Friday, September 30, 2016

UI Rangeland Center Hosting Annual Fall Forum and Field Tour
MOSCOW, Idaho — The University of Idaho Rangeland Center will be hosting the Rangeland Fall Forum on Oct. 20 in Caldwell, Idaho.  The theme of the forum is “Summit to Stream: Managing Rangelands is a Watershed Affair,” and will focus on practices for thoughtful management of rangeland watersheds. 

Each fall the UI Rangeland Center organizes the Rangeland Fall Forum to discuss science and practical experience surrounding rangeland management challenges in Idaho. The forum offers opportunities for conversation around a series of moderated panel discussions. Each panel includes a rangeland scientist, a resource manager or conservationist, and a rancher, who all share insights from their own experiences and perspectives. Panel moderators encourage conversation with audience members.

This year’s agenda includes discussion of innovative riparian restoration projects and collaborative landscape management practices, featuring examples from Rock Creek Ranch and other areas across the region. All are welcome to attend the forum, which will be held from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Langroise Recital Hall at the College of Idaho in Caldwell.

On Friday, Oct. 21, forum participants and members of the public can enjoy a field day featuring research and restoration projects at Reynolds Creek Experimental Watershed in the Owhyee Mountains. The tour is hosted by collaborators from the UI College of Natural Resources, the USDA Agricultural Research Service Reynolds Creek Experimental Watershed and the Idaho Section of the Society for Rangeland Management
The registration fee is $35 per person.  More information on the agenda as well as registration instructions can be found

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Canals shut down


Nampa-The Treasure Valley’s largest irrigation district will shut down flows in its 500 miles of canals on October 6 marking the end of another successful irrigation season in which water users received a full supply of irrigation water, water managers with the Nampa & Meridian Irrigation District announced today.

District employees will close the headgates of the Ridenbaugh Canal on the Boise River near Barber Park in early morning of October 6th to let the system slowly bleed down. It could take up to two to three days for the canal system to empty completely in its furthest reaches.

“It was a very successful irrigation season especially considering that water demand started off high because of the warm spring temps we experienced and there has been very little precipitation throughout the growing season.  We will carry over a fair amount of water going into next year but we won’t have an exact amount until the final water accounting process is finished,” said Greg Curtis, NMID Water Superintendent. 

The Nampa & Meridian Board of Directors made the decision to end water deliveries at its last regular board meeting. Last year the NMID system was shut down on October 1.
The canal water cutoff means residential water users using pressurized urban irrigation systems managed by the District will need to switch to another water source such as a municipal system if they want to continue to irrigate lawns and landscaping.

As soon as the canals have drained, NMID work crews will switch to working on several large projects in preparation for the next irrigation season. The rapid building boom in the valley has given the District several opportunities to participate with developers to do upgrades to the canal system. These projects help conserve the valuable resource as well as make the system work better, Curtis explained.

            The Nampa & Meridian Irrigation District is a water storage, conveyance and distribution system founded in 1904.  The District supplies irrigation water to some 69,000 acres of farmland, residential and commercial lands, including pressurized irrigation for nearly 16,000 individual parcels of land in Ada and Canyon counties. More information is available at the District’s website:

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

PILT Funding

Simpson Advocates for Full Funding of PILT and SRS
Signs letters to House leaders encouraging action on vital funding for Idaho
Washington- Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson joined 94 colleagues in urging House leadership to secure full funding for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program. In a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Simpson and others urged the federal government to fulfill its responsibility to counties with tax-exempt federal land by fully funding both programs.
“Last year’s Omnibus spending bill was critical in preserving funding for PILT at levels that keep up with the needs of communities across Idaho,” said Simpson. “If Congress doesn’t act again this year, then counties are strapped with the uncertainty of how they will pay for essential services. I am committed to making sure that Congress does its job and honors the commitments to counties with large percentages of federal land.”
Congressman Simpson also signed a letter to House leadership advocating for an extension of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (SRS) program. In 2015, Congress enacted a two-year extension of the SRS program which, similar to PILT, provides an alternative source of education funding for counties with a high percentage of national forests.  This program also fulfills the federal government’s responsibility to counties with tax-exempt federal lands. 
The bipartisan coalition of 52 Members of Congress wrote that, “the SRS program continues to be a critical safety net for forest counties…We stand ready to work with you in support of this important program.”
Congressman Simpson has been a long-time advocate for PILT, ensuring full funding was provided for the program when he chaired the House Interior and Environment subcommittee. In July, he supported the fiscal year 2017 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill which passed the House of Representatives and included full funding for PILT.
“While I would prefer a long-term solution to both PILT and SRS, I support immediate and necessary funding for both programs,” said Simpson. 
Both letters were delivered to House leadership in the last week. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Beef to China

China Moves to Reopen Market to U.S. Beef

WASHINGTON– Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today issued the following statement: 
"I welcome the announcement from China's Ministry of Agriculture that it has lifted its ban on U.S. beef following a recently concluded review of the U.S. supply system. This announcement is a critical first step to restore market access for U.S. beef and beef products. We look forward to prompt engagement by the relevant authorities for further technical discussions on the specific conditions that will allow trade to resume. True access to China's beef market—consistent with science-based, international standards for trade—remains a top priority for the United States. The United States produces the highest-quality beef in the world, and China's 1.3 billion consumers are an important market for U.S. producers. The Obama Administration and USDA will continue to press trading partners to eliminate unfair barriers to trade that hamper American farmers and ranchers."

