Thursday, September 21, 2017

Idaho Wheat Export Deal

Idaho and Taiwan ink wheat deal

Boise-Idaho Governor Butch Otter signed a half billion dollar wheat deal with the Taiwan Flour Mill Association Wednesday morning at the Statehouse.

Taiwan Flour Mills Association Chairman Tony Chen and Director General Vincent Yao of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Seattle were joined at the Statehouse ceremony with Governor Otter, Idaho Wheat Commission Vice-Chairman Bill Flory and Idaho Department of Agriculture Director Celia Gould.

“The United States has long been Taiwan's most important supplier of agricultural products,” said Yao. “That makes Taiwan the seventh largest overseas market for US agricultural exports. Among the states, Idaho is one of the most important and reliable partners of Taiwan in terms of agricultural trade. Taiwan’s consumers benefit a lot from the high-quality agriculture products of Idaho.”

Taiwan prefers Idaho's soft white wheat for noodles, cookies, and crackers according to the Idaho Wheat Commission. But over the past few years Taiwan has also bought more of Idaho’s hard red wheat for bread. To date at least 5 percent of Idaho's wheat production is purchased by Taiwan.

“Export markets are critical to Idaho’s economy and our wheat growers,” Otter said. “We welcome the Taiwan Flour Mills Association back to Idaho and appreciate their loyalty as a customer. We appreciate that the Taiwan milling industry recognizes the quality of Idaho wheat.”

US wheat producers have had a working relationship with Taiwan buyers for more than four decades according to the Wheat Commission. The Taiwan Flour Millers Association imports wheat for twenty flour mills. The United States supplies more than 80 percent of Taiwan’s total wheat imports each year.

"The consumption of wheat foods in Taiwan now surpasses rice and we appreciate that the Taiwan milling industry recognizes the quality of Idaho wheat," Otter said.

Bill Flory grows wheat in Idaho's Palouse prairie and says the deal benefits producers.

"The partnership between Taiwan's millers and US wheat producers is enduring and very successful," said Flory who also serves as the vice chairman of the Idaho Wheat Commission. "The importance of maintaining a trade relationship with this valued customer can't be overstated."

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Range Tour

Central Idaho Range Tour 

Challis-The Lost Rivers, Lemhi and Custer County Farm Bureaus invited the Idaho Fish and Game and other State agencies on a Range Tour. Each winter ranchers in the area lose tens of thousands of dollars in hay to elk herds. Last winter damage was extensive and with projections for another hard winter, ranchers are looking for ways to cut their losses.

This past summer some ranches have spent thousands of dollars building fencing. This fence is 10 feet high.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Net Farm Income: up

Net Farm Income Does a Dead Cat Bounce

Washington—A common phrase used often when talking about markets that recover slightly after a precipitous drop is “dead cat bounce.” A quick Google search suggests it was coined following a slight recovery after a large market drop in the Singapore and Malaysian markets. The idea is that if you throw even a dead cat on the ground, it will bounce a little.

Farm incomes in 2012 and 2013 were high relative to historical standards, but have dropped substantially since then. The recent projections of farm income released by USDA’s Economic Research Service in their 2017 Farm Sector Income Forecast suggest that we may have hit bottom in 2016 and are looking at an uptick in both net farm and net cash income in 2017 to $100.4 billion and $63.4 billion.

ERS last released farm income projections at the end of February, so it is interesting to compare and contrast this projection versus their earlier forecast. Both crop and livestock sectors are projected to have higher cash receipts than ERS projected in February. Crop cash receipts are now projected at $190 billion versus $187 billion earlier this year, an increase of 1.6 percent. The changes in crop cash receipts are spread throughout a number of crops and are all relatively minor.

The big change in expectations for farm cash receipts comes on the livestock side. Livestock cash receipts are now projected at $176 billion, compared to $168 billion in February, an increase of 4.8 percent, Figure 2. Cattle cash receipts are now projected $4 billion higher than in February, with hogs and poultry up by $2 billion and just under $2 billion, respectively. Despite projections for higher milk prices, dairy receipts are surprisingly slightly lower than February figures.

Cash expenses are also essentially unchanged from the earlier figures and still hold at $309 billion. While up $5 billion from 2016 costs, cash expenses are $30 billion below that observed in 2014. But do not forget that one of the larger categories of cash expenses are feed costs – money that comes out of one of agriculture’s pockets only to go into another.

One other interesting feature of the August numbers is on the debt side. Total farm debt is projected at a record-high at $390 billion, with $242 billion representing real estate debt and $148 billion representing non-real estate debt, Figure 3. An interesting observation on the non-real estate debt is that ERS projected this figure $7 billion lower this month than they did earlier this year - $148 billion as opposed to the earlier $154 billion figure. No details are provided to back up the change but it does suggest farmers and ranchers are continuing to keep an eye on the debt side of the ledger. The net impact of lower debt levels and higher farm income in 2017 is the debt to asset ratio in 2017 is projected at 12.68 percent, marginally higher than 2016, but well below levels experienced in the 1980’s.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Health Insurance Tax

Farm Bureau Urges Lawmakers to Stop the Health Insurance Tax for 2018

Washington-Citing a recent report that estimates the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance tax will force families purchasing coverage in the small group market to pay an additional $500 on average in premium costs next year, the American Farm Bureau Federation and 20-plus other organizations representing small businesses are urging the Senate Finance Committee to suspend the HIT for 2018.

“Absent immediate congressional action, our members, as well as seniors, Medicaid beneficiaries and individuals purchasing coverage on their own will face a $14.3 billion tax hike, driving up the cost of coverage for those struggling to afford the cost of care,” the groups—all members of the Stop the HIT Coalition—wrote to Senate Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

The groups noted that previous congressional efforts to provide HIT relief—including bipartisan action from nearly 400 Republicans and Democrats in the House and the Senate to suspend the HIT for 2017—represented a significant step forward for small businesses.

The House this spring approved legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The American Health Care Act of 2017 (H.R. 1628) also repealed the health insurance tax, ended penalties on employers that fail to purchase health insurance for their workers and eliminated penalties for individuals who fail to purchase health insurance.

