Friday, October 31, 2014

Just in

USDA Extends Dairy Margin Protection Program Deadlines

Enrollment Continues Through Dec. 5; Comments Accepted Until Dec. 15
GRAPEVINE, Texas– Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, speaking at the National Milk Producers Federation annual meeting, today announced extended deadlines for the dairy Margin Protection Program. Farmers now have until Dec. 5, 2014, to enroll in the voluntary program, established by the 2014 Farm Bill. The program provides financial assistance to participating farmers when the margin – the difference between the price of milk and feed costs – falls below the coverage level selected by the farmer.
"We want dairy producers to have enough time to make thoughtful and well-studied choices," said Vilsack. "Markets change and the Margin Protection Program can help protect dairy producers from those changes."
Vilsack encouraged producers to use the online Web resource at to calculate the best levels of coverage for their dairy operation. "Historical scenarios also can be explored to see how the Margin Protection Program would function should poor market conditions occur again in the future," said Vilsack. The secure website can be accessed via computer, smartphone or tablet.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also extended the opportunity for public comments on both the Margin Protection Program and the Dairy Product Donation Program until Dec. 15, 2014.
"USDA is committed to creating strong opportunities for the next generation of farmers and ranchers. When dairy producers bring new family members into the business, these changes could affect safety net coverage," said Vilsack. "If our current rules hinder intergenerational changes or if improvements are needed in these programs, then we want to hear from dairy producers."

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Just in

Agriculture’s leading role in the international marketplace

By Bob Stallman
President, American Farm Bureau
Washington—Farmers and ranchers have a long history of promoting American strength and goodwill through international trade. Thanks to our ability to satisfy demand here and abroad, U.S. agriculture is one of the few sectors that can boast a positive trade balance, overall shipping out more than we bring back in. The balance could shift, however, if political barriers stand in the way of agricultural trade.  

  Getting markets open for business     
U.S. agriculture is ready for a boost in activity in the Asia/Pacific region. This area holds great promise, and it makes no sense to limit access to food here or anywhere else. The Trans Pacific Partnership promises to open up trade among the U.S., Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and Japan. But the real success of TPP negotiations rests on an agreement between the U.S. and Japan, which would require Japan to resolve its long-standing tariff and non-tariff barrier issues. Price restrictions and high tariffs have been the standard for too long, and Japan will have to play on the same terms as other participants for the TPP to work.    
The European Union is also primed for growth. Last year, U.S. agricultural exports to the EU totaled $11.5 billion compared to $17.3 billion in EU agricultural exports to the U.S. American farmers and ranchers are ready to be competitive here, but the EU system has stubbornly held to guidelines that are based in politics rather than science.     

Although the U.S. and the EU both follow the safety guidelines set out by the World Trade Organization, the EU tacks on a “precautionary principle,” which allows it to add non-scientific guidelines to risk management. Match this with its snail’s pace for approving biotech products, and it is not surprising that we’ve seen a significant drop in corn and soybean exports. For U.S. food products that do make it over to the EU, the use of geographic indications can put some at an unfair disadvantage, limiting their marketability.  
Standing firm in negotiations     
No trade agreement can be fully successful without the support of agriculture. In September, AFBF’s Trade Advisory Committee met with EU officials in Brussels, where we urged them to remove unnecessary trade barriers once and for all and to move forward with the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. A free trade agreement between the U.S. and the EU can bring a serious boost to U.S. agriculture, but only if politics are set aside.    

AFBF also met with several ambassadors and the WTO director-general in Geneva where we affirmed U.S. support for completing the Trade Facilitation Agreement, an accord that would eliminate many antiquated customs procedures that serve no useful purpose. The agreement is currently on hold thanks to India—which originally signed on with all other WTO countries back in December but is now delaying the ratification. U.S. agriculture is ready for ambitious trade negotiations. Hanging onto failed ideas that place certain agricultural sectors at a disadvantage or create special exemptions for developing countries is no way to move forward in today’s marketplace.    

Waiting for trade negotiations to conclude can feel a bit like watching paint dry, but persistence pays off. A recent agreement between the U.S. and Brazil has resolved Brazil’s complaint to the WTO and ended years of uncertainty for America’s cotton growers. Thanks to the support of the U.S. government, the current structure of commodity programs remains intact. We must continue to hang tough in trade negotiations to keep the marketplace open to the American farmer. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Just in

Initiatives attacking ag biotech on the ballot in Colorado, Oregon and Maui

Washington—Voters across Colorado and Oregon and in Maui County, Hawaii, will weigh in on biotech-related ballot measures at the polls next week. Colorado and Oregon will consider labeling measures, while Maui County voters will face a proposal to adopt a moratorium on the use of GMO seeds.   

“All three ballot measures are a threat to biotechnology and its many benefits to farmers, consumers and the environment,” said Andrew Walmsley, American Farm Bureau Federation biotechnology specialist. “These ballot initiatives will only create more bureaucracy and make people afraid of the food grown in these states and elsewhere across the country.”  

Another point of concern is the cost of complying with state-by-state labeling laws.  
“A vote in favor of any of these initiatives is a vote in support of higher grocery bills because food companies will inevitably pass these labeling compliance costs onto consumers,” Walmsley cautioned.   

GMO foods have been deemed safe by USDA, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the American Medical Association and major scientific and health organizations worldwide.   

“The FDA has determined there is no nutritional or material difference between food ingredients made from GMO plant varieties and their conventional counterparts,” Walmsley pointed out. “So any label indicating GMO ingredients would not only be unnecessary, it would lead many consumers to wrongly believe there’s something wrong with food produced using GMOs.”  

