Friday, July 31, 2015

Just in

Army Corps Memos Reveal Dysfunction, Secrecy and Misconduct at EPA, American Farm Bureau Says

Washington A cache of internal memos that federal regulators intended to keep private reveals a culture of secrecy, falsehood and dysfunction that permeated the Waters of the U.S. rulemaking process.

Yesterday, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform released more than 50 pages of documents in which the Army Corps of Engineers repeatedly rebuked EPA officials for their abuse of the rulemaking process in producing the deeply controversial Waters of the United States rule. The entire economic analysis used to support the rule, Army Corps officials wrote, had no basis in either science or economics:

“It is clear from the memos that there were dire concerns internally that EPA was getting it wrong and with a high degree of arrogance,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “The flawed economic study is just the tip of the iceberg, and it was known internally that trouble was ahead. In fact, the memos themselves were stamped ‘Litigation Sensitive.’ They were never intended to see the light of day.”

The Corps documents also validate American Farm Bureau Federation’s own concerns that the rule makes it impossible for anyone, including the Corps, to know which features on the landscape are regulated, and which are not. The Corps even raised concern that it would be difficult to determine whether “a low depressional area on a farm field that ponds water after a rainstorm for ten days” would be a regulated “water” or an excluded “puddle.” EPA insisted throughout the rulemaking process that “puddles” would not be regulated. 

As the Army Corps memos clearly show, political appointees repeatedly ignored vigorous objections of career agency staff in order to rush the rule through. 

“The Corps documents confirm what we have been saying all along,” Stallman said. “Even the Army Corps of Engineers concedes this rule is unworkable. The Army Corps’ name is on the rule, yet experts tasked with determining its validity said they wanted the Corps’ name removed from the economic analysis used to justify it.

“U.S. Army Assistant Secretary Darcy pleaded with Congress to keep these memos from the public eye. Well, now we know what they say, and we want to know more. What other internal agency documents are out there?  If the Corps’ economists objected so strongly, what did the EPA’s economists think? What else are these agencies hiding from the public? As Americans, we expect better, but during the entire WOTUS rulemaking process, we got worse – much, much worse.”

AFBF is calling on EPA to immediately withdraw its flawed rule, go back to the drawing board and address the concerns of farmers, ranchers and business owners across the country.

Just in

USDA Announces Available Funding for Farm Bill Broadband Loan Program

WASHINGTON – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the availability of loans to build broadband in rural areas, along with changes to the program required by the 2014 Farm Bill.
"USDA is committed to providing broadband to rural areas," Vilsack said. "Broadband is as vital as electricity was 80 years ago. Since 2009, USDA investments have delivered broadband service to 1.5 million households, businesses, schools, libraries and community facilities. But our work is not done. With program improvements and available funding made possible by the Farm Bill, we can continue our work to make broadband more accessible to those who live and work in rural areas."
In a rule published on page 45397 of the July 30  Federal Register, USDA is establishing two funding cycles to review and prioritize applications for the Rural Broadband Access Loan and Loan Guarantee program. USDA also is setting a minimum level of acceptable broadband service at 4 megabits downstream and 1 megabit upstream. USDA urges applicants to design systems that allow for 25 megabits downstream and 3 megabits upstream to meet future needs. USDA is accepting comments on these changes through September 28.
To be eligible for funding, an applicant must serve an area where at least 15 percent of the households are unserved. Applications with the most unserved households will be processed first. 
The maximum loan amount under today's announcement is $20 million. Applications will be accepted through September 30, 2015. For more information, see page 45504 of the July 30  Federal Register.
The 2014 Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the previous five years while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve the quality of life in rural areas.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Just in

“Race for the Steaks” 5K and 15K Run

Boise, – The Idaho Beef Council is excited to announce the second annual Race for the Steaks 5K and 15K on September 12, 2015. The race is presented by the Idaho Beef Council and is in partnership with the Boise YMCA.

Last year was the first year of the Race for the Steaks event, which features a unique evening start of 5 p.m. for both distances and a full tri-tip dinner for all participants. The run begins and ends in Ann Morrison Park and participants can plan to enjoy a beautiful fall evening along the Boise River and Boise Greenbelt.

New this year is a Race for the Steaks Corporate Challenge. The challenge offers companies an extraordinary opportunity to add some excitement, team building, and good-natured competition to the workplace while promoting health and fitness. This is your chance to get a group of employees together to show their company pride while engaging in some friendly competition with other Treasure Valley area businesses.

Participation in the challenge is free; however, all company participants must be individually registered for either the Race for the Steaks 5k or 15k. Companies can pay for employee race registrations and may also receive a corporate team discount.

