Thursday, January 31, 2013

Just in

Annual Statewide Tractor Raffle Underway to Benefit Idaho FFA Programs
Boise--The Idaho FFA Foundation is conducting its annual statewide Tractor Raffle to benefit Idaho FFA members. Tickets are now being sold for $10 each for a chance at winning a restored, John Deere tractor

Canyon County farmer and Farm Bureau member Sid Freeman came up with the idea for the raffle to raise funds for the Idaho FFA Foundation and for scholarships for Idaho FFA students for post-secondary education. This photo was taken at the Ag Expo on Wednesday.

Tickets may be purchased from any local Idaho FFA chapter or from the Idaho FFA Foundation by calling 208-861-2467 or emailing your ticket request to u

FFA is a national organization preparing youth for leadership and careers in the science, business and technology of agriculture. FFA has been an integral part of agriculture programs in Idaho high schools since 1928, currently with 10,000 Idaho agricultural science and technology students, 85 active chartered Idaho FFA chapters, and 4,000 Idaho FFA members. The Idaho FFA Foundation was established in 1980 as a non-profit 501(c)3 corporation for the purpose of promoting the FFA in Idaho and providing strategic financial resources for Idaho FFA programs and activities that will benefit agricultural education students and help them develop their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success.
For more information, please contact Laura Wilder, Idaho FFA Foundation at 208-861-2467 or visit .

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Just in from AFBF

Statement by Bob Stallman, President,
American Farm Bureau Federation,
Regarding Bipartisan Senate Immigration Principles
“The time is long overdue for our nation to have a comprehensive agricultural labor plan that works for all sectors of agriculture and across all regions of our nation. The American Farm Bureau Federation is encouraged by the immigration reform principles put forth by a bipartisan group of eight Senators. We are especially pleased the senators recognized that agricultural labor provisions must be part of any substantive effort to reform immigration policy. We are hopeful that this will provide the needed framework to move forward during the 113th Congress with a legislative solution for America’s agricultural labor shortage.
“We will continue to work through the Agriculture Workforce Coalition in our efforts to ensure that America’s farmers, growers and livestock producers have long-term access to a steady supply of skilled agricultural workers. We think the best way to do this is through a modern agriculture worker visa program. We will continue to work with members of Congress and the Obama administration to ensure any resulting program is fair, flexible and works to help us feed our growing nation. We also support efforts that would allow experienced laborers the opportunity to earn an enhanced status for the roles they have played in helping us keep our farms running and American agriculture strong.  Both elements are critical to an agricultural immigration reform package.
“Immigrant laborers play a vital role in tending our crops and livestock, and we are encouraged by the bipartisan reform efforts. American agriculture needs a legal and stable workforce and farmers from across our nation are ready to support a solution that reaches that conclusion.”

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Just in from Washington

Reid Introduces Farm Bill in Senate
Washington--Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) introduced in the 113th Congress the same version of the farm bill that was passed by the Senate last session. 

“We are encouraged to hear that Sen. Reid is making the farm bill one of several privileged, top priority legislative actions this year,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman in a statement. “This represents real hope for farmers and ranchers that the Senate, like last session, will aggressively move forward on a long-term farm bill to give farmers the risk management certainty we need,” Stallman said.

America’s farmers deserve the policy certainty that a five-year farm bill would provide, Stallman also noted. “We need a flexible, reform-minded bill that draws its key risk management tools from crop insurance provisions. We are encouraged that the process is starting early, and we look forward to working with leaders and committees from both houses and both parties to get this long-term farm bill done,” he said.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Just in

Overwhelming Response to Census of Ag Reported

Washington--The Agriculture Department has been collecting data for one month for the Census of Agriculture and 25 percent of questionnaires have already been returned. Call centers are overwhelmed with calls and emails, but that’s apparently a good problem to have. Chris Messer with USDA encourages everyone who has left a message to have patience as staffers work to respond to the large volume of questions.

The frequently asked questions section of the Ag Census website can provide some answers as well. Responses are due by Feb. 4 and may be submitted online or via mail. The census collects data covering every facet of agriculture across the nation for USDA. According to federal law, all agricultural producers are required to participate in the census. All information gathered through the census remains confidential.

