Monday, April 30, 2012

Just in from Owyhee County

4-H Cowboy Trail Ride a Success
Murphy--Bradley Heidein and his miniture mule, Jack-Jack of Emmett was one of 214 participants at the annual Wilson Butte 4-H club Cowboy trail. The event was held Saturday on the Blackstock ranch in Owyhee county. From the ride, the club has raised over 12,000.00 dollars the last eight years that is donated to worthy causes in the area. ( Photo and text : Steve Ritter)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Statement by Bob Stallman, President, American Farm Bureau Federation, Regarding Withdrawal of the Overreaching Child Labor Proposal

WASHINGTON--"The Labor Department’s notification today that it is withdrawing proposed rules that would have prevented many young people from working in agriculture is the right decision for our nation’s family-based agriculture system," said American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman.
"Farm Bureau appreciates the administration’s decision and efforts by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to listen to farmers, ranchers and other rural Americans. We also know that this would not have happened without the efforts of Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) and others in Congress, and we thank them for standing up for agriculture and the rural way of life," added Stallman.
“This victory for farm families is due to the thousands of farmers and ranchers who sent comments to the Labor Department opposing the rules and continued to voice their concerns with members of Congress. This announcement shows the strength of American agriculture and grassroots action," said Stallman.
“Farm Bureau will continue working to ensure that the parental exemptions that remain important to agriculture will be protected, and we will continue our work to help educate families about the importance of farm safety. We also look forward to working with the Departments of Agriculture and Labor and rural stakeholders to develop a program to promote safer agricultural working practices,”said Stallman.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Just in--

Japan Continues to Accept U.S. Beef After BSE Cow Reported

Tokyo-- A top Japanese official said Wednesday that Japan will continue to import U.S. beef, as the cow infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy was older than 30 months. South Korea also continues to accept U.S. beef imports, although two retailers have reportedly removed the product from store shelves.The Agriculture Department continues to investigate the BSE case and is working to locate any offspring of the infected cow. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack commented in more detail about trade and the BSE issue during Wednesday’s AgriTalk radio program.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Statement Regarding April 24 Detection of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy
WASHINGTON— “American beef and dairy products are safe. The safeguards our government has in place to detect any incidence of this disease are clearly working. The report of a cow with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, discovered during the pre-rendering process, is proof that our detection system works.

 “Government officials have confirmed that the animal in question was a dairy cow from California. This animal did not enter the food chain. Scientists say the animal displayed an atypical case of BSE, meaning it is a rare form not generally associated with feed consumption. USDA scientists said they remain confident in the health of the national herd and the safety of beef and dairy products.

“We are pleased to hear that the Agriculture Department is conducting a comprehensive and immediate investigation into additional details surrounding this case.”

AFBF Urges Senate to repeal the 'Death Tax'
Washington--The American Farm Bureau Federation is endorsing Senate legislation that would help protect America’s farm and ranch families from potentially crippling blows of the federal estate tax following a farm owner’s death.

The Senate bill, the Death Tax Repeal Permanency Act of 2012 (S. 2242), was introduced by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.). The bill is similar to another Farm Bureau-supported, H.R. 1259, introduced in the House by Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas). The House bill now has more than 200 co-sponsors.

In a letter to Thune and other sponsors, AFBF President Bob Stallman stated that estate taxes continue to be a problem for the nation’s farmers and ranchers. Individuals, family partnerships and family corporations own 98 percent of the nation’s 2 million agricultural operations. When estate taxes on an agricultural business exceed cash and other liquid assets, the tax can cripple a family-owned farm or ranch and hurt the rural communities and businesses that agriculture supports, according to AFBF.

The Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010 set the estate tax exemption at $5 million per person, with a top tax rate of 35 percent for 2011 and 2012. That legislation also put in place a new provision for 2011 and 2012 that allows the unused portion of a spouse’s exemption to be used by a surviving spouse, and it permanently reinstates stepped-up basis in regard to tax treatment. Legislation is necessary because without congressional action, in 2013, the estate tax exemption will shrink to $1 million per person with no spousal transfer and the top rate will increase to 55 percent.

“This will strike a blow to farm and ranch operations trying to transition from one generation to the next,” Stallman said. “A $1 million exemption is not high enough to protect a typical farm or ranch able to support a family and, when coupled with a top rate of 55 percent, can be especially difficult for farm and ranch businesses.”