The winner of the Corporate Challenge will be the company with the highest percentage of their workforce participating, within their size category. Listed below are the prizes for the winning companies and can be used for a company BBQ and/or employee gifts. There will also be additional prizes for the best team spirit and fastest/top-performing corporate team.
  • Small Company -- less than 50 employees (with a minimum of 5 employees participating) will receive $100 in Double R Ranch beef
  • Medium company – 50-249 employees (with a minimum of 15 employees participating) will receive $250 in Double R Ranch beef
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Large company – 250+ employees (with a minimum of 25 employees participating) will receive $500 in Double R Ranch
Race for the Steaks is open to all athletes age 10 and up. The current cost to participate in the event is currently $20 for youth and $25 for adults. Prices will increase to $25 for youth and $30 for adults when early registration ends on August 16. In addition to the dinner, participants will also receive an official Race for the Steaks running shirt. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Just in from Washington

American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture Reaches Young Learners at 'Thingamajig' Event

WASHINGTON D.C., July 27, 2015 – The American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture hosted an agricultural-based workshop for children at the 21st annual YMCA Thingamajig Invention Convention in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. 
Nearly 4,000 students in kindergarten through eighth grade participated in the Foundation's "living plant necklace" workshop, where they learned that seeds need water, soil and sunlight to grow. The students then made their own necklaces with bean seeds to take home and watch sprout. 

Students learn about the things a seed needs to grow while making their own living seed necklace to take home at the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture's exhibit at the YMCA Thingamajig Invention Convention.
“Seeing the excitement on kids’ faces when they were creating their living plant necklace was my favorite thing,” said Julie Tesch, executive director for the Foundation. “This was the first time many of these students handled a seed and learned how it grows into a plant and eventually ends up on their dinner table.”
Agriculture is a great way to apply science to everyday life and get students excited about careers in science, technology, engineering and math fields. From biotechnologists to agricultural engineers, agriculture offers many career opportunities to students. With more jobs currently open than there are candidates to fill them, educating youth about careers in agriculture is vital to the continual growth of the industry. 
“Events like these are where we have a remarkable impact on urban education,” Tesch said. “Many students in densely populated urban areas have very little to no exposure to how their food grows.” The YMCA Thingamajig Invention Convention is a STEM festival featuring workshops, challenges and exhibits for students in the Washington D.C., metropolitan area.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Just in

House Passes Simpson’s Boulder White Clouds Bill
HR 1138 Passes the U.S. House of Representatives

Washington– Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson’s legislation H.R. 1138, the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and Jerry Peak Wilderness Additions Act, today passed the U.S. House of Representatives without objection.

“Today’s action by the U.S. House of Representatives is a great accomplishment for the thousands of Idahoans working to solve the Boulder White Clouds land management issue,” said Simpson. “I am extremely optimistic that we will continue to move this legislation forward to become law.”

H.R. 1138 will establish certain wilderness areas in central Idaho and authorize various land conveyances involving the National Forest System land and Bureau of Land Management land in central Idaho

Specifically Simpson’s legislation will do the following:
  • Sawtooth National Recreation Area:  The Sawtooth National Forest would remain as the principle administrative body and the current management would remain intact under the existing SNRA law (PL 92-400) and the existing SNRA management and travel plans.  The Challis BLM would remain the managers of the East Fork BLM and Salmon-Challis National Forest areas.
  • Wilderness:  Three new wilderness areas would be created totaling 295,960 acres. They are the Hemingway-Boulders Wilderness (88,079 acres), the White Clouds Wilderness (90,841 acres) and the Jim McClure-Jerry Peak Wilderness (117,040).  The total wilderness acreage would be reduced by 36,968 acres from the original CIEDRA bill that would have created 332,928 acres.
  • Multiple Use:  Four wilderness study areas would be released back to multiple use: the Jerry Peak Wilderness Study Area, the Jerry Peak West Wilderness Study Area, the Corral-Horse Basin Wilderness Study Area, the Boulder Creek Wilderness Study Area and any USFS recommended wilderness not made wilderness totaling 155,003 acres. This is up 23,333 acres released from the original CIEDRA bill which totaled 131,670.
  • Motorized Use:  No roads that are currently open to vehicles, or trails that are currently open to two wheeled motorized use would be closed.  The Grand Prize and Germania trails (including the ridge in between) and the Frog Lake Loop would be excluded from wilderness and remain open to two wheeled motorized use under the existing SNRA travel plan.  The following higher elevation snowmobiling areas would remain open as allowed under the existing SNRA travel plan: 4th of July Basin, Washington Basin, Phyllis Lake Basin, Champion Lakes and Warm Springs Meadows.
  • Mountain Bikes:  All areas currently open to mountain bikes outside of the proposed wilderness will remain open.  Under CIEDRA, the 4th of July trail would have been closed to mountain bikes and will now remain open.  This allows the Pole Creek/Washington Basin/4thof July loops to remain open.  The Germania/Grand Prize Corridor trails and all trails outside of the wilderness would remain open to mountain bikes subject to the SNRA travel plan.
  • Grazing:  Grazing plays an important role in the heritage and economies of rural Idaho and Custer County.  Along the East Fork of the Salmon River, generational ranching families provide significant benefits in maintaining the historic character and nature of East Fork while providing significant conservation benefits to the land, including sustaining the wide, open spaces and un-fragmented landscapes of the East Fork valley. In order to provide another tool for these families to maintain their livelihoods, a provision has been included to provide permittees within and adjacent to the proposed wilderness areas with a way to help them remain viable with as little disruption as possible.  Permittees with allotments within the boundaries of the “Boulder White Clouds Grazing Area Map” would be allowed to voluntarily retire their grazing permits and be eligible for compensation from a third party conservation group.  With this compensation, it is hoped that the ranching families will be able to create more secure and certain opportunities for future generations.
  • Support to Counties:  Over $5 million in grants have been provided to Custer County and the surrounding Boulder-White Clouds communities for a community center, a county health clinic and EMT support, and improvements to Trail Creek Highway.  Individual parcels of land will be conveyed to Custer and Blaine counties, and rural communities for public purposes the per latest CIEDRA bill.
  • Recreation Support:  Over $1.5 million in grants have been provided to the SNRA for trail maintenance and improvements, including maintenance and improvements to existing motorized trails and two existing trails to provide primitive wheelchair access, and for acquiring the land to build a mechanized bike/snowmobile access trail between Redfish Lake and Stanley. 