Friday, January 25, 2013

President's Editorial

Custer County Challenges Federal Land Managers
by Frank Priestley, Idaho Farm Bureau President
It’s federally-managed land, not federal land. That’s the point Custer County leaders are trying to make. But so far it has fallen on deaf ears.
Honestly, where or who are local leaders expected to turn to when the heavy hand of the federal government throws cold water on every effort to build or expand a crippled economy?
Last April Custer County commissioners staged a protest over the locking up of federal land through the declaration of a wilderness study area. The tactic of using wilderness study area declarations to restrict access to public lands is both widespread and controversial. It requires congressional approval to designate wilderness. But federal bureaucrats can create study areas without congressional oversight. These study areas are frequently detrimental to rural economies in the West and rarely meet definitions stipulated by the Wilderness Act, which requires wilderness values and includes the phrase “untrammeled by man.”
This gets us to the heart of the problem in Custer County, which is made up of over 90 percent federally-managed land. As federal bureaucrats tighten restrictions on land use, rural economies suffocate. Locking up resources on public lands leads to job loss. Young people who grow up in rural areas have to leave after high school graduation if there is no place to go to work. Entrepreneurship is stifled by the lack of opportunity and the downward spiral continues. With limited tax base rural counties struggle to provide basic services like police and fire protection. Lack of private land ownership hurts rural school districts’ ability to levy property taxes to replace worn out buildings and poor quality schools detract from a rural area’s ability to attract entrepreneurs.
Raging fires that burned over 1.5 million acres last summer in Idaho alone are largely the result of poor management of public land. In our opinion, it makes sense to put people back to work in our forests and start managing them sustainably. Both the forests and rural economies would benefit. 
Idaho is made up of over 60 percent federally-managed land. At present, Idaho has about four million acres tied up in federally designated wilderness areas and another 2.7 million acres tied up in wilderness study areas. In fact we have wilderness areas that are bigger than some eastern states. But we fail to see any validity to arguments raised by the environmental community that wilderness stimulates rural economies. If that were the case, places like Challis, Mackay and Salmon would be bustling with economic activity. The fact of the matter is wilderness travelers are limited in numbers and frugal in their purchases of local goods and services.
A significant percentage of the land residing under the wilderness study area designation in Idaho does not meet the definition of wilderness. To illustrate this point consider that the land that came under dispute last spring at the top of the Herd Creek drainage in Custer County contains a road and a campground that was constructed by the Bureau of Land Management. Many if not most other wilderness study areas in the state also suffer from a lack of wilderness qualities under the definition set out by the Wilderness Act. We understand that a lot of people in this nation have romantic notions about the West and they want to preserve open space and lands with wilderness qualities. At this point, the question becomes at what cost?
We applaud Custer County’s efforts to challenge the federal government and to force federal bureaucrats to advance the discussion. It’s time for the federal government to loosen its chokehold on rural Idaho and learn how to become a partner that can both satisfy its charge of protecting the great open spaces of the American West and managing public lands in a way that benefit local economies.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Freshman Lunch

Boise--Idaho Farm Bureau President Frank Priestley and CEO Rick Keller warmly greeted the 2013 Legislative Freshman class at Boise's Crystal Ballroom.

The lunch is conducted each year as a way of introducing the Farm Bureau and its policies to incoming lawmakers.

"It's a way we can meet the freshman class," said Idaho Farm Bureau President Frank Priestley. "We can meet the 25 new lawmakers and they meet the Idaho Farm Bureau."

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Simpson Cosponsors Balanced Budget Amendment

Washington, D.C. – Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson is a cosponsor of H.J.Res.2, which proposes a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

 Offered by Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), the legislation would require a 3/5 vote of both the House and the Senate to allow spending to exceed receipts for that fiscal year, require 3/5 vote to increase the debt limit, direct the President to submit a balanced budget annually, and prohibit any bill to increase revenue from becoming law unless approved by a majority of each chamber by roll call vote.  It waives these provisions when a declaration of war is in effect. 

