Thursday, March 31, 2016

Just in from Washington

USDA Announces $5.2 Million For Nanotechnology Research

Eleven Universities Receive Grants to Research Food Safety, Plant and Animal Health, Other Uses for Nanotechnology Solutions
WASHINGTON–Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced an investment of more than $5.2 million to support nanotechnology research at 11 universities. The universities will research ways nanotechnology can be used to improve food safety, enhance renewable fuels, increase crop yields, manage agricultural pests, and more. The awards were made through the  Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), the nation's premier competitive, peer-reviewed grants program for fundamental and applied agricultural sciences.
"In the seven years since the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative was established, the program has led to true innovations and ground-breaking discoveries in agriculture to combat childhood obesity, improve and sustain rural economic growth, address water availability issues, increase food production, find new sources of energy, mitigate the impacts of climate variability and enhance resiliency of our food systems, and ensure food safety. Nanoscale science, engineering, and technology are key pieces of our investment in innovation to ensure an adequate and safe food supply for a growing global population," said Vilsack. "The President's 2017 Budget calls for full funding of the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative so that USDA can continue to support important projects like these."

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Just in from AFBF

Farm Bureau calls for permanent rail maintenance tax credit

Short line RRWashington-With the Railroad Track Maintenance Tax Credit set to again expire at the end of this year, farmers and ranchers are urging Congress to approve the Building Rail Access for Customers and the Economy (BRACE) Act (S. 2595, H.R. 4626), which would permanently extend the 50 percent railroad track maintenance credit for short line railroads. 

"Short line railroads are first- and last-mile carriers that connect small towns, farms and factories to the national network, creating jobs and stimulating economic growth in thousands of local communities. Short line railroads operate 50,000 miles of track or nearly 40 percent of the national railroad network and handle in origin or destination one out of every four rail cars moving on the national system," American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall wrote in a letter urging House and Senate lawmakers to cosponsor the BRACE Act. 

Efficient and cost-effective rail transportation is a must, not only to move to market the food, fiber and fuel farmers and ranchers produce, but for the delivery of equipment, seed, fertilizer and other farm agricultural inputs. 

"An efficient rail system reduces the prices farmers pay for supplies and greatly expands domestic market access and access to ports for exports to foreign markets," Duvall said in the letter.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Just in

Farm Bureau calls on Congress to address Internet sales tax problem

Washington-Now is the time for Congress to move legislation that would provide clarity, uniformity and parity to U.S. merchants by allowing states to collect existing sales and use taxes on remote purchases, the American Farm Bureau Federation and 25 other organizations told House Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert Goodlatte (R-VA) in a recent letter. 

Small and rural town businesses provide essential goods and services to their local farmers and ranchers. But hometown businesses are at a disadvantage when they compete with online-only retailers, which don't have to collect sales taxes. When this disadvantage causes a "main street" business to close or scale back, already struggling rural towns are particularly hurt. 

It's not only local merchants who feel the pinch of Internet sales. Online-only sales deprive state and local governments of the tax revenue they need to provide essential services. Since local governments and schools rely heavily on property taxes for funding, when sales tax revenues decline property taxes are often increased to make up the difference, which is very burdensome for land based-businesses like farms and ranches. 

The Judiciary Committee should consider two approaches to this critical issue-the Remote Transactions Parity Act (H.R. 2775) or similar, soon-to-be-introduced legislation, the Online Sales and Simplification Act, according to Farm Bureau and the other organizations. 
"We believe Congress should exercise its right and responsibility to oversee matters of interstate commerce. As you are aware, because Congress has not passed remote sales tax legislation, numerous states have enacted or are considering varied approaches to collecting these current tax obligations," the groups wrote. 

In the absence of congressional action, states feel compelled to seek disjointed and confusing remedies, which could very well result in the Internet sales tax issue being decided by the courts. 
"Further, this state-by-state approach prevents businesses from benefitting from simplification measures such as uniform definitions or free tax software that could be achieved by federal legislation," the groups pointed out. 

In addition to the current and soon-to-be-introduced House measures, the Marketplace Fairness Act (S. 698) is pending in the Senate. The bill would allow states to apply sales tax laws across the board. It allows states to enforce their existing sales tax laws but does not create new taxes or increase existing ones.
- See more at:

Monday, March 28, 2016

Just in


NMID crews lining part of the Ridenbaugh canal near Linder Road. (NMID Photo)


Boise--Water managers with the Treasure Valley’s largest irrigation district will open the headgates of the historic Ridenbaugh Canal near Barber Park at 3 a.m. on April 4 to start water flowing in the canal and officially launch the start of the 2016 irrigation season, the Nampa & Meridian Irrigation District announced today.

Based on a forecast for a slightly above average snowpack runoff coupled with the current water levels in the three Boise River reservoirs, NMID water managers say they are very optimistic that there will be enough water to ensure a full irrigation season supply.  The District delivers water until the first week of October in a normal irrigation season.

