Friday, December 30, 2016

From the Times News, Twin Falls

Grain Growers looking to the future:

BURLEY — U.S. grain growers are just a drought or two away from higher prices.
At least as long as those dry conditions impact somewhere other than Idaho.
Three consecutive years of record world grain stocks are acting as a huge anchor to prices Idaho growers receive for their barley, wheat and corn. Throw in a strong dollar that is holding down export sales and the result is a grain futures market that can best be described as “very bearish.”

Wheat has the most bearish outlook of the three grains with a 50 percent supply-to-use ratio. U.S. barley isn’t much better at 44 percent. Corn is at just 16 percent, but that’s the largest ratio in two decades. In comparison, the world stocks-to-use ratio of 16 percent for barley and 34 percent for wheat.

“The U.S. is carrying the lion’s share of stocks,” Kelly Olson, Idaho Barley Association administrator, told producers, bankers and University of Idaho personnel attending the University of Idaho Ag Outlook Conference. “We need fewer acres or weather problems.”
Wheat and corn prices hit highs in early June, thanks to weather premiums, but have fallen 28 to 33 percent since then and aren’t expected to recover anytime soon. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest price outlook, national barley prices will average $4.55 to $5.15 per bushel in the coming year, down 12 percent from a year ago. Corn is off about the same, down 9 percent to $3 to $3.60 per bushel.

Idaho wheat prices are expected to range from $4 to $3.477 per bushel, down 15 to 20 percent. Malt barley could fall to around $3.90 a bushel with feed barley falling to $2.40.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Just in

Snowpacks above normal

Boise —A parched dry fall sent experts to the record books to see what winter would bring in the Rocky Mountains. 
The series of storms brought above normal snowpack across Idaho and the Intermountain west.
From Denver to Missoula, to Boise, snowfall rebounded to normal levels at Western ski areas and the mountains that feed the Snake River.
And snowpack totals  across most of the region Thursday, especially in Oregon, eastern Nevada and Utah and parts of Idaho stood as high as 176 percent of average.
Pocatello had 15 inces of snow on a rare chrismas eve storm that also dumped as much as 10 inches in Boise, 13 inches in Ketchum and 40 inches at Pebble Creek Ski area in Inkom.
Local 8 news in Pocatello reported that southeastern areas, like Preston, were reported large amounts of snowfall. Preston had between nine and ten inches last Sunday afternoon. 
The Preston area hasn't seen a storm dump that much snow so quickly in a few years, so residents were a little surprised. But because of a blizzard warning in effect for much of southeastern Idaho, people say they weren't traveling if they didn't have to. 
“We walked over to the neighbors and then we came back for our car to drive it over to haul Christmas presents," said Samantha Olsen of Preston. "The snow covered the inside parts of the tires and it is deep and it is a thick snow. We will not drive out in it and I hope that those have to are careful because we’ve heard of a lot of slide-offs. It’s deep and drifted in a lot of areas."
  Most of the Snake River plain are seeing below normal temperatures and thats keeping the snow around and side streets in the capitol city are still clogged with snow.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Just in

AFBF Econ Team Delivers December 2016 Crop Market Update

Washington—The latest crop market report from AFBF economist John Newton, "The Acres They Are A-Changin,'" reviews USDA's long-term agricultural projections and what the numbers mean for commodity prices and farm revenue.

 One of the most anticipated items from the early-release are USDA’s projections for planted area in 2017. During 2016, the total planted area for the eight principal crops and conservation reserve program was 277.9 million acres.

For 2017, USDA projects planted area to decline for all crops except cotton and soybeans, with a total acreage loss of 5.5 million acres to 272.4 million acres. Also in this month's report, Newton looks at EPA's updated RFS rules and what they could mean for growth in the biofuels market. Download the full December 2016 Crop Market Update at the AFBF website.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Just in

USDA Provides New Cost Share Opportunities for Organic Producers and Handlers

Organic Producers and Handlers May Apply for Certification Cost Share Reimbursements; Expanded Eligibility for Transition and State Certification Cost
WASHINGTON– The U.S. Department of Agriculture today announced that starting March 20, 2017, organic producers and handlers will be able to visit over 2,100 USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices around the country to apply for federal reimbursement to assist with the cost of receiving and maintaining organic or transitional certification.
"USDA is committed to helping the organic sector grow and thrive through a wide variety of programs, and part of that commitment is making it easy for stakeholders to access our services. That's why, starting March 20, producers will be able to visit their local FSA offices to access organic certification cost-share reimbursements for up to 75 percent of the cost of organic certification," said FSA Administrator Val Dolcini. "This will provide a more uniform, streamlined process nationwide; and it will give organic producers a chance to learn about other valuable USDA resources, like farm loans and conservation assistance that can help them succeed."
USDA is making these changes to encourage increased participation in the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program and the Agricultural Management Assistance Organic Certification Cost Share Program, and at the same time provide more opportunities for organic producers to access a full range of USDA programs, such as disaster protection and loans for farms, facilities and marketing. Producers can also access information on nonfederal agricultural resources, and get referrals to local experts, including organic agriculture, through USDA's Bridges to Opportunity service at the local FSA office.
In the past, state departments of agriculture administered the cost share programs. States that still want to administer the program will have the opportunity to do so by applying for funding by Feb. 17, 2017. 
"The Agricultural Marketing Service and the National Organic Program look forward to this exciting opportunity to leverage the Farm Service Agency's rural footprint to reach more organic producers and handlers," said AMS Administrator Elanor Starmer. "At the same time it is important to recognize and continue the valuable partnerships with states that remain at the core of the program."

