Sunday, May 31, 2015

Just in



Idaho Water Board approves $10.5 million for Snake Plain Aquifer recharge projects in FY 2016 

IDAHO FALLS – The Idaho Water Resource Board adopted a $10.5 million budget for fiscal year 2016 to expand Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer (ESPA) recharge projects and develop aquifer stabilization projects statewide.

Set during the Board’s two-day meeting in Idaho Falls, May 21-22, the budget includes $6.25 million in recharge infrastructure development and improvements and $1.2 million for recharge operations on the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer. The $6.25 million in aquifer recharge infrastructure development and improvements will go toward six projects:
  Milner-Gooding Canal - Concrete flume rehabilitation and bypass structures for hydropower plants
 Twin Falls Canal recharge improvements
 Northside Canal hydro plant bypasses
 Great Feeder Canal recharge improvements
 Milner Pool development and other projects
 Egin Recharge enlargement within the Fremont-Madison Irrigation District

 In addition, the board approved $300,000 for investigation of additional aquifer recharge capacity and $200,000 for ground water conservation grants. All the improvements are designed to increase the capacity of the Water Board's managed aquifer program, which went into full-scale operation during the past winter. The Board placed top priority on shovel-ready projects that can be implemented in the near term while initiating the necessary technical planning efforts to develop long-term projects.

 "All of these projects will fund important infrastructure improvements to allow for increased aquifer recharge activities in the coming year," Water Board Chairman Roger Chase said. The Board is focused on issues in areas of the state with declining aquifers or that have existing or potential water use conflicts between ground water and surface water users. The ESPA is the most widely known among these declining aquifers. Other areas with ground water level concerns include the Big Wood River, Mountain Home area, Treasure Valley, and Palouse basin.

The volume of water in the ESPA has been declining by about 200,000 acre-feet per year since the early 1950s. The declines are attributed to changes in irrigation practices, increased ground water pumping, and periodic drought cycles. The transition from flood irrigation to sprinkler irrigation along with a shift from the delivery of surface water through unlined canals to ground water pumping significantly reduced the amount of seepage, or “incidental recharge,” that historically helped to replenish the aquifer.

 The ESPA is an important source of drinking water for cities and rural residents, commercial and industrial businesses, and ground water irrigators. The reduction of incidental recharge and increased ground water pumping from the aquifer has led to a reduction in spring flow near American Falls Reservoir and Thousand Springs near Hagerman. Springs are a critical source of water for aquaculture operations in the vicinity, and they provide a major source of water for the Snake River downstream.

Stabilization of the ESPA is critical to prevent future ground water user-versus-surface water user conflicts and to maintain minimum flow requirements in the Snake River at Swan Falls. In addition to aquifer recharge, the Board is pursuing other strategies such as ground water-to-surface water conversions, conservation/water demand reductions, weather modification (cloud seeding), and surface water storage to promote aquifer stabilization and sustainability. In other action, the Water Board:
  Approved a $500,000 loan increase for improvements for a water delivery system in the Preston, Idaho area as part of the Board’s Financial Program.
  Approved funding for a pipeline concept study for a project to provide reliable water supplies to the Mountain Home Air Force Base. Board members also toured potential managed recharge sites within the Freemont-Madison Irrigation District and Great Feeder Canal Comp

Friday, May 29, 2015

Just in

BLM, U.S. Forest Service Plans for Western Public Lands Provide for Greater Sage-Grouse Protection, Balanced Development 

CHEYENNE– The Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service today released final environmental reviews for proposed land use plans that will help conserve greater sage-grouse habitat and support sustainable economic development on portions of public lands in 10 states across the West. The land management plans, developed during the past three years in partnership with the states and with input from local partners, will benefit wildlife, outdoor recreation, ranching and other traditional land uses that rely on a healthy sagebrush landscape.
The updated plans are an essential element of an unprecedented and proactive strategy to respond to the deteriorating health of the American West's sagebrush landscapes and declining population of the greater sage-grouse, a ground-dwelling bird under consideration by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) for protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). 
The collaborative federal-state effort includes three key elements to conserve the sagebrush landscape, which faces threats from fire, invasive species and encroaching development: a comprehensive strategy to fight rangeland fire, strong conservation plans for federal public lands, and conservation actions on state and private lands. 
"The West is rapidly changing – with increasingly intense wildfires, invasive species and development altering the sagebrush landscape and threatening wildlife, ranching and our outdoor heritage," said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. "As land managers of two-thirds of greater sage-grouse habitat, we have a responsibility to take action that ensures a bright future for wildlife and a thriving western economy. Together with conservation efforts from states and private landowners, we are laying an important foundation to save the disappearing sagebrush landscape of the American West." 
The plans contain three common approaches:
1) Minimizing new or additional surface disturbance – The plans seek to reduce habitat fragmentation and protect intact habitat by implementing surface disturbance caps on development, minimizing surface occupancy from energy development, and identifying buffer distances around leks – areas critical to the sage-grouse life-cycle – to be considered during project implementation.
2) Improving habitat condition – While restoring lost sagebrush habitat is difficult in the short term, it is often possible to enhance habitat quality through purposeful management. Where there are unavoidable impacts to habitat from development, the plans will require mitigation to enhance and improve sage-grouse habitat.
3) Reduce threat of rangeland fire – Rangeland fire can lead to the conversion of previously healthy sagebrush habitat into non-native, cheatgrass-dominated landscapes. Experts have identified wildfire as one of the greatest threats to sagebrush habitat, particularly in the Great Basin region of Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Oregon and California. The plans seek to fight the spread of cheatgrass and other invasive species, position wildland fire management resources for more effective rangeland fire response, and accelerate the restoration of fire-impacted landscapes to native grasses and sagebrush. 
Individual proposed plans contain variations where different approaches or priorities were consistent with overall conservation objectives. To learn more about the BLM-USFS plans for each state, visit www.blm/sagegrouse
The vast majority of federal lands within the priority sage-grouse habitat have zero to low potential for oil and gas, solar, and wind energy development. The plans limit surface occupancy within priority habitat areas for oil and gas; however, technological advances in horizontal drilling make it possible to conserve sensitive habitats while still developing subsurface resources. A fact sheet on the proposed plans is available  here.
Over the last four years, USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and its partners in the Sage-Grouse InitiativeThis is an external link or third-party site outside of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website. have worked with more than 1,100 private landowners to restore 4.4 million acres of habitat for sage-grouse while maintaining working landscapes.
More than 350 other species rely on a healthy sagebrush habitat, including elk, mule deer, pronghorn and golden eagles. Greater sage-grouse habitat currently covers 165 million acres across 11 states in the West, representing a loss of 56 percent of the species' historic range. At one time, the greater sage-grouse population likely numbered in the millions, but is estimated to have dwindled to 200,000 to 500,000 birds range-wide. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Just in


