Monday, December 31, 2012

Just in




Jackson Steps Down as EPA Administrator

Washington--EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced on Thursday that she will leave her post soon after President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address in late January. 

Los Angeles Times article
Jackson, the agency’s first black administrator, constantly found herself caught between administration pledges to solve controversial environmental problems and steady resistance from Republicans and industrial groups who complained that the agency’s rules destroyed jobs and made it harder for American companies to compete internationally.
The GOP chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Fred Upton, said last year that Jackson would need her own parking spot at the Capitol because he planned to bring her in so frequently for questioning. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney called for her firing, a stance that had little downside during the GOP primary.
Jackson, 50, a chemical engineer by training, did not point to any particular reason for her departure. Historically, Cabinet members looking to move on will leave at the beginning of a president’s second term.
“I will leave the EPA confident the ship is sailing in the right direction, and ready in my own life for new challenges, time with my family and new opportunities to make a difference,” she said in a statement. Jackson gave no exact date for her departure, but will leave after Obama’s State of the Union address in late January.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Another milk story!



High Milk Prices: No Farm Bill
PHOENIX -- U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is warning that you could soon be paying as much as $7 for a gallon of milk.
It's because an agriculture bill that provides government subsidies to farmers expired last summer.
Vilsack says that if a new farm bill isn't passed soon, Congress may have to revert to a 1949 law that forces the government to buy milk from farmers at twice today's average price of $3.65 a gallon. Vilsack says the government could then pass those costs along to you.
But United Dairymen of Arizona CEO Keith Murfield doesn't think that's going to happen.
"Even if the farm bill does not get signed, and the financial cliff happens, I don't see any changes in the milk price," Murfield said. "In fact, in January, we're going to see the milk price go down 20 cents a gallon from December."
That's because milk prices are tied to butter and cheese. "The butter powder market and the cheese market have dropped in the last month, which will affect the price of what we drink out of the bottle from the stores," said Murfield.
But Murfield says if congressional Republicans and President Obama don't come to an agreement to avert the "fiscal cliff," the earliest that we could see an impact on milk prices would be in March.

Thursday, December 27, 2012



2012 Census of Agriculture Arriving in Mailboxes

Washington--t’s not every day that a walk to your mailbox leads to an opportunity to help shape farm programs, boost rural services and grow your farm future. But for producers across the country, that opportunity will soon become a reality with the 2012 Census of Agriculture, according to the Agriculture Department.

The census is currently being mailed to millions of farmers and ranchers across the United States.

In the wake of a series of regional drought conferences with farmers, ranchers, business owners and other stakeholders, USDA is entering into a memorandum of understanding with the Commerce Department, including theNational Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to improve sharing of data and expertise, monitoring networks and drought forecasting efforts.
The MOU is a direct outcome of the regional conferences, according to USDA.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Just in



The New Year could push milk prices to $7 a gallon.

Washington--With Congress spending all its time trying to avert the fiscal cliff, a slew of other legislative matters are going unattended. One of them is the agriculture bill which, if not addressed, could lead to a doubling of the price of milk early next year.

It works like this: In order to keep dairy farmers in businesses, the government agrees to buy milk and other products if the price gets too low. The currentagriculture bill has a formula that means the government steps in if the price of milk were to drop by roughly half from its current national average of about $3.65 a gallon.
Problem is, the current bill expired last summer, and Congress had been unable to agree on a new one. Several protections for farmers have already expired, and several more are set to do so over the next few months. One of them is the dairy subsidy, which expires January 1.
But instead of leaving farmers entirely out in the cold, the law states that if a new bill isn't passed or the current one extended, the formula for calculating the price the government pays for dairy products reverts back to a 1949 statute. Under that formula, the government would be forced to buy milk at twice today's price -- driving up the cost for everyone.
"If you like anything made with milk, you're going to be impacted by the fact that there's no farm bill," U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack told CNN's Candy Crowley in an interview on State of the Union airing Sunday, Dec. 30.
"Consumers are going to be a bit shocked when instead of seeing $3.60 a gallon for milk, they see $7 a gallon for milk. And that's going to ripple throughout all of the commodities if this thing goes on for an extended period of time," Vilsack said.
Sky-high milk prices wouldn't necessarily be good for dairy farmers either, according to Chris Galen, a spokesman for the National Milk Producers Federation, which represents over 30,000 dairy farmers.
While it might provide a short term boost to profits, there's a fear that consumers would either cut back on dairy or opt for imported dairy products. It could also force food makers to search for alternatives to dairy, like soy.
"We call it the dairy cliff," Galen said.
Fortunately, there's still time for Congress to act.
Galen said the government would have to issue a notice saying it was going to pay the increased price for dairy products, then set up a schedule for when purchases would start, a process that could take a few weeks.
"It's not like people would dump blocks of cheese on the USDA's front lawn January first," he said.
--From CNN

Monday, December 24, 2012


Researchers say Cropland Use Now at Peak

New York--“We are confident that we stand on the peak of cropland use, gazing at a wide expanse of land that will be spared for nature,” said a trio of researchers from Rockefeller University. 