Monday, December 26, 2016

Just in

Idahoan Named to Cattlemen's Beef Promotion and Research Board 

WASHINGTON-Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the appointment of 39 members to the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board. All 39 appointees will serve 3-year terms.

Newly appointed members representing cattle producers are: Aubrey Blackmon, Houston, Ark.; Jo Stanko, Steamboat Springs, Colo.; Dwain Johnson, Archer, Fla.; Lynn C. Keetch, Montpelier, Idaho; Sara Prescott, Sherman, Ill.; Norman D. Voyles, Jr., Martinsville, Ind.; Brian L. Sampson, Nevada, Iowa; Jenni Peters, Bellevue, Iowa; Byron Lehman, Newton, Kan.; Beth Patterson, Yates Center, Kan.; Shane Wiseman, Winchester, Ky.; Steve Matthees, Goodhue, Minn.; Tammy Bartholomew, Archie, Mo.; Bill McLaren, Pacific, Mo.; Lynda Joyce Grande, Columbus, Mont.; Torri Ortiz Lienemann, Princeton, Neb.; Herbert B. Rhodes, Omaha, Neb.; Rich Brown, Port Byron, N.Y.; James M. Schmidt, Menoken, N.D.; Kathryn Sautter, Tiro, Ohio; Chuck R. Coffey, Springer, Okla.; Jean Lam, Pauls Valley, Okla.; Katharine Jackson, Myrtle Creek; Ore.; Jana L. Malot, Harrisonville, Pa.; Cory Eich, Canova, S.D.; Paul Moss, Cottage Grove, Tenn.; Roger Clift, Gruver, Texas; Steven J. Mafrige, Tilden, Texas; Brian Malaer, Harwood, Texas; Tim Pennell, Westhoff, Texas; Janna DeMott Stubbs, Alpine, Texas; Bobby L. Combs, Chilhowie, Va.; Lloyd DeRuyter, Cedar Grove, Wis.; William L. McLean, Coulee City, Wash.; Betts J. Berry, Chickamauga, Ga.; Stephanie R. Butcher, Senoia, Ga.; Joaquin Contente, Hanford, Calif.; and Michael Smith, Visalia, Calif.

Newly appointed member representing importers is Dana Ehrlich, Newton, Mass. The 100-member board is authorized by the Beef Promotion and Research Act of 1985. The Secretary of Agriculture selects the appointees nominated by beef, veal, dairy, and importers-certified organizations.

Since 1966, Congress has authorized the establishment of 22 industry-funded research and promotion boards. They empower farmers and ranchers to leverage their own resources to develop new markets, strengthen existing markets, and conduct important research and promotion activities. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service provides oversight, paid for by industry assessments, which ensures fiscal accountability and program integrity for participating stakeholders.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Just in

Farm Bureau, NASDA Seek Delay of Unlawful EPA Rule
WASHINGTON– The American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture have petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to delay the January 2017 start date of its worker protection safety rule. AFBF and NASDA cited EPA violations of federal law as well as incomplete and undelivered compliance and enforcement tools to support their petition.
According to the joint petition to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, the WPS rule was issued in violation of federal law. The proposal, Farm Bureau and NASDA told McCarthy, “fails to advance the purpose of furthering the safety of farmworkers.” The rule’s rapidly approaching implementation also poses “a serious problem for administration of the rule’s requirements” by state departments of agriculture as well as farmers and ranchers who must comply with its terms.
“We ask EPA to delay the effective date to give NASDA members adequate time to prepare for compliance with the rule and to avoid the unfair and unredressable harm to farmers and ranchers,” the groups said.
The petition from AFBF and NASDA claims EPA did not meet the law’s requirements when it failed to provide congressional agriculture committees a final copy of the regulations along with the copy sent to the agriculture secretary. The EPA has acknowledged that omission in responses to questions from Congress.
“EPA’s failure to meet its statutory obligations deprived Congress of its lawful expectation of examining the regulation before its promulgation,” the petition states.
The groups also claimed that the rule’s “designated representative” provision exceeds the scope of the WPS rule by depriving farmers of reasonable expectation of privacy for confidential business information. The groups say that the rule subjects farmers to potential harassment and public criticisms for lawful use of EPA-approved pesticides. In spite of the groups identifying problems related to equity and implementation of the WPS rule, EPA has not addressed the problems.
The petition also asserts that the EPA has failed to finalize and deliver to state lead agencies the enforcement guidance, educational material and training resources needed to effectively implement the rule and assist farmers and ranchers with compliance efforts.
“At this time, even if all of the compliance and enforcement materials were completed and distributed to all the appropriate state enforcement agencies, there is simply not enough time for the (state lead agencies) and the regulated community to successfully implement the provisions scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2017,” the petition states. “In short, EPA has failed to develop and deliver the necessary resources for states to train the regulated community on the new requirements, and the agency has failed to comply with its own WPS Implementation Timeline.”