Once the water is flowing, we will begin to bring our 80 canals and laterals into service slowly and check for leaks or any problem areas. It will take two full weeks to get the entire 500 miles of the system filled and make ready for irrigation water deliveries to our users by approximately April 15. We will also start on April 4 checking pressurized irrigation lines in residential subdivisions where we operate the system,” said Greg Curtis, NMID Water Superintendent.
Curtis pointedly reiterated the dangers of full irrigation canals.  Canal water coming from the river is very cold and can cause hypothermia in a matter of moments.  Canal banks are very steep making it very hard to get out of if someone falls in. He called on Treasure Valley parents to take the time to make their children understand that they are not to play around any irrigation canal. NMID canals are private property, so playing in a canal or along their banks is considered trespassing under Idaho law.
Nampa & Meridian crews are finishing up a massive maintenance and improvement series of projects while water has been out of the canals.
NMID poured more than 1,400 cubic yards of concrete to line 2,050 feet of canal banks on three different canals.  Lining canals can reduce water loss due to seepage by up to 95 percent. They also installed 1,500 feet of new reinforced concrete pipe in a pair of major laterals.
Crews also installed three new large check structures in the canal system and did extensive bank renovations in several areas of the Ridenbaugh Canal.
NMID crews also completed more than 90 different repairs, ditch cleaning and other maintenance project.  Especially noteworthy is that developers and landowners supplied more than $200,000 in materials while NMID crews preformed the labor. This is a huge benefit to the patrons of the district because the result is a system that will require less maintenance and help conserve water, Curtis noted.     

NMID delivers irrigation water to approximately 69,000 acres of Treasure Valley agricultural and residential lands in Ada and Canyon Counties including pressurized irrigation for more than 15,000 residential and commercial lots including 379 residential subdivisions. 2015 marks the 112th consecutive year of water deliveries to the Treasure Valley by the irrigation district.
For more information about the District call 466-7861.  Information is also available on its Internet website:

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Just in from Washington

Farm Bureau Pleased by USDA Checkoff Decision for Cuba

WASHINGTON-- The Agriculture Department's announcement that commodity checkoff funds can be used to help market U.S. farm products in Cuba lets America's farmers invest directly in the growth in trade between the two nations, according to American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall.
"American-grown foods hold a clear competitive advantage in the Cuban marketplace, and the use of farmer- and rancher-generated funds to promote and market U.S. farm goods fits the checkoff mission perfectly," Duvall said.
AFBF and other farm groups have been working closely with USDA in hopes of lifting the prohibition against using agricultural checkoff funds in Cuba.
"This announcement by USDA represents a major boost in growing the Cuban market that sits just 90 miles off our coast," Duvall said. "I want to personally thank USDA and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack for the support shown America's farmers and ranchers in this matter."
Checkoff funds are raised through a direct assessment on farmers, ranchers and agricultural businesses and are not taken from U.S. treasury funds. As such, Duvall said it is appropriate that the many farmers and ranchers who pay into the assessment and pay for the oversight of the program by USDA be allowed to see those funds invested in the development of the Cuban market.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Just in

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces Historic Agreements for U.S.-Cuba Agriculture Sectors

HAVANA- As part of President Obama's historic trip to Cuba to further normalization of relations, advance commercial and people-to-people ties, and express our support for human rights for all Cubans, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced several measures that will foster further collaboration between the U.S. and Cuban agriculture sectors. The two neighboring countries share common climate and agriculture related concerns, and the measures announced today in Havana will mutually benefit the Cuban people and U.S. farmers and ranchers.
While in Cuba, Secretary Vilsack announced that USDA will allow the 22 industry-funded Research and Promotion Programs and 18 Marketing Order organizations to conduct authorized research and information exchange activities with Cuba. These groups, which are responsible for creating bonds with consumers and businesses around the world in support of U.S. agriculture, will be able to engage in cooperative research and information exchanges with Cuba about agricultural productivity, food security and sustainable natural resource management. Secretary Vilsack called the announcement "a significant step forward in strengthening our bond and broadening agricultural trade between the United States and Cuba."
During their bilateral meeting today, Secretary Vilsack and Cuban Minster of Agriculture Gustavo Rodriguez Rollero will sign a Memorandum of Understanding that establishes a framework for sharing ideas and research between the two countries. Secretary Vilsack also has invited Minister Rodriguez to join on a visit to one of USDA's Climate Sub Hubs in Puerto Rico in late May, where USDA researchers are studying the effects of climate change in the subtropical region and strategies for mitigating these effects.
"Recognizing the importance of agriculture in the United States and Cuba, USDA is advancing a new partnership for the 21st century between our two countries," said Vilsack. "U.S. producers are eager to help meet Cuba's need for healthy, safe, nutritious food. Research and Promotion and Marketing Order Programs have a long history of conducting important research that supports producers by providing information about a commodity's nutritional benefits and identifying new uses for various commodities. The agreements we reached with our Cuban counterparts on this historic trip, and the ability for our agriculture sector leaders to communicate with Cuban businesses, will help U.S. agricultural interests better understand the Cuban market, while also providing the Cuban people with science-based information as they grow their own agriculture sector."

