Thursday, April 30, 2015

Just in

Farm Bureau to FAA: Farmers and ranchers will soar with agricultural drones

 Washington–Farmers and ranchers are eager to use airborne drones to improve their businesses, but they need flexibility to use these tools to their full potential, the American Farm Bureau Federation told the Federal Aviation Administration in comments focusing on performance-based standards, in its rule on the “Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems.”

 Farmers and ranchers have increased their yields while reducing their environmental footprint, thanks to advances in precision agriculture. “Drones are the next evolution in American agriculture,” said Dale Moore, AFBF executive director of public policy. “Used properly they let us grow more food on available land using less water and fewer pesticides. High-tech cameras and other airborne sensors give us important tools with which to reduce erosion and keep agricultural runoff to the absolute minimum. This is important not just for farmers but for anyone else who cares deeply about the environment. These tools won’t do anyone any good if they’re grounded by restrictions that make them too cumbersome to use.”

 Farmers need performance-based standards for drone use that promote innovation while keeping safety a top priority, the Farm Bureau wrote. For all the good they do, new technologies are not without risk, Farm Bureau told regulators. Farmers and ranchers need to be able to manage these tools safely and should be assured that their farm data is secure and cannot be used unfairly against them. Added Moore: “Farmers and ranchers are ready to unlock the potential of new technologies in agriculture, and we’re hopeful that the FAA’s final rule gives them a key to do that safely and quickly.”

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Just in from the Statehouse



GOVERNOR OTTER CALLS SPECIAL SESSION OF IDAHO LEGISLATURE ON CHILD SUPPORT

BOISE– Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter announced today that he is calling a rare special session of the Idaho Legislature starting at 8 a.m. on May 18 to consider maintaining Idaho’s child support system.

“I don’t take either this decision or the legislative action that precipitated it lightly. With our partners in the Legislature and the experts at the Department of Health and Welfare, we have explored all our options and come to the conclusion that only a special session will accomplish our goal – protecting the children and families of Idaho who rely on court-ordered child support payments,” Governor Otter said.

The Governor issued a Proclamation calling the special session, which is limited to considering the issue of Idaho’s child support system.

A House committee tabled Senate-passed legislation, which would have kept Idaho in compliance with the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, shortly before the Legislature adjourned for the year in the early morning hours of April 11. 

The Department of Health and Welfare had cautioned legislators that failing to enact the bill would cut off much of the funding for the State’s child support system, including enforcement of child support orders. More than 400,000 children and parents – or one in four Idaho citizens – would be impacted by that loss, representing 155,000 child support cases. Health and Welfare no longer would be able to collect funds through wage withholding, locate parents when they change jobs, or work with other states on child support cases.

Specifically, Idaho stands to lose $16 million from the U.S. Office of Child Support Enforcement, or about two-thirds of the State’s child support enforcement budget. In addition, the State would lose access to the federal database system and tools for enforcing $205 million a year in child support payments to Idaho children. Another $30 million could be lost in federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, which funds such services as child care for low-income working families, children’s mental health and the Head Start program. The federal Administration for Children and Families informed the State on April 14 that it had 60 days – until June 12 – to restore its compliance.

“It’s important for all of us to get a better understanding of the issue and what’s at stake. A special session will accomplish that,” House Speaker Scott Bedke said. “The Legislature as a body and legislators as individuals want to do right by the people of Idaho, and we will.” 

“This program affects thousands of children in Idaho who would become helpless victims without this action,” Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill said. “I express my appreciation to Governor Otter, Speaker Bedke and many others who have worked to resolve this important issue and look forward to a productive special session.”

Health and Welfare’s Q&A on what’s at stake can be found here, and a detailed analysis of the issue prompting the special session can be found here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015



 Secretary Vilsack Announces Rural Schools Payments

 WASHINGTON-Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that $285 million will go to 41 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico this year in support of local schools and roads as part of the Congressional two-year reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act.

 "This support is part of the administration's ongoing commitment to rural communities," said Secretary Vilsack. "The Forest Service's century-long support of America's public schools and roads is one of many ways in which USDA helps rural communities remain self-sustaining and prosperous."

 "I'm grateful for the Congressional action to reauthorize this Act and understand how important these funds have become to the communities that receive them," said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. "We've been anticipating its passage and we are positioned to make the payments as rapidly as possible."

 The payments from the Forest Service may be used to support public schools and public roads, for projects to help maintain and improve the health of forests; and for county projects including "Firewise Communities" programs, reimbursements for emergency services on national forests, and development of community wildfire protection plans.

 The forest projects are reviewed and recommended by resource advisory committees made up of local residents working together to improve the environment and to help provide jobs in rural communities.

