Wednesday, November 27, 2013

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UI Animal Physiologist, Cattle Feed-use Efficiency Expert Rod Hill Selected as AAAS Fellow

MOSCOW, Idaho – Nov. 26, 2013 –– Animal physiologist Rodney A. Hill was among 14 researchers focused on agriculture, food and renewable resources named fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science Monday.

Hill, whose research focuses on feed-use efficiency in cattle, was honored “for distinguished contributions to field of animal physiology, for service to the scientific community in conveying science broadly, and for editorial and review leadership.

Last year Hill’s book, “Feed Efficiency in the Beef Industry,” was published by Wiley-Blackwell. The book drew on the expertise of 33 co-authors from across the U.S. and internationally to helpproducers and researchers understand the complex factors affecting feed use by cattle and implications for sustainable, efficient and highly-productive cattle management.

Hill noted that his “election as a fellow is a great personal honor. It is humbling to be recognized for the work I care so much about. My focus is to support the $4.3 billion animal industries in Idaho, and much of my work depends upon close ties to industry, in addition to active pursuit of federal funding.”

“Much of my work is highly collaborative,” Hill said. “I have only been able to achieve progress through collaboration and support of colleagues in the Animal and Veterinary Science Department, others across the University of Idaho, and national and international partners.”

“The university is a special place where we also build close connections with our students and provide them with opportunities to learn about cutting edge science, the Idaho way,” Hill said.

Hill will be among this year’s crop of 388 new fellows from all scientific disciplines who will be honored Feb. 15, 2014, in Chicago at the association’s annual meeting. It is the top U.S. gathering focused on general science sponsored by the world’s largest scientific society.

Fellows are nominated by steering groups of the association’s sections or by three fellows who are current AAAS members. The tradition began in 1874.

A professor in the Department of Animal and Veterinary Science since 2001, Hill’s honor is a three-peat for the University of Idaho’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences faculty.

School of Food Science microbiologist and E. coli researcher Carolyn Hovde Bohach was honored as a fellow at the AAAS annual meeting in 2012 in Washington, D.C. She directs the National Institutes of Health funded Idaho IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence which includes all of Idaho’s higher education institutions.

Department of Plant, Soils and Entomological Sciences entomologist Nilsa Bosque Perez was honored as a fellow earlier this year at the AAAS annual meeting in Boston. She directs the National ScienceFoundation-funded Integrated Graduate Education and Research Traineeship program with 22 doctoral students in Idaho and Costa Rica.

The AAAS annual meeting in Chicago meeting will feature a symposium Hill organized and will moderate. It will focus on how U.S. agricultural sciences can work with agricultural sciences in the so-called BRIC nations of Brazil, Russia, India and China to improve global food security.

Past sessions that Hill organized focused on biotechnology and food supplies and on animal science and meat production in Africa to offset dietary protein deficiencies there.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Just in from Washington



New Resource Guide Assists Veterans in Agriculture
WASHINGTONA new resource guide developed by Farm Bureau and the Farmer Veteran Coalition Partnership is now available.

Farm Bureau and the FVC are working together to train beginning farmers, make equipment available to veteran farmers and help find farm ownership or employment opportunities for members of the military transitioning into the civilian workforce.

“Through this partnership, I am optimistic returning veterans will learn how to continue their service to our country by helping feed its citizens, nourish its land and make its rural communities more viable through the many entrepreneurial opportunities agriculture has to offer,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman.

The resource guide provides Farm Bureaus with a simple framework outlining the many ways that are available to participate in the new partnership and assist returning veterans interested in staking their futures on agriculture and rural America.

“We’re working to cultivate a new generation of farmers and food leaders, in addition to developing viable employment and meaningful careers through the  collaboration of the farming and military communities,” said Michael O’Gorman, executive director of the FVC.

“We believe that veterans possess the unique skills and character needed to strengthen rural communities and create sustainable food systems for all,” O’Gorman continued. “We believe that food production offers purpose and opportunity, as well as physical and psychological benefits.”

Service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have become the latest group of veterans in need of employment and who, by some measures, may be the most likely young people to enter agriculture and other rural-based businesses. Only 17 percent of the U.S. population calls rural communities home, yet 44 percent of military recruits come from rural America.

The FVC is an organization aimed at mobilizing veterans to enter agriculture and help feed American while rebuilding rural communities. Learn more at http://www.farmvetco.org/.

Monday, November 25, 2013

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A Comprehensive Farm Bill Will Provide A Safety Net For Producers To Manage Risk 

Washington--The USDA released a report on the benefits of passing a Farm Bill on Thursday.