Monday, September 26, 2016

Presidential Debate tonight

Presidential Contenders Weigh in on Agricultural Issues

WASHINGTON– FBNews, the online/digital newsletter of the American Farm Bureau Federation, this week began posting responses from the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees on a range of issues that concern farmers and ranchers the most. 

AFBF asked Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump the same questions. Both candidates explained their positions on biotechnology, trade, immigration reform, regulatory reform, food safety and more.

“The fact that the candidates took the time in the middle of this very competitive election season to go into such detail in their responses says a lot about the importance of these issues and the farmers and ranchers who care about them,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “Each of these issues touches our members at the farm and ranch level. Being able to provide information about the candidates’ platforms on issues that are important to agriculture is something we do every presidential election cycle.”
The candidates’ responses have been posted on:
·       The farm bill, biotechnology, food safety –
·       The Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Endangered Species Act –
·       Regulatory Reform –
Additional responses will be posted at in the following order:
·       Sept. 27 - Immigration
·       Sept. 28 - International Trade and TPP
·       Sept. 29 - Energy
·       Sept. 30 - Full List of Issues
While AFBF cannot endorse or support a political candidate, the organization is providing the candidates’ positions to inform Farm Bureau members and others. FBNews signup is free at

Northside Canal Improvements

Idaho Water Resource Board approves $5.2 million loan to the
North Side Canal Co. to rebuild concrete canal channel below Milner Dam

POCATELLO The Idaho Water Resource Board approved a $5.2 million loan to the North Side Canal Company (NSCC) on Friday to rebuild a 4,200footlong section of concrete canal immediately downstream from the Milner Dam head gates during the board’s regular meeting in Pocatello.

The concrete section of the North Side Canal dates to 1908 and 1909. The canal company has been spending approximately $80,000 a year to patch and repair cracked and settled areas of the canal lining. NSCC is pursuing a more robust longterm fix that will stabilize the existing concrete lining with geotextile fabrics, a PVC geomembrane liner, and a 4to 6inchthick reinforced concrete cap on the side walls and bottom of the canal.

The loan has a 20year term with 3.5percent interest. The North Side Canal Company serves 2,200 water users who irrigate about 160,000 acres of land in Jerome, Gooding and Elmore counties.
The Water Board received updates at Friday’s meeting on Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer (ESPA) managed recharge program activities, the status of ESPA ground water monitoring efforts, and details on the first year of implementation of the historic water settlement between surface water users and ground water users in the ESPA area.

Information presentations also were given by Elese Teton, tribal water engineer for the ShoshoneBannock Tribes. Newly elected chair of the Western States Water Council and former chair of the Idaho Water Resource Board, Jerry Rigby, provided updates on Council priorities. And the newly formed Teton Water Users Association presented a proposal to improve water management practices in the Teton Valley with a request for potential costshare funding from the Water Resource Board.

The Water Board also heard about the status of the informational meetings and public hearings held throughout Idaho to gather comments on the board’s State Water Plan Sustainability Policy. Public

comments will be accepted through Friday, Sept. 30. The Board’s Planning Committee will meet in the coming weeks to review the comments and testimony, and it ultimately will submit a final recommendation to the Board for adoption and submission to the Idaho Legislature.
In other action, the Water Board:
  •   Approved approximately $328,000 for feasibility analysis and identification of potential recharge sites across the ESPA, a number of which are located in the Upper Snake River above American Falls Reservoir. The additional sites are intended to increase the capacity of managed recharge flows by the board.

  •   Approved up to $200,000 toward the cost of locating and installing several new midelevation snow telemetry sites in Idaho with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. It is aimed at improving water supply forecasting information in priority basins such as the upper Snake River.

  •   Heard a presentation from Idaho Power Co. regarding cloudseeding activities in southern Idaho. Idaho Power officials described efforts to expand the program with collaborative funding from the Water Resource Board and water users in the Upper Snake, Boise and Wood River basins. Idaho Power estimates, at full buildout over the next several years, the cloudseeding efforts will create an additional 215,000 acrefeet, 118,000 acrefeet and 456,000 acrefeet of water in the Boise, Wood River and Upper Snake River basins, respectively.
  •   
    Following a work session on Thursday, the Water Resource Board toured the site of a rehabilitated diversion dam and canal inlet structure operated by the Last Chance Canal Company near Grace. The project involved replacement of a 100yearold timbercrib dam and diversion structure with a new concrete dam and canal head gate. The project was partially financed with a $2.5 million loan from the Board, approved earlier this year. 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Federal over reach

Duarte Nursery Stands Up to Federal Regulators

WASHINGTON  John Duarte, a fourth-generation California farmer and Farm Bureau member, has taken a stand against the federal government over whether farming is a violation of federal law, and he is making his story available in a very public way. To help fund his legal defense effort, Duarte has established a page telling his story on the GoFundMe platform.

