Thursday, November 16, 2017

Cost of Thanksgiving drops to lowest price in 5 years

Washington--American Farm Bureau Federation’s 32nd annual price survey of classic items found on the Thanksgiving Day dinner table indicates the average cost of this year’s feast for 10 is $49.12, a 75-cent decrease from last year’s average of $49.87.

The big-ticket item – a 16-pound turkey – came in at a total of $22.38 this year. That’s roughly $1.40 per pound, a decrease of 2 cents per pound, or a total of 36 cents per whole turkey, compared to 2016.

“For the second consecutive year, the overall cost of Thanksgiving dinner has declined,” AFBF Director of Market Intelligence Dr. John Newton said. “The cost of the dinner is the lowest since 2013 and second-lowest since 2011. Even as America’s family farmers and ranchers continue to face economic challenges, they remain committed to providing a safe, abundant and affordable food supply for consumers at Thanksgiving and throughout the year.”

The shopping list for Farm Bureau’s informal survey includes turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10 with plenty for leftovers.

Consumers continue to see lower retail turkey prices due to continued large inventory in cold storage, which is up almost double digits from last year, Newton explained.

Foods showing the largest decreases this year in addition to turkey, were a gallon of milk, $2.99; a dozen rolls, $2.26; two nine-inch pie shells, $2.45; a 3-pound bag of sweet potatoes, $3.52; a 1-pound bag of green peas, $1.53; and a group of miscellaneous items including coffee and ingredients necessary to prepare the meal (butter, evaporated milk, onions, eggs, sugar, and flour), $2.72.

“Milk production has increased, resulting in continued low retail prices,” Newton said. “In addition, grocers often use milk as a loss leader to entice consumers to shop at their stores.”

Items that increased modestly in price were: a half-pint of whipping cream, $2.08; a 14-ounce package of cubed bread stuffing, $2.81; a 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix, $3.21; a 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries, $2.43; and a 1-pound veggie tray, $.74.

“Whole whipping cream is up about 4 percent in price, due to increased consumer demand for full-fat dairy products,” Newton said.

The stable average price reported this year by Farm Bureau for a classic Thanksgiving dinner tracks with the government’s Consumer Price Index for food eaten at home. But while the most recent CPI report for food at home shows a 0.5 percent increase over the past year (available online at, the Farm Bureau survey shows a 1.5 percent decline.

After adjusting for inflation, the cost of a Thanksgiving dinner is $20.54, the lowest level since 2013 

A total of 141 volunteer shoppers checked prices at grocery stores in 39 states for this year’s survey. Farm Bureau volunteer shoppers are asked to look for the best possible prices, without taking advantage of special promotional coupons or purchase deals, such as spending $50 and receiving a free turkey.

Shoppers with an eye for bargains in all areas of the country should be able to purchase individual menu items at prices comparable to the Farm Bureau survey averages. Another option for busy families without a lot of time to cook is ready-to-eat Thanksgiving meals for up to 10 people, with all the trimmings, which are available at many supermarkets and take-out restaurants for around $50 to $75.

The AFBF Thanksgiving dinner survey was first conducted in 1986. While Farm Bureau does not make any scientific claims about the data, it is an informal gauge of price trends around the nation. Farm Bureau’s survey menu has remained unchanged since 1986 to allow for consistent price comparisons.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Another La Nina Winter?

Winter shaping up, La Nina Could bring another big snow year

Boise-The National Weather Service declared this week that La Nina conditions are officially here.

Forecasters say there’s at least a 65-percent chance that La Niña conditions will continue through the winter.

"Last year, was an unusual year because we had cold temperatures. The last week of January we started getting a lot more snow in the high country and it kept snowing and we had record high-snowpacks" said Ron Abramovich of the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Things are shaping up very much like last year. Fast moving storms have been hitting the Gem State in 3-day intervals since the first of October.

In Idaho, the La Niña weather pattern is known for bringing above-average precipitation to the state while delivering below-average precipitation to Northern and Southern California.

“Last year's season started with a pattern similar to what we're seeing this year as indicators are pointing to another weak La Niña this fall,” said Abramovich. But the veteran NRCS forecaster doesn't think that Idaho will have the same epic winter as last year.

"Storms came through and the precipitation levels last winter in the Boise Basin was 2.5 times normal," said Abramovich."The Big Wood Basin received 5 times normal precipitation in February, It’s going to be hard to duplicate that,” said Abramovich.

Nearly 40 inches of snow fell in Boise from December through April while Pocatello had more than 86 inches, that's the second biggest winter on record, rivaling the winter of 1948 In Bannock County.

La Nina is the cousin of better-known El Niño and known for it’s cooling of the equatorial waters in the eastern and central Pacific Ocean and that impacts atmospheric conditions throughout the world.

Idaho has already started seeing the effects of El Nina. Tamarac Ski Area outside of Cascade had a two-day, 20-inch snowstorm on the November 3rd weekend. Smaller storms have blown through and snowpacks are building in the mountains.

Abramovich says last years record snowpack came from the La Niña weather pattern. El Niño and La Niña are opposite phases of the El Niño Southern Oscillation - that's the fluctuation in temperatures between the ocean and atmosphere in the eastern Pacific along the equator.

In normal seasons atmospheric pressure pulls trade winds westward toward East Asia. During El Niña seasons the trade winds weaken, allowing the warmer water to shift east and taking the potential for strong tropical storms with it.

Typically, La Niña follows an El Niño event and Abramovich says its a classic weather correction.

La Niña will show ocean temperatures in the eastern Pacific that are cooler than average. It allows a ridge of high pressure to settle along the West Coast of the United States, pushing the polar jet stream further north and pulling the Pacific jet stream through Idaho and all that moisture with it.

La Niña years usually translate into cooler-than-average temperatures across portions of the Northwest.

So Southern Idaho could once again see cooler-than-average temperatures. When it comes to precipitation, Idaho is on the fringe of a wetter than average winter. But, the Northern Rockies could see another winter with above normal rain and snowfall.

But even with expectations from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Climate Prediction Center, experts have no guarantees about the storms heading our way.

"Are they going to hit Washington and the Cascades or are they going to come through Oregon and Northern California again or nail southern Idaho,” said Abramovich. That's what he and fellow NRCS forecasters want to know.

“Again, we’d be hard-pressed to see back-to-back rainfall patterns like last year,” said Abramovich. “But I think we’re going to get storms.”

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Just in from Washington

Tax Reform Bill Moves to House Floor This Week

Washington--The House is expected to take up a major tax reform bill in a few days. As passed last week by the House Ways and Means Committee, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1) will preserve many critical tax provisions that farmers and ranchers need to manage tight margins and unpredictable income, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

“America’s farmers and ranchers are ready for a tax system that recognizes their hard work and the unique challenges they face while reducing the tax burden that threatens their livelihoods. Thanks to the leadership of the House Ways and Means Committee, we are closer to that goal,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said in a statement.

Among the most important tax tools addressed in the bill are Sec. 179 small business expensing, immediate expensing, cash accounting and like-kind exchanges.

The measure would expand and increase expensing limits for Sec. 179 small business expensing and allow for immediate expensing (bonus depreciation), but it would not make these provisions permanent, as farmers had hoped. The bill also would let farmers and ranchers continue to immediately deduct customary business expenses including, but not limited to, feed, seed and other inputs.

In addition, the measure would continue cash accounting and the like-kind exchange deduction for buildings and land. Like-kind exchanges would end for equipment and livestock.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act’s self-employment-related provisions would exclude from self-employment taxes the 30 percent of farming and ranching income that is considered a return on investment. Farm rental income and Conservation Reserve Program payments would continue to be excluded from self-employment taxes.