While efforts to pass an ACA repeal and replace bill fizzled out in the Senate earlier this summer, some lawmakers in that chamber are pressing on. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) has teamed up with Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) in an effort to draft legislation geared toward stabilizing health insurance markets.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Onion Harvest

Mixed Onion Harvest in Idaho and Oregon underway

Wilder—After one of the most disastrous winters in history, The regions battered onion industry is back up and running.

Despite a slow start and low yields, strong market prices have growers enthusiastic.

“This is the second highest price I’ve ever seen,”said Shay Meyers of Owyhee produce. “Onions are selling for $10.00 per 50-pound sack. Last year they were going for $4 dollars. We have a long way to go but we’re cautiously optimistic this season because we think we have a manageable crop,”

Last winter Idaho and Oregon suffered through non-stop, freakish storms. By the end of January more than 6 feet of snow collapsed 60 onion storage sheds in Canyon, Washington and Malheur Counties.

The storms also wiped out a good chunk of last year’s onion bumper crop causing more than a $100-million dollars of damage to the crop and smashed buildings.

Last year at this time onions were selling for $3.50 a sack. When a third of the crop was lost, demand in February pushed the crop past the $10 mark.

This year the onion trucks started rolling two and a half weeks late. The crop suffered from a very cold spring with the last snow storm coming the 13th of May. In just four weeks the weather changed drastically and the crop then weathered a 6-week heat wave. Meyers says because of the challenges this crop won’t top last season’s bumper crop yields.

“We’re late with harvest this year because of that cold spring. It was hard to get planted in all of that mud. Right now we’re starting to lift the onions out of the dirt and the hot days are good for drying them on the warm ground,” said Jon Watson of the JC Watson Company out of Parma.

Packers are dealing with the lower yields, rebuilding sheds and budgets are tight.

Myers said Owyhee Produce lost four storage sheds. The main packing house was damaged but continued operations through the winter. Myers said Eastern Oregon was hit first so their buildings were the first to be rebuilt and they’re off to an earlier start than Idaho neighbors. He says when they start storing onions, they are ready.

“In terms of storage, all of our buildings have been rebuilt. We were fortunate in our misfortune and were able to rebuild first. We’re ready now for storage. We were effected first, our storages are complete, so today we are not affected and can move on,” said Meyers.

In Parma JC Watson Company had a partial collapse of one of their main sheds in January.

“We rebuilding and everything is updated and state of the art. Over the past 5 years we’ve building new multi-tasking storing sheds that can handle the heat and the cold and we can change the climate at different times of the year for a reason. We have the ability to turn storage climates into weather conditions that we don’t have at the time, things like turn night into day,” said Watson.

Because of all that snow Watson got off to a late start because of cleanup and construction.
“With the losses and a late spring we’re 3-4 weeks behind this fall,” said Jon Watson. But Watson is confident they’ll have enough storage for the last of the onions in October and hopes the prices will stay up.

“Market prices are up today because of the late harvest. California got done early and Washington is just getting started and we’re going to be late. Because of the late start we are probably going to see a smaller size profile and add the lateness to harvest and there’s not as many onions offered for sale right now,” said Watson.

Spanish bulb onions make up a third of the total US crop. They’re sold later in the year and need storage. Because of that, the crop needs storage sheds for the 2017 harvest.

Treasure Valley and Eastern Oregon Onion farmers grow more than 1- billion pounds of the bulb onions each year, making this the nation’s largest onion-growing region in terms of volume and one of the biggest in the world.

At least 90 percent of the onions grown in the region are yellows, while the rest are red and white varieties. Harvest usually starts in August and finished by the end of October.

There are 36 packing sheds in the valley and the industry’s annual economic impact is an estimated $1.3 billion, making onions a major economic player in the region’s economy.

Onion acreages are close to 20,000 this year but production numbers are well off last years record season.

“Compared to 2016 we’ll see a 30 percent reduction in yields. Last year we had record yields that were 15 to 20-percent over normal yield averages. And this year we’re 10-15 percent below an average year,” said Meyers.

From restaurants to big box stores, Jon Watson says this year’s crop will impact major retailers across the nation.

“We ship our product all over the country. We’re servicing outlets like Walmart and Taylor Farms. Taylor makes fresh cut onions for all of the major restaurant chains. Today we’re packing for Outback restaurants and they’re big onions but not as many as last year,” said Watson.

Producers stress that its still early in the season and the most worrisome part of the year will start when they move onions into storage. They say storage will be tight with no guarantees that prices will hold.

“The market today is between $9 and $10 dollars. We hope they’ll stay. We hope that stays throughout the storage process. We haven't harvested one onion for storage yet, they’re still out on the ground and some of the crop is still growing,” said Watson.

2017 is a year of wild contrasts for onion producers. They had one of the biggest crops ever in storage followed by 40 inches of snow. The collapses took a big chunk of the bumper crop and caused a $100 million in shed damage.

“Prices are good, but like I said before we need two years profit this fall to make up for last years losses. I know it is a lot to hope for but it’s all we got,” said Meyers.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Homegrown energy

Wind Generation Benefits Farmers, Environment

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.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Just in from Washington

Farm Bureau, Livestock Groups Request Waiver for Log book Mandate

Washington—Concerned about livestock haulers’ readiness to comply with a problematic electronic logging device mandate, as well as how the mandate will affect the transported animals’ well-being, the American Farm Bureau Federation and seven livestock organizations are asking the Department of Transportation for a waiver and exemption from the fast-approaching Dec. 18 ELD implementation deadline.

Unless Congress or the administration acts, carriers and drivers who are subject to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s ELD rule must install and use ELDs by Dec. 18. While most farmers and ranchers should be exempt because they can claim covered farm vehicle status, drivers who haul livestock, live fish and insects are likely to fall under the requirements.

Drivers who have to use ELDs would be limited to current hours of service rules, which restrict a driver to only 14 “on duty” hours, with no more than 11 active driving hours. Once a driver hits those maximum hour allotments, he must stop and rest for 10 consecutive hours, which would be problematic when transporting livestock and other live animals.

In their petition, the groups pointed out livestock haulers’ strong commitment to ensuring the safety of both the animals they’re transporting and the drivers they share the road with. In addition, livestock haulers often receive specialized training beyond that required for their counterparts driving conventional commercial motor vehicles. The pork industry’s Transport Quality Assurance Program and the beef industry’s Master Cattle Transporter program provide detailed instruction on proper animal handling and transportation methods.