 The Farm Bill represents a key opportunity to further reform and improve farm programs to provide assistance to those that need it and to restore much needed disaster funding for livestock producers, while also providing deficit reduction for the American taxpayer.

 While crop insurance is a critical component of the farm safety net, the Government's cost of providing crop insurance has increased dramatically over the past decade as the subsidies for crop insurance and the prices of commodities have increased.

 In 2012, farmers paid about $4.3 billion to insure almost 282 million acres through the Federal crop insurance program.The Farm Bill also is an opportunity to reform adjusted gross income limit provisions to prevent producers that do not need assistance from receiving aid.

 Due to Congressional inaction on the Farm Bill, some of the programs that could have helped mitigate the impacts of the severe drought conditions in 2012 and more recently during the South Dakota blizzard this past October are expired or currently have no funding – particularly safety net programs for livestock producers.

 In 2012, had Congress acted to reauthorize the Farm Bill, the Livestock Forage Program (LFP) payments alone could have totaled between $500-$600 million, double the 2011 levels. A new Farm Bill would retroactively extend LFP payments to producers to cover those losses.

 Continued delay of the Farm Bill not only leaves these producers on their own to cover their losses from the 2012 drought, but also renders essential programs unavailable to USDA in its work to provide assistance for new disasters, such as the October blizzard in South Dakota, Nebraska, North Dakota and Wyoming, which killed a large number of livestock.

 Because Congress has not acted to reauthorize the Farm Bill, USDA is unable to assist producers and can only ask producers to keep accurate records for when a Farm Bill reauthorizes the LIP program. Lack of action on a Farm Bill ultimately would result in the U.S. reverting back to dairy policy from the New Deal era, leading to the potential for milk prices to double for domestic consumers. This also would carry significant cost for the federal government of at least $12 billion per year.

Friday, November 22, 2013

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ESA reform: Farmers focus on voluntary efforts, impact on landowners


Washington—With almost 80 percent of species listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act occurring to some extent on private land, farmers and ranchers are urging a congressional working group to take into account the law’s impact on landowners and to look for ways to remedy restrictions that unnecessarily impinge on the rights of private property owners. 

“In AFBF’s view the ESA is in critical need of reform, particularly from the perspective of farmers and ranchers,” the American Farm Bureau Federation said earlier this month in comments to the Endangered Species Act Congressional Working Group.  The group includes lawmakers from across the country who are analyzing the ESA from all angles. It is considering what works well with the current law and its regulations, ways it could be updated, and how to boost the law’s effectiveness for both species and people.

Further drilling down to how landowners, and producers specifically, are affected by ESA regulations, Farm Bureau pointed out that almost 35 percent of listed species occur exclusively on private lands, “meaning that such species are nearly critically dependent on the actions of private landowners for their continued existence.”  Much of that private land is agricultural land.

In the comments, Farm Bureau detailed some of the organization’s ESA-related policies, including those that support:
·         A voluntary program administered by the Department of the Interior to enter contracts with private landowners to maximize and enhance habitat through technical assistance and other incentives.
·         Compensation of landowners for damages to or loss of the use of their property resulting from implementation of any provision of the ESA regarding private property.
·         Listings based on endangerment, rather than rarity, using sound, peer-reviewed science that is readily available to landowners and their representatives and which considers all populations of a species, including those in other countries. 
·         The right of landowners to protect person and property from listed predators and wildlife.
·         

Thursday, November 21, 2013

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Farm bill conference continues


Washington—Not stopping to take a break during the House’s recent weeklong recess, the work of the top four farm bill negotiators rolls on, with Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) floating the possibility of a deal before the end of the month.  Joining Stabenow in the meetings are Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.). 
Stabenow, Cochran, Peterson and Lucas are hardly going it alone though.  Numerous other conference committee members and their staff are sorting through the nearly two thousand pages of farm policy legislation produced by both chambers.    

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) spending is expected to be the biggest hurdle to clear in conference.  The Senate’s farm bill calls for a $4.1 billion reduction in SNAP funding over the next decade, compared to the House’s $40 billion in cuts.   Conferees have said little publicly about a strategy, but they are expected to be trying to find a level of SNAP reductions that would keep House and Senate Democrats on board, while getting enough support from House conservatives to send the bill to the president for his signature.  For his part, President Barack Obama has said numerous times that he’s anxious to sign off on the bill. 

Despite critical differences in SNAP spending and a few other areas, the legislation approved by the Senate and the measure passed by the House both 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.