The measure would double the estate tax exemption of $5.49 million to $11 million indexed for inflation starting in 2018 and would permanently repeal estate taxes in 2024. Stepped-up basis is continued as is the transfer of any unused exemption amount to a surviving spouse. Farmers and ranchers have long been calling for repeal of the estate tax.

The bill would keep capital gain tax rates and thresholds at approximately the same rates and thresholds as exist under present law.

The House Rules Committee meets Wednesday, Nov. 15, to establish a rule governing House floor debate. Because the rule could contain additional changes to the legislation and will also determine which, if any, amendments will be allowed, Farm Bureau will wait until its release to take a position on amendments and on passage of the legislation.

Of the Ways and Means Committee-approved measure, Duvall noted, “Farm Bureau looks forward to working with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to improve the bill and ensure reforms reduce the overall tax burden for farmers and ranchers.”

Monday, November 13, 2017

Bio-Tech Reg pulled

USDA Pulls Problematic Biotech Reg Proposal to Re-engage with Stakeholders

Washington--USDA’s withdrawal of agriculture biotech regulations proposed last year will give the department, along with farmers and other stakeholders, time to improve the rules so they better foster innovation while meeting the demands of U.S. agriculture’s international customers, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

AFBF was joined this summer by 102 other agricultural organizations in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue in which they noted the proposed revisions took some very constructive and bold steps in the right direction, but major changes were needed.

“USDA’s proposal had some positives, particularly how the department was viewing new breeding techniques, such as gene editing. However, there were also some concerns, such as how traditional biotechnology production practices might be regulated in the future and what that means for innovation and research and development,” explained Andrew Walmsley, AFBF biotech specialist.

USDA’s plan to start over on the regulations is an opportunity to make sure the department has the best regulatory approach for new breeding techniques, as well as for innovation in biotechnology and agriculture in general, Walmsley added.

Among some of the major concerns Farm Bureau and the other groups had with the proposal were researchers’ and developers’ inability to learn the regulatory status of new genetically engineered organisms without undergoing complex risk assessments. This would have provided little clarity about which products would be subject to regulation.

The requirement that risk assessments would be conducted for plant products based only upon the technology used in their production, rather than actual risk, was another problem.

With the shift of the regulatory burden from commercialization stages to research and development phases, each new GE plant variety would have had to undergo a complex risk assessment and comment period before a single plant could be planted in a small-scale field trial. In addition, the proposed assessment process likely would not have accommodated the scale of U.S. research and development, which could have resulted in many products being stuck in regulatory limbo.

Also at issue were the barriers to innovation that would have been raised under the proposal’s expansion of authority under Part 340, which would have created a redundant weed risk regulatory process. This process currently works under USDA’s Part 360 regulations.

Finally, USDA’s push for major changes to the current regulatory system would likely have had unintended consequences for other regulatory agencies, and domestic and international markets, and would have led to significant litigation risks.

Though USDA did not lay out a timeline for the biotech rule revamp, the department said it is committed to “re-engage with stakeholders to determine the most effective, science-based approach for regulating the products of modern biotechnology while protecting plant health,” so farmers and others are optimistic they’ll have ample opportunity to share their thoughts on a new proposal, Walmsley said.

Friday, November 10, 2017

La Nina winter?

Last year Mores Creek Summit in Boise County was buried under 9 feet of snow.

Winter shaping up, La Nina Could bring another big snow year

Boise-The National Weather Service declared this week that La Nina conditions are officially here. Forecasters say there’s now about a 65 to 75 percent chance that La Niña conditions could continue through the winter.

In Idaho, the La Niña weather pattern is known for bringing above-average precipitation to the state while delivering below-average precipitation to California.

"Last year, we had cold temperatures. And by February we started getting a lot more snow in the high country and had some record high-levels," said Ron Abramovich of the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

"Storm after storm Southwest mountains had twice as much snow as normal last year," said Abramovich."Central Idaho got 5 times the normal precipitation in February.” Nearly 40 inches of snow fell in Boise from December through April while Pocatello had more than 86 inches, that's second-biggest winter on record.

Abramovich says that all that snow last year came from the La Niña weather pattern. El Niño and La Niña are opposite phases of what is known as the El Niño Southern Oscillation - that's the fluctuation in temperatures between the ocean and atmosphere in the eastern Pacific along the equator.

"We'd be hard-pressed to see back-to-back rainfall patterns like what we saw last year,” said Abramovich. “But we’re going to get storms.”

Thursday, November 9, 2017

From the East Idaho News

This year’s spud count was low, but high quality

Carrie Snider,

IDAHO FALLS — The weather didn’t always cooperate during the 2017 Idaho potato growing season, but in the end, producers turned out good-quality potatoes around the state.

“There is a lower yield this year primarily driven by too much cold and too much heat at the wrong times,” said Frank Muir, president, and CEO of the Idaho Potato Commission. “Growers are good at what they do, but Mother Nature has the last word.”

Still, although fewer potatoes came out of the ground than expected, Muir said the ones that did were good quality and were a good tuber size, meaning easier to sell on the market.

In Idaho, 308,000 acres of potatoes were grown this year, which is 15,000 acres less than last year. About 13 billion pounds of potatoes were harvested.

“That’s a lot of potatoes,” Muir said. “If you filled the Holt Arena from end zone to end zone, it would be a mile high.”

The majority of Idaho’s potatoes are grown in farms ranging from the Magic Valley on up east Idaho. Sixty percent of Idaho’s potatoes are processed into frozen and dehydrated potato products, 30 percent head to the fresh retail and foodservice market, and about 10 percent are certified seed potatoes.

More than 25 varieties of potatoes are grown around the state. The number one potato variety grown in Idaho is the Russet Burbank, followed by other types of Russets: Norkotah, Ranger, and Shephard. Also growing in popularity are other varieties such as yellow, red, purple, and fingerlings.

“The key to marketing is to carry the Grown in Idaho seal,” Muir said. Idaho potatoes are known the world over, and it’s for good reason, he said. “Idaho’s unique climate, soil and water make for better texture and flavor.”

Americans sure love their potatoes. According to the IPC, the average American eats about 113 pounds of potatoes each year.

James Hoff, potato grower and commissioner for the IPC, recently harvested 275 acres of potatoes in Idaho Falls. He is selling his Russet Burbanks to GPOD in Shelley, which offers fresh potatoes to various companies.

Hoff grew up on a farm and remembers his dad also selling potatoes to GPOD. But a lot of things have changed with potato farming as well.

“The equipment has progressed,” said Hoff, who has been farming potatoes for 28 years. “You can get things done faster. The technology of the tractors has helped to increase comfort. The efficiency is phenomenal.”

He’s gone to a lot of IPC meetings over the years and remembers back when there used to be a lot more potato farmers than there are now, but each farm is bigger. Still, he enjoys being on the smaller side.

“I like where I’m at,” he said.

This year, he said, the growing seasons was reasonable, with some hot days in there, but despite that, harvest went well.

“The tubers look nice,” he said.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Rural Schools and Self Determination Act

Western Senators want Rural Schools and Self Determination Act Funded

Boise—There are big problems on the horizon for Idaho County if the Federal Government does not fund the Secure Rural Schools and Self Determination Act.

Idaho County is the 17th largest county in the United States with a population of just 16,000 residents. With more than 5.4 million acres of land, the county is broke because 85% of the county is public land. That means no tax revenue for schools, roads, and bridges without federal SRS funding.