Duarte is in a legal battle with federal regulators over whether he violated federal law by plowing his land. Duarte is facing fines of $8 million, and potentially the loss of his home, just for plowing his land to plant wheat. The cost of his legal defense already has run into the millions. While Duarte is making a stand, he also is asking the broad agricultural community to stand with him because of the very important legal issues at stake for all farmers and ranchers.

“John Duarte isn’t that much different from most farmers,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “He works his land, plants his crop and works with nature to take care of it to the best of his ability. What makes his story different is the fact he ran head-on into regulators wanting to make him an example by calling into question his use of normal farming practices in an area they have identified as a water of the U.S. It is important that we challenge these issues and John is boldly standing up to do that.”

Duarte has a mortgage on 450 acres of California farmland that a court has ordered him not to farm, along with still-rising legal bills, currently estimated at $1.5 million.

“If you care about farming, if you care about justice and you agree enough is enough, I hope you will stand with me,” Duarte explained on his GoFundMe page. “Federal regulators want to control ordinary farming. They’re starting with me and a few others. We need to stop them before they put more farm families in economic peril – before they make farming a federal offense.”

In addition to Duarte’s GoFundMe page, additional information about his story is available through a video produced by AFBF in 2015 “California Farmers Stand up to Federal Enforcers on Water Regulations.”

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Just in

Statement by Zippy Duvall, President, American Farm Bureau Federation, Regarding Senate Report on Federal Overreach Under Clean Water Act

WASHINGTON – “The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works today released a report that exposes the administration’s reckless and unlawful actions in enforcing the Clean Water Act. The report shows in detail how the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers have used an overly expansive interpretation of their authority to regulate ‘waters of the U.S.’

“The case studies presented in the report reflect the serious concerns we have raised for more than two years now: the new ‘Waters of the U.S.’ rule takes the EPA’s and Corps’ longstanding regulatory overreach and gives it a new name. The agencies have persistently and unlawfully stretched the limited authority Congress gave them, even to the point of regulating ordinary plowing, a normal farming activity exempted by Congress. They have even claimed authority to regulate tire ruts and puddles found on the farm.

“The Waters of the U.S. rule, now stayed in federal court, will cement that lawless expansion of authority unless Congress acts to stop it. The time to rein in these agencies is now.

“The committee report shows numerous and disturbing examples of agency staff overstepping their authority: One farmer is ordered to abandon his field because his ordinary plowing is declared a violation of the Clean Water Act. Another is told he must preserve tire ruts caused by his own vehicle as a wetland, never to disturb them again. Still another farmer is ordered to abandon his plans to plant fruit trees because he had not planted trees on his land before.

“Eleven senators last year wrote to the EPA and Corps. They told the agencies that they would watch carefully how they implemented existing law, even before the WOTUS rule takes effect. They told the agencies if they did not provide clarity or eroded traditional exemptions, they could move against the rule. This report is the proof.

“It’s as clear to us now as it has ever been: It’s time for the Senate to Ditch the Rule. The Senate should once again take up S. 1140 at its earliest opportunity.”

Just in

Senate committee report details federal overreach under Clean Water Act

Washington--The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee's recent report exposes the administration's reckless and unlawful actions in enforcing the Clean Water Act. The report details how the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers have used an overly expansive interpretation of their authority to regulate "waters of the U.S.," according to American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall.
"The case studies presented in the report reflect the serious concerns we have raised for more than two years now: the new 'Waters of the U.S.' rule takes the EPA's and Corps' longstanding regulatory overreach and gives it a new name. The agencies have persistently and unlawfully stretched the limited authority Congress gave them, even to the point of regulating ordinary plowing, a normal farming activity exempted by Congress. They have even claimed authority to regulate tire ruts and puddles found on the farm," Duvall said in a statement.
The report describes many examples of agency staff overstepping their authority. In one case, a farmer was ordered to abandon his field because his ordinary plowing was declared a violation of the Clean Water Act. In another example, a farmer was told he must preserve tire ruts caused by his own vehicle as a wetland, never to disturb them again. And in a third, a farmer was ordered to abandon his plans to plant fruit trees because he had not planted trees on his land before.
Last year, 11 senators put EPA and the Corps on notice that they would watch carefully how they implemented existing law, even before the WOTUS rule takes effect. They told the agencies if they did not provide clarity or eroded traditional exemptions, they could move against the rule.
"The Waters of the U.S. rule, now stayed in federal court, will cement that lawless expansion of authority unless Congress acts to stop it. The time to rein in these agencies is now," Duvall said, urging the Senate to again take up S. 1140, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act.

The Senate in November failed to invoke cloture and move to debate on the legislation.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Just in

Presidential contenders weigh in on clean water, clean air, endangered species 

 Washington-Every four years, the American Farm Bureau Federation asks the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees to address the issues that concern farmers and ranchers the most.