Monday, April 27, 2015

just in

USDA Awards Almost $3 Million in Research Grants to Increase Food Security Through Improved Livestock Health

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture announced three grants designed to boost food security by minimizing livestock losses to insects and diseases. The awards to support research, education, and Extension efforts were made through NIFA's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, which is authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.
"These grants will allow scientists to discover the new tools and technologies necessary to deal with the threats insects and pathogens pose to livestock production in our nation, which ultimately benefit consumers through abundant, affordable food." said Sonny Ramaswamy, NIFA director. 
NIFA made the awards through the AFRI Food Security challenge area, which seeks to increase sustainable food production. Priority was given to projects that will improve prevention, early detection, rapid diagnosis, or recovery from new, foreign, or emerging diseases or arthropods (like fleas and ticks) that have the potential to cause major impacts on food security. NIFA will make additional awards later this spring through the AFRI Food Security challenge area that focus on minimizing crop losses by arthropods and diseases. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Just in


CRAPO SUPPORTS CHANGES TO TRADE BILL

Washington—Citing the inclusion of critical new provisions to hold the Administration accountable, Idaho Senator Mike Crapo voted with the majority of Senate Finance Committee members today to approve a trade promotion authority (TPA) measure.  The bill lays the groundwork for removing trade barriers and better positions the United States to negotiate and secure fair trade agreements that would result in greater market access for millions of American farmers, ranchers and manufacturers.  U.S. exporters face higher tariffs abroad than nearly all our trade competitors and rank 130th among 138 economies in terms of tariffs faced by its exports. 
“This has been a difficult vote because the negotiating process for recent trade agreements has been too secretive with few details being made public,” said Crapo.  “This has raised strong concern about whether the President would negotiate away American sovereignty, or agree to change U.S. law, in both trade and non-trade related areas, in dangerous ways.  I was expecting to vote no because I didn’t have the confidence that we would be able to hold the Administration accountable in trade negotiations.  

“Fortunately, however, we have been able to negotiate changes to the trade promotion authority process that will provide significant protections against these concerns.  These changes include, but are not limited to, language protecting the sovereignty of the United States, limiting negotiating authority to trade related objectives, prohibiting negotiation of non-trade related issues, expanding Congressional involvement and oversight, requiring heightened transparency, and allowing Congress to withdraw trade promotion authority if the Administration fails to comply with these rigorous requirements.     

“If the Administration does not meet these standards, it should not be surprised if it loses the votes of many free trade supporters who have been disappointed with the process so far.  While I have supported some trade agreements, far too often, we have bad deals that I opposed such as NAFTA and CAFTA.

“I will scrutinize each trade agreement on its merits and whether it promotes trade and jobs in Idaho.  I have voted against agreements that are not in Idaho’s best interest in the past and am prepared to do so again,” Crapo concluded. 

Just in

Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge boosts recognition, support for Pulaski Grow



By Lee Spiegel, Pulaski Grow

Right now Pulaski Grow is, well, growing! 

Pulaski GrowWhen we first entered the Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge, we were busy rehabbing our office and training space in an abandoned county building on the old Draper Elementary School (in Pulaski County, Virginia) and had not even started working on the greenhouse or the fish tank area for our aquaponics business.

Today we have a finished office and training area that is furnished and ready to go. Our tank area in about 60 percent insulated and paneled and we will be finishing a passive solar wall in the next two weeks. A team of volunteers has raised all 16 greenhouse bows for our 22’ x 60’ greenhouse and we put greenhouse film on February 14. 

We will be growing most of our produce vertically in 240 Zipgrow vertical farming towers to maximize our space and heat. These towers will be used to grow lettuces, greens and herbs. We will also be building eight floating beds to try our hand at growing tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers.

Today, I am heading to a networking meeting with area farmers and buyers to determine what we want to grow to meet the needs of restaurants and businesses looking for fresh local produce. We will combine that information with previous survey results and then begin planting our first seeds!

In looking back at how far Pulaski Grow has come as a business since writing our first pitch for the Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge, I am truly blown away. Our vision was honed and message made more succinct. In writing and sharing our dream, our passion and belief in our mission was stoked to new levels. 

The unique aspect of strong community support and participation that we have here in Pulaski County and southwest Virginia has expanded and strengthened throughout the Challenge process. The publicity, both nationally and locally, has brought excitement and recognition to our community, as well as our business, which has been wonderful. Our volunteer numbers have grown even larger and we continue to have fabulous support from the county, local businesses and agencies, as well as a wide range of people that just want to help us succeed.

The $15,000 finalist award has allowed us to purchase the additional supplies and materials needed to bring the first greenhouse into operation and provided our trainees with unprecedented skill building opportunities.

We are excited to see the advancements in Pulaski Grow since the beginning of the Challenge and look forward to the future!  
- See more at: http://fbnews.fb.org/FBNews/Viewpoint/Rural_Entrepreneurship_Challenge_boosts_recognition,_support_for_Pulaski_Grow.aspx#sthash.ExVPPLr2.dpuf

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Just in

Ag Drones okayed for Ag Use
Sunnyslope--Palouse Farmer Robert Blair demonstrated drones to Canyon County farmers last night at Bitner Vineyards. The Federal Aviation Administration grounded UAV flights and lifted the ban earlier this year.  

