Friday, February 28, 2014

Just in

AFBF Ag Labor Study Featured in Wall Street Journal Editorial

Washington--The American Farm Bureau Federation's recently released ag labor study, "Gauging the Farm Sector's Sensitivity to Immigration Reform," was featured in a Wall Street Journal editorial published today.

"Republicans are often first in line to vote for farm subsidies," notes the lead of the editorial titled "Fruits of Immigrant Labor."  Further, "But when it comes to lending  farmers a hand by modernizing the country's guest worker program, many hide in the corn stalks," according to the WSJ. AFBF's study quantifies the cost to agriculture of the GOP's immigration duck, points out the editorial, which also highlight key points of the study, including the economic consequences of various reforms such as an enforcement-only approach, which would lead to a 5 percent to 6 percent increase in retail food prices.

"Republicans have killed immigration reform for now, but the Farm Bureau study shows that in the real economy it's still needed," notes the editorial in conclusion.  The study is posted at:

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Just in from Washington

630+ Ag and Business Groups Call for Immigration Reform

WASHINGTONThe American Farm Bureau Federation, as part of a multi-industry coalition of 636 business organizations—154 of them agriculture-related—today urged Congress to move forward with immigration reform this year.

In a letter sent to House Republican leadership, the coalition noted that all of the signatories are “united in the belief that we can and must do better for our economy and country by modernizing our immigration system.” Further, “Done properly, reform will deter illegal immigration, protect and complement our U.S. workforce, better respond to changing economic and demographic needs, and generate greater productivity and economic activity, while respecting family unity.”

The signatories included 246 businesses of every size and sector across the country and 390 business associations, bureaus, federations and chambers representing a broad cross-section of industries and commercial interests.

“Failure to act is not an option,” noted the letter. “We cannot afford to be content and watch a dysfunctional immigration system work against our overall national interest. In short, immigration reform is an essential element of a jobs agenda and economic growth. It will add talent, innovation, investment, products, businesses, jobs and dynamism to our economy.”

The signatories to the letter expressed support for Congress and the administration using the House Republicans’ “Standards for Immigration Reform” as guideposts for action this year.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Just in

One Month Snowpack turnaround 'Historic'

Boise--On February 1st snowpack numbers were dismal, the worst in decades across Idaho. Then a series of storms started hitting the Gem State.

"Just barely a month ago the snowpacks in Idaho were just barely 50-80 percent of average and it wasn't looking good for Idaho farmers, then a sudden change in the weather brought moisture almost continuously up from the tropics. That storm track usually favors Central and Northern Idaho but it carried its way through Eastern Idaho as well," said snowpack specialist Phil Morrisey of the USDA.

That storm track is called the 'Pineapple express' because the storms are generated in the south Pacific. The Snowpack numbers have been nothing short of historic and broke many single month records according Morrisey.

"So I did some checking of snotel sites, based on history it looks like in general the Upper Snake which is a big portion of Idaho's farm water is above normal. We went from barely 50-percent to above normal, thats 2-3 times the normal amount for the month and in fact the most in the third cycle, and the highest February chance since 1980," added Morrisey.

Morrisey calls the winter of 2014 an 'extreme event' with three times the normal snowpack in less than 25 days.

"If we don't get another snowflake, we'll finish the year with an above normal snowpack this season across most of the state, sure there are still a few problem areas but for the most part this has been a historic month," said Morrisey

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Just in

Administration will include proposal in 2015 budget

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Members of Idaho's Congressional Delegation are welcoming the Administration’s announcement that it plans to include a change in how fighting wildfires on public lands is funded in the upcoming 2015 budget outline.  Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch and Representatives Mike Simpson and Raul Labrador met with U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell last week about collaborative land management planning, including discussing their legislation that would place some firefighting funding under a disaster category. 