“While estate tax planning may be able to protect some family farms and ranches from the devastation of estate taxes, planning tools are costly and take money needed to operate and expand businesses,” Stallman said. “Even with planning, changing asset values and family situations make it impossible to guarantee that a well-thought-out estate plan will protect a family business from estate taxes. Stallman said the “on again, off again” nature of estate tax law makes it difficult, if not impossible, for farmers and ranchers to engage in planning for the transfer of a family business from one generation to the next. “It becomes a barrier to entry for new and beginning farmers”  Stallman added 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

2012 Idaho Farm Bureau Federation State Resolution Meeting underway

Boise--Idaho Farm Bureau Vice President Mark Trupp calls the 2012 State Resolution meeting to order in Boise this morning.

The group will consider resolutions from the IFBF's five districts, everything from agriculture issues of concern to state legislative budgets. When a resolution is approved it becomes IFBF policy, and included in the 2012 Idaho Farm Bureau Policy Book thats published each year and distributed to lawmakers in Boise and Capitol Hill.

"This is a vital part of grass-root politics," said Idaho Farm Bureau President Frank Priestley. "We're unique because we get guidance from members. Not many groups can say that and it starts at the county level. We've had resolutions that originated there that were later adopted by the American Farm Bureau and into the national policy book. This might be the only organization in America where the little guy counts."

Just in from Washington

Farm Bureau Urges Senate Ag Committee to Move Farm Bill Forward
WASHINGTON, D.C., April 23, 2012 – Numerous provisions of the Senate Agriculture Committee’s draft farm bill follow the American Farm Bureau Federation’s core principles for
“rational, acceptable farm policy,” but there is room for adjustments to improve the legislation.

AFBF President Bob Stallman delivered that message to Senate Agriculture Committee leaders in a letter today following a meeting of the organization’s board of directors. In the letter, AFBF urged the committee to approve the draft “as a vehicle to move the farm bill to the Senate floor in a timely manner.” While the letter said “the importance of completing a farm bill cannot be overstated,” it also said that AFBF would seek opportunities “to make adjustments and efinements to improve the legislation.”

The letter, sent to Senate
Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Ranking Member
Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), started by commending them for moving forward in a bipartisan fashion to write the 2012 farm bill.

The letter specifically outlined AFBF’s support for several points included in the Senate
farm bill, including: the decision to “stand firm on utilizing the figure of $23 billion in savings suggested to the Super Committee last fall”; the fact that the Senate bill protects and strengthens the federal crop insurance program and does not reduce funding for the program; that programs are not based on cost of production; and that it includes “a commodity title that attempts to encourage producers to follow market signals rather than make planting decisions in anticipation of government payments.”

AFBF’s letter stated that while the draft legislation addresses many of its policy priorities, the organization continues to support a single program option for the commodity title that is extended to all crops and it has concerns about the need for improved “equity across all commodities.” The letter also stated that AFBF will continue to work toward provisions in the bill for a financial safety net that includes a “catastrophic revenue loss program based on county level losses” with coverage at 80 percent of revenue levels.

“Catastrophic loss events are typically beyond any producer's control, and are events that would endanger the financial survivability of the farm,” Stallman said. “These events, in the past, have prompted enactment of ad hoc disaster programs. Having a catastrophic plan in place would protect farmers from these situations and extend program benefits only when they are needed, rather than potentially being a supplemental source of annual income.”

While AFBF will seek further refinements in the Senate farm bill, Stallman’s letter highlights
a number of the bill’s provisions supported by the organization. Included among a larger list of those provisions were:

· Support for elimination of
direct payments, countercyclical payments, the average crop revenue election
program and the SURE program;
· Maintaining the current
marketing loan program;
· Rejecting any provision
linking conservation compliance with crop insurance;
· Eliminating the dairy price
support program and the Milk Income Loss Contract program and using the funds
associated with those programs to offer a voluntary gross margin insurance
program for dairy producers;
· Mandating that USDA’s Risk
Management Agency develop by 2013 a revenue insurance product that meets the
needs of peanut producers; and
· Achieving the vast majority
of necessary reductions in conservation funding from land-retirement programs
rather than working-land programs.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Just in from Washington

Correcting the Public Record on Lean Finely Textured Beef

Washington--Thirty lawmakers on Thursday asked Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack what USDA has done and can do in the future to help stop “the campaign of misinformation” about lean finely textured beef, now widely known to American consumers as “pink slime.”

