Thursday, October 31, 2013

Just in from Washington




Washington--Immigration reform could lead to a boost in the economy, according to a new study from the Bipartisan Policy Center. The report found that during the next 20 years, immigration would bolster the country's economic growth by 4.8 percent. The report also showed that immigration reform would reduce the country's deficits by $1.2 trillion during this time, as young working immigrants take jobs and pay taxes, according to "U.S. News & World Report."

The new report comes during a heated debate on immigration reform on the Hill, as well as the arrival of business leaders from more than 40 states visiting the nation's capital to lobby for reform.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Just in


Statement by Bob Stallman, President
American Farm Bureau Federation
Regarding Farm Bill Conference

October 30, 2013
“The American Farm Bureau Federation is very pleased that formal conference committee talks on the farm bill have begun today, which has renewed our optimism that we truly are nearing the end of a three-plus year trek.  With the legislation and process back in the hands of the Senate and House agriculture committee leaders and members, we are eager to do all we can to ensure the new farm bill is on the president’s desk as soon as possible this year.

“Farm Bureau’s two overarching goals with the Senate-House conference are ensuring that permanent law is not repealed and a complete, unified farm bill continues. With this foundation, we also will be hard at work to make sure the efforts by both committees to provide safety net and risk management options that work for farmers in all regions, including those provisions across the many titles that would help livestock and specialty crop producers, are maintained.

“We know the conferees face several tough decisions on how to move forward on a unified farm bill that will pass the House and Senate when completed.  AFBF is confident that the leaders and members of both committees will continue demonstrating their commitment and ability to forge a bipartisan compromise, and we are equally committed to doing our part to help them achieve this outcome.  It is time to get the harvest in on the new five-year farm bill.”

Just in


USDA Invests in Crop Insurance Education throughout the Pacific Northwest and Alaska

SPOKANE-The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) Spokane Regional Office today announces $620,499 in partnership agreement awards that will support crop insurance education and outreach to ensure that small and underserved producers get the information they need to effectively manage their risk and remain productive.

“RMA is committed to providing farmers and ranchers in the region the tools and information to help them effectively manage their agriculture risks from hardships and setbacks due to extreme weather conditions and market volatility,”  Dave Paul, Director of RMA’s Spokane Regional Office said. "We are very excited about the diversity of these partnership agreements.  Through these projects, many Pacific Northwest and Alaska farmers and ranchers will be better equipped to address risk management related challenges on their farms and ranches.” 

RMA accepted proposals from public and private entities, including colleges and universities, federal, state, and local agencies, non-profit and for-profit organizations, and others. All cooperative agreements were awarded based on merit. The projects below were awarded in the RMA Spokane Regional Office area (representing Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington).

“Managing Marketing Risks for Small Acreage Forest Producers in San Juan County.”  This project includes three educational workshops for forest producers that address market risks so forest producers can sell timber produced through active management into local markets.

“Financial and Production Risk Management Training for Organic and Specialty Crop Growers in Oregon and Idaho.” This project delivers financial and production risk management training for organic and specialty crop producers in Oregon and Idaho. The training’s focus will be on a new microloan program through the Farm Service Agency and organic pest management.

“Reduce Agricultural Risk through Soil Health Education.”  This project will deliver soil health and crop insurance education to producers and students in Oregon and Washington.

“Grower Training for Food Safety Risks and Global GAP Certification.”  This project will provide risk management education focused on compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), Global GAP (good agricultural practices) certification, and USDA crop insurance programs to cherry and other specialty crop growers.

“Wholesale Success: Crop Insurance and Risk Management Education for Spokane Region Specialty Crop Farmers.”  This project focuses on working with partners to engage small-scale, limited-resource, and bilingual Washington, Oregon, and Idaho farmers who are exploring new markets.

“Expanding Financial Risk Management Education for Underserved Farmers in Washington State.”  This project offers a semester-long “Cultivating Success Business Planning and Entrepreneurship” course in seven locations statewide, including two bilingual sites in Spanish.

“Risk Management Training for Beginning, Refugee, and Native American Vegetable Growers.”  This project will provide risk management training for advanced beginning farmers in their second to fourth year of production.