Lewiston--The Port of Lewiston learned earlier this spring that its largest container shipper would no longer transport cargo on the Columbia River.

 Port of Lewiston commissioners met with farmers and shippers Thursday...The closure could drastically impact wheat and the garbanzo bean crop.

Just in


Simpson Denounces EPA WOTUS Rule

Washington - Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson today issued the following statement following the EPA’s announcement finalizing the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. 

“I find it extremely disappointing, though not surprising, that the EPA has moved forward on this controversial rule in spite of widespread opposition from Members of Congress, the states, and the American public,” said Simpson.  “In Idaho, water is life, and I don’t intend to sit back and watch the EPA take control of state waters, leaving Idaho farmers, ranchers, and landowners at the mercy of federal regulations.”

Simpson chairs the appropriations subcommittee overseeing the budget for the US Army Corps of Engineers and sits on the subcommittee overseeing the budget for the EPA.  In those roles, he has authored language passed by the House that would prevent the EPA and the US Army Corps of Engineers from expanding their regulatory jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act.  He has also cosponsored a number of legislative provisions addressing this issue.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Just in



Sustainability should be off the table in federal dietary guidelines


Washington—While farmers and ranchers strongly support work on agricultural sustainability, there is no scientific basis for incorporating sustainability concepts in federal dietary guidelines, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

In comments regarding the scientific report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, Farm Bureau noted that the government’s dietary guidelines strongly influence policy development, program administration and delivery and the educational message directed toward American consumers with respect to food and nutrition issues, which makes it imperative that the Health and Human Services Department and USDA base the guidelines on well-established, widely accepted scientific evidence.

“Unfortunately, the scientific report of the advisory committee goes well beyond its designated scope of work, delivering a report that strongly suggests the committee would base dietary guidelines on more than health and nutrition considerations. The report includes an extensive section on the topic of sustainability, citing a need ‘to have alignment and consistency in dietary guidance that promotes both health and sustainability,’” Farm Bureau said, quoting directly from the report.

Not only is the concept of sustainability too vague to merit inclusion in the work of a committee that has explicitly been directed to be concerned with the concrete issues of human nutrition, the committee’s reliance on highly flawed reports and research—like the United Nation’s 2006 report, Livestock’s Long Shadow—is not a sound basis for a fair and objective discussion of the issue.

While the committee stops short of explicitly calling for the incorporation of sustainability into dietary guidelines, Farm Bureau said it was very concerned that the committee is already implicitly doing so by rather drastically changing past recommendations on meat consumption.

“Past reports have uniformly included a positive reference to the inclusion of lean meat as part of a healthy diet,” the organization said in its comments. “This report includes no such positive statement. In fact, in the body of the report, the only references to meat are negative.”

The numerous negative references to livestock products appear to be grounded almost exclusively in their perceived environmental impact. “Based on the widely recognized role that meat and dairy products can play in a healthy diet, we would urge USDA and HHS to restore positive statements about those products that have been a common feature of dietary guidelines in the past.”

In addition, the committee further strayed from its mission in advising that purchasing standards be applied to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Women, Infants, and Children program to “discourage” the consumption of foods the committee thinks people should eat less often. The committee also twice mentioned implementing taxes on “unhealthy foods” to generate revenue to fund public health promotion efforts.

“The merit of these policy proposals, or lack thereof, is not the issue,” according to Farm Bureau. “Rather the issue is that in advocating specific policy solutions, the scientific advisory committee has exceeded its mandate simply to support the development of nutrition guidelines and it has done so in a far more activist tone than previous advisory committees.”

