Friday, May 31, 2013

Just in

Farm Leaders Back Immigration Reform

 Atlanta--An article in the  Atlanta Journal-Constitution points out that national and state farm leaders have lined up in support of the immigration overhaul bill now pending in Congress. 

American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman and Georgia Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall met with reporters and editors of the paper on Thursday in Atlanta to explain why Farm Bureau backs the legislation and how it will benefit agriculture.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Just in

Immigration reform bill ready for Senate floor

 Washington--The balanced immigration reform bill recently passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee includes fair and workable farm labor provisions that set the stage for Senate action in June, according to American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman. 
    "The success of American agriculture depends on the workers who show up every day and work in partnership with our nation's farm and ranch families to tend our crops and livestock," Stallman said.  "Agricultural labor reform is not about whether foreign workers will grow and harvest our food. That is a matter of fact. It is about whether those foreign workers will tend crops here in the United States, or in their home countries. We believe American food grown on American soil is the best option."
    The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744) will help ensure an adequate supply of farm labor, as well as provide an increased level of surveillance of high-risk areas along our borders, Stallman said. 
    "We know that one of the best ways to improve border security is to create a legal, workable way for farm workers to enter our country. If we do not have to waste resources locking up lettuce harvesters, we can focus on keeping those with criminal intentions out of our country."
    The farm labor provisions are the result of an agreement forged by the United Farm Workers union and the Agriculture Workforce Coalition, a coalition of 60-plus organizations of which AFBF is a founding member.
    Two of the key components of these provisions are a Blue Card program for current experienced farm workers and a new agricultural visa program to meet future labor needs, explained Kristi Boswell, AFBF labor specialist. 
    "The bill's agriculture provisions are intended to ensure farmers and ranchers can maintain their experienced workers who are in undocumented status and will replace the current guestworker program, H-2A, which most farmers consider unworkable, with a program with more flexibility," she said. 
    Under the Blue Card program, experienced agricultural workers can obtain legal immigration status by satisfying criteria such as passing a background check, paying a fine and proving that applicable taxes have been paid. Blue Card workers would be required to continue to work in agriculture before having the opportunity to qualify for a green card.
    In addition, the bill would establish a new visa program that allows agricultural employers to hire guestworkers, either under contract or at will. Visa holders would be able to work in the U.S. under a three-year visa and work for any designated agricultural employer. The program would be administered by USDA.
    The number of three-year visas would be capped at 112,333 per year; in year three, the total number of visas issued could not exceed 337,000. After five years, the cap for the number of visas would be determined annually by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.
    The bill would establish 2016 wage rates for program participants in different categories: farm workers and laborers for crop, nursery and greenhouse, $9.64 per hour; graders and sorters, $9.84 per hour; dairy and livestock, $11.37 per hour; equipment operators, $11.87 per hour; wages for other occupational categories may be determined by the secretary of agriculture.
    During the Senate Judiciary Committee's mark-up, more than 150 amendments were considered.  While most were unrelated to agriculture, amendments related to employer liability for actions by foreign recruiters are a concern for farmers and ranchers, who will be contacting their senators about this and the dire need for a workable farm labor program when the bill is on the floor early in June.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Just in

BOISE – Governor Butch Otter will be featured in a series of public service announcements (PSAs) airing throughout this irrigation season to promote canal safety. The 30-second PSAs were produced by the State of Idaho, the federal government and a consortium of businesses and broadcasters. They begin airing on radio and television stations throughout southern Idaho on May 29 and continuing through early fall.
Private businesses with a stake in Idaho’s irrigation systems helped fund the campaign to leverage additional airings of the PSAs aimed at parents, children, adults and pet owners. The ads will air on programs targeting each demographic group, and also will be carried by Spanish language radio stations.
“With most public schools getting out for summer break this week, and with summer temperatures already here, we felt this was a good time to remind everyone of the potential threats posed by the irrigation canals in southern Idaho, and that folks needs to stay out of them,” Governor Otter said. “These canals are vital to our economy, but they can also be dangerous.”
On average, more than six children and adults drown in Idaho irrigation canals every year. In fact, more children in Idaho drown in irrigation canals than any other body of water. This year, for the first time, pet owners are being targeted in messages designed to educate the public about the hidden dangers of cold, swift waters.
            The companies and government entities sponsoring the PSA campaign include the J.R. Simplot Company, Idaho Power, Idaho Farm Bureau Federation, Idaho Potato Commission, Idaho Water Users Association and the Bureau of Reclamation.
            “I want to commend each of these companies, groups and concerned broadcasters for their leadership and good corporate citizenship,” Governor Otter said. “I am convinced this is an important message that will save lives.”
Editors/News Directors: Link to canal safety PSAs at 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Just in Website Launched is a new website dedicated to obtaining input from the American public on tax reform. The site was launched by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.).