Describing the media coverage and subsequent consumer revolt against LFTB as “a campaign of misinformation,” the members of Congress asked USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service to outline steps it has taken to correct the public record and educate consumers about the safety of LFTB.

The letter did not include specifics about what FSIS should address, but pointed out that Beef Products Inc., the manufacturer of LFTB, has an “award-winning trade record” and food safety record that have gone unnoticed by critics.

Food Safety News article

Friday, April 20, 2012

Just in from Washington

Corn Planting Continues at Record Pace

Washington--The progress of corn planting continues in the U.S. at a record pace, according to the latest report from the Agriculture Department, which provides information on the top 18 corn-producing states. About 17 percent of corn expected to be planted is now in the ground. This represents a doubling of corn planting progress by farmers for the second week in a row according to USDA. This exceptional pace makes 2012 the third-fastest year for corn planting since 1985, just slightly behind this same week in 2004 (20 percent) and 2010 (19 percent).

Tennessee is currently in the lead according to USDA, with 80 percent of the corn crop in the ground. This is an increase of 34 percentage points from last week—the largest increase reported. Kentucky also made significant gains with 59 percent of corn planted, compared to 32 percent one week ago. In Ohio, 10 percent of the corn has been planted.

Last year the national average for the percentage of corn planted did not reach 17 percent until the middle of May, due to weather issues. A Dairy Herd Network article includes a clickable map where you see how other states are progressing with corn planting.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Just in from Washington

House Ag Committee Moves Forward with Farm Bill Process

Washington--House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas has announced another series of hearings on the 2012 farm bill to begin next week in Washington, D.C. The six subcommittees will hold the hearings throughout April and May to hear from national agricultural stakeholders advocating for policy priorities.

In June, the committee held 11 audit hearings on agriculture programs to look for ways to improve programs for farmers, increase efficiency and reduce spending. Lucas then took committee members to the countryside to hear directly from producers in the field. The hearings slated for Washington will round out the information gathering in advance of writing legislation, according to a House Ag Committee news release. Witnesses for the hearings have not been announced.

The hearing schedule is as follows: April 25, Subcommittee on Rural Development, Research, Biotechnology and Foreign Agriculture—rural development programs; April 26, Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy and Forestry—conservation programs; April 26, Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry—dairy programs; May 8, Subcommittee on Nutrition and Horticulture— nutrition and specialty crop programs; May 10, Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight and Credit—credit programs; May 16, Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management—commodity programs and crop insurance; May 17, Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management—commodity programs and crop insurance; May 18, Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy and Forestry—energy and forestry programs.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Just in from Washington

Newsline: Food Prices May be Settling Down

Washington--The American Farm Bureau Federation’s latest Marketbasket Survey for the first quarter of 2012 shows retail prices were up about 7 percent from last year at this time and from last quarter. However, the news is not all bad, John Anderson, an AFBF economist, told Newsline.

“I think the rate of increase has slowed down,” Anderson said. “As we talked about a lot last year we expected fairly aggressive food price increases last year and we did get that. We’ve been saying for the last two or three months that we expect that to slow down in 2012 and that also seems to be happening. We’re looking for food price inflation that’s much more in line with the general level of prices, so somewhere in the 2 to 3 percent range.”

Anderson cautioned that prices at the meat counter are likely to remain high.

“When you think of cattle you think of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, places like that and they were devastated by the drought last year and that forced a lot of farmers and ranchers to really reduce their numbers,” he explained. “A lot of cattle had to be sent to market because there was just not really anything to feed them, nothing that could be fed economically. So that has reduced the productive capacity.”

AFBF news release

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Just in

Farm Bureau Opposes Health Insurance Mandates

Washington--The American Farm Bureau Federation recently filed comments with the House Ways and Means Committee expressing opposition to the individual and employer health insurance mandates in the health care reform law enacted last year. The committee’s Subcommittee on Health held a hearing on the mandate’s impact on small businesses.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act penalizes farm and ranch businesses with 50 or more “full-time equivalent” employees if they do not provide government-prescribed health insurance, or if certain employees receive a tax credit and purchase insurance through state-regulated health insurance exchanges.