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Just in

USDA Invests $225 Million in Innovative Conservation Partnerships

Addition of 88 projects brings federal, partner investment to over $2 billion since 2014
WASHINGTON- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that 88 high-impact projects across the country will receive $225 million in federal funding as part of the USDA's Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). In addition, partners have proposed to contribute up to an additional $500 million to improve the nation's water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat and protect agricultural viability.
With today's announcement, the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is investing a total of $825 million in 286 projects, bringing together more than 2,000 conservation partners who have committed an estimated $1.4 billion in financial and technical assistance. By 2018, NRCS and its partners, including Indian tribes, nonprofit organizations, state and local governments, private industry, water districts, universities and many others, will have invested at least $2.4 billion through RCPP, which was created by the 2014 Farm Bill.
"RCPP plays a critical role in connecting partners with producers to design and implement conservation solutions that benefit both natural resources and agriculture," Vilsack said. "The Farm Bill is the largest source of federal funding for private lands conservation, and RCPP is contributing innovative conservation solutions to communities across the country."
RCPP offers new opportunities for the NRCS, conservation partners and agricultural producers to work together to harness innovation, expand the conservation mission, and demonstrate the value and efficacy of voluntary, private lands conservation. The  program is increasing investment in conservation from a diversity of partners, leading to cleaner and more abundant water, improved soil and air quality, enhanced wildlife habitat, and stronger rural economies.
Water quality and drought are dominant themes in this year's RCPP project list with 46 of the 88 projects focusing on water resource concerns. More than a fourth of the projects are focused on improving fish and wildlife habitat. See the full list of 2017 projects spanning the country, impacting almost every state in the nation and Puerto Rico.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Just in

USDA Commits $32 Million to Protect Natural Resources through Joint Chiefs’ Partnership  

BOISE– The U.S. Department of Agriculture today announced a new investment of $32 million to improve the health and resiliency of forest ecosystems where public forests and grasslands connect to privately-owned lands, said Curtis Elke, State Conservationist for the Natural Resource Conservation Service in Idaho.  

Through the Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and the U.S. Forest Service will invest the new funds in fiscal year 2017 to add 10 new projects and support 26 partnership projects already underway. Federal, state and local partners will bring an additional $30 million through financial and in-kind contributions over three years to implement the newly added projects. With this funding, Joint Chiefs’ projects will extend to 29 states.

  “This federal, state and local collaboration helps local partners meet the growing challenges that come with protecting communities, watersheds, forests and woodlands from the devastating and costly impacts of wildfires and other threats, while protecting water resources, and improving wildlife habitat,” Elke said.  

Idaho will receive a total of $204,800 for the Curlew National Grasslands Area Restoration Project in fiscal year 2017.  The NRCS portion is $99,000 and the balance will come through the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Idaho also has a Joint Chiefs Project in the Upper North Fork, which will receive $435,800 through USFS. Each project is three years in duration.  

The Curlew Area Restoration Project consists of several multifaceted and interrelated projects planned for the Curlew National Grassland and adjacent private lands. These projects have been developed to improve watershed and natural resource conditions while benefitting local farmers ranchers, and the general public.

Activities will improve public safety, improve water quality and aquatic habitat, increase riparian and wetland habitat, remove invasive plants, protect sagebrush habitat, improve grazing and farming practices, improve recreation opportunities and increase public awareness about restoration activities.  

Idaho’s Upper North Fork is an example of a project that provides a big benefit for a small investment. Fires often spread from private property onto public lands where they can become wildfires. The fix is to stop fires at the point where they start, before they have a chance to spread. However, many private landowners do not have the technical knowledge or funds to treat hazardous fuels on their property.

This project targets private lands where fires have a high probability of starting and adjacent National Forest lands where they will initially spread. Proactive treatment in these areas is effective and protects a vast area of public land. By working collaboratively with grassroots partners and our sister agency, the U.S. Forest Service, we are able to implement straightforward projects that benefit both public and private lands as well as the communities those lands encompass,” Elke said.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

AFBF President's OP-ED

Farmers United in Our Resolve for Reform in 2017

By Zippy Duvall
President, American Farm Bureau
Washington--As I look back on 2016, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for the opportunity to work alongside you and serve as your American Farm Bureau president. I am proud of the work our nation’s farmers and ranchers do, day in and day out. I am equally proud of how our state and national Farm Bureau staff work just as tirelessly to ensure farmers and ranchers can continue to feed and fuel our country and the world for generations to come.

