Friday, June 28, 2013

President's editorial

Transmission Project Threatens Farms, Ranches  


By Frank Priestley, President                                                            

An unknown number of unfortunate Idaho farm and ranch families are about to learn the meaning of the phrase “Step back and let the big dogs eat.”

Rocky Mountain Power and Idaho Power are preparing to create a right-of-way across southern Idaho to accommodate a massive power transmission corridor called Gateway West.

We all need power and infrastructure upgrades are necessary. However, the proposed route of this 250-foot wide, 990 mile-long project will come at a significant cost to many landowners. Over 700 miles of the project is slated to cross private land.

In spite of the fact that 63 percent of Idaho is controlled by the federal government and ample amounts of that public land are available for this and projects like it, the utilities are planning on taking the path of least resistance – in other words, private land. The cheapest, easiest, most efficient route provides the utility companies and their shareholders with the optimum return on their investment.

It’s much easier for the utility companies in the process of purchasing a right of way to insist on confidential negotiations with single landowners and bully them with the threat of eminent domain than it is to deal with the federal government and all its encumbrances, not the least of which is the Endangered Species Act.

It’s much easier to cross flat farmland that somebody else already went to the trouble of clearing and leveling than it is to find a way through the foothills and sagebrush.

It’s much easier to engineer and build roads to haul towers and construction materials and set up large areas for stretching cable on a farm.  

All of these things may make it easier, but none make it right.

According to the American Farmland Trust, Idaho lost 32 million acres of crop and pasture land between 1997 and 2007. How will this project contribute to this disturbing trend? Agriculture is a significant contributor to our state’s economy. Gateway West will be a severe detriment to private land in Bannock, Power, Cassia, Twin Falls and Owyhee counties. Agriculture is an important sector of the economy in all these counties in terms of both job creation and revenue generated. A power line should not be made a higher priority than agriculture.

In a recent interview, a Rocky Mountain Power spokesman said they will only negotiate with landowners on an individual basis. The same spokesman said they don’t know how many landowners are affected. Idaho Power deferred questions to Rocky Mountain Power. These responses provide some evidence of things likely to come. First, not knowing how many landowners are involved, or at least not being willing to disclose the information is a red flag.

The process of negotiating the purchase of a right of way across 700 miles of private land with possibly hundreds of different landowners is a daunting task. There are dozens of things to consider and each property will be different. Things such as how much crop land will be disturbed and for how long, values of various crops, yield loss, irrigation refits, cost of access for future maintenance of the power line and many more. From the power companies’ perspective, it will be much easier if the landowners up and down the line can’t share information. Landowners in the path of this project have a lot at stake and should be compensated fairly.

Second, we’re puzzled why Rocky Mountain Power is speaking for Idaho Power, when the majority of the project is in Idaho Power’s service area? When we asked that question, we didn’t get a straight answer – another red flag.

A BLM official has acknowledged that high voltage transmission lines are likely to create mechanical and electronic interference with irrigation equipment and GPS units used to guide tractors and other farm equipment. This is a serious problem with unknown implications and yet another very good reason to move this project away from farms. It’s close to impossible to calculate the loss to a farm operation that no longer has reliable irrigation or GPS. Will stray voltage make farm equipment inaccurate? Can farmers expect constant interruptions or inadvertent interruptions? Our fear is that once the line is in place, no one is going to care about the effects of stray voltage on farms except the farmers who are forced to deal with it.

Sage grouse and the Endangered Species Act are a big part of the reason private landowners are being forced to bear the cost of this project. This nonsensical scenario reminds us of another bird. The actions taken by the federal government to protect the spotted owl resulted in the loss of thousands of jobs in Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

Sage grouse are a major hurdle in the path of the project. But we don’t believe it’s the sole responsibility of private landowners to bear that burden. We don’t want this project to usher these desert birds toward their demise, but we believe a greater public good comes from the production of food, the revenue it creates and the families it supports. 