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Just in

Eggs For Your Spring Basket Up, Salad and Orange Juice Down 

 WASHINGTON– Lower retail prices for several foods, including salad, orange juice, shredded cheddar, ground chuck, sirloin tip roast, vegetable oil, white bread, ground chuck, deli ham and orange juice, resulted in a slight decrease in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Spring Picnic Marketbasket Survey.

 The informal survey shows the total cost of 16 food items that can be used to prepare one or more meals was $53.28, down $.59 or about 1 percent compared to a survey conducted a year ago. Of the 16 items surveyed, ten decreased and six increased in average price.

 “Egg prices are up sharply from first quarter of 2015, a year ago but are down even more sharply from the third quarter of 2015. This shows the effect of the HPAI (High Pathogenic Avian Influenza) event last year,” said John Anderson, AFBF’s deputy chief economist. “Prices soared in the latter half of last year, but are working their way back down as increasing production has started to catch up with demand, which has moderated prices somewhat,” he said.

 Prices on the beef items in the marketbasket – ground chuck and sirloin tip roast – are lower compared with the first quarter of 2015, explained Anderson. Retail beef prices peaked in early 2015 at record high levels.

“Since then, a combination of increasing beef production, weaker exports, and lower competing meat prices have led to modest price declines,” he said. Dairy product prices also remain relatively low. At $4.29 for a one-pound bag, shredded cheddar cheese price is at the lowest price in this survey since the third quarter of 2012. The whole milk price rose almost 3 percent from the third quarter of last year, but that third quarter price was the lowest price in the survey since 2010, noted Anderson. The whole milk price remains well below the 2015 first-quarter price.

“Apple prices are up quite a bit year-over-year. This is a reversal of retail prices that were historically low in 2015,” said Anderson. Last year, the apple market faced a really tough export environment with labor disruptions at west coast ports as well as an increasingly strong dollar. “Current retail apple prices are still below some pretty recent years, for example 2011 and 2012,” he said. Items showing retail price decreases from a year ago included:
 • bagged salad, down 11 percent to $2.20 per pound
• orange juice, down 8 percent to $3.21 per half-gallon • shredded cheddar cheese, down 7 percent to $4.29 per pound
• whole milk, down 6 percent to $3.23 per gallon
• ground chuck, down 5 percent to $4.36 per pound
• vegetable oil, down 5 percent to $2.55 for a 32-ounce bottle
• white bread, down 3 percent to $1.69 per 20-ounce loaf
• flour, down 1 percent to $2.49 for a 5-pound bag
• sirloin tip roast, down 1 percent to $5.65 per pound
• potatoes, down 1 percent to $2.71 for a 5-pound bag These items showed modest retail price increase compared to a year ago:
 • apples, up 12 percent to $1.64 per pound
• eggs, up 9 percent to $2.23 per dozen
• bacon, up 8 percent to $4.78 per pound
• toasted oat cereal, up 6 percent to $3.31 for a 9-ounce box
• chicken breast, up 3 percent to $3.37 per pound
• deli ham, up 1 percent to $5.57 per pound

 Price checks of alternative milk and egg choices not included in the overall marketbasket survey average revealed the following: 1/2 gallon regular milk, $2.13; 1/2 gallon organic milk, $4.32; and one dozen “cage-free” eggs, $3.67. The year-to-year direction of the marketbasket survey tracks closely with the federal government’s Consumer Price Index ( report for food at home. As retail grocery prices have increased gradually over time, the share of the average food dollar that America’s farm and ranch families receive has dropped.

“Through the mid-1970s, farmers received about one-third of consumer retail food expenditures for food eaten at home and away from home, on average. Since then, that figure has decreased steadily and is now about 16 percent, according to the Agriculture Department’s revised Food Dollar Series,” Anderson said. Using the “food at home and away from home” percentage across-the-board, the farmer’s share of this $53.28 marketbasket would be $8.52.

 AFBF, the nation’s largest general farm organization, began conducting informal quarterly marketbasket surveys of retail food price trends in 1989. The series includes a spring picnic survey, summer cookout survey, fall harvest survey and Thanksgiving survey.

According to USDA, Americans spend just under 10 percent of their disposable annual income on food, the lowest average of any country in the world. A total of 87 shoppers in 28 states participated in the latest survey, conducted in March.