“This has hit all our school districts hard,” said Idaho County Commissioner Skip Brant. “Payments stopped years ago. Our County Road and Bridge budget is $3.4 million. Almost half the budget, $1.2 million comes from SRS and all 12 Highway districts in the county have lost funds.”

With another harsh winter setting in, Western senators are urging the Trump White House and the budget office to honor the federal government's promise to fund the Secure Rural Schools and Self-Determination Act.

For background, SRS grew out of the 2000 Craig-Wyden Bill to compensate rural counties for the decline in timber harvests in the national forests. SRS provides 775 rural counties and 4,000 schools with funds to support public services that include roads and forest health. PILT compensates local governments for non-taxable federal lands in their jurisdictions to provide roads maintenance and law enforcement.

“The funding to rural communities extends a lifeline by funding road repairs, schools and law enforcement to communities heavily dependent on the federal government to help with taxes,” said Crapo.

Senators Crapo and Ron Wyden of Oregon are encouraging the Trump administration for a two-year authorization of the SRS and Self-Determination Act.

“Secure Rural School payments are critical ensuring that counties across Idaho and the nation, that have tax-exempt, federally managed lands, have the funding necessary for schools, roads, bridges, forest management projects and public safety,” said Senator Crapo.

The payments expired last March, leaving counties without enough money to fund basic services like law enforcement, road repairs, and snow removal in rural areas.

“We stressed the importance of prioritizing the SRS program in the federal budgeting process,” said Crapo in a Town Hall meeting in Kamiah. “SRS payments provide critical revenues to more than 4,400 schools throughout the country. In many cases, these ‘forest counties’ include massive swaths of public lands in national forests,” said Crapo.

Crapo and fellow Western Senators wrote to President Trump that they’re working in a bipartisan way to support strapped rural communities. The lack of certainty about SRS funding comes after another record fire season and rural unemployment at 7-percent in Idaho County.

“These county payments, are designed to offset the loss of the local share of timber sales revenue due to the drastic decline in timber harvests. Nearly 80 percent of Idaho’s counties receive county payments because of a large amount of national forest land in Idaho,” added Crapo.

Counties received their last SRS funds in March 2016. Since the program expired, residents in many of the counties that depend on this funding have had to choose between keeping schools and libraries open and laying off law enforcement.

A two-year extension is our goal in the short term,” said Senator Crapo, adding the long-term effort is a funding fix that provides rural counties stable funding that allows them to fund programs and move forward. Establishing a permanent solution, “that’s what our goal is,” he said.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Resilient Federal Forests Act

House Committee Passes Resilient Federal Forests Act

Washington—The US House of Representatives passed a bill that makes it easier to harvest timber burned in wildfires.

The House passed the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017, a bill that helps prevent wildfires through proactive forest management and implements a more responsible funding stream.

“For too long, the Forest Service has had to borrow from prevention programs in order to fight fires, meaning that we risk leaving a heavy fuel load in the forests for future fires to burn. As the legislative process continues, I look forward to working with Congress as we all seek a comprehensive solution to put America’s forest back to work again,” said US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.

H.R. 2936 permanently ends the practice of transferring forest-management funds to firefighting, or “wildfire borrowing,” by allowing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to transfer funds to the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. The bill would also streamline environmental review to speed reforestation, and supports collaborative efforts between local governments and foresters and land managers.

The bill also modernizes the Secure Rural Schools & Community Self-Determination Act, which allows rural counties, including Idaho County in Idaho, to have greater flexibility over how they choose to use critical funding under the Secure Rural Schools program. While Congress stipulates that a portion of revenues from timber harvests on federal lands go to affected counties to support schools, roads, and other services, that funding has declined as timber harvests have shrunk.

“This is a great news for many rural schools,” said Mark Naugle, superintendent of Custer School District. “This legislation will help to make up for the decrease in revenue from local timber harvesting. It will also help to offset the impact of federal ownership of property in local school districts.”

Westerman urged ending the practice of borrowing funds to pay to fight wildfires and for treating wildfires as natural disasters funded through recovery efforts by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“This year has proven to be another catastrophic year for wildfires. Dozens of lives have been lost, thousands of homes destroyed and millions of acres burned. Congress spoke today and said enough is enough,” Westerman said.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Just in

Farmers Applaud Move to Reform Tax Code

WASHINGTON – The following may be attributed to American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall:

“Farm Bureau applauds Congress for its progress in reforming the tax code. This new tax plan moves us closer to a tax system that rewards the hard work and entrepreneurship of America’s farm and ranch families.

“Today’s proposal includes expanded, immediate expensing while continuing the business interest deduction important to so many farmers and ranchers. It also provides immediate relief from the estate tax with a repeal to follow in subsequent years. We will be studying the plan to ensure the new rate structure reduces the tax burden on our nation’s farmers and ranchers and gives them the flexibility they need to reinvest in their businesses.

“We are long overdue for a permanent tax code that recognizes the unique financial challenges farmers and ranchers face in managing their businesses and keeping their farms running from one generation to the next.”

Friday, November 3, 2017

Just in

Potato market picking up going into Thanksgiving holiday

Idaho Falls—The upcoming Thanksgiving holiday is driving demand in the potato market.

Eagle produce out of Idaho Falls told The Packer magazine that consumer bags of potatoes are flying off grocery store shelves.

“The poly (bag) situation is going to be brutal here in Idaho,” he said.

Idaho producers harvested larger potatoes this year and there are fewer small sized potatoes for the small plastic bag market.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that 50-pound cartons of five 10-pound film bags of russet norkotahs spiked from $5.50 per carton on Sept. 5 to $6 per carton by Nov. 1, with russet burbanks at $6.50 per carton for the same pack on Nov. 1. Prices at the same time last year were $4.50 to $5 per carton.

Russet norkotah 50-count potatoes were $9 per carton on Nov. 1, compared with $12 for 80 count cartons. Prices for both sizes were well above a year ago when 50 count norkotahs were $5.50 per carton and 80 count norkotahs were $6 per carton in early November.

Beahm says everybody has “the big stuff“ and are trying to find the small. “It won’t be a cheap poly year for sure. All your stuff in the middle — your 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s — you can’t find it,” Beahm adds.

“Prices are strong for this time of year, and I feel like it is gathering strength,” said Ralph Schwartz, of Potandon Produce.

Some think overall production of Idaho potatoes could be down 3% to 5%, according to Schwartz. Another fact is that 20% of the Idaho crop was harvested after the state had several cold days, which likely could result in a higher cull rate for those potatoes.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Resilient Federal Forests Act

House Passes Bill to Improve Forest Health

Washington- Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson voted in favor of legislation that would advance effective forest management and address the issue of fire-borrowing. H.R. 2936, the Resilient Federal Forests Act would promote collaborative forest management, reduce frivolous litigation, and modernize the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act. Included in the package is Congressman Simpson’s bipartisan H.R. 1483, the Litigation Relief for Forest Management Projects Act which would reverse a disastrous court ruling that has created duplicative steps in projects intended for conservation and forest health. H.R. 2936 passed the House by a vote of 232-188.

“Idahoans know all too well about the devastating impacts of catastrophic wildfires,” said Congressman Simpson. “The air quality in the summer, the evacuations from our communities, and the resources it takes to fight fires are all serious problems in Idaho. That is why Congress needs to act. I am pleased this legislation addresses the litigation issues that have halted far too many projects and promotes collaborative forest management provisions that seek to improve the health of our forests.”

“We also need to fix fire-borrowing,” said Simpson. “The rolling-ten year average, which is used to calculate the cost of wildfires, has decimated the Forest Service budget. Wildfire funding is anticipated to consume two-thirds of the total Forest Service budget by 2021 if we don’t change the current budgeting process. The status quo leaves little room to fund programs that actually prevent wildfires and reduce overall costs. That is why I proposed a solution to fix this problem.”