“As reflected in FMCSA’s data, the emphasis these programs place on animal welfare benefits driver safety as it encourages livestock haulers to slow down, be more aware of their surroundings and road conditions, and avoid rough-road situations that could result in animal injury,” the groups noted.

Another major roadblock to implementation for livestock haulers is their lack of awareness of the rule. Because the livestock hauling industry is small compared to the overall trucking industry, it isn’t well-represented before or strongly engaged by DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

As a result, livestock drivers who are aware of the program have had difficulty researching the ELD marketplace and identifying cost-effective solutions that are compatible with livestock hauling. In addition, as with the agriculture industry as a whole, livestock haulers are likely significantly older than the average American truck driver, making them less familiar with the use of ELD technology and in need of more training on ELD use.

In their petition, the groups also asked DOT to address the incompatibilities between FMCSA’s hours of service rules and the structure and realities of the U.S. livestock sector.

“For many drivers, there is concern that there are those, with no understanding of or concern for animal welfare or livestock hauling, who will arbitrarily penalize them for choosing the proper care of animals over stopping in excessive heat or cold because of an arbitrary HOS cutoff,” the groups said.

While FMCSA’s recent change to include livestock in its interpretation of the 150-air mile exemption for agricultural commodities is a positive development, it doesn’t fully address livestock haulers’ struggles.

The organizations are committed to working with industry and FMCSA to address the issues presented by the ELD mandate and hope that FMCSA will grant additional time and flexibility for haulers who have a responsibility to care for the animals they are transporting.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Brazilian tariff on imported fuels

Brazilian tariff bad for US Biofuels industry

Washington– US Agriculture organizations want the Trump administration to address a Brazilian tariff on imported biofuels.

Brazil imposed a tariff that cuts more than $750 million in US exports and American jobs. In August, Brazil instituted a two-year tariff rate quota for ethanol imports that includes a 20 percent tariff after a 600 million liters of imports.

According to a report from the Energy Information Administration, the US exported 28 million barrels of fuel ethanol in 2016 and at least 6.6 million barrels went to Brazil. So far this year exports to Brazil stand at 1.17 billion liters, according to Census Bureau trade data.

Tom Sleight of the US Grains Council President said the Brazilian tariff “will ultimately hurt the global industry and our collective ability to reap the benefits of biofuels.”

Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor said the tariff is a violation of a longstanding U.S.-Brazilian agreement and “the United States should not take this lying down.”

In a statement, Growth Energy, the Renewable Fuels Association, and the U.S. Grains Council called on the administration to “immediately engage their Brazilian counterparts on the future of our relationships with regard to biofuels.” The groups said the administration should “consider all avenues to encourage Brazil to either revoke the TRQ or substantially increase the tariff-free quota level to better reflect the current ethanol market and trade realities.”

In individual statements, leaders of the three organizations offered more pointed comments about potential outcomes if the Brazilian action is left unchecked.

“Brazil’s actions undermine the zero-ethanol tariff arrangement between our two countries that has been in place for several years,” she said. “President Trump has been a strong supporter of America’s biofuels producers, and decisive action to defend this crucial domestic industry will be a clear reminder of the administration’s continued commitment to strengthen the American economy.”

Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, said both the U.S. and Brazil “have benefitted greatly from the free and fair trade” between the two countries, but that’s now at risk.

“Unfortunately, Brazil’s recent protectionist actions are turning back the clock to an era of isolationism and inefficient global trade,” he said. “In the end, Brazil’s new trade policy not only harms U.S. ethanol producers, but also penalizes Brazilian consumers who will be forced to pay more for their fuel.”

Friday, September 8, 2017

Idaho Hop Harvest

Idaho Hop Harvest in full swing

Wilder—Smokey skies hang over one of the biggest hop harvests in the Pacific Northwest.

At Obendorf Hop farm outside of Wilder trucks started rolling in August and they’re still running sun-up to sundown. They'll keep this pace until workers cut the last vines and strip the hop fields bare.

“All and all, it’s a good to average year,” said Brock Obendorf. “Our baby crop was below average due to the wet spring. The Hot summer has brought some mites and it’ll be interesting to see how this harvest turns out.”

Idaho hop producers will take an average year after one of the most challenging growing seasons of the decade. They faced a cold, wet spring then a dry, scorching hot summer. But through it all, hop growers are optimistic in a very tough year.

Thats because the craft brewer market has pushed hop demand to new highs and there's no end in sight.  Obendorf says brewers wants the taste and aroma that hops bring to beer and they're constantly looking for new and different brews.

“We’re now farming 2800 acres, we’re trying to keep up with demand. Our harvest is a lot longer because we planted more acres this year. But we should be done by September 25th, as long as the weather holds and we can keep the trucks rolling,” said Obendorf.

A report from Hop growers of America reported an 11 percent increase in production last year. The nation’s hop farmers grew 87.1 million pounds of hops and this years harvest could be close to that mark. The rise of American craft breweries and their heavy use of hops means each barrel uses 10-times more hops.

Because of that, Idaho hop growers now rank third in the nation and pushing Oregon for total hop acreage. This year producers strung a record 7,000 acres in hops in Idaho according to the US Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Brock Obendorf is the current president of the Idaho Hop Commission and he says to keep up with the craft beer demand, Idaho planted 15-hundred more acres than last year, an increase of 27-percent.

“There are more breweries every year and there’s a higher hopping rate in the craft beers, this new crop of brewers have completely changed the industry especially in the past five years,” said Obendorf

Obendorf Hop Farm and Idaho producers have no trouble finding a market for quality hops.

“We sell to brokers out of Washington and from there they go all around the world, with all these breweries springing up it’s a competitive market, beer drinkers are always looking for the next great IPA," said brother and partner, Eric Obendorf

The grueling, month-long harvest is progressing at break-neck speed. Workers cut the 14-30 foot vines in the field and drop them onto waiting trucks. Once loaded, the trucks rush to a giant hop shed where the vines are lifted and stripped. The hops fall onto a conveyer belt and then sent to the giant dryers. They’re heated up to 140-degrees and then cooled to 70 degrees in a chilly warehouse.

“Once they’re baled they go to the processor or even directly to the brewer and added into the brew. Before that in our process we cool them off for 12 hours, we have a slot in the floor that we pump fresh air to cool them off faster. We have to cool them down before we bale them,” said Eric Obendorf.

