 2012-2013 school year, there’s been some meaty discussion about new nationwide school lunch standards, the first changes in nearly 15 years.

With the reduction in protein being offered, active students could have trouble getting through the day, according to Beef Daily blogger Amanda Radke, whose sister is a busy high school sophomore.

Radke’s concerns mirror those of the farmer and rancher blogger moms who created a new Facebook page, Sensible School Lunches, as a forum for discussing the new standards.

The meal requirements are part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which was passed by Congress two years ago.

The new standards include:
  • Ensuring students are offered both fruits and vegetables every day of the week;
  • Substantially increasing offerings of whole grain-rich foods;
  • Offering only fat-free or low-fat milk varieties;
  • Limiting calories based on the age of children being served to ensure proper portion size; and
  • Increasing the focus on reducing the amounts of saturated fat, trans fats and sodium.

Friday, August 24, 2012

AFBF Urges Passage of Risk Management Account Bill

Washington--In a letter to Rep. Jeff Landry (R-La.), American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said the congressman’s Commercial Fishing, Farm and Ranch Risk (CFFR) Management Act (H.R. 6276) should be enacted without delay so farmers, ranchers and fishermen can more easily save for future financial needs. 

The legislation would allow farmers, ranchers and fishermen to place up to 20 percent of their yearly taxable income into CFFR Accounts.  Deposits to these savings accounts could be held in reserve for up to 10 years, with the funds taxed upon withdrawal.

“For many producers, this year represents a classic example of how this policy would allow them to have access to funds in a time of need,” Stallman wrote.  “These reserves could be used in other low-income years to help them cover their operating expenses.”

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Just in from Washington

“Farm Bill Now” Coalition Calls on Congress to Act

Washington--More than 35 agricultural organizations, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, have united to urge congressional lawmakers to pass a five-year farm bill before the current programs expire in September. 

“Calling the farm bill the ‘farm bill’ suggests its impact is limited only to farms and to the rural areas to which they are so closely tied. It’s really a jobs bill. A food bill. A conservation bill. A research bill. An energy bill. A trade bill. In other words, it’s a bill that affects every American,” the groups say in emphasizing the legislation’s reach beyond farming and ranching.

The full statement is available on the coalition’s website,

Along with a listing of the coalition members and key points about the farm bill and why immediate action is critical, the site makes it easy for farmers, ranchers and consumers to tell their lawmakers how important the farm and food bill is to them.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Just in--

Day of Prayer for Those Affected by Drought

POCATELLO - On Thursday, Aug. 23, the American Farm Bureau Federation will be asking Americans to remember the many individuals and families facing severe struggles due to this year’s devastating drought. Suggestions for a National Day of Prayer for Drought Victims have come from a number of people throughout farm country as a way to
support people facing challenges related to the ongoing drought.

“There is hardly a person involved in agriculture this year who has not been adversely affected by the drought of 2012,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “And while many farm and
ranch families are feeling the effects immediately due to withered crops, parched pastures, higher feed costs, or even wildfires, the lingering effects of this drought will be felt all across our nation for many months to come.

After returning from a trip to Bozeman, Montana where he met with other Future Farmers of America alums, Sid Freeman, a farmer from Canyon County, suggested a National Day of Prayer
for drought victims. During a recent interview, Freeman related several stories he heard during the FFA meeting. People who drove from Michigan said they traveled 1,700 miles and never left the drought zone. People from Nebraska told Freeman about the stark differences in farms in their state that had irrigation and were doing fine, and others without irrigation only a short distance away that are devastated.

“I’m a big believer in the power of thought and if enough people are on the same wave length a lot of good can come from that,” Freeman said. “This nation needs to get behind these folks
if nothing else it could raise their spirits and who knows what could happen.”

Freeman, who grows onions, beans, sugarbeets and wheat on irrigated land in southwest Idaho, was touched by the many heartbreaking stories he heard during the FFA convention and it
caused him to reflect on his life and his business.

“I’m sitting here watching my markets go through the roof and quite frankly, I feel a little guilty,” he said. “How many times has wheat been at $8 a bushel? I only remember one time in my life and the reason is these people in the Midwest are losing everything they’ve got. It’s the nature of the business, but I don’t feel good about it.”