Congressman Simpson introduced H.R 2862, the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act (WDFA) which is bipartisan legislation that had 150 cosponsors in the 114th Congress. The bill would treat wildfires like other natural disasters and eliminate the need for fire-borrowing.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues to advance the needed reforms in both my Wildfire Disaster Funding Act and H.R. 2936 so we can curb the cost of wildfire suppression funding and protect our landscapes and communities from the catastrophic fires we have sadly grown accustomed to in the west.”

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Safety Net Coverage

USDA Announces Enrollment Period for Safety Net Coverage in 2018

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Agriculture today announced that starting Nov. 1, 2017, farmers and ranchers with base acres in the Agriculture Risk Coverage or Price Loss Coverage safety net program may enroll for the 2018 crop year. The enrollment period will end on Aug. 1, 2018.

“Since shares and ownership of a farm can change year-to-year, producers must enroll by signing a contract each program year,” said Farm Service Agency Acting Administrator Steve Peterson. “I encourage producers to contact their local FSA office to schedule an appointment to enroll.”

The producers on a farm that are not enrolled for the 2018 enrollment period will not be eligible for financial assistance from the ARC or PLC programs for the 2018 crop should crop prices or farm revenues fall below the historical price or revenue benchmarks established by the program. Producers who made their elections in previous years must still enroll during the 2018 enrollment period.

“This week FSA is issuing approximately $850 million in rice payments,” said Peterson. “These payments are part of the $8 billion in 2016 ARC and PLC payments that started in October to assist enrolled producers who suffered a loss of revenue or price, or both. Over half a million producers will receive ARC payments and over a quarter million producers will receive PLC payments for 2016 crops.”

The ARC and PLC programs were authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill and offer a safety net to agricultural producers when there is a substantial drop in prices or revenues for covered commodities. Covered commodities include barley, canola, large and small chickpeas, corn, flaxseed, grain sorghum, lentils, mustard seed, oats, peanuts, dry peas, rapeseed, long grain rice, medium grain rice, safflower seed, sesame, soybeans, sunflower seed, and wheat. Upland cotton is no longer a covered commodity. For more details regarding these programs, go to

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Just in from Washington

AFBF welcomes Agricultural Risk Coverage program improvement act

Washington—The American Farm Bureau Federation is supporting legislation that will strengthen the Agricultural Risk Coverage program.

Senators Heidi Hietkamp and Joni Ernst are sponsoring legislation that makes changes to the Ag Risk Coverage program. AFBF and other farm groups penned a letter to the Senate this week expressing support for the bill. AFBF congressional relations director Mary Kay Thatcher says the bill changes the program to better serve farmers' needs.

The three things that are covered in this bill we believe provide us a really good opportunity to fix something that we’ve heard a lot about, ” said Thatcher, “ Lots of farmers are talking about the discrepancy in payments between counties, also talking about what kind of data was using. I think using the Risk Management Agency, the crop insurance data, is the first choice, rather than using NASS data. ”

The bill also requires the USDA to calculate safety net payments based on a farm’s physical location. Thatcher says the changes should help ensure farmers a strong safety net moving forward.

“It’s important to have a safety net when farmers are having to deal with difficult times. Certainly, we are looking at an economy around the world that’s not doing all that great, so we need to make sure that there is a safety net there for farmers,” added Thatcher.

The Committee markup of the next farm bill may start soon, but the bulk of the farm bill work isn’t likely until early next year. Thatcher says the budget is very limited.

“We have 37 programs that are funded now that won’t be funded. So, we have to worry about how we can get some of those back into the program. So, we are going to have to be as efficient as we can with money to try and get a well-rounded bill that we can pass through the House and the Senate and have the president sign,” added Thatcher.

The proposed legislation directs USDA to use more widely-available data from the Risk Management Agency. The Data is the first choice in yield calculations and calculates safety net payments based on the county where a farm is physically located. The data also provides the FSA state committee discretion to adjust yield data estimates to help reduce variations in yields and payments between neighboring counties.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Wolf Depredation

Funding Available for Wolf Depredation Compensation

Boise--The Office of Species Conservation is now accepting applications for compensation for verified livestock losses due to wolves that occurred in Idaho during the 2017 calendar year.

The deadline for compensation applications is December 31, 2017. This funding is made available through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services’ Wolf Livestock Demonstration Project Grant Program.

As a condition of receiving compensation, each applicant must show documentation of a 50% non-federal match in the form of either cash or in-kind contributions, such as documentation of additional ranch input cost estimates due to wolves on the landscape.

This can include documentation of additional riding time to check on livestock when wolves are present within a particular area, depredation prevention measures implemented, time spent with wildlife experts following a documented depredation, time and equipment used in searching for and gathering livestock after contact with wolves, etc.

For additional information and to receive application forms, please contact Joshua Uriarte directly at 208-332-1556, or

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Labor shortage plagues the Agriculture States

Sacramento—A survey by the California Farm Bureau shows farmers continue to have trouble finding a full workforce.

A survey rereleased by the California Farm Bureau shows immigration policy still harms agriculture in the same capacity as seen in a similar survey in 2012. The informal survey showed that more than half of responding farmers had experienced employee shortages during the past year.

California Farm Bureau President Paul Wenger says the worker shortage impacts farm operations.

“We have seen some people making some changes in their cropping patterns,” said Wenger. “They go to more mechanized types of crops and trying to deal with farm labor contractors. But, the bottom line is we have a broken immigration system. Farmers and ranchers are having to make a decision not based on the markets but based on the availability of labor.”

Wenger says the shortage in farm labor means a more competitive situation for farmers to source workers.

“You see a lot of farm labor contractors going into other fields and orchards offering increased wages – rob Peter to pay Paul –and get somebody to come over and pick their crop and leave the others. When you don’t have that available supply, it means there’s a big fight over those folks that are there and at the end of the day somebody is going to lose, said Wenger”

Wenger says the survey gives Congress proof that agriculture needs comprehensive immigration reform.

“Instead of just talking and saying there’s a problem, having a survey like this that goes out does help folks in Congress see that we have a problem on the farm with labor, and finding available labor and here are the specifics,” added Wegner.

The California Farm Bureau and other Farm Bureaus say the surveys give credibility to one of the biggest Ag issues affecting Agriculture today.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Agriculture Risk Coverage

Farm Bureau Supports Farm Program Fix

WASHINGTON – The American Farm Bureau Federation and seven other major farm groups today hailed introduction of bipartisan legislation to improve the Agriculture Risk Coverage program, an important component of the federal agricultural safety net for farmers. Senators Heidi Heitkamp and Joni Ernst are sponsors.

Among other things, the bill would prioritize the use of data collected from USDA’s Risk Management Agency to calculate crop yields. The measure also would use data from the county in which a farm is located when calculating yields, rather than allowing farmers to use yield data from their “administrative counties” if they farm in more than one county. It also would allow state Farm Service Agency committees to adjust yield estimates when results are inexplicably different compared to neighboring counties within the same state or adjacent counties across state lines.

The text of the letter follows:

Dear Senators Heitkamp and Ernst,

The following farm and commodity groups wish to express our appreciation and support for the legislation you introduced to improve the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) program.

The bill accomplishes this goal by (a) directing USDA to use the more widely-available data from the Risk Management Agency (RMA) as the first choice in yield calculations; (b) calculating safety net payments based on a farm’s physical location, rather than using the antiquated administrative county that may not be representative of a farmer’s land; and (c) providing FSA state committees discretion to adjust yield data estimates to help reduce inexplicable variation between neighboring counties or along boundaries with neighboring states. Appropriate adjustments would be made prior to yields being finalized or published.