We asked Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump the same questions. Both candidates explained their positions on biotechnology, trade, immigration reform, regulatory reform, food safety and more.

That the candidates took the time in the throes of this very competitive election season to go into such detail in their responses says as much about the importance of these issues and the farmers and ranchers who care about them as it does about Clinton's and Trump's political platforms. The responses below, on the topic of the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act, are the second in a series of responses that will be released over the next week.

While AFBF cannot endorse or support a political candidate, we are providing each candidate's position to inform our members and others. Clean Water Act The Environmental Protection Agency has clear direction from both Congress and the Supreme Court on the limitations of its authority under the Clean Water Act, and yet the agency continues to push the limits or ignore them completely.

What would you do as president to ensure that the EPA acts within the bounds of the Clean Water Act? TRUMP RESPONSE: "First, I will appoint a pro-farmer Administrator of EPA. Next, I will eliminate the unconstitutional "Waters of the US" rule, and will direct the Army Corps of Engineers and EPA to no longer use this unlawful rule and related guidance documents in making jurisdictional determinations. This rule is so extreme that it gives federal agencies control over creeks, small streams, and even puddles or mostly dry areas on private property. I will also ensure that these agencies respect the valid exclusions under environmental statutes for agricultural practices. To be clear, my Administration will work to ensure clean water for all Americans while also restoring the proper limits of federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. Unlike the Obama-Clinton team, my Administration will work cooperatively with the States-most of which have been completely ignored by EPA under the Obama Administration-to achieve shared, common-sense environmental goals." 

CLINTON RESPONSE: "The Clean Water Act is one of our most successful environmental regulations, helping fulfill the basic right of all Americans to accessing clean water. Not too long ago our rivers were literally on fire, and polluters were free to dump toxic chemicals at will. The Clean Water Act not only stemmed these environmental disasters but helped to reverse course and restore healthy swimmable and fishable waters for all Americans to enjoy. As president, Hillary will continue this legacy. She will work to ensure waters are safe and protected, will maintain the longstanding exemptions for common farming practices, and will continue pushing for clarity within the law." Clean Air Act Greenhouse gas regulations that would raise farmers' cost of production or impose a carbon tax would put American farmers and other businesses at a competitive disadvantage to farmers and businesses in other countries that would face fewer regulations while continuing to pollute the planet. How would you ensure that clean air and climate regulations are within the scope of federal agencies' statutory authority and do not hamper American productivity and competitiveness?

 TRUMP RESPONSE: "I strongly oppose the extreme, climate alarmism agenda of the Obama-Clinton years. Too often, the Obama-Clinton team imposed billions of dollars in environmental costs on American citizens without achieving real environmental benefits. In fact, the Obama EPA cut funding to the States for water infrastructure and programs that help rural communities while increasing spending on EPA bureaucrats, lawyers, and UN climate programs. As President, I will rescind the Climate Action Plan (including the Clean Power Plan) and other excessive regulations issued under the Clean Air Act that impose unjustified costs on American workers and farmers. My administration will work cooperatively with the States to achieve shared, common-sense environmental goals. Affordable energy is critical to the success of American farmers. According to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal, the Obama-Clinton climate agenda will cost the U.S. over $5 trillion. We cannot afford to allow the Obama-Clinton policies of high energy costs and overreaching regulations to continue any longer."

 CLINTON RESPONSE: "Hillary Clinton rejects the false choice between strengthening our economy and protecting our environment and climate. This is particularly true in light of the historic Paris Climate Agreement reached last December, in which all countries committed to take national action to cut their carbon pollution. As President, Hillary will go beyond the agreement made in Paris, cutting our emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. As President, Hillary will work to make the United States the clean energy superpower of the 21st century, and build off the range of pollution and efficiency standards and clean energy tax incentives that have made the United States a global leader in the battle against climate change while protecting kids' health, saving American households and businesses billions of dollars in energy costs, and creating thousands of good paying jobs. Over the past seven years , the amount of wind power in the US has grown threefold and the amount of solar power has grown 30-fold. Renewable energy is now the fastest growing source of job creation in the country. America's farm communities have played a critical role in this progress with 99% of utility-scale wind production occurring in rural areas, attracting more than $100 billion in private investment. Meanwhile, e l ec tricity prices have fallen by 10% for American families and businesses in real terms . Landmark vehicle standards under the Clean Air Act are reducing US oil consumption by 1.8 billion barrels and saving the average driver $130 to $180 a year . The Renewable Fuel Standard is cutting US oil dependence and carbon pollution even more. As President, Clinton will work to build on this progress, including by launching a $60 billion Clean Energy Challenge to forge new federal partnerships with states, cities, and rural communities across the country that are ready to take the lead on clean energy and energy efficiency, giving them the flexibility, tools and resources they need to succeed. This includes expanding the Rural Utilities Service and other successful USDA energy programs and ensuring the federal government is a partner, not an obstacle, in getting low-cost wind and other renewable energy from rural communities to the rest of the country, and helping electric coops capture the clean energy and energy efficiency opportunities of the 21st century." Endangered Species Act Privately owned land provides habitat for the majority of our nation's endangered and threatened species. As a result, landowners often face harsh regulatory restrictions on their ability to use the land or, worse, lawsuits or enforcement actions. Meanwhile, few species have actually been recovered under the law. It's time to think about incentive-based programs that create a positive role for landowners in species recovery. The law is overdue for review and revamping. As president, how would you fix the broken Endangered Species Act, and what role would you assign America's landowners?