“2013-14 Risk Management Education for Women and Strikeforce Producers in Alaska, Idaho, and Oregon and Livestock Producers in Idaho and Oregon.”  This project will train agricultural producers in Alaska, Idaho and Oregon to sustain profitability by using effective risk management decision making.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Just in from Washington



USDA Issues CRP, Direct and ACRE Payments
Washington--Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA has begun distributing Conservation Reserve Program annual rental payments to participants across the country. USDA also will distribute 2013 direct payments and 2012 Average Crop Revenue Election program payments beginning Thursday. Payments originally were scheduled to be issued earlier in the month, but were delayed by several weeks due to the lapse in federal funding caused by the partial government shutdown.

The 2008 farm bill, extended by the American Tax Payer Relief Act of 2012, provides authority to enroll land in DCP, ACRE and CRP through Sept. 30. However, legislation has not been enacted to reauthorize or extend this authority. Effective Oct. 1, the FSA does not have legislative authority to approve or process applications for these programs. For more information on CRP, DCP and ACRE, producers should contact their local FSA office or visit FSA’s website at theFSA homepage.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Just in



Expansion of CWA Authority to All Waters is Inappropriate
Washington--As the Nov. 6 deadline for comments approaches, farmers, ranchers and many others are sharing their concerns about a draft report from the Environmental Protection Agency that is setting the stage for the agency to expand its regulatory reach and erase the word "navigable" from the Clean Water Act. EPA has indicated that the report, "Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to Downstream Waters," will be used to provide the scientific basis for determining-and ultimately stretching beyond well-established legal boundaries-EPA's jurisdiction under the federal Clean Water Act.

"Clean water and the Clean Water Act (CWA) [are] highly beneficial for this country, however leveraging the CWA for an ever expanding scope of federal authority over private citizens is outrageous. The EPA needs to realize that its scope over private property needs to be limited to the protection of public property. Expansion of the CWA to all water is inappropriate for establishing regulatory authority over private property. The CWA needs to differentiate the limits of federal authority under the CWA over public waters (navigable rivers), and over private lands [on] which rain water falls, drains, is sometimes damp, or submerged at times," one person wrote in comments posted to regulations.gov.

For additional information and resources, including a sample comment letter, go to the FBACT Insider website. You may also read more about EPA's effort in FBNews

Friday, October 25, 2013

President's Op-Ed



GMO Labeling: Good Policy or Blind Hysteria?
by Frank Priestley, Idaho Farm Bureau President
According to one of the nation’s leading natural food retailers, consumers have a right to know what’s in their food and labeling of genetically altered food is good public policy.
Labeling of food products that contain GMO’s is popular in Europe. Voters in Washington will decide on a ballot initiative this fall to require such labeling in that state. A similar ballot initiative failed in California last year. Food producers and the many companies that process and distribute food to grocery stores across the nation are watching closely as the debate gains momentum.
The policy, adopted last spring by Whole Foods Market (WFM), seems straightforward. Consumers definitely have a right to know what ingredients they are buying and eating. But upon closer examination, it becomes suspect whether WFM’s means attain their goal. In fact, in reality, and especially pertaining to animal products, the verification process by which the retailer will decide which products get a non-GMO label and which will carry a “this product contains genetically modified organisms” label, is no more than a charade.
Last spring, Whole Foods Market (WFM) announced plans to label every product in their stores by 2018. WFM has contracted with and provided major financial backing to a non-profit organization in Bellingham, Washington called The Non-GMO Project. The Non-GMO Project is staffed primarily by political operatives and others who adamantly oppose genetic modification of crops and support labeling. WFM has also supported the voter initiatives in California and Washington and made public its belief that the federal government should step in and regulate a new labeling system.
Where the argument loses credibility is in the verification process. But before we delve into the difficulty of verification, consumers should understand that the only crops in production and that currently utilize genetic modification are corn, soybeans, sugar beets, alfalfa, papaya, canola, cotton and summer squash. For the vegetable-eating public, there is little change at stake whether non-GMO labeling gains public acceptance or not. This overlooked fact makes a nice, but hollow talking point for WFM and the Non-GMO Project to tout the thousands of products they have already verified. It’s not difficult to verify carrots, potatoes, onions and many others as “non-gmo” when there is no seed to begin with.
However, when you consider that most of the main ingredients in livestock feed are corn, soybeans and alfalfa, and that significant percentages of these crops currently in production are genetically modified, it becomes a much stickier issue for producers of meat, cheese, milk, and other dairy products.
Although labeling advocates point to a host of undocumented and unproven allegations about the dangers of eating food that contains GMO’s, and perceived threats to the environment, it’s important to understand a few simple, proven facts. First, genetically altered crops have been in production in the U.S. for nearly 20 years, have been deemed safe through extensive testing by the federal government, and have shown zero adverse effects on the health of the general public.
In addition, it has been acknowledged by both WFM and the Non-GMO Project that no test exists that can tell the difference between sugar, corn, soy or any of the others that came from GMO seed being any different than commodities that came from conventional seed. In addition, if a cow, a pig, sheep, etc. eats crops that come from GMO seed, there is no test in existence that can tell any difference in the meat, milk etc. from that of any other animal.
So how does WFM, the Non-GMO Project or any of the other advocates of this policy intend to verify their label? The short answer is they can’t. But what they are telling consumers is that products earn a non-gmo label by going through a “process-based” verification process.  Ultimately what that means is that livestock feed must first be certified organic and second, it must be traceable and tested. Without a major paradigm shift in U.S. livestock production, neither of those processes is possible at a meaningful level.
If WFM wants to develop and fund a verification process to provide their shoppers with a meaningless label, we don’t see a problem. But creating a new government bureaucracy that essentially does the same thing is absurd.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Just in