The 2014 Farm Bill allowed the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to determine how county yields would be established for the ARC program. USDA decided to use data sources via a cascade in the following priority order: National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS), Risk Management Agency (RMA) and yields calculated by the state Farm Service Agency (FSA) office. NASS and RMA yield data comprise about 90 percent of the base acres enrolled in ARC-County (ARC-CO). The remaining 10 percent is compiled by the state FSA office.

It is important to note that a study conducted by the National Corn Growers Association on the impacts on payments to corn producers indicates that there is not likely to be a significant difference in the ARC-CO payments on a national basis simply due to changing the order in the cascade. A study by Dr. Keith Coble of Mississippi State University indicated similar results. There will be county winners and county losers.

What is important, however, is that the program would be based on more defensible data if RMA yields are used. We believe this is true because:

--only about 60 percent of producers return NASS surveys, so it is difficult to assure accuracy of the data;

--the NASS yield estimate comes from producer surveys and the RMA yield data comes from actual production history;

--there is no penalty for failure to fill out a NASS survey or misreport submitted information. However, farmers may face criminal penalties for filing an inaccurate crop production report for RMA; and

--RMA reports all its county yields as irrigated or non-irrigated yields, whereas NASS does not.

We are also quite supportive of your provision to calculate ARC-CO payments using the ARC-CO payment rate for the county in which the land is physically located rather than the rate for the administrative county used by the farmer.

Farm operators that have landed in multiple counties may handle all their FSA work administratively through one county (the administrative county). Farmers had two options for calculation of ARC-CO payments for 2014 and 2015. They could be paid on where the land was located or based on their administrative county. When ARC-CO payments are determined using the administrative county’s payment rate for multi-county farms, ARC-CO payments may be higher or lower than if the payments were calculated using the payment rate for the county in which the land is physically located.

In early 2016, USDA made an administrative decision to allow ARC-CO participants with land physically located in a county with a higher ARC-CO payment than the administrative county to receive ARC-CO payments calculated according to the higher-paying county payment rate. USDA does not require ARC-CO participants with multi-county farms to be paid at the lower ARC-CO payment rate if any of the land in the farm is physically located in a lower-paying county than the administrative county.

Your final provision allows for providing FSA state committees discretion to adjust yield data estimates to help reduce inexplicable variation between neighboring counties or along boundaries with neighboring states. We heard far more about discrepancies between county payments than any other issue in the ARC program and believe this will make the program function even better in the future.

Again, we appreciate your leadership on these important issues and look forward to working with you to ensure they are included in the next farm bill.


American Farm Bureau Federation
American Soybean Association
National Association of Wheat Growers
National Corn Growers Association
National Farmers Union
National Sunflower Association
USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council
US Canola Association

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Wheat tour

Idaho Mexico Wheat tour participants from Left to Right: 
Clark Hamilton (Idaho Wheat Commissioner), Clark Johnston (JC Management) Mark Trupp (Idaho Farm Bureau Vice President and Idaho Grain Producers Association State Director) Cotter Norris (Senior Trader/Risk Manager Bunge Mexico) Bryan Searle (Idaho Farm Bureau President) Chelsea Conlon (Idaho Department of AG) Zak Miller (Idaho Farm Bureau Commodity Coordinator)

Idaho Farm Bureau Hosts Mexican Wheat Merchants

Idaho Falls—The Idaho Farm Bureau a Mexican wheat merchants spent three days on a whirlwind tour of Southeast Idaho wheat farms and grain elevators this past week.

A senior trader from Mexico along with Idaho Farm Bureau staff visited local elevators and talked to producers. The Delegation was joined by trade experts from the Idaho Wheat Commission and the Department of Agriculture which helped organized the event.

“During the visit with farmers and elevators, I think the quality of our wheat was the easiest point to make,” said Zak Miller of the Idaho Farm Bureau. “We have superior quality grain whether it's in a producer’s bin or at the elevator. Not only that but all our varieties speak for themselves. Our producers did not disappoint in showing off their superior wheat.” 

Miller says that the Department of Ag and the Wheat Commission continually stressed Idaho’s identity-preserved wheat.

“Very few places in the world have producers that manage their wheat with the precision that Idaho wheat producers do and we wanted to show the Mexican millers that.  As more and more consumers seek to ‘know their food’ this bodes well for Idaho producers in the future.”

For Idaho wheat producers freight is always a challenge, but shipping has improved according to Miller.

“There was a lot of discussion about transportation because it's been a challenge of the past, but that’s the past. Optimistically, we think there are new opportunities to move wheat into Mexico and at a competitive price,” said Miller.

Miller says the biggest takeaway from the tour was greater communication between all parties involved on the tour.

“We think future deals are possible between the Mexican millers and Idaho wheat producers, so we’re going to stay in touch and keep working on an agreement,” said Miller. 

Miller adds that the Farm Bureau will continue to monitor the needs of the Mexican millers and says these visits are productive. "We’re finding ways to help develop and enhance Idaho’s agriculture products," said Miller.

Food Technology

AFBF Backs Timely Reg Review of Food Production Tools

WASHINGTON -- Coordinated federal review of advances in agricultural biotechnology will help America’s farmers and ranchers achieve gains in efficiency and productivity needed to meet the continued challenges of the 21st century, according to American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall.

“American agriculture must stay on the cutting edge of technology,” Duvall said. “Agency collaboration and efficient government review of new food production methods will help foster public confidence, provide our farmers and ranchers tools that enhance their productivity and respect the diversity of our nation’s crops and cropping systems.”

Duvall’s comments came in response to a bipartisan letter from 79 members of the House to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt. Spearheaded by Reps. Neal Dunn (R-Fla.) and Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.), the letter urges federal regulators to adhere to a “consistent, science-based, risk-proportionate regulatory system” for agricultural biotechnology.

Like the letter, Duvall urged the department and agency leaders to coordinate and advance timely reviews of advances in biotechnology and biology-based tools including gene editing. He said policies and strategies should embrace the review of innovation, domestically and internationally, through the president’s Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity.

“We will continue to highlight the need for a sound scientific and appropriate risk-based regulatory approach that will ensure farmers and ranchers have the tools and innovation they need to meet the challenges of the future in the most sustainable way possible,” Duvall said.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Just in

New Office opened in Emmett

Emmett--There's a new home for Farm Bureau Insurance in Gem County. Stu Barrett and Dusty Bryant cut the ribbon on the front doorstep of their new office located at 1312 S Washington in Emmett.

Just in

New Plymouth--At Memory Ranch near New Plymouth Monte & Luke Pearce started the day setting a broken leg on a new-born calf. They will remove the cowman’s split in about 10 days and expect a full recovery.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Wind Generation Benefits Farmers, Rural Communities, and Environment

Op-Ed by Robert Giblin

Washington—U.S. energy production is undergoing rapid transformation, with substantial impacts to the agriculture and rural economies. Many farmers already produce renewable energy by growing corn to make ethanol and soybeans for biodiesel. Now, more farmers and ranchers are harvesting the wind blowing over their land to make electricity.

Large wind turbines increasingly dot the countryside, and, like ethanol and biodiesel production, wind energy is yet another example of how agriculture is becoming a significant provider of renewable energy.

Many of the roughly 500 manufacturing facilities and wind turbine technicians are located in rural areas.

From the late 1800s through the 1930s, farmers used wind to pump water, grind grain and, to a small extent, generate power for self-sufficiency. Although most are no longer functional, old metal windmills still stand as quaint symbols of farm life before the Rural Electrification Act of 1936 paved the way to extend electrical service to rural America.