Looking at the long list of similarities between the bills, both work to protect crop insurance and offer enhancements through new provisions such as the Supplemental Coverage Option, a program that allows farmers to purchase an area-triggered revenue or yield insurance product to cover the deductible associated with the underlying individual or area insurance policy. The SCO would be available for all programs except for cotton.
Each bill offers a safety net with options for producers, specifically price-based provisions of particular interest to rice and peanut farmers and revenue-based provisions supported by corn and soybean farmers.

Both bills maintain the marketing loan program while eliminating direct payments and other Title I farm programs. The savings from the elimination of the direct payments and other programs are used in each bill to fund new farm programs and to provide budget savings to go toward deficit reduction targets.

In addition, the measures both strive to streamline working lands conservation programs and seek to focus more budget cuts from land retirement programs, such as the Conservation Reserve Program.

The extension of the 2008 farm bill expired on Sept. 30.
“While the most significant ramification of the farm bill’s expiration won’t be felt until around Jan.1 when permanent law would require USDA to force up milk prices as well as some commodity supports, farmers and ranchers are anxious for a new, five-year farm bill to put an end to the uncertainty that’s looming over their plans for 2014 and beyond,” said Mary Kay Thatcher, American Farm Bureau Federation farm policy specialist.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

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EPA’s draft report falls far short on science


Nov. 18, 2013—A draft report EPA is using to set the stage to expand its regulatory reach and erase the word “navigable” from the Clean Water Act provides no scientific support to make distinctions between significant and insignificant connections of streams and wetlands to downstream water, the American Farm Bureau Federation and 35 other organizations said in comments recently submitted to the agency.

 “Merely because a connection can be identified does not mean it is significant to downstream water quality or ecosystem health,” wrote the groups, which identified themselves as the Waters Advocacy Coalition. 

The report, Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to Downstream Waters: A Review and Synthesis of the Scientific Evidence, also lacks the identification of any method, formula or standard for determining if a connection significantly influences the integrity of downstream waters.

“Without providing such metrics to define whether connections are significant, the synthesis report provides no scientific basis to conclude which connections are significant and which are non-significant, and thereby provides no scientific basis for a rulemaking,” the groups said. 

Further, the report makes sweeping assertions that all connections are equal, regardless of the kind, size, or frequency.  It does not “account for site specificity, regional variability or temporal variability” or address whether these factors of variability have any relevance on the effect of the connection on the integrity of downstream waters. 

“Perhaps most importantly, the synthesis report totally fails to explain which types of connections or how many connections of what frequency, magnitude, and duration are needed to significantly affect the flow, ecology and water quality of downstream waters,” the groups said. 

The groups noted that previous Supreme Court rulings have clarified that to regulate additional water bodies, EPA must show a significant hydrologic connection to navigable waters.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has examined the meaning of the scope of ‘navigable waters’ under the CWA three times,” the groups said. 

The coalition also took issue with EPA’s approach to the rulemaking, saying that the agency should have held off on sending its proposed rule to the Office of Management and Budget until after the agency’s Scientific Advisory Board had reviewed the report on which the rule relies. 

“Sending a proposed rule to OMB for interagency review before the SAB completes its peer review of the synthesis report demonstrates that the agencies are not properly taking the science into account and that the outcomes have been pre-determined.  Any proper rulemaking should begin with an agency collecting, developing, and then appropriately evaluating the relevant science,” the groups wrote. 

In the same vein, EPA should provide the SAB with the proposed rule to help the panelists understand the implications of the report. 

If EPA succeeds in gaining authority over every drop of water and the land it settles on, environmental activists will no doubt seize the opportunity to target litigation at farmers and ranchers or the agency to force the regulation of farmland and ranchland, according to Don Parrish, AFBF water quality specialist.

Also, there’s a good chance that many things farmers and ranchers currently do on the landscape will start to look like point-source activities from a legal and regulatory perspective. Farmers and ranchers will have to brace for citizen litigation that will demand new permits for activities like spreading manure or applying crop protection chemicals.
“At $30,000 to well over $100,000 for some permits, these requirements sometimes force growers to avoid farming otherwise productive acreage just so they don’t trigger federal permit and extremely costly mitigation requirements,” according to Parrish. “But in most parts of the country, it would be just about impossible to farm around every wet spot that EPA wants to regulate.” 

Farmers and ranchers aren’t the only ones concerned about the draft report and the agency’s effort to greatly expand federal Clean Water Act jurisdiction.  Last week, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) and Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) urged OMB to send back to EPA the agency’s draft CWA rule until the connectivity report has been fully reviewed and is given legitimate time for public input and scrutiny.