We can anticipate the power companies’ response to moving their lines away from private land will be that power rates will increase. We also know that with or without this project, power rates are going to increase anyway. A lot remains unknown about this project and the future, but one thing we are certain of is that the power companies are going to continue to be profitable. If rates increase the cost of food production follows and those costs will be passed along to consumers.
We urge all Idaho farmers, ranchers and landowners to rally toward this cause. If this project is allowed to move forward as planned it will set a dangerous precedent for private landowners all across our state. 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Just in



Potential Record Corn Crop Tests High Farmland Values
Chicago--According to a recent article in the Chicago Tribune, some economists are waving caution flags around the sky-high U.S. farmland prices, described as a "bubble about to burst." Farmland is currently selling for $10,000 an acre in top growing areas in the Great Plains and Midwest, with global food prices and demand for corn elevating the land value.

Sam Miller, head of agribusiness for BMO Harris Bank, predicts farmland values will feel the pressure if corn prices drop below $5 per bushel due to a large harvest. "Certainly, if it gets to $4, the price of land will have come down...I'm not forecasting that we will see a collapse in land values. I think we'll have a correction," said Miller. USDA projects corn prices to range from $4.40-$5.20 per bushel.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Just in



Crop Condition Ratings Show Improvement
Washington--According to the Agriculture Department, national condition ratings for corn, soybeans and wheat showed overall improvement last week.

As of Sunday, 65 percent of corn planted is in good to excellent condition, up 1 percent on the week and 9 percent more than this time last year, with 96 percent of the crop emerged. For soybeans, 65 percent of the crop is rated good to excellent. This is an increase of 1 percent from the prior week and up 12 percent compared to a year ago, with 81 percent of the crop emerged. Winter wheat is not faring so well, with 32 percent characterized as good to excellent, 1 percent more than a week ago, but the poor to very poor category remains unchanged at 43 percent.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Just in


House Farm Bill Post Mortem Continues
Washington--Following the defeat of the House farm bill last week, discussions continue in Washington, D.C., and out in the countryside about what happened and the next steps. Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee, discussed the farm bill on The Mike McFeely Show where he said “there’s always hope,” adding that the committee has not come to a conclusion about what do next.

One option Peterson talked about was bringing the bipartisan bill approved by the House Ag Committee to the Rules Committee and then the full House. “Bring that bill to the Rules Committee and put it on the floor, it’ll pass and get to conference. I think that’s the best solution, if people are willing to do it,” Peterson said. Bringing the Senate-passed farm bill up in the House is also a possibility, according to Peterson, who noted there are some issues that would need to be worked out by the conference committee if it comes to that.

Permanently authorized programs including federal nutrition assistance and crop insurance will continue if the 2008 farm bill does lapse because they are funded by annual appropriations bills.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Just in


Greek Yogurt Not Greek Enough for the UK
New York--Greek yogurt has been making news in the U.S. this week as New York producers such as Fage and Chobani use whey, a watery byproduct created during the production process, to create energy. But across the pond, the breakfast and snack time favorite has been churning unfavorable publicity.

Chobani owns and operates a facility in the Magic Valley.

In March, a British court decided Chobani could not sell Greek yogurt unless the product was in fact made in Greece. The producer has since been granted an appeal scheduled for September and the product has been relabeled as strained yogurt and replaced on shelves. Chobani claims it is the straining process and not where the product is from that removes the excess liquid from Greek yogurt, creating a thick and creamy texture.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Just in



AFBF: Death Tax Repeal Act ‘Gets the Job Done’

WASHINGTON – The American Farm Bureau Federation supports legislation introduced today in both the House and Senate that would permanently repeal the estate tax. Sen. John Thune’s (R-S.D.) bill, The Death Tax Repeal Act of 2013, coupled with bipartisan legislation of the same title introduced by Reps. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.), is welcomed by America’s farm and ranch families.
While significant tax relief was enacted last year to help farmers cope with estate taxes, AFBF believes that permanent repeal is still the best solution to protect all farms and ranches. The legislation introduced today would repeal the estate tax, maintain stepped-up basis and make permanent a 35 percent maximum gift tax rate and $5 million lifetime gift tax exemption indexed for inflation.
“Individuals, family partnerships and family corporations own 98 percent of our nation’s 2 million farms and ranches,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “When estate taxes on an agricultural business exceed cash and other liquid assets, surviving family partners may be forced to sell land, buildings or equipment needed to keep their businesses running. This not only can cripple a farm or ranch operation, but also hurts the rural communities and businesses that agriculture supports.”
The value of family-owned farms and ranches is usually tied to illiquid assets, such as land, buildings and equipment, said AFBF. With 85 percent of farm and ranch assets illiquid, producers have few options when it comes to generating cash to pay the estate tax. Recent increases in agriculture cropland values, on average 15 percent from 2011 to 2012, have greatly expanded the number of farms and ranches that now top the estate tax exemption.
“Farm Bureau believes the estate tax should be eliminated permanently,” concluded Stallman. “We fully support The Death Tax Repeal Act of 2013 to get the job done.”

