Thursday, December 31, 2015

Just in

Farm Sector Profitability Weakens Considerably in 2015 From Recent 2013 Peak

Washington--Farm sector profitability is forecast to decline for the second straight year. Net cash farm income is forecast at $93 billion, down about 28 percent from 2014 levels. Net farm income is forecast to be $55.9 billion in 2015, down about 38 percent from 2014’s estimate of $90.4 billion. If realized, the 2015 forecast for net farm income would be the lowest since 2002 (in both real and nominal terms) and a drop of 55 percent from the recent high of $123.3 billion in 2013. The smaller change in net cash farm income relative to the broader net farm income measure is to be expected, because producers can exercise greater control on the timing of cash receipts and expenses and thereby moderate large swings from year to year.
Lower crop and livestock receipts are the main drivers of the decline in 2015, while cash production expenses are projected down by 2.3 percent. Crop receipts are expected to decrease by $18.2 billion (8.7 percent) in 2015, led by projected declines of $8.6-billion in corn receipts, $5.7 billion in soybean receipts, and $2.7 billion in wheat receipts, as prices for all three commodities declined. Livestock receipts are forecast to decrease by $25.4 billion (12 percent) in 2015. As with crop receipts, the primary driver is lower commodity prices, in this case for milk, hogs, broilers, and cattle/calves. Government payments are projected to rise $1.0 billion (10.4 percent) to $10.8 billion in 2015.
Farm asset values are forecast to decline by 2.8 percent compared to 2014, and farm debt is forecast to increase by 6.3 percent. The farm sector equity measure combines both of these, and is down by $104.2 billion (4.0 percent) compared to 2014. The primary driver of the drop in asset values is farm real estate, down $36.9 billion (1.6 percent). Debt is driven by increases in both real estate debt (up 6.1 percent) and nonreal estate debt (up 6.5 percent). While the movements in the balance sheet show an increasingly leveraged farm sector, risk measured at the sector level remains low.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015


Water rights, storage rules important to Valley, Idaho

Last week Rocky Barker of the Idaho Statesman criticized the Treasure Valley Water Users Association’s public outreach efforts on an issue that seriously threatens the future of the Treasure Valley.

He told readers to “ignore” the association’s message and trust that a state agency challenging Treasure Valley storage rights will not deprive the Treasure Valley of its stored water.

He suggested elected officials have no business considering the issue, and we should “let the courts decide.” After reporting only the state’s talking points, he then said: “I don’t know who is right.”

Here are the issues and what’s at stake. The big question has been and continues to be, “Why is the state challenging the validity of our long-standing water rights in the Treasure Valley?”

The Boise River does not supply enough water to irrigate the Treasure Valley without the water stored in Anderson Ranch, Arrowrock and Lucky Peak Reservoirs during the winter and spring. By mid-summer, storage is often the primary source of water for the Valley. When storage is no longer available, irrigation ends.

The reservoirs also protect the Treasure Valley from flooding. The key to balancing flood prevention and water storage is a reservoir operating plan that was approved more than 60 years ago.

The plan requires keeping enough open space in the reservoirs to capture high runoff and control the release of water from Lucky Peak Dam. To maintain “flood control spaces,” water must be released early in the year before it can be used. As runoff declines, less flood control space is required and the reservoirs are safely filled.

The plan assures Treasure Valley water users that the reservoirs will be operated this way to fulfill their water rights. Several hundred thousand acre-feet of water may be stored after flood control releases are made.

The state now wants to regulate Boise River water rights by contending that flood control releases count as water that is used, even though that water cannot be stored or used. The state also denies existing holders of water rights the right to store water after flood control releases are made, knowing Idaho law does not allow storage without a water right.

Watermasters who have managed the river since 1986 confirm they have never treated storage water rights as “filled” by flood releases, and all water stored in the reservoirs after flood releases is stored pursuant to storage water rights.

On Oct. 9, a special master for the Snake River Basin Adjudication Court rejected the state’s position, saying “the state’s legal theory essentially makes the priority (of storage rights) meaningless in a flood control year. (W)ithout the ability to capture water in the Boise River Reservoirs, under a protectable priority-based property right, and store such captured water until such time as the same may be used, the Bureau and the water users are left with little to no means to ensure that the water historically used for beneficial purposes can continue to be used in the future.”

That same day, the Idaho Department of Water Resources issued a memorandum directing staff to take enforcement action against the “use, storage or diversion of water in excess of or without a water right.”

Disregarding the special master’s decision, on Oct. 15, IDWR Director Gary Spackman issued a decision that “upheld” his predetermined conclusions to count flood releases against storage water rights and deny Treasure Valley Water Users the right to store water following those releases.

This is how the state is undermining Treasure Valley storage water during flood control years. It is entirely appropriate to inform the public about this threat and seek the assistance of elected officials who govern the state.

Roger Batt is executive director of the Treasure Valley Water Users Association, a regional organization developed to address the need for coordinated collaboration among water delivery entities for the mutual benefit of their respective water users within the Boise River Basin.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Just in

Federal Agencies Release Update on National Biogas Activities

WASHINGTON– In support of the Obama Administration's Climate Action Plan, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) jointly released the Biogas Opportunities Roadmap Progress Report today, updating the federal government's progress to reduce methane emissions through biogas systems since the Biogas Opportunities Roadmap was completed by the three agencies in July 2014.

Today's report highlights actions taken, outlines challenges and opportunities, and identifies next steps to the growth of a robust biogas industry. Biogas is part of the White House's strategy to reduce emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas with more than 25 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide and valuable source of energy.

