Monday, March 31, 2014

Just in

Simpson Takes On EPA Over Idaho Water

Washington-Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson hosted leaders of the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation in two hearings before the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee to discuss Fiscal Year 2015 budget issues.  Simpson chairs the subcommittee and oversees the budgets for the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation. 

Regarding the navigable waters rule, Simpson said, “It is stunning to me that the Administration claims this proposed rule is supported by science, but that’s hard to believe when you look at the sequence of events.” After the hearing, Simpson said, “The Obama Administration clearly wants to use its regulatory agenda to control every drop of water in the country. This is completely unacceptable and an infringement on state rights.”

In the Bureau of Reclamation hearing, Simpson talked about maintaining aging water infrastructure with flat budgets, future year planning, and BOR's work with the Corps to study the possibility of increasing water storage at the Ririe Reservoir in Bonneville County, Idaho. “It would seem we—the executive branch and legislative branch together—have some tough decisions to make,” said Simpson.  “Either we reevaluate the number and breadth of actions we promise to deliver or, if these really are strong national priorities compared to national priorities in other policy areas, we figure out a way to better reflect that in Reclamation’s budget.”

In the Army Corps hearing, Simpson also expressed concern that the Administration has not been following congressional direction in implementing the civil works program. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Just in

NOAA Expects Moderate Flood Risk, Continued Droughts 

Washington-Rivers in half the U.S. are at a minor to moderate risk of exceeding flood levels between April and June and drought conditions are expected to continue in California and the southwestern portion of the country, according to a report released on Thursday by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The area of the highest threat of flooding is the southern Great Lakes region due to above-average snowpack and a deep layer of frozen ground. But below-average temperatures over the winter also resulted in river ice formation and ice jams further south than normal, NOAA's Spring Outlook said. Moderate spring flooding is predicted in parts of southern Wisconsin, southern Michigan, portions of Illinois, Indiana and Iowa. There is less of a risk of moderate flooding from eastern North Dakota and northwest Minnesota and areas in western South Dakota. 

Drought conditions are expected to continue or intensify in California, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, southeast Colorado, western Oklahoma and western Texas because of below-average rain or snow over the winter and the onset of the dry season in April, the report said. Drought improvement is likely in Washington and southeast Idaho, extreme northern and coastal Oregon, western and central Nebraska and Kansas, central Oklahoma and the Midwest. Drought is not expected in the eastern U.S. in the next three months.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Just in from Washington

Proposed Power Plant Rules Threaten Energy Affordability

Washington--EPA's recently proposed greenhouse gas regulations greatly jeopardize the availability of an affordable and reliable supply of energy, without which farmers and ranchers cannot produce the food, fuel and fiber every American relies on, according to Farm Bureau.

Among agriculture's biggest concerns about the agency's proposed standard for new power plants are the significant costs for utilities in complying with these planned rules. Utility companies can and will pass these costs on to their customers, who will then pass the costs down the line. That's not an option for farmers and ranchers.

"Farmers and ranchers are price takers and not price makers, so they lack the ability of many other sectors of recouping their costs by passing them on to customers," Farm Bureau wrote in comments to the agency. "Higher energy costs for farmers and ranchers mean higher farm input costs."

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

In Memorium: Betty DeVeny

Long time Farm Bureau Advocate Betty DeVeny of Riggins passed away last week. This was one of the last interviews we did the Iron Lady of Riggins on May 29th, 2009: 

I’m Betty DeVeny from District 5, and when I worked for the Forest Service I could belong to the Farm Bureau but couldn’t be active. So when I retired in ’86, then I became more active in Farm Bureau, as near as we can figure I was county secretary starting about 1987 while Bill was President. And then we decided it was 2001 when I became County President.

Your thoughts on being named District 5 Woman of the Year?
I tried my best to get out of it, several years ago Phylis Fleener asked me to do it but she was more easily convinced, because I really don’t want to, this year three of them ganged up on me and said you do not have any choice.