Freeman added that he is in discussion with agriculture groups in Idaho to start a disaster relief

AFBF President Bob Stallman summarized: “Due to the terrible impact the drought disaster has dealt,we think it is fitting to come together as an organization and as a nation for unified prayer for all those who are hurting and who face serious challenges in the months ahead. As we all know, the agriculture community is about coming together during the tough times, and this is yet another time that calls forunity, compassion and faith for better days ahead.”

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Just in from Washington

Vilsack Hammers Congress over Farm Bill Delay
Washington--Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack speaking at the Iowa State Fair last week said the House of Representatives must get the farm bill passed by Sept. 30 in order to avoid deeper cuts in farm bill programs. 

Speaking against the backdrop of the worst drought in 60 years and the presidential campaign, Vilsack said rural Americans should be asking why the farm bill hasn’t gotten done and suggested that the votes are there to pass the bill if only House leaders will schedule a vote. He warned that if the farm bill isn’t passed soon, it will get rolled into larger debates over budget sequestration and taxes, with the result being deep program spending cuts.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Idaho Seed Harvest in full swing...

New Plymouth--Onion Seed Harvest is on near New Plymouth.  A picking crew of seventy-five will have this 6 acre field cut and picked by days end.  

Friday, August 17, 2012

Just in from Canyon County

August Harvest

Payette--Mint harvest is in full swing in Payette County...and the smell of mint is in the air at the Art & Galen Lee farm in Payette county.  The Lee's say its going to be a good crop with good market prices in 2012. (Steve Ritter photo)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Just in from Washington

Simpson tackles grazing and EAJA in Washington

Washington--Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson, Chairman of the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, moved the Interior, Environment, Appropriations Act for FY2013 through committee last month.

 The bill contains critical provisions essential for preserving responsible access to public grazing and may be considered by the full House within the next month. The Farm Bureau’s Jake Putnam interviewed Congressman Simpson:

Congressman Simpson, tell us about the new grazing provisions in the latest Interior Appropriations Bill?

I’m Chairman of The Interior Appropriations Committee that funds the Forest Service and the BLM, National Park Service and the United States Geological Service, EPA and a variety of other agencies. 

We were able to put provisions in this year's Appropriations bill, that’ll take the grazing permits from 10 years to 20 years. It’ll give the BLM time to catch up on the backlog of grazing permits and that’s the main problem. It’s the backlog of grazing permits. The BLM’s work in that regard is more difficult because they have so much catching up to do. I think it’s because of the suits that have been filed. We’re trying to reduce the number of lawsuits filed and let the BLM do the work on the ground and make sure those permits for cattle ranches can get out and in a timely manner. Like I’ve said before, if someone has a grazing permit and is doing a good job and following the rules why shouldn’t it be a 20 year instead of a 10 year permit?

The grazing permit process continues to get more complex for ranchers?

Yes, there’re more organizations who feel that grazing on public lands is inappropriate and they’d like to effectively remove cattle from public lands. I think that’s wrong. If you talk to the BLM and Forest Service grazing is a way of reducing fire hazards. Grazing on public lands is the right thing to do and we’re trying to make sure its unencumbered so ranchers have some surety.

Are there studies that show grazing does help reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfire on public land?

Yes. It's been a dilemma that we’ve had for years. The Forest Service is able to put out 98 percent of their fires from the start and they never grow into big fires. It's the two percent that becomes catastrophic fires. Being successful at putting out small fires, the fuel load continues to grow each year. There’s more dead trees and thick brush and it's hard to get in there and clean it out and fuel loads are enormous. When we have a fire it's devastating and hard to put out. We’ve funded in our appropriation bill this year, both the BLM and Forest Service a ten year average. Im hopeful that’s enough, but given the size of these fires across the west we may be looking at more appropriations to fund these.

What about firefighting equipment?

