Friday, July 21, 2017

President's Op-Ed

Time for a NAFTA Tune-UP

By Zippy Duvall, American Farm Bureau President

Some in Washington are calling this “NAFTA Week,” because the administration just yesterday came out with its objectives for the NAFTA renegotiation effort.

The American Farm Bureau’s goal has been primarily to maintain the good, reciprocal market access we have today for agricultural products that U.S. farmers and ranchers export to Canada and Mexico. We were glad to see that listed as the top objective in the agricultural section of the administration’s plan.

The plan also lists other goals we’ve outlined, including eliminating non-tariff barriers to U.S. agricultural exports, providing adjustment periods for our import sensitive agricultural products, and enhancing regulatory compatibility. The objectives also include creating a process to resolve trade barriers erected in the name of protecting animal, plant or human health—so-called sanitary and phytosanitary measures—but that are not necessary and are damaging to fair and open trade.

Our exports to Canada and Mexico have quadrupled from $8.9 billion in 1993, when NAFTA entered into force, to $38 billion in 2016.

I’ll admit that when talk of renegotiating NAFTA first began, many of us in agriculture were nervous about rocking the boat. NAFTA isn’t perfect, but it has been very beneficial for the majority of U.S. agricultural products and the farmers who grow them. Our exports to Canada and Mexico have quadrupled from $8.9 billion in 1993, when NAFTA entered into force, to $38 billion in 2016. So we wanted to make sure we did not lose the progress we have made. However, NAFTA is 23 years old now. Just like our farm machinery, it needs to be updated. Things have changed since 1993. For example, when NAFTA was negotiated biotech crops were just starting to come to market.

A lot of work remains ahead of us. Canada and Mexico will have their own negotiating objectives, which may or may not be compatible with ours. But the objectives outlined by the administration this week assure those of us in agriculture that the president and his trade team will work to fulfill a promise he made to farmers and ranchers: to keep the gains we have made so far, and to make agricultural trade even better in the future.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

2nd Crop of Hay

Idaho Farmers harvest second hay crop

Burley—On scorching hot days, idaho Farmers swath hay across the Snake River plain.

Farmer Rick Pearson out of Hagerman just got his hay in.

"We just got our second crop in, I haven't got the tests back but it looked good," said Pearson.

Rick Brune’s hay out of Hazelton is not dairy grade—but he got good yields.

"It was too hot and we had blooms in it, so it wasn't dairy grade. I'll make more than the first cut, but most of it will go to export," said Brune.

Domestic alfalfa is still firm. Trade is slacking off a bit with moderate demand only for higher testing and export Timothy hay. Mid squares of tarped alfalfa rated premium/supreme going for $150.

The Dairy industry continues to drive the market, here in Idaho even though quality is a bit off, Demand is picking up.

"Its been hot and there just isn't that much dairy-quality hay, Demand is picking up and that'll help us down the road in terms of demand," said Pearson.

The dry, hot weather has hurt and helped the hay market this year but producers think they can keep their hay operations in the black.

For the Voice of Idaho Agriculture, this is Jake Putnam

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

2017 IFBF Summer Presidents Meeting

IFBF Women's Leadership Judy Woody has a portrait taken at the Annual Summer Presidents meeting in Burley

FBF Women's Leadership Committee Meets at Summer Presidents Meeting

Burley—Women’s Leadership Chairman Judy Woody of Filer is in her second day of Board meeting at the Summer Presidents Meeting in Burley. It is hard to catch the chairman because she's been on a dead run since early Monday.

Yesterday it was leadership training for the board, today their task is to plan the group’s activities over the next 12 months.

“This is actually our yearly planning meeting and we address all our activities for the next year. We go through our programs award book and this is the time of year we get all that done. It takes about a day and half for our meeting, it’s a thorough meeting thats for sure,” said Woody.

The groups leadership training with Justin Patten helped the Committee surface group priorities moving forward.

“It really gave them an idea of what they want do this next year. Looking ahead and the evaluation of our programs is important and they’re dynamic and always coming up with new ideas,” said Patten.

Leadership for the group is more than a title and it only tells a fraction of what the group is all about.

“Women in agriculture have been involved since day one,” said Woody. “ Whether its inside the house, the company books, or the fields its takes both people, doesn’t make a difference if it’s a man or a woman,” said Woody.

Chairman Woody says leadership is passed on from generation to generation and everything they do now and all that they achieve can be passed down as new leaders emerge. She adds that’s the reason each meeting is important.


‘Just a farmer’

By John Schlageck

While I hoped I’d never hear this phrase roll off the lips of a farmer or rancher again, I did the other day. I heard someone say, “I’m just a farmer.”

We’ve all heard these words before. We’ve heard them said at the grain elevator, the grocery story, the local café, church and just about everywhere else in rural America.

I heard them for the first time in years at a local co-op in the southwestern part of our state. They were uttered by an articulate, bright young man.

When asked for his name, he cheerfully told me. When asked his occupation, the man dressed in jeans, a flannel shirt and seed cap looked down at his boots, well-worn and nicked and replied softly, “Just a farmer.”

In my home state of Kansas and other states across our country, farming is a proud and cherished lifestyle.

Just a farmer.

With those three words, he revealed his uncertainty about the value of his profession. As if because of his occupation, his comments wouldn’t count.

There is no such occupation as, “Just a farmer.” In my home state of Kansas and other states across our country, farming is a proud and cherished lifestyle. It is also an industry that supports 21 million jobs across our country.

Farmers are responsible for the food we buy in our grocery stores and serve to our families each day.

Farmers sow more than seeds in the ground – they establish the roots that anchor our communities. They also supply many other items from their farms that are used in our nation’s industry.

Travel through rural America, and you’ll meet and talk to farmers and ranchers who not only care about their land but the towns where they live. They not only work to grow crops and livestock, but to make their communities a better place to live.