“I had to stop flying my fields when the the FAA issued the ban.But now we're back in business," said Blair.

Faced with rising input costs, the number of farmers using drones doubles each year because its viable way of cutting input and keeping yields up.

“The advantage of UAV’s is that its cheaper. We produce higher resolution images because we fly low and can get leaf-size resolution on a plant and you cant get that with manned aircraft,” said Bradly Ward, former Air Force drone pilot and now a UAV Ag consultant.

“To remain profitable in this day and age farmers have to cut costs on the input side because we have little control once it leaves the farm,” added Blair,


Blair uses an unmanned aerial vehicle similar to military drones, but Ag UAV’s are much smaller, most are made of styrofoam. The remote control planes map and analyze fields with sharp precision. The high-resolution photos from the drones form a mosaic image of the field that complements work on the ground.

“I would argue that our UAV’s are safer, In a lot of cases the planes we fly weigh just a pound and-a-half and they're made of foam. The most hazardous part of our flights is driving to the field. I haven’t heard of an aviation accident caused by an Ag drone,” said Ward. 

Congress passed a law in 2012 directing the FAA to publish rules permitting commercial drone flights by fall of 2015. Attorneys representing UAV interests think the FAA ban is an end-round approach of implementing new regulations without going through public input, economic impact analysis.

“This is new technology and the FFA must ensure that the air is safe. Sure, they’re being conservative and making sure there’s an even level of safety. When unmanned systems can prove they’re safe as regular aircraft, then they’ll consider authorizing for commercial use but that could take a while,” said Ward.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Just in: Sage Grouse update

Successful Conservation Partnership Keeps Bi-State Sage-Grouse off Endangered Species List 

RENO– U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that the Bi-State population of greater sage-grouse does not require the protection of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). 
Secretary Jewell joined with USDA Under Secretary Robert Bonnie, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, California Natural Resources Agency Secretary John Laird and other state and local partners to celebrate an extensive and long-term conservation partnership on behalf of the bi-state greater sage-grouse population. Federal, state and private partners have come together to proactively conserve key habitat and significantly reduce long-term threats to this distinct population segment of greater sage-grouse.
A key factor in the decision not to list the bird was the development of The Bi-State Action Plan, a conservation plan developed by partners in the Bi-State Local Area Working Group over the past 15 years and secured with $45 million in funding. This adds to nearly $30 million worth of conservation work USDA and other partners have already completed to implement this plan.
"Thanks in large part to the extraordinary efforts of all the partners in the working group to address threats to greater sage-grouse and its habitat in the Bi-State area, our biologists have determined that this population no longer needs ESA protection," said Jewell. "What's more, the collaborative, science-based efforts in Nevada and California are proof that we can conserve sagebrush habitat across the West while we encourage sustainable economic development."
"This is welcome news for all Nevadans. I applaud the local area working group, private citizens, Tribes, the Nevada Department of Wildlife and our federal partners for their tremendous efforts to develop conservation actions that preclude the need to list the species while still allowing for sustainable economic development," said Sandoval. "Today's announcement highlights the critical partnerships that must exist for our conservation strategies to be effective and demonstrate that sage grouse and economic development can coexist in both the bi-state area and across the range of the greater sage grouse."
"Together, we've worked with ranchers, conservation groups, local governments in Nevada and California to take proactive steps to restore and enhance sage-grouse habitat while also helping them improve their ranching operations," Bonnie said. "The decision to not list the Bi-State sage-grouse proves this work has paid off."
"The efforts of the local working group and the partnerships they've built over the past decade are truly unprecedented," said Dan Ashe, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director. "They have set the stage for the next generation of conservation and convinced us that the sage-grouse population has a bright future in the Bi-State region."

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Just in from Capitol Hill


Farmers urge lawmakers to preserve strong patent system


Washington—Concerned that the Innovation Act (H.R. 9) will discourage investment in modern agricultural tools important to rural America, the American Farm Bureau Federation and more than two dozen other farmer organizations and agricultural companies urged Senate and House Judiciary Committee leaders to proceed with caution as they consider making changes to the U.S. patent system.

The bill, as written, will make patent rights more difficult to enforce and make it more challenging for companies and universities to cross-license agricultural technologies, the groups wrote in a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), as well as House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Ranking Member John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.).

“Agricultural innovation depends upon clear, predictable and enforceable patent rights,” according to the groups. “Without these patent rights, new products used to produce healthful food, protect crops, preserve the environment and improve human and animal health will be more costly to develop.”