The Air Tankers needed to fight fires and awfully thin right now. As you know we’ve lost a few this year we don’t have many left. We used to have a fleet of 42, and we have to do something that re-establishes those tankers and help fight these devastating wildfires. Getting new tankers is an expensive proposition but necessary that we do it. Right now I’m working with Senator Reed from Nevada on the Senate side, and Senator Feinstein and others and we’re trying to put together a plan to get these tankers rebuilt. 

Also in this Bill you talked about the high cost of litigation, You think the American public would rather see this money put on the ground than lining lawyers pockets?

I once asked the Chief of the Forest Service this question: ‘When you make a management decision on a timber cut or a thinning, how much of the money you spend making that decision is actually spent on making a good scientific decision that you can defend and how much is spent making it bullet proof from a lawsuit?’ He said between 50 and 70-percent of the money is spent trying to make it bullet proof. Wouldn’t it be nice to see that money out of the courts and instead on managing public lands? 

One of the problems we have right now is called the Equal Access to Justice Act, also known as EAJA and it allows anyone to sue. If they’re on the prevailing side they’re allowed attorney fees and damages.

The problem is that no one is tracking how much we’re spending in EAJA fees. Where is all the money going? I once asked the Secretary of Interior, ‘If you lose a case and have to pay EAJA fees does it come out of your budget?’ He looked around at his staff and no one knew! If you don’t know where it's coming from, if you are not paying for it, then you’re not tracking it well. Most of it comes out of the Justice fund and we have put some requirements that require them to report where the money is coming from. We want to know who’s paying for these lawsuits, how much the attorney fees are and who exactly is getting these EAJA fees. We need that information to be able to reform the process so we’re not spending billions of dollars on court costs.

Is there good evidence out there that lawyers are suing the Federal Government, collecting fees and suing over again?

There’s evidence of that and evidence that organizations sometimes sue the government and prevail on part of the suit and attorney fees rewarded by the court are sometimes higher than what ordinary attorneys are paid.

So it's a cottage industry that’s built up, we need to end that. But people should still have a say in how their public lands are managed, they are public lands, but taxpayers should not be stuck funding these organizations so they can create more lawsuits.

The Farm Bill is under discussion back in Washington, what's the latest?

There’s been mark-ups in the House Agriculture Committee on the Bill. The Senate has a bill on the floor. If we can get the House bill out and done and then we can hopefully write a new Farm Bill because the other one is expiring quickly. There are provisions in it that eliminate the sugar program which is a no cost program to the taxpayer and is actually a good program. Idaho sugar producers support it and we were able to defeat that amendment in the committee today. There's also a dairy provision that I’ve been working on with the Idaho dairymen that Rep. Colin Peterson and I have written. And there’s also been an attempt by some to remove that part of the farm program and we were able to maintain that so it's moving along the way we want it. It's a pretty good Farm Bill. It does reduce spending over 10 years by $35-billion dollars in the bill so its conservative. It meets our goal of trying to reduce Federal Spending, yet its a good bill for agriculture.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Just in

Newsline: What the Drought Will Mean to You

Washington--In Monday’s Newsline, Todd Davis, an American Farm Bureau Federation economist, explains what the drought means for farmers, ranchers and consumers.

“The psychological and emotional aspect is that, as a farmer you invest all your money up front on feed and inputs and you don’t have a chance to get any money until harvest time and so it’s very emotional, very sad and frustrating to see this labor of love wither away and die in the field,” Davis said. “You see that all of your financial investment wither away and die with it.”

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

USDA Announces Meat Purchases as Part of Drought Response

Washington--Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Monday announced the Agriculture Department’s intent to purchase up to $170 million of pork, lamb, chicken and catfish for federal food nutrition assistance programs, including food banks.

According to Vilsack, the purchase will help relieve pressure on American livestock producers during the drought, while helping to bring the nation’s meat supply in line with demand and providing high-quality, nutritious food to recipients of USDA’s nutrition programs.

Through the Emergency Surplus Removal Program, USDA can use Section 32 funds to purchase meat and poultry products to assist farmers and ranchers who have been affected by natural disasters.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Just In

Fear of Food Crisis Looms
New York--Fears of Global Food Crisis Increase as Drought Worsens The United Nations is warning against any actions such as export bans, tariffs and buying binges that created a level of hysteria in 2007-2008 and only worsened the severe global increase in food prices.