 “As a supporter of the balanced budget amendment since I first came to Congress, and a long time member of the House Budget Committee, I can attest firsthand the value that a balanced budget requirement would have on the yearly budgeting process,” said Simpson.  “Over the past several years, the growth in government funding has far outpaced the growth of the American family budget.  Congress must answer the call of the American people to do what families in America are doing every day—figuring out what their priorities are and creating a responsible budget that reflects those priorities.”



Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Efficient Transportation Remains Critical for Farmers

Washington--In an environment of highs and lows for prices, market demands and costs, the one thing sought by farmers in terms of transporting their goods to market is certainty. That was the sentiment of a panel of transportation specialists from several state Farm Bureaus during an issues conference at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 94th Annual Meeting.

The panel also discussed the critical need for maintaining and improving the country’s inland waterway system – highlighting its importance in transporting millions of tons of agricultural cargo every year.

“We’re really talking about making decisions in two areas that will bring a lot of certainty for farmers and ranchers in this country,” said Garret Hawkins, director of national legislative programs for the Missouri Farm Bureau Federation. “One decision will be on certainty of the funding for big ticket infrastructure needs – such as the improvement of inland waterways and ports – and the other will be smaller, regulatory reform for farmers in taking their goods to market. These reforms aren’t game changers, but will keep many of these farmers going.”

The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, signed into law in July, includes several exemptions for agriculture which were fought for by grassroots Farm Bureau members across the country. The need for regulatory clarity crystalized after state transportation officials felt pressured by federal authorities to make rules for intrastate transportation as tight as interstate rules.

“We were told to either change or lose federal transportation funding,” said Samuel Kieffer, national governmental relations director for Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.

Daniel Mecklenborg, senior vice president and chief legal officer for the Ingram Barge Company, spoke of the need for infrastructure improvements to inland waterways. The improvement of America’s ports will enable American agriculture to benefit from larger ships that will come with the completed expansion of the Panama Canal in 2014, he explained.
Mecklenborg and Kevin Rund, senior director for local government for Illinois Farm Bureau, said it has been difficult to secure long-term funding commitments for waterway projects. Public-private partnerships could be a potential remedy for funding inadequacies. The challenge comes from a lack of long-term commitments to funding from the federal government.

“Only securing limited funding one year at a time makes working on these big infrastructure projects very inefficient,” Mecklenborg said.

The panel added that involvement of farmers and ranchers is necessary to pressure lawmakers to make changes in regulatory and funding certainty.

“We need grassroots involvement and [Farm Bureau] members chewing on the ears of members in Congress,” Kieffer said.

With common sense changes and greater certainty to the rules governing the moving of agricultural products, farmers and ranchers will be better positioned to respond to their markets in the future, the panelists concluded.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Just in

Vilsack Urges Farmers to Reach Out Beyond Agriculture
Washington--Last year was a tough one for farmers and ranchers, and while many are anxious to put it behind them, a number of 2012’s key events will be driving the Agriculture Department’s efforts in 2013, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told attendees at the AFBF’s 94th Annual Meeting.

Chief among those events was the drought and its continuing ramifications, like the significantly low Mississippi River levels. Key lessons Vilsack said he learned from the drought are “the extraordinary resilience of our producers” and the importance of a safety net for agriculture.

In that vein, Vilsack said he and the department will continue to push for passage of a five-year farm bill. Along with a strong and viable safety net, key components of the legislation are provisions related to reforming credit and conservation programs and continuing the country’s commitment to enhancing trade. Research and biofuels will be important elements, too.

Friday, January 18, 2013

AFBF Delegates Call for Flexible, Insurance-Based Farm Bill
Nashville--Voting delegates at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 94th Annual Meeting expressed support for a bipartisan, reform-minded farm bill, crafted around a broad, flexible, crop-insurance-based program, including risk-management protection for peanuts, rice, forage and specialty crops.

“After ending a long year of policy uncertainty culminating with an extension of the old bill, we will push hard, in cooperation with our congressional and administration allies, for a five-year farm bill that provides our farmers certainty and extends much-needed risk management tools across more acres and more crops,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman, a rice and cattle producer from Texas.