In the Climate Action Plan, President Obama directed the Administration to develop a comprehensive, interagency strategy to reduce methane emissions. In March 2014, the White House released the Climate Action Plan - Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions. As part of the strategy, DOE, EPA, and USDA committed to work with industry leaders to formulate a biogas roadmap in order to encourage cost-effective strategies for voluntary reductions.

 The 2014 roadmap identified more than 2,000 sites across the United States that produce biogas, as well as the potential for an additional 11,000 biogas systems. If this potential is reached by 2030, biogas systems could produce enough energy to power more than 3 million American homes while reducing the methane emissions by an amount equivalent to 54 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of the greenhouse gasses from to 11 million passenger vehicles.

Biogas offers American farmers, municipalities, and other stakeholders a way to reduce their waste outputs while adding another revenue stream by recovering resources with biogas systems for energy, nutrients, and other beneficial uses. Since July 2014, DOE, EPA, and USDA have made progress toward realizing these benefits.

They have revised their programs and policies to further support the growth of the biogas industry, such as improving the application process for various biogas funding and financing programs and including biogas as a cellulosic advanced fuel under the Renewable Fuel Standard. The agencies have also made progress by revising existing technologies, and updating informational tools, databases, and models.

The three agencies formed the Biogas Working Group to work closely with biogas stakeholders to streamline existing agency programs, strengthen markets for biogas systems, and improve interagency coordination and communication. Biogas will continue to be a key part of the federal government's long-term climate, energy, and development strategy.

The Biogas Opportunities Roadmap Progress Report identifies next steps for federal agencies moving forward, which include promoting biogas utilization through existing agency programs (including $10 million in research funding), fostering investment in biogas systems, strengthening markets for biogas systems and system products, and improving communication and coordination across federal agencies and the biogas industry.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Just in

USDA Trade Mission Spurs Record Ethanol Exports to China

WASHINGTON– The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced a significant jump in ethanol exports to China this year, following a USDA-led trade mission to the country last year. Representatives from nine state departments of agriculture and 28 U.S. companies, including renewable fuels businesses, traveled to northeast China to explore opportunities for trade in the region.
China is the largest market for U.S. food and farm products – U.S. agricultural exports to the country tripled over the last decade, now accounting for nearly 20 percent of all foreign sales of U.S. agricultural products. 
"Our objective for every trade mission is to create new markets for farm products made in rural America," said USDA Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse, who led the mission. "U.S. ethanol exports to China have jumped from $8 million to more than $86 million since our May 2014 visit. In October, we exported more ethanol to China than in the previous 10 years combined."
Scuse led the delegation to promote U.S. agriculture, and explore the role that renewable fuels might play in China's long-term clean energy strategy. The delegation met with gasoline companies, fuel blenders, oil companies, commodity traders, and government officials to promote the benefits of using higher ethanol blends. During October, the U.S. exported 32.5 million gallons of ethanol to China, valued at $57 million, or 46 percent of total U.S. ethanol exports for the month. Previous U.S. exports of ethanol to China averaged less than $3 million annually from 2005 to 2014. 
Earlier this year, USDA partnered with 21 states through the Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership (BIP) to nearly double the number of fueling pumps nationwide, expanding the ethanol refueling infrastructure by nearly 5,000 pumps, a $210 million investment that will give consumers access to clean, American-made biofuels, and provide more choices at the pump.
"These are the kind of initiatives that strengthen our rural communities, and open new doors and help our farmers and ranchers capitalize on the tremendous export potential for American agricultural products," said Scuse.
The past seven years have represented the strongest period for American agricultural exports in the history of our country, with U.S. agricultural product exports totaling $911.3 billion between Fiscal Years 2009 and 2015. In fiscal year 2015, American farmers and ranchers exported $139.7 billion of food and agricultural goods to consumers worldwide. Not only that, U.S. agricultural exports supported more than 1 million American jobs both on and off the farm, a substantial part of the estimated 11.7 million jobs supported by exports all across our country. Record agricultural productivity and exports are one example of how USDA has helped to bring transformative change to Americans living, working and raising families in rural America.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Tech Op-Ed

Ag technology is on the rise in rural America

Washington-Farmers and ranchers today have access to new agriculture technologies that were once simply a sci-fi dream-drones soaring across corn fields, genetically modified crops growing with fewer pesticides and real-time soil monitoring. Technology and innovation are the future of farming and the American Farm Bureau Federation is working to help rural entrepreneurs pave the way. 

The 2016 Farm Bureau Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge, now in its second year, provides opportunities for individuals to showcase business innovations being developed in rural regions of the U.S. This year, four of the top 10 finalists are working to develop new ag technologies.
"It's exciting to see so many ag technologies advancing in the competition," said Lisa Benson, AFBF's director of rural development. "Through the Farm Bureau Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge we hope to address competitors' startup concerns and encourage a spirit of innovation in the years to come." 

AgriSync, one of the final four in the competition, developed the first mobile customer support platform built from the ground up for the agriculture industry. The app allows farmers to have one-touch access to trusted advisors who can provide real-time support and services. Located in Dallas Center, Iowa, AgriSync is working to affordably connect isolated communities with consistent results that reduce downtime in the field. 

Farm Specific Technology (FarmSpec) is another final four team and has developed a no-till crimper for crop production. FarmSpec's primary objective is to introduce other innovative technologies, along with the no-till crimper, to efficiently improve the sustainability of global food systems and create new opportunities for growers across rural America. 