The legislation, originally introduced by Senator Crapo and Representative Simpson along with Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Representative Kurt Schrader (D-Oregon), aims to maintain public land restoration funding while shifting some firefighting money to disaster accounts, therefore protecting restoration actions such as logging, burning and habitat management.  The Administration said over the weekend that it would include the legislative proposal in next year’s budget, a move the Idaho Delegation says will expand the discussions beyond Western state Congressional members.

"The Administration’s support will be key in getting votes to pass this legislation to treat the most devastating of wildfires as the disasters that they are," Crapo said.  "We can protect both firefighting and restoration efforts and provide more certainty for land planners and job creators alike in improving our public lands once this legislation is made law."

“Not everyone understands the serious impacts that fires have in the western United States, especially my colleagues from the east,” said Risch. “The administration’s announcement signals a shift towards greater understanding that resources are needed to deal with fires, just as resources are needed to deal with hurricanes and other disasters.”

“I’m pleased to see the Administration has chosen the approach we took in our legislation,” Simpson said.  “Our bill treats catastrophic wildfires like similar major natural disasters—such as floods and hurricanes—and ensures that money intended for managing public lands, reducing fuel loads, and improving forest health is actually used for that purpose.  Changing the way we budget for fire will allow us to continue to fight fires without crippling our ability to prevent future fires from burning out of control.”

“Our delegation has been working hard to fix wildfire funding, and the administration’s response is a fresh sign of momentum for our bill,” said Labrador.  “The people of Idaho deserve better policies to fight catastrophic wildfires, and we will continue to work in a bipartisan way to get a solution signed into law.” 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Meet Your Lawmaker

Canyon County Farm Bureau has Lunch with Lawmakers

Boise--The Canyon County Farm Bureau sat down for lunch with Canyon County Senators and Representatives on Friday at the Farm Bureau's Boise Office.

Canyon County President Sid Freeman hosted the lunch along with farmers and fellow members. Lawmakers discussed the progress of pending legislation along with budget issues. Lawmakers are confident of an early adjournment.

Friday, February 21, 2014

EPA Announces New Worker Protection Proposal

Washington--The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday announced that it will formally propose new standards to be used for workers applying pesticides. The current rules were put in place nearly 20 years ago. The proposed rule will be published in the Federal Register soon with comments accepted by the general public. Additional details may be found on EPA's website.

The American Farm Bureau Federation will be evaluating the proposal and sharing its analysis with state Farm Bureaus prior to commenting formally on the proposal.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Buy Idaho

Boise--The Idaho Statehouse hosted the Buy Idaho trade show on Wednesday. More than a hundred unique, Idaho products were displayed including Ben Biere out of Nampa. His company sells garden compost. We interviewed the innovative enterpreneur:

"It is what it is, a natural compost from a dairy in Nampa. It has since gone under but we got lots of extra compost so we decided to put it in bags and sell it. Right now we are at D&B supplies and we are looking to grow across the state and across the Northwest as well.

Will you run out of manure?

No, we have plenty saved and eventually we will buy from other dairies.
Our market right now is the backyard gardener the home gardener, anyone who plants or wants to grow anything, its who were pointed at, its a broad spectrum group and we have a pointed approach for it.

Its another avenue for dairies to make money as well. This and to be able to use the product is a whole another revenue stream, its good and there’s nothing good about it. Its been done a multiple places across the state and we took the name and decided to build a product out off it.

This is buy Idaho in its purest form?

Yes. Buy Idaho is one of the first groups we wanted to join once we got established. that was part of our marketing program to be able to everybody else, its what we really wanted to be involved in. We’ve had a lot of notoriety with the contests we’ve in. And thats made it easy for us as well, Buy Idaho is a very important thing for us.

Buy poop in Idaho,

Buy Idaho poop! (laughs)

Just in

Increase in Farm Income, Input prices, no surprise in 2013

St. Louis--Farm income increased in the fourth quarter of 2013 (relative to a year earlier), according to the latest Agricultural Finance Monitor, published by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Likewise, quality farmland prices in the fourth quarter were also up from a year earlier.