Delegates said AFBF would not only support a farm bill with a strong safety net and risk management programs to protect farmers from catastrophes, but they also would work for programs that provide emergency assistance for livestock and tree producers not covered by federal crop insurance programs.

Delegates reaffirmed policy supporting changes to the dairy safety net, consistent with the margin insurance programs included in versions of the farm bill approved by the House and Senate Ag Committees.

On another dairy issue, delegates approved a new policy that states only pasteurized milk and milk products should be sold for human consumption. Delegates approved the measure in light of the potential risks to public health and food safety posed by consumption of raw milk.

On national fiscal policy, delegates reaffirmed the importance of a sound budget process with a priority on spending restraints rather than tax increases. Delegates also voted to support streamlining or replacement of the H-2A seasonal and temporary agricultural worker program in addition to allowing experienced, undocumented agricultural workers to adjust to legal status.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Food Summit to Explore Local Food System with Chefs, Buyers, Producers

MOSCOW, Idaho – The Palouse-Clearwater Food Summit 2.0 will highlight a panel of regional chefs and offer a first look at a study of ways to boost Latah County’s local food industry. Planned for Jan. 28 from 9 a.m. to noon at Moscow’s 1912 Center, 412 E. Third St., the program is free and open to the public.

The event follows the first Palouse Clearwater Food Innovation Summit, which was held in November to share activities and projects related to our local food system. 


Cinda Williams, University of Idaho Extension Latah County extension educator, said the summit is about sharing information. “It’s just trying to bring people together so people know what other groups are doing and encourage people to work together.”


In addition to learning about many food related activities, Food Summit 2.0 participants also will hear from other important players in the food system – local restaurant chefs.


“This is the first time we’ve brought restaurants together to hear about their piece of the local food puzzle,” Williams said. Finding ways to encourage more production of produce, meat and other foods has received substantial attention. A focus on restaurants’ interest in sourcing local foods may help convince more growers to participate.


A draft report commissioned by the Latah Economic Development Council to explore the feasibility of a Latah County Food Innovation and Resource Center will get its first public review at the session.


Presenters also will review Lewiston-based efforts to develop an Inland Northwest Food Hub and University of Idaho Extension’s Two Degrees Northwest project to develop an online marketplace.


Other topics include a recent survey of local food producers and potential buyers and updates from a Livestock Producers Steering Committee on Regional Processing.


The summit is sponsored by the University of Idaho Office of Community Partnerships, Rural Roots, Latah Economic Development Council and University of Idaho Extension.


More information is available by contacting Williams in the Extension’s Latah County office at (208) 883-2267 or

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Stallman:Farm Bill Protects the U.S. Food Supply

Washington--“Farm Bill Protects the U.S. Food Supply,” a letter to the editor by American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman, appeared in Wednesday’s edition of the Washington Post.

“Robert J. Samuelson [“Plow under the farm subsidies” op-ed, Jan. 7] missed the mark in not understanding that farm bills are written not for the good times but for when farmers need help the most,” Stallman wrote. He also noted, “When Mother Nature strikes, such as with last year’s extreme drought, both farmers and consumers feel it.” And Stallman went on to point out that while crop insurance and farm programs help mitigate the economic impact on farmers, an indirect benefit to consumers is a stable food supply, and other farm-bill provisions provide nutrition assistance to those in need.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Just in

Workshop to Address Post-harvest Handling and Food Safety

Caldwell- Fresh produce growers are invited to attend a Friday, February 1 workshop in Caldwell on post-harvest handling, food safety, wholesale marketing, and profit planning. The workshop will address issues of interest due to FDA’s recent release of the proposed Food Safety Modernization Act rules.

The workshop is presented by the Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides, University of Idaho Extension and Idaho State Department of Agriculture through the Idaho Preferred program.

The training will be provided by<>, which is conducting its Direct Marketing & Wholesale Success workshop in 15 states. Topics will include marketing and packing quality, post-harvest handling, writing a food safety plan and pack shed design. The workshop will conclude with a panel of retail and food service buyers from the Treasure Valley and a discussion of their local produce buying preferences and requirements.