Poultry Grower Lois Alt Prevails Against EPA

WASHINGTONPoultry and livestock farmers declared victory on Wednesday when a federal court ruled in favor of West Virginia poultry farmer Lois Alt in a lawsuit she brought against the Environmental Protection Agency. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia ruled that contrary to EPA’s contention, ordinary stormwater from Alt’s farmyard is exempt from National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit requirements.

Alt filed suit against EPA in June 2012 after the agency threatened her with $37,500 in fines each time stormwater came into contact with dust, feathers or small amounts of manure on the ground outside of her poultry houses as a result of normal farm operations. EPA also threatened separate fines of $37,500 per day if Alt failed to apply for a NPDES permit for such stormwater discharges. AFBF and the West Virginia Farm Bureau intervened alongside Alt as co-plaintiffs to help resolve the issue for the benefit of other poultry and livestock farmers.

“We are pleased the court flatly rejected EPA’s arguments and ruled in favor of Lois Alt,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “The outcome of this case will benefit thousands of livestock and poultry farmers who run their operations responsibly and who should not have to get a federal permit for ordinary rainwater from their farmyards.” 

In ordering Alt to seek a permit, EPA took the legal position that the Clean Water Act’s exemption for “agricultural storm water discharges” does not apply to farms classified as “concentrated animal feeding operations” or “CAFOs,” except for areas where crops are grown.  In other words, any areas at a CAFO farm where crops are not grown, and where particles of manure are present, would require a permit for rainwater runoff.   

In April of this year, the federal court rejected efforts by EPA to avoid defending its position by withdrawing the order against Alt.  In opposing EPA’s motion to dismiss, Alt and Farm Bureau argued that farmers remained vulnerable to similar EPA orders, and the important legal issue at stake should be resolved.  The court agreed.

“This lawsuit was about EPA’s tactic of threatening farmers with enormous fines in order to make them get permits that are not required by law,” said Stallman. “Lois Alt was proud of her farm and her environmental stewardship, and she stood her ground. We’re proud to have supported her effort.” 


Just in



House takes up waterways infrastructure bill

 Washington—House lawmakers are expected to start debate on the Farm Bureau-supported Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013 (H.R. 3080) on Wednesday, with votes to soon follow.  The Senate passed its version of the legislation, the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) (S. 601), in May. 

  With more than half of exported U.S. corn shipped via inland waterways and 95 percent of agricultural exports and imports moving through U.S. harbors, passage of a water resources development bill is long overdue to ensure a reliable, affordable, energy-efficient and environmentally sustainable mode of transporting agricultural products, according to farmers and ranchers.   

The House’s WRRDA measure would set target expenditures from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF), increasing each year so that by 2020, no less than 80 percent of the funds collected would go to operation and maintenance activities.     

In addition, it would reform and preserve the Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF). It also alleviates strain on the IWTF by reducing the fund’s support for the Olmsted Lock and Dam project to a cost share of 25 percent, instead of the current 50/50 approach.    