The first U.S. Patent Act was enacted in 1790, with the most significant reforms taking place in 1836, 1952 and in 2011 with the America Invents Act. A bill identical to the Innovation Act was passed by the House in 2013.

At a House Judiciary Committee hearing last week, Goodlatte, chief sponsor of the bill, said the Innovation Act targets current abusive patent litigation practices.

In their letter, the groups did not rule out any changes to the patent system, but encouraged lawmakers to carefully consider the impact of any changes to the patent system on the agricultural community.

Companies and universities expend tremendous resources to research and develop economically and environmentally beneficial technologies to help feed, fuel, clothe and heal people and animals. It can easily take a decade or more and more than $100 million to commercialize a single product. Patents are critical to ensure a return on investments of time and money, which is why Farm Bureau and other agricultural organizations are worried about weakening the patent system.

“We look forward to working with you and your colleagues to ensure that any changes to the U.S. patent system are narrow, targeted and drafted to avoid damaging agricultural innovation,” they wrote.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Just in from Middleton




Planting underway in Canyon County
Middleton--Potato planting is underway at Mike Wagner farms near Middleton.  Be aware of big farm equipment on rural roadways as planters move from field to field.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Just in from Washington

House passes bill to eliminate estate taxes


Washington—In their first vote on estate tax repeal in 10 years, House lawmakers passed the Death Tax Repeal Act of 2015, bringing farmers and ranchers one step closer to tax reform that will help their families invest in the future and pass their businesses onto the next generation, according to American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman.

“Farmers’ and ranchers’ assets are tied up in the land, not sitting in a bank. And farm families certainly don’t have cash on hand to pay a double tax at death,” Stallman said in a statement. “This leaves many surviving family members with few options other than selling off part or all of their land to pay estate taxes. Too often, cashing in these assets can cripple their business.”

Many farmers have benefited greatly from previous congressional action that increased the estate tax exemption to $5 million indexed for inflation, provided portability between spouses, and continued stepped-up basis, Stallman noted in a letter urging House lawmakers to approve the repeal bill. Instead of spending money on life insurance and estate planning, many farmers today can expand their businesses, upgrade buildings and purchase needed equipment and livestock.

“And more importantly, they can continue farming when a family member dies without having to sell land, livestock or equipment to pay the tax,” Stallman wrote.

Still, estate taxes continue to be a problem for farmers and ranchers for a couple of reasons. First, the indexed estate tax exemption is still working to catch up with the increase in farmland values over the past several years. Second, the value of family-owned farms and ranches is usually tied to illiquid assets, such as land, buildings and equipment.

“When estate taxes on an agricultural business exceed cash and other liquid assets, surviving family partners have few options other than to sell off farm and ranch assets, jeopardizing the viability of their business,” Stallman explained. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Just in


House committee chairs wants evidence from EPA on drafting WOTUS rule

 Washington—A number of House committee chairmen have asked EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy for documents to confirm whether or not USDA has done any quantitative analysis on how the proposed “waters of the United States” rule would affect farmers, ranchers and farm programs. The chairmen fear the rule could ultimately lead to the unlawful expansion of federal jurisdiction, resulting in significant costs for routine farming, ranching and forestry practices. Among other things, the rule would expand federal control over land features such as ditches and areas of agricultural land that are wet only during storms.

 “The committees are interested in ensuring that in the course of promulgating the definition of ‘waters of the United States,’ [agriculture and forestry] stakeholder voices are being heard and taken into consideration. Congress is obligated to ensure the integrity and transparency of the rulemaking process. The American people, including farmers and ranchers, have a right to be assured their voices are being heard by the administration,” wrote House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway (R-Texas), House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), and House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas).

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Just in

NRCS Hydrologist Ron Abramovich measures snowpack in the Boise Basin

Snowpack Melts Early Across the West

WASHINGTON-Despite a series of storms this week, western snowpacks are melting earlier than usual, according to data from the  fourth 2015 forecast by the United States Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service.
"Almost all of the West Coast continues to have record low snowpack," NRCS Hydrologist David Garen said. "March was warm and dry in most of the West; as a result, snow is melting earlier than usual."
Historically, April 1 is the peak snowpack. This year, the peak came earlier. There was little snow accumulation in March, and much of the existing snow has already melted.
"The only holdouts are higher elevations in the Rockies," said Garen. "Look at the map and you'll see that almost everywhere else is red." Red indicates less than half of the normal snowpack remains.
A consequence of the early snowmelt is that Western states will have reduced streamflow later this spring and summer.
In Western states where snowmelt accounts for the majority of seasonal water supply, information about snowpack serves as an indicator of  future water availability. Streamflow in the West consists largely of accumulated mountain snow that melts and flows into streams as temperatures warm in spring and summer. National Water and Climate Center scientists analyze the snowpack, precipitation, air temperature and other measurements taken from remote sites to develop the water supply forecasts.
NRCS monitors conditions year-round and will continue to issue monthly forecasts until June. The water supply forecast is part of several USDA efforts to improve public awareness and manage the impacts of climate change, including drought and other extreme weather events. Through the creation of the National Drought Resilience Partnership, launched as part of the President's Climate Action Plan, federal agencies are working closely with states, tribes and local governments to develop a coordinated response to drought.
Since 1939, USDA has conducted snow surveys and issued regular water supply forecasts. Other resources on drought include the  U.S. Drought MonitorThis is an external link or third-party site outside of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website.. For information on USDA's drought efforts, visit  USDA Disaster and Drought Information. And to learn more about how NRCS is helping private landowners deal with drought, visit the  NRCS' drought resources.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Caldwell Teen Meets with President Obama