Participating farms will receive a free manual, Wholesale Success: A Farmers Guide to Food Safety, Postharvest Handling, Packing and Selling Produce, valued at $70. The 312-page color publication is a leading resource on selling into wholesale markets. It includes topics including Calculating Return on Investment; Cleaning, Drying, and Curing Produce; Traceability; Packing Shed Design; and Maintaining the Cold Chain.

Workshop sessions on financial management tools and recordkeeping will also be offered on February 1.

Following the workshop is the fourth annual Grower’s Own Conference, a farmer-to-farmer exchange and networking opportunity for farmers interested in organic production methods. The conference will be held Friday evening and Saturday, February 2.

This year’s guest farmer is Laura Masterson of 47th Avenue Farm, located near Portland. Masterson is a veteran of farmer-to-farmer exchanges in Oregon. She will speak about her extensive experience in organic vegetable production, season extension, year-round CSA production and marketing, employee and intern management, and microenterprise budgeting.

“This is a unique and highly valuable experience,” says Grower’s Own Conference co-organizer Beth Rasgorshek of Canyon Bounty Farm in Nampa. “It is also farmer driven, so now is the time to register and cast your vote for the topics to be discussed.”

Some of the topics under consideration include microenterprise selection; wash facilities, packing sheds & supply sources; vegetable start production; livestock feed rations & on-farm production; employee management; integrated pest management; high tunnels; irrigation systems, cooperative CSAs; meat marketing; starting a livestock operation; and alternative financing.

The workshop and conference will be held at the College of Idaho in Caldwell. The Feb 1 workshops cost $25, the Grower’s Own Conference costs $55, and both cost $70. Pre-registration is required. Register online at<> or contact Jennifer Miller at<> or 208-850-6504.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Just in from Canyon County

Canyon County Farm Bureau Asks City of Caldwell to Drop Law Suit
Caldwell--The Canyon County Farm Bureau (CCFB) has voted unanimously to call on the City of Caldwell to drop its eminent domain lawsuit against Pioneer Irrigation District, officials with the group announced today.

        The Canyon County Farm Bureau’s 11-member Board of Directors took a unanimous vote for the action at a recent meeting.  The CCFB represents more than 7,000 members in Canyon County including approximately 1,500 farming and ranching families. Farm Bureau officials point out that agriculture has been the cornerstone of Canyon County’s economy and its social fabric for nearly 150 years and that water is the absolute key to that process.

            “The Board’s message is clear and unequivalent: if it isn’t broken, then let’s not try to fix it until it is,” said Roger Batt, CCFB Executive Director.

 Batt said Farm Bureau members fully understand the intricacies of water right laws and water delivery operations and this practical experience helped the group decide to formally oppose Caldwell’s eminent domain condemnation action.  The Farm Bureau also strongly supports private property rights rather than eminent domain action, which in this instance could result in Pioneer’s private property rights being attacked via the court system.

            “Agriculture has been and continues to be the absolute lynchpin in the success of Canyon County’s economy.  Producing food to feed global populations means we are first dependent upon being provided a reliable and affordable source of irrigation water.  Pioneer has been meeting that obligation in an outstanding manner for 110 years.  Despite the City of Caldwell’s claims, the Board simply does not believe the City can ever deliver the same quality of service and affordability that water users are currently receiving from Pioneer,” Batt added.

            “It is unclear whether the City of Caldwell seems to fully grasp what a change in water rights ownership would mean under the Bureau of Reclamation’s Rules. Our understanding is that a change in the nature of use of storage water from irrigation to municipal/ industrial triggers actions that are potentially financially catastrophic for the Canyon County farming community,” Batt explained.

Canyon County is a rather small county geographically but one with a huge agricultural economy.  The country ranks 17th out of 44 Idaho counties in terms of land area in agriculture, but ranks 4th in the state in terms of the overall cash receipts from agriculture which exceeds some $520 million.  Approximately 84 percent of Canyon County’s land is allocated to agriculture across more than 322,000 acres.  Specialty crops such as seed are raised in this County and certain varieties are only grown in this area to supply the world with food. 