AccuGrain, another final four team, is comprised of Iowa State students who are aiming to solve age-old problems inherent with grain measurement technology. The company developed X-ray technology to revolutionize the way the grain industry inventories and measures flowing grain in real time, saving time and providing solutions for farmers and the commercial grain industry.
Strategic Management of Agriculture Related Technologies, or S.M.A.R.T, a semi-finalist team, is working to develop water conservation systems for farms and ranches. 

Three of the top four finalists, AgriSync, Farm Specific Technology and AccuGrain, will have the opportunity to pitch their ag technology business ideas to a team of judges in front of a live audience at AFBF's 97th Annual Convention and IDEAg Trade Show in January in hopes of winning the Rural Entrepreneur of the Year Award and the People's Choice Award, for a potential total of $40,000 to implement their business ideas. 

"The 10 businesses recognized are an outstanding group of entrepreneurs," said AFBF President Bob Stallman. "Rural entrepreneurs typically face unique challenges including limited options for support with resources such as startup funding, which we aim to address though the challenge," he continued.
The future of farming is rapidly developing and with innovators and programs like the Farm Bureau Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge, ag technology is no longer simply a sci-fi dream.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Just in

Farm Bureau supports U.S. officials’ work at WTO Ministerial

Washington-Farmers and ranchers are backing U.S. trade officials' actions to achieve a strong agreement on export competition and set a new direction for agricultural trade negotiations at the World Trade Organization's 10th Ministerial Conference, according to Farm Bureau. 

"Eliminating trade-distorting export subsidies and achieving disciplines on the use of export credits will lower agricultural trade barriers and strengthen U.S. agriculture's ability to pursue market opportunities in international trade," American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman said in a statement. "The measures adopted on food aid also will support U.S. programs that continue to provide food assistance around the world. 

Farmers are looking forward to moving beyond the Doha Round and constructing a new pathway for negotiations by the WTO to advance a relevant agenda for agricultural trade in the 21st century, Stallman continued. He also noted Farm Bureau's strong appreciation for the work of United States Trade Representative Froman, Chief Agricultural Negotiator Vetter and the entire U.S. team for their efforts in reaching a positive outcome to the WTO Ministerial.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Just in

Statement from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on the Country of Origin Labeling Requirements for Beef and Pork

WASHINGTON – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today released the following statement regarding the language in the omnibus bill repealing the country of origin labeling requirements for beef and pork products.
"The omnibus bill repealed the country of origin labeling (COOL) requirements for muscle cuts of beef and pork, and ground beef and pork. Effective immediately, USDA is not enforcing the COOL requirements for muscle cut and ground beef and pork outlined in the January 2009 and May 2013 final rules."
USDA will be amending the COOL regulations as expeditiously as possible to reflect the repeal of the beef and pork provisions. In addition, all imported and domestic meat will continue to be subject to rigorous inspections by USDA to ensure food safety.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Just in

Reversing the Tide

Restoring Water Rights to Ranchers
and Reasons for State Management of Federal Lands

Wednesday, January 6, 2016 Red Lion Downtowner - Boise
10:00 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.

$15 Registration Fee - Lunch is included
Idaho Supreme Court Justice Dan Eismann - the Joyce and LU livestock water rights Idaho Supreme Court Decision
Norm Semanko, General Counsel for Idaho Water Users Association - proposed legislation Randy Parker, CEO Utah Farm Bureau - federal extortion of water rights
from permittees
Ramona Hage - the recent Wayne Hage Jr. Nevada case finding that water rights equal grazing rights and permanent preference rights
Registration and payment is required prior to December 31
Presented by
The Idaho Farm Bureau Federation

contact Julie Araquistain at 208-333-7084 or email
Mail payment to
500 W Washington Street Boise, ID 83702 

Just in

House Overwhelmingly Passes FY2016 Omnibus Appropriations – Big Wins for Idaho

Washington- Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson today applauded the passage of H.R. 2029, the Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations bill that included many important provisions for Idaho and Western States. The House passed H.R. 2029 by a vote of 316-113, and it will be considered by the U.S. Senate today.  Links to the bill text and reports can be found here:

“I applaud Chairman Rogers and Speaker Ryan for their hard work in assembling this comprehensive and responsible package that will keep the government open through the rest of this fiscal year,” said Simpson.  “This bill contains many critical wins for Idaho and Western States.  It avoids the inefficient and negligent practice of funding the government through continuing resolutions, and is instead the product of this past year’s worth of thoughtful deliberation and line-by-line analysis of our budget.  It will make vital investments in our national economy, all while adhering to budget caps that are $56 billion below the Ryan budget for FY16 and $70 billion below the Ryan budget for FY17.  With all of the provisions that support conservative priorities and Idaho specifically, and I am so pleased to see that it passed the House with overwhelming support.”

As Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development and Vice Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Environment, Simpson had a key role in deciding funding levels for Department of Energy and Department of Interior programs, including the following highlights:  

Energy and Water Development

“The Energy and Water division of the omnibus continues to support accelerating nuclear innovation programs and addressing much needed infrastructure enhancements at the Idaho National Laboratory,” said Chairman Mike Simpson.  “INL plays a vital national and international role in leading the development of new nuclear technologies, and this bill will help maintain and expand that role in the future.  We are so lucky to have this world class facility in our backyard, with a workforce that constantly pushes the bound of scientific research; we must ensure its capabilities are protected and maximized.”