Without question, rural communities thrive and prosper when farmers,ranchers and community businesses work together for the common good. Probably the single greatest roadblock for success and growth in any community is a lack of organized leadership with vision and the determination to implement forward thinking. Fortunately, farmers and ranchers have always adhered to a “can do” attitude.

We continue to build on a long and proud heritage of self-help and self-responsibility by investing in our farms, ranches, businesses, communities and the people we employ. We believe our communities and our way of life can continue to be a part of a livable frontier – a community and state of mind where there is always room to grow and prosper.

And when weather calamities devastate a region of our state, people pull together and help one another survive while looking to better times ahead.

Yes, as I have always said, “No one is ‘just’ a farmer, teacher, mailman, lawyer or grocer. Everyone is important, especially the American farmer and rancher when it comes to putting the most nutritious, abundant food on our kitchen tables.”

Stand up, revel in your vocation. Be proud. Providing food, fuel and fiber for the people of this world is without a doubt, the most noble profession one can be a part of.

So, the next time you’re asked, “What is your profession?” you might consider responding like this:

“Yes, I’m a farmer stockman and there’s nothing I’d rather be. There’s not a better place I’d rather live, work and raise my family. My vocation involves helping feed the world and I have dedicated my life to doing so.”

John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. This is a reprint of an earlier version of his Kansas Farm Bureau Insights column.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Spring Wheat Responds to Supply Concerns

Washington-Spring wheat, typically planted in late spring and harvested in late summer and early fall, prefers the mild summer weather of the northern states in which it is primarily grown. However, in recent months parts of the Upper Midwest and Pacific Northwest have been battling drought conditions, and this year’s spring wheat crop is showing the effects of little rain. Spring wheat is grown exclusively in the High Plains and Pacific Northwest, with nearly 99 percent of acres planted in 2017 in the states of Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Washington.

Spring wheat has a higher protein content than other varieties grown in the United States. This corresponds to a higher level of gluten, which means the flour from this wheat has the best dough-handling characteristics. Additionally, spring wheat flour has exceptional water absorption, which increases the moistness and softness of the finished products, resulting in a longer shelf life. These characteristics set spring wheat apart from other classes and make it the flour of choice for the crafting of high-quality bread and pastries. Spring wheat flour is often mixed with lower protein wheat flours to improve the quality of the resulting batch of flour, as well.

Drought in the High Plains
Due to the ongoing and worsening droughts in Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota, USDA’s July 10, 2017, Crop Progress report indicated that 39 percent of this year’s U.S. spring wheat crop, representing 4.3 million acres, is presently in poor or very poor condition. North Dakota, the largest spring wheat producer, has 35 percent of its 5.3 million acres planted in poor or very poor condition. Figure 1 highlights the percent of acreage in poor or very poor condition.

The drought occurring in these areas is significant. The United States Drought Monitor currently has categorized over 46 percent of the High Plains region to be experiencing drought conditions with 16 percent of that categorized as either in severe or extreme drought. To be placed in the severe and extreme categories, an area must be experiencing characteristics of prevalent crop and pasture losses and widespread shortages of water. Figure 2 geographically displays these exceptionally dry areas of the nation.

This drought is having widespread effects throughout the region. Actions are starting to be taken to combat the negative impacts that often come with drought conditions. For example, USDA continues to modify emergency haying rules as they pertain to the Conservation Reserve Program lands in Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota so that producers of livestock have more forage available to sustain their herds through these tough growing conditions. This authorization will remain in effect until August 30, 2017. A recent Market Intel article, Northern Plain Drought Accelerates, Placements Head South, highlighted the impact of the High Plains drought on cattle placements.

Supply Concerns Spur Price Rally

USDA’s July 12, 2017, Crop Production report estimated spring wheat harvested area at 10.5 million acres, down 7 percent from 2016 and the lowest harvested area since 1972. If realized, this would represent an acreage abandonment rate of 3.7 percent – higher than in recent years but potentially below market expectations given recent drought conditions.

Continued dry conditions and expectations for reduced acreage drove up settlement prices of spring wheat futures contracts substantially over the past few weeks. Spring wheat futures are offered on the Minneapolis Grain Exchange. Figure 3 shows the increase from a mid-May price of $5.50 per bushel to nearly $8 per bushel in early July. This 45-percent increase is a result of growing season supply concerns for new crop spring wheat.

The July 12, 2017, World Agriculture Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) projected 2017/18 spring wheat production to be 385 million bushels, a decrease of 22 percent compared to last year’s production. Total use for 2017/18 is projected at 561 million bushels, down 11 million bushels from the 2016/17 marketing year. Lower spring wheat production, driven by lower yields and harvested area, combined with a modest decrease in consumption would result in ending stocks of 122 million bushels, nearly half of last year’s 235 million bushels.

With growers having fewer bushels to harvest and take to market this year, they can expect higher prices per bushel to make up for the potential production losses they may experience due to the unfavorable growing conditions. Uncertainty remains in spring wheat. Prices could potentially fall from these lofty levels if growing conditions improve in the coming weeks, acreage abandonment is lower than anticipated or crop yields are higher than anticipated.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Vineyards Wiped out

Vineyards lose ’17 crop

Jake Putnam

This block of chardenay vines at Bitner Vineyards was planted 36 seasons ago. But a closer look reveals no grapes on the vine.  

“This winter, I have a weather station, It was -18 degrees below zero, the first 10 days of January. It killed the plants to the snow line. Luckily, our temperatures 24 inches down never got below 40 degrees.