“Farm Bureau is opposed to mandates that require individuals to have health insurance and that require employers to provide it for their workers,” AFBF said in its written comments. “Most farmers and ranchers are self-employed and buy health insurance for themselves and their workers through individual and small group markets. Coverage mandates accompanied by penalties for noncompliance will only make a difficult situation worse for people already unable to afford coverage.”

There is also uncertainty about whether affordable, short-term coverage will be available for temporary or seasonal agricultural workers, AFBF said. AFBF also was one of several organizations that sent a letter in late March to the Ways and Means Committee chairman and ranking member in support of the American Job Protection Act (H.R. 1744), which would repeal the employer mandate.

The subcommittee’s hearing may inform a debate later this year over rewriting the health care law, in the event that the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the health insurance mandates. The court in late March heard oral arguments in a legal challenge brought by several states against the mandates. The court will render its decision this summer.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Just in

Meats and Cheese Drive Slight Increase in Retail Food Prices

Washington--Retail food prices at the supermarket increased slightly during the first quarter of 2012 with protein staples—meats and cheese—showing the greatest increase in price, 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 $52.47, up $3.24 or about 7 percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2011. Of the 16 items surveyed, 13 increased and three decreased in average price compared to the prior quarter. The cost for the overall basket of foods increased about 7 percent compared to one year ago.

About two-thirds of the quarter-to-quarter increase in the marketbasket of foods was due to higher retail prices for sliced deli ham, sirloin tip roast, ground chuck, bacon and cheddar cheese.

Retail prices for meats and cheese were higher in the first quarter of the year due to generally strong demand and tight supplies, a situation that carried over from 2011,” said John Anderson, an AFBF senior economist. “According to Agriculture Department data, retail meat prices probably peaked sometime in the first quarter, and wholesale prices have declined noticeably in recent weeks. This suggests that retail meat prices may decline as 2012 progresses.”

AFBF news release

Friday, April 13, 2012

President's Op-Ed

Setting the Record Straight
By Frank Priestley, Idaho Farm Bureau Federation President
Pink Slime. It’s another over-hyped, inaccurate catch phrase designed to scare consumers about the safety of our food supply. One of the biggest challenges agriculture faces today is fighting back against what sometimes seems like a constant barrage of misinformation about our food supply and what goes into producing it.
Questions and concerns about our food supply often come under scrutiny, as they should. The act of putting food in one’s mouth is one of the most intimate things we do and scrutinizing the safety of food is very important. However, questions about the safety of our food supply can quickly become emotional and overblown, as is the case with so-called pink slime.
To better understand this discussion let’s first define what we are talking about. Lean finely textured beef (LFTB) is the product being referred to as pink slime. The phrase was first found in a USDA internal memo that was provided to the New York Times in 2009 resulting from a Freedom of Information Act request. What consumers should first understand is that LFTB is just plain old beef that is separated from the trimmings that result from the processing of cattle. Pieces of fat that are cut from carcasses contain small pieces of red meat. The meat that cannot be separated from fat with a knife is separated through a heating and centrifuge process. The meat is then treated with ammonia in gaseous state to kill bacteria and then mixed with beef that is ground into hamburger. This process makes beef processing plants more efficient and reduces the amount of waste left over. Before the process was adopted, this waste was used to make pet food and cooking oil.
Why use ammonia? We understand why consumers would be concerned about a cleaning product being used to treat food. Ammonia and water, both naturally occurring compounds, have been used to make food safe since 1974 when the Food and Drug Administration permitted its use. LFTB receives a puff of ammonia to eliminate bacteria safely and effectively. When combined with moisture naturally in beef, ammonia hydroxide is formed, a naturally occurring compound found in many foods, in our own bodies and the environment. Food safety experts and scientists agree it is an effective way to ensure safer ground beef and to reiterate, it’s been in use since 1974.
The U.S. has the safest, most abundant and affordable food supply of any country on the planet. This most recent blow-up over LFTB resulted in three beef processing plants being shut down and over 300 people losing their jobs. If consumers don’t want to purchase ground beef that contains LFTB, they have many options to choose from. But in our opinion, it’s wrong for the media to create a controversy over a product with a safety record that has been proven over the last 38 years.
Let’s also not lose sight of the facts that the United States has the safest, most abundant and affordable food supply of any nation on earth and that our global population is expected to double by 2050 which will put even more pressure on our ability to produce food for the masses. We expect an increasing demand for processes like the one developed to create LFTB will be needed to increase the efficiency of our food production system.
Following are a few quotes from experts discussing the quality and methods used to produce LFTB. More information can be found
“It’s safe, it’s leaner than other beef sources on the market, and it’s less costly.” - Kevin Concannon, USDA undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer sciences
“Ammonium hydroxide itself is used in a multitude of different food products. It’s not a safety concern.” – Dr. Elisabeth Hagen, USDA undersecretary for food safety
“There has been a lot of misinformation swirling around the Internet and on TV about lean beef trim produced by Beef Products, Inc. I have personally visited their plant and the categorization of calling their product “pink slime” is completely false and incendiary. Consumers need to understand that this product is meat, period, and that the use of ammonia hydroxide in minute amounts during processing improves the safety of the product and is routinely used throughout the food industry.” – Nancy Donley, founder STOP Foodborne Illness.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Just in