The survey for the report was conducted Dec. 11 through Dec. 31, 2013. The results presented are based on the responses from 49 agricultural banks within the boundaries of the Eighth Federal Reserve District. The Eighth District includes the state of Arkansas and portions of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee.

Farm income increased in the fourth quarter of 2013 compared with the same period a year earlier. However, farm income levels in the first quarter of 2014 are expected to be lower than a year earlier stated the report. By contrast, a majority of respondents reported that capital equipment spending in the fourth quarter was below year earlier levels.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Just in

No, GMOs Won't Harm Your Health

New Haven--Dr. Steven Novella, a neurologist at Yale University, is a prominent voice in the skeptical movement, a scientific movement that, as he describes it, focuses heavily on explaining the truth behind "common myths-things that people believe that aren't true." Novella helped sort out fact from fiction when it comes to so-called industrial agriculture in general, and GMOs in particular, in a Mother Jones article.

Genetic modification, Novella said, "is not the panacea, nor is it a menace; it's just one more tool that has to be used intelligently." Novella also argues that many of the fears surrounding genetically modified crops are unsupported.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Just in

Where's the Yogurt?

Sochi--Chobani's quest to get its Greek yogurt to Sochi is coming to an end. The company will donate a shipment of about 5,000 cups of yogurt it had hoped to send to U.S. athletes at the Winter Games to food banks in New York and New Jersey. The shipment has been held up in a refrigerated warehouse after Russian authorities said the Agriculture Department failed to provide a necessary certificate under its customs rules.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), a big booster of the state's Greek yogurt industry, had pointed out that export trade rules shouldn't apply since the yogurt was only for U.S. athletes and wouldn't have been for sale. But Russia still wouldn't allow the shipment.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Just in

GMO Crops in 12 percent of world fields

Ithaca--Even as some U.S. consumers reject foods containing ingredients from genetically modified plants, farmers continue to embrace the technology. 

In 2013, crops grown from seed engineered to withstand weed killers, kill pests or resist diseases made up 11.7 percent of fields planted worldwide. Last year, farmers planted 12 million more acres of plants genetically engineered to be herbicide tolerant, pest resistant or able to stand up to diseases than in 2012, said Clive James, with the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications. The non-profit tracks biotech crops and is based at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.

The U.S. leads the world in genetically modified plantings. Commodity crops genetically engineered to be herbicide tolerant or pest resistant are the norm in U.S. fields. In 2013, they included 93 percent of all soybeans, 90 percent of all feed corn and 90 percent of all cotton, according to the Agriculture Department.

The main growth in GM plantings is in South America, followed by Asia and Africa, the ISAAA report said. The top planters of GM crops after the United States are Brazil, Argentina, India and Canada.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Just in