“There is an expectation that this time around we will not pursue bad policies and intervene in the market by restrictions, and if that doesn’t happen we will not see such a serious situation as 2007/08,” said the Food and Agriculture Organization’s senior economist and grain analyst Abdolreza Abbassian in an interview with Reuters.

“But if those policies get repeated, anything is possible.” Thus far, most governments have abstained from trade intervention but analysts have seen some signs of stockpiling corn and unusually large early buying is being reported.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Just in from the Capital Press

Renewable energy producers oppose Idaho utility plan

Capital Press
Renewable energy developers say farmers could miss out on opportunities to lease their land for new wind projects if the Idaho Public Utilities Commission approves changes backed by the state's power companies.
Some managers of Idaho canal companies that operate hydropower turbines also fear the plan could reduce revenue to growers from power generation.
Idaho Power Co., Avista and PacifiCorp argue they should receive all green tags associated with their renewable energy suppliers since the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act mandates they buy renewable energy from qualified small projects.
Renewable energy companies receive green tags for the power they generate. The tags can be sold or traded, and allow the owner to claim they have purchased renewable energy in accordance with state or federal mandates.
The power companies also asked the Idaho Public Utilities Commission to: change the formula that determines payments to small renewable power companies, allow power utilities the option of capping renewable energy purchases when demand is low and shorten the length of renewable power sales agreements from 20 years to five years.
Three days of hearings on the proposed renewable energy changes commenced Aug. 7 in Boise before the PUC. PUC spokesman Gene Fadness is uncertain how long it will take for the commission to render a decision.
"Idaho Power and the other two utilities believe that renewable power has been coming on too much, too fast, and the result is rate payers are paying too much for power the utilities say they really don't need," Fadness said.
Randy Gardner, senior project manager with Ridgeline Energy, said his company is planning half a dozen wind projects in the Pacific Northwest, and passage of the plan could stymie Idaho development.
The projects depend on revenue from the sale of the green tags to pencil out.
"It affects the economics of wind farms. It truly does," Gardner said.
Carl Hofmeister, a dryland farmer in American Falls, said a pair of royalty checks from Ridgeline turbines on his land were larger than expected and have helped him weather a rough growing season.
"That's what made the project feasible is the (green tags). It's not Idaho Power's (green tags), it's Ridgeline's," Hofmeister said.
Currently, energy developers and Idaho utilities make agreements to divvy green tags on a case-by-case basis.
Lisa Grow, Idaho Power's senior vice president of power supply, said owning green tags could be critical for Idaho's electric utilities if the federal government ever imposes minimum green energy standards. She said green tag revenue would be passed along to customers, and all irrigators stand to benefit from reduced power rates.
Grow said wind production tends to slow during the summer -- peak electric season -- and utilities spend top dollar on wind power when they need it least. Utilities back a model tying renewable energy payments to seasonal demand.
The Jerome-based North Side Canal Co. was among four intervening canal companies and reservoir districts.
"Right now (power generation) saves the farmers a little over $2 per acre for the water," said the company's manager, Ted Diehl.
Grow said the demand-related purchasing cap would apply only to projects yielding more than 10 megawatts of power, and canal flows tend to correlate with peak electric season.
"I just don't see any big shift coming for (canal companies)," Grow said.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Just in from Washington

New Drought Assistance Announced for Farmers
Washington--Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced that USDA will utilize nearly $16 million in financial and technical assistance to immediately help crop and livestock producers in 19 states cope with the adverse affects of the historic drought. USDA also will initiate a transfer of $14 million in unobligated program funds into the Emergency Conservation Program.

 These funds can be used to assist in moving water to livestock in need, providing emergency forage for livestock and rehabilitating lands severely affected by the drought. Together these efforts should provide nearly $30 million to producers struggling with drought conditions.