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Just in



Study Shows Sweet Cherries Boast an Array of Health Benefits
Emmett--A recent study conducted by the Agriculture Department’s Agricultural Research Service shows consuming 45 sweet Bing cherries may hold large health benefits. The research concludes the fruit can decrease the risk or modify the severity of inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and cancer because of its ability to decrease concentrations of inflammatory biomarkers in the blood.

Just in from Washington



House Begins Farm Bill Debate; 103 Amendments on Tap

Washington--House legislators began debating the farm bill on this week. The House Rules Committee has determined that 103 amendments to the bill out of 225 submitted will be considered. Debate is expected to continue today and Thursday. 

Although Republican leaders in the House continue to indicate that they anticipate approval of the farm bill before the House adjourns at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, some pundits in Washington, D.C., think a vote next week is more likely.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Just in



Veto Threat Looms as Farm Bill Debate Begins in House
Washington--If the House farm bill makes it through Congress and is sent to the White House, senior advisors to the president are expected to advise him to veto it, due to the $20.5 billion cut in federal nutrition assistance programs that will be spread out over 10 years. The Senate-passed farm bill also cuts nutrition aid, but only by $4 billion.

Farm Bureau and a large number of other ag groups sent a letter to House Ag Committee leaders on Monday urging them to oppose any attempts to include the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendment of 2013 in the farm bill.  “Such broad and potentially costly legislation should not be entertained as part of the farm bill, which is a must-pass bill for most agricultural producers,” wrote the groups. The legislation writes into federal law an agreement between animal rights activists and egg producers that requires the cages used for laying hens to nearly double in size.

AFBF has sent an FBACT “Action Alert” to state Farm Bureau staff and leaders encouraging outreach to members of Congress regarding farm bill support.  Additional information on the farm bill and the AFBF Action Center are available online. This includes messages developed for sharing across social media platforms.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Just in



Simpson’s Potato Amendment Passes Committee
Amendment allows fresh potatoes to be included in WIC
 
Washington, D.C. - The House Appropriations Committee has passed the fiscal year 2014 Agriculture Appropriations bill.  Congressman Mike Simpson is a member of the committee and once again offered an amendment to allow states to include fresh potatoes in the Women, Infants, and Children nutrition program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Simpson’s amendment passed by voice vote.
 
“Fresh potatoes have been excluded from the WIC program despite their widely known nutritional value,” said Simpson. “This amendment corrects the exclusion of fresh potatoes and allows participants to make wholesome food choices for their young families.”
 
Potatoes are currently excluded from the WIC program despite being nutrient dense, affordable, low in calories, and free of fat, cholesterol, and sodium. A medium-sized potato contains more potassium than a banana and is a good source of dietary fiber—both of which are “nutrients of concern,” meaning those nutrients most lacking in Americans’ diets, according to USDA’s current Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 
 
The bill was approved by the full committee on a voice vote and now awaits consideration by the full House.
 
To view Congressman Simpson defending fresh potatoes in the House Appropriations Committee, visit his YouTube page.
 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Just in



Farm Bill Gets a Big Boost on the Hill

Washington-- Farm bill legislation got a helping hand last week in the House, but not without partisan bickering. House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) announcement this week that he will vote for farm bill legislation when it hits the House floor was a much-needed political boost.

 According to Mary Kay Thatcher, American Farm Bureau Federation’s farm policy specialist, “There were a lot of House Republicans that might have been hiding behind Mr. Boehner with the thought that he would vote no on the farm bill and so they thought it would be an easy vote for them.” When Boehner came out and said he would support a farm bill, which he has not done in at least the last two farm bills, “it will take any cover that those folks might have been feeling and they’ll have to go out and vote the will of their districts,” Thatcher said in a  Newsline radio story.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Just in

Emmett Irrigation District Canal Closed for business


Emmett--A major canal serving 18,000 acres was closed for business earlier this week after a landslide closed Highway 52. The Gem County Commissioners declared a local disaster Thursday morning.