Officials highlight 75 years of voluntary conservation work on private farm, range and forest lands in Idaho Projects represent multi-million investment in the state's environment, economy
BOISE - When the Idaho Soil & Water Conservation Commission was created by the Idaho Legislature in 1939, nearly half the state, or, 27.2 million acres were suffering from soil erosion. The Idaho Legislature created the Conservation Commission to work on setting up local soil and water conservation districts throughout the state and partner with the federal government and private landowners to address those soil-erosion issues.
"Voluntary, proactive conservation work on Idaho's private farmlands, rangelands and forest lands has been going since the Dust Bowl era and the Great Depression. We were among Idaho's first conservationists," noted H. Norman Wright, chairman of the Conservation Commission from American Falls, during a noon ceremony at the Idaho Statehouse. "We had serious issues to address at that time, and we dealt with them. Over the last 75 years, we've been working on soil and water conservation issues day-in and day-out to preserve our most precious resources and improve Idaho's environment."
Flash forward to 2014, and the Conservation Commission, along with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), local soil and water conservation districts, and private landowners work together in a four-way partnership to implement hundreds of ag-related conservation projects every year. In addition, the Idaho Office of Species Conservation (OSC) works with private landowners, state and federal partners to improve fish and wildlife habitat for the benefit of candidate, threatened or endangered species.
All told, the agencies invested more than $37.9 million in boots-on-the-ground conservation projects in the state of Idaho in 2013. These investments lead to spinoff jobs and positive local economic impacts throughout the state.
The Conservation Commission presented Arthur Snow Legislative Awards to five current legislators and one former legislator on Wednesday in recognition of the lawmakers' vital support for and contributions to ag-related conservation programs.
The award recipients are: State Sen. Steve Bair, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Sen. Bert Brackett, Sen. Jim Patrick, Rep. Eric Anderson, Rep. Steve Miller, and former Rep. Ken Roberts, now serving on the Idaho Tax Commission.
Investments in private land conservation help keep the state ahead of the curve when it comes to managing environmental concerns about water quality, soil erosion, wind erosion, ground water withdrawals, reducing nitrates leaching into ground water, and more, Wright said. "None of us can do this alone. It takes multiple partners, working together, to achieve our conservation goals."
Individual agency contributions to conservation work on private land include:
·     $32.4 million invested by the NRCS through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Stewardship programs. These funds represent more than 850 projects statewide. The federal funds have a local spinoff impact of $17 million and created 375 jobs in 2013.
·     $4.4 million invested through OSC, representing 86 conservation projects statewide.
·     $1.15 million in technical assistance, representing 7,681 hours of tech-help, to local soil and water conservation districts and private landowners by the Conservation Commission.
·     $2.4 million for habitat improvements to 79,320 acres of rangeland for sage-grouse, a candidate species, other wildlife species and livestock by the NRCS. 
·     Conserving ground water in the Snake River Plain through the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), saving 34,450 acre-feet of water, 68 million kilowatt-hours of electricity, and reducing soil erosion by 138,000 tons. The Conservation Commission leads management of this Farm Services Agency initiative by working with local landowners and coordinating with other state agencies.
·     Reducing nitrate pollution to ground water in priority areas - 115,000 pounds of nitrates, 24,000 pounds of phosphorous and 137,000 pounds of sediment were reduced in 2013 involving 35,685 acres. This is a Conservation Commission initiative working with local landowners.
·     Since 1990, the Conservation Commission has issued $24.9 million in low-interest loans to achieve conservation projects on 132,500 acres of land (many of them are irrigation efficiency projects). And it has completed 93 TMDL water-quality implementation plans statewide, with 17 more plans in the works for 2014.    
Agency officials with the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game commended the Conservation Commission and its partners for their achievements in private land conservation work.
Implementing Idaho’s TMDL program involves many people and groups," said Barry Burnell, a spokesman for DEQ. "Over the last 75 years, the Idaho Soil and Water Conservation Commission has led the effort in promoting voluntary conservation. With the Commission and local Soil and Water Conservation Districts' assistance, Idaho’s surface water quality has improved for all Idahoans to enjoy.”
Added Virgil Moore, Director of Idaho Fish and Game, “The agricultural lands of Idaho that provide our food, fiber and fuel are also critical in preserving our wildlife populations and the state’s outdoor heritage. The Department recognizes and appreciates how important landowners are as stewards of wildlife habitat in Idaho.”

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Owyhee 68 Benefit Auction

The Idaho Farm Bureau is helping with fundraising efforts for the Owyhee 68.

Just in

Cover Crops, Nitrogen and Waste Focus of 2014 Nutrient Management Conference in Twin Falls

TWIN FALLS, Idaho  – University of Idaho Extension researchers will attempt to cover the spectrum of information and issues related to managing agricultural waste, nutrients for crops, dairies and water quality during a conference in Twin Falls March 6.

Offering the latest related news, research, education and activities in Idaho, the Idaho Nutrient Management Conference will draw researchers, state and federal regulatory agency representatives and others.

Cover crops will be one of the emphasis areas this year, said Amber Moore, a conference organizer and soil scientist at the UI College of Agricultural and Life Sciences’ Twin Falls Research and Extension Center.