Friday, January 11, 2013

Just in

Republicans Change seats in US Senate Ag Committee
By Tom Karst, The Packer
Washington--While the path towards a new farm bill remains unclear, leadership changes and new members of the House and Senate agriculture committees were coming in focus in early January.
In the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., gave up his ranking member position to Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss. Cochran had hit the term limit as ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
“Senator Thad Cochran is going to assert his seniority on the Ag Committee and will become the ranking member,” Roberts said in a news release. “Seniority is a well-respected and historic privilege in the U.S. Senate. Senator Cochran has my full support.”
Roberts vowed to remain an advocate for agriculture and he continues as a senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Roberts becomes ranking member of the Rules Committee and also remains a member of the Senate Finance Committee, the Senate Select Committee on Ethics and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
One Republican who will not return to the Senate Agriculture Committee is Richard Lugar, R-Ind., who lost a primary election battle last year. Because Republicans lost seats in the Senate, Lugar’s seat won’t be replaced with another Republican and the ratio of Democrats and Republicans on the committee will climb slightly for Democrats.
Cochran said in a statement said he will work on advancing a new farm bill with Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., chairwoman of the committee.
New Democrats on the Senate Agriculture Committee include Joe Donnelly from Indiana and Heidi Heitkamp from North Dakota.
Cochran will represent the interests of southern producers but has been familiar with all farm policy for many years, said Kam Quarles, director of legislative affairs for the Washington, D.C.-based McDermott Will & Emery law firm, Still, Cochran may be interested in taking a fresh look at specifics of farm bill legislation developed last year, Quarles said.
“The process of rewriting the farm bill begins anew,” Quarles said.
One of the big unknowns is how much money lawmakers will have work with in 2013 for a new farm bill.
“That’s an unknown and likely to be less than we had last year,” he said.
Quarles wouldn’t speculate whether it will be the House or Senate that will take the lead in work on a new five-year farm bill.
For the House Agriculture Committee, chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., announced several new Republican members, including two from California. The new Republican members are Dan Benishek (Michigan), Chis Collins (New York), Jeff Denham (California), Richard Hudson (North Carolina), Doug LaMalfa (Califoria), and Ted Yoho (Florida) Quarles said Denham and LaMalfa should give a fresh perspective to the GOP wing of the committee, because it has been years since a California Republican has served on the House Agriculture Committee.
“It was a little unusual that you would have the largest agriculture state in the country without any representation on the majority side,” Quarles said. “Now you have two, so that’s an interesting change.”
House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said new Democrats appointed to the House Agriculture Committee include Michelle Lujan Grisham (New Mexico), Ann Kuster, (New Hampshire), Gloria McLeod (California), and Filemon Vela (Texas).

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Just in from D.C.

Vilsack Sounds off on Short-Term Farm Bill
Washington-Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack appeared on NPR’s Talk of the Nation this week to discuss the short-term farm bill provisions that Congress passed last week. Vilsack said the nine-month extension leaves farmers with uncertainty.

“I think farmers are expressing some frustration about the fact that they were close to getting a five-year program that would have been comprehensive, that would have had a series of reforms, that would have assisted in dealing with the fiscal challenges the country is faced with,” said Vilsack. “They’re now faced with uncertainty in terms of what the policies are going to be, and they’re faced with uncertainty in terms of how much support there will actually be once a five-year bill is ultimately passed by Congress.”

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Just in from the U of I

U-Idaho Extension Master Composter, Recycler Classes Start Feb. 6 in Jerome

JEROME, Idaho -- Recycling organic materials through composting to benefit the environment and reduce landfill costs are goals of University of Idaho Extension’s Idaho Master Composter and Recycler Program classes beginning Feb. 6 in Jerome.

The seven-session weekly series cover topics of interest to audiences ranging from home gardeners, school teachers and utility company workers to city officials. The program offers benefits, including saving money by reducing landfill shipments and reducing energy use.


The classes will teach students about composting and prepare them to train others, said Gooding County Extension Educator Mario E. de Haro Marti, the program organizer.


“The idea is to train people to think differently and to be able to bring answers to their communities on waste management and rational resource usage,” de Haro Marti said. “The program is open to everyone. You don’t need to be a teacher or a city official to attend.”