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Just in


Senate approves TPA bill


Washington—The Senate’s bipartisan passage of trade promotion authority legislation brings the U.S. a step closer to completing ambitious trade negotiations around the world, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

“Congressional support is critical to breaking down trade barriers and completing ambitious new trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership. TPA streamlines negotiations and strengthens our position at the bargaining table,” AFBF President Bob Stallman said in a statement. “We urge the House now to act swiftly in passing trade promotion authority to protect the future of agricultural trade.”

Stallman said the organization appreciated Sens. Orrin Hatch’s (R-Utah) and Ron Wyden’s (D-Ore.) leadership on the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (S. 995). He also thanked Majority Leader McConnell (R-Ky.) for his commitment to moving trade forward.
- See more at: http://fbnews.fb.org/Templates/Article.aspx?id=39638#sthash.lFzh6WRj.dpuf

Friday, May 22, 2015

Just in


Sustainability should be off the table in federal dietary guidelines



Washington—While farmers and ranchers strongly support work on agricultural sustainability, there is no scientific basis for incorporating sustainability concepts in federal dietary guidelines, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

In comments regarding the scientific report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, Farm Bureau noted that the government’s dietary guidelines strongly influence policy development, program administration and delivery and the educational message directed toward American consumers with respect to food and nutrition issues, which makes it imperative that the Health and Human Services Department and USDA base the guidelines on well-established, widely accepted scientific evidence.

“Unfortunately, the scientific report of the advisory committee goes well beyond its designated scope of work, delivering a report that strongly suggests the committee would base dietary guidelines on more than health and nutrition considerations. The report includes an extensive section on the topic of sustainability, citing a need ‘to have alignment and consistency in dietary guidance that promotes both health and sustainability,’” Farm Bureau said, quoting directly from the report.

Not only is the concept of sustainability too vague to merit inclusion in the work of a committee that has explicitly been directed to be concerned with the concrete issues of human nutrition, the committee’s reliance on highly flawed reports and research—like the United Nation’s 2006 report, Livestock’s Long Shadow—is not a sound basis for a fair and objective discussion of the issue.

While the committee stops short of explicitly calling for the incorporation of sustainability into dietary guidelines, Farm Bureau said it was very concerned that the committee is already implicitly doing so by rather drastically changing past recommendations on meat consumption.

“Past reports have uniformly included a positive reference to the inclusion of lean meat as part of a healthy diet,” the organization said in its comments. “This report includes no such positive statement. In fact, in the body of the report, the only references to meat are negative.”

The numerous negative references to livestock products appear to be grounded almost exclusively in their perceived environmental impact. “Based on the widely recognized role that meat and dairy products can play in a healthy diet, we would urge USDA and HHS to restore positive statements about those products that have been a common feature of dietary guidelines in the past.”

In addition, the committee further strayed from its mission in advising that purchasing standards be applied to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Women, Infants, and Children program to “discourage” the consumption of foods the committee thinks people should eat less often. The committee also twice mentioned implementing taxes on “unhealthy foods” to generate revenue to fund public health promotion efforts.

“The merit of these policy proposals, or lack thereof, is not the issue,” according to Farm Bureau. “Rather the issue is that in advocating specific policy solutions, the scientific advisory committee has exceeded its mandate simply to support the development of nutrition guidelines and it has done so in a far more activist tone than previous advisory committees.”

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Just in from Washington

WTO rejects COOL ruling appeal


Washington—With the World Trade Organization dispute panel’s ruling that U.S. Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) regulations for meats are not in compliance with previous WTO decisions, further efforts must be made to craft an acceptable COOL program, according to American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman.

“Farm Bureau will carefully review the decision and then determine recommended actions,” Stallman said in a statement. “We will work with Congress, USDA and USTR to reach the goal of an effective COOL program that conforms to international trade rules.”

The appellate panel reviewed, at the request of the U.S., the October 2014 dispute settlement panel’s decision against the U.S. on the amended COOL rules. These rules were developed in response to the WTO appellate body ruling in June 2012 that the COOL meat labeling rules, issued in Jan. 2009 by USDA, unfairly discriminated against livestock raised in Canada and Mexico. The May 2013 rules from USDA added additional labeling requirements, including the country locations where the animals were born, raised and slaughtered.

The appellate panel confirmed the earlier decision that the amended COOL rules accorded less favorable treatment to imported livestock than to U.S. livestock. The panel determined that the COOL rules provided an advantage to U.S. livestock producers due to the extra costs associated with segregating animals.

The recent ruling allows Canada and Mexico to ask the WTO to determine a retaliation level, based on their losses due to the COOL regulations on meats. A WTO panel will then have 60 days to set the retaliation amount. Canada and Mexico could then impose retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods.