While the vines are thin, they’re alive, green and thriving again. But to save the vineyards grower took drastic measures:

The hard part for farmers this year is that my vines are this big around and I cut the old vines out but it literally cost more to take out an old vineyard than starting from scratch. Im glad that most of the old vines have survived. Right now we’re training it up to the catch wire and there are some fruit spurs for next year and hopefully we will be back to a 2-3 ton crop, maybe one ton next year and 2-3 the next.

The damage was centered in the Sunnyslope region south of Caldwell. Where the majority of Idaho’s vineyards and wineries are located, and its will have a major impact on the state’s total wine-grape tonnage this year.

 Even though it killed everything above, we’re retaining the original suckers back up. The vines will continue as the same vines I planted back in 1981.

The biggest vineyard lost 480 acres of wine grapes after the cold snap in January. Bitner says the 2017 vintage is going to be light:

Most of the red grapes are in the barrel, even for the other guys. But the ’17 vintage is really going to be light, for them they’ll have to go up and get another source of grapes. Fortunately I don't have to.

Bitner has reserves that he’ll market this year:

Ive kept a lot more red grapes in the barrel, so we’re releasing our 2012 vintage. So I still have my 13, 14 a light 15 and 16, so 17 and Im out. We’re okay we sell most of our wine on our deck, we’ll stay in our 1500 to 2000 case range and sell to a few restaurants in the valley.

The 2016 wine-grape harvest was a bumper crop—and growers hope their reserves will get them through the disastrous winter.

For the Voice of Idaho Agriculture Im Jake Putnam

Friday, July 14, 2017

Bee mortality research

Simpson Applauds Secretary Zinke for Craters of the Moon Decision

Washington–Idaho Congressman applauds U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke for his announcement today that Craters of the Moon National Monument is no longer under review. Further, the Secretary will recommend that no modifications should be made to the monuments.

“I applaud Secretary Zinke for honoring the local consensus Idahoans have created with Craters of the Moon,” said Congressman Simpson. “I worked with a diverse group of stakeholders over ten years ago to ensure Craters reflects Idaho values and can be enjoyed by outdoor enthusiasts. I know Secretary Zinke shares these values and I thank him for his leadership.”

In a press release issued by Secretary Zinke he said, “As a former geologist, I realize Craters of the Moon is a living timeline of the geologic history of our land on the Great Rift. Whether it’s hiking up the alien-like lava flows along the Spatter Cones, or just driving through the scenic loop, there’s a lot to see and learn at this historic location.”

Craters of the Moon National Monument was under review in accordance with President Trump’s April 26, 2017, executive order. Secretary Zinke’s recommendation comes after review of public comments and conversations with stakeholders.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Tax relief now

Farms and Ranches Need Tax Relief Now, Farmer Tells Congress 

WASHINGTON– Farm and ranch families need a permanent tax code that boosts the agricultural economy and frees them to reinvest in their businesses, Scott VanderWal, a South Dakota farmer, told the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Tax Policy today.

“Farmers and ranchers operate under tight profit margins, often for rates of return that are modest compared to other businesses,” VanderWal said. “Our businesses are also cyclical where a period of prosperity can be followed by one or more unprofitable years.” 

Farming is challenging under the best circumstances, with uncontrollable weather, disease outbreaks and unpredictable markets, said VanderWal, who also serves as vice president of the American Farm Bureau Federation and president of South Dakota Farm Bureau. On his family farm in Volga, South Dakota, VanderWal has seen the price of corn go as high as $7.60 per bushel to as low as $2.80 per bushel in the last 10 years. Nationwide, net farm income has been cut nearly in half since 2011.
“Reducing effective tax rates is the most important thing that tax reform can do to boost farm and ranch businesses,” said VanderWal. “Every dollar that we pay in taxes is a dollar that could be reinvested back into our farm, help lift my community and contribute to a robust agricultural economy.” That’s an investment the U.S. economy can’t afford to lose: In 2015, agriculture and related industries contributed $992 billion to U.S. gross domestic product and provided about 11 percent of U.S. employment. 

While emphasizing the importance of lower tax rates, VanderWal also urged lawmakers to consider the broader impact of tax provisions on the effective rates farm and ranch families pay. 
“Because our profit margins are tight, we are more likely to fall into lower tax brackets,” he said. “Tax reform plans that fail to factor in the impact of lost deductions, credits and exemptions for all rate brackets could result in a tax increase for agriculture.”

Wheat acres down, Millers worried

WASHINGTON - Wheat acreage had dropped to lowest level in more than 100 years.

This latest revelation from the USDA is not a big surprise, in fact
farmers have planted less wheat, each year for the past three decades.

Record yields have helped declining acreage according to the report but a drought or crop failure could severely impact bakers and bread makers.

This trend is discouraging for bread makers that depend on stable supplies grain, according to a new report from Rabobank.

“As the acreage base has continued to shrink year after year, the impact of droughts looms larger since there is less cushion in the case of production problems,” according to the report, which highlighted hard red winter wheat because it is important to breadmakers. “A lower capacity for production in this wheat class, based on decreased acreage, increases the probability of weather-related price volatility, driven by supply-related issues.”

American farmers still producing a lot of wheat despite a 40- percent reduction in wheat acres over the past 27 years, according to the report, that put wheat acreage for the 2017-18 marketing year at 46 million acres, down from 75 million acres for 1990-91.

Like acreage, production has also dropped. Farmers will produce about 1.8 billion bushels for the 2017-18 marketing year, according to the latest USDA forecast. That, Rabobank says, is down from 2.75 billion bushels for 1990-91.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt Credit: AFBF 

Pruitt, Zinke Visit State Farm Bureau Presidents

By Mace Thornton

Washington-Two high-ranking Trump administration officials – Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke – made guest appearances Tuesday morning in Washington during the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Council of Presidents meeting. Pruitt discussed with state Farm Bureau presidents the EPA’s recent decision to begin rescinding the Waters of the U.S. rule, as well as other issues of concern to America’s farmers and ranchers.