The giant bales stand in the cool warehouse until they're loaded onto Washington bound trucks. Brock Obendorf says they pack different varieties and different grades of hops.

“We sell by the pound and it ranges everywhere from a $1.50 a pound to $6-bucks. Prices have been good, but this time of year they level off. And all the acres we put in to keep up with craft demand could level off the market but we won’t know until we get past harvest,” he said.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Cattle prices improving!

Cattle Prices Moving Up this Week

Chicago—After a new low last week in the futures market, live cattle futures were much higher on Wednesday with help from improved wholesale beef prices according to traders on the Mercantile exchange.

“I think the market is where it should be,” said Cameron Mulrony of the Idaho Cattle Association. “This summer the seasonal dip we usually see in August happened earlier and it took away any price momentum we’d normally see heading into Labor Day weekend. Hopefully we’ll see increases like we’ve seen today but there is still a lot of speculation at this point in the cattle market and those low prices.”

December futures got added support from buyers after the contract topped the 10-day moving average of 109.648 cents. October live cattle finished up 0.275 cents per pound at 104.700 cents, and December closed 0.425 cent higher at 109.800 cents.

According to the Mercantile exchange, Some grocers bought beef to avoid shortages after plants closed on Monday for the US Labor Day holiday, and that spiked prices.

Mulrony says the beef demand softens after Labor Day because it’s the last big BBQ holiday of the summer and shoppers buy more back to school-type food.

“We’re not overly concerned right now, prices will come back. Beef is the best protein in the world and people enjoy a good steak. We know that demand is still there and in the meantime we’ll continue to improve our market,” said Mulrony.

Rancher Kyle Wade out of Downey is holding on his cattle until prices improve.

“I’m holding on right now just trying to stay pat right now. I might have the opportunity to buy a few more cows. I’ve looked down that avenue and waiting seems the right thing to do until prices get back to where they were in the spring,” said Wade.

Allendale Market strategist Rich Nelson says that buyers may want to see if cash prices can stabilize before making any further moves on the futures end of the market.

Cattle buyers waited until Tuesday’s sale of market-ready cattle in the US to buy and the market fetched $103 to $105 per hundred weight. Bullish traders think packers will pay at least $105 per cwt for supplies with better wholesale beef prices and higher profit margins for packers.

Low prices are expected at this time of year at any auction yard in America. But Wade knows things will turn around and he’ll wait for the best time to sell.

“There’s a lot of promise in the future. As of right now we have seen a little dip in the past two weeks or a month with cattle prices as well as meat prices but there could be a good future in the long run. Hopefully, we’ll see that sooner than later,” said Wade.

Skeptical market players say too many slaughter cattle at heavier weight means more meat in the retail sector and that means weak prices. But on Wednesday technical buying and live cattle futures advances pulled up the feeder cattle contracts. Wednesday closed at 1.250 cents per pound higher at 143.300 cents.

“I’ll sell all of my calves by November. We come off our range in November and we try and sell that first two weeks after we are home. So I think prices will be better by then. With hurricane Harvey recovery and the opening of the Chinese market, I think there will be pressure on the futures market to move prices up. There’s another storm off the Atlantic and I think the future for beef is bright, but right now we’re holding on,” said Wade.

Tax Reform

Farmers, Ranchers Need to Deliver Strong Tax Reform Message To Congress

Washington--Republican congressional leaders, just returning from their month-long August recess, are geared up to revamp and modernize the tax code, making it all the more urgent for farmers and ranchers to share their tax reform priorities with lawmakers.

“While September brings cooler temperatures for most of the country, including Washington, D.C., the heat is on Capitol Hill leaders to make good on the tax reform promises they made just before the start of recess and during their campaigns. For farmers and ranchers, it’s time to send those email messages, make those phone calls or meet with in-district and Capitol Hill staff to share your personal tax reform message,” said Cody Lyon, American Farm Bureau Federation director of advocacy and political affairs.

Among farmers’ and ranchers’ top priorities are comprehensive tax reform that helps all farm and ranch businesses; the reduction of combined income and self-employment tax rates to account for any deductions or credits lost; cost-recovery tools like allowing businesses to deduct expenses when incurred; and a continuation of cash accounting, Section 1031 “like-kind exchanges,” and the deduction for state and local taxes.

Share Your Tax Reform Message with Congress

Key lawmakers, along with President Donald Trump, are pushing to make headway on tax reform over the next several weeks, making this a key time for farmers and ranchers to share with their representatives and senators why reform is so important for people involved in agriculture. 

You can easily send your tax reform message in a few clicks using AFBF’s “Take Action Now” web page. In addition, this AFBF-produced video, which features Farm Bureau members talking about tax provisions that are critical to them, is a good informational tool.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Just in

Farm Bureau Calls on EPA to Up the Advanced Biofuels Requirement for 2018

Washington:The American Farm Bureau Federation is giving the Environmental Protection Agency a thumbs-up for its proposal to keep the 2018 conventional biofuels level at 15 billion gallons, as called for in the Renewable Fuel Standard. At the same time, the organization warned that EPA’s plan to reduce the level of required advanced biofuels in the nation’s fuel supply will undermine the goals set by Congress to create a more robust renewable fuels industry and greater energy independence.

“Renewable fuels have been a tremendous success story for the country and for the rural economy. The Renewable Fuel Standard has reduced our country’s dependence on foreign crude oil, reduced air pollution, increased farm incomes and provided good-paying jobs in rural America,” Dale Moore, AFBF executive director of public policy, noted in comments to the agency.

EPA’s proposal includes an overall 2018 biofuel mandate of 19.24 billion gallons, with 15 billion gallons of that in conventional biofuels, or ethanol, and 4.24 billion gallons in advanced biofuels.

EPA’s intention to reduce the 2018 requirements for advanced renewable fuel to 4.24 billion gallons, down from 4.28 billion gallons this year, not only dampens the prospects for reduced emissions and increased energy security, but also inhibits investment in cleaner, domestic fuels and the infrastructure needed to accommodate higher biofuel blends—all of which are goals of the RFS.

“The RFS was designed to give American consumers more choices at the pump and lower gas prices, and to utilize biofuel as more than just a gasoline additive with octane-boosting value. But EPA’s 2018 proposal fails to send the signal to the industry that greater infrastructure investment is needed and meaningful marketplace changes need to occur,” Moore said.