Cover crops ranging from grains, legumes, even oilseed radishes, are attracting increasing attention from farmers, Moore said. They can help to provide nitrogen and organic matter to soils to increase fertility and physical properties like water retention.

Dairy manure is often applied to southern Idaho fields both to dispose of waste and as a valuable fertilizer. Too much in the soil can carry nitrogen to groundwater and threaten water quality.

Cover crops can retain nitrogen and convert it essentially to slow-release fertilizer. Farmers are also exploring how planting grains or other cover crops can lessen wind-caused soil erosion by protecting the soil surface. UI Extension researchers Christi Falen and Lauren Hunter will present their findings.

Howard Neibling, UI Extension Irrigation specialist, will report on ways dairies can manage wastewater lagoons and slurry applications on fields during the winter when crops are not growing.

Dave Tarkalson, a U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service scientist, and Steve Hines, UI Extension educator/crops in Jerome County, will report on improving nitrogen fertilizer recommendations for corn crops.

Other topics will include studies of manure applications on farm fields, micronutrients in cattle feed reaching fields, effects of soil acidification on phosphorous availability and field tests for active carbon as a soil quality indicator.

The conference will be held at Stone House & Company at 330 4th Ave South in Twin Falls. More information is available by contacting Moore at or Mario E. de Haro-Marti in the UI Extension Gooding County Office at

Just in

Labor Shortage Forces Texas Grower to Destroy Crops

Lubbock--Short 20 field workers, Lubbock, Texas, farmer Bernie Thiel estimates he lost about $200,000 last year when he was forced to shred some of his crops as they sat untouched in the field. Thiel, who's been farming for more than 40 years, mainly grows fresh market zucchini and yellow squash, which, like most produce, won't wait around for workers to be available for harvest. 

For the past two years, despite advertising heavily on local radio stations and in newspapers, Thiel could not find any new workers who were willing to stick it out for the whole season. "Those who did come out were here for two or three days, maybe a week, and then they were gone," he said. Read more on the FBNews website. Watch a video news story about Thiel here.

As part of the #IFarmImmigration campaign, Farm Bureau members are encouraged to share the FBNews article via Facebook and Twitter.  For more information on the campaign, go to

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Farm Bureau and Immigration reform

Just in

Auction raises Money to Appeal Federal Grazing Decision

Melba—South Mountain Ranch co-owner Matt Duckett donated a registered Angus heifer at Tuesdays auction at South Mountain designed to raise money for litigation in the Owyhee 68 case.

More than $13-thousand dollars were raised, that money according to organizers will help fund a legal battle over the BLM’s plans to reduce public grazing land.

“I’m not afraid of the BLM,” said Murphy rancher Paul Nettleton, “Im confident we can beat them again.” Nettleton and neighbor Tim Lowry beat the BLM in a decade long water rights case seven years ago. “If we don’t fight this, it could destroy ranching not only in Owyhees but across the west,” he added.

It all started 15 years ago when Federal District Court Judge Lynn Winmill ordered the BLM’s Owyhee field office in southwest Idaho to rewrite 68 grazing permits. The radical environmental group Western Watersheds Project argued that permits were not up NEPA standards.

The new permits were issued last year and Ranchers like Tim Lowry in Jordan Valley and Nettleton found that their grazing allotments were reduced by half.

“We might have to reduce our herd because we’ll be feeding more and the cost of feed is up,” said Tim Lowry. “It’ll drive a lot of us out of business.”

The Owyhee and Idaho Cattle Association are appealing the grazing reductions along with the Western Watersheds Project. The proposed reductions won’t go into effect until the appeals are reviewed.

At the South Mountain Ranch outside of Melba, ranchers bought and sold the Duckett Angus heifer three times to fellow ranchers passionate about the cause. 

The 68 permits in the Owyhees affect more than a hundred thousand acres of land and tens of millions of dollars into the Idaho Economy each year.

The Idaho Farm Bureau is helping with fundraising efforts for the Owyhee 68.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Just in

Food Prices, Ag Economy Tied to Proper Labor Reform

Washington--An approach to agricultural labor reform that focuses solely on immigration enforcement would raise food prices over five years by an additional 5 percent to 6 percent and would cut the nation's food and fiber production by as much as a staggering $60 billion.