Your involvement over the years is legendary in Idaho County but also in Farm Bureau--
It’s important, especially for policy development, that’s the main emphasis of our county, that’s one of the main reasons we participate and the influence we can have on the legislature, locally, state and national.

Being a woman in ranching and in Farm Bureau, did that present any problems?

It was never even noticeable because we’ve had several women that are active in out County Farm bureau and not even in the women’s committee. Our women’s committee is a one person committee, I mean she’s super but we don’t have a big women’s committee, we don’t do a lot of that sort of thing.

You never brushed elbows with the old boy network?

No, I guess if I did I ignored them. I never did have any trouble.
What kind of reach does Farm Bureau have?
It’s really kind of hard to measure because there are a lot of things that might have happened but didn’t that would have been detrimental to agriculture were it not for Farm Bureau. I don’t always agree with all of their emphasis on all of their issues, but it’s the best we got.

Where is Farm Bureau headed?

I hope we are headed in the right direction, but its going to take people participating and that’s one of the hardest things, is to get people to participate because they have to participate if they are going to change anything.

How important is involvement in these times?

I think it’s very important and I think we need to try and get the younger people because some of us are starting to get kind of old and worn out. I know that’s a problem in our county. We try to get younger members but its hard for them because of demands on their time.

One person has a voice in Farm Bureau and that voice can stretch all the way to Washington, can you articulate that?

I’m not sure that I can, because I think that’s one of our biggest problems, getting them to understand what the capabilities are, I don’t know how to suggest ways to go about it. We have a young YF and R person and we are trying to bring him along and let him know what the opportunities are.

When Betty DeVaney calls the Idaho County Commissioners they usually call back?

They always do!

What’s it like here in the high country?

Just like anywhere else, we have lived here since 1950, it’s just the way it is.
Well that’s true, even when we go anywhere, I was telling my sister. It’s not always when you can go on a business trip and have a scenic drive because it doesn’t matter if you’re going to McCall direction or Grangeville its scenic.

If you could change Farm Bureau what would it be?
I don’t want to change it.

Tell us about the family:
You will meet three of them today, Janet is our oldest, and then Brian is next, he’s the one that pretty much runs things. If it wasn’t for him we wouldn’t be running cows. Our next boy we lost in 2007 and our youngest is Mike and he is here today. He is a computer programmer with Saint Lukes, but he comes up very much to help us. He comes up to help brand he came up for this, he’s a major contribution in keeping things going.

Just in

Ag Producers' Confidence Remains Slightly Positive

Washington--Overall agriculture producer confidence remains unchanged since last March despite a drop in producers' feelings about their current situation, according to the latest DTN/The Progressive Farmer Agriculture Confidence Index. Producers' overall confidence remained somewhat positive at 106.9, up slightly from 105.5 last December and unchanged from March 2013. The value of 100 is considered neutral. Values above 100 indicate optimism, whereas values below signify pessimism.

The DTN/PF Agriculture Confidence Index, which surveyed 500 producers between March 1 and 10, measures the sentiments of agriculture producers on their overall impressions of the agriculture sector. Farmers are also asked to rate current and long-term input prices and net farm income to gauge their attitudes toward the present situation and future expectations.

For the latest DTN editorial, weather and market information, visit

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Just in

Julie Borlaug: PR on Biotech Crops Falls Short

Des Moines--Julie Borlaug, granddaughter of renowned crop scientist Norman Borlaug, told the Des Moines Register that proponents of modern agriculture, led by supporters of genetic modification technology, need to do better in communicating with the public about the work of farmers and why seeds that boost yields and are resistant to drought, among other threats, are needed. "If we all step back and reconstruct what we want to tell people, what our messaging is and make it a little more personal and a little more comprehensible to people who are so far removed from agriculture, I think we would start winning the day," she said.

A celebration honoring the 100th birthday of Norman Borlaug in Washington, D.C., this week will include the unveiling of his statue in the U.S. Capitol. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Just in from Washington

Simpson Praises Mexico’s Final Rule to Allow Potato Trade

Washington–Idaho Congressman Simpson is pleased the Mexican government published its final rule allowing the importation of fresh potatoes from the United States. 