Engineers hired by the Emmett Irrigation District determined the Northside Canal above Highway 52 was responsible for the landslide. Last weekend the Irrigation District found water outside the concrete liner and decided to shut down operations on Monday.

So far:
• The floor and sides of this portion of the canal were sandblasted.
• Thursday, crews sprayed Aqualastic®, a liner
• Today crews will turn the water back on serving 950 water users.
Disaster declared
Gem County Commission Chairman Carlos Bilbao signed a “local disaster declaration” Thursday morning in relation to an uncontrolled landslide at milepost 37.5 on Highway 52, north of Emmett the first weekend of June.

“This declaration is in recognition of the potential of something more severe than what has already occurred,” Gem County Deputy Prosecutor Tim McNeese said. “This is required so the county can obtain more funds and/or resources from state or federal agencies if this becomes something worse.”

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Just in



 

USDA Seeks applications to Finance Rural Broadband in Remote Areas


WASHINGTON – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that applications
are being accepted for grants to finance broadband deployment in remote, rural areas.
The United States Department of Agriculture remains focused on carrying out its mission,
despite a time of significant budget uncertainty. Today's announcement is one part of the
Department's efforts to strengthen the rural economy.

"The Obama Administration believes that reliable infrastructure is critical to rural economic
opportunity. Broadband service expands educational, medical and health services for rural
residents," Vilsack said. "Expanded broadband service also is important because it supports
employment opportunities and makes income growth possible in rural areas."

Through this notice, USDA Rural Development may award up to $21 million in grants
through the Community Connect Grant program. It serves rural communities where
broadband service is not available, but where it can make a tremendous difference in
the quality of life for citizens.

For example, last year USDA provided a grant to the isolated Alaska Native Community
of Saint Paul. Located in Alaska's Pribilof Islands in the Bering Sea, the town of about 500
is installing a modern system, and the Native-owned firm that will operate it estimates that in
the next five years Internet access will result in saving or creating an estimated additional 44
full time jobs including the five existing jobs on the island. The project will also support 23
construction and clerical jobs.

Complementing today's funding opportunity, USDA recently announced new rules to
better target Community Connect broadband grants to areas where they are needed
the most.To view the rules, go to:
http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-05-03/pdf/2013-10502.pdf.

Since its inception, the Community Connect program has funded 229 projects with USDA
investments of $122 million. In 2012, USDA assistance led to improved broadband service
nationwide for nearly 65,000 rural households, businesses and community institutions –
such as libraries, schools and first responders.

For more information, see page 34979 of the June 11, 2013 Federal Register, or visit
http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-06-11/pdf/2013-13827.pdf. The deadline for
submitting applications is July 11.

President Obama's plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and
resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President's leadership, these
investments in housing,community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered
rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America's economy, small towns
and rural communities.

USDA's investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the
backbone of our American values. President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack are
committed to a smarter use of Federal resources to foster sustainable economic prosperity
and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working
families in rural communities.

USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, has a portfolio of programs designed to
improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and
ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America.

USDA has made a concerted effort to deliver results for the American people, even as
USDA implements sequestration – the across-the-board budget reductions mandated under
terms of the Budget Control Act. USDA has already undertaken historic efforts since 2009
to save more than $828 million in taxpayer funds through targeted, common-sense budget
reductions.