Introduction of legislation to address the COOL issue is expected. AFBF supports a country-of-origin labeling program that adheres to appropriate parameters and meets WTO requirements.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

President's Editorial

Quagga Mussels vs. Franklin County
by Frank Priestley, Idaho Farm Bureau President
Franklin County, Idaho is on the frontline in a battle with foreign invaders and leaders there are suggesting strong measures to keep the pests and the myriad problems they present – out.
Due to concerns that quagga mussels could be transported from infected Utah reservoirs, several irrigation reservoirs in Franklin County, popular with fishermen as well as water sport enthusiasts, will be closed to boats in mid to late July when funding for a state funded boat inspection program is expected to run out. The owners of the irrigation impoundments simply cannot afford to inspect boats on their own.
Quagga mussels, believed to have been transplanted to the Great Lakes in the late 1980’s in ballast water of foreign ships, have now spread and infected lakes and reservoirs in 28 states. Utah and Nevada are among the latest to make the list. If Idaho fails to protect its water, we can expect to see declining fisheries and clogged water transmission infrastructure that will hinder the ability to deliver irrigation water.
Quagga mussels are not the only foreign invader that present concern, but they could be the most destructive. These mussels filter plankton, which nearly every aquatic organism, including small fish, depend on for survival. They also multiply rapidly and accumulate on all kinds of underwater surfaces.
Franklin County reservoirs are popular with northern Utah boaters. Veligers, the microscopic larvae of quagga mussels, were recently discovered in Deer Creek Reservoir, located about 50 miles southeast of Salt Lake City. They are believed to have been transported there from Lake Powell, near Utah’s border with Arizona. Quagga mussels were found there in late 2013. All of the reservoirs downstream from Lake Powell on the Colorado River are now contaminated.
Franklin County Commissioners recently voted down an ordinance that would have made boat inspections mandatory, fine uninspected boat owners, as well as provided the authority to limit the number of boats launched per day and limited the size of boats on the most popular reservoirs in the County. The commissioners voted 2-1 under pressure mainly from fishermen, to keep the reservoirs open without more stringent regulations. In light of the commissioner’s vote, the irrigation companies have taken matters into their own hands. They know their decisions will not be popular but that is outweighed by the threat posed by these foreign invaders. Boaters and fishermen need to understand the gravity of this situation. Irrigation companies that cannot deliver water to shareholders are about as much good as a chicken wire canoe.
We believe it’s time for the State of Idaho to step up its enforcement programs and spend the money it takes to keep these pests out. At the present time, Idaho is contracting with private companies to inspect boats at 20 different locations. And from the inspections we’ve been privy too, they’re doing a lousy job. A quick walk-around and checking bilges for water doesn’t cut it. In actuality, we are lucky to have kept quagga mussels out of Idaho this long, if in fact we have. Our state program is run with good intentions and within its budget, but it lacks an enforcement component. It’s not a carbon copy, but it’s basically the same as Utah and Nevada and the other 26 infected states. It’s time to quit relying on a quasi-honor system and get a program with some teeth. At present we are waiting for the inevitable. 
One of the reasons why 28 states have failed to keep these pests out is, to do it right inconveniences people. Idaho’s boat inspection stations are only open during regular business hours – that needs to change. Any boat that crosses an Idaho border - especially if that boat has been in infected waters – should be stopped and carefully flushed and inspected. If the inspection station is closed the boat needs to wait and should not be allowed to proceed without being flushed. Video monitoring equipment may be needed to monitor border crossings.
One of the biggest problems with spreading quagga mussels around is they can live in a teaspoon of water for a long time. From bilges to live wells to cooling systems to ballast tanks, boats have literally hundreds of places to harbor these pests. They can even live on wet anchor lines. Another major problem is veligers can be present in a lake or reservoir for an unknown period of time before mature adult quagga mussels appear. That means we could be transporting them around without even knowing it.
The “Clean, Drain and Dry,” public relations campaign needs to be stepped up as well. There should be signs at every lake and reservoir that allows boats. Boat dealerships should also be called on to help educate boaters.
If these pests become established in Idaho we can expect declining fisheries, beaches littered with smelly, sharp shells, declining recreation opportunities across the board and increased costs relating to irrigation water delivery to farms. It’s impossible to predict the economic consequences it could have on Idaho’s economy but rest assured it will be dramatic. In addition, what legacy do we leave for future generations of Idaho residents if we allow these pests to become established on our watch? Idaho has been blessed with clean, unique and unspoiled waters. Let’s insist they stay that way.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Just in


USDA to Expand Investment in Water Conservation, Resilience across Drought-Stricken States

WASHINGTON-Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the Natural Resources Conservation Service will invest approximately $21 million in additional Farm Bill dollars to help farmers and ranchers apply science-based solutions to mitigate the short and long term effects of drought.

These investments will focus financial and technical assistance in the most severely drought-stricken areas in eight states to help crop and livestock producers apply conservation practices that increase irrigation efficiency, improve soil health and productivity, and ensure reliable water sources for livestock operations.

 "Since the historic drought of 2012, dry conditions have persisted in many parts of the country, particularly in the West," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. "Every day, NRCS conservationists work side-by-side with agricultural producers and help them conserve water and increase resilience in their operations. Today's investment will provide additional resources in drought-stricken areas to help farmers and ranchers implement solutions to mitigate the impacts of sustained drought."

 Today's announcement expands on the substantial efforts already underway to help producers conserve water, improve soil health and build long term agricultural resilience into their operations. Already this year, NRCS state offices have targeted significant portions of their fiscal year Environmental Quality Incentives Program allocations to address water conservation, soil health, and resilience.