When I addressed you for the first time as your American Farm Bureau president in Orlando last January, I committed to working with you all to solve the problems facing agriculture—and that’s just what we’re doing.

This year, I’ve had the privilege of visiting 33 states—and counting—across our great country to meet with Farm Bureau members face-to-face. Each region, every state and all types of agriculture have unique challenges. I have been heartened by one common thread; a reminder of just how critical the reforms Farm Bureau is fighting for are to rural families and farm businesses.

Looking ahead to 2017, we see a clear need for regulatory and tax reform that frees farmers and ranchers to keep their businesses running and gives them flexibility to invest in their local economies. We need to put a stop to regulatory overreach that threatens to put a choke hold on farmers. We need greater access to markets around the world and a stable, legal workforce to ensure we continue leading the world in agricultural production. But none of these reforms will happen if we don’t unite around the table and speak up. 

As I’ve traveled our great country, I’ve been reminded time and again of how much we can accomplish when we learn from our differences and work together. America’s farmers and ranchers aren’t defined by our struggles. We’re defined by what we do best: we lead and feed and fuel the world.

We didn’t take up the work of farming and ranching because we expected it to be easy. While agriculture is our business, it is also our calling.  We are called to take up this work out of love for our family and our neighbors. It’s a mission we take seriously because we believe we’ve been given a unique task to care for the land and animals entrusted to us by our Creator. We have a responsibility to consumers as we grow the highest quality food, fiber and fuel while protecting our precious natural resources. We must continue to earn consumer trust as we strive for continuous improvement in everything we do.

The great story of American agriculture is one of hard work, ingenuity and passion, and it’s a story best told by the folks who live it. Farmers and ranchers made their voices heard in 2016, but we need to keep telling our stories if we want to be at the heart of shaping the policies that will impact our businesses and way of life. The close of one year ushers in new goals for the next, and I am confident that working together through Farm Bureau offers us that common platform for progress. During this new year, I will continue to learn about your challenges and your triumphs, and like 2016, I look forward to hearing many of your stories face-to-face.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Just in

USDA Issues Report on Investments to Grow the Rural Economy

FY 2016 Rural Development Progress Report Released
WASHINGTON–Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today released the final  year-end report of the Obama administration's results creating jobs and investing in rural communities nationwide.
"USDA Rural Development has measurably improved the lives and livelihoods for millions of rural Americans – and their future looks much brighter today than when President Obama took office," Vilsack said. "The results highlighted in this report demonstrate how long-term government investment and effective partnerships with public and private institutions are central to rural America's continued progress."
USDA Rural Development's 2016 Progress Report provides an overview of activities in 2016 that resulted in record investments in rural America. Vilsack notes in the report that key economic indicators continue to show that rural America is rebounding.
Rural unemployment dropped below 6 percent in 2015 for the first time since 2007, and rural poverty rates have fallen, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Median household incomes in rural areas increased by 3.4 percent in 2015, and rural populations have stabilized and in some areas are beginning to grow.
The report includes success stories from every state illustrating the many ways USDA helps create jobs, make infrastructure improvements and boost economic development. It also highlights the success of some of the Obama administration's and Vilsack's place-based initiatives, such as  Promise Zones and StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity. These efforts help reduce poverty, and support investments in education, community services and capacity building to jump-start and sustain economic development.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Just in


Nampa--Nampa & Meridian Irrigation District 2016 tax payments are due Tuesday (Dec. 20) for more than 38,000 Treasure Valley property owners with property inside the boundaries of the Treasure Valley’s largest irrigation district, officials with the Nampa & Meridian Irrigation District advised today.

Property owners have the option of paying the assessment in full or in two parts, but at least the first-half payment of the 2015 assessment must be hand delivered or postmarked by Tuesday, December 20. Second-half payments must be made by June 20, 2017 for residents who choose to make two payments.

Property owners can also pay on line by using NMID’s secure online bill payment option on the District website – However, online payments must be made prior to 5:00 p.m. December 20th, NMID officials said.

If the tax bill is not paid on time, then a 2 percent penalty and interest at an annual rate of 12 percent will be added to their 2016 tax bill.

Idaho law requires that tax liens be filed each year against the property if the assessments are not paid in full by June 20 of the following year. The District is currently moving forward with tax deed action against properties in Ada and Canyon counties for which tax levies have gone unpaid for three years.

Tax deed action can eventually lead to property being sold at a tax auction if the owner refuses to pay the assessments, officials cautioned.

Property owners who owe tax assessments from previous years will find their past due tax assessment information included in this year’s notice sent out in October. A list of individuals owing back taxes will be available on the District’s website in January.