 

 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013



Russian Bees Buzz to the States
Moscow--With their hives dwindling and varroa mites being cited as the No. 1 cause, American beekeepers are seeking the help of Russian bee populations, according to Russian newspaper RIA Novosti

Russian bees are twice as resistant to the tiny parasite due to long-term exposure, potentially building a resistance, cited a North Carolina State University study. The foreign bees also produce equal, if not greater, amounts of honey, and fly in temperatures as cold as -38 degrees Fahrenheit.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Just in



Statement From Secretary Vilsack on Senate Farm Bill Passage
 
WASHINGTON, June 11, 2013 - Today, Secretary Vilsack made the following statement
on Senate passage of the Food, Farm and Jobs Bill:
"I'm very pleased that the Senate acted in bipartisan spirit to approve the Agriculture
Reform, Food and Jobs Act. In particular, I appreciate the work of Chairman Debbie
Stabenow and Ranking Member Thad Cochran for leading a bipartisan effort to approve
the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act. Rural America has been too long without a
comprehensive, multiyear Food, Farm and Jobs Bill. Passage of this legislation by the
Senate is a promising development and an important one for rural communities and
families. It provides a strong safety net for agriculture, while making needed reforms by
eliminating the direct payment system and tightening payment and eligibility
requirements. The Administration intends to continue to work with the Senate through the
conference process to achieve the savings included in the President's Budget in the
crop insurance and commodity programs while addressing the important priorities of the
bill. This is not just a farm bill - it's a trade bill, a conservation bill, an innovation bill
and above all, a job creation bill."
"The House of Representatives once again has an important opportunity to continue
toward passage of a Food, Farm and Jobs Bill, and I am encouraged by indications that
the House will follow regular order and consider a bill. However, I remain deeply
concerned that the House version contains dramatic reductions in support of nutrition
programs that are critical for the well-being of millions of working families, while
also benefitting farm and rural economies. As this process continues, I am hopeful t
that a comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill ultimately reflects President Obama's
commitment to revitalizing our economy and strengthening our families, including
through adequate provision of important nutrition assistance programs."
 

Just in



Farm Bill clears the Senate
Washington--Monday evening, the Senate voted 66-27 to pass a five-year, half-trillion-dollar farm bill that will expand government subsidies for crop insurance, rice and peanuts while making small cuts in the food stamp program.
The bill, which costs almost $100 billion annually, also eliminates subsidies that are paid to farmers whether they farm or not. It could save about $2.4 billion a year, including across-the-board cuts that took effect earlier this year.
The Senate passed a similar farm bill last year on a bipartisan 64-35 vote. 
"The major change for the individual Idaho farmer will be the transition from the traditional crop payment programs to the crop insurance programs," said Crapo.
The legislation proposes stopping direct federal payments to farmers, who can be paid whether they grow crops or not. Instead, the bill would increase funding for crop insurance, which covers decreases in farmers' crop yields or revenue.
"They get more skin in the game," said Crapo. "We get away from some of the commodity compensation-type payment systems, and move more to a risk-reduction system through crop insurance. That's a big shift."
But that insurance comes with conservation requirements for farmers.
"There are a lot of other conservation programs in the farm bill," said Crapo. "In fact, one of the things that I've constantly reminded people of, is that the biggest pro-environment, pro-conservation bill that Congress ever deals with, is the farm bill."


Just in


Immigration Bill Inches Forward
Washington--With the farm bill expected to wrap up in the Senate this week, the immigration bill will soon take center stage. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) filed cloture Thursday on the motion to proceed to the landmark bill, setting up votes sometime this week, according to a Roll Call article.

In a recent Focus on Agriculture column on the topic of immigration reform, Kenneth Dierschke, Texas Farm Bureau president, said, “It is critical that we devise a legal status for the 12 million or so undocumented workers that are presently in the United States and working. The bill they are writing recognizes that it will be impossible to stem the flow of undocumented workers unless we deal with the incentives that lure them here. That’s border security.”

Monday, June 10, 2013

Just in


Hendricks Promoted to Director Position
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
POCATELLO – Russ Hendricks was recently promoted to Director of Governmental Affairs of the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation.

Hendricks has worked for the organization since 1999, serving as a field representative and a lobbyist on the Governmental Affairs Team.

“Russ has a solid track record and is well-versed in our core areas of concern, including agriculture, private property rights, taxation and natural resources,” said IFBF CEO Rick Keller. “He is also an expert on energy production, which is becoming more and more important here in Idaho.”