Senator Jim Risch has sponsored the bill (S. 538) in the U.S. Senate. Risch successfully held a hearing in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests and Mining on May 21, 2015. The Senate version will be marked up in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee this week.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Crop Insurance update

Crop Insurance Now Available for More Forage Production Types
Coverage for Timothy and Orchardgrass Offered in Select Idaho and Washington Counties

SPOKANE –USDA’s Risk Management Agency today announced expanded coverage for forage production to include dryland timothy and orchardgrass types under the federal crop insurance program for the 2016 crop year. The new types of coverage will be available in Benewah, Boundary, and Kootenai counties in Idaho and in Pend Oreille, Spokane, and Stevens counties in Washington.

Forage production insurance provides coverage for forage grown for livestock. Forage production is only available in select counties in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. The sales closing date, the last day to purchase or modify a producer’s policy, for all forage production in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington is September 30. There are various forage types available for coverage. If insurance coverage for a producer’s forage type is not available in their county, they may be able to insure their type by written agreement.

Producers are encouraged to visit their crop insurance agent soon to learn specific details for the 2016 crop year. Crop insurance coverage decisions must be made on or before the sales closing date.

Crop insurance is sold and delivered solely through private crop insurance agents. A list of crop insurance agents is available at all USDA Service Centers and online at the RMA Agent Locator. Producers can use the RMA Cost Estimator to get a premium amount estimate of their insurance needs online.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Just in from Washington

Simpson Votes to Protect States’ Rights from EPA

Washington - Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson voted this week for legislation to bring certainty under EPA’s recently finalized coal ash regulations.  H.R. 1734, the Improving Coal Combustion Residuals Regulation Act of 2015, would put states in charge of implementing coal ash regulation in order to ensure that public health and the environment are protected while states’ rights are preserved.  The bill passed by a vote of 258-166.

Coal ash is the byproduct of coal combustion and is used to create roads, bridges, and buildings.  It is also regularly recycled and used in construction materials.  The EPA finalized a rule to regulate coal ash in April.  Under H.R. 1734, states would have the authority to implement a coal ash permit program, with EPA implementing a permit program for states that choose not to establish their own.

“While I am concerned about the practical implementation of EPA’s final rule, I do believe that reasonable regulations should be in place regarding coal ash,” said Simpson.  “This legislation ensures that human health and the environment are protected without creating a new and unneeded regulatory system, leaving regulation and permitting to the states, where it belongs.”

The bill is now under consideration by the U.S. Senate.

Just in


 Boise– Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter announced the appointment today of Soda Springs rancher, Mark Harris to the Idaho State Senate. Harris, will fill the vacancy that was created when former State Senator John Tippets of Montpelier was chosen to become the Director of the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality.

 Harris was selected from a group of nominees submitted by the District 32 Republican Legislative Central Committee. Harris will serve out the remainder of Senator Tippets’ term. The other nominees were Larry Oja and Scott Workman.

 “Mark brings with him some valuable experiences gained while working in Idaho agriculture and serving on various voluntary boards and committees,” said Governor Otter. “While he has some big shoes to fill, I am quite confident that Senator Harris will live up to those expectations.” Harris is a member of the Board of Directors for the Idaho Cattle Association and a member of the Idaho Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee. He also serves as a Trustee for Bear Lake Memorial Hospital and is currently a member of the Bear Lake County Planning and Zoning Committee.

 Fluent in Spanish, Harris received his BA in Political Science in 1998 from Utah State University. “I am humbled and thankful to the District 32 Republican Central Committee for their nomination and honored to be selected by Governor Otter,” said Harris. “I look forward to working with him and other legislators, as I represent the great people of district 32. Harris and his wife Cheryl live on their ranch south of Soda Springs and have four children.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Just in

USDA and NASA Expand Innovative Partnership to Better Predict Wildfires, Monitor Drought from Space