People with questions about their assessment payment or the Nampa & Meridian Irrigation District should call the District office at 466-7861. More information about the District is also available at its internet web site:

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Just in

USDA Announces Farmer Fair Practices Rules - Clarifications for Industry  Protections for Farmers

WASHINGTON-The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration today announced updated regulations to protect the rights of farmers. The Farmer Fair Practices Rules target the most harmful practices hurting farmers and clearly outlines common sense protections to restore fairness and reduce the burden for farmers seeking justice under the Packers and Stockyards Act. This is the most recent action in the Obama's Administration's efforts to level the playing field for all Americans.
"For years, American farmers have been calling for protections against the most damaging unfair and deceptive practices confronting family farms across the country," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "Poultry growers in particular are vulnerable to market risks and concentration in the processor market. All too often, processors and packers wield the power, and farmers carry the risk. Today, USDA is taking a big step toward providing the protections that farmers deserve and need."
The four largest processors in the poultry sector in this country control 51% of the broiler market and 57% of the turkey market. In part due to this concentration, poultry growers often have limited options for processors available in their local communities to contract with. 52% of growers have only one or two processors in their state or region to whom they can provide grower services. That means processors can often wield market power over the growers, treating them unfairly, suppressing how much they are paid, or pitting them against each other.
The new rules would level the playing field for farmers by proposing protections against the most egregious retaliatory practices harming chicken growers. The Farmer Fair Practices Rules are comprised of an interim final rule and two proposed rules GIPSA today sent to be published in the Federal Register. The interim final rule will affirmatively establish the Department's long time position that it is not necessary to demonstrate that an unfair practice harms the entire market in order to prove a violation of the Packers and Stockyards Act. Such overly broad interpretations have put family farmers at a disadvantage for decades when pursuing their rights under the Act.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Just in

Trump considering Otter for Ag Secretary
BOISE - Idaho Governor under consideration for President-elect Donald Trump's Cabinet.
Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter is being vetted for the secretary of Agriculture position, Otter's press secretary, Jon Hanian, confirmed to the media.
Hanian didn't say how far along the vetting process is, or how many other candidates are under consideration. 
Earlier this week, Congressman.Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) was considered as a candidate for secretary of the Interior. Trump eventually chose Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke for the post.
The secretary of Agriculture heads up the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), a federal department responsible for developing and executing laws related to farming, agriculture, forestry and food.
Otter has extensive experience in agriculture, including 30 years working for agribusiness Simplot. 

Just in

AFBF Surpasses Membership Quota Goal for 2016

Washington—AFBF has surpassed its membership quota goal for 2016, posting growth of 14,835 member families. According to Robin Kinney, director of membership & program development, total membership for the year is 5,999,327 member families.

State Farm Bureaus that reached Quota and Navigator status are identified on the map. Quota is a membership goal for a state calculated by taking the final membership number reported to AFBF for the previous year and adding one member.

Membership is vital to the health of Farm Bureau, ensuring we have the resources to serve our mission. People join Farm Bureau for different reasons, and every member helps us make a difference at the local, state and national levels.
—  Robin Kinney

Charting a course for membership growth, Navigator reflects a state achieving an accelerated pace and surpassing the established quota goal. The Navigator Award is a calculated percentage of growth by state-size based on the previous year’s final reported membership.

The collective effort of state Farm Bureaus in attaining membership growth will be celebrated during the 2017 Annual Convention & IDEAg Trade Show in Phoenix. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Just in

Waterways infrastructure bill ready for Obama’s signature

Washington—Just before wrapping up the second session of the 114th Congress, the House and Senate approved the Farm Bureau-supported Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act (S.612). The measure includes the Water Resources Development Act of 2016, which authorizes investment in America’s ports, channels, locks, dams and other infrastructure that supports the maritime and waterways transportation system and provides flood protection for communities.

“Making sure our inland waterways are healthy, along with the ability to deepen our ports, is essential to keeping U.S. farmers and ranchers competitive in international markets.

Andrew Walmsley, American Farm Bureau Federation transportation specialist

Included in the legislation is a 75 percent federal share on harbor-deepening projects up to 50 feet. The federal share previously dropped to 50 percent when new construction went deeper than 45 feet. Also included is a new provision ensuring that each year, the revenues that go to harbor maintenance will be at least 103 percent of the previous year’s amount.

The WRDA title of the bill also authorizes projects included in the Army Corps of Engineers Chief’s Reports received since the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) of 2014.

Another of the bill’s three titles addresses the drought in California and elsewhere in the West.

“Part of the bill’s natural resources title aims to bring some relief to the West, where farmers, ranchers and many others have been confronted with serious drought conditions. The bill updates some water storage and delivery projects and provides some flexibility to some states to get water to struggling farmers in rural communities,” Walmsley explained.