The researchers’ prediction about the planet’s ability to produce food for the next half-century or so is in contrast to some analysts who caution that hundreds of thousands of additional acres will be needed to feed the world in the future.The Rockefeller researchers based their prediction on the belief that farmers will continue to increase their crop yields at roughly the same pace as they have since 1961—1.7 percent per year.


 NPR story

Friday, December 21, 2012


EPA Pledges No New Farm Dust Regulations

Washington--The Environmental Protection Agency has kept its word about farm dust regulations, which is a big relief for a lot of farmers and ranchers. “Course particulate matter” is the government’s way of talking about farm dust when it’s discussing how to regulate it. Recently EPA determined there is currently no need to make those regulations any tougher. The rules will come up for review again in five years.

“There were concerns that they might tighten standards for farm dust without a whole lot of scientific evidence,” explained Andrew Walmsley, the American Farm Bureau Federation’s regulatory specialist in a Newsline radio story.

Thursday, December 20, 2012



Hopes Dashed for ‘Christmas Miracle’ Farm Bill

Washington--A “Christmas Miracle” farm bill is off the table. And with each passing day, it seems more and more likely reauthorization of a five-year farm bill will not happen in 2012.

An aide to Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), speaker of the House, told Politico on Wednesday, “We can’t drop a farm bill in the middle of whatever is negotiated (in the fiscal cliff legislation). A 1,000-page bill (the 2012 farm bill) on top of whatever is negotiated will just make our vote situation harder. If we can agree on a top-line number, we suspect the committees will have a much easier time getting to a bill next year under regular order.”

The Senate will be in session today and Friday, but not over the weekend. That leaves Dec. 26 and 27 for members of the House and Senate to possibly return to Washington to work on an extension of the farm bill and the fiscal cliff.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Just in


Farmers and Ranchers Help Voluntary USDA Conservation Program
Reach 50M Acre Mark
 
BOISE- In the last four years, conservation-minded farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners in Idaho have enrolled over a half-million acres in USDA’s Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), a program that helps landowners take conservation to the next level. The program is offered through USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.
 
“The program is aimed at producers who are already established conservation stewards,” NRCS Acting State Conservationist Gene Schock said. “Idaho producers using this program are innovators in conservation, and they’re making great contributions to our rural communities.”
 
“The Conservation Stewardship Program allows our conservation-minded farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to go that extra mile in conserving natural resources,” said Schock.
“Conservation work aided by the program benefits working agriculture lands, including improved water and soil quality and enhanced wildlife habitat.”
 
From improving soil health to sending cleaner water downstream, this program is improving the environment, including the landscape here in Idaho.
 
Mark Olson, NRCS District Conservationist in Salmon, Idaho, says it’s a good program. “We look at a landowner’s existing level of conservation and suggest practices that can take them up to the next level.”
 
“Landowners in the Salmon area have good conservation practices and this program rewards what they are doing,” said Olson. “They can increase conservation benefits and annual payments by incorporating certain practices. It’s a different way to get conservation on the ground.”
 
One practice Olson has worked with landowners on is split nutrient applications. Nutrients are applied in the spring and summer instead of just the spring. This can affect water quality downstream in case there is any nutrient runoff.
 
Other practices used in the area include rotating salt and mineral placement on grazing lands, removing fish barriers, fencing off riparian areas, and harvesting hay in a manner that lets animals escape.  
 
If you are ready to do more conservation on your land, look into the Conservation Stewardship Program at your local NRCS office or go online for more information. A CSP self-screening checklist is available to help you determine if CSP is suitable for your operation. The checklist highlights basic information about CSP eligibility requirements, stewardship threshold requirements and payment types. It is available from local NRCS offices and on the CSP website:  http://go.usa.gov/g9dx.
 
NRCS offices accept CSP applications year round and evaluate applications during announced ranking periods.
 