The continuing resolution recently passed to keep the government open through Jan. 15, 2014,  and increase the debt ceiling through Feb. 7 also address the Olmsted Lock and Dam project, upping the spending cap on the project from $1.56 billion to more than $2.9 billion.    
The provision has gotten some negative attention, but Andrew Walmsley, American Farm Bureau Federation transportation specialist, said critics don’t have it quite right.    

“First, the Olmsted Lock and Dam provision in the continuing resolution does not spend any money.  It only increases the project’s spending cap to meet future financial demands,” Walmsley explained.  “The original spending cap was put in place in 1986, and had the cap not been increased, work on the project would have stopped next month.”    

Second, the project is expected to deliver a considerable return on investment, with the nation’s economy and taxpayers being the ultimate beneficiaries.      

“The project has a 7.4 to 1 benefit-cost ratio, according to the Corps of Engineers’ Chief’s Report approved by Congress,” Walmsley noted.  “It is estimated it will provide more than $410 million annually in transportation cost savings and benefits when the work is done.”    
Provisions addressing the Olmsted Lock and Dam project were included not only in the recently passed continuing resolution, but also in fiscal 2014 appropriations bills, as well as the Senate’s WRDA bill.  The House’s version of the legislation contains important reforms to the project, according to Walmsley, and farmers and ranchers hope lawmakers will keep that language in tact as they work on the bill this week.     

“There’s clearly a consensus in Congress that work on the Olmsted project is important,” Walmsley said.      

Under the Senate waterways bill, the Olmsted Lock and Dam project would be funded by the government.   The Senate measure also would increase annually the amount of funding provided through the HMTF for port maintenance and dredging; streamline the process for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects and reduce project completion times; and free up money and increase the capacity of the IWTF by increasing the threshold for a major rehabilitation project to qualify for the IWTF matching funds from $14 million to $20 million. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Just in



Washington--The U.S. Supreme Court said on Tuesday that it will consider a challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency's rule that limits emissions by power plants, refineries, chemical facilities and other industrial sites. 

The high court said it would hear challenges filed by multiple industry associations and state governments that have complained that the EPA overstepped its authority under the Clean Air Act in moving to regulate emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from "stationary sources," meaning industrial facilities and ultimately almost any energy-generating site in the country.

Petitions accepted by the court included one filed by the Chamber of Commerce and AFBF. Farm Bureau opposes the regulation of GHGs.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Just in from Washington


Discussion Continues on Food Safety User Fees

Washington--The Agriculture Department's fiscal year 2014 budget contains several proposals for user fees, including a new $59 million facility registration and inspection fee to fund implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act. As discussions about the budget and continuing resolution continue, some lawmakers have expressed renewed interest in user fees to help cover food safety activities of the Food and Drug Administration.

Registration fees surfaced as an issue during the legislative process that resulted in the Food Safety Modernization Act in 2010. Congress rejected the fees in FSMA but they continue to be discussed as a way to boost the FDA budget.

The American Farm Bureau Federation opposes registration fees. AFBF and a coalition of food and feed groups have sent letters to Congress expressing opposition to the proposed fees.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Just in


Washington--The Panda Cam is back on at the National Zoo, but experts warn that it could take months-and cost billions-before the government returns to normal. A huge backlog of undone work and extra duties greeted federal workers Thursday when they returned to their jobs after a 16-day government shutdown.

Charles Tiefer, a University of Baltimore professor who studies shutdowns, called the lingering effects "a giant problem." He estimated the cost of the ­restart at about $10 billion. Loans and permit applications, federal contracts, regulatory paperwork, health and safety inspections, IRS audits, legal work and government checks have piled up

Friday, October 18, 2013

Just in from Capitol Hill



Washington--The farm bill's top four negotiators met Wednesday and authorized staff to step up discussions on the commodity title in anticipation that the full House-Senate conference could begin the last week of October.
The meeting, hosted by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), was the first since the House finally appointed its conferees last Saturday. Present were Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and her ranking Republican, Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran, as well as Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, the ranking Democrat on the House side.