Kimberly Lopez was one of 19 Idaho teens chosen to launch Idaho's 4-H Food Smart Families teen program after training at the University of Idaho. Lopez met with President Barack Obama at the White House on Monday.

Serving Rural America’s Kids and Families

Washington--Every parent’s wish is for their children to thrive and prosper. Yet, too many of our nation’s families still live in poverty, despite doing their best to make ends meet. Rural families and children have additional challenges as schools, healthcare services, healthy food choices, jobs, and other opportunities are often miles away in a different town, county or even state. The Obama Administration is committed to these families, and believes that all children — no matter where they live —  should have an opportunity to succeed.
Today, President Obama and I met with eight members of the National 4-H community in the Oval Office. Each one of them had an inspiring story about how they are opening up new doors for kids in their hometowns, and how this work is building stronger communities where they can learn, play and grow.
We wanted to take a moment to introduce you to these young leaders and tell you about the projects that encouraged President Obama to invite them to the White House to say “thank you”.  Investing in kids like these is an investment in America’s future.
The White House Rural Council, which I Chair, is taking on rural child poverty as a top priority. Learn more about our plan to leverage federal resources and partner with others to help these families succeed.  We will be working directly with kids and families to help them create more opportunities for themselves, their communities and their future.
You too can be a part of the solution. Visit serve.gov and use #ServeRural to help us build up one community at a time – starting with yours.


Monday, April 13, 2015

Just in


USDA corn and soybean plantings forecast increases

Washington—The Agriculture Department’s Prospective Plantings report indicates that compared to 2014 farmers will plant more acres of soybeans but fewer acres of corn this spring. According to the American Farm Bureau, the USDA raised its estimates on corn and soybean acreage from the numbers released at the annual USDA outlook forum in February. Prospective planting estimates for corn increased from 89.0 million acres to 89.2 million.

Soybean estimates increased from 83.5 million to 84.6 million acres. “The increase in corn was a bit of a surprise, and the market has not responded favorably,” said John Anderson, American Farm Bureau’s deputy chief economist. Corn futures dropped by around 15 cents a bushel with this news, but the soybean market has remained relatively stable. But “it’s not too late for late acreage shifts,” Anderson noted. “So if corn is down that affects soybeans prices as well.” Other feedgrains (grain sorghum, barley and oats) are all projected to be up from last year. The combined increase for these three crops is almost 1.3 million acres.

According to Farm Bureau, that almost completely offsets the projected year-over-year decline in corn acreage. All wheat acreage is projected at 55.4 million acres, which is a little lower than USDA’s February estimate. Cotton acreage is also down for 2015, projected at 9.55 million acres. If realized, that will be a 13 percent decline in cotton plantings compared to last year.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Just in



WARM AND DRY CONDITIONS INCREASE THE PROBABILITY OF WATER SHORTAGES

Boise – Warm, dry conditions dominated the March weather scene in Idaho. Above normal temperatures combined with well below normal precipitation induced major declines in the mountainous snowpack and greatly increased the probability of water shortages in Idaho this summer.

“March’s snow water content typically increases during the month, but not this year,” said Ron Abramovich, NRCS Water Supply Specialist. “As a result, irrigation water shortages are expected across many of Idaho’s central and southern basins.” 

Several basins across the state showed substantial decreases in snowpack or melted out well in advance of their typical dates. Declines of 20 to 30 percent were common across southern Idaho, with central Idaho basins from Weiser to the Mud Lake area taking the hardest hit. Of the 137 SNOTEL sites statewide, only 30 sites reported net snow accumulation in March. Several basins in the Upper Snake have snowpacks at approximately 90 percent, but almost half of basins across Idaho are at 50 percent or less of median.

Reservoir levels also varied greatly across the state, ranging from 19 to 99 percent full.  With the warm, dry spring, crops are requiring water now and natural precipitation is not meeting early growing season needs. If reservoirs are drafted early to meet irrigation demands, many will likely reach their minimal storage levels before summer’s end.