 In California, for example, more than $27 million of fiscal year 2015 EQIP funding is directed towards beneficial drought management practices. With today's announcement, NRCS will provide an additional $21 million in technical and financial assistance through EQIP to target areas that are experiencing either exceptional or extreme drought conditions as of the May 5, 2015 U.S. Drought Monitor, which includes parts of California, Kansas, Idaho, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, and Utah.

 The EQIP funding will allow NRCS to help producers apply selected conservation practices to better deal with the effects of drought in their operations, including prescribed grazing, livestock watering facilities, cover crops, nutrient management, irrigation systems, and other water conservation practices.

On average, farmers and ranchers contribute half the cost of implementing conservation practices. Between 2012 and 2014, NRCS invested more than $1.5 billion in financial and technical assistance to help producers implement conservation practices that improve water use efficiency and build long term health of working crop, pasture, and range lands.

These practices include building soil health by using cover crops and no-till, which allow the soil to hold water longer and buffer roots from higher temperatures; improving the efficiency of irrigation systems; and implementing prescribed grazing to relieve pressure on stressed vegetation.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Just in


Western Snowpack Melts Early, Little Remains

WASHINGTON - West-wide snowpack has mostly melted, according to  data from the fifth 2015 forecast by the United States Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
"Across most of the West, snowpack isn't just low – it's gone," NRCS Hydrologist David Garen said. "With some exceptions, this year's snowmelt streamflow has already occurred." 
Garen said that for much of the western US, the snowpack at many of the stations is at or near the lowest on record. Months of unusually warm temperatures hindered snowpack growth and accelerated its melt.
"We still have some snowpack in northern Colorado, western Montana and southern Wyoming," said Garen. "In addition, snowmelt from Canada will flow into the Columbia River." 
"It's been a dry year for the Colorado River," NRCS Hydrologist Cara McCarthy said. "Snowmelt inflow into the Lake Powell Reservoir is forecast at 34 percent of normal." The Lake Powell Reservoir supplies water to much of the Southwest, including Las Vegas, Los Angeles and southern Arizona. "We only forecast streamflow from current conditions," McCarthy said. "Spring and summer rains might relieve areas that are dry."
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.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Just in




Caldwell--Corn crop is getting a good start across the Treasure Valley. Corn requires a lot of water to finish and in some parts of Idaho that could be a problem come last summer. Ritter photo

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Just in


Simpson Supports Legislation to Limit EPA’s Reach on Water
Bill would require the EPA and Army Corp of Engineers to withdraw the controversial proposed rule expanding the definition of “waters of the United States”

Washington- Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson supported passage of legislation to rein in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) attempts to take control of state waters last night.  H.R. 1732, the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act of 2015, would require the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw the controversial proposed rule expanding the definition of “waters of the United States” and develop a new rule after consultation with state and local governments and interested parties.  Simpson is a cosponsor of the bill, which passed the House by an overwhelming majority of 261-155.

“The EPA has received a record number of comments on this proposed rule, and during the 113th Congress over half of the members of House of Representatives registered their opposition to it.  This doesn’t surprise me one bit,” said Simpson.  “I have long known that expanding the reach of EPA regulations to ground water, farm ponds, and ditches would devastate rural Idaho, and I have been fighting against the EPA’s growing regulatory appetite for years.  Passage of this bill is an important step in the right direction.”

 The controversial proposed rule would expand the definition of “waters of the United States” by removing the word “navigable.”  As a result, federal regulation under the Clean Water Act could apply to virtually all water, including ground water.  States currently regulate non-navigable water.

Simpson chairs the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee and sits on the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, which oversee the budgets of the Army Corps and the EPA, respectively.  He has authored numerous provisions to stop the flawed rule, including most recently a provision in the House Energy and Water Appropriations Act for FY16 that would prohibit any changes to federal jurisdiction under the Obama Administration’s “Waters of the United States” proposal.  H.R. 1732 is now before the U.S. Senate for consideration.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Ag jobs

One of the Best Fields for New College Graduates? Agriculture.

Nearly 60,000 High-Skilled Agriculture Job Openings Expected Annually in U.S., Yet Only 35,000 Graduates Available to Fill Them
WASHINGTON– Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced a new report showing tremendous demand for recent college graduates with a degree in agricultural programs with an estimated 57,900 high-skilled job openings annually in the food, agriculture, renewable natural resources, and environment fields in the United States. According to an employment outlook report released today by USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and Purdue University, there is an average of 35,400 new U.S. graduates with a bachelor's degree or higher in agriculture related fields, 22,500 short of the jobs available annually.
"There is incredible opportunity for highly-skilled jobs in agriculture," said Secretary Vilsack. "Those receiving degrees in agricultural fields can expect to have ample career opportunities. Not only will those who study agriculture be likely to get well-paying jobs upon graduation, they will also have the satisfaction of working in a field that addresses some of the world's most pressing challenges. These jobs will only become more important as we continue to develop solutions to feed more than 9 billion people by 2050."
The report projects almost half of the job opportunities will be in management and business. Another 27 percent will be in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) areas. Jobs in food and biomaterials production will make up 15 percent, and 12 percent of the openings will be in education, communication, and governmental services. The report also shows that women make up more than half of the food, agriculture, renewable natural resources, and environment higher education graduates in the United States.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Just in



Crapo-Wyden Wildfire Disaster Funding Act Gains Support of More Than 250 Organizations


Washington – More than 250 groups from across the country joined Sens. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), to express support for passing the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act to ensure vital resources in the fight against catastrophic wildfires in the West ahead of this year’s fire season. 