“Given that EPA has already decided the final ‘waters of the United States’  rule will be based on the Connectivity Report, one would think the report’s validity and scientific merit are foregone conclusions.  In reality, however, EPA has committed to relying on a report whose legitimacy is far from certain.  For one, the report is still in draft form and was only recently disseminated to the public for review and input,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter.   

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

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Farmers disappointed with EPA’s plans to scale back RFS


Washington—EPA’s proposal to reduce the amount of ethanol that must be blended into the nation’s gasoline supply is a disappointment and strikes a blow to conventional ethanol production, as well as dampens the prospects for advanced biofuels, according to American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman. 

“The intent of the Renewable Fuels Standard revised in 2007 (RFS2) was to get more renewable fuels into our nation’s pipeline and move beyond the E10 fuel blend. The announcement from EPA moves us in the opposite direction. This decision has the potential to pull the plug on new technologies and investments that are currently in place and needed to produce advanced biofuels,” Stallman said. 

The RFS requires transportation fuels in the U.S. to contain a certain amount of renewable fuels, such as ethanol or biodiesel. Those renewable fuels minimums, based on expected overall fuel consumption, are set to increase every year to achieve 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel by 2022. 

This year, however, Americans are expected to use about 10 billion gallons less of gasoline than they did in 2007, when the RFS2 law was passed. The drop since 2007 has been a result of the recession of 2008-2009 and the efficiencies of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, known as CAFÉ standards, which have resulted in more fuel efficient vehicles on the road.

The RFS2 target initially set for 2014 was 18.5 billion gallons, up from 16.55 billion gallons this year.  EPA is proposing reducing that target to 15.2 billion gallons of renewable fuels, a move large oil companies strongly support. 

Bumping up against what they call a “blend wall,” gas manufacturers say the law hurts the economy by increasing production costs and pushing prices up at the pump.  The blend wall refers to efforts to meet yearly RFS mandates.  Currently, most refiners are using a 90-percent-petroleum to 10-percent-ethanol blend (E10), but to meet the RFS’ increasing renewable fuels minimums, they’ll have to decrease the amount of gas and bump up the amount of ethanol in the fuel they’re producing.  According to Andrew Walmsley, AFBF energy specialist, this is a surprise to no one. 

“It was clear from the day the RFS2 was enacted that refiners would have to eventually up the amount of ethanol blended into gasoline,” Walmsley said.  “It happened sooner than expected, but the point is, it was expected.”

The ones who are caught off guard here, says Walmsley, are the farmers who grow the corn and other biofuels inputs, biofuels plants and their investors and the rural economies they all support. 

“Rural America is counting on the stability and certainty of the RFS2 law, which continues to decrease our dependence on foreign crude oil, create jobs and revitalize rural communities, exactly as it was intended to,” he said. 

The agency’s proposal will be open to 60 days of public comment before EPA makes a final decision, which is expected this spring. 


Monday, November 18, 2013

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Food Stamp Cuts-47 Million Americans Have less to eat
 Washington--With the expiration of the boost to food stamps that was part of the 2009 economic stimulus program, some 47 million people-about a sixth of the U.S. population (49 percent white, 26 percent black and 20 percent Hispanic, Census Bureau figures show)-saw benefits drop 5 percent from a maximum $200 a month for an individual and $668 for a family of four to $189 and $632, respectively.
Washington--

The number of people receiving food assistance swelled dramatically with the recession, going from 26 million in 2007 to 47 million in 2012, but conservatives argue relaxation of standards at the state level also contributed. The Congressional Budget Office expects 14 million people to leave the program in the next decade as the economy improves. USDA estimates fraud accounts for little more than a penny on the dollar.

FB Annual Banquets

Gem County Farm Bureau awards Gems of Gem County

Emmett--Emmett County Farm Bureau recognized four Farm Bureau Members as Gems of Gem County. The award recognizes long time farm members of Gem County Farm Bureau. This year plaques were awarded to Norvil and Beverly Elliot along with John, Dirk and Diane Veenstra, pictured here.

Deloy and Janet Mecham were also recognized as Gems of Gem County.

Friday, November 15, 2013

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WASHINGTON, D.C., November 14, 2013The American Farm Bureau Federation’s 28th annual informal price survey of classic items found on the Thanksgiving Day dinner table indicates the average cost of this year’s feast for 10 is $49.04, a 44-cent price decrease from last year’s average of $49.48.

“The cost of this year’s meal, at less than $5 per serving, remains an excellent value for consumers,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman, a rice and cattle producer from Texas. “America’s farm and ranch families are honored to produce the food from our nation’s land for family Thanksgiving celebrations,” he said. “During this holiday season, many farmers and ranchers will be reaching out to consumers in-person or through social media, to answer questions about the food that they grow or the poultry and livestock they raise,” he added.