Monday, March 21, 2016

USDA Announces Rural Schools Payments 

$272 million to be distributed to 41 States and Puerto Rico
WASHINGTON–Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the investment of more than $272 million will go to 41 states and Puerto Rico this year in support of local schools, roads and forests through the  Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (SRS). The SRS is administered by the U.S. Forest Service. 
"The Secure Rural Schools program has allowed USDA to work directly with community leaders to meet rural communities' unique education, transportation, and conservation needs," said Secretary Vilsack. "This support is part of the Administration's ongoing commitment help rural communities remain self-sustaining and prosperous."
The payments from the Forest Service may be used to support public schools and roads; to help maintain and improve the health of forests; and for other county needs like implementation of "Firewise Communities" projects, development of community wildfire protection plans and reimbursements for emergency services on national forests. Forest projects are reviewed and recommended by resource advisory committees made up of local residents working together to improve the environment and to help provide jobs in rural communities. 
"I'm extremely pleased that the Forest Service is once again participating in this essential program," said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. "As we've seen repeatedly in past years, the Secure Rural School program not only provides funding for schools and roads, but also provides funding for conservation projects recommended by the collaborative Resource Advisory Committees."
The Secure Rural Schools local resource advisory committees (RACs) provide the public with opportunities to collaborate on the management of national forests and grasslands. This year almost $27 million of the SRS funding will be used to complete conservation projects on federal lands proposed by the local RACs. SRS increases educational opportunities and contributes to local economies through the jobs for implementation of local projects and the increased recreational opportunities that those projects support.
In South Carolina, for example, SRS funding helped a community repair a popular horse trail on the Francis Marion National Forest with the additional benefit of improving and protecting the integrity of nearby waterways. In Clearwater County, Idaho, the community is converting a fuel oil boiler system at the Pierce Community Center to use woody biomass culled from nearby State and federal forestlands.
Each state's payment amount is determined by a number of factors set in the law, including the number of counties electing to share in that State's payment. A breakdown of funding by state and county is available on the U.S. Forest Service  SRS website.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Just in from Washington

Simpson Challenges Obama on Constitutional Authority over Immigration

Washington- Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson supported H.Res. 639, authorizing an amicus brief—also known as a “friend of the court” brief—to be filed on behalf of the House Representatives in the Supreme Court.  This brief supports the 26 states that filed legal action against President Obama for his infringement on Article I authority over immigration policy in the case, U.S. v. Texas.  It is the first time the House has taken an official position and filed an amicus brief on a Supreme Court case.  H.Res. 639 was adopted in the House today by a vote of 234-186.

“The President’s actions are contrary to the way the American people expect the President and Congress to interact,” said Simpson.  “I am deeply concerned by the President’s continued overreach and disregard of Congress’ role in making laws.”

Simpson has long supported legislation to block unilateral actions by the Executive branch and to restore power to the appropriate branches of government. Simpson previously filed in the 5th Circuit Court an amicus brief in support of the states’ suit against the President. 

The primary argument of the brief involves an Article I v. Article II controversy regarding the discretion of the executive branch to make laws without authority.

“With the Supreme Court considering a fundamental case on the role of the executive and legislative branches in making laws, it is imperative that we use all tools at our disposal to stop the President’s overreach,” said Simpson.  “We have found ourselves in this situation far too often in the last seven years, so I do hope that the Supreme Court will send a clear message to the Administration that will restore the balance of powers dictated by the Constitution.”

In November, the 5th Circuit Court ruled against the Administration, preventing the 2014 executive action from being implemented.  The Administration subsequently appealed their case to the Supreme Court.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Just in

AFBF: In failing to move voluntary GMO labeling measure, senators abandon farmers, consumers

Washington-Calling the Senate's failure to move forward with debate on a voluntary GMO labeling bill "inexcusable," American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said farmers will continue their fight to secure a law that supports consumers, America's farmers and ranchers and our nation's system of affordable, productive agriculture.

"To say we are angry with those senators who abandoned farmers and ranchers and turned their backs on rural America on this vote is an understatement. Their votes opposing this measure ignored science, threw our nation's food system into disarray and undermined the public's understanding of the many benefits of biotechnology in feeding a growing and hungry population," Duvall said in a statement.

With a July 1 start-date set for a mandatory GM labeling law in Vermont, passage of a national voluntary GMO labeling bill is needed immediately. The measure Farm Bureau was anxious for the Senate to take up this week was offered by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.).

 Duvall said farmers are willing to give senators a second chance. "We remain hopeful they will have a chance at redemption by correcting this situation that will otherwise lead to increased food costs for consumers and stifle agricultural innovation, which remains a strength of our nation. We must not let anyone forget that rural America and our farmers and ranchers do matter," he said.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Just in

Statement from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on National Agriculture Day