 TRUMP RESPONSE: "America is blessed with abundant natural resources and beautiful wildlife. Our nation has a proud tradition of conservation and stewardship. This is more true for farmers than anyone else. Farmers care more for the environment than the radical environmentalists. Regrettably, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) has a poor track record of actually helping to recover animals at risk of extinction. In truth, the ESA has become a tool to block economic development, deny property rights to American landowners, and enrich activist groups and lawyers. Instead of saving endangered species, the Obama-Clinton bureaucrats are endangering American workers with disastrous choices made at the whim of extreme activist groups. As President, I will direct the Interior Department and Commerce Department to conduct a top-down review of all Obama Administration settlements, rules, and executive actions under the Endangered Species Act and other similar laws, and we will change or rescind any of those actions that are unlawful, bad for American farmers and workers, or not in the national interest. I will also work closely with Congress to improve and modernize the Endangered Species Act-a law that is now more than 30 years old-so that it is more transparent, uses the best science, incentivizes species conservation, protects private property rights, and no longer imposes needless and unwarranted costs on American landowners."

 CLINTON RESPONSE: "Hillary knows that America's ranchers and farmers are proud stewards of their lands, and that America's wildlife depend on the health of working lands to survive and thrive. That is why she will increase both the availability and accessibility of funding to incentivize voluntary private conservation. For example, Hillary will work to fully fund the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and will instruct her Secretary of Agriculture to establish a "one-stop shop" to help farmers and ranchers identify programs that can provide financial support for their conservation practices, including securing additional access for sportsmen, including hunters. Hillary also believes that we should be doing more to slow and reverse the decline of at-risk wildlife species before they reach the brink of extinction and need the protection of the Endangered Species Act. To this end, Hillary will propose nearly doubling the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants program to $100 million per year. This type of support for the voluntary conservation of at-risk wildlife can help reduce the need for species to receive the protections of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). For wildlife that are listed as threatened or endangered, Hillary will direct federal agencies to take full advantage of the flexible tools available under the ESA that respect and accommodate landowner interests, including safe harbor agreements, habitat conservation agreements, and other forms of voluntary conservation measures."

Monday, September 19, 2016


Op-Ed: Rural America Is Back In Business 

 By: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack
We know when rural communities do well, America does well. Rural America provides us with the food we eat, the water we drink and the energy we use, not to mention a disproportionate percentage of the Nation's military that keeps us safe from threat. That's why it's good news that in all corners of rural America, we're seeing real, positive change take hold for the first time in the years since the Great Recession. 
Today, rural populations have stabilized, meaning more and more people—especially young families—are electing to stay in rural America rather than leave for the city. Better job prospects are helping that trend. Rural counties added over 125,000 jobs in both 2014 and 2015, after job losses averaging 200,000 per year during 2008-2013. As a result, the rural unemployment rate has dropped below 6 percent for the first time since 2007, which is impacting falling poverty rates. From 2012-2014, we saw rural child poverty fall by 3 percentage points. And new data indicates that 7.9 million fewer people are struggling to provide adequate food for themselves or household members than when President Obama took office. In fact, food insecurity for children is at the lowest level on record—meaning our children are able to access nutritious food in higher numbers than in the past. 
Taken together, these benchmarks of progress should give us great hope for the future. 
Over the past eight years, the Obama Administration, led by USDA, has vigorously invested in the rural way of life, strengthening the small towns and rural communities that so many call home. 
We've supported the heart of the American dream, helping more than 1.2 million families buy, repair or refinance a home in rural America, creating more homeownership opportunities than any other previous seven-year period in USDA's single-family housing program's history. 
We've invested in 8,350 critical community facilities like schools, libraries, hospitals and public spaces that improve the rural quality of life. 
We've facilitated the 21st century basic infrastructure of broadband in areas that desperately needed it, enabling access to new or improved high-speed internet service for six million Americans who live and work in rural areas. 
We've also set up the next generation of rural Americans by investing in a new economy focused on biobased products and manufacturing; lifting the potential of conservation and natural resources to expand recreation and business opportunities; building a local and regional food system that supports millions of new jobs; and supporting the world's greatest production agriculture system which has produced record exports and record profits for our nation's farming families. 
We've proven time and time again that an investment in rural America is a good bet. And to that point, we've helped unlock billions of dollars in private capital that is now flowing into rural businesses across the country. 
I've always believed that the potential of rural America is limitless, but in these eight years, I've seen the proof. With the steadfast support of our partners across the nation, and historic investments from President Obama and his entire Administration, I'm proud to say that change has come to our rural communities.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Just in