The FY 2016 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill sets funding for the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy at $986 million, an increase of $73 million above fiscal year 2015 and $79 million above the President’s request.  Nuclear energy research and development programs that receive funding within the overall $986 million allocation include:

·         The Idaho Facilities Management account, which covers infrastructure maintenance and improvement at INL, is funded at $222.5 million – an increase of $16.5 million above FY15, and $11 million above the President’s request.  
·         INL’s Safeguards and Security Program is funded at $126.1 million – an increase of $22.1 million over fiscal year 2015.
·         The Nuclear Energy Enabling Technologies program is funded at $111.6 million – an increase of $10.6 million above fiscal year 2015 and $25 million above the President’s request. 
·         Small Modular Reactor Licensing Support Programs are funded at $62.5 million–$8 million above fiscal year 2015.  This funding is slated for NuScale Power’s Small Modular Reactor which is proposed for construction in Idaho.
·         The Light Water Reactor Sustainability program, which is managed by INL and promotes the continued safe operation of America’s existing nuclear reactors, is funded at $40 million.
·         The Reactor Concepts Research, Development, and Demonstration account is funded at $141.7 million – an increase of $8.7 million above fiscal year 2015, and $33.5 million above the President’s request. Within the overall $141.7 million level for this account, $33 million is allocated to fuel qualification for the High Temperature Gas Reactor.
·         Within the Fuel Cycle Research and Development program, the Advanced Fuels program is funded at $62.1 million—a $2 million increase from fiscal year 2015; and Used Nuclear Fuel Disposition research and development is funded at $85 million.
·         Within the Office of Naval Reactors, the bill includes $77.2 million for the operation of the Advanced Test Reactor to accelerate planned safety-related infrastructure upgrades, and $86 million is included for the Spent Fuel Handling Recapitalization Project.
·         Within the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, the bill includes $5 million for the development of an Electric Grid Test Bed program to enhance existing full-scale electric grid testing capabilities like those at Idaho National Laboratory.
·         Within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, $7 million is included to continue performance testing and life cycle diagnostic assessment activities that validate and verify advanced battery performance.

The bill also provides $396 million for cleanup activities associated with the Idaho Cleanup Project and the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project co-located on the Idaho desert with INL.  The funding level of $396 million is an increase of $16.5 million above fiscal year 2015 and $36 million above the President’s request, which will allow the significant cleanup activities currently underway to continue. The bill also includes an additional $2 million for the National Spent Fuel Program, putting the unique expertise of INL to work in order to provide solutions for managing the Department of Energy’s inventories of spent nuclear fuel.  Finally, the bill includes $2 million for dynamic threat assessments at Idaho National Laboratory to create innovative assessment tools for the US government on high consequence threats to the electric grid, oil and gas, and nuclear energy sectors. 

Transportation, Housing and Urban Development

“I am so pleased to see the important language allowing trucks weighing up to 129,000 pounds on Idaho interstates included in the omnibus,” said Simpson.  “This change has long been sought by the State of Idaho because it will remove the competitive disadvantage the state currently faces, and will be a major generator of economic activity in Idaho.  By ensuring that Idaho’s vehicle laws match those of its neighboring states, Idaho can more efficiently play a larger role in transferring goods without impacting road safety.”

The increase to 129,000 pounds from the current allowance of 105,500 pounds will put Idaho in line with neighboring states and with Idaho’s state highways, which currently allow trucks up to 129,000 pounds.   The current weight limit has made it difficult for Idaho producers to ship goods to, from, and through the state.  A higher weight limit means trucks will have more axles than traditional trucks, distributing the weight in such a way that there is less weight on each axle than a standard truck.  It also will reduce the number of trucks on the road. 

Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee

"This bill makes a critical and significant investment in preventing and fighting wildfires," said Simpson.  "This year's fire season was so terrible that the Forest Service and DOI had already gone half a billion dollars over budget by mid-August and ultimately had to transfer $700 million from other non-fire accounts in order to keep putting out fires.  This bill provides $4.2 billion for wildfire suppression and prevention programs, which includes $1 billion in firefighting reserve funds.  As the cost of fighting wildfires increases, this increased funding will provide the agencies with the resources they need to respond to wildfires without decimating forest management accounts in the process.  The bill also includes important funding for hazardous fuels activities and timber management accounts, which will give the Forest Service tools to improve forest health and ultimately reduce the impact of wildfires.

"Fire borrowing remains a problem, and I am disappointed that, in spite of a significant bipartisan effort, my language to fix the wildfire budgeting process was not included in the omnibus.  I am hopeful, however, that this increased funding will address the issue for the coming fiscal year, giving us an opportunity to push a long-term solution like the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act across the finish line."

In addition to providing $4.2 billion for wildfire programs, the Interior portion of the bill:

·         Includes full funding of the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program, which compensates counties for the losses in property tax as a result of a high percentage of federal land.  Idaho counties received $28,609,614 in PILT funding for FY15. 
·         Provides $545 million for hazardous fuels reduction activities—a $19 million increase over FY15, and $360 million for the timber program—a $21 million increase of FY15.
·         Cuts EPA funding by $452 million below the President’s budget request, holding the agency’s budget at 21% below FY10 levels.
·         Provides $1 million to compensate ranchers for livestock killed by wolves.
·         Continues language making litigation costs more transparent and extending requirements that litigants exhaust administrative review before litigating grazing issues in Federal court.
·         Includes a 3-year extension of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, with 50% of program funding going to state and local recreation, conservation, and battlefield protection programs.