MOFFETT FIELD—Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden and NASA Deputy Administrator Dava Newman today announced an expanded partnership between the United States Department of Agriculture and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) designed to better protect America's working lands, predict and prevent natural disasters, and inspire young people to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and agriculture. 
"Space is a unique laboratory that can be a gateway to solving some of the greatest agricultural challenges of our time," says Deputy Secretary Harden. "This partnership is a powerful opportunity for USDA and NASA to yield new tools and techniques to help farmers and ranchers as they deal with the ongoing impacts of climate change and drought. Perhaps most importantly, this partnership will expose more young people to the power of science and innovation to solve some of the world's most pressing challenges." 
"There are many areas where NASA and USDA have overlapping interests," said NASA's Deputy Administrator Dava Newman. "We can now better coordinate and build on the resources of both NASA and the USDA to help learn more about our planet's vital resources and inspire the next generation to become better stewards of our planet."
Among other things, the agreement will expand cooperation on space-borne remote sensing efforts to gather soil moisture data. One potential outcome of the expanded partnership between USDA and NASA could be using satellite data to create a series of soil moisture maps for California that could be used to improve weather and water availability forecasting and provide a drought early-warning system to producers, particularly in California. 
Under the new agreement, USDA now has expanded access to data from NASA satellites that will help Forest Service fire fighters and first responders better detect wildfires and predict their behavior. USDA and the Department of the Interior have spent nearly $1.5 billion annually over the past decade on wildfire suppression, but this new technology has the potential to stop wildfires before they start, saving money, land, and even lives.
Deputy Secretary Harden and Deputy Administrator Newman at NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) formalizing the expanded collaboration between USDA and NASA. As hunger and climate change are rapidly escalating threats to public health and national security, both NASA and USDA have a role to play in inspiring the next generation of students to pursue careers in STEM and agricultural fields.
Ames Research Center, one of ten NASA field enters, is located in the heart of California's Silicon Valley. For more than 75 years, Ames has led NASA in conducting world-class research and development in aeronautics, exploration technology and science aligned with the center's core capabilities. The International Space Station (ISS), operated by NASA, includes a National Laboratory where ground-breaking scientific research is conducted every day. Currently, NASA has a mini veggie farm at the International Space Station to grow fresh produce like lettuce. 
Since 2009, USDA has invested $4.32 billion in research and development grants. Studies have shown that every dollar invested in agricultural research now returns over $20 to our economy. In recent years, research by USDA scientists has led to discoveries of everything from a potential solution for millions who suffer allergies from peanuts to safe mosquito control that can help halt the transmission of diseases they spread, among others. For the latest on discoveries by USDA researchers, read the  2014 Annual Report on Technology Transfer.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Summer Presidents Meeting

Wheat Production is up
Kellogg-"Total wheat production is up, but down from last year, said market analyst Clark Johnston. "Feed production is up but flooding in the midwest has slowed feed production. Clark Johnston addressed the Idaho Farm Bureau Summer Presidents Meeting this morning at Silver Mountain in Kellogg.

Addressing Freight Rail Backlog

New Pipeline Infrastructure Key to Unloading Freight Rail
Backlog, Helping America’s Farmers

WASHINGTON – Expanding America’s pipeline infrastructure would relieve the nation’s overburdened freight rail network and improve service for farmers nationwide, according to a new study from the American Farm Bureau Federation.
The booming energy business in the Upper Midwest spiked rail congestion and freight costs for farmers in the region and cut their profits by $570 million during the 2014 harvest. The AFBF study found that the average North Dakota corn farmer may have received $10,000 less than the traditional market rate for the crop. Increasing U.S. pipeline capacity  particularly in the Bakken region – is a prime solution for adding freight system capacity overall and relieving rail congestion, according to AFBF.
“American farmers depend upon rail freight to move their products to market. The surge in rail transportation of crude oil has affected that ability and timing in recent years,” AFBF Chief Economist Bob Young said. “Construction of new pipelines would certainly be a more effective way to move that product to market. It would take crude oil off the rails and, in doing so, improve the overall efficiency of the transportation system. Improved pipeline infrastructure will also help enhance American energy security for everyone.”
Study author Elaine Kub said farmers face challenges in getting their goods to market that others do not.
“Due to the nature of grain production and use, the industry is fairly inflexible about which freight methods it can use, so any time one of those methods is unavailable, crops are lost or cost more to transport,” she said. “This leads to more expensive food for families and less profitable incomes for farmers. Crude oil, however, can be more efficiently and affordably shipped through pipelines, and can be done without crowding already overstressed railways.”
The AFBF study also featured mathematically simulated scenarios showing how expansion of any freight method – truck, rail, barge, or pipeline – can reduce overall congestion and, in certain scenarios, could increase the annual volume of grain moved by as much as 14 percent. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Summer President's meeting in Kellogg

Farm Bureau County Presidents Meeting

Kellogg--The Idaho Farm Bureaus annual County Presidents meeting is underway at the Silver Mountain Resort in Kellogg, Idaho. Farm Bureau President Frank Priestley welcomed Presidents to the meeting with an update on the EPA's Waters of the U.S. Rule. Over the next two days Presidents will discuss legislative issues, Snake River Plain Water Adjudication Agreement and Farm Markets. 

Just in

House to vote on food labeling bill

Washington—The House of Representatives is scheduled this week to vote on the bipartisan Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act (H.R. 1599). The bill is an important step toward greater clarity on food labeling, according to American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman. The measure 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 Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act “empowers consumers by continuing to require warning labels for foods that may have an adverse effect on the public. At the same time, it does away with labeling schemes that would stigmatize foods based on nothing more than the way in which they were developed,” Stallman said in a statement when the bill was approved by the House Agriculture Committee last week. 