U.S. Forest Service and Coca-Cola Announce the Restoration of One Billion Liters of Water

WASHINGTON—Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Coca-Cola North America President Sandy Douglas today announced that their partnership to restore and protect damaged watersheds on national forests achieved a milestone of one billion liters of water restored, and that the partnership will commit to double that outcome through 2018. The 13 restoration areas are located on national forest land, which provides drinking water to more than 60 million Americans, and they ensure future generations will have access to fresh water. 
"This milestone that Coca-Cola, USDA and our partners have reached is just the latest example of how partnerships between the public and private sectors can reach more people, harness more innovation, and do more good than either government or businesses can achieve alone," said Vilsack. "America's 193 million acres of public forests and grasslands supply the drinking water for 60 million Americans, support approximately 200,000 full and part time jobs and contribute over $13 billion to local communities each year. This partnership is based on shared goals of ensuring healthy watersheds and public engagement that serves those local communities, and will continue to deliver on that commitment for years to come." 
"A thriving watershed is critical to every community we serve and to our business," said Douglas. "Coca-Cola is on a journey and plans to continue to replenish 100 percent of the water we use in our beverages and their production and return it to nature and communities. We could not accomplish the milestone we celebrate today without the expertise, guidance and resources of the USDA, the U.S. Forest Service, the National Forest Foundation and many other organizations and community partners. In the coming years, we will continue to work together to build scale and expand these projects and partnerships."
This  public-private partnership includes community organizations and taps their collective expertise to address increasing stress on water resources during challenging budget times. Dozens of local communities and hundreds of volunteers and youth worked together on water resource management education and stewardship activities.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Just in

USDA Announces Rural Water and Waste Infrastructure Investments

ORLANDO– Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing in 168 projects to improve water and waste infrastructure across the country and in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The investment, totaling $283 million, is made through USDA Rural Development's  Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program, which provides assistance and financing to develop drinking water and waste disposal systems for communities with 10,000 or fewer residents.
"Strong infrastructure is critical to keeping America's communities of all sizes thriving, and USDA is proud to partner with the National Rural Water Association to help improve the livelihood of our smallest towns by providing access to reliable water and wastewater systems," said Vilsack. "Projects like these are critical to the economy, health and future of rural America, and today 19 million residents now have improved water and wastewater services in their communities thanks to investments USDA has made since 2009."
USDA  Rural Utilities Service Administrator Brandon McBride made the announcement on Vilsack's behalf here at the National Rural Water Association's WaterPro conference.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

WTO action against China

United States Challenges Excessive Chinese Support for Rice, Wheat, and Corn

Obama Administration Files Complaint on Behalf of American Farmers, Alleging China has Broken its WTO Commitments for Rice, Wheat, and Corn
WASHINGTON–Today, the Obama Administration has launched a new trade enforcement action against the People's Republic of China at the World Trade Organization (WTO) concerning excessive government support provided for Chinese production of rice, wheat, and corn. United States Trade Representative Michael Froman and United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack were joined by bipartisan members of Congress in announcing the complaint which challenges China's use of "market price support" for three key crops (rice, wheat, and corn) in excess of China's commitments under WTO rules. 
In 2015, China's "market price support" for these products is estimated to be nearly $100 billion in excess of the levels China committed to during its accession. China's excessive market price support for rice, wheat, and corn inflates Chinese prices above market levels, creating artificial government incentives for Chinese farmers to increase production. The United States is challenging China's government support on behalf of American rice, wheat, and corn farmers to help reduce distortions for rice, wheat, and corn, and help American farmers to compete on a more level playing field.
"These programs distort Chinese prices, undercut American farmers, and clearly break the limits China committed to when they joined the WTO. As this Administration has consistently and repeatedly shown, we will not stand by when our trading partners fail to follow the rules like everyone else," said Ambassador Froman. "We will aggressively pursue this challenge on behalf of American farmers and hold the Chinese government accountable to the standards of fair global trade."
"Through tariff cuts and the removal of other trade barriers, China has gone from a $2-billion-a-year market for U.S. agricultural products to a $20-billion-plus market," said Agriculture Secretary Vilsack. "But we could be doing much better, particularly if our grain exports could compete in China on a level playing field. Unfortunately, China's price supports have encouraged wheat, corn and rice production in China that has displaced imports. When China joined the WTO, it committed to limit this kind of trade-distorting support, which it has failed to do. This has resulted in significant losses to American producers. We see substantial opportunities to meet import demand for grains in China if China is willing to operate a WTO-consistent trade regime."
This trade enforcement action marks the 14th complaint brought by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) against China at the WTO since 2009. It demonstrates the Obama Administration's ongoing commitment to ensuring China abides by its WTO obligations, and to strictly enforcing the trade agreements that protect the interests of American farmers, workers, and businesses. The Administration has taken, and will continue to take, all steps necessary to ensure American farmers, workers, and businesses can compete and win on a level playing field in the global economy. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