“EPA is returning power to the states and standing with farmers who have been hurt by misguided policies of the past,” Pruitt said. Following the meeting, Pruitt said, “The farming industry deserves regulatory certainty and I committed that to them today. The group expressed gratitude that their voices are being heard for the first time in a long time and I look forward to an ongoing partnership with the agriculture community in the future.”

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke Credit: AFBF

During his speech, Zinke outlined the importance of supporting multiple uses of the nation’s public lands. As an example, he said revenue from previous energy leases would have paid the backlog of expenses of the entire national parks system, with $3 billion left over for reinvestment. Zinke also spoke briefly about the challenges presented by wild horse overpopulation on public lands.

“Believe it or not, I work for you, the people,” Zinke told the presidents, a line that was greeted with applause.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

More markets open after BSE restrictions

US Beef opens another market

Washington--Israel has reopened to U.S. beef for the first time since December 2003. Israel was one of many countries to suspend imports of U.S. beef following confirmation of the first BSE case in the United States, and is one of the last to lift its BSE-related restrictions.

Although Israel imposes very strict kosher slaughter and handling requirements on its beef suppliers, U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) President and CEO Philip Seng says there could be opportunities in the market for some U.S. companies. He also notes the significance of yet another BSE-related market closure coming to an end.

Currently, Argentina and Uruguay are Israel’s largest beef suppliers, followed by Brazil and Paraguay. Israel also imports small volumes from Australia and the European Union.

South Africa also reopened to U.S. beef for the first time since 2003. USMEF is still examining the terms of this reopening.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Potato acres down

Potato acres down in 2017

Washington--Idaho potato producers planted just 310,000 acres of spuds this season thats down from 325,000 acres last year, according to the USDA's annual report from the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

"It looks encouraging come this fall and we're cautiously optimistic with the report," said Stephanie Mickelsen of Mickelsen Farms in Roberts. "Weather can change a lot of things, 16-thousand acres can be made up by growth of a crop pretty quick on yields, but it's a challenge with the weather."

The United Potato Growers of Idaho's estimate is even lower at 307,000 acres. The National Ag Statistics report also reavealed that Washington kept its acreage even with last year at 170,000 acres.

Mickelsen says they're slightly behind in this years crop compared to last year and now they're dealing with the heat.

"Hot weather will stress the crop, if its between 90 and 100-degrees those plants are doing all they can do just to live They're not putting on a whole lot of bulk underneath, so the hot weather stresses them," Mickelsen said.

As bad as that sounds she says the heat wave also has its benefits.

"The heat helps with the fungus, the fields have fungus problems when its cooler and more humid, with this heat we don't have the humidity, so we're looking good there."

Temperatures are expected to ease up for the next few days before they rise again later in the week. Farmers across the Snake River plain are using up a lot of water as they top off the final two weeks of irrigation on the grain crop.  

"We plan so many inches of irrigation water for grain and potatoes. We have a tough decision to make because we need to go another week of water on our grain we might move that water to the potatoes. The next couple of weeks are critical with this weather," added Mickelsen.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Flood recovery funds

NRCS Idaho accepting applications for flood recovery funds

BOISE–The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is accepting applications to help agricultural producers rehabilitate private land affected by flooding across the state.


Severe winter storms and melting of record snowfall created substantial widespread flooding across Idaho, which has caused significant damage to private property as well as public infrastructure. 

NRCS Idaho will set aside funding through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program for private land flood recovery efforts. The funds can be used to help address damage to agricultural infrastructure as well as streambank erosion and landslides.

“This special funding pool has been set aside to help agricultural and forestry producers rehabilitate land impacted by the devastating floods that resulted from this season’s severe winter storms,” said Curtis Elke, Idaho NRCS State Conservationist. “NRCS stands ready to serve our affected communities in any way we possibly can with our financial and technical assistances.”

“We recognize the devastation the extensive flooding throughout the state may have caused the agricultural community,” Elke said. “To that end, in addition to this special funding, NRCS is coordinating with other state and federal agencies in order to match landowners’ needs with the appropriate program.”

The application deadline for this funding pool is July 31. For more information, contact your local NRCS field office or visit our Web site:

Friday, July 7, 2017

Just in

Scaling back Cuban trade hurts Ag

Washington-President Donald Trump announced last month his plans to scrap normalization of U.S.-Cuba trade. Its all part of his plan to strike the Obama administration's to ease restrictions on both travel and business between the two countries.

While that sends a political message, its setting trade back and hurting agriculture.

Farm groups and Senator Rand Paul have started releasing opposition statements to the Trump restrictions with Cuba, saying a slumping farm economy needs new markets for wheat, row crops and beef.

Senator Rand Paul is critical of the cold war embargo.

"Instead of hiding our capitalism behind a failed embargo, we should tear down the walls of trade restriction and open up travel and trade even more. Instead of allowing the socialists to continue their propaganda unopposed, we should have sufficient confidence in capitalism to let them go head to head," said Paul.

Paul added, "Let's see what Cubans will choose when they come face to face with iPhones, modern cars, and tourists with fistfuls of dollars buying Cuban services and goods."

Estimated Ag exports to Cuba are worth about $125 million in the first few years with the potential to double by 2020 but,thats small in comparison to other nations like Canada and China, that buy over $100 billion in agricultural exports.

Meanwhile the US Farm economy is slumping and every dollar counts. Since the policy changes under the Obama administration, substantial progress has been made, with shipments of U.S. corn and soybeans to Cuba increasing 420 percent in 2016 from a year earlier to 268,360 metric tons (10.6 million bushels), according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data. This year is following the same trends as 2016, with the first four months seeing total shipments of U.S. grain and soy at 142,860 MT (about 5.6 MB), up from 49,090 MT (about 1.9 MB) during the same time frame of 2016.