‘Fabricating It’: Opponents Wrong On Antibiotics Use

Manhattan--A study conducted by Kansas State University shows that opponents of antibiotics use in livestock production wildly overestimate the amount given to food animals.

Using data from a 2006 Department of Agriculture swine survey and a 2009 survey of swine veterinarians, K-State found that annually about 1.6 million pounds of antibiotics are used in pork production for growth promotion/nutritional efficiency and disease prevention. A 2001 report, “Hogging It,” from the Union of Concerned Scientists, claimed that 10.3 million pounds a year are used.

“The UCS report should have been titled ‘Fabricating It,’” said National Pork Producers Council President R.C. Hunt.“Pork producers do not overuse antibiotics. We work with veterinarians to carefully consider if antibiotics are necessary and which ones to use.”

The KSU study, which was published in the March issue of “Foodborne Pathogens and Disease,” found that 2.8 million pounds of antibiotics were used for growth promotion/nutritional efficiency, disease prevention and disease treatment. That amount is 368 percent less than the amount asserted by UCS for just growth promotion/nutritional efficiency and disease prevention.

The study also belies the claim made by opponents of modern livestock production and some members of Congress—and repeated by much of the media—that 80 percent of all antibiotics sold are used to promote growth in livestock.

NPPC news release

KSU study abstract

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Just in from Washington

Biofuels, Energy Groups Push for Farm Bill Energy Title

Washington--The Biotechnology Industry Organization and dozens of other renewable energy, environmental and other groups last week sent a letter to the leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture committees asking for reauthorization and funding of farm bill energy title programs.

“The U.S. is experiencing strong growth in the development and commercialization of biofuels, bioproducts, biopower, biogas, energy crops, renewable energy and energy efficiency,” the groups wrote to Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Reps. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and Collin Peterson (D-Minn.). “These important and growing industries all benefit agriculture and forestry and are poised to make huge contributions to our economic, environmental and national security in the coming years, provided that we maintain stable policies that support clean energy manufacturing and innovation.”

The farm bill’s energy title programs are vital components in the continued growth of these industries, the groups said. They emphasized that the programs belong nowhere in the farm bill but in the energy title and that no federal or state agency is equipped to manage them as well as the Agriculture Department.

The letter was organized by the Agriculture Energy Coalition, a broad-based membership coalition of groups that represent renewable energy and bioproducts stakeholders.

Farm bill energy title support letter

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Just in--

Ron Abramovich surveys the March snowpack
March snowpack levels vary widely across state
Boise – Hydrologists from the Natural Resources Conservation Service used the term “March Madness” to describe the results from the latest snow survey which shows a wide range of precipitation levels and snowpack amounts across Idaho. During March, storm after storm moved through central and northern Idaho but left parts of southern Idaho dry.

“Diverse conditions would be an understatement to describe the present snowpack situation in Idaho,” said Jeff Anderson, NRCS Hydrologist in Boise. “Since March 1, we’ve measured one of the greatest one-month changes in snowpack on record.”

According to snow survey and Snow Telemetry (SNOTEL) measurements, the snowpack either increased or decreased depending on the area. Warm weather melted some of the low and mid elevation snowpack in the southern Idaho basins of Bear, Blackfoot, Bruneau, Owyhee, and Portneuf decreasing the snowpack up to 22 percent. With little March snowfall across southern Idaho many of those basins have snowpacks in the dismal range of 40 to 60% of normal.