Colorado’s Proposition 105 asserts that “consumers have the right to know if the food they are consuming has been genetically modified.”

If approved, any genetically modified foods would be required to be labeled “Produced With Genetic Engineering” starting on July 1, 2016. Animal feed, meat from animals that ate genetically modified foods, alcoholic beverages and medically prescribed foods would be among the products exempted from the labeling law.  

Proposition 105 is “so badly written and so full of exemptions that [the required labels] would not really tell customers which foods are made with GMOs and which aren’t,” said Don Shawcroft, president of the Colorado Farm Bureau, which has joined dozens of other organizations to form the Coalition Against the Misleading Labeling Initiative.  

Similarly, Oregon Farm Bureau is a key figure in the No on 92 Coalition, which was formed to oppose a statewide GMO labeling initiative, Measure 92. If Measure 92 passes, beginning Jan. 1, 2016, all raw food and packaged food that is entirely or partially produced with genetic engineering must be labeled as such and is otherwise misbranded if that fact is not disclosed.  

Specifically, raw food would have to carry a label that includes the words “Genetically Engineered.” Packaged foods would be labeled “Produced with Genetic Engineering” or “Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering.”  

The measure would require farmers and food producers to separate, re-package, and re-label their products unless they are specially re-made with higher-priced ingredients just for Oregon, warns the Oregon Farm Bureau. The costly new bureaucratic requirements would impact farmers whether or not they grow biotech crops.  

Voters in California and Washington rejected similar ballot initiatives in 2012 and 2013, respectively.   
In Maui County, voters will decide whether to adopt a “Moratorium of the Cultivation of Genetically Engineered Organisms,” affecting two local biotech seed farms that contribute tens of millions to Maui’s economy and employ hundreds of local residents, according to Chris Manfredi, Hawaii Farm Bureau president.  

If approved, the measure would indefinitely prohibit any growth, testing or cultivation of genetically modified or engineered crops until environmental and public health studies declare the practices “safe and harmless.” While ignoring numerous existing studies, the measure includes severe fines and prison time for anyone who grows even one Rainbow papaya (a variety genetically modified to resist the ubiquitous and devastating ring spot virus).

“Although the endless flow of propaganda confounds the issues, we are hopeful that people in Hawaii and on the mainland will choose to support farmers by allowing us continued access to the tools we need to keep on farming,” Manfredi said in a recent Focus onAgriculture column.
- See more at:

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Just in from Latah County

 Latah County holds Farm Bureau Candidate Forum 

Moscow--The Latah County Farm Bureau held a candidate forum with county president Tom Chamberlain moderating. Attending were state legislative candidates from legislative district 5 and it was well attended. 

Candidates fielded a wide range of questions ranging from questions on the Ag. Interference Bill to minimum wage, taxes, and state management of public lands. Pictured above John Carlson (former Latah County Farm Bureau president) responding to a question. John is running for state senate against Senator Schmidt from Moscow. 

 The forum was held at the 1912 Center in Moscow.
(Bob Smathers, story and photos)

Monday, October 27, 2014

Just in

Just in


 Boise– Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden are urging federal environmental officials to withdraw a proposed rule clarifying how streams, ditches and other waters will be defined under federal law.

The Governor and Attorney General recommend in a letter today that the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers start the rulemaking process over again – this time with more involvement and input from the state.

The proposed rule is overreaching, carries potential risks for Idaho’s agriculture industry and private property owners and aims to give the federal government authority over waters that are not now subject to Clean Water Act jurisdiction, according to the letter signed by Otter and Wasden.

“The Environmental Protection Agency claims it only wants to ‘clarify’ what waterways and bodies of water fall within its regulatory jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. But that’s just semantics. In reality, the EPA is checking every nook and cranny of the United States for opportunities to expand its influence in the name of protecting us,” Governor Otter said.

 “Protecting our water is every bit as important to survival of the Idaho I know and love as protecting the Constitution is to the survival of the republic. Public policy should be grounded in values that reflect what we hold most dear. In Idaho, those values include private property, individual liberties, and our water.”

Governor Otter and Attorney General Wasden expressed their concerns in a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Jo Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works).

“Idaho’s water resources are too valuable and integral to simply just hand over to federal authority under a rule that is too broad, risky and confusing,” Wasden said. “It’s time for federal regulators to start the process over and actively consult with state experts and stakeholders to craft a rule that is clear, consistent and adheres with federal court precedent.”

In the letter, the Governor and Attorney General recommend formation of a state-federal working group to revamp the rule.

Federal officials contend the new rule they are drafting is needed to clarify the scope of jurisdiction for the 1972 Clean Water Act. But Otter and Wasden argue that the proposed rule would do just the opposite, and could be interpreted as expanding federal jurisdiction to waterways that now fall outside the scope of federal water law.

The proposed rule also lacks agricultural exemptions carved out in the existing law, including groundwater, irrigation ditches and farm and stock ponds, the letter states.

The proposed rule now is subject to public comment, with a deadline of November 14. If federal officials deny the request to withdraw the rule, Otter and Wasden want additional time to submit comments.

“As always, Idaho stands ready to work with the EPA and the Corps’ to support further dialogue and consultation between your agencies and Idaho regarding this rule and any and all other issues involving the protection of our waters,” the Governor and Attorney General wrote.