Streamflow forecasts have continued to decline for the third consecutive month.  Flows in the Big Lost, Little Wood, Big Wood, Coeur d’Alene, Owyhee and Bear basins are forecast to be near record lows.  The highest streamflow forecasts are 80 to 90 percent of average in the northern Panhandle and Montana rivers flowing into Idaho (the Selway River and three Upper Snake tributaries, Pacific Creek, Buffalo Fork, and Greys).  

Above normal summer temperatures are expected, and the meager mountain snow that remains will not sustain flows in most of Idaho’s streams for long.  Pull out your hiking shoes, fishing poles, bikes, and boats and get ready to take advantage of Idaho’s many outdoor recreational opportunities a little early this year.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Just in


Blackfoot--The work is never done on the Dalley Ranch...Chris and Kimmel Dalley own land and cattle in Pingree and Arizona but they don’t need to hire help because it’s a family business and the girls are an active part of their ranching operation. (Kimmel Dalley photo)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Just in


Over $1 Million in Funding Available to Improve Sage Grouse Habitat in Idaho

Boise – Farmers and ranchers interested in improving sage-grouse habitat in Idaho have a second opportunity to apply for funding this year.  The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service  has approximately $1.2 million in Sage-Grouse Initiative funding available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.  Applications must be received by May 29, 2015.  

Sage-grouse have experienced a significant decline in population over several decades due to a number of factors, such as land fragmentation, invasive species, unsustainable grazing systems, and conifer encroachment.  These birds are highly dependent on sagebrush for food and cover, requiring habitat throughout the year for nesting, brood-rearing, and over-wintering. 

“Many of the known threats to sage-grouse are the same factors that impact the sustainability and productivity of Idaho’s grazing lands,” said Ron Brooks, Idaho NRCS EQIP manager.  “Participating in SGI is a great way for farmers and ranchers to simultaneously improve habitat for sage-grouse and the sustainability of their agricultural lands.” 

Several Idaho ranchers are already using SGI to proactively improve sage-grouse habitat along with conditions on their rangeland.  Some of these projects include:

-          Developing or modifying grazing systems to improve cover for birds and forage availability for livestock.
-          Controlling noxious or invasive herbaceous species and/or improving plant diversity to improve cover, increase forage resources, and promote chick survival.
-          Marking or moving fences in high-risk areas to reduce sage-grouse collisions and mortality.
-          Removing encroached conifers in sagebrush communities to improve habitat for sage-grouse and other wildlife species while increasing available forage for livestock.

Eligible applications received by May 29, 2015 will be ranked and considered for funding.  For more information on the initiative, contact your local NRCS field office or visit our Web site at http://www.id.nrcs.usda.gov and click on the Landscape Initiatives link under the Programs heading. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Just in


House Ag Committee passes pesticide permit-fix legislation

Washington—With recent passage by the House Agriculture Committee, the Farm Bureau-supported Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2015 (H.R. 897) is one step closer to moving to the House floor for a vote. The legislation would clarify congressional intent regarding pesticide regulation in or near waters of the United States. 

A 2009 decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit erroneously applied the provisions of the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permitting process under the Clean Water Act to pesticide applications that were already fully regulated under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

“There is no reason for this permit requirement, which would do nothing to further protect the environment or water quality,” explained Don Parrish, American Farm Bureau Federation Clean Water Act specialist. “At worst, farmers and ranchers will lose crops while they’re waiting for a federal permit to allow them to control pests, and state and federal workers will waste time processing unnecessary permits.” 

Federal law requires that EPA evaluate pesticides and label them for proper use before they go onto the market. That evaluation process includes potential impacts on water quality.

“FIFRA was enacted more than 50 years ago, and it establishes a rigorous process of agency evaluation and scientific assessment of how a pesticide’s use will affect the environment. Requiring Clean Water Act permits on top of EPA-approved registration is all cost and no benefit,” Parrish said. 

Furthermore, it was never Congress’ intent to saddle farmers with additional permit requirements that would have little to no environmental benefit. “This bill would help keep this from happening,” according to Parrish.

The legislation is also under the jurisdiction of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which has a history of bipartisan support for the bill. House leaders have not indicated when they will bring the bill up on the floor, but similar legislation was passed in the House in 2011 (H.R. 872) and 2014 (H.R. 935). 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Just in


New bill furthers national conversation on GMO labeling

Washington—Farmers and ranchers welcomed the introduction today of the bipartisan Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, which will clarify the FDA as the nation’s foremost authority on food safety and create a voluntary labeling program run by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, the same agency that administers the USDA Organic Program. 

The legislation will provide a federal solution to protect consumers from a confusing patchwork of 50-state GMO labeling policies, and the misinformation and high food costs that would come with them. 

“State-led mandatory food labeling initiatives mislead consumers about the safety of GM foods, even though there is no credible evidence linking a food-safety or health risk to the consumption of GM foods,” American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said in a statement. “These state labeling initiatives mask the benefits of biotechnology in food production and can lead to decreased food supplies. Creating a national labeling standard will give consumers the information they need while avoiding the unnecessary confusion and added cost of a patchwork of state laws.”