Nationally, more than 50 million acres (78,000 square miles), is enrolled in CSP, an area larger than Nebraska. It is one of the top federal programs for private lands offered by USDA. This year, nearly 12.2 million acres across the U.S. were added to the program’s rolls.
 
Learn more about CSP and other NRCS programs here: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/programs.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Russia PNTR Signed into Law
Washington--Permanent Normal Trade Relations with Russia was signed into law Friday by President Barrack Obama. 

The American Farm Bureau Federation supported and worked toward passage of the measure. Click here to listen to an Agriculture Department’s radio newscast with Issi Siddiqui, the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office chief ag negotiator.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Just in



Special USDA Purchase Helps Move Big Potato Crop
Washington--The Agriculture Department will spend $25 million for a special purchase of fresh and processed potatoes. 

The buy will help move a large 2012 crop and was requested in a Sept. 28 letter by the National Potato Council. The purchase is the equivalent of about 300 million pounds of fresh potatoes, which will be sent to federal nutrition programs and food banks.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Just in from Washington



It Could Happen—Oil at $50 Per Barrel
Washington--Oil at $50 per barrel is a possibility in the next few years, according to some analysts. The booming U.S. oil industry could push oil prices lower.

Experts with Bank of America Merrill Lynch are currently forecasting U.S. oil prices to average about $90 per barrel over the next two years, with price drops to around $50 per barrel during that time. On the other hand, the analysts say that global oil prices, which most agree play a larger role in the price of U.S. gasoline, will remain high because growth in global oil supplies will continue to lag population growth and economic output.

Thursday, December 13, 2012



There Is More to Higher Food Prices Than Corn Ethanol
Washington--A letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal submitted by American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman appears on page A16 of today’s print edition. In the letter, (“There Is More to Higher Food Prices Than Corn Ethanol”), Stallman points out that when it comes to higher food prices, analysis frequently oversimplifies the contribution made by renewable fuels.

Stallman also notes that since November 2008, the U.S. has seen oil prices rise 61 percent and retail gasoline prices increase by 82 percent. “Increasing energy costs are certainly part of the story,” he adds. He goes on to write that regulations also boost the cost of producing food and can lead to unintended consequences.
“Our food system is multifaceted. Assigning blame to one ingredient in this complex recipe is a disservice to American’s farmers and disingenuous to America’s consumers,” Stallman concludes.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012



Senators Landrieu, Pryor Call for Extension of Estate Tax Law
Washington--Extending expiring tax relief in a way that is both fiscally responsible and creates stability for small businesses must be a priority for Congress, Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) said in a recent letter to Senate leaders.

“We therefore urge you to take up and pass without delay common-sense legislation to extend the current estate and gift tax rules for an additional year, thus providing critical protections from the estate tax to family farms and small businesses while Congress prepares to address larger budget and tax issues,” Landrieu and Prior wrote to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

Current law provides for a $5 million per person exemption, with spousal transfer, and a 35 percent top rate. Unless Congress acts, on Jan. 1, the estate tax exemption is slated to drop to $1 million per person. The top tax rate will climb to 55 percent. The spousal transfer for the exemption will also disappear.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Send a message to Congress...



Growers Won’t Let up on Tax Messages to Congress

Washington--As part of an American Farm Bureau Federation campaign to urge lawmakers to take action on estate taxes and capital gains taxes during the lame duck, farmers and ranchers have sent 12,600 messages to their legislators underscoring the urgent need for estate tax and capital gains tax reform.

AFBF’s FBACT Insider website is the easiest way to let Congress know how devastating the impending estate tax and capital gains rate hikes are to agriculture.

Monday, December 10, 2012

IFBF 2012 Annual Meeting

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IFBF 2012 Annual Meeting, a set on Flickr.
Photos from the annual meeting on Flicker:

Delegates to the 73rd Annual Convention of the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation set the organization’s course for 2013 and beyond this week as farmers and ranchers from across the state representing 37 county Farm Bureaus met in Boise.

Delegates reviewed the organization’s entire policy book updating positions and adding new policy on a wide range of agriculture, natural resources and other topics. Specifically, the delegates voted not to support a proposal to increase brand inspection fees to help offset costs associated with the management of wolves, adopted new policy on management of existing roads on public lands, updated policy on sage grouse management and voted to oppose establishment of a state health care insurance exchange.

Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter addressed Farm Bureau on Tuesday thanking the group for support in removing Slickspot peppergrass from the endangered species list.

IFBF members also attended educational workshops on marketing, legislative issues, residue management, the Affordable Healthcare Act, and a constitutional law seminar put on by Justice Dan Eismann of the Idaho Supreme Court. The banquet entertainment was a rousing song and dance troop called the “Musetes.”