Friday, October 24, 2014

Just in

Study confirms EPA’s proposed carbon regs will fuel spike in energy costs

Washington—New analysis predicts that compliance with EPA’s proposed greenhouse gas regulations could total upwards of $366 billion. As jarring as the numbers are, they’re of little surprise to farmers and ranchers who have been warning that the regulations would greatly jeopardize the availability of an affordable and reliable supply of energy.     

The analysis, provided by NERA Economic Consulting, also finds that 43 states will have double-digit electricity price surges, with 14 states potentially facing peak-year electricity price increases that exceed 20 percent. Much of NERA’s cost projection is based on consumers having to spend more than $500 billion to reduce their use of electricity.    

Last June, President Barack Obama issued an executive memorandum directing EPA to put in place new rules to limit carbon emissions from both new and existing power plants.  These two regulations set the stage for similar regulations directed at other sectors of the economy like refining, chemicals, natural gas development, iron and steel, livestock operations and pulp and paper.    

In addition to the staggering $41 billion-plus annual price tag, NERA analysis also finds that the proposals could shutter 45,000 megawatts or more of coal-based electricity, which is more than the entire electricity supply of New England.    

The proposed rules , which the administration has dubbed its Clean Power Plan, fail to take into account farmers’ and ranchers’ leadership in producing and using clean, renewable fuels, said Andrew Walmsley, American Farm Bureau Federation energy specialist.  
 “The Clean Power Plan would be punishing one sector – agriculture – that is doing more than its part in supporting energy independence and reducing fossil fuel use,” Walmsley said. “Farmers and ranchers are leading the way to a cleaner renewable energy future through increased and more innovative ethanol and biodiesel production, the installation of methane digesters, support for the greater use of wind energy and many other efforts along these lines.”   

Further, while the administration’s proposals come with significant costs for all consumers, they’ll provide very few, if any, environmental or health benefits.    

“Unfortunately, this plan does little to address the problem it seeks to solve,” Walmsley said.  “Merely reducing fossil fuel emissions without producing a measurable impact on world temperature or climate cannot be regarded as a success.”    

“Instead, EPA’s plan will affect all Americans negatively, and farmers and ranchers will be especially hard hit because of the energy intensive nature of producing food, feed, fuel and fiber,” he added.     

For farmers and ranchers in a large part of the country, coal supplies all or most of their electricity. As coal plants in these areas age and are de-commissioned, these proposed rules will prevent the construction of a reliable and affordable source of electricity to take their place.    

“At a time when our country needs to consider all types of energy, the proposed standard appears to eliminate one of the most widely used and inexpensive sources of energy,” Walmsley cautioned. “Any standard for utilities should be realistic and achievable for all sources of energy.”    

In addition, EPA’s proposals for new and existing power plants have the potential to send energy costs soaring for farmers and ranchers when utility companies pass the costs of compliance on to their customers. While other businesses will have the option of passing those costs down the line, growers can’t do that.     

“Farmers and ranchers are price takers and not price makers, so they lack the ability of many other sectors to recoup their costs by passing them on to customers,” Walmsley said.    
Farmers will face not only higher electricity prices, but the higher input prices that will follow.  Increases in other energy prices, fertilizer and machinery will have a negative effect on the farm level while at the same time making U.S. farmers and ranchers less competitive internationally. 
To let EPA know how its Clean Power Plan and the skyrocketing energy costs that come with it will hurt you, your family and your livelihood, go to AFBF’s FBAct website here:  

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Just in from Washington

USDA to Launch New Farm Bill Program to Help Provide Relief to Farmers Affected by Severe Weather

WASHINGTON – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the implementation of a new Farm Bill initiative that provides relief to farmers affected by severe weather, including drought.
 The Actual Production History Yield Exclusion, available nationwide for farmers of select crops starting next spring, allows eligible producers who have been hit with severe weather to receive a higher approved yield on their insurance policies through the federal crop insurance program.
Spring crops eligible for APH Yield Exclusion include corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, grain sorghum, rice, barley, canola, sunflowers, peanuts, and popcorn. Nearly three-fourths of all acres and liability in the federal crop insurance program will be covered under APH Yield Exclusion.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Risk Management Agency and Farm Service Agency staff worked hard to implement several 2014 Farm Bill programs ahead of schedule, such as the Agricultural Risk Coverage, the Price Loss Coverage, Supplemental Coverage Option and Stacked Income Protection Plan. USDA is now able to leverage data from the Agricultural Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage to extract the information needed to implement APH Yield Exclusion earlier than expected.
"Key programs launched or extended as part of the 2014 Farm Bill are essential to USDA's commitment to help rural communities grow. These efforts give farmers, ranchers and their families better security as they work to ensure Americans have safe and affordable food," said Vilsack. "By getting other 2014 Farm Bill programs implemented efficiently, we are now able to offer yield exclusion for Spring 2015 crops, providing relief to farmers impacted by severe weather."
The APH Yield Exclusion allows farmers to exclude yields in exceptionally bad years (such as a year in which a natural disaster or other extreme weather occurs) from their production history when calculating yields used to establish their crop insurance coverage. The level of insurance coverage available to a farmer is based on the farmer's average recent yields. In the past, a year of particularly low yields that occurred due to severe weather beyond the farmer's control would reduce the level of insurance coverage available to the farmer in future years. By excluding unusually bad years, farmers will not have to worry that a natural disaster will reduce their insurance coverage for years to come.
Under the new Farm Bill program, yields can be excluded from farm actual production history when the county average yield for that crop year is at least 50 percent below the 10 previous consecutive crop years' average yield.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

In memorium

IFBF Range Specialist Wally Butler passes away

Boise—Wally Butler, 68, died October 21 near Fairfield, Idaho. The long-time range expert was doing what he loved, inspecting allotments near Fairfield when he died of an apparent heart attack.