In addition, the legislation will provide a federal solution to protect consumers from a confusing patchwork of 50-state labeling policies for foods containing genetically modified organisms, and the misinformation and high food costs that would come with such policies. 

“This bill is an antidote to anti-GMO initiatives that make people wrongly fear the food they eat. Such regulations generally ignore science and undermine the public’s understanding of food farmers and ranchers produce,” Stallman said. “H.R. 1599 restores reason to our food discussions and shows pseudoscience and food quackery the door. We look forward to passage by the full House in the very near future.”

Monday, July 20, 2015

Just in


Boise – Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter and State Controller Brandon Woolf announced today that Idaho closed the fiscal year that ended June 30 with a surplus, collecting $92 million more than anticipated during the previous 12 months.

“We balanced the budget and we put money in our rainy day funds. This wasn’t an accident. This was accomplished as a matter of political will, grounded in common-sense fiscal restraint and guided by the principle that our state government must always live within the people’s means,” Governor Otter said. 

“The tax dollars of Idaho’s citizens are accounted for in accordance with the law, and the state of Idaho closed its fiscal year with a balanced budget,” said State Controller Brandon Woolf.  “Because of the prudent decisions made by our state’s leaders, Idaho will continue to maintain an exemplary credit rating.”

The State Division of Financial Management (DFM) reported General Fund revenue of $3,056,765,517, leaving the state $92.3 million above economist’s projections for FY 2015. General Fund revenue grew by 8.6 percent, significantly higher than the 5.3 percent rate that was forecast.

As mandated by state law, half of the surplus will be transferred to the budget stabilization fund and the other half will be dedicated to transportation infrastructure improvement projects. As a result, $54.1 million of the surplus will be used for transportation which is in addition to the $95 million approved earlier this year by lawmakers. Year end totals in each of the state’s rainy day funds are as follows:

Ø  Budget Stabilization Fund:                                         $243.8 million
Ø  Public Education Stabilization Fund                          $  90.9 million
Ø  Higher Education Stabilization Fund                         $    3.4 million

“Idahoans can be proud that their state is heading in the right direction because the state’s executive and legislative leaders did not only what was tough, but also required laying the foundation for continued economic prosperity and ensuring our best years are still ahead of us,” said Governor Otter. 

DFM’s complete Idaho General Fund Revenue Report can be found here:

“Our economy is on the right track because of the discipline and commitment at the statehouse,” Governor Otter said. “I have maintained that predictability and sustainability are essential to our continued economic recovery. These figures confirm that we have budgeted wisely so our tax structure remains predictable and our economic vitality remains sustainable. Our commitment to these principles allows for continued investment in schools, roads, public infrastructure and workforce development, all essential for a prosperous Idaho.”

Friday, July 17, 2015

Just in

Idaho Lt. Governor Brad Little opens Wheat research center

Monstanto Opens Wheat Technology Center in Filer

Filer– A ribbon-cutting ceremony today in Filer, Idaho, marked the grand opening of Monsanto’s Wheat Technology Center, which will serve as the company’s core U.S. wheat breeding R&D facility and bring together people and processes to drive innovation in wheat breeding.

“The Wheat Technology Center gathers some of the nation’s top wheat researchers to maximize sharing and collaboration,” said Kristin Schneider, Monsanto’s global wheat breeding lead. “From a breeding perspective, this will help us respond more quickly and efficiently to some of the challenges wheat growers face on their farms.”

Monsanto’s wheat program breeds and commercializes varieties in the major classes of wheat and has a network of hundreds of seed suppliers. In addition to a broad presence with its licensed WestBred Wheat brand in the West, Monsanto also licenses varieties to seed companies in the eastern United States. Schneider said increasing breeding efficiency will help bring wheat varieties to market with potential for increased genetic gain.

The Wheat Technology Center expansion includes a facility for wheat seed cleaning, trial preparation and seed storage, as well as two new greenhouse facilities with an additional 14,000 square feet of growing space and enhanced laboratory space. The expansion added 17 full-time employees and more than 20 contract seasonal positions at the Filer site, making it the company’s second largest in the state. Monsanto has approximately 1,000 full-time employees in Idaho.

“This is a big day in fostering research and development for agriculture, the wheat industry, and Idaho’s Magic Valley,” said Idaho Lt. Gov. Brad Little. “Monsanto’s Wheat Technology Center adds to an already fast-growing, world-class cluster of food science and food industry research sites in the Twin Falls area.”

Lt. Gov. Little and other Idaho officials were joined by academic experts and representatives from various wheat organizations. Dr. Robb Fraley, Monsanto’s executive vice president and chief technology officer, said collaboration throughout the industry will be needed to bring forward new technologies in wheat.

“Monsanto is committed to bringing innovations to wheat farmers, and we strive to do this in a way that helps farmers have better harvests while continuing to use resources like water, nutrients and land more efficiently,” said Fraley. “There are great opportunities that come with driving innovation in wheat, and the opening of the Wheat Technology Center is an example of our continued commitment to the industry.”