“Trade is the salve for getting enemies to be friends,” said Kansas wheat farmer Jay Armstrong. “You have sectors of both economies that suddenly need each other. You have leaders who need to get along.”

Read more here:

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Western Governors meet


MONTANA-The Western Governors’ Association wants to change the Endangered Species Act.

The Governors want their states to have a bigger role deciding when animals should be listed and when they’re delisted.

Those recommendations were crafted into a resolution from the WGA’s annual summer meeting held in Whitefish, Montana.  Two western governors did not attend the meeting Democrats Jerry Brown of California and Jay Inslee of Washington and refused to sign on.

Republican Gov. Matt Mead of Wyoming oversaw the resolution and praised the ESA for the protection it has provided species like the bald eagle and the grizzly bear. But he said that the 1973 legislation needs updated to fit the times.

Addressing fellow governors in Whitefish, Mead said he hopes to “send to Congress a plan that we think can do a better job” protecting endangered animals and “begin a process that will ultimately lead to improvement” of ESA.

But Brown, in a letter to Mead, said this is not the time to ask Congress for changes. “The “current climate in Congress is marked by chaos and partisanship,” Brown wrote, adding, “This climate will not result in good conservation policy.”

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Wheat acres down this year

Planted acres down, prices up 

Washington—U.S. farmers planted less wheat and corn while soybean acreage is up a record 89.5 million acres. Thats according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service from their annual summer report.

The report is based on surveys of more than 70,000 farmers from the first two weeks of June and matches the survey from March.

Wheat acreage for all varieties is estimated at 45.7 million, down 9 percent from 2016, representing “the lowest all-wheat planted area since records began in 1919,” according to the report.

Prices are slowing going up, grower Richard Durrant says they could break even this year.

"It's just nice to see. Producers that had dark northern spring are having some good rallies. When we’re getting $7 dollars on that, growers are feeling better. The soft white? we still have a ways to go," said Durrant.

Last March, farmers said they intended to sow 46.1 million acres with wheat. The bulk of the planted area will go to winter wheat, at 32.8 million acres according to NASS.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Food prices down

4th of July Cookouts Down Slightly, Just Under $6 Per Person

Washington—The great American cookout this Fourth of July, including hot dogs, cheeseburgers, pork spare ribs, potato salad, baked beans, lemonade and chocolate milk, costs slightly less than last year.

The meal comes in at less than $6 per person, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Farm Bureau’s informal survey reveals the average cost of a summer cookout for 10 people is $55.70, or $5.57 per person. The cost for the cookout is down slightly (less than 1 percent) from last year.

“As expected, higher production has pushed retail meat prices down,” said AFBF Director of Market Intelligence Dr. John Newton.

Competition in the meat case is making grilling for July 4th even more affordable for consumers this year, Newton noted.

“Retail pork prices also declined in 2017, largely due to more pork on the market and ample supplies of other animal proteins available for domestic consumption. Lower beef prices are most likely putting downward pressure on pork prices,” he said.

AFBF’s summer cookout menu for 10 people consists of hot dogs and buns, cheeseburgers and buns, pork spare ribs, deli potato salad, baked beans, corn chips, lemonade, chocolate milk, ketchup, mustard and watermelon for dessert.

With regard to drivers behind the moderate decrease in dairy prices, Newton said, “We continue to see stability in dairy prices because of the improving export market. Chocolate milk will be a little more affordable this July 4th, in part because some retailers are promoting it as a sports recovery drink superior to other sports drinks and water.

He also noted the retail price of American cheese has declined due to very large inventories and a lot of competition in the cheese case.

Newton said retail dairy and meat prices included in the survey are consistent with recent trends and are expected to continue to be stable.

Commenting on watermelon prices, Newton said, “Although U.S. farmers continue to increase watermelon production, consumer demand has also increased, contributing to higher retail prices.”

A total of 97 Farm Bureau members in 25 states served as volunteer shoppers to check retail prices for summer cookout foods at their local grocery stores for this informal survey.

The summer cookout survey is part of the Farm Bureau marketbasket series, which also includes the popular annual Thanksgiving Dinner Cost Survey and two additional surveys of common food staples Americans use to prepare meals at home.

The year-to-year direction of the marketbasket survey tracks closely with the federal government’s Consumer Price Index report for food at home. As retail grocery prices have increased gradually over time, the share of the average food dollar that America’s farm and ranch families receive has dropped.

“Through the mid-1970s, farmers received about one-third of consumer retail food expenditures for food eaten at home and away from home, on average., That figure has decreased steadily and is now about 16 percent, according to the Agriculture Department’s revised Food Dollar Series,” Newton said.

Using the “food at home and away from home” percentage across-the-board, the farmer’s share of this $55.70 marketbasket would be $8.74.

Monday, July 3, 2017

First harvest: two weeks

Idaho Wheat rallies

 Meridian--At the Big D ranch outside of Meridian the wheat stands tall. In a couple of weeks it’ll ripen before the combines take over.

“There are a few growers that are taking their water off, we’re getting some hot weather and things will change pretty fast around here. I don't thing we will be harvesting anything before the 15th of July probably closer to the 20th,” said Richard Durrant.

Durrant farms 11-hundred acres—and this week he saw some light at the end of the tunnel, not only seeing the end of another great winter wheat season but the wheat market is showing gains across the board.

“Its just nice to see some rallies in the wheat market. Producers that had dark northern spring are having good rallies. When we’re getting $7 dollars on that growers are at least feeling better. The Soft white, we still have a ways to go,” added Durrant. 

Drought stress to the U.S. spring wheat crop is pushing the rally on the wheat market, while the dry, hot weather has bullish investors buying. September wheat futures were 14¢ higher last week.