Those are among the results of a report, "Gauging the Farm Sector's Sensitivity to Immigration Reform," conducted by World Agricultural Economic and Environmental Services. The report was commissioned by the American Farm Bureau Federation and released in conjunction with the #ifarmimmigration grassroots campaign, a month-long campaign sponsored by AFBF and the Partnership for a New American Economy to promote the need for agricultural immigration reform.

By far, the best scenario for farm labor reform both for consumers and farmers is one that includes immigration enforcement, a redesigned guest worker program and the opportunity for skilled laborers currently working in agriculture to earn an adjustment of status. Under that scenario, there would be little to no effect on food prices, and the impact on farm income would be less than 1 percent.

Color graphics that highlight major points of the study are posted online with the AFBF news release.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Just in

Farm Bill Signing Controversial 

Washington--Even after it's passed Congress, nothing comes easy for this farm bill. President Barack Obama is slated to sign the measure into today at 2:00 p.m. Eastern, but at the urging of Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), he will do so at Michigan State University-not at the customary White House ceremony.

That decision appears to have been made without first consulting the House Agriculture Committee leadership and has left hurt feelings-and empty seats-in its wake. Indeed, among the top four negotiators on the farm bill, only Stabenow is expected to attend the event. In an interview, the chairwoman said her goal was to show Obama out in the country and celebrate Michigan State's history as one of the nation's first land grant universities.

Just in

February Water Supply Outlook Indicates Shortages Likely

BOISE – Despite a series of weekend storms, the Natural Resources Conservation Service released February’s Water Supply Outlook Report which shows irrigation shortages are likely in some areasdue to the current combination of low reservoir storage and low streamflow forecasts. 

A persistent high pressure ridge across the western United States kept storms from providing Idaho with much needed precipitation in January. Snowpacks range from some of the lowest on record in southwest Idaho to near normal in the Clearwater and Upper Snake basins. About one third of Idaho’s Snowpack Telemetry stations are reporting record low precipitation levels for the October 2013 – January 2014 period.

“High elevation snowpacks are near normal in eastern Idaho along the Wyoming border. However, southwest and Idaho snowpacks range from 31to 46% of normal,” said Ron Abramovich, Water Supply Specialist with Idaho NRCS. “Even though these snowpacks are low, they are still better than some areas in our neighboring states which are 15 to 35% of normal.”

Streamflow forecasts across the state decreased in January which affects the flow into reservoirs used for irrigation. Forecast streamflows range from 95% of average in the Clearwater Basin all the way down to 4% for the Big Wood River at Camas Creek. Most reservoir levels are below average creating potential shortages for water users in some areas.

“We expect shortages in the Owyhee, Salmon Falls, and Oakley basins. The severity of the shortage depends on how much precipitation we get in the future and which forecast is used for planning,” said Abramovich.  

Details on snowpack, precipitation, streamflows, and reservoirs for each basin in Idaho are in the full February Water Supply Outlook Report online.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Just in

Farm Bureau President Testifies on OSHA Overreach

Washington--The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is specifically prohibited by Congress from using federal funding to enforce regulations on small farm operations, of which grain bins are an integral component. 

Earlier this week, Scott VanderWal, president of South Dakota Farm Bureau, testified on behalf of AFBF at a hearing in Washington, noting that it's clear that Congress intended small farms as an exemption and OSHA is overstepping its bounds. Listen to Tuesday's Newsline for more details.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Food Check out day!

Americans must work until mid February to pay their food bill each year...The IFBF Women's Leadership Committee sent each and every lawmaker a brown bag lunch to remind them that Idaho Farmers feed the nation...

Just in

Farm Bureau calls on Congress to stop OSHA overreach on grain bins

Washington—A guidance memo produced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration on grain bins and grain storage should be withdrawn because it provides authority for enforcement activities on small farms that are exempt under law, the American Farm Bureau Federation told Congress just last week. 