In recent years, about $143 billion has been invested in U.S. wind energy, and the investment is growing. U.S. wind energy production has grown by seven times in the last decade, with more than 53,000 turbines in 41 states generating more than 84,000 megawatts of electricity -- enough to power nearly 25 million homes nationally. Wind energy currently contributes about 6 percent of the nation’s power grid but is expected to grow to as much as 20 percent in the near future, according to the Energy Department’s “Wind Vision” report. In some states, the percentage is much higher. In Texas – a state normally linked to petroleum production – wind accounts for 12 percent of the state’s electrical generation. Iowa leads the nation with 31 percent.

Employment related to wind turbine technology is among the fastest-growing career fields in the U.S., supporting more than 73,000 jobs. Many of the roughly 500 manufacturing facilities and wind turbine technicians are located in rural areas.

Rural communities benefit not only from the added jobs but also from payments farmers and ranchers receive to host turbines on their property.

Each turbine uses less than half an acre, so farmers can plant crops and graze livestock right to the turbine's base. Most can continue to use about 95 percent of the land around wind turbines. Some farmers have also purchased wind turbines, and others are starting to form wind power cooperatives. The payments farmers receive from wind power developers or utility companies can help offset long periods of low commodity prices and increase spending power in rural communities. Additionally, most wind power developers pay property taxes to counties, separately and above the taxes paid by local farmers.

Many communities also benefit from capital investments by companies choosing to locate facilities in areas served by wind generation. In Iowa, wind electricity helped attract billions of dollars in capital investment from Facebook, Microsoft and Google data centers, creating hundreds of jobs.

Wind energy also has no emissions and preserves water compared with other power generation methods, saving some 87 billion gallons in 2016 alone.

Some critics contend that farmers should be in the business of growing food and fiber, and not producing fuel or energy. But energy and food needs are ever-increasing, and U.S. agriculture has the capacity for both. The potential for 80,000 new jobs and $1.2 billion in new income for farmers and rural landowners increases farm economic stability and benefits rural communities. Renewable energy and agriculture are a winning combination.

Monday, October 16, 2017

'17 Beet Harvest

The Magic Valley might have the second greatest sugar beet harvest of the decade.

“On our farm the beet crop is looking very good,” said Tyson Wrigley. “So far I think our yield has been higher than the average. Even better than last year and it was considered a bumper crop. So far the sugars are good. Last year we had better sugars and we’re only part way through this year so we still have hope the sugar will raise as we go on in the coming weeks.”

Just in from Bloomberg

NAFTA Talks Left Reeling After Aggressive US Proposals

From Bloomberg

Washington—After laying out the Trump administration’s most aggressive Nafta demands to date, chief U.S. negotiator John Melle was asked on Sunday how things are progressing. “Fabulous,” he said, smiling and shrugging before entering a negotiating room once more.

The fourth round of negotiations is nearing an end amid rising tensions after the US presented proposals that could be politically unfeasible for Canada and Mexico. US industry and Congress, meanwhile, are mounting a more vocal defense for preserving regional trade ties as they sense the discussions could be in trouble.

U.S. negotiators in recent days put forth a string of bold proposals -- on auto rules of origin, a sunset clause, government procurement, and gutting dispute panels seen by the other nations as core to the pact. The moves were long-signaled, as was Canadian and Mexican opposition to them.

The proposals have spurred public warnings from prominent US lawmakers and the private sector about the perils of scuttling a deal that over more than two decades has broken down trade barriers, including tariffs, for industries like manufacturing and agriculture.

Nafta’s fate may now hang on how flexible the US is about its demands heading into the fifth round of talks, scheduled for Mexico City around the first week of November. While the parties had wanted to reach a deal by December, officials familiar with the negotiations say the talks are likely to drag on for months.

Hanging over negotiations are Donald Trump’s regular threats to walk away. One official familiar with the proceedings, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly, said on Sunday that it seems more likely Trump will give the mandatory six months’ notice required to leave Nafta, though not necessarily end up backing out. Others were less sure.

“He’s unpredictable, so I don’t know,” said Stephen Moore, a senior economic adviser during Trump’s campaign and chief economist at the Heritage Foundation. “I do feel, though, that his bark has been worse than his bite on trade. That doesn’t mean that he’s retreating. But I think we’re going to see a Nafta 2.0 that will find areas that will give the U.S. even greater benefits while protecting American workers.”

Mexico has signaled that it won’t negotiate during the six-month window if Trump announces he’ll walk away, and it’s unclear what the next steps would be were that to happen. Congress and others are vowing legal and political fights if the president tries to pull out. If Trump manages to, though, Canada could still fall back on an existing bilateral deal with the U.S.; Mexico has no such previous deal.

Warnings are growing from Congress. Richard Neal of Massachusetts, the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means committee, said he prefers a Nafta renewal to a pull-out, which he said Congress would probably block.

If Trump “even suggests that the United States should leave Nafta, to undo that relationship, you would have to go back to Congress. And that would be a much more difficult task for him,” Neal said in a Canadian TV interview with The West Block that aired on Sunday.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has issued its own warning. Last week, Chief Executive Officer Tom Donohue visited Mexico City and pledged to fight “like hell” to preserve Nafta. The largest American business lobbying group plans to send an “army” of representatives to Capitol Hill to demonstrate support for the deal, Donohue said.

The Canadians were sounding the alarm to the chamber. Canada’s chief negotiator, Steve Verheul, told stakeholders during an earlier negotiating session that he’d warned the U.S. business group to brace for the possibility of life after Nafta, according to two officials familiar with the meeting. A Canadian government spokesman declined to comment.

Who’s In Charge?

The fourth round of Nafta talks will continue today at a Washington-area hotel, before a ministerial-level meeting on Tuesday. People familiar with the proceedings describe essentially a two-track process: legitimate progress being made to modernize the pact in less contentious areas, including topics like regulations and services, with essentially no progress on the most divisive US proposals.

The proceedings also raise questions of which Trump administration official is in charge. U.S. officials, preparing for an Oval Office meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week, added Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to their delegation while removing Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who officially is the top negotiator, one government official said.

As talks proceeded, U.S. negotiators told their counterparts that Ross played a key role in developing the autos proposal, two officials said. A spokeswoman for Lighthizer declined to comment. A Ross spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment outside regular business hours.

Mexico’s negotiators said they’re still optimistic a deal can be reached because they expect pushback from the U.S. private sector, according to two people familiar with the talks, who asked not to be identified.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has been increasingly downbeat in her public comments on Nafta. Still, she knows first-hand that a walk-out doesn’t necessarily kill a deal -- last year, she walked out of Canada-EU trade talks saying an agreement looked impossible. A deal was made in the end, though, and the pact entered provisional force last month.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Antiquities Act Legislation

House Committee Moves Bill Requiring Transparency in Designation of National Monuments

Washington-The House Natural Resources Committee yesterday approved a bill that would restore Congress’ original intent in passing the Antiquities Act in 1906. In modernizing the law for the 21st century, the Farm Bureau-backed National Monument Creation and Protection Act (H.R. 3990) would protect archeological resources while ensuring public transparency and accountability in the president’s use of the Antiquities Act.

Approved by Congress more than a century ago, the Antiquities Act does not explicitly require the president to consult with local and state authorities, but it does mandate that the president reserve “the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.”

However, over the last eight years, the Obama administration used the authority provided by the Antiquities Act to go well beyond Congress’ intent, locking up millions of acres of land from multiple-uses by designating land as national monuments.