Many areas north of the Snake River Plain received above average precipitation and snowpacks increased up to 34 percent. March storms left the Panhandle snowpack at about 120% of normal. Snowpacks in the middle of Idaho range from 80 to 110% of normal. Streamflow forecasts rose due to the increased snowpack.
The abundant carry over water stored in Idaho reservoirs may be a problem in some areas that received abundant March precipitation. Reservoirs in southern Idaho are holding an above normal water supply and should accommodate the lower than normal runoff due to the low snowpack this year.

For more information about snowpack, precipitation, runoff and water supplies for specific basins, please view the complete April 2012 Water Supply Outlook Report online at and click on the ‘Water Supply’ link.
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.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Just in--

AFBF: Bipartisan Support Needed to Block Child Labor Regs

Washington--The American Farm Bureau continues to urge bipartisan support for congressional legislation that would prevent the secretary of labor from finalizing or enforcing the proposed Department of Labor child labor regulations.

Early last month, Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa) introduced the Preserving America’s Family Farm Act (H.R. 4157). More recently, Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) introduced a companion bill (S. 2221), which has 44 co-sponsors.

The Labor Department is currently reviewing approximately 18,000 comments on proposed youth labor rules that would negatively affect the way families operate their farms and ranches.

Under the proposal, even routine farm chores, such as driving tractors, milking cows, cutting weeds and building or repairing fences would likely be considered illegal unless the farm on which the youth worked was wholly owned by his or her parents.

AFBF backgrounder

Friday, April 6, 2012

Just in--

UN Food Agency Warns of High Global Prices

New York--With tight world stocks of corn and other grains, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Agency is concerned about a three-month trend of price hikes and global food insecurity.

An FAO index of monthly price changes for a basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy, meat and sugar averaged 215.9 points in March, below the February 2011 peak of 237.9, but “higher than during a food price crisis in 2007-08 that raised global alarm,” according to a Reuters story.

Both tight commodity supplies and high oil prices are driving the food price trend, the article says.

Reuters article

Just in

Nebraska FFA Members Lend a Hand to Effort to Stop Child Labor Reg

Omaha--At last week’s Nebraska FFA Convention, 560 FFA members joined Nebraska Farm Bureau in opposing the U.S. Labor Department’s plan to restrict the types of farm work that young people can do. They signed their names and wrote notes to DOL on paper hands that echo NEFB’s campaign theme: “Let Me Get My Hands Dirty.” NEFB will send all of the messages to DOL.

Under a rule proposed last year and now being finalized by DOL, no one under the age of 16 would be allowed to work on a farm that isn’t owned by his or her parents, and many routine farm tasks would be off-limits. The regulation created an uproar in farm country, where it was seen as an attack on the way farm families work—training kids on how to do farm tasks properly and safely, so that they can one day take over the farm or ranch.

“This proposed rule is unbelievably restrictive and it will prevent young people from being able to get their hands dirty on farms and ranches across the state,” said Steve Nelson, NEFB president. “FFA students would not even be allowed to follow their own motto, ‘Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve.’”

Nebraska Farm Bureau news release

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Just in from Washington

Supreme Court Ruling Sides With Property Owners
Washington--A recent Supreme Court ruling says that landowners are entitled to a day in court. In a unanimous decision the Supreme Court ruled that property owners are entitled to their day in court when the Environmental Protection Agency asserts jurisdiction over their land.
In Sackett v. EPA, the EPA told Mike and Chantell Sackett of Priest Lake they had to stop building their new home because it was on wetlands. When the couple asked for a hearing, their request was denied.
Sackett, 45, says because some of the land got “wet” in the spring it was classified as wetlands. “We wanted our day in court to just to say, ‘This is not a wetland,’ ” he said. Federal District Court turned the couple away, saying they could not make that argument until the EPA asked a federal judge to enforce the order leaving the Sacketts in limbo. Restoring the property as the EPA demanded didn't make sense to them. It would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, they say, and if they ultimately won the case they’d have to clear the land a second time. But defying the order potentially meant racking up $32,500 in fines each day—and perhaps criminal liability if they continued with construction—while they waited for the EPA to decide whether to pursue the case.
“We didn’t get the clarity in terms of where EPA can and can’t regulate, but we forced the agency into a position where their decisions are going to get more scrutiny and that’s good,” said Don Parrish, an AFBF regulatory specialist. “It’s going to be more scrutiny by members of Congress and more scrutiny by the courts. However, we still lack the clarity that I think our landowners want,” he said.
Farm Bureau filed briefs in the case because so many of its members are landowners who could face the same situation as the Sacketts. EPA claimed the Sacketts were violating the Clean Water Act, but according to Parrish the agency has pushed its jurisdiction way beyond what Congress intended when it enacted regulatory reforms.AFBF newsline