Members in both parties said it remains to be seen what the fallout will be from the last few weeks of conflict over the government shutdown. From a schedule standpoint, it has already been costly, delaying the appointment of conferees and now the first meeting. Lucas and Stabenow anticipate that Congress will be out of session next week, meaning the earliest a full conference can meet is the week of Oct. 27.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Just in from Washington



Washington--Congress passed a law Wednesday to reopen the government for three months and lift the nation's debt ceiling, setting up another confrontation early next year and leaving Republicans with little to show for the standoff. It was a deal struck in the Senate that tilted toward Democrats' demands: Ending the partial government shutdown with a status quo spending bill through Jan. 15 and suspending the $16.7 trillion borrowing limit until February, though the Treasury Department can use special measures to extend that deadline. 

The only change to the new health care law is a requirement that the Obama administration verify the incomes of those applying for health insurance subsidies. "After weeks spent facing off across a partisan divide that often seemed too wide to cross, our country came to the brink of a disaster," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who struck the deal with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), a day before the government could no longer guarantee the ability to pay its bills.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Just in from Washington



House Farm Bill Conferees Appointed
Washington--House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Friday named 17 Republican negotiators to serve on the House-Senate conference committee charged with resolving differences between the House and Senate-passed farm bills. 

The Republican leadership conferee is Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla). House Agriculture Committee conferees are: Rep. Frank D. Lucas (R-OK), committee chairman; Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa); Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas); Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.); Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas); Rep. Glenn "GT" Thompson (R-Pa.); Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.) Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.); Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.) Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.); Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.); and Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.). House Foreign Affairs Committee conferees are: Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), committee chairman; and Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) House Ways & Means Committee conferees are: Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), committee chairman; and Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas).

Last week House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) named 12 Democratic negotiators to the farm bill conference committee. The Democratic leadership conferee is Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus. House Agriculture Committee conferees are: Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.); Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.); Rep. Jim Costa (D-Calif.); Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.); Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.); Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.); Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.); Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-Calif.); and Rep.  Filemon Vela (D-Texas). The House Committee on Foreign Affairs conferee is Ranking Member Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.). The House Ways and Means Committee conferee is Ranking Member Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.).

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Bitner Vineyards 2013 Canyon County Farm Family of the Year

District 5 Discussion Meet



Nicola Elliott wins Dist 5 Discussion Meet
Moscow--The district 5 YF&R discussion meet was held in Moscow on October 14 and the winners were 1st place Nicola Elliott, 2nd place Logan Zepp, and 3rd place Kirk Ramsey. Kirk and Nicola are from Southwestern Idaho and Logan is from Hoquium Washington.
(Bob Smathers photo)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Just in



Farm Bureau:Water Rights Must Remain With States

Washington--Continued state control of water rights is critically important to farmers and ranchers, the American Farm Bureau Federation told Congress on Thursday.

“Farm Bureau supports H.R. 3189, the Water Rights Protection Act, because it is designed to dispel uncertainty and recognizes state sovereignty and historic water law,” said Randy Parker, CEO of the Utah Farm Bureau Federation, testifying to the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power on behalf of AFBF. Further, noted Parker, H.R. 3189 recognizes states’ sovereign water rights and protects livestock water rights from illegal federal claims and takings.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Just in



Ag Labor Fly-In Slated for Oct. 28-29
Washington--The American Farm Bureau Federation is joining Americans for Reform, a large multi-constituency fly-in of business owners, faith leaders, law enforcement officials and conservatives, to push Congress to act on immigration reform this year. The fly-in takes place Oct. 28 and 29 to take advantage of the next legislative window.  

State Farm Bureaus are encouraged to bring two to three farmers and/or leaders to take part in the fly-in, scheduling their own meetings with congressional offices. Contact Cody Lyon (email: codyl@fb.org) with questions.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Just in from Washington


Washington--U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem today said she has received an assurance from Speaker of the House John Boehner that he will appoint House conferees within the next week to the House-Senate Farm Bill conference committee. The naming of House conferees will allow formal Farm Bill conference negotiations to begin, bringing the Farm Bill one step closer to completion.
"Both the House and the Senate have passed Farm Bills and it is time to begin conference negotiations and finish our work on a five-year Farm Bill," Noem said.  “I spoke this morning at our weekly Republican meeting and described to my colleagues the devastation in western South Dakota that has resulted from the weekend storm. The lack of a comprehensive Farm Bill leaves all of our producers without the certainty they need.  This is especially true for our livestock producers who are currently without the protection of a livestock disaster program. After further conversations with the Speaker today, I appreciate him confirming that he plans to move forward and appoint conferees within the next week.  We need to move quickly to get a five-year Farm Bill completed."
As a member of the House Agriculture Committee, Rep. Noem has been leading the push for reauthorization of livestock disaster programs. Noem has authored legislation that reauthorizes these programs in the pending Farm Bill which would retroactively cover livestock losses due to disasters such as the recent storm in western South Dakota.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Just in