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Just in

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

Boise — On Wednesday the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) designated Benewah, Bonner, Clearwater, Kootenai and Latah counties in Idaho as primary natural disaster areas due to damages and
losses caused by a recent drought.

Mark Samson, Idaho State Executive Director, said, “At this point over 90% of Idaho Counties either carry a Primary Disaster Designation or recognition as a contiguous county, which makes them eligible for the same relief.  “Only Oneida, Franklin and Bear Lake do not have designations.”

Farmers and ranchers in Boundary, Idaho, Lewis, Nez Perce and Shoshone counties in Idaho also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous. A map showing which Idaho counties hold a primary or contiguous designation is available at:

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Just in

Secretary Vilsack Proclaims August 2-8 National Farmers Market Week 

WASHINGTON-Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has declared Aug. 2 through 8, 2015, as "National Farmers Market Week." The declaration was made official by  proclamation signed by Secretary Vilsack. This year marks the 16th annual National Farmers Market Week in honor of the important role that farmers markets play in local economies. Throughout the week, USDA will celebrate thousands of our nation's farmers markets, the farmers and ranchers who make them possible and the communities that host them.
"National Farmers Market Week is a great opportunity for farmers markets across the country to host special events to showcase all the tremendous services they provide," said Secretary Vilsack. "Farmers markets play a key role in developing local and regional food systems that support farmers and help grow rural economies. They bring communities together, connecting cities with the farms and providing Americans with fresh, healthy food."
Throughout the week, USDA officials will celebrate at farmers market locations across the country. On Saturday, Aug. 1, Anne Alonzo, the Administrator of USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) – which conducts research, provides technical assistance, and awards grants to support farmers markets – will kick off the week at the Santa Fe Farmers Market in New Mexico. The Santa Fe Farmers Market is the oldest in New Mexico and is ranked as one of the top ten farmers markets nationwide. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Just in

Overwhelming Number of Farmers and Ranchers Certify to Follow Conservation Compliance Guidelines

 WASHINGTON– The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that over 98.2 percent of producers have met the 2014 Farm Bill requirement to certify conservation compliance to qualify for crop insurance premium support payments.

 Implementing the 2014 Farm Bill provisions for conservation compliance is expected to extend conservation provisions for an additional 1.5 million acres of highly erodible lands and 1.1 million acres of wetlands, which will reduce soil erosion, enhance water quality, and create wildlife habitat. 

“This overwhelming response is a product of USDA’s extensive outreach and the commitment of America’s farmers to be stewards of the land,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “By investing in both American farmers and the health of our productive lands, we are ensuring future generations have access to fertile soil, healthy food supplies, and a strong rural economy.”

 USDA has gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure that every impacted producer knew of the June 1, 2015 deadline to certify their conservation compliance. For example, all 2015 crop insurance contracts included conservation compliance notifications. USDA has sent out more than 50,000 reminder letters and postcards to individual producers, made over 25,000 phone calls, conducted informational meetings and training sessions for nearly 6,000 stakeholders across the country, including in major specialty crop producing states with affected commodity groups, and more.

Since December 2014, USDA collaborated with crop insurers to ensure they had updated lists for agents to continue contacting producers to also remind them of the filing deadline. Of the small number of producers who have not certified their conservation compliance, USDA records suggest the majority are no longer farming or may have filed forms with discrepancies that can still be reconciled.

The Farm Service Agency is proactively reaching back out to all of these producers before their sales closing date and working with individuals facing extenuating circumstances who have not filed the form in order to assist them with certifying compliance. “I’ve asked the agencies to contact the producers again before their sales closing date,” said Vilsack. “I want to ensure that every producer that turned in an AD-1026 by June 1, 2015, knows they can still make corrections and remain eligible for premium support.”

 USDA is providing additional flexibility to help the newly insured producers to certify their conservation compliance. For example, producers, who began farming or ranching after June 1, or producers who have not participated in USDA programs prior to June 1, can file an exemption to the conservation compliance certification for reinsurance year 2016 and still be eligible for the crop insurance premium support.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Just in

Record Number of Farmers and Ranchers Certified Under 2014 Farm Bill Conservation Compliance 

Overwhelming Number of Farmers and Ranchers Certify to Follow Conservation Compliance Guidelines, Building on Long-Standing Participation through Other USDA Programs
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that over 98.2 percent of producers have met the 2014 Farm Bill requirement to certify conservation compliance to qualify for crop insurance premium support payments.
Implementing the 2014 Farm Bill provisions for conservation compliance is expected to extend conservation provisions for an additional 1.5 million acres of highly erodible lands and 1.1 million acres of wetlands, which will reduce soil erosion, enhance water quality, and create wildlife habitat.
"This overwhelming response is a product of USDA's extensive outreach and the commitment of America's farmers to be stewards of the land," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "By investing in both American farmers and the health of our productive lands, we are ensuring future generations have access to fertile soil, healthy food supplies, and a strong rural economy."