“Since the Market Access Agreement was signed by the U.S. and Mexico in 2003, I have consistently urged the USTR, USDA and White House to sustain efforts encouraging Mexico to meet its commitment and allow full market access for U.S. fresh potatoes,” said Simpson. “I am pleased the Mexican government has issued its final rule allowing full market access for U.S. fresh potatoes.”

In 2003, the United States and Mexico signed a market access agreement that allowed for the shipment of U.S. fresh potatoes into a 26-kilometer area along the border of Mexico.  The agreement called for increased access to the five northern Mexican states in 2004 and for consideration of full access by 2005. However, Mexico has continued to limits shipments of U.S. potatoes to areas within 26 kilometers of the border. In 2012, the Mexican government started its rulemaking process to allow of the expansion U.S. fresh potato trade between the two countries.   

Friday, March 21, 2014

EPA Formally Proposes New Worker Protection Standard Rule

Washington--The Environmental Protection Agency has published a proposed rule in the Federal Register to revise the worker protection standard rule governing handling and application of pesticides. EPA announced last month that it would formally propose the rule. Proposed revisions to the WPS rule have been extensively discussed for years among EPA and outside stakeholders, including farmers, ranchers, worker advocates and others. 

The principal changes EPA is proposing include shortening the grace period during which pesticide applicators must be trained; expanded training requirements; expanded record-keeping requirements; age restrictions on certain duties; changes to the 'immediate family' exemption; and more frequent training requirements. 

AFBF will be submitting comments on the rule (current deadline is June 17).

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Just in

Wyoming Welder Faces Fine for Building Pond on His Property

Casper--Andy Johnson built a stock pond on his eight-acre Wyoming farm and is now being harangued by the Environmental Protection Agency, which is threatening him with civil and criminal penalties up to and including $75,000 a day in fines. Johnson says he followed state rules when constructing the stock pond in 2012 and has an April 4-dated letter from the Wyoming State Engineer's Office to prove it.

EPA officials claim Johnson violated the Clean Water Act by building a dam on a creek without a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers, and that material from his pond is being discharged into other waterways. Johnson says the stock pond he built-a man-made pond designed to attract wildlife-is exempt from Clean Water Act regulations. The story has generated a fair amount of media attention.

"Expanded EPA jurisdiction is going to mean headaches like this for farmers and ranchers everywhere," said Don Parrish, senior director of congressional relations at AFBF.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Just in

Dr. Joe Guenthner of the University of Idaho will discuss how biotech foods fit into global markets.

UI Expert to Speak on Biotech Crops                      
Ponderay – Bonner County Farm Bureau is hosting a seminar on Biotech Crops for Farmers and Consumers at 7 p.m. on March 27th at the Holiday Inn Express in Ponderay.

Dr. Joe Guenthner, professor emeritus of the University of Idaho’s College of Agriculture, will speak and field questions on how biotech foods fit into a global market, how biotech products are brought to market, and whether biotech foods should be labeled.

Guenthner was raised on a family potato farm in Wisconsin.  After earning a BS degree in agriculture at the University of Wisconsin, Joe grew potatoes with his brothers during the 1970s.  

He continued his education with degrees in agricultural economics -- an MS at Montana State University and a PhD at Washington State University.  He was also a Visiting Scholar at the University of Cambridge in England.

As a University of Idaho professor Guenthner has taught courses in price analysis, ag policy and marketing. His research and extension efforts focused on potato industry economics. 

The Holiday Inn Express is located at 477326 Highway 95 N 

Just in

Water Rights Bill Prohibits Federal Takings

Washington--The House of Representatives last week approved Farm Bureau-supported legislation (H.R. 3189) that recognizes states' long-standing authority to confer water rights and retains the position that the federal government will respect those lawfully acquired rights. 