“We got some carry in the market so that makes a big difference when we’re getting a 20 cent carry in the market in December, January thats always a positive note,” said Durrant.

Gem County farmer Danny Walton says even with the rally, prices are far below where they should be. “I’d say right now we are right at break even point. theres not going to be any money made at it. I’ll cover my expenses but I wont make anything on it, it wont pay me back,” said Walton.

Walton contracted and locked in his wheat two weeks ago, he says he knows how quirky the market can be, he’s not optimistic about what the futures market is showing.

"Last year I did well selling at $5-dollars a bushel. That don't sound very good, but in last years market it was good. This years market I’d be tickled pink to get $4 and a quarter. I did lock in a contact for $4 and quarter two weeks ago, so mine is sold.

Because of frost, drought,  and the USDA acreage report, spring wheat is classified at 40-percent good to excellent, well below the 72-percent at this time last year.  But with heat and sunshine, Idaho wheat is expected to rally.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Water Rights Bill introduced in Congress

The Federal Government fought a 10 year legal battle with Owyhee Tim Lowry rancher over his water rights and lost. Lowry is still paying the nearly million dollar legal bill.

Water Rights Legislation Reintroduced in the US House

Washington—A bill that would protect the water rights of Western ranchers was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives this week.

The Water Rights Protection Act supported by the American Farm Bureau Federation and reintroduced in the U.S. House this week would bar federal agencies from taking the water rights of ranchers on public range lands. The bill stops federal agencies from taking the water rights of land-use permit holders when the users are renewing their use permit. Those water rights, says AFBF’s Ryan Yates, are a property right, and should be protected.

“We were seeing new language inserted into these permit renewals that would require a permittee, be it a rancher or other federal land permittee, to transfer over water rights to the federal government as a condition of that permit renewal. Obviously, that has a profound effect on the western economy, the ranching economy, and I would argue would violate the 5th Amendment of the Constitution as a taking,” said Yates.

The legislation passed the U.S. House in a previous session of Congress and also addresses future attempts to take water rights from western ranchers. Additionally, Yates says addressing the issue ranchers are facing is a priority of the Trump administration.

“The Trump administration has also weighed in on this issue, and in an executive order a couple of months ago directed federal land management agencies to cease in these types of actions that would require the transfer of a water right as the condition of a permit,” said Yates.

Yates says farmers and ranchers need to support the bill by reaching out to their elected officials.

"The bill should be getting marked-up this week, so that really puts it on a path for floor consideration in the House of Representatives. And we’re calling on farmers and ranchers across the country, not just the West, to stand up for property rights and encourage their members of Congress to support H.R. 2939,” added Yates.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall

American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall's final thoughts on Idaho after a weeklong visit.

WOTUS off the books

Waters of the US rescinded

WASHINGTON - The Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers have officially stripped the “waters of the U.S.,” or WOTUS, rule off the books, by sending a withdraw order to the Federal Register on Tuesday.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt told the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Interior subcommittee that following withdrawal of the old rule, the replacement rule would be issued by the fourth quarter of this year or the first quarter of 2018, at the latest.

“We're taking significant action to return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation’s farmers and businesses,” said EPA administrator Scott Pruitt. “This is the first step in the two-step process to redefine ‘waters of the U.S.,’ and we are committed to moving through this reevaluation to quickly provide regulatory certainty in a way that is thoughtful, transparent and collaborative with other agencies and the public.”

Secretary Pruitt has more leverage than his prediction to the House Interior and Environment spending subcommittee on June 15 and that a new rule – not just a proposal – would be adopted in that time frame. Nevertheless it’s still a brisk timetable, given the need to accept and adequately respond to comments. In addition and there’s still a good chance that environmental groups will challenge the withdrawal in court.

The proposed withdrawal comes with a 30-day comment period, that a short time span given the controversial nature of WOTUS.

But Congress is ready to help EPA get around sticky administrative requirements. The energy and water spending bill released by the House Appropriations Committee Tuesday would allow EPA and the Corps to withdraw the rule “without regard to any provision of statute or regulation that establishes a requirement for such withdrawal,” such as the Administrative Procedure Act, which requires agencies to consider public comments before adopting new regulations.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

AFBF President Visits Idaho

American Farm Bureau President tours Idaho

Shelley—American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall and wife Bonnie had breakfast this morning with Idaho Farm Bureau President Bryan Searle at his farm outside of Shelley. 

President Duvall said that he wants to see what Idaho Agriculture is all about. He says its all part of a promise he made:

“My commitment was to go to all 50 states the first two years of my presidency and to get out into the grassroots and talk to farmers and volunteers across the country,” said Duvall. He wants to represent farmer issues by experiencing it with them and hearing their stories. 

As the most powerful Agriculture group in Washington, Duvall has clout and its important to have first hand knowledge of Ag issues, not only in Idaho but across the nation.

“Its made me a more effective President. You never know who I’m going to be sitting in front of next week in Washington, whether it be a Senator, a chairman of a committee or even President of the United States. Its great to have the opportunity to share our grassroots opinions and issues with those people. We’re real excited to be here and it is a beautiful place and what a wonderful family we met this morning.”

President Duvall’s tour took him the potato fields of Shelly and the GPOD packing plant where he saw Russet Burbank potatoes processed, packaged and shipped. After that is was onto Idaho Falls.

Searle and Duvall visited the USDA’s Pale Cyst Nematode Program where they met with program manager Tina Gresham.  President Duvall got to sit at a workstation and observe nematodes through a microscope. 

President Duvall had lunch with the Bonneville County Farm Bureau and then took questions. One of the most compelling questions came from Stephen Bagley of Teton County. He asked what the President thought about the lack of management and local control on federal lands in the West.