WASHINGTON-Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today released the following statement:
"On this National Agriculture Day, we recognize the American farmers, ranchers, and growers who do so much for our country, producing the food our children need to grow up healthy and reach their full potential.
Today, we are building a 21st century agricultural economy that is stronger and more diverse than ever before, carrying on the rural values that represent the very best of us. The greatness of American agriculture spreads across the many ways that farmers grow and raise the food we eat, and USDA supports and celebrates them all. American agriculture is making nutritious food accessible to more American children and families than ever before.
Just today, we announced the results of the second-ever Farm to School Census, which found that schools across the U.S. purchased $789 million in local foods in school year 2013-2014, a 105 percent increase over the 2011-2012 school year when the first Census was conducted. USDA estimates that 5,254 school districts representing 42,587 schools and serving over 23.6 million children are buying local products and teaching children where food comes from. This connection to our food will help our next generation to make better food choices and lead healthier lives. Farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and food processors and manufacturers are recognizing the growing market potential in locally and regionally produced products, and that doing good for children can also be good for business. But whether it is local, organic, conventional, or large-scale, all agricultural production has a role to play in giving consumers more options than ever to feed their families.
Many here in Washington, and in other parts of the country, don't always realize all that rural America does for us. Less than one tenth of one percent of Americans are responsible for growing 85 percent of our food. That gives the other 99 percent of us the great privilege of doing whatever else we want to do with our lives, which is an incredible freedom we take for granted in this country. When we go to the grocery store, we walk out of it with more money in our pocket as a percentage of our paychecks than people in many other countries in the world, and we can feel confident that the food we are feeding our families is wholesome and safe. That is truly something to celebrate.
So today, we thank our farmers, for providing a healthy start for our children, and for contributing to ever more vibrant communities."

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Just in

USDA Announces $260 Million Available for Regional Conservation Partnership Program
Applications sought with a focus on environmental markets, conservation finance

BOISE– USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) today announced the availability of up to $260 million for partner proposals to improve the nation's water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat and protect agricultural viability. The funding is being made available through NRCS’ innovative Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) and applicants must be able to match the federal award with private or local funds.

Created by the 2014 Farm Bill, RCPP investments of nearly $600 million have already driven 199 partner-led projects, including three projects in Idaho. The program challenges local leadership to establish partnerships that can include private companies, local and tribal governments, universities, non-profits and other non-government partners to work with farmers, ranchers and forest landowners on landscape- and watershed-scale conservation solutions that work best for their region. This will be the third round of funding through RCPP, helping USDA build on record enrollment in all voluntary conservation programs, with more than 500,000 producers participating to protect land and water on more than 400 million acres nationwide.

Across the country, locally-driven efforts are having a positive effect on conservation and production,” said Curtis Elke, NRCS state conservationist in Idaho. “RCPP serves as a valuable vehicle for matching federal investment and private capital to advance natural resource conservation. In Idaho, those proactive measures and special projects will address ground water recharge, water quality, soil health, wildlife habitat and agricultural production. Nationally, partners in the 84 new high-impact projects for Fiscal Year 2016 that were announced in February are matching USDA funding more than two-to-one for a combined investment of more than $720 million.”

We recognize the growing interest in leveraging private capital markets to foster impact investments in conservation, sustainable agriculture and forestry,” Elke said. “For this new round, we hope to see even more applications that support a sustainable agriculture market, the development of environmental markets and conservation finance projects.”

One of the 2016 high-impact projects announced this February, is The High Desert Drought Resilient Ranching project, led by Trout Unlimited. The project brings 17 partners from Idaho, Nevada and Oregon together. Idaho Nevada and Oregon ranchers have experienced a severe drought for the majority of years in the last 30-year cycle. This project is designed to help reduce drought impacts to wildlife and livestock in the Owyhee watershed and nearby communities in two adjacent watersheds. Project partners will work together to develop on-the-ground projects that keep water in streams longer for both livestock and wildlife. Project area selection will emphasize state and private land that currently provides habitat for three focal species – redband trout, greater sage-grouse and Columbia spotted frogs – or is adjacent to known populations and has the capacity to restore habitat for these species. NRCS plans to direct $1.3 million toward the partnership’s efforts.

USDA is now accepting proposals for Fiscal Year 2017 RCPP funding. Pre-proposals are due May 10. For more information on applying, visit the RCPP website.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Just in

Farm Bureau and Allies Ask Federal Court to Stop Federal Overreach on Greater Sage Grouse

WASHINGTON-The American Farm Bureau Federation and Idaho Farm Bureau Federation have asked a federal court to stop federal land use management plans aimed at excluding grazing from millions of acres of federal lands to provide habitat for the greater sage grouse. The Public Lands Council, National Cattlemen's Beef Association and Idaho Cattle Association joined with the Farm Bureau in filing their friend of the court brief in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on March 8. The brief lends support to a lawsuit brought by Idaho Governor Butch Otter challenging revised federal land management plans issued in November 2015, by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Forest Service for federal lands in Idaho. Other states have brought similar lawsuits challenging the revised plans as applied to federal lands within their borders.
According to the Farm Bureau, BLM and the Forest Service violated key laws directing how the federal government must manage federal lands and the process by which land management plans are promulgated. The revised plans largely ignore the congressional mandate that federal lands be managed for multiple uses. Instead, the plans manage millions of acres in Idaho for a single use, and a single species - the greater sage grouse.
"Sage grouse numbers are up 63 percent over the last two years largely due to local conservation efforts, yet the BLM and the Forest Service are refusing to promote multiple uses of these lands as the law requires," AFBF General Counsel Ellen Steen said. "Ranchers depend on access to federal lands and the revised land use plans will have a devastating impact on these rural communities."
The Fish & Wildlife Service decided that listing the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act was not warranted, claiming that the revised plans would provide sufficient protection to avoid a listing. While the decision not to list the sage grouse was appropriate, the highly restrictive plans are in many respects more onerous than Endangered Species Act protections.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Just in