Butler served as the Idaho Farm Bureau range and livestock specialist for 15 years before retiring last year. He had continued range consultation and took part in the Salmon-Challis Range Tour earlier this month.

Butler graduated from the University of Idaho with a bachelor of science, animal science and a masters degree in range management.

During Butler’s long career he ranched for more than 15 years in the Kendrick area before working his way back into the range consultant business, sold insurance and landed his dream job with the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation. 

At the IFBF Butler also served as a salaried lobbyist and worked closely with Farm Bureau members who as a perk of membership, got his political, dog, horse and range expertise year round. 

Butler had maintained his office at Farm Bureau’s Boise headquarters, he leaves behind his wife of many years Bonnie, too many friends and horses to count, and many prized Australian shepherd dogs.

Senator Crapo Awarded Friend of Farm Bureau Award

Idaho Senator Mike Crapo Awarded AFBF Friend of Farm Bureau Award

Boise--Idaho Farm Bureau Executive Director Rick Keller and Legislative Affairs Director Russ Hendricks awarded Idaho Senator Mike Crapo the American Farm Bureau's coveted Friend of Farm Bureau Award Tuesday afternoon in Boise.

"I'm honored, I look forward to each and every award," said Senator Crapo. "I've won the award every term and proudly display it in my office."

Executive Director Rick Keller told the Senator that Farm Bureau members appreciate the Senators Service. "We appreciate all that you do, you've helped us in the past and we look forward to working with you in future."

The "Friend of Farm Bureau' award is given at the end of each Congress to those members of Congress who were nominated by their respective state Farm Bureaus and approved by the American Farm Bureau Federation Board of Directors.

The award is base on voting records on AFBF's priority issues established by the Board of Directors, number of bills that member has sponsored and co-sponsored,  specific leaderships role for Farm Bureau priority issues and how accessible and responsive that member is to Farm Bureau members and leaders. In addition, the state Farm Bureau lists any other specific reasons why that member should receive the bill.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Just in from Boise

Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson awarded Friends of Farm Bureau Award

Boise--Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson was awarded his 8th consecutive Friend of Farm Bureau Award this morning in Boise.

Idaho Farm Bureau Executive Director Rick Keller and Legislative Director Russ Hendricks awarded the Congressman the coveted award. "We appreciate all you do for the Farm Bureau," said Keller. 

"I've won the award through each term, I hope to keep that streak alive," said Congressman Simpson.

The "Friend of Farm Bureau' award is given at the end of each Congress to those members of Congress who were nominated by their respective state Farm Bureaus and approved by the American Farm Bureau Federation Board of Directors.

The award is base on voting records on AFBF's priority issues established by the Board of Directors, number of bills that member has sponsored and co-sponsored,  specific leaderships role for Farm Bureau priority issues and how accessible and responsive that member is to Farm Bureau members and leaders. In addition, the state Farm Bureau lists any other specific reasons why that member should receive the bill.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Salmon-Challis Range Tour

Just in

USDA Invests $1.4 Billion to Improve Rural Electric Infrastructure 

 WASHINGTON – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced $1.4 billion in USDA loan guarantees to improve the delivery of electric power to rural communities in 21 states.

 "With the help of investments such as these from USDA, rural electric utilities have delivered reliable and affordable electricity for nearly 80 years," Vilsack said. "Upgrading the electric grid will bring jobs and increased economic opportunities to rural communities."

 Today's announcement includes $106 million for smart grid technologies and $3 million for renewable energy programs and systems. The funding will help diversify energy portfolios and decrease our nation's reliance on carbon-based fuel sources, Vilsack noted. Smart grid helps rural electric utilities manage power use more effectively. For fiscal year (FY) 2014, USDA's Rural Utilities Service provided more than $186 million for smart grid technologies.

 USDA has worked with rural electric cooperatives since 1935 to provide electricity for rural consumers. Through the years, these investments have delivered new economic and social opportunities and have enhanced the quality of life in the nation's rural communities.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Just in

Upper Midwest rail delays roll on, oil only partly to blame 

Washington—There’s more oil than anyone expected being shipped by rail from North Dakota, but that’s hardly the only reason farmers in the Upper Midwest are facing big delays in getting their wheat, soybean and corn crops to storage facilities and on to market. Coal, for one, is also competing with grain and oil for rail cars, locomotives and track space. Growing demands on intermodal transport—where freight is moved using multiple modes of transportation—has been an ongoing issue, and last year’s big grain crop and the harsh winter are all part of the problem.   

“With the continued backlog of rail cars in the Upper Midwest, coupled with elevators still holding some of last year’s grain crop, farmers in that region are legitimately concerned that this year’s record crop will create a grain storage crisis. This grain has got to move, and the only way to do it is by rail,” said Andrew Walmsley, American Farm Bureau Federation transportation specialist.   

The one thing moving forward at a good clip is criticism of the rail industry. Farmers, Upper Midwest governors, the Surface Transportation Board and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack have all put Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway on notice. While CP has a ways to go to earn back its farmer customers’ and the government’s trust, BNSF officials are doing their best to address the few things under the company’s control.  