The 261 organizations, including the Western Governors’ Association, the Nature Conservancy and the National Rifle Association, wrote to all 535 members of the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives to show the importance of passing the bill.

“These groups are helping sound our call to action, which became even more urgent today with news that the fire outlook is worsening,” said Crapo.  “According to Chief Tom Tidwell, there is a 90-percent chance the Forest Service will run out of money to fight fires at a time when 58-millon acres of national forests face a high or very high risk of severe wildfire.  We have got to perform the management that will reduce catastrophic fires and make sure resources for that management, and to fight fires, are available.”

“Fire season is almost here, and for Oregonians and others in the West, who know that wildfires are no less destructive than other natural disasters, it’s past time to end the destructive cycle of playing catch-up on wildfire funding,” Wyden said. “I’m glad to have these groups standing with Sen. Crapo and me as we continue to push for our fix to address these wildfires before they start.”

Wyden and Crapo reintroduced the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act on Jan. 22. The bill ends the cycle of underfunding fire suppression, which currently forces federal agencies to steal from fire prevention just to put out fires. Instead, Wyden and Crapo’s bill will end this so-called “fire borrowing” by funding the largest wildfires from a similar disaster account used to fund other natural disasters. The Interior Department and the Forest Service estimate these fires – about 1 percent – consume 30 percent of firefighting budgets.
In March, Crapo and Wyden secured language in the Senate budget to allow a funding cap adjustment that has prevented agencies from treating wildfires as natural disasters under the federal budget. 

The Wildfire Disaster Funding Act would move any fire suppression spending above 70% of the 10-year average to a disaster funding account that is separate from Forest Service and Interior budgets. The bill now has 14 bipartisan cosponsors in the Senate and 79 representatives have signed on to the House version.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Op-Ed

Let’s discuss water honestly



By Paul Wenger

Sacramento—California farmers are innovative, productive, knowledgeable—and now, a target for editorial writers, public policy think tanks, professors and talk-radio demagogues all around the country. Why? For daring to use water to grow food during the California drought.

DroughtEven though the drought has been hammering farmers for four years, many people—including many Californians—really started taking notice on April 1, when Gov. Jerry Brown imposed 25 percent water reductions on cities and towns. There was no similar requirement for agriculture, as the governor explained, because farmers have already endured significant, mandatory water cuts. Those cuts have rippled across rural California—land idled, people thrown out of work, communities suffering.

But criticism of California farms came fast and furious. A lot has been written about how farmers insist on growing “water guzzling” crops. Almonds, alfalfa and rice seem to be singled out most often.

Vitriolic and discouraging as the criticism has been, it has at least gotten people around the country thinking again about California’s outdated water system and the way water is used. Farmers welcome that discussion. But let’s have an honest discussion.

That discussion can’t be honest unless it accounts for all the water used. That means discarding the old bromide, “Agriculture uses 80 percent of California’s water.” It’s a dishonest representation, intended to incite discontent.

An honest discussion of California water use would include the significant proportion dedicated to environmental purposes. State officials agree that in an average year, 50 percent of surface water from rain and snow goes to environmental purposes, 40 percent toward growing food and farm products, and 10 percent for urban needs. These numbers will vary in any particular year, but correctly managed and stored, there’s plenty of water to meet all needs, even during extended drought.

As a farmer, I can account for how much food I produce with the water I have: the amount of “crop per drop.” Municipal water managers can also account for the water they provide to their customers. But those who “manage” environmental water have no such ability or requirement to account for the effectiveness of those flows.

Regardless of the figure we assign to agricultural water use, the real point is that farmers devote water to growing food. Food and water are the most fundamental needs of society, upon which the rest of the economy is built.

That leads us to a second statistic being used as a weapon these days: “Agriculture accounts for only 2 percent of the gross state product.” This one is usually coupled with the “80 percent” figure to allow for a double-damning of agricultural water use.

When pundits or professors throw that stat around, they don’t say what sector of the economy would be more deserving of the water. What is a more important use of water than growing food? Not “more valuable,” in terms of dollars and cents; by that measure, every major-league professional athlete is more valuable to society than every kindergarten teacher. No, what’s more important?

There are few industries that are truly essential to maintain life. Agriculture is one of them. There are few if any places in the world with the combination of climate, soil, water and know-how needed to grow food with the efficiency, care and stewardship that occur in California.

Any discussion of water also has to include how we add to the existing supply through new storage, more recycling, more desalination.

It’s time to start having that honest discussion about how to address California’s water problems.

Paul Wenger is president of the California Farm Bureau Federation.
- See more at: http://fbnews.fb.org/FBNews/Viewpoint/Let%E2%80%99s_discuss_water_honestly.aspx#sthash.VQCm9FCZ.dpuf

Friday, May 8, 2015

Just in


SRBA, National Water Rights publications merge

CARLTON, Oregon - Two long-running publications centering on water rights, the National Water Rights Digest and the Snake River Basin Adjudication Digest, have merged.