EPA Violated Personal Privacy

EPA Violated Personal Privacy of Farmers, Ranchers

WASHINGTON--The Environmental Protection Agency has violated the personal privacy of tens of thousands of farmers and ranchers, according to a unanimous ruling issued by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.
The ruling in American Farm Bureau Federation and National Pork Producers Council vs. EPA concerned the federal agency’s 2013 release to three environmental groups of a vast compilation of spreadsheets containing personal information about farmers and ranchers who raise livestock and poultry in 29 states. The case also related to similar personal information from farmers and ranchers in six additional states that had yet to be released. The information included the names of farmers, ranchers and sometimes other family members, home addresses, GPS coordinates, telephone numbers and emails. EPA claimed that it was required to disclose the information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
“This was an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy by a federal agency in violation of law,” said AFBF General Counsel Ellen Steen. “The court’s decision is a vindication of the right of farm families to control their own personal information. Farmers and ranchers have a strong privacy interest in their personal information, including their home address, even when they live and work on the farm.”
Farm families usually live on the farm and the court took note that EPA’s disclosures in this case could facilitate unwanted contact and harassment of farmers and ranchers by the FOIA requestors and others. According to Steen, “this case assures us that individuals still have a privacy interest in their personal information. The fact that government agencies may have that information and even store it on the Internet does not eliminate the individual’s privacy interest.” According to the court, “EPA’s release of the complete set of data on a silver platter, so to speak, basically hands to the requesters a comprehensive database of their own, whatever their motives might be.”
“EPA now has to ‘recall’ all of the personal information it unlawfully released, but unfortunately that information has now been in the hands of the FOIA requestors for three years, and many feel that the damage is done,” Steen said. “AFBF will continue to work to ensure that personal information about farmers and ranchers is not disclosed by EPA.”

Monday, September 12, 2016

Just in

USDA Announces $26 Million Investment to Spur Agricultural Innovation

Matching Contributions by Public and Private Partners Bring Total Investment to $59 Million for 45 Projects to Address Water Quality and Other Conservation Concerns
WASHINGTON-Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the investment of $26.6 million by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) into 45 projects that will spur innovative conservation initiatives on both rural and urban farms across the country. Public and private grantees will provide matching investments, bringing the total value of support to $59 million. The investment is made through USDA's Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program, which fosters innovation in conservation tools and strategies to improve things like on-farm energy and fertilizer use as well as market-based strategies to improve water quality or mitigate climate change.
The 2016 projects focus on water quality, conservation finance and assistance to historically underserved USDA customers. Approximately 25 percent of the funding announced today will go to projects that benefit historically underserved producers, military veterans, and new and beginning farmers.
"The Conservation Innovation Grant program is a highly competitive conservation grant program that helps put the very best conservation tools to work on privately held farms and forests, for maximum environmental impact," said Vilsack. "This investment will offer farmers, ranchers and forest landowners new ways to protect their natural resources and new revenue streams to keep their operations viable, building on the record amount of conservation work that has already been done under this Administration. Demand for this type of support outpaces what USDA can provide alone, but outside partners are willing to make additional investments because they see the good it can do for the environment and for their communities."
With funding from this announcement, USDA has invested nearly $173 million to fund 414 national CIG projects since 2009. For this round of funding, USDA received 170 applications requesting more than $100 million, which far exceeded the initial funding target of approximately $20 million. USDA is making an investment of $26.6 million today, which will leverage an additional $32.5 million in matching investments from the grantees, more than doubling the federal investment.
In 2015, CIG began supporting the burgeoning field of conservation finance and impact investing to attract more private dollars to science-based conservation solutions. Of the 45 projects receiving funding today, 13 are conservation finance awards. These new projects support the design and implementation of approaches to attract private capital to working lands conservation. The selected projects address diverse natural resource issues such as pollinators; sage-grouse conservation; forest, carbon and corporate chain sustainability; and organic farming.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Just in from Washington

Industry Groups Ask High Court to Review Clean Water Rule Appeal Venue

WASHINGTON-Organizations seeking to vacate the Environmental Protection Agency's and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' expansive "waters of the U.S." rule are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review whether the 6th Circuit Court is the appropriate court to hear challenges to the rule. The 6th Circuit earlier dismissed arguments that legal challenges to the rule should be brought first in federal district court and not courts of appeal.
"This petition to the Supreme Court is not related to the merits of our case and we are confident that eventually the 6th Circuit and the Supreme Court will agree that the rule is unlawful," said Ellen Steen, General Counsel of the American Farm Bureau Federation. "The petition was filed because the jurisdiction question is one that repeatedly arises in challenges to Clean Water Act actions. The time is ripe for the Supreme Court to resolve confusion among lower courts as to where jurisdiction lies, so that the American Farm Bureau Federation and others can stop wasting time and resources arguing with the federal government over where to file these important legal challenges."
Federal courts of appeals are divided on how to interpret a provision of the Clean Water Act mandating that certain types of legal challenges be filed directly to courts of appeals. When pressed to decide this question, the 3-judge panel of the 6th Circuit issued three separate opinions with only a single judge concluding that jurisdiction was lawfully in that court, making this question ripe for clarification by the Supreme Court.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Just in