USDA Commits $20 Million to Innovative Conservation Projects
Proposals sought for water quality, outreach and conservation finance

BOISE– Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced the availability of up to $20 million in competitive grants through the Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program. The program aims to spark the development and adoption of innovative, cutting-edge conservation technologies and approaches for farmers, ranchers and other landowners. Two million dollars of this Fiscal year’s CIG funding has been set aside for projects targeted toward historically underserved and veteran farmers and ranchers, beginning farmers and ranchers, and those with limited resources.

Administered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), CIG is part of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and is designed to focus on innovative conservation projects that promote science-based solutions to benefit both producers and the environment. Projects may include on-farm pilot projects and field demonstrations, and are funded to accelerate the transfer and adoption of promising technologies to landowners in order to address critical natural resource concerns.

“In Idaho, CIG proposals targeting soil erosion and soil health (cover crops, no-till, nutrient management) have seen the most success,” said Curtis Elke, NRCS state conservationist for Idaho. “With all the emerging technologies happening here in Idaho, I’m really hopeful to see innovative proposals from our traditional and non-traditional partners alike – including Universities and Research Centers – that will merge this exciting field of science with agriculture to accelerate conservation among Idaho’s wide-ranging producers in way that is simultaneously resource sustainable and economically beneficial.”

In addition, this year the USDA is seeking projects that develop innovative investment strategies to leverage private capital for private lands conservation. CIG funding may be used to help mitigate risk associated with new conservation investment vehicles. Successful proposals will demonstrate a likelihood of success and clear metrics for conservation outcomes warranting the use of public funds to support risk mitigation strategies.

CIG awards are made through a nationally competitive process. Projects may be single or multi-year, but cannot exceed three years. Projects must involve EQIP-eligible agricultural producers or landowners. At least 50 percent of the total cost of CIG projects must come from non-federal matching funds, including in-kind contributions.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Just in

American Farm Bureau, Other Groups Oppose Additional Ag-Related Cuts

WASHINGTON– The House and Senate Agriculture committees made difficult choices to contribute to bipartisan deficit reduction goals when they crafted the farm bill just two years ago, and any calls for additional cuts to the programs they administer should be rejected, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

In a letter today, AFBF and 254 other groups called on congressional Budget and Appropriations leaders to oppose additional cuts that would further reduce spending for programs such as conservation, nutrition assistance and the nation’s farm safety net.

According to the letter, any cuts would be in addition to the $16 billion contribution already made toward 10-year deficit reduction goals by reform of and cuts to the bipartisan farm bill passed by Congress just two years ago.

“These difficult cuts resulted from hard choices made to reform and reduce the farm safety net, conservation programs and nutrition assistance programs,” the letter stated. “Some of the reforms made in the new farm bill are still being implemented.”

In addition to asking Budget and Appropriations leaders to oppose any additional cuts for the Agriculture Committees in the FY 2017appropriations process, the groups also asked to oppose any proposals to re-open any title of the farm bill during the consideration of the 2017 Budget Resolution. The groups also requested that neither the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry nor the House Committee on Agriculture be subject to reconciliation instructions.

“The Congressional Budget Office projects that mandatory farm bill spending will decline over the next five years, while mandatory‎ federal spending outside the Agriculture committees’ jurisdiction will rise over the same time period,” the letter stated. “These committees have already done the hard work to make the difficult choices necessary to deliver bipartisan cuts, which the farm and food community have accepted in securing agriculture’s contribution to the goal of federal deficit reduction.”

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Just in

Farm Groups and Agriculture Technology Providers Develop New Tool to Aid Farmers in Understanding Big Data Contracts