The website was developed in partnership with the Joint Committee on Taxation. The creators of the site anticipate receiving input from visitors that will be valuable as legislation is crafted. The site also incorporates many Twitter tools that allow the public to weigh in by following @simplertaxes.

 Protecting farmers’ and ranchers’ tax interests in debates on fiscal policy and tax reform is a priority included in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s strategic action plan for 2013. The last successful overhaul of the U.S. tax code was completed in 1985, according to a news release posted to the  House Ways and Means Committee website.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Just in

Emmett--The first hay crop is almost in thanks to good, dry weather. This chopped hay is going to a local dairy according to Steve Ritter.  (Steve Ritter photo)

Idaho Weekly Hay Report

Tons:  5475    Last Week:  250    Last Year:  3300              

   Compared to last week, Domestic Alfalfa old crop steady in a light test. New 
crop cutting is underway in isolated areas. Trade slow to moderate with moderate to 
good demand. Retail/feed store/horse not tested this week. Buyer demand good with 
light to moderate supplies. All prices are dollars per ton and FOB unless otherwise 
stated. The quantity of hay stored on farms, sold or unsold in Idaho reported to be 
570,000 tons on May 1, down 19 percent from 2012 but up 104 percent from 2011.
                      Tons      Price     Wtd Avg      Comments
    Large Square                                                    
      Good            1000  180.00-200.00  190.00            
      Fair/Good        100  175.00-175.00  175.00            

      Good/Premium    4000  125.00-130.00  127.50            

  Wheat Straw                                                
    Large Square                                             
      Good             375   40.00-50.00    47.33            

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Just in

Court Victory in Biotech Alfalfa Case

Washington--The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a favorable decision affirming the unconditional deregulation of Roundup Ready alfalfa by the Agriculture Department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. 

This affirmed the decision of a lower court that Roundup Ready alfalfa is not a “plant pest” under the Plant Protection Act and that deregulation by APHIS did not violate the Endangered Species Act or the National Environmental Policy Act.

 AFBF filed a “friend of the court” brief in the case in support of deregulation.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Just in

Statement from Bob Stallman, President, American Farm Bureau Federation, Regarding Senate Judiciary Passage of Immigration Reform Bill

WASHINGTON – “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 Senate Judiciary Committee today passed a balanced immigration reform bill today that included a fair and workable farm labor provision that sets the stage for Senate action beginning next month.
“The success of American agriculture depends on the workers who show up every day and work in partnership with our nation’s farm and ranch families to tend our crops and livestock.  Agricultural labor reform is not about whether foreign workers will grow and harvest our food. That is a matter of fact. It is about whether those foreign workers will tend crops here in the United States, or in their home countries. We believe American food grown on American soil is the best option.
“We believe this bill will help ensure an adequate supply of farm labor but also will provide an increased level of surveillance of high-risk areas along our borders. We know that one of the best ways to improve border security is to create a legal, workable way for farm workers to enter our country. If we do not have to waste resources locking up lettuce harvesters, we can focus on keeping those with criminal intentions out of our country.
“This is shaping up to potentially be a banner year for public policy advances related to agriculture, and we are pleased to be a part of that process. Efforts to win farm labor reform, make progress on the farm bill and upgrade our nation’s waterway shipping system are setting the table for what could be a great year for agricultural policy.”

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Just in

Senate Farm Bill Debates

 Washington--The Senate opened the floor for debate on the farm bill Monday, addressing crop insurance right off the bat. An amendment by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) was introduced to eliminate taxpayer supported coverage for tobacco producers, followed by broader amendments to cut subsidies for wealthier producers and establish payment caps per farm.

 Mary Kay Thatcher, farm program specialist for the American Farm Bureau Federation, predicts crop insurance will receive multiple blows on the Senate floor. “I think you could have people come in and just try to repeal the ability to rely on permanent law to get this bill done every four years or five years,” said Thatcher in an Agritalk interview. “You’re going to have just a whole host of conservation and nutrition type amendments. And if you were a betting person, you’d bet at least 100 amendments will be filed on the bill.”