“BNSF has invested more than $5 billion in new locomotives, and added new capacity and staff,” said Andrew Walmsley, American Farm Bureau Federation transportation specialist. “They’ve also been communicating with Farm Bureau and other stakeholders about these concerns since the beginning of the delays a year ago.”  

While there is little the federal government can do to fix the backlog, the STB this spring started to require railways to report on fertilizer shipments, which were behind at the time, and are now doing the same for grain shipments.  

On Capitol Hill, Farm Bureau is backing the Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act of 2014 (S. 2777), which would increase STB’s investigative authority to launch its own investigations before a complaint is filed, improve rate review timelines to make it easier for board members to communicate, improve alternative dispute resolution practices and more.  
In addition, one of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), was joined by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) in asking USDA to conduct an economic analysis of the rail service challenges agricultural shippers face. 
- See more at:

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Just in

Keeping Sage Grouse off Endangered Species List: A Challenge

Twin Falls-The U.S. Secretary of the Interior says it will be a challenge keeping sage grouse off the endangered species list, but not unsolvable.

Sally Jewell visited Idaho's best sage grouse habitat south of Twin Falls and heard reports from ranchers, biologists and agency personal on what they’re doing to save grouse habitat.

Idaho Senators Risch and Crapo were at the first part of the tour for a sit down meeting in Rogerson. Just last year Senator Risch grilled Jewell during her 2013 confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill.

“Are you still in agreement that this is the best way to pursue how we do what all of us want to do, and that is preserve, protect and rehabilitate the greater sage grouse?  Are we still singing off the same sheet of music?” asked Risch.

The tone of Tuesdays sit down meeting was positive.

“We do have time and we do have knowledge and we have partnerships that we didn’t have a decade or two decades ago so I think that is very encouraging,” Jewell said. “But we also have increasing risk with a longer, hotter wildfire season.”

Biologist briefed the Secretary on the massive wildfires that swept the area two years ago, they said there’s been habitat loss due to the fires, development and invasive species on the range.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Just in

Semi-Finalists Named in First National Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge

Washington-–The American Farm Bureau Federation together with Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business Global Social Enterprise Initiative and the Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative’s StartupHoyas today announced the 10 national semi-finalists of the first-ever Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge. The challenge provides an opportunity for individuals to showcase ideas and business innovations being developed in rural regions of the United States.
AFBF President Bob Stallman made the announcement at the National Summit on Rural Entrepreneurship at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. The semi-finalist businesses, chosen from more than 200 applicants, will advance to the next phase of the challenge. They include:
  • Pulaski Grow (Pulaski, Virginia), an aquaponics facility to provide local youth with job training. Team lead: Lee Spiegel;
  • ScoutPro (Lone Tree, Iowa), software to assist farmers with crop maintenance. Team lead: Michael Koenig;
  • Shelf Life (Arlington, Tennessee), a hydroponic growing system for small producers. Team lead: Glenn Cunningham; and
  • StopFlood Appliance Systems (Inkom, Idaho), a product to prevent floods caused by washing machine hose failures. Team lead: Brent Singley.
“The outstanding group of entrepreneurs selected as semi-finalists reflects the depth and diversity of rural business ideas in cultivation across the nation,” Stallman said. “They are proof that great business ideas can be generated anywhere.”
After a series of virtual team interviews, judges will choose four finalists to continue in the challenge. The four challenge finalists will each win $15,000. They will pitch their business ideas to a team of judges at the AFBF 96th Annual Convention in January in hopes of winning the Rural Entrepreneur of the Year Award for an additional $15,000, and the Peoples’ Choice Award for $10,000 more, totaling prize money of up to $40,000 to implement their ideas. The Farm Bureau Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge is a key component of the Rural Entrepreneurship Initiative, a joint effort between AFBF and Georgetown McDonough.
“Rural entrepreneurs face unique challenges and more limited options when exploring new business ideas. But just as in Silicon Valley, great ideas combined with the proper support and funding can be transformational,” said Jeff Reid, founding director, StartupHoyas at Georgetown.
The Rural Entrepreneurship Initiative is a joint program of the American Farm Bureau Federation and Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business Global Social Enterprise Initiative and the Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative’s StartupHoyas. The Rural Entrepreneurship Initiative is directly tied to AFBF’s mission of building strong and prosperous agricultural communities.
For more information about the challenge or the semi-finalists, contact Cyndie Sirekis or Brynn Boyer at

Just in

Farm Bureau on Latest Harvest Projections from USDA

WASHINGTON – The Agriculture Department’s much-anticipated October report on agricultural supply and demand for the 2014-2015 marketing year delivered few surprises today, the American Farm Bureau Federation said.

With planting numbers rolled into the latest USDA report, projections are honing in on the final harvest numbers.

“We’re seeing corn and soybean yields round out to what we have anticipated for this year’s bumper crop,” AFBF Deputy Chief Economist John Anderson said. Corn yield expectations are up to 174.2 bushels per acre and soybeans are at 47.1 bushels per acre. Both numbers are slightly higher than last month’s estimate, but remain well within anticipated ranges. Estimates on harvested acres of corn, now at 83.1 million, are down several hundred thousand acres from last month. With harvest expectations totaling 14.475 billion bushels of corn, the industry is certain to see the record crop expected.

According to Anderson, the interesting numbers from this month’s report came from the world wheat projections, where ending stocks came in lower than expected.

“The good news here,” Anderson said, “is that global demand for grain is holding strong, making this latest report on a record harvest season as positive as it can be at this point.”