“I am very pleased the omnibus includes language that maintains the mission at Dubois,” said Simpson. “Because of its location, and expertise, the Dubois staff are working on unique issues, including research on the domestic-wildlife interface that is vital to the sheep industry’s future.”

·         Includes language that preserves Agricultural Research Service (ARS) research programs which includes the U.S. Sheep Experimental Station (USSES) in Dubois, Idaho. The administration attempted to close the facility in 2014 without notifying Congress. 


“By ensuring the A-10 remains available for close air support, we are responding to the needs of the service members that operate them and to the brave men and women on the ground that rely on them,” said Simpson. “While I certainly acknowledge that the Air Force must make difficult decisions in this time of reduced budgets, the A-10’s low operating costs and unique capabilities merit our continued support until an appropriate replacement can be identified.”

·         Denies the administration’s request to retire the A-10 Thunderbolt II which is based at the headquarters for the Idaho National Guard at Gowen Field in Boise and provides funding to keep them flying in FY16.
·         Provides a 1.3% pay raise for over 1.3 million active-duty troops and nearly 811,000 reserves.

Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations

“Following the recent passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization, it is important that we match appropriate funding levels so these programs can succeed,” said Simpson. “Impact Aid is important to the counties and school districts that are impacted by federal activities and I’m glad this bill honors that responsibility.”

Friday, December 18, 2015

Just in

Farm Bureau backs Trans-Pacific 


Washington-Optimistic about the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement's promises to expand opportunities to some of the fastest growing markets around the world, the American Farm Bureau Federation's board of directors voted this week to support the biggest regional trade pact in history. 

"We look forward to working with Congress and the administration to move this agreement forward," American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said in statement. "American farmers need improved access to markets around the Pacific Rim in order to generate growing demand for our products in the future. Our members recognize that the rest of the world is not sitting still. Other countries are trying to set trading rules in their own best interest. This agreement goes a long way in establishing a much more level playing field for our nation's farmers and ranchers." 

The countries involved in the TPP are the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Just in

Omnibus Is an Overall Win for Ag but Still No Fix for WOTUS or GMOs 

WASHINGTON–Congressional omnibus spending and tax extender bills will benefit agriculture greatly if passed, the American Farm Bureau said today. Farm Bureau said the bills would provide relief to America’s farmers and ranchers, but is disappointed that Congress failed to stop the Waters of the U.S. rule.

 “This tax extender package gives farmers and ranchers critical tools to help them reinvest in their businesses,” AFBF President Bob Stallman said. “Tax provisions like Section 179 small business expensing and bonus deprecation free up cash flow for farmers and ranchers to put their money to work. New provisions will let our members make important upgrades that reduce costs, increase efficiency and help make their businesses sustainable for generations to come.”

 A provision to stop the EPA’s unlawful Waters of the U.S. rule was surprisingly missing from the package, as was language that would have set a nationwide standard for labeling of food containing genetically modified ingredients. Congress’s failure to act will bring the heavy cost of a patchwork of state labeling mandates to farmers and consumers as early as next month.

 “We are truly disappointed that Congress did not include legislation to stop implementation of WOTUS,” Stallman said. “The courts have already expressed serious legal concerns about the rule, and the U.S. Government Accountability Office has concluded that EPA broke the law with its covert propaganda campaign to drum up ill-informed support for it.

We remain committed to working with Congress to stop EPA and help America’s landowners, businesses and state and local governments avoid years in court to overturn the rule. This measure undeniably resulted from an illegal and deceptive process. Defeating WOTUS remains a priority of Farm Bureau. We will explore all avenues to ditch the rule.”

 AFBF also supports omnibus provisions to repeal of country-of-origin labeling requirements, which would effectively prevent Canada and Mexico from initiating retaliatory actions. “Farm Bureau supports COOL programs that are in line with world trade rules,” Stallman said. “Current COOL programs, unfortunately, risk serious retaliation by Canada and Mexico now that the World Trade Organization has approved more than $1 billion in tariffs against American beef, pork and other U.S. commodities if COOL is not changed.”

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Just in from Washington

USDA Removes Farm Program Payments to Managers Not Actively Engaged in Farming

WASHINGTON– The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today finalized a rule to ensure that farm safety-net payments are issued only to active managers of farms that operate as joint ventures or general partnerships, consistent with the direction and authority provide by Congress in the 2014 Farm Bill. The action, which exempts family farm operations, closes a loophole where individuals who were not actively part of farm management still received payments.
"The federal farm safety-net programs are designed to protect against unanticipated changes in the marketplace for those who actively share in the risk of that farming operation," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "To ensure that help goes to those who genuinely need it, such as America's farm families, the Farm Bill authorized USDA to close a loophole and limit payments from those not involved on a daily basis in nonfamily farm management."
Since 1987, the broad definition of "actively engaged" resulted in some general partnerships and joint ventures adding managers to the farming operation, qualifying for more payments, that did not substantially contribute to management. The rule applies to operations seeking more than one farm manager, and requires measureable, documented hours and key management activities each year. Some operations of certain sizes and complexity may be allowed up to three qualifying managers under limited conditions. The changes apply to payments for 2016 and subsequent crop years for Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) Programs, Loan Deficiency Payments (LDP) and Marketing Loan Gains (MLG) realized via the Marketing Assistance Loan program.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Just in from Washington