 The Senate farm bill debate is predicted to run into next month. The House is expected to open debate on the farm bill in June.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Just in

Agriculture Technology May Go Sky High
Washington--The use of unmanned aircraft for agriculture has become the topic of conversation at the state level. Multiple states have introduced legislation for the use of unmanned aircraft, while three states have banned the technology originally developed mainly for the military.

Yamaha uses unmanned helicopters to spray crops in Japan, but for the technology to move forward in the U.S. the Federal Aviation Administration would need to clear the unmanned aircraft for commercial use, which could happen as early as September 2015.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Just in

A Different Farm Bill Takes Shape
Washington--Major progress on the farm bill this week in both chambers of Congress has fired up Washington policy wonks as well as farmers and ranchers across the countryside. 

“We’ve seen another great example of bipartisan legislating on the part of both committees and their leaders,” said Dale Moore, the American Farm Bureau Federation’s chief lobbyist, in a Newsline radio report. “We’re very optimistic we’re going to get a farm bill done this year,” he added. The next farm bill will look much different than the prior three, Moore predicted.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Just in

AFBF Urges Congress to Keep Current Tax Tools
WASHINGTON—Farmers and ranchers need a tax code to manage the risks associated with agriculture while complying with tax liabilities, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. In a statement filed today with the House Ways and Means Committee for a hearing on small business taxation, AFBF urged congressional members to maintain cash accounting tools and higher small business expensing limits in any tax code rewrite.
Cash accounting tools, like the deferral of commodity and product receipts and prepaying the cost of livestock feed, fertilizer and other farm supplies, are important to farmers. Proposed changes to cash accounting rules, which would require some farmers to change to accrual accounting, would be time-consuming and costly to farms and ranches.
“Farmers and ranchers will either have to take time away from running their businesses or pay for help to comply,” said AFBF. “Both are harmful in an industry with tight profit margins, unpredictable income streams and an inability to pass on added expenses to customers.”
Farm Bureau said it supports the continuation of unrestricted cash accounting currently available to most farmers and ranchers and cautioned against reducing the number of partnership types eligible to use the tool.
Further, because farming and ranching requires large investments in machinery, equipment and other depreciable capital, Farm Bureau said it supports maintaining the $500,000, Section 179 small business expensing limitation and not reducing the $2 million acquisition limit, both of which are scheduled to drop next year respectively to a $25,000 limitation with a $200,000 threshold. Section 179 provides accelerated expensing and depreciation, allowing farmers to better manage cash flow, minimize tax liabilities and reduce borrowing.
“Whether caused by unpredictable weather that affects crop yields or uncontrollable markets that set the price of goods sold, it is not uncommon for farmers and ranchers to have a year of high income followed by several lean years,” said AFBF. “If the Section 179 small business exemption and threshold are allowed to drop at the end of the year, farmers and ranchers will lose some of the accounting flexibility they need to manage their businesses.”

Just in

Statement by Bob Stallman, President,
American Farm Bureau Federation,
Regarding House Agriculture Committee
Approval of Bipartisan Farm Bill
May 16, 2013
“The House Agriculture Committee approved its version of the 2013 Farm Bill. That bill joins the version approved on Tuesday by the Senate Agriculture Committee. This provides a great reason for optimism we will have a new long-term farm bill this year. That belief is further supported by the fact that the bills are more striking in their similarities than in their differences. Both bills provide a solid start for a farm bill that serves America’s farm and ranch families.  The emphasis on crop insurance as a risk management tool, combined with flexibility that the measures offer through other safety net choices, will go a long way in ensuring a stable agricultural economy over the next few years. 
“These bipartisan-supported bills offer a basic-but-broad risk management platform supported by all types of farmers and ranchers in all regions.  Among the balanced risk management strategy are options based both on crop prices and revenue levels. Both committees also proved thoughtful in their efforts to reform our nation's farm law, from significant changes in how commodity programs are structured to streamlining in other aspects, such as conservation programs. The savings from those efforts will help pay for new risk management programs and make contributions to reduce our nation's deficit.
“Many aspects of both bills reflect the essence of Farm Bureau’s farm bill proposal. We continue to analyze both bills and will weigh their ability to provide effective risk management tools to meet the needs of America's farmers, ranchers and growers. This and other issues will be hashed out when the full House and Senate take up their bills and then again when the chambers come together to negotiate a single bill. We remain optimistic that the congressional leadership will carry on in the bipartisan spirit exemplified by the House and Senate Agriculture committees, and that they will remain true to their commitment to pass a farm bill.”