The AFBF survey shopping list includes turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a relish tray of carrots and celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and beverages of coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10. There is also plenty for leftovers.

The big ticket item—a 16-pound turkey—came in at $21.76 this year. That was roughly $1.36 per pound, a decrease of about 3 cents per pound, or a total of 47 cents per whole turkey, compared to 2012. The whole bird was the biggest contributor to the final total, showing the largest price decrease compared to last year.

“This year we can be thankful that Thanksgiving Dinner, a special meal many of us look forward to all year, will not take a bigger bite out of our wallets,” said John Anderson, AFBF’s deputy chief economist. “Most Americans will pay about the same as last year at the grocery store for a turkey and all the trimmings. Slightly higher turkey production for much of the year coupled with an increase in birds in cold storage may be responsible for the moderate price decrease our shoppers reported,” he said.

Strategic shoppers may pay even less for frozen tom turkey compared to AFBF’s 167 volunteer shoppers who checked prices at grocery stores in 34 states.

“Special sales and promotions on turkey and other holiday food items will continue right up to Thanksgiving,” Anderson explained. “If you have the patience to wait until the last minute to buy a turkey you might come home with an exceptional bargain,” he said.

In addition to the turkey, other items that declined in price included a dozen brown-n-serve rolls, $2.18; one pound of green peas, $1.54; a 14-ounce package of cubed bread stuffing, $2.67; fresh cranberries, $2.42; a half pint of whipping cream, $1.85; and two nine-inch pie shells, $2.49.

Items that showed a moderate price increase from last year included three pounds of sweet potatoes, $3.36; one gallon of whole milk, $3.66; and a 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix, $3.10.

In addition, a combined group of miscellaneous items, including coffee and ingredients necessary to prepare the meal (onions, eggs, sugar, flour, evaporated milk and butter) increased to $3.20. A one-pound relish tray of carrots and celery increased to 81 cents.

The average cost of the dinner has remained around $49 since 2011. Further, Anderson noted that despite retail price increases during the last year or so, American consumers have enjoyed relatively stable food costs in general over the years, particularly when adjusted for inflation.

The stable average price reported this year by Farm Bureau for a classic Thanksgiving dinner tracks closely with the government’s Consumer Price Index for food eaten at home (available online at http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/cpi.pdf), which indicates a 1 percent increase compared to a year ago.

Farm Bureau volunteer shoppers are asked to look for the best possible prices, without taking advantage of special promotional coupons or purchase deals, such as spending $50 and receiving a free turkey. Shoppers with an eye for bargains in all areas of the country should be able to purchase individual menu items at prices comparable to the Farm Bureau survey averages. Another option for busy families without a lot of time to cook is ready-to-eat Thanksgiving meals for up to 10 people, with all the trimmings, which are available at many supermarkets and take-out restaurants for around $50 to $75.

The AFBF survey was first conducted in 1986. While Farm Bureau does not make any scientific claims about the data, it is an informal gauge of price trends around the nation. Farm Bureau’s survey menu has remained unchanged since 1986 to allow for consistent price comparisons.

-30-


Item
2012
Price
2013
Price
Difference
16-pound turkey
22.23
21.76
-.47
Rolls, 12
2.33
2.18
-.15
Green peas, 1 lb.
1.66
1.54
-.12
Cubed stuffing, 14 oz.
2.77
2.67
-.10
Fresh cranberries, 12 oz.
2.45
2.42
-.03
Pie shells (2)
2.51
2.49
-.02
Sweet potatoes, 3 lbs.
3.15
3.36
+.21
Pumpkin pie mix, 30-oz.
3.02
3.10
+.08
Milk, 1 gallon whole
3.59
3.66
+.07
1-pound relish tray  (carrots and celery)
.76
.81
+.05
Whipping cream, ½ pint
1.83
1.85
+.02
Misc. ingredients
3.18
3.20
+.02
TOTAL
49.48
49.04
-.44


Yearly
Averages
1986
$28.74
1987
$24.51
1988
$26.61
1989
$24.70
1990
$28.85
1991
$25.95
1992
$26.39
1993
$27.49
1994
$28.40
1995
$29.64
1996
$31.66
1997
$31.75
1998
$33.09
1999
$33.83
2000
$32.37
2001
$35.04
2002
$34.56
2003
$36.28
2004
$35.68
2005
$36.78
2006
$38.10
2007
$42.26
2008
$44.61
2009
$42.91
2010
$43.47
2011
$49.20
2012
$49.48
2013
$49.04

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