The Waters of the US Rule on hold after GAO investigation 
Washington--The Environmental Protection Agency engaged in “covert propaganda” in violation of federal law by conducting a social media campaign aimed at increasing support for a controversial rule on water quality, the Government Accountability Office said in an opinion Monday.
“The Environmental Protection Agency violated publicity or propaganda and anti-lobbying provisions contained in appropriations acts with its use of certain social media platforms in association with its ‘Waters of the United States’ rulemaking in fiscal years 2014 and 2015,” the GAO said in the opinion.
“Specifically, EPA violated the publicity or propaganda prohibition though its use of a platform known as Thunderclap that allows a single message to be shared across multiple Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr accounts at the same time. EPA engaged in covert propaganda when the agency did not identify EPA’s role as the creator of the Thunderclap message to the target audience,” the GAO said.
Auditors also found that the agency violated anti-lobbying provisions by including on its blog hyperlinks to external web pages urging the public to contact Congress in support of the WOTUS rule.
An EPA spokeswoman did not immediately respond to an email Monday afternoon seeking comment.
The rule, promulgated by the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, broadened those agencies’ authority over navigable waters to include upstream waters and intermittent and ephemeral streams. Opponents say it is an act of federal overreach that could force landowners to get EPA approval to irrigate crops or drain fields.
The GAO launched an investigation after The New York Times reported in May on the agency’s social media campaign in support of the rule.
“We applaud U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Jim Inhofe for asking GAO to conduct this investigation. The GAO findings vindicate those, like the American Farm Bureau Federation, who have claimed all along that EPA’s tactics advocating for this rule stepped past the bounds of proper agency rulemaking. EPA was focused only on promoting the rule rather than hearing good-faith concerns from a wide cross-section of Americans. The public deserves better when important matters of public policy are at stake,” said American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman.

Waters of the US

Statement by Bob Stallman, President, American Farm Bureau Federation, Regarding GAO Legal Opinion Finding EPA Violated Law Regarding WOTUS

“A legal opinion today by the U.S. Government Accountability Office finds that the Environmental Protection Agency broke the law with its social media and grassroots lobbying campaign advocating for its own Waters of the U.S. rule. It’s clear from this report that EPA orchestrated this matter in a biased fashion. Now it’s up to Congress to clean up this mess by including a corrective measure in the omnibus bill now taking shape on Capitol Hill."

 “Courts already have declared serious doubts about the legal authority for the rule. Now that it has become clear that the agency used illegal tactics to manufacture ill-informed support for the rule, Congress should act immediately to prohibit implementation of this rule, which is the product of an unlawful and misguided process."

 “We applaud U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Jim Inhofe for asking GAO to conduct this investigation. The GAO findings vindicate those, like the American Farm Bureau Federation, who have claimed all along that EPA’s tactics advocating for this rule stepped past the bounds of proper agency rulemaking. EPA was focused only on promoting the rule rather than hearing good-faith concerns from a wide cross-section of Americans. The public deserves better when important matters of public policy are at stake.”

Monday, December 14, 2015

Just in

USDA Announces $40 Million Available to Help Ranchers Restore Sage Grouse Habitat

WASHINGTON–Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the availability of $40 million to help ranchers and other partners in 11 western states restore and protect sagebrush habitat for greater sage-grouse on privately-owned land. This investment is part of USDA's four-year, $211 million Sage Grouse Initiative 2.0 through the Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW) partnership. The WLFW partnership uses seven focus species, including sage grouse, to steer public and private conservation investments that improve struggling landscapes and strengthen agricultural operations.
"The decisions of agricultural producers have powerful impacts on wildlife and the long-term health of their own land, and the partnerships formed through our Working Lands for Wildlife initiative have had proven success for bringing back several of America's native species," Vilsack said. "By managing ranches with sage grouse and other wildlife in mind, producers also strengthen their own operations, boost resilience and increase agricultural yields."
USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) uses the Sage Grouse Initiative to build on the success of $296.5 million invested with farmers and ranchers in 11 Western States for sage grouse habitat conservation from 2010-2014. The assistance helps ranchers enhance sagebrush habitat by making conservation improvements, like removal of invading conifers and invasive grasses that also improve grazing operations. The partnership also helps ranchers protect other critical habitat, such as wet meadows, by enrolling land into voluntary conservation easements.
Conservation efforts on private lands work. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) determined in September 2015 that the sage grouse population was healthy enough that it did not warrant protections under the Endangered Species Act (ESA)—the result of the unprecedented collaboration in public and private rangeland restoration.
Since 2010, ranchers and other private conservation partners participating in the Sage Grouse Initiative have restored and improved 4.4 million acres, benefitting not just the sage grouse, but 350 wildlife species that call the sagebrush landscape their home. Recent data show  two sagebrush songbirds that share habitat with sage grouse also saw population increases following restoration activities. One of the birds, the green-tailed towhee, experienced an 81 percent population increase.
In addition to the Sage Grouse Initiative, Vilsack also announced more than $10 million available in 2016 to support six other WLFW initiatives for focus species across the country including the  New England cottontail,  southwestern willow flycatcher,  golden-winged warbler,  gopher tortoise,  bog turtle and  lesser prairie-chicken.
In September 2015, FWS also announced ESA protections were not warranted for the New England cottontail, in part because of large-scale restoration of young forests on private lands with NRCS assistance. In Louisiana WLFW has helped landowners restore forested wetlands, the driving force behind the proposed delisting of the Louisiana black bear as an endangered species. In Oregon, stream restoration work on private lands led to the delisting of the  Oregon chub, the first fish in the history of the ESA to recover and be delisted.
Funding for WLFW comes from two 2014 Farm Bill programs that accelerate conservation efforts to benefit wildlife populations by conserving entire landscapes, the  Environmental Quality Incentives Program and  Agricultural Conservation Easement Program. The  Conservation Stewardship Programprovides additional opportunities for producers wanting to restore sagebrush and prairie habitat for sage grouse and prairie chicken.
By participating in WLFW, land managers also gain greater predictability under the ESA. Once enrolled, they may continue implementing their conservation actions without fear of additional regulations.
NRCS financial assistance covers part of the cost to implement conservation practices. Interested landowners are encouraged to contact their  local USDA service center.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Just in from Capitol Hill

Reduction in RFS will slow growth of renewable fuels, ag economy

Washington-EPA's decision earlier this month to lower the Renewable Fuel Standard "undermines our nation's commitment to advancing biofuels and establishing energy independence," according to American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman. 