They will run under the flag of the National Water Rights Digest, which has been published by Ridenbaugh Press since January 1994. The SRBA Digest has been published by Ridenbaugh since March 1993.

The launch of the SRBA Digest was prompted by the Snake River Basin Adjudication in Idaho, the largest basin-wide water adjudication in the country. When the final decree in that case was signed in August 2014, work in the case began to wind down.

The National Water Rights Digest is the only national periodical specifically covering water rights developments in the 50 states; it includes some reviews of activity internationally as well.

"Water rights activity around the United States and around the world has been increasing rapidly, especially in the last decades," said editor and publisher Randy Stapilus, who has produced the publications since their beginning. "When we began the National, water resources/rights agencies weren't even a blip on the state government screen. Today many of those same states are mired in interstate water rights litigations, struggling to create interstate compacts, and phrases such as 'aquifer recharge' are being heard in daily conversations."

The National Water Rights Digest provides water rights professionals with a monthly overview of activities throughout the U.S., giving them ideas and connections with other state agencies and professionals.

In recognition of the merger, Ridenbaugh Press is offering a special subscription package: an annual subscription to the National Water Rights Digest; a copy of the book "Water Wars" about water rights in the 50 states; a copy of the book "Upstream" about the SRBA, acclaimed by Idaho's chief justice as his first reference on the case when he served as the adjudication's presiding judge; and a digital archive of the National digests - more than 20 years of archival reports, more than 200 issues. The Digest is not available on other reference database sites. Total price for the package: $99. That package will be available only through the end of June, and is not expected to be repeated.

More information is available at www.ridenbaugh.com/nwrd.html.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Just in from Washington


USDA Designates 5 Counties in Idaho as Primary Natural Disaster Areas
With Assistance to Producers in Oregon

WASHINGTON,— The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has designated Blaine, Butte, Canyon, Custer and Payette counties in Idaho as primary natural disaster areas due to damages and losses caused by a recent drought.

“Our hearts go out to those Idaho farmers and ranchers affected by recent natural disasters,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “President Obama and I are committed to ensuring that agriculture remains a bright spot in our nation’s economy by sustaining the successes of America’s farmers, ranchers, and rural communities through these difficult times. We’re also telling Idaho producers that USDA stands with you and your communities when severe weather and natural disasters threaten to disrupt your livelihood.”

Farmers and ranchers in the following counties in Idaho also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous.  Those counties are:

Ada
Cassia
Jefferson
Owyhee
Bingham
Clark
Lemhi
Power
Boise
Elmore
Lincoln
Valley
Camas
Gem
Minidoka
Washington

Farmers and ranchers in Malheur County in Oregon also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their county is contiguous.

All counties listed above were designated natural disaster areas on May 6, 2015, making all qualified farm operators in the designated areas eligible for low interest emergency (EM) loans from USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), provided eligibility requirements are met. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the declaration to apply for loans to help cover part of their actual losses. FSA will consider each loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability. FSA has a variety of programs, in addition to the EM loan program, to help eligible farmers recover from adversity.

Additional programs available to assist farmers and ranchers include the Emergency Conservation Program, The Livestock Forage Disaster Program, the Livestock Indemnity Programthe Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program, and the Tree Assistance Program. Interested farmers may contact their local USDA Service Centers for further information on eligibility requirements and application procedures for these and other programs. Additional information is also available online at http://disaster.fsa.usda.gov.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Just in


‘Get a Move on for GMOs’ Helps
Farmers Stand Up for Biotechnology
                                                                                                                                                                          
WASHINGTON – GetaMoveOn.fb.org is Farm Bureau’s just-launched advocacy website that gives farmers and ranchers a simple way to “Get a Move On” for GMOs. Through the website, farmers can easily express support for a national, science-based labeling standard, like the approach taken in the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act (H.R. 1599).  

“Now is the time for farmers and ranchers to take action in support of innovation in agriculture,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman. “Access to crop traits that resist pests, diseases and drought stress is helping farmers across the nation grow more food using less land, water, fuel and pesticides,” Stallman said. “Biotechnology will offer even more benefits in the future.”

From the website, farmers and ranchers can send House members emails encouraging “yea” votes for the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act. The bill will clarify the Food and Drug Administration as the nation’s foremost authority on food safety and create a voluntary labeling program run by the Agriculture Department’s 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.  

Through GetaMoveOn.fb.org, farmers can not only connect with their lawmakers, but find state-by-state fact sheets detailing the value and share of GMO crops in each state. They can then share this information in their emails.

“It’s critical that we as farmers help our lawmakers understand that there’s a cost associated with discouraging agricultural innovation,” Stallman said. “That cost will go well beyond the higher prices consumers will pay at the supermarket if each state passes its own GMO labeling law,” he added. 

In addition to the advocacy site, Farm Bureau’s grassroots toolkit continues to be a helpful resource for farmers and ranchers who want to share the many positives about biotechnology with policymakers, community members and others. Accessible at fb.org/biotech, this free online resource includes an overview of biotechnology; an explanation of biotechnology’s benefits to consumers, the environment, farmers, the U.S. economy, and more; links to credible sources for biotech information; and avenues for getting active on social media. 

A strong consumer-focused resource is GMOAnswers.com, which allows people to ask any and all questions about GMOs. Responses come from independent experts in leading academic institutions, industry groups and representatives from Biotechnology Industry Organization member companies. The website also features studies, articles and safety data.