National statistics show more than half of the refuse produced goes to landfills, which are costly to build and operate, he noted.


In the Magic Valley of South Central Idaho, seven neighboring counties use a landfill in Cassia County. The costs of hauling garbage to the landfill are significant, but overall costs are relatively modest compared to those paid by governments in more populated states.


Classes will focus on how to recycle materials and composting at home, small farms and communities. The series will include information on pollution prevention and regulations, ways to reduce energy and water use, and new ideas on reducing use of resources or reusing them.


Registration is due Friday, Feb. 1 and will cost $40 for the series or $15 per class. Students may attend the series for $20, and register for academic credit for an additional fee. A brochure with a registration form and additional information is online at

The classes will meet Wednesday evenings from Feb. 6 to March 27 from 6-9 p.m. at the Con Paulos Community Room at 251 E. Frontage Road South at Jerome off Interstate 84 Exit 168.


Additional information is available from Mario de Haro Marti, University of Idaho Extension Gooding County educator at (208) 934-4417 or

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Just in

Otter: Get rid of the personal property tax!

BOISE — Idaho Gov.Butch Otter told lawmakers on Monday that he wants to eliminate  Idaho's personal property tax.

The proposal came during the Governor's annual State of the State address and the idea doesn't come cheap. It could cost counties an estimated $141 million in tax revenue. Business leaders say the tax has worsened an already sluggish state economy. 
For years business leaders have urged lawmakers to dump the personal property tax, a tax levied against everything from office computers to furniture.  They say the tax prevents small businesses from growing and hiring more workers.
To make up for the money local governments would lose out on, Otter set aside $20 million to pay cities, counties and school districts. The Republican governor also advocated giving local leaders more flexibility to raise sales or income taxes in their districts to help fund courts, public safety, education and roads.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Just in from the University of Idaho

Ag Revenues up in 2012

Boise--According to a University of Idaho report farmers and ranchers enjoyed a record year in cash receipts  despite higher expenses.
The annual report by UI agriculture economists shows projected cash receipts for the past year hit the $7.7 billion dollar mark, a gain of 5 percent from 2011. Idaho ranks as the West's fourth-largest agricultural state.
In contrast input costs also hit record levels, an 8 percent hike over last year.
UI agricultural economist Paul Patterson says farmers made gains, despite skyrocketing fuel and fertilizer costs. 
"The increase in revenues more than offset the increase in costs in the aggregate for Idaho agriculture," Patterson said. An estimated 7 percent increase in revenues, which include gross farm sales, government payments, etc., coupled with an estimated 8 percent increase in costs, resulted in net farm income of an estimated $2.57 billion, 65 percent above the 10-year average.
"Having three consecutive years of increasing cash receipts, revenue and farm income is a little surprising," Patterson said.
"A year ago I was projecting decreasing moderate prices, that costs would continue to go up and we would have lower revenue and net farm income. But that was before the drought impact in the Midwest that reversed what economists were projecting in grain prices. That turned things around completely."

Friday, January 4, 2013

Hay Prices up, Producers: its a sellers market

Boise--Hay supplies in the Pacific Northwest are the tightest in more than a decade, thanks to the great midwest drought.

The 2012 season began last spring with low hay inventories and that’s impacting dairies and feedlots 2013. 
Then the cool, wet spring of 2012 delayed the first cutting. That pushed back supply and kept prices high all summer. By September there was very little inventory left that’s spiking prices this winter.
Farmers like David Hansen of Weiser can pick and choose where his hay goes, he’s shipping his hay to the Oregon Coast and making a killing.
“We’ve had a long season and that’s allowed us five cuttings,” said Hansen. “And we got up the hay pretty good this year, moisture was a factor in the first cutting and the third cutting but it was a phenomenally good year. Prices are extremely high in Western Idaho.”
Hansen is getting well over $200 dollars a ton, and he still has plenty of hay in the barn.
“We’re getting about $235 straight across, and it’s cheaper and easier shipping to the Oregon coast than east,” said Hansen.
A few Washington County farmers sought out the Oregon market back when prices were not so good. Back then they were looking for buyers they could depend on in good times and bad.
“It was years ago that I found this market,” explained Hansen. Its hard to find good dairies that recognize the quality of the hay. There’s a reliance and trust, they now take 100-percent of what I grow, thats a wonderful thing to build a relationship on, its great having an established consumer that will buy year round.”