According to Vilsack, “This additional assistance builds on a number of steps USDA has taken over the past few weeks to provide resources and flexibility in our existing programs to help producers endure these serious hardships.” Within the last month, USDA has opened the Conservation Reserve Program to emergency haying and grazing, lowered the borrower interest rate for emergency loans and has worked with crop insurance companies to provide more flexibility to farmers. Read the USDA news release for additional information.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Just in

Hazy Days of Summer
Orange sunrise over the Treasure Valley on this
day August 9 , 2012. Smoke from burning forest fires in the area has
filled the valley with smoke, causing the bright orange sunrise. (Steve Ritter photo)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Just in from Washington

Farm Bureau Grassroots Efforts Continue Through Recess

Washington--Farm Bureau members are encouraged to continue grassroots efforts to influence the congressional agenda during the district work period, which ends Sept. 10. 

Visits with representatives and senators during the 5-week recess should focus on two key issues: the Clean Water Act Guidance Document (Farm Bureau opposes) and completion of the 2012 farm bill.

In the Senate, Farm Bureau seeks support for legislation that would stop the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers from expanding regulatory control of waters of the U.S. On the House side, urging representatives to consider the new farm bill before the current one expires at the end of September is the main focus.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Just in

Farm Groups Disappointed Congress Not Voting on Farm Bill

Washington--The American Farm Bureau Federation and a coalition of organizations representing U.S. agriculture sent a statement to members of Congress last week expressing disappointment that House Republican leadership has decided to not move forward with the House Agriculture Committee’s bill before adjourning for the August recess. 

The farm organizations support finding a path forward to reaching agreement on a new five-year farm bill before current program authorities expire on Sept. 30.

The House will consider a separate disaster bill today, under suspension of the rules, to make supplemental agricultural disaster assistance available for fiscal year 2012. In the statement, the farm groups said that they do not oppose passage of a disaster assistance bill, but note that almost identical provisions to retroactively extend four programs that are part of the disaster bill are included in the Senate-passed farm bill and the bill reported by the House Agriculture Committee.
The Congressional Budget Office scored the disaster package at a cost of $383 million, which is offset by cuts of $639 million from two conservation programs, leaving $256 million to go towards deficit reduction.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Producer finds Niche Market
By Steve Ritter
Indian Valley--Victor Ward of Indian Valley, owns a small agri-business called Weiser River Signature Beef. 

He supplies all natural beef products to local markets and resturants in the Treasure Valley and only buys and processes beef grown on ranches in the Weiser River Valley. 

 "I offer another niche marketing opportunity to my cattle rancher neighbors that adds more value to the animals they raise and consumers now have the chance to buy food grown here locally, which is what shoppers prefer."  says Ward.  

Ward's products can be found at the Boise Co-Op and the Sandbar Pub in Boise, and at

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Legislative Farm Tour

Emmett--Gem county farmers hosted a group of local legislators, and some that are running for seats in the legislature, at an evening farm tour near Emmett.   They toured water and canal systems around the valley and drove combines harvesting wheat at various farms. (Steve Ritter photo)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Just in--

USDA Reminds Insured Fruit Producers how to handle Fruit Damage Claims

Spokane--With the recent weather related damage to crops in Washington State the USDA’s risk Management Agency (RMA) offers a few important reminders for Federalcrop insured fruit growers.

If your crop will not be harvested:

– Provide notice at least 3 days before the date harvest would normally

– You may be required to harvest a representative sample so the insurance
company can perform an appraisal.

During harvest:

– Provide notice within 3 days of discovering damage.

Direct marketing of crop:

– You must notify us at least 15 days before any production from any unit
will be sold by direct marketing.

No production loss, but anticipate revenue loss (for cherries):

– Provide notice no later than March 1 following harvest.

Important: All notices that are made by telephone or in person must be confirmed in writing within 15 days. It is extremely important not to dispose of the crop without contacting your insurance company. You must get written consent from your insurance company before you destroy any of the insured crop that is not harvested; put the insured crop to another use; put the acreage to another use; or abandon any
portion of the insured crop. Timely notices of damage and loss adjustment are extremely important for cherries because they are highly perishable.

For more information on duties in the event of damage, loss, abandonment, destruction, or alternative use of the crop or acreage contact your crop insurance agent or consult Section 14 of the Common Crop Insurance Policy Basic Provisions (11-br) Policy.

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...