Just in

USDA Announces $235 Million Available for Innovative New Conservation Partnerships 

DENVER–Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today an investment of up to $235 million to improve the nation's water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat and protect agricultural viability. The funding is being made available through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), the newest conservation tool of the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). 
RCPP, created by the 2014 Farm Bill, empowers local leaders to work with multiple partners—such as private companies, local and tribal governments, universities, non-profit groups and other non-government partners—along with farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners to design solutions that work best for their region. Local partners and the federal government both invest funding and manpower to projects to maximize their impact. This will be the second round of projects funded through RCPP. The RCPP program helps USDA build on already-record enrollment in conservation programs, with over 500,000 producers participating to protect land and water on over 400 million acres nationwide.
"This is a new, innovative approach to conservation," said Vilsack. "This initiative allows local partners the opportunity to design and invest in conservation projects specifically tailored for their communities. These public-private partnerships can have an impact that's well beyond what the Federal government could accomplish on its own. These efforts keep our land and water clean, and promote tremendous economic growth in agriculture, construction, tourism, and other industries." 
Vilsack continued, "We had tremendous interest from local partners when we first launched this program last year. In this new round of applications, we'll be looking for even greater emphasis on expanding partnerships that break down barriers, work across boundaries, leverage resources and create new opportunities for innovation."
Secretary Vilsack made the announcement at a signing ceremony in Denver for the Colorado Pressurized Small Hydropower Partnership Project, a 2015-funded project that focuses on water quantity resource concerns in Colorado. The project, which will receive $1.8 million in NRCS support alongside local partner investments, will facilitate the conversion of flood irrigation systems to more resource-efficient pressurized irrigation systems with integrated hydropower.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Just in from Capitol Hill


Farmers cheer Senate move to stop EPA overreach



Washington—A newly introduced Senate bill, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act, would put in check the EPA and its attempt to broaden the definition of “waters of the U.S.” Farmers and ranchers say they’re grateful congressional lawmakers are listening to them as it seems EPA has turned a deaf ear to their concerns.

“Tens of thousands of farmers, ranchers and land owners have spoken out, but EPA has yet to fully acknowledge the proposal’s potential impact on everyday farming activities,” American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said. “We work hard every day to minimize the environmental impact of raising the food, fuel and fiber we all consume. We’re grateful that our congressional representatives are paving the way to safeguard both farmers and their land.”

The legislation, introduced today by Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), directs the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to issue a revised WOTUS rule that does not include things such as isolated ponds, ditches, agriculture water, storm water, groundwater, floodwater, municipal water supply systems, wastewater management systems and streams without enough flow to carry pollutants to navigable waters.

Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) are also original cosponsors of the bill.

In a letter, Farm Bureau and more than 80 additional agriculture organizations urged leaders of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the Senate Agriculture Committee to act quickly on the bill.

“The sooner Congress acts, the sooner the agencies can re-craft a rule that more accurately reflects the will of Congress, while respecting the concerns of all affected parties. By acting before the agencies’ regulation is promulgated, Congress can provide the best opportunity and path to ensure that a final rule is practical, reflects congressional intent, and ensures appropriate environmental safeguards,” the groups wrote to Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Inhofe and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Roberts, as well as Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), ranking member of the Agriculture Committee.

Early last month, EPA sent its WOTUS final rule to the Office of Management and Budget for interagency review. This is the last step before the release of the final rule. The White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs received the proposed rule April 6. OIRA’s regulatory review is supposed to take 90 days, although controversial rules can be tied up far longer. EPA officials have long said that they are aiming to finalize the rule this spring.

Monday, May 4, 2015

JUST IN...


Chairman Mike Simpson Protects States’ Water Rights
Defeats amendment that would allow expansion of federal jurisdiction over water

Washington – Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson, House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman, has led a successful effort to defeat an amendment that would have stripped a section of the Energy and Water Appropriations bill prohibiting any changes to federal jurisdiction under the Obama Administration’s “Waters of the United States" proposal.

The proposed rule would expand the reach of the Clean Water Act by replacing the term “navigable waters” with the term “waters of the United States.”  Non-navigable waters are currently regulated by the states. Striking this term means that the Act could be broadly interpreted to included everything within a state, including ground water.

Late last night Chairman Simpson fought the amendment on the House floor stating, “Many people believed that if the waters were not regulated under the Clean Water Act, they were unregulated.  Not true.  They are regulated by the states. And that’s how it should remain. . .  While there may be a desire for clarity on federal jurisdiction, providing clarity does not trump the need to stay within the limits of the law.  The proposed rule would expand federal jurisdiction far beyond what was ever intended by the Clean Water Act.  The provision in the Energy and Water bill does not weaken the Clean Water Act; it stops the Administration from expanding federal jurisdiction.  For those reasons I strongly oppose this amendment and encourage my colleagues to vote no.” 

The amendment was offered by Representative Don Beyer (D-VA) last night, and failed on a voice vote.  Consideration of the House Energy and Water Appropriations bill will continue today, with a vote on final passage expected soon.  To view a video of Chairman Simpson’s speech, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjLy2IR4RKc&feature=youtu.be

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