Also in the plus column for the legislation, according to Walmsley, it gets Congress back into a two-year cycle of considering WRDA legislation, ensuring proper congressional oversight of the Army Corps of Engineers and reasserting Congress’ role in addressing water infrastructure needs.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Just in

USDA Boosts Healthy Food Access, Sets New Standards for SNAP Retailers

WASHINGTON–U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced final changes to increase access to healthy food choices for participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The provisions in this rule require SNAP authorized retail establishments to offer a larger inventory and variety of healthy food options.

"This final rule balances the need to improve the healthy staple foods available for purchase at participating stores, while maintaining food access for SNAP recipients in underserved rural and urban areas," said Vilsack. "We received many helpful comments on the proposed rule and have modified the final rule in important ways to ensure that these dual goals are met. I am confident that this rule will ensure the retailers that participate in SNAP offer a variety of healthy foods for purchase and that SNAP recipients will continue to have access to the stores they need to be able to purchase food."

The final rule provides long overdue updates to SNAP retailer eligibility criteria. Previously, a retailer could be authorized to participate in the program with a minimum inventory of 12 items. Now, the number of required food items is expanded to a minimum of 84. These changes are in keeping with the primary purpose of the program.

USDA extended the comment period for the proposed rule to ensure all interested parties had the opportunity to bring their voice to the final rule, and made significant changes to respond to those comments. The final rule announced today incorporates feedback from over 1,200 comments received and ensures the new standards will balance commenters' concerns.

In particular, in the final rule multiple ingredient foods will continue to count towards retailer eligibility. In addition, the existing regulatory requirement that specifies the threshold of hot and cold prepared foods sold that makes a location an ineligible restaurant (rather than an eligible SNAP retailer) is far more flexible than in the proposed rule. Now the requirement is nearly the same as the requirement that has been in place for some time with only a modest change to account for foods heated and consumed on site after purchase.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Just in

Farmers, Ranchers Welcome Selection of Scott Pruitt to Lead EPA

Washington—Farmers, ranchers and many others cheered President-elect Donald Trump’s choice of Scott Pruitt to lead EPA. In his position as attorney general in Oklahoma, Pruitt has stood up for common-sense, effective regulation that protects the environment and the rights of the regulated community, according to American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall.

Trump’s selection of Pruitt “is welcome news to America’s farmers and ranchers—in fact, to all who are threatened by EPA’s regulatory overreach—and should help provide a new degree of fairness for U.S. agriculture,” Duvall said in a statement.

Noting farmers’ appreciation for Pruitt’s effective legal work in response to EPA’s overreaching Waters of the U.S. rule, Duvall said AFBF anticipates that as EPA administrator, Pruitt will pay attention to the concerns of farmers and ranchers and others who work with the nation’s natural resources on a daily basis.

"Agriculture is a profession based on a solid ethic of conservation. It helps guide everything we do, and we expect that Pruitt will understand that in regulatory matters dealing with agriculture and the environment," said AFBF President Zippy Duvall

Pruitt led attorneys general from several states in filing one of a number of lawsuits challenging EPA’s WOTUS The EPA administrator must be confirmed by the Senate.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Just in

USDA Announces New Conservation Opportunities to Improve Water Quality and Restore Wildlife Habitat

DES MOINES–Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture will offer farmers and ranchers more opportunities to participate in the Conservation Reserve Program. The announcement includes new CRP practices to protect water quality and adds an additional 1.1 million acres targeted to benefit wildlife, pollinators and wetlands.
"The Conservation Reserve Program is an extremely popular voluntary program that offers producers and landowners a wide variety of opportunities to prevent erosion, protect wildlife habitat and reduce nutrient runoff," said Vilsack. "With the program close to the legal enrollment limit of 24 million acres, USDA has been working to use all of the tools at our disposal to maximize benefits by combining multiple soil, water and wildlife objectives in the areas where it is needed most."
Vilsack unveiled a new conservation initiative known as Clean Lakes, Estuaries and Rivers (CLEAR), which will add new tools to CRP that can help to improve water quality. CLEAR will assist landowners with the cost of building bioreactors and saturated buffers that filter nitrates and other nutrients from tile-drained cropland. Early estimates indicate that CLEAR could help to reduce nitrate runoff by as much as 40 percent over traditional conservation methods. CLEAR may cover up to 90 percent of the cost to install these new practices through incentives and cost-share. These new methods are especially important in areas where traditional buffers have not been enough to prevent nutrients from reaching bodies of water.
USDA will also add an additional 1.1 million acres to a number of key CRP practices that are critically important to wildlife and conservation. These include 700,000 acres for State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) efforts, which restore high-priority wildlife habitat tailored to a specific state's needs. In addition to SAFE, 300,000 acres will be added to target wetlands restoration that are nature's water filters and 100,000 acres for pollinator habitat that support 30 percent of agricultural production.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

TFBF President talks about Fellowship!