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Just in

(BOISE) – Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter today welcomed the Obama administration’s decision to drop its appeal of a judge’s decision against the federal listing of slickspot peppergrass as a “threatened species.”
Chief U.S. Magistrate Candy Dale refused in December 2012 to reconsider her ruling the previous August that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s process for listing the plant under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) was fatally flawed. The Obama administration appealed her decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but today it voluntarily asked the appellate court to dismiss that appeal.
Governor Otter was a member of Congress in 2003 when he took part in developing a State conservation plan aimed at preventing an ESA listing for slickspot peppergrass. Despite that effort, the Obama administration listed the species as threatened in 2009. That prompted Governor Otter and his Office of Species Conservation to challenge the listing in federal court.
“It took a while, but the feds apparently have figured out that collaborating and finding common ground is more effective than forcing a wrongheaded listing down our throats,” Governor Otter said. “The ‘critical habitat’ designations that would have followed a threatened species listing could have been devastating for farmers, ranchers and recreational land users in southwestern Idaho. We remain committed to our management plan that focuses on protecting both the plant and the people.”

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Just in

Statement by Bob Stallman, President,
American Farm Bureau Federation,
Regarding Senate Agriculture Committee
Approval of Bipartisan Farm Bill
May 14, 2013
Washington--“The Senate Agriculture Committee today put the farm bill on a solid road toward success. By following a bipartisan path and approving its farm bill legislation, the committee moved the farm bill forward with provisions that work well for America’s farm and ranch families. We are especially pleased that this bill places a high priority on crop insurance as a risk management tool and that it also offers a measure of flexibility through safety net options beyond crop insurance.
“While the bill contains many provisions compatible with the core farm bill proposal offered by Farm Bureau, we recognize that no farm bill is perfect and there is always room for improvement. We are pleased that the Senate held firm to its intention of limiting cuts to $23 billion. That will help maintain workable and viable commodity and conservation titles by limiting program cuts to levels that are fair for farmers and ranchers.
“We also believe that the bipartisan compromise to oppose means testing, payment limitations or premium subsidy reductions for the crop insurance program and to formalize a tie between crop insurance and conservation compliance helped set the tone of cooperation for this bill moving forward. Overall, this bill meets our firm position that the farm bill be bipartisan in nature, reform-minded in structure and crafted around a broad, flexible, crop insurance-based program that provides our farmers certainty and extends much-needed risk management tools across more acres and more crops.”

Just in

Supreme Court Rules in Monsanto Seed Patent Case
Washington--The Supreme Court on Monday decided Bowman v. Monsanto Co., holding that the patent-exhaustion doctrine doesnotpermit an Indiana farmer to reproduce Monsanto’s patented genetically modified and herbicide-resistant soybean seeds through planting and harvesting without Monsanto’s permission. 

At issue was whether patents remain in effect for seeds that are the second generation—or progeny—of Monsanto’s herbicide-resistant soybeans. In what has been described as a narrow ruling, justices said unanimously that the actions of an Indiana farmer who planted second-generation Monsanto seeds met the definition of illegal copying of a patented product.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Just in from Washington