Tom Daniel of Boundary County was elected to the IFB State Board of Directors. Re-elected to the Board were Dean Schwendimann of Madison County, Chris Dalley of Bingham County, Rick Pearson of Twin Falls County and Tracy Walton of Gem County.

Just in from Washington


Spike in Winter Farmers’ Markets

Washington--The United States Department of Agriculture announced this week that the number of winter markets listed in its National Farmers Market Directory has increased 52 percent, from 1,225 in 2011 to 1,864 in 2012. Winter markets now account for roughly 24 percent of the 7,865 farmers markets listed in the USDA national directory. Markets operating at least once between November and March are considered winter farmers’ markets.

The 2012 top 10 states for winter farmers’ markets are: California with 284; New York with 196; Florida with 105; Maryland with 70; Texas with 63; North Carolina with 62; Massachusetts with 59; Pennsylvania with 58; Georgia with 55; and Virginia with 53.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Just in



Farm Bureau Delegates Set Policy for 2013
Boise--Delegates to the 73rd Annual Convention of the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation set the organization’s course for 2013 and beyond this week as farmers and ranchers from across the state representing 37 county Farm Bureaus met in Boise.

Delegates reviewed the organization’s entire policy book updating positions and adding new policy on a wide range of agriculture, natural resources and other topics. Specifically, the delegates voted not to support a proposal to increase brand inspection fees to help offset costs associated with the management of wolves, adopted new policy on management of existing roads on public lands, updated policy on sage grouse management and voted to oppose establishment of a state health care insurance exchange.

Delegates sent a recommendation to the IFB State Board of Directors opposing implementation of “federal laws or executive orders that mandate the state government or individuals to participate in a federal health insurance program.”

President Frank Priestley awarded Gary and Sandy Fuhriman of Bannock County the IFBF President’s Cup for their contribution to Farm Bureau over the past three decades. The Fuhriman’s helped establish trade relationships with Mexican grain milling companies that quadrupled Idaho’s grain trade with Mexico. Gary Fuhriman is the former (retired) IFB director of commodities and marketing. Prior to that the couple were active volunteers for the organization, with Gary serving as Teton County FB president and later as a state board member while Sandy was a leader in the FB Women’s organization.

“On an early tour we met people that were influential in the Mexican wheat market but didn’t realize the real influence they had at the time,” said Gary Fuhriman. “But it paid off and we realized that families were the key. We got to know their families and invited them up along with their wives. Once we got to know each other a mutual trust was developed.”

“Farm Bureau was always a part of our family life,” said Sandy Fuhriman. “In fact when I was in high school my dad sold Farm Bureau insurance in the winter so it’s always been a part of my life. He was on the State Board and it was an easy transition for Gary and I to become active in Farm Bureau.”

The Women’s Leadership Committee honored five women as District Women of the Year. This year’s honorees are: Sharon Harris of Woodruff, Linda Crapo of Parker, Freda Lee, of New Plymouth, Carol Fleener of Moscow and Evelyn Jones of Paul. 

Elizabeth Kohtz of Twin Falls County won top honors in this year’s Young Farmer and Rancher Discussion Meet. Kohtz won a Polaris four-wheeler for her efforts. Kohtz did a skillful job bringing background knowledge to the meet and seamless discussions into ‘passing on the family farm’ to the next generation. Along the way they tackled tough issues like the capital gains tax. Kohtz received an all-expense paid trip to the American Farm Bureau Federation Meeting in Nashville in January where she’ll compete against peers from throughout the nation.

Wes and Julie Mackay of Lemhi County won the YF&R Excellence in Agriculture Award, receiving a cash prize and an Ipad computer. Conrad and Adriane Isaak of Power County won the YF&R Achiever Award, a four-wheeler from Polaris, and a trip to the American Farm Bureau Annual Meeting in Nashville.

Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter addressed Farm Bureau on Tuesday thanking the group for support in removing Slickspot peppergrass from the endangered species list.
  
IFBF members also attended educational workshops on marketing, legislative issues, residue management, the Affordable Healthcare Act, and a constitutional law seminar put on by Justice Dan Eismann of the Idaho Supreme Court. The banquet entertainment was a rousing song and dance troop called the “Musetes.”

Tom Daniel of Boundary County was elected to the IFB State Board of Directors. Re-elected to the Board were Dean Schwendimann of Madison County, Chris Dalley of Bingham County, Rick Pearson of Twin Falls County and Tracy Walton of Gem County.