"Biofuels have been a homegrown energy success story for the U.S. and our rural economies. The RFS has produced jobs, decreased reliance on foreign oil and contributed to cleaner air," he continued in a statement.

EPA's new mandate requires refiners to mix a total of 18.11 billion gallons of biofuels-corn ethanol, biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol-into the country's fuel market in 2016, which is well below the 22.3 billion gallons required under a 2007 law. EPA set the volume for corn-based ethanol at 14.5 billion gallons. That's 500 million gallons below its target under the law.

"We need more biofuels, not less, and Farm Bureau called on EPA earlier this year to protect the RFS," Stallman said. "We are disappointed to see the agency move forward with a decision that will stall growth and progress in renewable fuels as well as the broader agricultural economy. Farmers, ranchers and consumers will be impacted by the drop in ethanol production and the falloff in livestock feed that goes along with it. In the end, we lose the jobs and stability that come from growing renewable fuel." 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Just in from Washington

Congressmen, states urge SCOTUS to review Clean Water Act overreach

Washington- A crush of supporters yesterday filed friend-of-the-court briefs, joining the American Farm Bureau Federation in urging the U.S. Supreme Court to hear arguments on the Environmental Protection Agency's plan to micromanage state land-use and development decisions under the guise of the Chesapeake Bay water quality "blueprint." 

Filers included 92 members of Congress, 22 states, forestry groups represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation, and a broad cross-section of the U.S. economy represented by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and the National Federation of Independent Business. 

"The fact that so many voices are being raised in support of Supreme Court review shows the broad and severe threat that EPA's action here poses nationwide," AFBF President Bob Stallman said. "EPA has asserted powers that do not appear in any law written by Congress, and it has done so in the context of an iconic national treasure, hoping that will inoculate its power grab in the courts. We have faith that the nation's highest court will see this for what it is and hold EPA accountable to stay within its statutory authority." 

Despite aggressive new commitments and water quality achievements by the six states in the Bay watershed in the mid-2000s, the EPA asserted federal control over the Chesapeake Bay recovery in its 2010 "blueprint." The new federal plan effectively gives EPA the ability to function as a super-zoning authority over local and state governments-dictating where homes can be built, where land can be farmed, and where commercial development can occur. 

The plan will impose tens of billions of dollars in direct costs-with unknown economic impacts on local communities and economies. It also denies state and local governments and businesses the flexibility to adapt to new circumstances, instead locking in limits that can quickly become outdated but can only be revised by EPA. The lower courts upheld EPA's blueprint on the theory that it furthers the water quality goals of the Clean Water Act-despite the absence of words in the statute authorizing such federal action. A significant issue presented for the Supreme Court is the degree to which courts should defer to broad agency interpretations of their statutory power.  

"The broad support for the Farm Bureau petition shows that deep concerns about the Bay blueprint go far beyond agriculture and far beyond the Bay region," said AFBF General Counsel Ellen Steen. "Members of Congress, states and business groups recognize that this illegal framework will be imposed throughout the country unless the Court intervenes. Given the enormous social and economic consequences, not to mention the grave questions about federalism and deference to agency overreaching, this is a case that cries out for Supreme Court review."

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Just in

USDA Announces Enrollment Period for Safety Net Coverage in 2016
WASHINGTON – U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Val Dolcini today announced that producers who chose coverage from the safety net programs established by the 2014 Farm Bill, known as the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) or the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs, can begin visiting FSA county offices starting Dec. 7, 2015, to sign contracts to enroll in coverage for 2016. The enrollment period will continue until Aug. 1, 2016.

“The choice between ARC and PLC is completed and remains in effect through 2018, but producers must still enroll their farm by signing a contract each year to receive coverage,” said Dolcini.

Producers are encouraged to contact their local FSA office to schedule an appointment to enroll. If a farm is not enrolled during the 2016 enrollment period, producers on that farm will not be eligible for financial assistance from the ARC or PLC programs should crop prices or farm revenues fall below the historical price or revenue benchmarks established by the program.

The two programs were authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill and offer a safety net to agricultural producers when there is a substantial drop in prices or revenues for covered commodities. Covered commodities include barley, canola, large and small chickpeas, corn, crambe, flaxseed, grain sorghum, lentils, mustard seed, oats, peanuts, dry peas, rapeseed, long grain rice, medium grain rice (which includes short grain and sweet rice), safflower seed, sesame, soybeans, sunflower seed and wheat. Upland cotton is no longer a covered commodity. For more details regarding these programs, go to

For more information, producers are encouraged to visit their local FSA office. To find a local FSA office, visit

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Just in

Farmers, ranchers call for quick Senate action on COOL repeal 

Washington-With the World Trade Organization's decision to allow Canada and Mexico to place more than $1 billion in tariffs on beef, chicken and pork based on the last seven years of U.S. country-of-origin labeling requirements, farmers and ranchers are urging the Senate to act now to repeal the COOL mandate for beef, pork and chicken.