Friday, July 10, 2015

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Simpson Supports Healthy Forest Bill
Idaho Congressman pledges to push catastrophic wildfire solution

Washington - Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson voted Thursday for legislation to promote healthier forests and more effective forest management.  H.R. 2647, the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2015, addresses the land management crisis created by catastrophic wildfires, promotes collaborative management projects, and modernizes the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act.  Simpson is a cosponsor of the legislation, which passed the House by a vote of 262-167.

 “The Forest Service faces a number of very real challenges when it comes to active land management, and I’m pleased with a number of steps that this bill takes to respond to those issues,” said Simpson.  “Frivolous lawsuits paralyze federal land management agencies and put management decisions into the hands of the court rather than land managers. This legislation addresses several issues at the heart of this problem.”

“Another major problem,” added Simpson, “is the cost of catastrophic wildfires. Addressing this issue is one of my top legislative priorities, and while this bill takes steps toward that goal, I’m going to continue working on my comprehensive solution to funding catastrophic wildfires.”

Simpson has introduced H.R. 167, the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, which is bipartisan legislation with broad support intended to fix the budgeting process for wildfire suppression.  His bill would treat catastrophic wildfires like similar natural disasters and would end the disastrous process known as “fire borrowing.”  

When fire suppression costs exceed the budget, the Forest Service is forced to rob from other non-fire accounts—including projects intended to reduce hazardous fuels and make forests less susceptible to fire—in order to keep fighting the fires. “Fire borrowing” was intended as an extraordinary measure, but as wildfires have grown more costly, it has become standard procedure—in fact, fire borrowing has been necessary in 7 of the past 10 years.  H.R. 2647 includes language that would allow FEMA to transfer limited funds to the Forest Service and the BLM for fire suppression when the budget has been exhausted.

“Until we address the problem of fire borrowing, funds intended for forest management, including hazardous fuels removal, timber harvest, and trail maintenance, will continue to pay to fire suppression,” said Simpson. “While I believe that Congress should take up the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act in order to fix a number of wildfire budgeting problems, I’m glad that this bill acknowledges these issues and begins to address them.” 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

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Simpson Language Keeps Sheep Station Open
Washington - Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson today praised the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee’s decision to preserve ARS research programs including those at the U.S. Sheep Experimental Station (USSES) in Dubois, Idaho.  Simpson, who requested the language in the FY16 Agriculture Appropriations Bill, is working with other western representatives to support the USSES. 
 “I was disappointed when USDA attempted to close USSES last year and failed to provide prior notice to Congress and the sheep industry,” said Simpson. “I am very pleased this appropriations bill includes language that maintains the mission at Dubois. Because of its location and expertise, staff at the Dubois station are working on unique issues, including research on the domestic-wildlife interface that is vital to the sheep industry’s future.”
Congressman Simpson has worked closely with USDA, University of Idaho, and members of the sheep industry throughout the process to ensure the long-term viability of the USSES and the economic activity it generates in the area.
After the committee meeting Simpson said, “The bill passed out of committee today recognizes the station’s valuable work and is an important step towards ensuring the stakeholders and ARS come together to work on a viable, long-term future for USSES.”
The Agriculture Appropriations bill was passed by the House Appropriations Committee on a voice vote.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

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Farm Bureau to EPA: Proposed rule would hurt biofuel market and environment

Washington—American Farm Bureau today called on the Environmental Protection Agency to rethink its rule to reduce renewable fuels in the nation’s gasoline supply. Nebraska Farm Bureau President and AFBF Board Member Steve Nelson, Iowa Farm Bureau’s Charlie Norris and Illinois Farm Bureau’s Wayne Anderson called the rule groundless and harmful at a special field hearing in Kansas City, Kansas.

“EPA’s decision not to follow the intent of Congress when it developed the RFS in 2007 is highly disappointing to all of agriculture,” Nelson, a corn and soybean farmer, said. “This proposal is a step in the wrong direction and ignores the benefits ethanol and biofuels have provided Nebraska’s rural economy and the nation as a whole.”

Iowa’s Norris, who grows corn and soybeans, said “EPA’s rationale for this proposed rule is flawed. The renewable fuel standard has already met and surpassed all of its intended goals, and the EPA should continue to follow the volumes specified in the law.”

Anderson, a grain farmer in Geneseo, Illinois, added, “Congress took a bold step when our country recognized the need to rely more on domestically produced, environmentally friendly bio-based fuels. Ethanol and biofuels are fulfilling that promise.”

The RFS has reduced air pollution and our dependence on foreign oil while increasing farm incomes and creating jobs across rural America. AFBF believes this is a success story EPA should be promoting, not undercutting, for the good of the nation’s environment and economy.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

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American Farm Bureau, industry groups ask court to ditch EPA’s unlawful water rule

Dallas—The American Farm Bureau Federation, Texas Farm Bureau, Matagorda County Farm Bureau, and 11 other agricultural and industry groups today asked a federal court to vacate the controversial new rule redefining the scope of federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act.

The complaint, filed in federal district court in Texas, claims the new rule grants EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers broad control over land use far beyond what Congress authorized in the Clean Water Act. The lawsuit also claims vagueness and over-breadth of the rule violate the U.S. Constitution. The groups also challenged EPA’s aggressive grassroots advocacy campaign during the comment period, which reflected a closed mind to concerns expressed by farmers and others.