In a letter sent to President Donald Trump early this year, Farm Bureau and 18 other organizations highlighted their concerns and called for action. The groups represent the landowners, grazing permittees, loggers, forest products companies, miners and local governments who have been harmed by federal government’s overreach in the national monument designation process.

“We strongly oppose the ongoing misuse of the Antiquities Act by the executive branch and request your administration to work swiftly to resolve these conflicts and work with Congress to pass legislation to improve accountability and transparency in the designation of national monuments. Such reform will ensure that the will of local communities is respected and true American antiquities can be protected,” the groups wrote.

The National Monument Creation and Protection Act addresses several of the groups’ concerns. It includes provisions to protect endangered antiquities and to prevent abuse of executive authority and the designation of excessive national monuments. The bill would also empower impacted local communities and protect property rights.

Key provisions of the bill would:

• Retain flexibility to designate a National Monument up to 640 acres, allowing the president to rapidly protect objects of antiquity in imminent danger and restore the original intent of the Antiquities Act.

• Ensure all new monument designations between 640 acres and 10,000 acres are reviewed under the National Environmental Policy Act prior to being finalized. Proposed new monument designations between 5,000 and 10,000 acres must be reviewed under an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement.

• Require the approval of all county commissions, state legislatures, and governors impacted by a national monument for any designation between 10,000 acres and 85,000 acres.

• Require prior written consent of impacted state and private landowners before private property is included in a national monument.

• Allow the president to designate new “Emergency National Monuments” for up to one year to protect areas of any size in times of emergency.

• Redefine the terms used in the Antiquities Act to prohibit the designation of marine national monuments, restoring the original purpose of the act to only protect objects on lands owned by the federal government.

• Require monument reductions greater than 85,000 acres in size to be approved by the impacted counties, state legislatures, governors and have undergone NEPA analysis.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

'17 Beet Harvest

2017 Beet Crop nearly as sweet as ‘16

Burley— Magic Valley farmers might have the second greatest sugar beet harvest of the decade.

“On our farm, the beet crop is looking very good,” said Tyson Wrigley. “So far I think our yield has been higher than the average. Even better than last year and it was considered a bumper crop. So far the sugars are good. Last year we had better sugars and we’re only partway through this year so we still have hope the sugar will raise as we go on in the coming weeks.”

At the Dot.11 farm south of Burley they’re sending up great clouds of dust, running sun-up to sundown topping and digging beets.

According to Amalgamated Sugar Company, last years beet crop broke a lot of company records with sugar content climbing towards 20 percent and yields above 40 tons per acre. Preliminary 2017 price estimates are running at $37 to $40 per ton, not far off last years blistering pace.

Magic Valley suffered through one of the worst winters on record followed by weeks of rainfall. All that mud kept equipment out of the fields, delaying planting for weeks.

“We ran our beet planter 24 hours a day for five days and luckily got all the beets in. When the rain came and it created a very good emergence this year. We had a great crop right from the start and we didn’t have frost or anything to where we didn’t have re-plants, that's why the numbers are so good,” said Wrigley.

According to Amalgamated Sugar Company, last years beet crop broke company records with sugar content climbing towards 20 percent with yields above 40 tons per acre. Preliminary 2017 price estimates are running at $37 to $40 per ton, not far off last years blistering pace.

“The last field we did we got $45 a ton and 17 percent sugar,” said Wrigley. “I think $45 ton is a very good crop, we’re happy with that and hoping the sugar content continues to rise as we go along. We’re hoping for closer to 18-percent and I think we’ll see that.”

Last year Wrigley says his fields averaged almost $48 a ton and the sugar content was between 18 and 20 percent.

“I’m excited about this year. It is fun to get the harvest over with and see what the crops did. I like to see what we’ve earned for all the hard work that started last winter and it is exciting. Last year was a very good year. I don’t think this year will totally beat it but it'll be close and that’s a very good year in my book,” said Wrigley.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Farm Bureau hosts NAFTA talks

Idaho Export Hay heading to drought-stricken Canada

NAFTA Meeting Resume on Wednesday in Washington

Washington—The American Farm Bureau Federation hosted trade meetings this past week in Washington, D.C.

“The North American Free Trade Agreement has helped America’s farmers and ranchers make significant gains in US Agriculture exports to Canada and Mexico,” said American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall.

Duvall thinks the administration’s negotiating objectives for the agreement will maintain and improve agricultural trade with our nearest trading partners. 

"We look forward to expanding our market opportunities with our North American neighbors even further by bringing this agreement into the 21st century,” added Duvall.

The Farm Bureau met with counterparts from Canada and Mexico to discuss all of the North American Free Trade Agreement trade issues last week. AFBF trade specialist Dave Salmonsen says the meeting shows a unified voice across the NAFTA partners on agriculture issues.

“We think it’s very important that among all the countries, that industries can come together,” said Salmonsen. “And agriculture has seen the benefits across the board in all three countries. So, they came together to say this is an important part of our economy and we want to see the gains we’ve gotten from this preserved.”

The meetings this week follow a similar meeting held in August between influential agriculture groups from Canada and Mexico along with the American Farm Bureau.

“Free trade agreements have a proven track record of boosting revenue for U.S. agriculture. They create a level playing field for our farmers and ranchers to compete in the global marketplace,” said Duvall. “And NAFTA is no exception with ag exports to Canada and Mexico increasing from $8.9 billion in 1993 to $38 billion in 2016. It is vital that we lock in that progress as the first point of talks to improve NAFTA.”

The NAFTA delegates got together back in August and last week to decide what commonalities they might have.

“And we all agreed that overall NAFTA’s been very positive for all countries and to announce the fact that we didn’t want to see anything go backward,” said Salmonsen. “But we're looking forward to some modernizations. And at the meeting we just had we affirmed all of those same issues.”

Salmonsen added that the main issues include standards and market access.

“We don’t want to have food safety standards used as a protectionist trade barrier, so let’s base them on science, and there’s a lot of agreement there. At some point they’ll be talking about U.S. and Canada dairy trade,” said Salmonsen.

Within the TPP, there had been new access for the US into Canada.

“We hope that we can get that kind of access in the NAFTA agreement. We have issues with what role geographic indications labeling will take so plenty of work ahead and Wednesday the negotiators will be back in Washington, D.C., for another round of talks,” added Salmonsen.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Just in from Washington

USDA Issues Farm Safety Net and Conservation Payments
Total Exceeds $9.6 Billion

WASHINGTON – Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue today announced that over $9.6 billion in payments will be made, beginning this week, to producers through the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC), Price Loss Coverage and Conservation Reserve programs. The United States Department of Agriculture is issuing approximately $8 billion in payments under the ARC and PLC programs for the 2016 crop year, and $1.6 billion under CRP for 2017.

“Many of these payments will be made to landowners and producers in rural communities that have recently been ravaged by drought, wildfires, and deadly hurricanes,” Perdue said. “I am hopeful this financial assistance will help those experiencing losses with immediate cash flow needs as we head toward the end of the year.”

The ARC and PLC programs were authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill and offer a safety net to agricultural producers when there is a substantial drop in revenue or prices for covered commodities. Over half a million producers will receive ARC payments and over a quarter million producers will receive PLC payments for 2016 crops, starting this week and continuing over the next several months.

Payments are being made to producers who enrolled base acres of barley, corn, grain sorghum, lentils, oats, peanuts, dry peas, soybeans, wheat, and canola. In the upcoming months, payments will be announced after marketing year average prices are published by USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service for the remaining covered commodities. Those include long and medium grain rice (except for temperate Japonica rice), which will be announced in November; remaining oilseeds and chickpeas, which will be announced in December; and temperate Japonica rice, which will be announced in early February 2017. The estimated payments are before application of sequestration and other reductions and limits, including adjusted gross income limits and payment limitations.