TFFB President Kohtz talks about her European Fellowship

Washington--An exchange program supported by the American Farm 
Bureau Federation helps farmers around the globe collaborate and learn
more about agriculture.
Clements: The McCloy Fellowship in Agriculture, an exchange program for promising American and German leaders in agriculture, offers international learning opportunities. The program takes four U.S. farm leaders to Germany and brings four German farm leaders to the United States. Elizabeth Kohtz, a farmer and dairy veterinarian from Twin Falls, Idaho, who has participated in the fellowship, explains the program.
Kohtz: For the Americans it involves a 10-day trip to Germany where we get to meet with fellow McCloy alumni, policy makers, agriculture experts, spend several days in Berlin learning about the government and the way agriculture is involved in the government and then doing tours of farms and various-sized cities to learn about how agriculture works in Germany.
Clements: She says the program allowed her to learn how agriculture works in Germany and compare it with the United States, on topics such as animal welfare and how the public views the treatment of farm animals.
Kohtz: We learned a lot about rules and regulations that are mainly dictated by consumers and grocery chains in Germany. And one thing that it did for me is it kind of reenergized my passion to advocate for animal agriculture here in the United States. A lot of the laws that are being passed there don’t have any scientific backing behind them and I’m hopeful that we can prevent that from happening in the United States.
Clements: She says programs like the McCloy Fellowship help U.S. farmers better understand agriculture issues globally.
Kohtz: Programs like the McCloy Fellowship are able to broaden our sights and give us a greater ability to analyze how the issues affect farmers in the United States and abroad. I have several different speaking engagements lined up so that I can share with other agriculturalists in Idaho about what I learned and hopefully be able to enlighten them and give them some insights to the global agriculture economy.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Just in

New USDA Cost of Pollination Report Scheduled for December 22 

Washington--USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) intends to release a new report detailing the cost of honey bee pollination in 2015 and 2016. The Cost of Pollination report, scheduled for release at 3:00 p.m. ET on December 22, will include statistics on the number of acres paid to be pollinated, the average price per acre, and prices per honey bee colony for selected crops.  
The new data series is part of the White House’s Pollinator Research Action Plan, which calls for economic research into pollinator health issues. 
In addition to the report, NASS will publish the estimates in the online data query tool, Quick Stats. All NASS reports and the publication calendar are available at

Monday, December 5, 2016

World Soil Day

On World Soil Day, astronomy meets agronomy with ‘out of this world’ message

BOISE – When it comes to soil, most think agronomy not astronomy.

But a new public service campaign featuring astronomer Laura Danly, Ph.D., suggests there’s a universal connection between the stars, the soil and all of the residents of planet Earth. It’s a connection that is especially significant on Dec. 5, which the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has deemed World Soil Day.

Danly, who is the curator of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, Calif., and a former NASA astronomer, recently teamed up with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to lend her voice in a new public service campaign to highlight the importance of improving the health of Earth’s living and life-giving soil.

“The more I learn about our amazing universe, the more I realize what a special home we have within that universe – right here on planet Earth,” Danly said. “One of the things that makes planet Earth such a special place is its living soil.”

“Unfortunately, soil is one earthly resource that’s often overlooked, underappreciated and too often degraded,” said NRCS Idaho Soil Scientist Shawn Nield. “Especially on World Soil Day, it’s important to recognize that healthy soil and the teeming life within it, could very well help us address some of planet Earth’s biggest challenges,” he said.

“Not only does soil feed and clothe us, but we now know that improving the health of our soil can help us improve water quality and quantity, increase food production and improve wildlife and pollinator habitat,” Nield said. “Healthy soil also more resilient in the face of changing climate pressures.”

Through NRCS’ “Unlock the Secrets in the Soil” campaign, NRCS Idaho State Conservationist Curtis Elke hopes Idaho’s urban consumers will become more aware of the role soil health plays in their environment, food, lives and futures. “In our rural areas, we’ll be connecting with farmers, ranchers and landowners who can adopt soil health management systems – which is good for the farm, the environment and the farmer’s bottom line,” he said.

Danly, who is also a frequent guest on the History Channel’s “The Universe,” said recognizing the connection between the stars and the soil is something that she wants to help her fellow Earthlings more fully understand and appreciate. 

“Ours is the only planet we know that has life on it, so it’s a natural for me to want to talk about Earth and share some important messages with people about how we can make it healthier. We can reach for the stars,” Danly said, “but we must cherish the soil.”

For more information on how NRCS is working with farmers to “Unlock the Secrets in the Soil,” visit .