EPA and the Corps first proposed the rule in March 2014, promising clarity and certainty to farmers, ranchers, builders and other affected businesses and landowners. “Instead we have a final rule that exceeds the agencies’ legal authority and fails to provide the clarity that was promised,” AFBF General Counsel Ellen Steen said. “AFBF filed this lawsuit to do everything we can to protect the interests of farmers and ranchers, but litigation is not a quick or perfect fix. It is long, cumbersome and expensive, and it leaves farmers and others facing immediate harm and uncertainty under this rule.”

While AFBF and others turn to the courts, a bill currently before the Senate, if passed, would require EPA and the Corps to abandon the rule and conduct a new rulemaking. “Lawsuit or no lawsuit, we need Congress to act,” AFBF President Bob Stallman said. “We need legislation that requires an honest rulemaking from EPA. EPA water regulations must protect water quality without bulldozing the rights of farmers and others whose livelihoods depend on their ability to work the land.”

According to the AFBF complaint, “the Agencies are determined to exert jurisdiction over a staggering range of dry land and water features—whether large or small, permanent, intermittent or ephemeral, flowing or stagnant, natural or manmade, interstate or intrastate.” The “opaque and unwieldy” rule “leaves the identification of jurisdictional waters so vague and uncertain that Plaintiffs and their members cannot determine whether and when the most basic activities undertaken on their land will subject them to drastic criminal and civil penalties under the (Clean Water Act).”

The AFBF lawsuit follows four similar suits filed by officials representing 27 states, all within two days of the rule’s publication on June 29. A group of nine states—West Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, South Carolina, Utah and Wisconsin—has asked a federal district court in Georgia for a preliminary injunction to stop implementation of the rule while the lawsuit is resolved. Ohio and Michigan have a separate suit in Ohio also seeking preliminary relief. “We appreciate the leadership and dedication of all the states that have challenged the rule, and we fully support their efforts,” Steen said. 

AFBF’s co-plaintiffs are the American Petroleum Institute, American Road and Transportation Builders, Leading Builders of America, National Alliance of Forest Owners, National Association of Home Builders, National Association of Manufacturers, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Mining Association, National Pork Producers Council and Public Lands Council.
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Monday, July 6, 2015

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With lower corn and soybean prices, growing wheat may look attractive again for Idaho  farmers. Hopefully an increase in global exports will follow. This wheat near Emmett is just weeks away from harvest.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

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Farm Bureau urges Senate to repeal COOL requirements on beef, chicken and pork 

HillWashington – Iowa Farm Bureau President and American Farm Bureau Federation Board Member, Craig Hill, testified before the Senate Agriculture Committee on the risks American farmers and ranchers face in light of the World Trade Organization’s ruling against mandatory country-of-origin labeling for beef and pork sold in the U.S.

“Farm Bureau clearly hoped the WTO would rule in favor of the United States on the regulatory changes made to COOL in recent years,” Hill, a grain and livestock farmer from Milo, Iowa, said. “But the writing on the proverbial wall is clear: that was not the outcome.

“We urge the Senate to act quickly to repeal the COOL requirements for beef, pork and chicken and prevent Canada and Mexico from taking retaliatory actions that will impact farmers and ranchers all across the nation.

“American Farm Bureau supports country-of-origin labeling that meets WTO requirements, and we appreciate that remaining COOL programs are being kept in place. The risk of retaliation by Canada and Mexico is too great. U.S. farmers and ranchers could suffer a serious blow if decisive action is not taken.”

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

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President signs Trade Promotion Authority bill 

Washington—President Obama’s signature on Trade Promotion Authority legislation opens the door to creating new trade partnerships around the world that will drive American business forward in the international marketplace, according to American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman.

“The American economy stands stronger when we work together—and that’s just what Trade Promotion Authority enables us to do at the bargaining table. U.S. agriculture is ready for ambitious trade agreements that break down barriers to products grown and made in America, so our trading partners know we mean business,” Stallman said in a statement.

For the past 40 years, TPA and its precedent versions have provided U.S. negotiators the ability to reach agreement with other nations on trade matters that are not open to change by Congress, yet TPA has protected Congress’ constitutional role to set trade objectives and preserved lawmakers’ final “yea” or “nay” on the agreement.

In 2014, U.S. farmers and ranchers exported more than $152 billion in food, fiber, feed and energy commodities and products to customers around the world, providing the country with a positive net trade of $43 billion over imports. Agriculture’s 2015 export forecast isn’t as sunny, with a projected $9 billion drop. While some of this decrease stems from lower commodity prices for certain crops, ongoing challenges U.S. negotiators face in reaching multilateral agreements and resolving trade conflicts are also a factor.

“Without the ability to finish negotiations and present those agreements to Congress for an up or down ratification vote, we are ceding potential market development and expansion to our competitors and yielding global economic leadership to other nations,” Stallman said in a letter to lawmakers urging them to pass the bill.

Congress considers Farm Bill this week

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