"The Water Rights Protection Act does not expand rights for individuals at the expense of any federal agency, nor does it in any way limit or constrain existing rights held by the U.S. Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management," noted Ryan Yates, American Farm Bureau Federation water rights specialist.

In protecting privately held water rights, prohibiting federal takings and upholding state water law, the bill would prohibit agencies within USDA and the Department of the Interior from imposing conditions through the permit process that would require the transfer of privately held water rights to the federal government in order to receive or renew the federal permit for the use of land. It also would prohibit the secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture from requiring water users to acquire rights for the United States rather than for the water users themselves. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Just in

Snarled Rail Traffic Affecting Agriculture

Washington--"Surge in Rail Shipments of Oil Sidetracks Other Industries," a Wall Street Journal article published Thursday, detailed how shippers of all kinds of goods are coping with recent delays and losses. Andrew Walmsley, director of congressional relations at the American Farm Bureau Federation, pointed out in the article that continued rail capacity problems could hurt U.S. competitiveness in the world arena.

"Our reliability as a trading partner comes into question anytime we can't provide the most cost-competitive price in a predictable and timely manner," he said.

Monday, March 17, 2014

This weeks podcast

In this weeks podcast the farmers appearing in the documentary film meet the press. In the photo above Academy Award winning Director James Moll interviews one of the farmers in the production.

Just in

Farmers, Ranchers Cheer Passage of Water Rights Bill

Washington--The House of Representatives on Thursday approved H.R. 3189, the Water Rights Protection Act, on a 238-174 vote. The bill, introduced by Reps. Scott Tipton (R-Colo.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.), reaffirms longstanding federal and state laws and maintains the balance of individual and agency water rights that have existed for over a century and been repeatedly affirmed in statute and court rulings.

Farm Bureau worked hard to help get the bill passed and was successful in urging lawmakers to not support several amendments that would have been detrimental to agriculture.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Just in from Washington

Simpson Votes to Protect Water Rights from Federal Overreach
House passes legislation preventing agencies from hijacking water rights through land use permitting

Washington, D.C. - Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson today supported legislation passed by the House of Representatives to protect water rights against overreach by the federal government.  Simpson is a cosponsor of H.R. 3189, the Water Rights Protection Act, which prohibits agencies from requiring the transfer of privately-held water rights to the federal government in order to obtain a permit to use federal land.  The House passed the bill by a vote of 238-174.

In a number of recent cases, the U.S. Forest Service has attempted to circumvent state water law by requiring those applying for a permit from the agency to turn over their privately-held water rights to the federal government.  H.R. 3189 would protect both privately-held water rights and state water laws by prohibiting federal water takings.  Simpson included a similar provision in the House Interior and Environment Appropriations bill for FY14 when he chaired the subcommittee.  Unfortunately, the U.S. Senate blocked that language from the final bill.

“The Forest Service has no authority to force someone to hand state-issued and privately-held water-rights to the federal government,” said Simpson.  “In Idaho, threatening water rights is basically an attack on our way of life, and I won’t stand for the federal government trying to hijack water rights as a condition for issuing a permit.  If there was ever an argument for the supremacy of state water law, this is it, and I am pleased that the House has made this point by passing H.R. 3189.”

H.R. 3189 is now under consideration by the U.S. Senate.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Just in

Sheep Shearing time

Emmett--Two-thousand sheep move slowly down the road near Letha, Idaho on  there way to the shearing sheds of Soulen Livestock.

They will be sheared of their wool before heading to spring range where they will lamb in April.  

Our cameras will be there later in the week to capture the shearing process.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Just in

Ruling Issued on Commercial Use of Drones 

Washington--An administrative law judge with the National Transportation Safety Board has ruled the Federal Aviation Administration cannot fine drone operators who use small drones for commercial use. This ruling allows the use of drones that fly below 400 feet and prevents the FAA from enforcing its policy notices that restrict the use of drones because the notices were not written within the federal rulemaking process. The FAA has not announced if it will appeal the decision. 