The GMO labeling ballot initiatives and legislative efforts that many state lawmakers and voters are facing are geared toward making people wrongly fear what they’re eating and feeding their children, despite the fact that every credible U.S. and international food safety authority that has studied GMO crops has found that they are safe and that there are no health effects associated with their use.

In addition, much of the activity at the state level undermines the public’s understanding of the many benefits of biotechnology. GMO crops use less water and pesticides, boost farm yields by reducing damage and damage-control costs and are key to feeding a growing world population of 7 billion people.

The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act protects consumers on two fronts. First, it requires FDA to conduct a safety review of all new GMO traits well before they’re available on supermarket shelves and empowers the agency to mandate the labeling of GMO food ingredients if the agency determines there is a health, safety or nutrition issue with a new GMO technology. 

Second, it will ensure farmers and ranchers have access to the technology they need to provide consumers with the variety of food options and price points they expect, and need. This legislation will ensure food safety is the leading driver of a national labeling policy, while maintaining the affordability of the U.S. food supply. 

The bill will not prevent companies from voluntarily labeling their products for the absence or presence of GMO ingredients, but would instead direct USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service to create a voluntary labeling program.

In his statement, Stallman noted farmers’ and ranchers’ appreciation for the bipartisan leadership of the bills’ sponsors, Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) and G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.).
“Consumers have a right to know what’s in their food, but they shouldn’t be misinformed about what’s safe, or forced to pay higher prices unnecessarily. Thanks to innovation, farmers and ranchers have new and improved methods to increase their efficiency while preserving farm land for generations to come. Farmers benefit from choice and so should consumers,” Stallman said.
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Farming underway!

Spring Farming 2015

Emmett--Gem County farmers take to the fields! Steve Ethington preparing planted wheat crop for water

Friday, April 3, 2015

Just in

Beef and Pork Prices Up, OJ Too

WASHINGTON – Higher retail prices for several foods, including sirloin tip roast, ground chuck, deli ham and orange juice, resulted in a slight increase in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Spring Picnic Marketbasket survey.
The informal survey shows the total cost of 16 food items that can be used to prepare one or more meals was $53.87, up $.60 or about 1 percent compared to a survey conducted a year ago. Of the 16 items surveyed, eight increased and eight decreased in average price.
 Listen to Newsline audio featuring American Farm Bureau Economist Veronica Nigh.


Click on the graphic for a high resolution version.
“Several meat items increased in price, accounting for much of the modest increase in the marketbasket,” said John Anderson, AFBF’s deputy chief economist. “The 1 percent increase shown by our survey tracks closely with the Agriculture Department’s forecast of 2 percent to 3 percent food inflation for 2015,” he said.
Items showing retail price increases from a year ago included:
  • sirloin tip roast, up 14 percent to $5.71 per pound
  • ground chuck, up 12 percent to $4.61 per pound
  • orange juice, up 7 percent to $3.47 per half-gallon
  • toasted oat cereal, up 7 percent to $3.12 for a 9-ounce box
  • deli ham, up 6 percent to $5.53 per pound
  • eggs, up 4 percent to $2.05 per dozen
  • shredded cheddar cheese, up 3 percent to $4.59 per pound
  • potatoes, up 2 percent to $2.74 for a 5-pound bag
  • These items showed modest retail price decreases compared to a year ago:
  • flour, down 9 percent to $2.52 for a 5-pound bag
  • bacon, down 8 percent to $4.44 per pound
  • apples, down 8 percent to $1.47 per pound
  • chicken breast, down 7 percent to $3.28 per pound
  • whole milk, down 6 percent to $3.45 per gallon
  • vegetable oil, down 6 percent to $2.67 for a 32-ounce bottle
  • bagged salad, down 5 percent to $2.47 per pound
  • white bread, down 3 percent to $1.75 per 20-ounce loaf
Price checks of alternative milk and egg choices not included in the overall marketbasket survey average revealed the following: 1/2 gallon regular milk, $2.24; 1/2 gallon organic milk, $4.47; and one dozen “cage-free” eggs, $3.57.
The year-to-year direction of the marketbasket survey tracks closely with the federal government’s Consumer Price Index (http://www.bls.gov/cpi/) report for food at home. As retail grocery prices have increased gradually over time, the share of the average food dollar that America’s farm and ranch families receive has dropped.
“Through the mid-1970s, farmers received about one-third of consumer retail food expenditures for food eaten at home and away from home, on average. Since then, that figure has decreased steadily and is now about 16 percent, according to the Agriculture Department’s revised Food Dollar Series,” Anderson said.
Using the “food at home and away from home” percentage across-the-board, the farmer’s share of this $53.87 marketbasket would be $8.62.
AFBF, the nation’s largest general farm organization, began conducting informal quarterly marketbasket surveys of retail food price trends in 1989. The series includes a spring picnic survey, summer cookout survey, fall harvest survey and Thanksgiving survey.
According to USDA, Americans spend just under 10 percent of their disposable annual income on food, the lowest average of any country in the world. A total of 86 shoppers in 29 states participated in the latest survey, conducted in March.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Just in from Gem County