Farm Bureau is urging EPA to set the advanced biofuel requirements for 2018 at 5.25 billion gallons and the biomass-based diesel volume for 2019 at 2.75 billion gallons. EPA intends to finalize the rule by Nov. 30.

Cattle Market

With the cattle market flat, ranchers like Kyle and Jessica Wade are hanging on and waiting for the market upswing.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Harvey Relief Fund

Texas Farm Bureau establishes Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund

WACO—The Texas Farm Bureau has established a relief fund to address the agricultural losses inflicted by Hurricane Harvey. The category four storm struck Texas with a vengeance, flooding Texas farm communities, small towns and major cities. Those farm and ranch families are now left facing overwhelming odds following high winds and unprecedented rainfall.

“It’s an historic storm and a disaster for many farmers and ranchers. The torrential rainfall wreaked havoc on Texas agriculture at the worst possible time—harvest season,” Texas Farm Bureau President Russell Boening said. “Hurricane Harvey struck an area of the state known for cattle, cotton and rice, and other row crops.”

There’s much work ahead in rebuilding, but that’s what farmers and ranchers intend to do.

Texas Farm Bureau’s Agriculture Research and Education Foundation has established the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund to aid in the recovery efforts following the devastating storm.

Tax-deductible donations can be made to the foundation to assist farmers and ranchers. Donations to this fund will be dispersed via an application process directly to the farmers and ranchers affected by the hurricane.

The area declared as a disaster by Gov. Greg Abbott contains about 1.2 million cattle, which is roughly 27 percent of the state’s cowherd.

Boening noted the cotton crop on the Texas Gulf Coast was expected to be a good crop, which was needed after several years of low prices and high costs. The losses from Harvey will reduce the expected two million bale harvest by as much as 400,000 bales, according to estimates from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

“Texas agriculture suffered major losses,” Boening said. “Some of that will be covered by other means, but much of it will not. Farmers and ranchers are left to pick up the soggy pieces.”

Harvey was the strongest storm to hit the U.S. since 2004, dropping several feet of rain.

“Harvey roared into Texas and overstayed his welcome,” Boening said. “But now we look ahead—to recovery and rebuilding the farms and ranches in that part of our great state.”

Click here to make a tax-deductible donation:

Margin Protection Program

Milk producers can opt out of Margin Protection Program

WASHINGTON— Listening to milk producers, the USDA says it will allow dairymen to opt out of the Margin Protection Program for 2018.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue  said that the “the decision is in response to requests by the dairy industry and a number of MPP-Dairy program participants.”  He said he “is using his authority to allow producers to withdraw from the MPP Dairy Program and not pay the annual administrative fee for 2018,”

MPP, established by the 2014 farm bill, allows payments to participating dairy producers when the margin – the difference between the price of milk and feed costs – falls below the coverage level selected by the producer.

Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, pointed out that approximately 24,000 U.S. dairy farms, representing 80 percent of the U.S. milk supply, are currently enrolled in MPP. But he said that this year, only 2 percent of the milk enrolled participated at levels above the program’s basic coverage option.

“This low participation rate is due to the poor performance of MPP in providing a viable safety net to dairy farmers,” Duvall said yesterday from Washington.

Duvall said AFBF and its grassroots members are looking forward to working with USDA and Congress to “enhance the dairy safety net.”

Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, praised Perdue for for allowing greater stability for dairy farmers enrolled in MPP.

“I applaud Secretary Perdue for providing additional flexibility for our dairy farmers,” Stabenow said in a statement. “As we work to improve the dairy safety net in the next Farm Bill, this is an important first step to ensuring producers have effective options to manage risk in the interim. I look forward to continuing to work with USDA to expand and improve coverage options for our dairy farmers.”

Details about the withdrawal option were included in a release by USDA’s Farm Service Agency announcing the Sept. 1 starting date for producers to enroll for 2018 coverage.

MPP-Dairy gives participating producers the flexibility to select coverage levels best suited for their operation, AMS said. Enrollment ends on Dec. 15, 2017, for coverage in calendar year 2018. Participating farmers will remain in the program through Dec. 31, 2018, and pay a minimum $100 administrative fee for 2018 coverage. Producers have the option of selecting a different coverage level from the previous coverage year during open enrollment.

To opt out, a producer should not sign up during the annual registration period. By opting out, a producer would not receive any MPP-Dairy benefits if payments are triggered for 2018. Full details will be included in a subsequent Federal Register Notice, FSA said. The opt-out decision would be for 2018 only and is not retroactive.

USDA has a web tool to help producers determine the level of coverage under the MPP-Dairy that will provide them with the strongest safety net under a variety of conditions. FSA says the online resource, available at, allows dairy farmers to quickly and easily combine unique operation data and other key variables to calculate their coverage needs based on price projections.


Thursday, August 31, 2017

Deep snow had just melted off in the Valley County high country

USDA Designates Three Counties in Idaho as Primary Natural Disaster Areas 

WASHINGTON— In response to a request from Aaron Johnson, Farm Service Agency’s acting State Executive Director in Idaho, the USDA has designated Clearwater, Idaho and Lewis counties in Idaho as primary natural disaster areas due to losses caused by last winter's excessive snow, frost and heavy rainfall that started Oct. 1, 2016, and continues this summer.

Farmers and ranchers in the following counties in Idaho also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous. Those counties are: Adams, Lemhi, Shoshone, Latah, Nez Perce, and Valley County.

All counties listed above were designated natural disaster areas on Aug. 25, 2017, making all qualified farm operators in the designated areas eligible for FSA’s emergency (EM) loans, provided eligibility requirements are met. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the declaration to apply for loans to help cover part of their actual losses. FSA will consider each loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability. FSA has a variety of programs, in addition to the EM loan program, to help eligible farmers recover from adversity.

Other FSA programs that can provide assistance, but do not require a disaster declaration, include Operating and Farm Ownership Loans; the Emergency Conservation Program; Livestock Forage Disaster Program; Livestock Indemnity Program; Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program; and the Tree Assistance Program. Interested farmers may contact their local USDA service centers for further information on eligibility.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Just in

2017 Wheat crop: Good quality, lower yields

Boise—The combines across the state are heading for the barn.