AFBF supports the use of drones for commercial purposes (i.e., agriculture, forestry and other natural resource use), and is initiating conversations with drone companies and the FAA to allow farmers and ranchers to use drones in their operations.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

County news

Gem County Hold Market Seminar for Members

Gem County--Farm Bureau marketing consultant Clark Johnston meets with Gem County farmers Monday morning.

Johnston focused on marketing, risk management, but also the futures market. Johnston says last year Brazil and China were aggressive buyers in the world wheat market.

 "China has a lot of mouths to feed and we're in a good place right now with our exports off the west coast." Johnston added they're going to be a good market for years to come for Idaho Wheat.

Just in

House Approves Bill to Ensure Reliable, Affordable Energy

Washington--The House on Thursday passed the Electricity Security and Affordability Act (H.R. 3826), which would provide a more reasonable path forward than EPA's pending greenhouse gas regulations while also protecting U.S. jobs, economic growth and international competitiveness, according to the Partnership for a Better Energy Future, of which the American Farm Bureau Federation is a member. 

The bill addresses some of farmers' and ranchers' concerns about a number of new GHG regulations directed at the electric power sector.  By law, these regulations are supposed to be flexible and take into account cost and commercial availability.  In practice, however, EPA's proposed rules have been the exact opposite. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Just in

February Precipitation Improves Water Supply Outlook

BOISE- The March Water Supply Outlook Report just released by the Idaho Natural Resources Conservation Service has better news this month than last. According to the report February precipitation across the state ranged from above to well above average. The abundant mountain snowfall, along with cool temperatures to maintain the snowpack, provided a huge boost to this year’s water supply forecast. 

“Some basins received more than twice their normal February precipitation,” said Ron Abramovich, Water Supply Specialist with Idaho Natural Resources Conservation Service. “The basins along Eastern Idaho’s continental divide still have the highest snowpacks in the state.”

The jet stream in February pushed storms into Idaho increasing snowpack levels across the state. Basins along the continental divide capitalized on the moisture with snowpacks that now range from 130 – 155% of normal.

Abramovich said the snowpack distribution this year is unusual with a large contrast from east to west. Typically the difference in snowpacksruns from north to south. 

Because of February’s plentiful precipitation, streamflow forecasts improved from January’s dismal predictions. Abramovich said that to maintain the current streamflow forecast volumes, near normal or better snowfall is still needed until the season peaks in April along with cold mountain temperatures to keep the snow in the high country. 

“Despite abundant precipitation, water supply shortages have not been eliminated in all of our basins,” Abramovich said. “Surface irrigation shortages will occur in the Owyhee basin and some shortages are still likely in the Big Wood, Little Wood, Big Lost, Little Lost, Oakley, and Salmon Falls basins.”

The streamflow forecast for most central Idaho streams is 40-60% of average in the Wood, Lost, Weiser basins, as well as basins from the Bruneau to the Bear River. The lowest projected flows are in the Owyhee Mountains and Camas Creek near Fairfield at only 20% of average. However, the important southern Idaho irrigation forecast for the Snake River near Heise is 120% of average.

As for which reservoirs around the state may fill, Abramovich says more analyses and discussions will take place this month. For details on snowpack, precipitation, streamflows, and reservoirs for each basin in Idaho, view the full March Water Supply Outlook Report online.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Just in

Farm Bureau Supports USDA Decision on Biotechnology and Coexistence

Washington--The American Farm Bureau Federation supports the Agriculture Department's decision to move forward with an important recommendation about biotechnology and coexistence. The recommendation, from the final report of the Advisory Committee on Biotechnology & 21st Century Agriculture (AC21), is to foster communication and collaboration to strengthen coexistence among farmers.

However, noted AFBF President Bob Stallman in a statement, "We are disappointed by the implication from activist groups opposed to modern farming practices that there is widespread disagreement when it comes to coexistence and agricultural biotechnology. Frankly, that assertion does not hold up to scrutiny."