NEW ORLEANS-A coalition of major farm organizations, commodity groups and agriculture technology providers (ATPs) debuted a tool designed to help farmers understand how their data will be used when they adopt precision agriculture technologies.
New technologies and products are constantly entering the marketplace and generating millions of bits of data about farmers' fields, crops and equipment. A recent survey found that an overwhelming number of farmers do not know what happens to their data when they use these new technologies.
The Ag Data Transparency Evaluator was created to help producers understand where their data is going and who has access and control over it. The evaluator requires participating ATPs to answer 10 key questions about their technology products' use and control of farmer data. A third-party administrator then reviews the answers and determines whether the products meet the standards of transparency set by the Privacy and Security Principles for Farm Data (Data Principles). Products that meet the standards will receive the "Ag Data Transparent" seal to be displayed on promotional materials and product pages. Additionally, farmers can go to the Transparency Evaluator website to see and compare all the products and services that have undergone the evaluation.
The creation of the Ag Data Transparency Evaluator stems back to November 2014 when a coalition of ag groups and ATPs announced a Data Principles document, an agreement that identified key areas of concern for producers.
Some of the 10 questions addressed by the Evaluator include: What categories of data do the product or service collect from the farmer?; Will the ATP obtain the farmer's consent before providing other companies with access to the data?; and Will the ATP notify the farmer if a breach of data security occurs that causes disclosure of the farmer's data to an outside party?
The coalition involved in the development of the Ag Data Transparency Evaluator includes both farmer-led industry organizations and ATPs, including AGCO, Ag Connections, Agrible, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, Beck's Hybrids, Conservis, CNH Industrial, Crop IMS, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont Pioneer, Farm Dog, Farmobile, Granular, Grower Information Services Cooperative, GROWMARK, Independent Data Management, John Deere, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Corn Growers Association, National Farmers Union, National Sorghum Producers, and The Climate Corporation.
The Ag Data Transparency Evaluator is non-profit corporation governed by a board of directors from the participating organizations. The corporate bylaws require that all actions be approved by the farmer-led organizations, making the evaluator truly a farmer-driven initiative not controlled by the ATPs whose products are reviewed.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Just in


BOISE – The Natural Resources Conservation Service has just released the third water supply outlook report for the 2016 water year. Idaho’s mountain snowpack ranges from 90 to 110% of normal for most of the state. The lowest snowpacks are in isolated pockets at about 85% of normal in the Spokane and Little Wood basins.

Snowpack density is the name of the game right now, as the higher the density the “riper” the snow is for melting. Snow typically melts when its density reaches 40 to 45%. 

“Normally the densities of Idaho’s various snowpacks are in the 30 to 34% range for this time of year,” said Ron Abramovich, water supply specialist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. “However, many sites are reporting higher densities – in the 36 to 38% range. The warmer February temperatures have allowed the snow to begin ripening up much earlier.”

Based on Idaho’s March’s Surface Water Supply Index (SWSI), irrigation supplies should be adequate across most of the state, but are still marginal at best in the Big Wood, Big Lost and Little Lost basins. Additional winter storms or good spring precipitation is needed to ensure adequate irrigation supplies.

With a near normal or better snowpack across the state, things are looking promising for all who depend on Idaho’s snowfall and resulting runoff for their entertainment or livelihood. More snow in the mountains this year means that the ski season isn’t over yet and the spring-summer recreation season will be excellent for the river runners and power boaters.

“Despite receiving below normal February precipitation, we remain near normal overall,” Abramovich said.  “There does appear to be some good news on the horizon, as weather patterns appear to be changing during the first full week of March and have the potential to bring abundant moisture to Idaho.  Hopefully the temperatures will be cold enough to allow the precipitation to fall as snow in the higher elevations.”

Monday, March 7, 2016

Just in

American Farm Bureau Federation joins initiative to give farmers control of data they collect

Washington-The American Farm Bureau Federation and a host of other agricultural groups today revealed a ground-breaking data repository that supporters say will give farmers ultimate control over the ever-increasing business data gathered and transmitted by high-tech farm machinery. 

Tractors, tilling equipment, planters, sprayers, harvesters and agricultural drones are increasingly connected to the Internet. Even so, farmers don't always have the ability to precisely control where that data goes, nor transfer it from one data processor to another. The newly formed Agricultural Data Coalition will empower farmers to better control, manage and maximize the value of the data they collect every day in the fields. 

"Farmers must retain ownership and control of the private agricultural data that originates from the work they do in their fields," AFBF President Zippy Duvall said. "Harnessing that proprietary information for field-level efficiency and effectiveness is the key that will unlock more profitability and the greater adoption of precision agriculture. That's good for business and the environment, too." 

The Agricultural Data Coalition (ADC) is the result of years of planning and coordination by AFBF, Auburn University, Ohio State University, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, AGCO, CNH Industrial, Crop IMS, Raven Industries, Mississippi State University and Topcon Positioning Systems, Inc. 

ADC's goal is to build a national online repository where farmers can securely store and control the information collected by their tractors, harvesters, aerial drones and other devices. Over time, that data can then be scrubbed, synced and transmitted in an efficient and uniform way to third parties - whether researchers, crop insurance agents, government officials, farm managers, input providers or any trusted advisor the farmer chooses. 

"The key is that farmers are in complete control, and they decide who is allowed access to their data," ADC Interim Executive Director Matt Bechdol said.  "That's what sets ADC apart.  This is not about profit for others; it's about streamlining data management, establishing clear lines of control, and helping growers utilize their data in ways that ultimately benefit them." 