Idaho’s 2017 wheat harvest is finishing up on the last dry-land farms in Caribou, Bannock and Bingham counties.

“Southwest Idaho is 100-percent in,” said Blaine Jacobson of the Idaho Wheat Commission.

“Statewide we’re better than 95-percent in. Theres some harvesting on the dry farms in Eastern Idaho. The farms outside of Soda Springs are just finishing up winter wheat and starting spring wheat. Farms in Bingham, Bannock and Bonneville counties still have spring wheat out. Up north around Grangeville, there’s a few still harvesting,” added Jacobson.

The first hard white wheat was harvested in Canyon County Aug. 1, thats the earliest harvest date Jacobson remembers in all his years at the Commission.

“It’s been hot and it ripened up the crop. Once the crop started to grow we didn't have the wild swings or excessive moisture at harvest. Those are the primary factors of falling numbers, so there will be no falling numbers this year in Idaho,” said Jacobson.

Jacobson says there is no evidence of falling number in the state.

“All the numbers are high 300’s even in the low 400’s. I haven’t heard of anywhere in the state with falling number, I think we’re all relieved with no reports of falling number,” said Jacobson.

Falling number is a test that measures starch damage in wheat that reduces the quality of baked goods and noodles. Idaho farmers were caught off guard last year when nearly 44-percent of soft white wheat samples and 42-percent of club wheat samples tested below 300, the industry standard. The Wheat Commission says Idaho farmers lost more than $30 million in lower prices last year.

Eric Hasselstrom farms just over 2-thousand acres of wheat, barley and garbanzo beans outside of Winchester. He got his wheat crop in last week.

“Our fields in Nezperce averaged about 75-95 bushels to the acre, At our Craigmont fields we did just 65 bushels. Last year I had 140 per acre bushels but that’s not normal. So production is off and thankfully the quality is very good and the test weights are heavy,” said Hasselstrom.

The lower Palouse had a very wet, long winter, just two weeks of spring and then summer hit. Hasselstrom said the rain turned off like a faucet and the bushel count shows it.

“There’s a lot of 30-40 bushel wheat around here and thats tough. Thankfully I have crops up here in a lot of different places both in the hills and down in the prairie,” said Hasselstrom.

Statewide early numbers show that quality and yields are excellent on all the winter wheat.

“The spring crop was so late, it went in late and it didn't get enough moisture before we got the hot temperatures. The heat stressed the crop and our spring harvest is not going to be what it is normally. Thats where the lower yields are coming in this year so far on the spring wheat,” said Jacobson.

The real factor for the Idaho’s 2017 crop according to Jacobson is the protein content of wheat. Some producers are getting protein bonuses.

“We got the desirable low protein on our soft white wheat, but our hard red winter is also low-protein, and that’s not so desirable,” he said. Overall, protein levels are good across the wheat classes, and yields are down a little from last year, Jacobson said. Quality is good.

But Hasselstrom says in his part of the state with lower yields it is going to be tight.

“It’s been a tough one this year with the hard winter and hot summer and a flat market, it’s not going to be a fun fall when its time to do our year end refinancing,” said Hasselstrom.

According to the Idaho Wheat commission, average test weights are coming in at 61 to 62 pounds per bushel statewide.

“We don't have an overall yield average yet. We were told by elevators in southern Idaho that yields are at the five year average. This is both winter and spring wheat, we thought they’d be less. But in Northern Idaho and Southwest Idaho the overall yields are down just 10 percent from the 5-year average. Everything is off from the bumper year, but there are farmers out there that are still having bumper crops, but as an average we are not close to matching up to last year,” said Jacobson.

Hasselstrom says he’s not thrilled with market prices and if prices hold at these levels theres little room for profit right now.

Soft white wheat prices range from $4.96 to $5.27 per bushel at Portland. Hard red winter wheat is $4.50 to $4.80 per bushel. Dark northern spring wheat is $7.50 to $9.06 per bushel, depending on the protein content.

Jacobson says prices are under valued and things could change dramatically on the world market and especially when the Midwest wheat comes in.

“I think there’ll be upward pressure on prices as traders evaluate the crop and get a better handle on inventory. I don't know if theres as much inventory out there as being reported. The Canadian harvest is running behind schedule, they were having problems in the Dakotas with drought and they might have a smaller crop. And Australia has had drought problems so I think these factors will affect the market place,” said Jacobson.

If one thing is consistent statewide, Jacobson says Idaho has quality wheat.

“Overall, the crop is terrific this year. Other than the issues with spring wheat this is a quality year, and overall its probably one of our better crops,” said Jacobson.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Fuel prices on the rise

Just in time for harvest, Fuel prices jump dramatically

Boise--At least 10 refineries have shut down in the Houston areas and gasoline prices could jump 10 percent or more by Labor Day weekend, based on the huricane Harvey shutdown according to the AAA.

The price hike is expected to be temporary, if refineries can get back up and running. But theres a risk that prices could go much higher if theres damage to major refineries, pipelines – or it takes a long time to bring the refineries back on line.

More than 2 million barrels of refining capacity were taken off line, as the storm threatened Texas with unprecedented rain and flooding.

Industry analysts expect to see gas prices start going up on Tuesday or Wednesday as retailers make adjustments to rising wholesale prices.

The Gulf Coast could see prices go approximately 15 cents to 30 cents per gallon. Prices for some parts of the Midwest like Michigan, Indiana and Ohio will probably rise about 15 to 25 cents, Idaho could jump as much as 30-cents.

Gas prices in the Coeur d'Alene area are pushing the $2.50 per gallon mark, Boise is at $2.75 and Pocatello at $2.65.

Farmer Eric Hasslestrom of Winchester says with flat markets, their input costs are already cutting into thin profit margins. "Gas prices going up right at harvest is not a good thing, I got the wheat in already, hopefully I can get the garbanzo beans in before they really go up."

Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis at Oil Price Information Service thinks motorists could see a 10- to 15-cent rise in the national average – at $2.36 per gallon of unleaded fuel Tuesday. According to AAA, the price of unleaded is three cents higher per gallon than it was a week ago.

Analysts said it is unclear if Houston area refineries have had serious damage, those refineries account for 16-percent of the US supply, but operators are not providing much information. It is also unclear how soon workers will be able to return but for now refineries are closed.