Irrigation season underway in Gem County
Emmett--Farmer Vaughn Jensen (left) and irrigation district Superintendent Mike Mitchell view the new construction work completed this spring on the main irrigation canal feeding over 64,000 acres of farmland in Gem and Payette counties in Idaho

Just in


Virus Infecting Southern Idaho Wheat, Barley Crops, Forcing Tough Choices for Growers

IDAHO FALLS — University of Idaho plant disease specialist Juliet Marshall is warning farmers that winter wheat and barley crops across southern Idaho are showing a disturbing echo of last summer’s abnormal wet spell.

Barley yellow dwarf virus, a major disease threat to wheat and barley, is rampant from Parma to Ririe, said Marshall, a UI Extension cereal pathologist.

An early spring that put wheat and barley crops three to four weeks ahead of average across southern Idaho helped highlight the problem.

The first symptoms of the viral disease began showing up in fields in early March, Marshall warned farmers in an advisory issued Friday. Twice in the past two weeks she has traveled across southern Idaho to gather more information.

In most areas, 85 to 95 percent of winter wheat fields are showing nearly total viral infection. Lab tests conducted in collaboration with UI Extension entomologist Arash Rashed confirmed the virus in samples from throughout the southern portion of the state. Some growers, Marshall said, are killing infected fields, plowing and reseeding with spring grains or dry beans. 

The virus can greatly reduce yields, test weight and plumps. As a result, infected winter wheat may be suitable only for use as livestock grains after harvest. Infected winter barley probably will not be high enough quality for use in malting.

The wheat growers face the worst scenario because winter wheat is that grain’s biggest segment. Barley growers, however, typically rely on spring-planted grains for the bulk of their malt-quality production, their highest value crop.

Still, Marshall said, facing a dry year and advanced growing season leaves growers facing very tough agronomic and financial decisions.

More information is available at www.uidaho.edu/extension/cereals/scseidaho.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Just in from Washington

New bill furthers national conversation on GMO labeling



Washington—Farmers and ranchers welcomed the introduction today of the bipartisan Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, which will clarify the FDA as the nation’s foremost authority on food safety and create a voluntary labeling program run by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, the same agency that administers the USDA Organic Program.

The legislation will provide a federal solution to protect consumers from a confusing patchwork of 50-state GMO labeling policies, and the misinformation and high food costs that would come with them.

“State-led mandatory food labeling initiatives mislead consumers about the safety of GM foods, even though there is no credible evidence linking a food-safety or health risk to the consumption of GM foods,” American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said in a statement. “These state labeling initiatives mask the benefits of biotechnology in food production and can lead to decreased food supplies. Creating a national labeling standard will give consumers the information they need while avoiding the unnecessary confusion and added cost of a patchwork of state laws.”

The GMO labeling ballot initiatives and legislative efforts that many state lawmakers and voters are facing are geared toward making people wrongly fear what they’re eating and feeding their children, despite the fact that every credible U.S. and international food safety authority that has studied GMO crops has found that they are safe and that there are no health effects associated with their use.

In addition, much of the activity at the state level undermines the public’s understanding of the many benefits of biotechnology. GMO crops use less water and pesticides, boost farm yields by reducing damage and damage-control costs and are key to feeding a growing world population of 7 billion people.

The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act protects consumers on two fronts. First, it requires FDA to conduct a safety review of all new GMO traits well before they’re available on supermarket shelves and empowers the agency to mandate the labeling of GMO food ingredients if the agency determines there is a health, safety or nutrition issue with a new GMO technology.

Second, it will ensure farmers and ranchers have access to the technology they need to provide consumers with the variety of food options and price points they expect, and need. This legislation will ensure food safety is the leading driver of a national labeling policy, while maintaining the affordability of the U.S. food supply.

The bill will not prevent companies from voluntarily labeling their products for the absence or presence of GMO ingredients, but would instead direct USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service to create a voluntary labeling program.

In his statement, Stallman noted farmers’ and ranchers’ appreciation for the bipartisan leadership of the bills’ sponsors, Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) and G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.).
“Consumers have a right to know what’s in their food, but they shouldn’t be misinformed about what’s safe, or forced to pay higher prices unnecessarily. Thanks to innovation, farmers and ranchers have new and improved methods to increase their efficiency while preserving farm land for generations to come. Farmers benefit from choice and so should consumers,” Stallman said.

Ranchers moving cattle

Murphy--The last vestige of winter is leaving SW Idaho behind. Ranchers are moving cattle, some to market the rest to the spring range to ...