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Just in from Capitol Hill

Farm Bureau Continues to Look at Camp's Tax Reform Proposal

Washington While the American Farm Bureau continues to analyze House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp's (R-Mich.) recently released tax reform proposal, some of the plan's provisions are raising concerns. In particular, the elimination or reduction of some key accounting methods and depreciation and expensing deductions used by farmers and ranchers could possibly offset the benefit of a lower income tax rate.

"It is not uncommon for farmers and ranchers to have years with little or no taxable income," noted Pat Wolff, American Farm Bureau Federation tax specialist. "So, a lower individual tax rate may not adequately compensate farmers for lost tax provisions and over time could result in a higher effective tax rate. That's something we'll be considering as we comb through this proposal."

Still, Farm Bureau considers Camp's effort to be a strong and much-needed start to what will surely be an extensive tax reform discussion.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Just in from Washington

Property Rights Bill Clears the US House of Representatives

Washington-Farm Bureau-supported legislation that would strengthen private property rights was approved last week in the House of Representatives by a margin of 356-65.  

The bill, the Private Property Rights Protection Act of 2013 (H.R. 1944), prohibits states that receive federal economic development funding from exercising eminent domain for private economic development. 

The measure addresses at the federal level the 2005 Kelo v. New London decision.  In the Kelo case, New London, Conn., homeowners sued the city for the right to keep their homes, which the city had seized under eminent domain to let a private developer turn the area into a commercial complex. The Supreme Court on June 23, 2005, ruled 5-4 in favor of New London, allowing local governments to seize private property for economic development.

The ruling heightened farmers' and ranchers' concerns about the susceptibility of their land to an eminent domain taking, explained Ryan Yates, American Farm Bureau Federation property rights specialist.

"The fair market value of farm and ranch land is less than residential or commercial property, making agricultural land less costly and a more appealing target for developers," Yates said.

Still, the issue worries urban residents, too.  Just slightly more than one year after the Supreme Court issued its Kelo decision, lawmakers in nearly all 50 states proposed legislation to strengthen private property rights. While their approaches varied from tightening the definitions of "blight" and "public use" to restrictions on private use, to a moratorium on the use of eminent domain pending a task force report, more than 42 states enacted eminent domain laws or passed ballot initiatives to address various aspects of the court's ruling. 

Under the House bill, introduced by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), any state that uses eminent domain in the name of private economic development would lose all federal economic development funding for two years.  The bill creates a private right of action for any landowner who suffers injury as a result of a violation of any provision of this act.  The bill also prohibits any use of eminent domain for economic development by the federal government.

Congressional action on eminent domain cannot change state law, but it can prevent federal agencies from using eminent domain for private economic development and cut off economic development funding for states that continue the practice, as Sensenbrenner's legislation does.

Last week's House vote is largely symbolic as neither the legislation nor the issue is expected to be taken up in the Senate this year. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Oregon: Judge rules in favor of farmers

By Oregon Farm Bureau News
Hot goodsPortland-The two Oregon Farm Bureau members who filed suit against the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) over blatant misuse of its "hot goods" powers scored a major victory earlier this year.

To recap: In the summer of 2012, USDOL accused the farmers of unfounded labor violations and slapped them with severe hot goods orders. This tactic threatened an embargo on the growers' fresh, perishable blueberries, preventing their customers from receiving the crops, unless large fines were paid and declarations of guilt were signed - even before the alleged labor violations were identified to the farmers and without any due process of law.

On Jan. 15, 2014, Federal District Court Judge Thomas Coffin issued a ruling vacating so-called consent agreements between USDOL and the two Oregon blueberry farms. Judge Coffin ruled the agreements invalid because USDOL misused its hot goods powers to the point of duress.

Oregon Farm Bureau has engaged on behalf of the growers, B&G Ditchen Farms of Silverton and Pan American Berry Growers of Salem, since Aug. 2, 2012, when the new coercive USDOL tactics first came to light. The two farms employed a legal strategy developed by OFB and were represented by OFB legal counsel Tim Bernasek.