"There's some catching up to do. Corpus Christi looks as though everything is fine, and they're restarting in two or three days. Bottom line is less than week's worth of refining capacity was lost in Corpus and it's coming back," Kloza said.

After hurricanes such as Katrina, Rita, Ike and Isaac, gasoline prices peaked within two weeks of landfall, at 20 to 80 cents per gallon higher, according to PIRA Energy.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Just in

AFBF, AFBIS, Others, Propose Dairy Revenue Protection Insurance Concept

Washington--A proposed revenue protection insurance for the dairy industry would provide better risk management for dairy farmers.
 A proposal submitted to the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation by the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Farm Bureau Insurance Services and others would provide a revenue-based insurance option for dairy farmers, different from the current margin-based insurance options available. AFBF Market Intelligence Director John Newton explains how the Dairy Revenue Protection insurance concept will work for dairy farmers.

" For the last year, we have been working on developing this new concept plan of insurance," said John Newton. "And it allows a farmer to insure the revenue from sales of milk during a particular quarter. So, they would use futures market prices and expected production to identify an expected revenue, and then purchase insurance protection on that expected revenue. And if the actual revenue happened to fall below that guarantee, a farmer would receive an indemnity for that."

Currently, insurance programs offered to dairy farmers all use margin-based instruments. The margin insurance programs protect the difference between the milk price and the feed cost, not revenue. Newton says the most successful tools that farmers are utilizing today are revenue-based instruments, like the AFBF proposal.

"We’ve built a product that allows them to select a value of the milk in the insurance contract, either based on Class III and IV milk prices, or based on the milk components, recognizing that a majority of farms across the county are paid for the components in the milk, not a standardized price for the milk that they produce," said Newton.

Newton says says the American Farm Bureau has talked with farmers across the U.S. that support the insurance concept, which he expects will be submitted to USDA for review later this fall.

"A lot of farmers really think a revenue based approach would really work well for their operation, especially in years like 2015 and 2016 when we saw milk prices fall by nearly 50 percent. And we’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback on the survey that we have online to further develop the product and make sure that we ultimately present something to the FCIC that’s going to work for dairy farmers. The FCIC board of directors did vote to fund partial development of this and we expect to deliver this producer later this fall to the USDA for additional consideration," said Newton.

Dairy farmers can learn more about the proposal and provide their comments at

Friday, August 25, 2017


Idaho Economy Booming because of Foreign Trade

Op-ED By
Mathew Winkler

(Bloomberg) -- Idaho has fewer people than Houston, still grows the most potatoes, and outperforms all 49 other states with a 21st-century economy that shows that the U.S. does best when it puts the world first.

President Donald Trump, whose White House website touts an "America First Foreign Policy," may be surprised to learn that Idaho, which he won by a two-to-one margin last November, relies heavily on international trade for its economic success. It's had the best combination over the 12 months that ended on March 31 of robust personal income, job growth, stock-market gains and home-price appreciation because its largest employers sell the bulk of their products overseas, count the world's biggest multinational companies among their customers and suppliers, and make most of their money from the technology driving globalization.

Idaho eclipsed No. 2 Washington by almost four percentage points as its economic health improved 9.7 percent, according to the Bloomberg Economic Evaluation of the States, an index measuring employment, personal income, home prices, mortgage delinquency, tax revenue and the stock market.

Personal income among Idahoans, which increased 4.89 percent to within two-tenths of a percentage point of No. 1 Utah and No. 2 Washington, is growing at the fastest rate in the nation since 1948, when the data was first compiled. The 2.65 percent expansion of the job market was more than 44 states, with Idaho's 3.1 percent unemployment rate dropping below Utah's for the first time since 2008 and remaining 1.2 percentage points less than the national average.

By contrast, the economy of Idaho's southeastern neighbor, Wyoming, is driven more by domestic industries like metals and mining, which provided 20 percent of its gross domestic product. It was the worst U.S. economy during the 12 months ended March 31, with the largest job and tax-revenue losses and second-worst stock market and mortgage delinquencies. Wyoming was the only state to suffer a decline in personal income, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Unlike Wyoming and West Virginia, which have lagged the rest of the country in population growth since 1990, Idaho surged more than 60 percent to 1.65 million people, climbing to No. 39 among most populous states from No. 42, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Idaho's transformation to manufacturing and services from commodities and agriculture is reflected in its increasingly dynamic companies. Almost 78 percent of the state's publicly traded equity consists of technology firms, up from 57 percent a decade ago.

Global investors made Idaho a favorite: Its 16 companies tracked by Bloomberg gained 120 percent in the 12 months ending on March 31, dwarfing the total return (income plus appreciation) of 17 percent for the S&P 500 and 18 percent for the Russell 3000 index.

Micron Technology Inc., the Boise-based maker of memory chips and semiconductor components, returned 176 percent to shareholders, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Micron, which has 31,400 employees, also is outperforming the 10 largest semiconductor companies with a 12-month return that is double the average, and revenue growth quadrupling the average. Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg say Micron sales will grow 62 percent this year, or three times the average forecast for the group. Micron is positioned where growth is greatest. Asia, which accounts for 73 percent of the company's property, plant and equipment, up from 59 percent three years ago, delivers 75 percent of Micron sales. Three years ago, that was 69 percent.

The Micron business chain is increasingly global. While 10 percent of company sales are derived from Apple Inc., 66 percent of Micron's customers are outside the U.S., compared with 49 percent five years ago. Some 63 percent of the company's suppliers are non-U.S. firms, up from 56 percent in 2012, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Idaho's traditional industries are finding a way to prosper through globalization. As recently as 2012, Hecla Mining Co., based in Coeur D'Alene, derived 45 percent of its sales from Canada. That percentage has grown to 67 percent, with 30 percent from Asia and only 3 percent from the U.S., Bloomberg data show.

Even the state's famous potatoes are modernizing. Earlier this month, in another sign of Idaho's embrace of science and technology to expand its markets, J.R. Simplot Co., the closely held supplier of french fries for McDonald's and 1,000 other food products, received permission from Canada to sell potatoes genetically engineered to resist the pathogen that caused the Irish famine in the 19th century.