Farmers interested in learning more about data collection, and organizations interested in joining ADC's efforts, should visit the soon-to-be-launched

Friday, March 4, 2016

Just in from Capitol Hill

Simpson Questions BLM on Issues Facing Idaho

Washington- Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson today examined the President’s FY17 budget proposal during a House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Neil Kornze. Simpson, who is the vice-chair of the subcommittee, took the opportunity to question Kornze on important issues facing Idaho.

During the hearing Congressman Simpson raised the issue of the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer and the role BLM can play in helping the State of Idaho stabilize the ground water level in the aquifer. Congressman Simpson commented, “The State of Idaho would like to recharge the (Eastern Snake Plain) aquifer since the water level is going down substantially, and there are periods of time when we have excess water that we just flush down the river. It would be nice to recharge that aquifer and I would encourage your office to work with the State of Idaho and our office in developing a plan that might work.”

Simpson also commented on sage grouse management plans. After the hearing, Simpson said, “While it is a success the sage grouse was not listed under the Endangered Species Act, it is important to remember that the State of Idaho has concerns with the management plans. BLM needs to keep their door open to the state regarding the future of the management plans to ensure that their voices are heard in a truly collaborative process.”

The BLM hearing was one of 26 hearings held by House Appropriations Committee this week on the President’s budget request.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Just in

Simpson Votes to Slow Down EPA Regulation

Washington- Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson supported H.R. 4557, the Blocking Regulatory Interference from Closing Kilns (BRICK) Act which passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 238-163. The bill would extend the compliance dates pending the completion of judicial review for the Brick Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) air quality rule issued by EPA that sets strict standards for brick industry emissions.

“Like many EPA regulations, the Brick MACT rule is being challenged in the courts,” said Simpson. “At this point it is unfortunate – but not surprising – that the EPA is overreaching into yet another sector of our economy. In Idaho we know all too well about the EPA’s attempts to reach into our State regulated waters.”

In 2003, EPA promulgated standards for the brick industry that were later struck down by a federal court. However, brick manufacturers were already forced to comply with the standards before the legal status of the rule had been determined. The current rule was finalized last September and is being challenged in federal court.

“H.R. 4557 is common sense legislation that simply allows for the judicial vetting of a regulation before brick manufacturers are forced to comply with burdensome standards,” said Simpson.  “When you look at the thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in economic impacts, the stakes are just too high to move forward without an appropriate review of the rule.”

The Brick MACT standards proposed by EPA are estimated to cost industry between $25-100 million per year to comply with the rule, and would put at risk 7,000 jobs the industry supports.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Just in

Simpson Supports Sportsmen’s Bill to Protect Hunting and Fishing on Public Lands

Washington- Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson supports legislation protecting Americans’ access to hunting, fishing and shooting on public lands.  H.R. 2406, the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act, would ensure federal land managers continue to allow reliable access to public lands and protect Second Amendment rights. H.R. 2406 passed the House of Representatives by a bipartisan vote of 242-161. 

“In Idaho, we love to hunt, fish, and enjoy other forms of recreation on our public lands - it is why we live here,” said Simpson. “Today’s legislation is extremely important to protecting that access and ensures that hunters and anglers continue to enjoy traditional recreational activities, even as land management plans change.”

Also included in the bill is a provision that allows for firearms to be legally carried on land managed by the Army Corps of Engineers. Congressman Simpson has championed this issue in the past, authoring language in his Energy & Water appropriations bill that would also allow possession of firearms on Corp of Engineers lands. H.R. 2406 also exempts lead ammo and tackle from Environmental Protection Agency regulations and provides the right to transport crossbows on National Park Service lands.

The SHARE act was endorsed by the National Rifle Association (NRA), the National Sports Shooting Foundation (NSSF), and a diverse group of sportsmen’s organizations.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Just in

Statement by Zippy Duvall, President, American Farm Bureau Federation, Regarding Supreme Court Petition for Certiorari

WASHINGTON  “We, of course, are disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision not to examine the lawfulness of EPA’s Chesapeake Bay ‘blueprint.’ EPA has asserted the power to sit as a federal zoning board, dictating which land can be farmed and where homes, roads and schools can be built. We remain firm in opposing this unlawful expansion of EPA’s power. We will closely monitor the agency’s actions in connection with the Bay blueprint, as well as any efforts to impose similar mandates in other areas. This lawsuit has ended, but the larger battle over the scope of EPA’s power is not over.

“Farmers are justifiably proud of their successes in reducing agriculture’s impact on water quality in the Chesapeake Bay, and they remain committed to further improvements. We will continue to support state and local programs to improve agriculture’s environmental performance, and we will continue to oppose EPA overreach.”

House Passes Interior Bill with Idaho Priorities

Simpson authored provisions would benefit Idaho and the West Washington,- The House of Representatives passed the fiscal year 2019 Inter...