At issue are the two consent agreements signed by the farms after USDOL began calling customers and telling them not to receive berry shipments from the farms because the department was considering using its hot goods powers. The farms had over $4 million in fresh-market berries in production and could not risk losing the fruit.

"USDOL had not completed its investigation, and in fact still has not produced evidence that any back wages were owed to workers, yet they demanded that these farms sign literally blank confessions and pay over $210,000 before berries could be shipped," said OFB Executive Vice President Dave Dillon.

USDOL contended that, based on a formula apparently created by its Portland staff, the farms had 800 "ghost workers" in the fields who were not on the payroll. That formula has since been debunked by a professional wage study and an industry survey.

Judge Coffin found the department's misconduct so severe that the "agreements" signed by the farms were invalid because they were signed under duress. Coffin wrote, "applying such authority to perishable goods…prevented the (farms) from having their day in court." The judge further questioned USDOL's methodology: "the validity of DOL's calculation could not be determined through any sort of deliberate process."

"These farms took a big risk in stepping up to fight back in court. It took real courage," said Dillon. "Their goal, and OFB's, is to ensure no other farms have to endure this kind of duress ever again." OFB's legal foundation has raised more than $20,000 to help pay the costs of the lawsuit.

Judge Coffin also agreed with OFB and the farms that USDOL suddenly and inexplicably changed its methods in these 2012 Oregon cases. In the past, USDOL asked farms to put money into an escrow account. If back wages were found to be owed to workers, they could be paid out of this account.

After a pre-determined period of time to find and pay those who were owed, remaining funds would be returned to the farm. If no wages were owed, the full amount was refunded. In the cases of B&G Ditchen Farms and Pan American, USDOL required the farms to pay estimated back wages and penalties directly to USDOL instead.

In its most egregious overstepping of authority, USDOL also required a waiver of rights preventing the farms from any appeal, even if "future finding of fact or law" would exonerate them. Judge Coffin wrote, "This court can think of no good reason in support of the DOL's decision…" to use these coercive tactics.

The ruling will likely be reviewed by another judge at the district court level. After that, USDOL could appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals where any decision would set a binding precedent throughout the circuit and would deal an enormous blow to DOL's use of hot goods in the West.

In a separate federal lawsuit, OFB has sought public documents related to USDOL's activities throughout these cases under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). OFB staff are reviewing documents released in response to the FOIA lawsuit and are negotiating court costs to be reimbursed by the department.

"Based on a preliminary review of these documents, USDOL is going to have a lot more questions to answer before this is over," said Dillon.
Learn more about the hot goods story at For information on how to make a donation to the case, email

Monday, March 3, 2014

Ag Census Reveals Treasure Trove of Farm and Food Data

WASHINGTON – The Agriculture Department’s National Agricultural Statistics Service has released selected data for farmers, ranchers and their farms for each state and the nation, as part of its preliminary report on the 2012 Census of Agriculture, available online at
“Anyone with an interest in numbers will find a treasure trove of data in the ag census,” said Bob Young, chief economist at the American Farm Bureau Federation. “Also revealed are important trends about farmers that relate to their role in the economic health of rural America and the agriculture sector overall. Information about who farmers and ranchers are, how old they are and what type of food or farm animals they raise is available,” he said.
Ag Census data includes information on number of farms, land in farms, market value of agricultural products sold including government payments and selected principal operator characteristics. Information on background, terms and methodology also is available.
“Today was a release of the preliminary set of data, and really just looked at overall farm numbers as well as some breakouts of special demographic characteristics of farms,” explained Young. “Between the sequester last fall and associated furloughs, NASS faced a number of unusual challenges with this census, consequently, the agency has more work to do before full details are available,” he said.
Young also pointed out that unlike other government agencies, NASS is prohibited by law from releasing any information related to individual farmers.
The full report is slated for release by NASS in May.

House Passes Interior Bill with Idaho Priorities

Simpson authored provisions would benefit Idaho and the West Washington,- The House of Representatives passed the fiscal year 2019 Inter...