While Farm Bureau has always made farm safety a priority, the OSHA memo overreaches agency authority and circumvents clear legislative language, according to Farm Bureau.  

For nearly four decades, Congress has included specific language in appropriations bills prohibiting OSHA from using appropriated funds to apply requirements under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1976 to farming operations with 10 or fewer employees.  However, an OSHA memo issued in 2011 stating that many activities—including drying and fumigating grain—are subject to all OSHA requirements, effectively expanded the agency’s regulatory scope to nearly every farm in the country. 

OSHA appears to take the position that any activity that takes place after a kernel is severed from the stalk would be considered post-harvest activities, which would place those activities under OSHA regulation.

“Post-harvest activities are necessary to prepare crops for sale and are fundamental in any farming operation,” said Scott VanderWal, president of the South Dakota Farm Bureau Federation, testifying to the House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Workforce Protections on behalf of AFBF. “Merely possessing storage capacity for grain and utilizing that storage capacity does not create a separate and distinct operation from the farming operation itself.”

VanderWal emphasized that this is not a matter of farmers wanting to take safety shortcuts.
“Farm Bureau understands OSHA’s concerns with grain bin safety,” he said.  Further, noted VanderWal, “Farm Bureau remains committed to grain bin and farm safety generally. Had OSHA reached out to Farm Bureau and others in agriculture we would have been eager to work with them to develop additional safety training programs if necessary to prevent injury.”  
Instead, OSHA inspectors have forged ahead with investigations of farmers in areas where agency authority is limited, if not entirely restricted by Congress, said VanderWal.  

“Congressional intent is clear that this language was adopted to protect small farms and should be interpreted broadly to protect farms with fewer than 10 employees and no labor camp,” VanderWal explained.  

He closed by calling on Congress to take action to prevent OSHA’s continued regulatory overreach.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Senator Crapo OP-ED on the Farm Bill


Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

I joined a bipartisan majority in the U.S. Senate and voted to approve the House-passed Agricultural Act of 2014 conference report, known as the Farm Bill.  All four members of the Idaho Congressional Delegation voted to support the final agreement.  This legislation is imperfect, as it could have better addressed spending concerns and costly permitting, labeling and inspection requirements.  However, overall, the legislation will reduce the deficit and help Idaho’s agriculture and forest industries continue to provide a safe and abundant food supply and forest products.

The Farm Bill consolidates conservation programs, slashes $23 billion in federal spending by ending direct payments and streamlines other duplicative federal programs.   Unfortunately, an opportunity was missed to enact more reforms that extend to the bottom-line spending.  Agriculture producers have made sacrifices that will lower spending, but the nutrition title, which comprises approximately three quarters of the bill’s price tag, should have received more scrutiny. 

The conference report also kept intact redundant permitting requirements relating to aquatic pesticides; costly and burdensome country-of-origin labeling requirements; and the duplicative U.S. Department of Agriculture’s catfish inspection program, which the Government Accountability Office singled out as a high risk for waste, fraud and abuse.  I am concerned that Idaho producers may face unprecedented costs and international trade retaliations as a result of these provisions.

While far from perfect, this bill offers much-needed reforms to strengthen risk management tools and is a far-cry from the status quo.  I worked with the leadership of the conference committee and numerous other colleagues to include provisions essential to Idaho in the final version:

  • Keeping the U.S. sugar program intact to give sugar growers the tools needed to combat trade-distorting subsidies that other nations implement for otherwise uncompetitive industries;

  • Modernizing the U.S. dairy industry to provide sound risk management tools to balance supply and demand;

  • Urging committee leadership to preserve the inclusion of a provision that will create a five-year pilot program to promote the use of pulse crops—dry beans, dry peas, lentils and chickpeas—in school lunch programs.  The bill finally authorizes the Pulse Health Initiative that will support expanded research into the health and nutritional benefits of pulse crops;