Hendricks graduated from Utah State University in 1990, earning bachelor’s degrees in Agri-business and Business Administration. His minor area of study was Economics. He worked for the Utah Farm Bureau for about nine years as a field representative before accepting a position with the Idaho Farm Bureau in 1999.
Hendricks has worked extensively with the members of the Idaho Legislature as well as other state and local government officials on both tax and energy issues. He served on the Transportation Fuels and Natural Gas subcommittee of the Idaho Legislature’s Interim Energy Committee which helped draft an update of the State Energy Plan. He was appointed by Governor Otter to serve on the Idaho Strategic Energy Alliance Board of Directors and also serves on the Treasure Valley Clean Cities Coalition Board of Directors. 

Serving as an Idaho Farm Bureau field representative over the past 14 years, Hendricks has worked with elected boards of directors made up of farmers and ranchers in eight southwest Idaho County Farm Bureaus. During that time he coordinated activities and served as an advisor and assistant to those county organizations.

Hendricks and his wife Lisa live in Nampa with their four children.

Just in



Obama Administration Will Not Re-propose Farm Labor Rules
Washington--Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) questioned Acting Department of Labor Secretary Seth Harris last week on the future of the farm labor rules that were withdrawn in April 2012. The withdrawal was spurred by an outpouring of concern by farmers and ranchers. When asked by Sen. Moran if the proposed regulation would be reintroduced, Harris responded, “We have no plans to re-propose it and we won’t be re-proposing it during the rest of the Obama administration.”

DOL’s previously proposed rules would ban children from performing common farm tasks and suggested nixing farm safety and certification programs such as Extension, 4-H and FFA, claiming the programs were too locally driven and lacked federal direction.
To watch Sen. Moran question Harris,  click here.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Just in



Cloture Motion Filed on Senate Farm Bill

Washington--A cloture motion has been filed in the Senate on the farm bill, setting the stage for an end to debate. Senators will vote on the cloture motion on Thursday. Sixty votes are needed for approval. If cloture is approved, most Washington watchers predict the Senate will vote on the massive farm bill on Monday.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) continues to try to come to agreement with Republicans on limiting the total number of farm bill amendments, as 234 have been filed to date. “We need to move forward and get it done,” Stabenow said, according to a Tuesday “On the Money” blog post published by The Hill.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Just in



Vilsack Comments on GM Wheat Scare

Washington--Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack commented Tuesday that the government is working with private companies to develop a rapid test for genetically modified wheat, according to a  Reuters article. Tests currently available are not cost-effective or time-efficient like the test the government is partnering to create. GM wheat can be tested by examining the protein in the crop or through a DNA test.

 Vilsack’s comments on the topic were the first he has made publicly since the GM wheat find on May 29.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Just in



Senate considers farm bill, House expected to take up its measure soon


    Washington--Having already voted on nine amendments, senators still have more to consider as they resumed floor debate this week on the farm bill approved last month by the Senate Agriculture Committee.
    The committee legislation places a high priority on crop insurance as a risk management tool and also offers a measure of flexibility through safety net options beyond crop insurance, which American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said is very important to farmers and ranchers.
    "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," he continued. "We are pleased that the Senate maintained workable and viable commodity and conservation titles by limiting program cuts for farmers and ranchers."
    The bipartisan compromise to oppose means testing 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 and was also a win for farmers, Stallman said.
    "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."
    Among the more than 200 amendments filed for the farm bill debate on the Senate floor are a number related to crop insurance. A Farm Bureau-supported amendment put forth by Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) to enhance crop insurance program integrity was passed, as was an amendment opposed by Farm Bureau to reduce the crop insurance premium subsidy by 15 percent for those with an average adjusted gross income of $750,000. That amendment was proposed by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.)
    An amendment sponsored by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) to eliminate crop insurance for tobacco was rejected. Farm Bureau opposed the amendment.
    On May 15, one day after the Senate Agriculture Committee approved its farm bill, the House Agriculture Committee passed legislation of its own. The measures are more striking in their similarities than in their differences, Stallman noted.
    "Both bills provide a solid start for a farm bill that serves America's farm and ranch families," he said.
    The legislation approved by each committee offers 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 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," according to Stallman. "The savings from those efforts will help pay for new risk management programs and make contributions to reduce our nation's deficit."
    The House is expected to consider its farm bill this month also. Once both chambers approve their respective bills, House and Senate lawmakers will 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," Stallman said.

Wake Island

Joe Goicoechea of Boise fought at Wake and was a POW for the duration of the war. Goicoechea passed away in January of 2017. Jake Pu...