Monday, October 13, 2014

Just in

President Obama Designates San Gabriel Mountains National Monument

Los Angeles - President Obama will use his authority under the Antiquities Act to establish 346,177 acres of national forest land in the San Gabriel Mountains in southern California as a national monument, permanently protecting the popular outdoor recreation destination to increase access and outdoor opportunities for the area's residents. 
This monument designation builds on more than a decade of public support from business, tourism, environmental justice, conservation, academic and cultural preservation communities and on the leadership from members of Congress. For many residents of Los Angeles County -- one of the most disadvantaged counties in the country when it comes to access to parks and open space for minorities and children--the San Gabriel Mountains provide the only available large-scale open space. In addition to permanently protecting this land, the monument designation will create new opportunities for the Forest Service and local communities to work together to increase access and enhance outdoor opportunities.
Building on the monument designation, leading philanthropies are also announcing commitments to help jump-start public involvement and restoration of high-priority projects in Los Angeles County and the new San Gabriel National Monument. The National Forest Foundation announced that they will commit $3 million for the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument Fund to respond to community priorities and support restoration and stewardship of the new national monument. In addition, the Hewlett, Wyss, Packard, and California Community foundations, the California Endowment, and the Resources Legacy Fund are working to establish a $500,000 San Gabriel Partnership Fund to support recreation and habitat improvement projects in the monument and surrounding communities. Secretary Vilsack and the Forest Service are also stepping up by investing more than a million dollars in additional education staff and maintenance work on the monument's trails and picnic areas.
More than 15 million people live within 90 minutes of the San Gabriel Mountains, which provides 70 percent of the open space for Angeleños and 30 percent of their drinking water. The 346,177 acre site contains high-quality wilderness areas, habitat for rare and endangered animals like the California condor, and a rich array of cultural and historical features.
Today's action builds on steps the Administration has taken over the past five and a half years to expand access to millions of acres for recreation, make historic investments in restoring critical landscapes through the President's America's Great Outdoors initiative, and permanently protect areas significant to our Nation's rich history and natural heritage. All of these efforts support an annual outdoor economy that includes approximately 9 million jobs and $1 trillion in economic activity, according to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The new monument area overlays about half of the Angeles National Forest, which hosts more than 4 million visits each year. Based on 2012 data, the U.S. Forest Service estimates that the Angeles National Forest alone contributes more than $39 million to the local economy each year.
Since President Theodore Roosevelt designated Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming in 1906, the Antiquities Act has been used by 16 presidents to protect unique natural and historic features in America, including the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty, and Alaska's Admiralty Island National Monument. President Obama has previously used his authority under the Antiquities Act to create or expand 12 other National Monuments across the country, including the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument in the south-central Pacific Ocean last month - the largest marine reserve in the world that is completely off limits to commercial resource extraction. With this designation, President Obama has now protected more than 260 million acres of land and water, nearly three times more than any other President since the Antiquities Act became law in 1906.
About the San Gabriel Monument & Southern California Community:
The peaks of the San Gabriel Mountains frame the Los Angeles skyline and offer hundreds of miles of hiking, mountain biking, motorized, and equestrian trails as well as campgrounds to the area's diverse residents. In addition to providing drinking water, the San Gabriels' rivers support rare populations of native fish, while the vegetation found in the monument supports native wildlife and insect species, including pollinators important to farmers. The area is also rich in cultural and scientific history. More than 600 archeologically and culturally significant sites are found within the new monument, such as the Aliso-Arrastre Special Interest Area, which features rock art and cupules that exemplify more than 8,000 years of Native American history. The new monument is also home to the Mt. Wilson Observatory, where Edwin Hubble discovered galaxies beyond the Milky Way and Albert Michelson provided the first modern measurement of the speed of light.
Improving public access and recreational opportunities within the monument will help address the region's public health challenges. Studies have shown that increasing recreational access to public lands translates to higher levels of youth activity and lower youth obesity rates. National monuments also play an important role in supporting local economies. A recent study by the independent and nonpartisan research group, Headwaters EconomicsThis is an external link or third-party site outside of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website. analyzing the impacts of over a dozen monuments found that, without exception, local economies grew following the monument's designation.
The San Gabriel Mountains National Monument will be managed by the U.S. Forest Service and will be the eighth national monument under Forest Service management. There are more than 100 national monuments across the country managed by the Forest Service, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Just in

Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador awarded Friend of Farm Bureau Award this morning in Boise. Executive Rick Keller along with Russ Hendricks and Dennis Tanikuni. Labrador supported key legislation on Capitol Hill during the past year that benefited Idaho Farmers.

Just in

Idaho Senator Risch recieves the Farm Bureau's Friend of Agriculture award this morning in Boise. IFBF Executive Rick Keller and Russ Hendricks presented the award for the Senators support of Ag issues on Capitol Hill.  

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AFBF unveils online grassroots biotech toolkit

Washington—The American Farm Bureau Federation’s recently launched biotech toolkit is a guide for farmers and ranchers who want to share the many positives about biotechnology with policymakers, community members and others.  Accessible at, this free online resource includes an overview of biotechnology; an explanation of biotechnology’s benefits to consumers, the environment, farmers, the U.S. economy, and more; links to credible sources for biotech information; and avenues for getting active on social media.  

“From Capitol Hill to the tiniest town in California, there is a lot of misinformation out there about biotechnology,” said Andrew Walmsley, American Farm Bureau Federation biotechnology specialist. “Whether meeting with community leaders or government officials and their staff, AFBF’s new toolkit offers farmers and ranchers the resources to set the record straight.”