  • Securing language I authored with Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) that reaffirms positions taken by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Supreme Court that forest roads used for logging activities will not be threatened by Clean Water Act litigation over water discharge permits as initially intended by Congress;

  • Maintaining stewardship contracting authority, which provides another tool for federal land managers to carryout important forest stewardship projects and avoid costly and time-consuming lawsuits;

  • Obtaining the inclusion of Good Neighbor authority, which would expand the federal government’s authority to partner with state foresters on restoration projects, including bark beetle treatments, across state-federal boundaries;

  • Working to streamline permitting requirements for projects to improve the health of our forests while meeting several restrictions;

  • And, leading a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers from western states in calling for the Payments in Lieu of Taxes, or PILT, program to be reauthorized for one year using savings in the bill to offset the cost. 

Thanks to the hard work of the forest and timber industry along with farmers and ranchers, Idaho products are growing in importance throughout the Pacific Northwest and competing in a global economy.  The importance of the Farm Bill to Idaho cannot be overstated.  But, even with its passage, we must continue to find ways to implement further market-based reforms that create an environment for growth, eliminate unnecessary obstacles for producers and continue to reduce the budget deficit.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Just in from Washington

Agriculture Launches #IFarmImmigration Campaign for Reform

Washington--More than 70 of the largest agriculture groups in the country are joining the Partnership for a New American Economy in a month-long campaign in Washington, D.C., and in districts to push Congress for immigration reform. The Agriculture Workforce Coalition, the American Farm Bureau Federation and more than 70 of the largest American agriculture groups today joined with the Partnership for a New American Economy to launch #IFarmImmigration, an agriculture campaign to support renewed efforts to enact immigration reform this year.

The campaign will stress the agriculture sector's critical need for immigration reform with activities online and on the ground, in Washington D.C. and in key districts. The month starts with a Capitol Hill Briefing on Wednesday, during which congressional staff will hear from farmers and ranchers about the need for immigration reform. The campaign will also release new research on labor shortages and throughout the month, farmers and ranchers will be on the ground telling their stories through farm tours, social and traditional media, videos and community events for members of Congress in their districts.

"Immigration reform is critical for the agricultural industry," said AFBF President Bob Stallman. "This campaign will highlight how many farmers rely on an immigrant labor force and without reform, growers will begin to plant less labor intensive crops or go off shore. Simply put, either we import our labor or we import our food."

Monday, February 3, 2014

Just in

IFBF Women's Leadership Committee Makes Annual Donation to Ronald McDonald House

Boise--The Idaho Farm Bureau's Women's Leadership Committee visited Boise's Ronald McDonald House this afternoon bearing groceries and cash.

"We used to bring a lot more food, but they found that money is a better commodity because they can buy what they really need," said Leadership Chairman Carol Guthrie. "We still bring a load of groceries, with as many Idaho crops as we can find; but money is an Idaho product too."

The Ronald McDonald House is fully booked this week with 19 families staying at the facility and seeking treatment in nearby hospitals according to Executive Director of the House, Mindy Plumlee.

"You think about the importance of food in all our lives and then think about having a sick child in the hospital then being away from home and the food brings comfort and peace of mind," said Plumlee.

The mission of the Ronald McDonald House is to provide a 'home away from home' for families seeking treatment at Saint Lukes Medical Center across the street. More than 539 families stayed at the house this past year.

"So the efforts of the Farm Bureau's Women's Committee is commendable, they do everything, collect the food, get donations from members and tonight they're cooking dinner its all greatly appreciated and its caring for people on the most basic level," added Plumlee.

"We can't make kids better, but we can supply food, donate the money, its a small thing really but we hope it makes a big difference to a family," said Guthrie.

The Ronald McDonald House located on Main Street was started in 1988 and provides affordable housing for out of town families with children requiring medical treatment.

Built in the early 1900's the house was purchased by J.R. Simplot for the Ronald McDonald Foundation. Families are charged just $10 a night with the balance paid by the Foundation.Those families that cannot pay are never turned away.

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