Friday, December 2, 2016

2016 Annual Meeting

Idaho Farm Bureau Recognizes Past President at 77th Annual Meeting
BOISE - Delegates from 36 counties met this week during the 77th Annual Meeting of the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation to set the organization’s course for the coming year.
Former Idaho Farm Bureau President Frank Priestley and wife Susan were awarded the IFBF President’s Cup for service to the organization. They served with distinction for over 30 years.
IFBF President Bryan Searle said the Priestley’s mentored him for decades as a Young Farmer and Rancher, then as a Board Member and now as President. 
"Whenever I see them, all I can think of is what an inspiration they've been to me," Searle said. The Priestley's served on the Franklin County Board and the State Board of Directors. Frank Priestley was elected President of the organization in December of 1997.
"It started way back in the Young Farmer and Rancher program when we served on the County Board. Later I became Vice President and then President, then ran for the State Board and the rest is history," said Frank Priestley. “After serving for so long and finally sitting in the President’s chair, it was humbling."
Farm Bureau’s annual banquet drew more than 350 members. 
Delegates reviewed the organization’s entire policy book updating positions and adding new policy on a wide range of agriculture, natural resources and other topics. Delegates adopted new policy on wolf management, tax credits for new farmers and ranchers, managing the state’s constitutional defense fund, pension spiking and several others.  
Farm Bureau Delegates elected Austin Tubbs of Oneida County and Bob Konen of Nez Perce County as new members of the State Board of Directors. Re-elected as State Directors were Scott Steele of Bonneville County, Rick Brune of Jerome County, and Cody Chandler of Washington County. Alton Howell of Bonner County and Mark Harris of Bear Lake County left the State Board and were recognized for their service as State Directors 
LaNae Nalder of Minidoka County was elected YF&R Chairman and will also serve on the Idaho Farm Bureau Board of Directors for a two-year term beginning in 2017.
Winner of this year’s Young Farmer and Rancher discussion meet was Erica Louder of Jerome County. Louder won a Polaris 450 HD ATV and an all-expense paid trip to Phoenix, Arizona to compete in the American Farm Bureau Discussion Meet in January. Marquee Ricks of Madison County was a runner up in the competition.
Chris and Autumn Banks of Caribou County won the Young Farmer and Rancher Excellence in Agriculture Award. Travis Beckstead of Franklin County received the Young Farmer and Rancher Achiever Award. The Banks’ received a $1,500 check while Beckstead won a Polaris 570 Ranger. The Banks’ and Beckstead will travel to the American Farm Bureau Convention in Phoenix next month to compete in the national Excellence in Agriculture and Achiever competitions.
Dealers from 16 Idaho Polaris Dealerships donated the 570 Ranger, valued at $10,000.

The Women’s Leadership Committee recognized four women as part of their Woman of Year program. This year’s winners include April Toone of Caribou County, Suzanne Takasugi of Canyon County, Jo Anne Kay of Teton County, and Emy Darrington of Cassia County.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

77th Annual Meeting

Idaho Farm Bureau Awards Frank and Susan Priestley the Presidents Cup

Boise--A Former Idaho Farm Bureau President and first lady were awarded the IFBF President's Cup for service to the organization they served for two decades.

Frank and Susan Priestley of Franklin came up through Farm Bureau from the county level more than three decades ago.

IFBF President Bryan Seale awarded the Cup saying the Priestley's are mentors and an inspiration to him, first as a Young Farmer and Rancher, then as a Board Member and now President. 

"Whenever I see you, All I can think of is what an inspriation you've been to me," Seale said at the Annual Convention Award Banquet. The Priestleys served on the State Board, 10 years before Frank was elected President, where he served some 20 years.

"It started way back in YF&R's when we served on the County Board, County Chair, we became Vice President and then President, ran for the State Board and the rest is history," said Frank Priestley. After serving for so long and finally sitting in the Presidents chair, it was humbling."

Susan Priestley has worked beside Frank through the years, attending countless meetings with him, patiently taking notes and what began as a few notebooks has turned into a storage shed library where she's documented thousands upon thousands of meetings.

"The first notes I took were on the State's Womens Committe, the Western Leadership Conference decades ago, I took notes because I wanted to remember as much as could from those meetings and they helped me remember and have served as a journal, a diary. My plans? I might go back and write a Farm Bureau history,"said Susan Priestley.

Frank Priestley says that Farm Bureau and its dedicated members mentored him during his 20 year rein as IFBF President.

"I think you learn from everybody," Priestley says. "And I surely was mentored by each and every Farm Bureau member, period. Whether it was from President Stallman or a county leader you learn something if you just listen. I really appreciate Farm Bureau and the way they do things," he said.

Susan Priestley says Farm Bureau gave her priceless opportunities to travel and learn.

"One of things that I have appreciated about all the leadership training I've had, is that you take that with you in all aspects of life. Whether its in the community, a Lion's Club, church work whatever you do, you take that leadership training with you and thats been a blessing in my life," said Susan Priestley.

A standing ovation, cheered the presentation of the Cup to the Priestleys, Life long members of Farm Bureau, an organization that they credit with enriching their lives.

"When I think of Farm Bureau, I think of Family, I always do and always will," said Frank Priestley, Thank you for the Cup and the memories."

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