Health Tax Would HIT Small Business Employees

WASHINGTON – The Health Insurance Tax will hurt small business employees the hardest, according to congressional testimony today by New York Farm Bureau President and dairy owner Dean Norton. Testifying before the House Small Business Subcommittee on Health and Technology, Norton, also a board member of the American Farm Bureau Federation, encouraged members to cosponsor H.R. 763, which would repeal the HIT.
The HIT, which was passed as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, will be levied on a health insurance company’s net premiums. But, said Norton, in the end it will be employees who ultimately pay the price.
“Because of escalating health insurance premiums, we’ve had to significantly change the cost structure from covering about 90 percent of the insurance cost to approximately 50 percent through a high deductible plan,” said Norton. “Unfortunately, the people who are really hurt by this change are the employees. They now have to contribute a larger portion of the expense when they seek medical attention.”
Most farmers and other small businesses do not self-insure because they do not have a large enough pool of employees, said Norton. Instead, small employers purchase health insurance on the fully insured market. Because the smallest employers almost never self-insure, they will end up bearing the brunt of the HIT.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s 2012 Survey of Employer Health Benefits, only 15 percent of the smallest employers self-insure. Further, health insurance costs for small businesses have increased 103 percent since 2000. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, the HIT will further increase family premiums by $400 or 2.5 percent in the year 2016, making it even harder for farmers to purchase coverage for themselves, their families and their employees.
“Being able to offer health insurance is important to us as we strive to offer benefits that attract high quality workers and to keep them healthy and productive once they are on the payroll,” continued Norton. But, he said, “Escalating health insurance costs not only impact farm employers, but also those who purchase health insurance coverage for themselves and their families.”
H.R. 763, introduced by Reps. Charles Boustany (R-La.) and Jim Matheson (D-Utah), would repeal the annual fee on health insurance providers, preventing premium increases for individuals and small businesses in the fully insured health insurance marketplace.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Just in from a farmer up North

This photo says it all:

"Out to the field for the pre-seeding ritual of checking fluids, greasing, fueling, blowing off air filters, cleaning windows, and checking the equipment. I love the coolness, lighting, and quiet of the morning."--Robert Blair, Kendrick Idaho

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Just in from Washington

Senate Ag Committee Farm Bill Markup Moved to May 14

Washington--Senate Ag Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) has announced that the farm bill markup tentatively scheduled for Thursday will be postponed until Tuesday, May 14. Language to be used for the markup is expected to be posted to the committee’s website before the end of the week.

The House Ag Committee also plans to markup the farm bill next week.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Just in

Rough Start for 2013 Planting Season

 Washington--No one ever said farming was easy, but Mother Nature is giving planting season a rough start. Much of the country is currently experiencing a weird weather pattern, according to Bob Young, AFBF’s chief economist.

 “We’ve got the floods not just along the Illinois and the Mississippi Rivers, but also up north in Fargo and North Dakota areas as well,” Young said. “We’ve got some frost warnings that could affect Arkansas even…to talk about frost warnings May 1 in Arkansas and Oklahoma and Texas, that just never happens. Over 1,400 weather stations reported record-low temperatures last week.” The last time America’s farmers were so late getting a crop in the ground was 1984.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Just in from Washington

USDA/EPA Release Honeybee Report

 Washington--The Agriculture Department and Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday issued a comprehensive scientific report on honeybee health. “The Agriculture Department/Environmental Protection Agency report issued today concludes what farmers and scientists have known for some time—that there isn’t just one cause to the decline in honeybee numbers,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman in a statement.

 The decline in honey bee numbers is due to a number of factors, according to the report, which “makes it even more important that we continue work on a solution through collaborative efforts among farmers, beekeepers, researchers, the federal government and the public,” Stallman said. Farm Bureau supports funding for research to find real answers to the Colony Collapse Disorder, as well as practical, effective methods to remedy the situation.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Just in from the high country

April’s Cold temperatures delay mountain snowmelt
Boise – Streamflows remain low as do inflows into reservoirs due to cold temperatures keeping the snowpack intact according the May Water Supply Outlook Report just released by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
“The current snowmelt rates are about a half an inch per day and the soil can absorb that,” said Ron Abramovich, Idaho NRCS Water Supply Specialist.  “The high elevation snowpack hasn’t started to melt yet due to the cool spring temperatures. But, the snowpacks are below their seasonal peaks so there is not a lot of snow up there to sustain streamflows.”
Basins south of the Snake River did receive above normal precipitation in April but not enough to improve the water supply for that area. The Idaho Surface Water Supply Index shows that water supply shortages are likely for irrigators in the Magic, Salmon Falls, Big Lost, and Little Lost River basins. Marginally adequate water supplies are expected for the Boise, Snake River and Oakley basins. Impacts to users in other basins will depend on how the water is used.
North Idaho received above average precipitation in April which brought the snowpack to near normal levels.
Abramovich recommends checking the May 2013 Water Supply Outlook Report on the NRCS Snow Survey web for detailed information on specific regions and basins. Also on the web page are links to daily summary reports, Snow Telemetry data, and snowmelt peak streamflow relationship information.
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.


Boise– Governor Butch  Otter and House Speaker Scott Bedke announced an agreement today between water users and water managers on prioriti...