New Web Page Focuses on Beef Education Tools

WASHINGTON-The American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture has launched an updated beef resources web page dedicated to sharing nationally focused beef education tools with teachers, volunteers, farmers and ranchers.
The site features a new video highlighting the Foundation's 2016 On the Farm STEM event and its impact on district- and university-level STEM coordinators.
"We are excited to debut this online educational resource featuring professional development events for science, technology, engineering and mathematics teachers, educators and coordinators who are looking for real-world applications of STEM concepts," said Julie Tesch, executive director of the Foundation.
Educators who are interested in professional development events in 2017 can find information on the application process online.
The Beef Checkoff Program funded development of the On the Farm events and supporting resources. The Beef Checkoff Program was established as part of the 1985 farm bill. The checkoff assesses $1 per head on the sale of live domestic and imported cattle, in addition to a comparable assessment on imported beef and beef products. In states with qualified beef councils, states retain up to 50 cents of the dollar and forward the other 50 cents per head to the Cattlemen's Beef Promotion and Research Board, which administers the national checkoff program, subject to USDA approval.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Dairy margins

USDA Announces Safety Net Assistance for Milk Producers Due to Tightening Dairy Margins

Washington-A narrowing margin between the price of milk and the cost of feed triggered assistance through the Farm Bill's dairy margin protection program.

This past summer here in Idaho and nationwide, average dairy margins were below $6 per hundred weight. In other words, for every 100 gallons of milk a dairy producer sells, dairymen pocketed less than $6.

"The decline in dairy farm revenue has led many dairy farm families to exit the industry,” American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall wrote. "In 2015 we lost 1,225 dairy farms-many of those small dairy farm operations where the average herd size is fewer than 200 milking cows.”

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack wants at least $11.2 million in financial assistance to American dairy producers enrolled in the 2016 Margin Protection Program for Dairy. 

The payment rate for May/June 2016 will be the largest since the program started in 2014.

"We know the nation's dairy producers are experiencing challenges due to market conditions," said Vilsack. "MPP-Dairy payments are part of a comprehensive farm safety net that help to provide dairy producing families during tough times.”

 Dairy operations enrolled in the 2016 MPP-Dairy program will get $11.2 million this month.

“I want to urge dairy farmers to use this opportunity and look over enrollment options for 2017, that enrollment period is currently scheduled to end Sept. 30, 2016. By supporting a strong farm safety net, expanding credit options and growing domestic and foreign markets, USDA is committed to helping America's dairy operations stay successful,” added Vilsack.

Dairy farmers that enrolled at the $6 through $8 margin trigger coverage level will receive payments. MPP-Dairy payments are triggered when the national average margin, thats the difference between the price of milk and the cost of feed, falls below a level of coverage selected by the dairy producer between $4 to $8, for a specified consecutive two-month period. All final USDA prices for milk and feed components required to determine the national average margin for May/June 2016 were released the last of July.

The national average margin for the May/June 2016 two-month consecutive period is $5.76277 per hundred weight (cwt.), resulting in the following MPP payment rates:

Margin Trigger Coverage Levels
Payment Rate/cwt.





US dairy farmers have slowly adopted USDA-sponsored tools to manage market price risk, due to the cost, but also because benefits are less attractive to some producers. In 2015, just 25,000 of the 45,000 US dairy farms signed up for the 2014 Farm Bill Margin Protection Program and only 23,000 farmers enrolled this year, a majority of them for catastrophic coverage only.

Duvall said AFBF was appreciative of USDA's deadline extension to sign-up for MPP as well as the expansion of a farm's production when new family members join the business. He said the AFBF also believes the $11.2 million in MPP assistance announced in August will help, but more can be done. Duvall asked USDA to buy additional dairy products to be used in USDA's nutrition programs and for donations to food banks.

"Specifically, we think cheese could be purchased in a quantity that would help the dairy industry and yet not negatively impact our exports of cheese products," Duvall said. "If the Department spent $50 million, it could purchase 28 million pounds of cheese for domestic feeding programs. This would not only be beneficial to those in need of food, but also would help reduce the record high inventories and would provide a positive price impact for dairy producers.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced August 25th to purchase approximately 11 million pounds of cheese from private inventories to assist food banks and pantries across the nation, while reducing a cheese surplus that is at its highest level in 30 years. The purchase, valued at $20 million, will be provided to families in need across the country through USDA nutrition assistance programs, while assisting the stalled marketplace for dairy producers whose revenues have dropped 35 percent over the past two years.

"We understand that the nation's dairy producers are experiencing challenges due to market conditions while food banks see strong demand for assistance," said Secretary Vilsack. "This commodity purchase is part of a comprehensive safety net that’ll help reduce a cheese surplus thats at a 30-year high while, at the same time, moving a high-protein food to the tables of the  needy.”

Congress considers Farm Bill this week

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