 $500 Farm Bureau Incentive Extended to all GM Models
Detroit-- Effective immediately, the standard $500 Farm Bureau incentive available to members in participating states for acquiring eligible GM vehicles has been extended to include Buick Encore and Chevrolet Volt models.

Of special interest to farmers and ranchers, Chevrolet and GMC recently revealed the all-new 2014 models of the Silverado HD and Sierra HD full-size pickups, featuring segment-leading capabilities across the range including the highest payload—7,374 pounds—and the highest conventional trailering rating—19,600 pounds.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Just in





Top House Republican: Chamber Will Take up Immigration

Washington--A top House Republican says in an upcoming interview that the chamber will take up immigration reform in 2013, insisting that “there’s still time” for a comprehensive rewrite despite the rapidly dwindling time left on this year’s calendar.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, said during an interview with Univision’s “Al Punto” that top leaders are still discussing when to bring immigration bills to the House floor. Speaker John Boehner “over the last few weeks has continued to talk about the importance of the House moving forward on immigration reform,” McMorris Rodgers said, according to a transcript provided by Univision.

 “I believe that we have a window here between now and the end of the year and that this is a priority.”

Monday, October 7, 2013

Just in


Time is Needed for Sage Grouse Efforts
By Congressman Mike Simpson

Washington-- “During my time in Congress, I have consistently worked to preserve responsible access to public land.  As Chairman of the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, I worked to ensure that western interests were protected in the FY14 Interior appropriations bill.  Among a number of important provisions in the bill is language delaying the decision whether to list the sage-grouse as an endangered species for one year. 

“According to a court settlement, the Fish and Wildlife Service must make this decision by the end of FY2015.  In preparation, the BLM is currently under a court-imposed deadline to amend 68 resource management plans across the West to ensure that sage-grouse is protected under them.  This decision is of paramount importance to Idaho, so agencies need adequate time to complete this work.

“It’s important to note that this listing deadline was imposed by a judge, not based on science.  Unfortunately, since the court set this arbitrary deadline, agency budgets have continued to decline, and BLM is stretched thin in its efforts to amend these plans.  I continue to hear from many of the stakeholders involved who are concerned that the listing deadline has resulted in less collaboration and rushed decisions.  By delaying the listing decision for one year, we can provide the BLM with time to do the job right.

“My bill takes a number of additional steps regarding sage-grouse conservation efforts, including providing BLM with requested funding for sage-grouse conservation and recognizing that states play a critical role in this effort.  The bill also directs the FWS and the USGS to make public data used in the listing decision, which has not been made available.

“My bill does a number of other things for the West.  It fully funds the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program (PILT), which reimburses local and state governments for the lack of tax base due to the presence of federal lands.  It includes a number of provisions intended to address the grazing permit backlog at the BLM and allow the agency to focus its limited time and resources on the most environmentally sensitive areas.  And it prevents the Forest Service from implementing new wilderness directives that could limit Idahoans’ access to public lands.

“In Idaho, our way of life has long depended on access to public lands.  My Interior Appropriations bill recognizes this, and I hope that the House will act on this bill soon.”

Friday, October 4, 2013

Just in

Grape Harvest Underway
Sunnyslope--At Bitner Winery the wine grape harvest is in full swing but it's slow going due to the rain and yields are below average but in other vineyards across the region yields are above average. 
(Steve Ritter photo)

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Just in

Apple harvest underway
Sunnyslope--At Symms Fruit Ranch in Sunnyslope the apple harvest is underway.  Pickers are harvesting the red delicious apple crop this week and the trees are heavy with the bright red apples. 
(Steve Ritter photo)

'17 Beet Harvest

The Magic Valley might have the second greatest sugar beet harvest of the decade. “On our farm the beet crop is looking very good,” said...