  Among the many resources the site offers are one-pagers focusing on the numerous benefits of biotechnology that can be accessed anytime online or printed off to share to at a community event, town hall gathering or a meeting with a lawmaker or candidate in any city or in any town.  
Social media, too, is a key part of outreach.  

“One of the most pervasive sources of misinformation on biotechnology is social media,” noted Walmsley. “This biotech toolkit offers guidance on who to follow on Twitter and which messages should be shared to raise awareness and answer questions.”  

The walls against biotechnology were built over time, and we can’t wait any longer to start chipping away at them, especially as many voters, state legislators, candidates and congressional lawmakers are now being asked to take a position on GMO labeling and other biotechnology-related issues, warned Walmsley.  

“People have valid questions about where their food comes from, how it’s grown and why it’s grown that way. Unfortunately, the answers all too often come from those with anti-biotech agenda who are having an increasingly negative influence on policymaking and making people afraid of their food,” he said.  

Early next year, Congress could consider a bill similar to the Farm Bureau-supported Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, which would make it clear that the Food and Drug Administration is the nation’s foremost authority on the use and labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients.  

“Now is the time to lay the groundwork for passage of this legislation by sharing the information provided in this toolkit with congressional lawmakers. By the time the bill is on the House and Senate floors, lawmakers will already have had an earful from their anti-biotech constituents,” Walmsley said.

- See more at:

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Just in

SBA, EPA at odds on proposed Clean Water Act rule

Ditch the Rule-2Oct. 3, 2014—It’s not all smooth sailing for the Obama administration as the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy is urging EPA to sink its proposed “waters of the U.S.” rule. In a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, the SBA warned the rule would hurt small businesses, a concern shared by farmers and ranchers and many others across the country.  

“The SBA’s frankness may surprise some, but it does not surprise us. The EPA has been heedless and cavalier in its disregard for the American farmers who would be most affected by this unworkable proposal,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman.   

The SBA also took issue with EPA’s failure to conduct a Small Business Advocacy Review Panel prior to releasing the rule for comment and said because of this, the rule should be withdrawn. The SBA directed EPA to conduct an SBA Review Panel prior to re-proposing the rule.   
While farmers and ranchers have been focused on the proposed rule’s direct impacts on their livelihoods, Stallman said Farm Bureau agrees with SBA’s findings that EPA did not do all it was obligated to under law before the rule was made public.   

“Once again, we say it: It’s time to ditch this rule,” Stallman said.   
To help Farm Bureau members and others across the country express the need for EPA to “Ditch the Rule,” Farm Bureau launched a website at . Focused on topics and analysis related to the “waters of the U.S.” proposed rule, the easy-to-navigate site includes several sections: Take Action, Go Social, Find Answers and Get Resources. Visitors may also sign up to learn more, comment on the proposed rule and send tweets using the hashtag #DitchTheRule.     

The comment period on the proposed rule ends on Oct. 20. You can submit your comments here:  
- See more at:

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Just in

Congressional Delegates To Receive Friend of Farm Bureau Award                    
POCATELLO – All four members of Idaho’s congressional delegation have earned the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Friend of Farm Bureau Award for their efforts during the 113th Congress.
Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, along with Representatives Mike Simpson and Raul Labrador will receive awards in the coming weeks at various locations.

The Friend of Farm Bureau award is given at the end of each Congress to those members of Congress who were nominated by their respective state Farm Bureaus and approved by the American Farm Bureau Federation Board of Directors.

This award is based upon voting records on AFBF’s priority issues established by the Board of Directors, number of bills that a member has sponsored and co-sponsored, specific leadership role for Farm Bureau on priority issues, and how accessible and responsive that member is to Farm Bureau members and leaders.

“The members of our congressional delegation understand the importance of agriculture to our state’s economy and to our nation’s security,” said Idaho Farm Bureau President Frank Priestley. “It’s a pleasure to work with these fine gentlemen.”

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USDA Expands Access to Credit to Help More Beginning and Family Farmers
Changes Increase Eligibility and Financing Options for Hard Working Families

WASHINGTON – Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will improve farm loans by expanding eligibility and increasing lending limits to help more beginning and family farmers. As part of this effort, USDA is raising the borrowing limit for the microloan program from $35,000 to $50,000; simplify the lending processes; updating required “farming experience” to include other valuable experiences; and expanding eligible business entities to reflect changes in the way family farms are owned and operated. The changes become effective Nov. 7.

“USDA is continuing its commitment to new and existing family farmers and ranchers by expanding access to credit,” said Harden. “These new flexibilities, created by the 2014 Farm Bill, will help more people who are considering farming and ranching, or who want to strengthen their existing family operation.”

The microloan changes announced today will allow beginning, small and mid-sized farmers to access an additional $15,000 in loans using a simplified application process with up to seven years to repay. Microloans are part of USDA’s continued commitment to small and midsized farming operations.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Just in