Also, as part of an ongoing effort to protect sensitive lands and improve water quality and wildlife habitat, USDA will begin issuing 2017 CRP payments this week to over 375,000 Americans.

“American farmers and ranchers are among our most committed conservationists,” said Perdue. “We all share a responsibility to leave the land in better shape than we found it for the benefit of the next generation of farmers. This program helps landowners provide responsible stewardship of the land that should be taken out of production.”

Signed into law by President Reagan in 1985, CRP is one of the largest private-lands conservation programs in the United States. Thanks to voluntary participation by farmers and landowners, CRP has improved water quality, reduced soil erosion and increased habitat for endangered and threatened species. In return for enrolling in CRP, USDA, through the Farm Service Agency (FSA) on behalf of the Commodity Credit Corporation, provides participants with rental payments and cost-share assistance. Participants enter into contracts that last between 10 and 15 years. CRP payments are made to participants who remove sensitive lands from production and plant certain grasses, shrubs and trees that improve water quality, prevent soil erosion and increase wildlife habitat.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Elk Depredation

Elk Depredation Threatens Cattle Industry Viability
By John Thompson

Ranchers and state officials met in late September to discuss elk depredation in Butte, Custer and Lemhi counties.

Tension is building between ranchers and state wildlife managers due to marauding herds of elk and a lack of effective management tools.

Established ranches in Butte, Custer and Lemhi counties that didn’t have elk depredation problems until the mid-90’s and later, are under siege and could be facing a third consecutive difficult winter because hungry elk are eating haystacks, damaging crops, tearing down fences and threatening the future viability of ranches throughout the region.

Some ranchers angrily threatened to take matters into their own hands, during a recent meeting sponsored by the Idaho Farm Bureau, if the state doesn’t find a better way to manage the population. They simply cannot afford to feed the State’s elk herd and maintain their businesses.

Several ranchers stated they didn’t have elk on their property before wolf reintroduction in the mid 1990’s during the meeting / tour held in late September. The tour made stops in Moore, near Challis and near Salmon.

One rancher said when his livestock get loose, he’s held accountable. He’s been building eight-foot tall fences and wrapping his haystacks with straw bales to try to keep elk out and he wonders why the liability of taking care of the State’s elk falls on landowners.

Idaho Fish and Game Commissioners Derick Attebury and Jerry Meyers attended the tour but offered few comments aside from mentioning they enjoy elk hunting and eating venison. From the ranchers’ perspective there is a dearth of concern that comes from the hunting community regarding this problem. Hunters obviously enjoy large elk populations and Fish and Game profits from the sale of elk tags while ranchers pay dearly to keep the elk alive during the winter months.

One rancher from the Challis area, said he is out of patience waiting for the State to take care of the problem. It’s come down to his livelihood vs the State’s elk. He told those who attended the tour that his only remaining option is to violate the law and start killing the elk. Those attending included Fish and Game law enforcement officers, Fish and Game Deputy Director Ed Schriever and several state legislators.

Tom Curet, Idaho Fish and Game Salmon Regional supervisor, said it’s likely to take three to five years to bring the elk population down to the department’s established target level. In hunting unit 50, near Mackay, elk population estimates are near double the target level.

Reasons why the state’s elk management strategies aren’t working was a major topic of discussion, but new ideas and potential solutions are difficult to come by. Fish and Game officials support hunter harvest as a management tool, but many ranchers expressed concern and bad past experiences. In sum, most ranchers believe most hunters are ethical and capable, but it only takes one bad apple to create problems that exceed the value of hunting.

Custer County Rancher Steve Bachman said hazing and hunting are the main techniques in use, but neither are effective solutions. “Hunters killed about 20 elk on our place last year but when you have 400 elk it’s a drop in the bucket,” he said.

Bachman added that he won’t allow hazing on his property during bull elk season because of “slob hunters” and the fact that he doesn’t want his house, family employees etc. in the line of fire of irresponsible hunters.

The comment sheds light on the fact that some residents in the region enjoy having elk on their properties which creates a sanctuary that exacerbates the overall problem. This point is consistently raised by Fish and Game officials when discussing the problem.

Hazing is another tool in use, but with questionable results. The elk leave one ranch and run to another, tearing out fences along the way. One rancher joked that it’s much easier to haze the elk later in the winter after the fences are gone.

Lemhi County Rancher James Whittaker suggested allowing ranchers to sell elk tags provided to them by Idaho Fish and Game as a way to compensate for losses. In the past this idea has been met with major opposition from the hunting community. Yet hunters don’t object when Idaho Fish and Game auctions trophy big game tags for as much as $350,000.

Deputy Director Schriever explained that Landowner Appreciation Permits (LAP) program overlaps the controlled hunt program. Therefore, landowners must draw these permits, which is a bone of contention among some of the ranchers who spoke during the tour. Schriever said LAP tags for bull elk and buck mule deer are always fully subscribed, or in other words there is significant interest in those tags. However, for doe mule deer and cow elk, interest wanes and large numbers (thousands according to Schriever) of these tags are under-subscribed, or not drawn or purchased. Landowners shouldn’t have any problem drawing cow or doe tags, he said.

In addition, landowners with serious depredation problems are given depredation tags and those hunts generally take place in December or even as late in winter as January or February.

Whittaker said landowners should be given LAP tags commensurate with the damage they receive instead of holding a draw for the tags. He also criticized the Fish and Game department for being inconsistent and unfair with the awarding of elk tags to certain individuals but not others. Fish and Game officials at the meeting did not refute the claim.

Another landowner said he has drawn only one LAP tag for elk in the last 12 years and has never drawn a LAP tag for antelope although he “feeds 30 to 40,” every winter.

Ranchers also raised concern about wolf baiting. They believe wolf baiting, the same as bear baiting, could be a valuable management tool. Schriever said trapping rules allow for the use of bait but hunters cannot place bait under current rules. He added that a naturally occurring gut pile is not considered bait and hunters can use gut piles.

Meyers, the Fish and Game Commissioner representing the Salmon Region, said when the Commission considered wolf baiting earlier this year they received a barrage of email from animal rights groups from all over the world. They received 22,000 email messages in opposition to wolf baiting. He explained that the issue generates money for these groups and Commission members feared adopting the measure would empower the animal rights groups.

“We feared it would generate a lot of money for their war coffers and we may lose in court which could have spillover effects on bear baiting regulations,” he said. “We made the decision to pull back the wolf baiting bill because it’s not worth jeopardizing everything else we have in place.”

Idaho Farm Bureau lobbyist Dennis Tanikuni, said during the last legislative session, a bill was passed that increased big game hunting fees by $5 for residents and $10 for non-residents. That money goes into a depredation account that is used to buy fencing materials and reimburse landowners for other losses. When the account reaches a set limit, the funds go into a prevention account where the focus on depredation losses remains, rather than channeled into a general fund that could be spent elsewhere.

Yet another problem raised during the discussion was the ability of the elk to adapt to control strategies. Many ranchers said the animals have become nocturnal haystack raiders, making it difficult for hunters or hazing to work.

In spite of the economic hardship the ranchers are facing, most do not place blame solely on the Idaho Fish and Game Department. Many of them complimented the Fish and Game Department’s efforts in spite of the ineffectiveness in many cases. One rancher suggested creating management plans for individual ranches and allowing longer windows for control measures. Each property is unique and has individual challenges. “We need to get tags in time to deal with the problem before we have hundreds of elk on our property,” he said. “We need to make decisions for each property because they all have unique problems.”

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