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Just in

AFBF: Bipartisan Support Needed to Block Child Labor Regs

Washington: The American Farm Bureau Federation continues to urge bipartisan support for congressional legislation that would prevent the secretary of labor from finalizing or enforcing the proposed Department of Labor child labor regulations.

Early last month, Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa) introduced the Preserving America’s Family Farm Act (H.R. 4157). More recently, Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) introduced a companion bill (S. 2221), which has 44 co-sponsors.

The Labor Department is currently reviewing approximately 18,000 comments on proposed youth labor rules that would negatively affect the way families operate their farms and ranches. Under the proposal, even routine farm chores, such as driving tractors, milking cows, cutting weeds and building or repairing fences would likely be considered illegal unless the farm on which the youth worked was wholly owned by his or her parents.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Corn Acreage is Big News in USDA Planting Report

WASHINGTON – There are still many sharp turns and bumps in the road between now and fall harvest, but a crop report issued today by the Agriculture Department indicates that farmers in the United States are preparing to plant 95.9 million acres of corn, one of the largest crops in history, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

That number was much higher than grain industry analysts had expected.“The prospective planting number of 95.9 million acres for corn really blew pre-report expectations out of the roof,” said AFBF economist John Anderson.

As unexpectedly high as the corn number was, Anderson said the soybean planting estimate was far lower than analysts had expected, coming in at 73.9 million acres.According to Anderson, if realized, this year’s corn planting would be the largest acreage since 97.2 million acres were planted in 1937. To put that into perspective, the harvested corn grain yield in 1937 was 28.9 bushels per acre, ultimately leading to approximately 2.5 billion bushels of corn that year. This year’s planting and a trend yield of 164 bushels per acre could result in a final U.S. corn yield of around 14.4 billion bushels.

Anderson said that the most recent modern era production year that comes close to this year’s corn planting outlook was 2007, when 93.5 million acres were planted. At 95.9 million acres expected this year, corn plantings would be up 4 percent from last year. Expected soybean plantings, at 73.9 million acres, are projected to be down 1 percent from last year.“As for the corn market, this planting expectation number could become a negative factor for corn market prices,” Anderson said. “This is a lot bigger number than the market had expected for corn. But we still must remember it is very early, this is a prospective number only and there is a long way to go to see how this crop ultimately turns out. For now, the market seems to be more focused on lower soybean acreage as well as pretty strong demand revealed in today’s report on grain stocks.”

“If these early planting projections are realized, it would translate into the largest feedgrain supply we have had in the last six or seven years. That should mean lower feed prices for livestock producers. And it would take some of the pressure off the ethanol sector, which is already close to hitting both its mandated level of production and the maximum gasoline blend rate.”

Overall, Anderson said that with a normal growing and harvest season, this year’s corn crop would “be more than enough to meet all of our nation’s domestic needs for feed and fuel, as well as supplies for our export channels.” From this point forward, he said the markets would begin to focus on weather and how it impacts planting and growing conditions for all crops.Anderson said acreage of other feed grains is projected to be up from last year as well, with grain sorghum, barley and oat plantings forecast to be up by 9 percent, 15 percent and 30 percent, respectively.

Wheat plantings are projected to be up 3 percent from last year. Anderson said that is still “well below market expectations of around 57.5 million acres.” He said that while winter wheat and durum plantings were up, this increase was partially offset by a decline in other spring wheat projected plantings as farmers in major spring wheat areas appear to be opting to plant feed grains instead.Cotton plantings are projected to be 13.2 million acres. Anderson said that while this is an 11 percent drop from last year, it is still on the high side of pre-report expectations.

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...