 If Canada and Mexico impose these tariffs, U.S. farmers and ranchers would be at serious risk, American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said in a statement.

"AFBF supports country-of-origin labeling that meets WTO requirements, and we support the remaining COOL programs, but the risk of retaliation by Canada and Mexico is too great. U.S. farmers and ranchers could suffer a serious blow if Congress does not act quickly," Stallman said. 

The House of Representatives in June passed a bill repealing mandatory labeling for beef, pork and chicken

Monday, December 7, 2015

Just in

USDA Report Warns Climate Change Likely to Impede Progress on Global Food Security

PARIS— Climate change is likely to impede progress on reducing undernourishment around the world in the decades ahead, according to a major scientific assessment released today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on global food security and its implications for the United States. The report, entitled  Climate Change, Global Food Security and the U.S. Food System, identifies the risks that climate change poses to global food security and the challenges facing farmers and consumers in adapting to changing climate conditions. Secretary Vilsack released the report during the COP-21 Paris Climate Conference.
In the absence of response measures, climate change is likely to diminish continued progress on global food security through production disruption that lead to constraints on local availability and price increases, interrupted transport conduits, and diminished food safety, among other causes. The risks are greatest for the global poor and in tropical regions. 
President Obama has pledged to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in the range of 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. U.S. agriculture is helping meet this goal, and American farmers, ranchers and foresters have demonstrated their leadership in recognition that their contributions send a strong message to the rest of the world. 
"The past six years have been a success story in terms of global food security. Two hundred million fewer people are food insecure today than they were six years ago. The challenge we now face is whether we can maintain and even accelerate this progress despite the threats from climate change," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "The report we are releasing today highlights these challenges and offers pathways to avoid the most damaging effects of climate change." 
"The report found that climate change is likely to cause disruptions in food production and a decrease in food safety, which in turn leads to local availability limitations and increases in food prices, with these risks greatest for the global poor and in tropical regions," said Dr. John Holdren, Assistant to the President or Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. "Accurately identifying needs and vulnerabilities, and effectively targeting adaptive practices and technologies across the full scope of the food system, are central to improving global food security in a changing climate."

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Annual Meeting wrap up

Farm Bureau Elects Bingham County Farmer

Fort Hall--Bryan Searle of Bingham County was elected to serve as the 14thIdaho Farm Bureau President during the organization’s 76th Annual Meeting held this week at Fort Hall.

Delegates from 36 county Farm Bureaus participated in the election. Frank Priestley of Franklin County served as Idaho Farm Bureau President for the past 18 years. Priestley was re-elected eight times and was the longest-serving president in the organization’s history.

Farm Bureau Delegates re-elected Mark Trupp of Teton County as vice president. Tom Daniel of Boundary County, Chris Dalley of Bingham County, Rick Pearson of Twin Falls County, and Tracy Walton of Gem County were re-elected to the State Board of Directors. Dean Schwendiman of Fremont County stepped down as a director. He was replaced by Stephanie Mickelsen of Bonneville County. Cole Smith of Bear Lake County was re-elected as the Young Farmer and Rancher Chairman. 

Sherril Tillotson of Bannock County, Doris Pearson of Twin Falls County, and Carol Rust of Benewah County were re-elected to serve on the Idaho Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Committee.

Searle has served on the Idaho Farm Bureau Board of Directors for the past 24 years. A third-generation farmer, Searle grows potatoes, grain, alfalfa and canola seed on a 5,500-acre farm. He and his wife Mary are the parents of five children. Searle graduated from the Eastern Idaho Technical College.

Delegates also discussed a variety of agriculture and natural resource policy matters. Delegates adopted new policy on grizzly bears and voted to oppose a recent water ruling in the Boise River drainage. 

Farm Bureau’s annual banquet drew more than 350 members, packing the Fort Hall Convention Center to capacity.

Jim and Carol Guthrie of Bannock County received the President’s Cup Award. The Guthries are lifelong ranchers and have been involved in Farm Bureau for three decades. Carol served as the Idaho Farm Bureau Women’s Chair for more than 15 years and currently serves on the American Farm Bureau Women’s Committee. Jim has served as Bannock County Farm Bureau President for nearly two decades.

Winner of this year’s Young Farmer and Rancher discussion meet was Paige Nelson of Jefferson County. She comes from a ranching family and works as freelance journalist. She received a Polaris 450 HD ATV and an all-expense paid trip to Orlando, Florida to compete in the American Farm Bureau Discussion Meet in January.

Kyle and Jessica Wade of Bannock County won the Young Farmer and Rancher Excellence in Agriculture Award. Todd and Jenny Cook of Bingham County received the Young Farmer and Rancher Achiever Award. The Wades received a $1,500 check while the Cooks won a Polaris 570 Ranger. The Cooks and the Wades will also travel to the American Farm Bureau Convention in Orlando, Florida in January to compete for the national Excellence in Agriculture and Achiever competitions.

Dealers from 16 Idaho Polaris Dealerships donated the 570 Ranger, valued at $10,000.

Recognized as Women of the Year were Sara Erb of Bingham County, Susan Brown of Madison County, Elizabeth Kohtz of Twin Falls County and Margaret Cooke of Benewah County.

Congress considers Farm Bill this week

Washington--House Ag Chairman Mike Conaway finally get the House farm bill to the Senate this week, but it all depends on House Republic...