USDA Invests Nearly $118 Million to Support America's Specialty Crop Producers

MIAMI– Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced nearly $118 million in grants to strengthen markets for specialty crops, such as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, horticulture and nursery crops. The grants were authorized through the 2014 Farm Bill as part of an effort to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops and provide resources to strengthen American agriculture. The Secretary made the announcement in Florida.
"Specialty crop grants provide a major boost to the rural economies," said Secretary Vilsack. "Today's announcement is another example of how USDA is implementing the Farm Bill to deliver critical tools producers need to successfully grow, process and market high-quality products."
Sales of specialty crops total nearly $65 billion per year, making them a critical part of the U.S. economy. The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture'sAgricultural Marketing Service (AMS), will provide $66 million to state departments of agriculture for projects that help support specialty crop growers, including locally grown fruits and vegetables, through research and programs to increase demand. In addition, USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is awarding $51.8 million in grants through its Specialty Crop Research Initiative(SCRI). SCRI supports the specialty crop sector by developing and disseminating science-based tools to address the needs of specific crops.
All 50 States, the District of Columbia, and four U.S. Territories were awarded Specialty Crop Block Grants that will fund a total of 838 projects. The project also educates the public about consumption of specialty crops to improve nutrition and publicizes the availability of specialty crops at local markets.
"These Specialty Crop Block Grants support hundreds of projects that address issues ranging from food safety to research needs to increased access to fruits and vegetables, all benefiting specialty crop producers and consumers across the country," said AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo. "With additional funding from the 2014 Farm Bill, we are able to do even more to help specialty crop growers increase profitability and sustainability."
Through SCRI, USDA is awarding $51.8 million to fund research and extension projects for specialty crop production. The grants fund a wide variety of efforts, including research to improve crop characteristics, identifying and addressing threats from pests and diseases, improving production and profitability, developing new production innovations and technologies, and developing methods to respond to food safety hazards.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Range Tour

Ranchers Open lines of Communication with Forest Service on the Salmon/Challis

Mackay--Custer and Lemhi Counties held a range tour of the Double Springs allotment on the Yankee Fork District of the Salmon/Challis National Forest.

The ranchers wanted to show fellow ranchers and the Forest Service the condition of their allotments. The US Forest Service asked the permit holders to move cattle off the land 30 days early, on short notice. That move drastically impacted rancher Troy Olson who says that he's out tens of thousands of dollars. 

"It's been a communication problem. I think it's been the transfer of long term employees within the agency. We’ve addressed the problem with them and it seems like shortly thereafter we have somebody new to deal with. There’s no continuity, we never have the same people to deal with, so every issue has to be re-addressed, then readdressed and readdressed," said Olson.

"The range shows the effect of drought and damage around riparian areas," said range expert Wally Butler.

"Overall, despite the drought, I think its in pretty good shape," said Butler. "Theres probably room for improvement and that would be great, but its mostly a water distribution problem. Cattle tend to bunch up around available water and thats the problem here."

Butler says giving the cattle more areas to drink, adding pipelines could solve problems on that stretch of rangeland.

Katie Wood of the Forest Service went on the tour and visited a spring that was declared an archeological site. Ranchers put up an electric fence at their expense to protect the site, water in the area is scarce, they want to put in a pipeline to spread the cattle out to protect the riparian area but also want the Forest Service to pitch in and help. Wood said their budgets are spread thin.

"Its a zero-sum game, I have little staff and little money. When I look at all the projects that people come to me with on this allotment or others or other projects that I have going on, we can't always do it all," said Wood.

The Forest Service noted each and every problem and took part in lively but positive discussions.

"We've spent the day working on the positives and building communication," said Butler. "The overall purpose for having this tour is to heighten and awareness level for the agencies and the ranchers are going through. The whole idea with this tour was to develop a line of communication, I think we did it."

Forty-five fellow ranchers showed up to support fellow ranchers. They visited four sites and at the end of the day asked the Forest Service to listen, be mindful of economic impacts and short deadlines imposed on Ranchers.

"We're trying to improve the Range for future use and continued use," said RJ Hoffman. "I feel it probably cost me somewhere between $12-15 thousand in feed loss to go home early, but we're trying to improve the Range and we want that consideration."

Friday, October 3, 2014

Just in

USDA Designates Eight Counties in Idaho as Primary Natural Disaster Areas

BOISE – Aaron Johnson, Acting State Executive Director for the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) in Idaho, announced today that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has designated eight counties in Idaho as primary natural disaster areas due to losses and damages caused by excessive rain, flash flooding and hail that occurred from July 25, 2014, through Sept. 1, 2014.  Those counties are:
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, “President Obama and I are committed to ensuring that agriculture remains a bright spot in our nation’s economy by sustaining the successes of America’s farmers, ranchers, and rural communities through these difficult times. We’re also telling Idaho producers that USDA stands with you and your communities when severe weather and natural disasters threaten to disrupt your livelihood.”

Farmers and ranchers in the following counties in Idaho also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous.  Those counties are:
Twin Falls
In order to receive an agricultural disaster designation FSA County Executive Directors meet with local leaders to access damages to crops and submit a report to the FSA State Executive Director (SED). After meeting with the state emergency board the SED sends a recommendation of approval to Secretary Vilsack.

In September, Mr. Johnson submitted requests for three other counties with the following results: On September 3, 2014, Jerome and Twin Falls counties received designations due to excessive rain that occurred Aug. 3-7, 2014 and Clearwater County was designated due to high winds and hail that occurred Aug. 14, 2014. This qualified Idaho counties contiguous to these three primary counties as well as those counties in neighboring states that border a county with a primary designation. You can view a map that shows all counties in Idaho that have current disaster designations at .
Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the declaration to apply for loans to help cover part of their actual losses. FSA will consider each loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability. FSA has a variety of programs, in addition to the EM loan program, to help eligible farmers recover from adversity.
“During 2014 Idaho has had disaster declarations for everything from drought to hail and too much moisture,” said Johnson. “We want producers to know that FSA is doing all they can to help Idaho’s farmers and ranchers when these natural disasters impact their operations.”


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