Hay growers say that there are no shortcuts in dairy grade hay production.

“West coast dairymen are paying dearly for quality hay and they demand the best hay out there. If you can supply what they need, when they need it, they’re willing to pay a premium, but its a sellers market right now,” said Hansen.

Idaho hay producers say they have an edge. Producers have dry seasons with controlled irrigation. They can get the hay up without a lot of moisture. In Oregon dry, leafy bales without mold is money in the bank.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the drought of 2012 reduced alfalfa, by 3 percent to as much as 28 percent in the Midwest. The yield losses varied widely according to soil types, age of the stand, and rainfall.

But that can change rapidly with a summer thunderstorm.

“That’s why Im glad I have consistent customers. They’re going to stick with me, I’m sticking with them. I don’t worry about marketing, I’m just focusing on quality and I can keep the customers I have,” said Hansen.

Hansen does 420 acres and all of it goes to the coast.

Nationally, according to the USDA, the total hay-acres decreased by 3.8 percent that’s 2.3 million acres. Much of this land was converted to corn and soybeans because they were money makers. 

A series of snow storms has the 2013 crop off to a good start. The snow in the high country will keep reservoirs stocked and keep alfalfa growing into the late summer. Market experts say that the loss of hay to grain crops will continue to impact hay supply across the country in 2013. But high hay prices are starting to attract some acres back into production.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Food Check-Out Week 2013 is Feb. 17-23

Washington--Food Check-Out Week 2013, with the theme “Stretching Your Grocery Dollar With Healthy, Nutritious Food, will be held Feb. 17-23. A national event is being planned in Phoenix in conjunction with the 2013 Joint National Leadership Conference.

Updated Food Check-Out Week resources are available to members through staff contacts. This includes tips for working with the media, strategies for consumer outreach and event planning ideas. Promotional materials are available to order from (County and state Farm Bureaus may be invoiced for orders.)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2008 farm bill extended by nine months


Congress has kicked the can down the road and delivered a kick in the gut to industry lobbyists.
The U.S. House and Senate voted to extend the farm bill for nine months, bringing a disappointing end to efforts by farm lobbyists to enact a new five-year farm bill in 2012.
“We’re disappointed and frustrated,” said Robert Guenther, senior vice president for public policy at the United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C.
Despite the full Senate and the House Agriculture Committee passing versions of farm bills that were favorable to specialty crop interests, there was never an opportunity for a compromise to be passed.
It is as unfortunate that Congress failed to move forward with a new five-year farm bill that would have included reforms and cost savings, Chuck Conner, president of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, said in a statement.
While lawmakers in the House and Senate provided a framework for what a new farm bill should be, Guenther said the key will be avoiding a political stalemate like the last quarter of 2012.
“We’re hopeful to get it done quickly,” he said.
The extension bill, being sent to President Obama for his signature on Jan. 2, extends the current farm bill passed in 2008 until the end of September. Most, but not all, programs important to the produce industry will continue, Guenther said.
“In all practical purposes most of the programs will continue to move forward that we were focusing on,” he said.
That includes the Market Access Program, specialty crop block grants, the school-based fruit and vegetable snack program and pest and disease exclusion programs.
However, Guenther said the Specialty Crop Research Initiative is among the programs that are authorized but will not receive mandatory funding through the extension unless Congress can be convinced otherwise.
Guenther said the fiscal cliff compromise legislation approved by Congress raises the estate tax from 35% to 40% and the first $5 million is exempt. Other details of that legislation are still being reviewed, he said.
With the last of the business in the lame duck session of the 112th Congress done Jan. 1, the new Congress begins Jan. 3.

USDA Extends Application Deadline for Dairy Margin Protection Program

Re-enrollment Continues Through June 22, Dairy producers urged to act now WASHINGTON– U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue today announ...