“I’ve seen the mismanagement of wildlife, mistreatment of our ranchers out here because of the mismanagement of wildlife and the lack of input from local people. I know these people in the National Forest Service. They’re climbing a ladder. You may get someone in here from Ohio or someone from the Northeast United States and they know nothing about this area. You’re the ones that know.” 

Duvall gets it and added that there should be a way to have better communication and input to management of the lands.

“Thats what I told Secretary Perdue, that farmers and ranchers out west need local input. Their families have lived there for generations they should be able to tell you better than anyone how to take care of the livestock on the land, so he and I, we had that conversation,” said Duvall.

Idaho Farm Bureau leaders then took President Duvall to the Great Feeder Canal outside of Ririe.  That canal irrigates tens of thousands of acres across Southwest Idaho. Duvall was impressed at what he saw on the Snake. 

 The tour continues tomorrow in Boise and then onto Canyon County.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Brazil trying to reverse beef ban

Washington--Brazil is trying to reverse the American ban of beef imports from Brazil.

Brazil's Agriculture minister Blairo Maggi posted social media comments on his emergency trip to the US this week and the ban late last week, just hours after U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the immediate suspension of all Brazilian fresh beef imports because of safety concerns.

The U.S. statement said the suspension ban will stay in place until Brail takes corrective action to get its meat packing plants under control and up to US inspection standards.

Maggi said Brazil will fight to get the U.S. market and he'll personally head a mission to the US  to negotiate resumption of Brazilian beef exports.

Perdue's decision was announced after serious scandals and allegations of bribed meat inspectors stunned Brazil's beef industry and resulted in several countries stopping imports.

The Secretary of Agriculture says that since March, US inspectors stopped entry to more than 11 percent of Brazilian fresh beef products or about 1.9 million pounds. "That figure is substantially higher than the rejection rate of one percent of shipments from the rest of the world," the statement said.

The statement noted that Brazil had already addressed concerns of American inspectors by prohibiting five facilities from shipping beef to the US, but said that didn't go far enough.

Maggi attributed the USDA's safety concerns to the lumps some steers develop as a result of an allergic reaction to the vaccine against foot-and-mouth disease. He said the lumps did not represent a public health hazard.

"We must resolve this matter as quickly as possible because cattle breeding in Brazil is going through a very difficult moment with low market prices," Maggi said.

The Brazilian Beef Exporters Association said in a statement that the export suspension and the "adjustments to the production processes" are already underway and will be presented to the Agriculture Ministry's mission that will go to the United States.

In March, Brazilian authorities said they were investigating inspectors who allegedly allowed expired meats enter the market for bribes.

Brazil was the world's largest producer of beef and veal in 2016 and one of the top exporters, according to U.S. Agriculture Department. The country is also a major exporter of chicken and pork products.

Fuel Up to Play 60

Caldwell-Twenty-six Idaho teachers toured the Impressive Breanna Dairy, intently listening to owner Bernie Tunisson explain a how the dairy is run and they got to see where their school milk comes from.

The Teachers toured the farm as part of the “Fuel Up to Play 60” program. The Fuel Up initiative is a joint program involving the Idaho Dairymen and the National Football League.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Just in

US Ban Brazil Beef Imports

Washington-The United States announced Thursday the immediate suspension of all imports of beef products from Brazil because of safety concerns.

The decision by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue came three months after a major scandal into allegations of bribed meat inspectors shook Brazil's meat industry and prompted several countries to temporarily halt imports.

In a statement, Perdue said that since March, U.S. inspectors have refused entry to 11 percent of Brazilian fresh beef products, about 1.9 million pounds.

"That figure is substantially higher than the rejection rate of one percent of shipments from the rest of the world," the statement said.

It said the suspension will remain in place until Brazil's agricultural ministry takes corrective action. The statement did not detail what those actions should be.

The statement noted that Brazil had already addressed concerns of American inspectors by prohibiting five facilities from shipping beef to the U.S., but said that didn't go far enough.

"Today's action to suspend all fresh beef shipments from Brazil supersedes the self-suspension," said the statement.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Ag Groups Urge USDA to Revamp Biotech Reg Proposal

Washington--Proposed revisions to USDA’s biotechnology regulations take some very positive and bold steps in the right direction, but major changes are needed to ensure the new rules encourage innovation, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation and 102 other agricultural organizations.

“We are supportive of USDA’s efforts to modernize its regulations, ensuring they are up-to-date with the best-available science and utilize the more than 30 years of experience USDA has in reviewing the safety of these crops,”t he groups wrote in a letter to the Ag Secretary.

The groups also noted their appreciation for USDA’s strong position regarding the exclusion from the proposal of products of new breeding methods, such as gene editing. Many of the products developed using these new methods are strikingly similar to those developed using more traditional plant breeding methods.

Despite these positive aspects, there are several shortcomings that are holding the groups back from supporting the proposal as a whole.

Among the major concerns are researchers’ and developers’ inability to learn the regulatory status of new genetically engineered organisms without undergoing complex risk assessments, providing little clarity about which products will 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, is another problem. “This runs counter to USDA’s 30-plus years of experience regulating biotechnology,” the groups noted.

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

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

Finally, USDA’s plans for major changes to the current regulatory system may have unintended consequences for other regulatory agencies, and domestic and international markets, and lead to significant litigation risks, the groups cautioned.

“We are concerned that these flaws will have a significant negative impact on innovation, particularly for small companies and universities hoping to develop agricultural products for specific regional or environmental needs or to develop minor-use crops that could be important domestically and internationally,” they wrote, adding that USDA can better meet its goals with fewer risks and disruptions by charting a different regulatory course.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Just in

Cattle market still bullish

Washington—The cattle market has been locked in an uptrend since last October.

US cattle futures climbed to the point that several live cattle contracts notched lifetime highs. Beef prices usually drop in June after the Memorial Day weekend, but prices kept climbing and sales are strong.

“Any time we can move beef, it’s a good thing, said cattle rancher Chris Dalley of Pingree. “Whenever there is a demand, the prices go up. Opening up China definitely keeps it going, thats another outlet we can sell to, and things haven't looked this good in a while.

“When the first shipments start in July, I think it’s going to help bring more stability to the market and we’ll be back in the black, said producer Gerald Marchant of Oakley.

One of the reasons for higher prices is tighter supply.

University of Idaho Ag Extension economist Hernan Tejeda says opening the China market is just part of the beef comeback.

“Herd size across the nation has expanded, cattlemen are holding onto cattle. The summer holidays always drive up prices, but supply is tightening. There has been strong herd expansion since 2015, ranchers think they can sell at a higher price so they’re hanging on to cattle.”

For how long no nobody knows but analysts say theres renewed optimism that export activity will stay strong thanks to reopening the China market. After the final details are worked out, China will see the first shipments of US beef in late July, the first shipments in more than 14 years.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Water Rights Protection Act

Legislation Offers Relief from Federal Water Extortion

WASHINGTON– The Water Rights Protection Act, introduced in the House today, could bring U.S. ranchers much-needed relief from ongoing efforts by the federal government to extort privately held water rights from law-abiding citizens, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

“It’s time to put a stop to federal strong-arming of ranchers by a government that owns the majority of the land for grazing west of the Mississippi,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said. “Water is the most valuable resource for every farmer and rancher. Unfortunately, the federal tactics we’ve seen in recent years have little to do with conservation and everything to do with big government and control.”

In recent years, federal land managers in the West have demanded increasingly that the ranchers who work the land surrender their water rights to the government or leave. Public lands are meant to be enjoyed and shared by our citizens, and America’s ranchers play a critical role in caring for these lands. The government’s treatment of these ranchers is not only unfair, but unconstitutional, AFBF said.

For America’s farmers and ranchers to continue to provide the food, fuel and fiber for the nation and the world, they simply must have access to water. This is especially crucial in the West. All citizens have a right to expect that their lawfully acquired water rights will be respected by the federal government.

If passed, the Water Rights Protection Act (H.R. 2939) would bar the federal government from seizing state-granted water rights from ranchers and restore basic property rights to them. According to AFBF, the act echoes policy changes President Trump set forth in his executive order on Promoting Agriculture and Rural Prosperity in America, which further supports the protection of ranchers’ water rights.

The legislation would also:
Prohibit agencies from demanding transfer of privately held water rights to the federal government in exchange for federal land use permits or other things; Maintain federal deference to state water law; and Maintain environmental safeguards already in place.

Farm Bureau commends Congressman Scott Tipton’s leadership on the legislation, and urges Congress to act swiftly to bring America’s ranchers much-needed relief.

Cool not Cool

Cool not Cool, Cattlemen Sue Country of Origin Labeling

Spokane—Washington ranchers are suing the US Department of Agriculture, because they want American shoppers to know where their beef is coming from.

The lawsuit was filed yesterday in Spokane’s Federal District court.

Cattlemen want to overturn the USDA’s decision back in March of 2016 that blocked regulations requiring foreign meat producers to label the country of origin of imported beef. 

Cattlemen argue that the change in 2016 has allowed some imported meat to be sold as US Beef.

David Muraskin an attorney for Public Justice said that in this day and age that shoppers want to know where their food comes from.

"We're fighting policies that put multinational corporations ahead of domestic producers and shroud the origins of our food supply in secrecy,” said Muraskin. 

From 2009 and 2016, the USDA required country-of-origin labeling on all meat until the agency struck down that requirement. The cornerstone of the lawsuit centers on the US Meat Inspection Act, which required that slaughtered meat from other countries be clearly marked. 

The Department of Agriculture is not commenting on the lawsuit. 

The lawsuit was brought by Cattle Producers of Washington, the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America. 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Cuban trade

Ag Groups Concerned over Trump Cuba Policy

WASHINGTON -- Ag groups last week expressed concern over President Donald Trump's announcement that his administration will restrict travel to Cuba and limit business activities in Cuba.

"We will very strongly restrict American dollars flowing to the military, security and intelligence services that are the core of Castro regime," Trump said.

The American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Farmers Union, the U.S. Grains Council and wheat growers say limiting trade could hurt U.S. exports.

On Friday Trump said he was rolling back President Obama's steps to liberalize relations with Cuba because they had not led to more democracy there.

"They will be restricted. We will enforce the ban on tourism. We will enforce the embargo. We will take concrete steps to ensure that investments flow directly to the people, so they can open private businesses and begin to build their country's great, great future -- a country of great potential,” said Trump.

But there is still hope as far as trade is concerned. President Trump did not move to close the U.S. embassy in Cuba or the Cuban embassy in Washington, and did not end direct commercial airline flights or cruise ship stops.

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall wants the administration to be cautious with proposed trade restrictions with Cuba.

"We should be doing more, not less, to encourage U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba," Duvall said. "Our farmers and ranchers and the Cuban people would benefit from increased sales of high-quality, American-grown food and feed. The American Farm Bureau will continue to work with the administration and Congress to maintain and improve the conditions for agricultural trade with Cuba.”

“Cuba is a $2 billion annual food-import market," Duvall said. "Currently, because of some remaining restrictions, the United States sells about $200 million in agricultural products to Cuba, but that nation represents the kind of growth opportunity America's farmers and ranchers need during this challenging economic period.”

In the past eight months, Cuba bought more than 250,000 metric tons of corn from the US, thats 30-percent of their total demand, keeping the market open would make Cuba the 11th biggest market for US exports.

President's Op-Ed

Time for a NAFTA Tune-UP By Zippy Duvall, American Farm Bureau President Some in Washington are calling this “NAFTA Week,” because th...