Education, infrastructure and quality of life are necessary for Idaho's increasingly diverse economy, says 75-year-old Butch Otter, who was elected governor in 2007 just before the financial crisis and who this year became the nation's longest-serving incumbent state chief executive. He credits the state's Tax Reimbursement Incentive for expanding the mix of businesses by rewarding companies for their long-term commitments. "It's about promises made, performance established and promises kept,'' Otter said in an interview earlier this week, citing Chobani's 2012 completion of the world's largest yogurt plant in Twin Falls, the more recent Idaho State College of Osteopathic Medicine — the first medical school in the state — and the expanding aerospace industry.

It was in the 1980s at Simplot, where Otter spent three decades, that he realized what would come to drive Idaho today. "We were advised to harvest the company'' amid waning demand for potatoes and beef, he recalled on Wednesday in his Boise office. Instead, he recalled: "We said, 'Find more mouths to feed.' That's when we went international.''

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Just in from Boundary County

Boundary County Farm Bureau members help Montana ranchers

Bonners Ferry—The Lodgepole Complex Fire in Montana has destroyed more than 270,000 acres of prime rangeland near Jordan, Montana and it’s creating a hardship for ranchers.

North Idaho farmers and ranchers heard about the urgent needs of ranchers and decided to pitch in. Boundary county Farm Bureau member Kristy Kellogg put together an Idaho hay lift to help.

“We have a lot of neighbors that are ranchers here in Boundary County and they wanted to help out, so they donated hay. We also had Farm Bureau members that donated semi-trucks and they even hauled the hay over there at their expense,” said Kellogg.

Kellogg says the response was so over-whelming that they had more hay than trucks.

“Its sad that couldn’t get all of it over there. It was hard getting it delivered but we ended up sending more than 135 tons of hay,” said Kellogg.

Montana ranchers need at least 34,000 tons to feed 7,700 head of cattle this winter, up till the grazing turnout date of June 1, 2018.

Emergency hay donations started coming in since July 24, not only from Idaho but throughout the West.

“The first rounds came from the drought stricken neighbors who provided hay despite having none to spare,” said Montana rancher Deena Shotzberger. “Caravans of hay continue to come in from all over Montana and adjacent states, some as far away as New Mexico.”

Thousands of cattle survived the wildfire after ranchers cut fences, allowing herds to escape but now face the threat of starvation and dehydration. Ranchers are trying to collect their herds but they have no where to graze and the challenges are just starting.

Kellogg is spreading the word of rancher hardships through social media. Hooking up ranchers with volunteers to help drive cattle, share pastureland and donate hay.

“With the help of Kristy Kellogg, who called farmers and ranchers that we didn’t reach by social media,” said Shawn Watt of Kalispell. “I feel like we are going to make a difference to ranchers over there. We have had offers of Drivers and offers of fencing supplies and of course we have had offers of hay. Getting hay there is the biggest hurdle we have. It is over 1200 miles for the Boundary County folks, so this is no small ask.”

Kellogg says the slideshow went viral and she’s humbled by the out pouring of help from Idahoans.

“All I did is make a little slide show on my County Facebook page and tons of people shared it,” said Kellogg. “It’s really cool because we started hearing all the comments back from the people in the affected areas. Things like ‘thank you so much’, we were called angels and that they were grateful for the help.”

Federal assistance and emergency loans are available to producers in fire areas.

“Senator Jon Tester (D-Montana) is trying to expedite the process, but the funds are still several months out, and will only cover a portion of the losses,” said Shotzberger. “So Northern Idaho and Northwest Montana must continue to step up and help our brother and sister Montanans until then.”

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Just in from Washington

WOTUS Comment period extended

Washington—Comments on the proposed rescinding of the controversial Waters of the US rule are now due September 27th.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced a 30-day extension late Wednesday afternoon.

Comments on the proposed ending of the Obama-era WOTUS rule were originally due August 28 but that will be extended by the action to give environmental groups, industry advocates and the public more time to weigh in.

When the proposal was officially released, the 30-day comment was a point of contention for supporters of the Obama-era rule.

EPA has proposed rescinding the WOTUS rule and putting back in place the Clean Water Act guidance in place prior to the updated version from the Obama administration. It’s not clear what the Trump administration will propose to put in place but expectations are there will be a plan released some time yet in 2017.

In developing the replacement for the WOTUS rule as part of a two-step process, EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers “are consulting with state and local government officials, or their representative national organization” to gather information to develop that effort.

'16 Season Over

Rigby Rroduce outside of Rigby reached a milestone this past week. The 2016 season just ended. The last potatoes of last years crop were packaged and shipped.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

2017 Potato crop

2016 Packing season over, 2017 outlook bright

Rigby—Rigby Produce outside of Rigby reached a milestone this past week. The 2016 season just ended and the last potatoes of the season were packaged and shipped last Friday.

“We’re just finishing out the 2016 crop and we’re done as of today” said Stephanie Mickelsen, CFO of Mickelsen Farms. “Starting this week we’ll start the 2017 crop through the warehouse and packing shed and start shipping potatoes throughout the United States.”

Mickelsen says Rigby Produce will transition right into the 2017 season without a break.

“There will be no down time this year. We seem to go have gone from one season to the next. In the past we've had a week or two, but there is no downtime from when we finish the crop and start with the new,” said Mickelsen.

Last year Idaho producers planted 325,000 acres of potatoes, with good size but only fair prices. Mickelsen says the 2017 crop is different.

Since 2000, the average national price for fresh potatoes has ranged from a low of $7.34 per hundredweight for the 2003 crop to a high of $14.44 for the 2008 crop, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

Following the cycle of one to two years of high prices, followed by a period of low prices, potatoes were primed for higher prices this marketing year, according to Ryan Larsen, an extension farm management specialist at Utah State University. He looked at three different forecasts earlier this year.

The USDA baseline forecast is for $6 per hundredweight. Another source gave a single moving average of $6.50 to $6.60 per hundredweight, while the third — indicating more risk — ranged from $7 to $8.

“If you’re looking for a bright spot,” he said, “potatoes have a good chance of breaking even,” said Larsen. “And if acres are down, we can add onto that.”

While that’s a far cry from the 2008 year, growers that can capitalize on market timing can capture high prices as some did in 2015 and 2016. Growers also had good weather that produced a uniform crop the past two years. Eighty-two percent of the crop graded No. 1, that's up from 73.7 percent in 2015.

“I think 2017 is going to be a bit more challenging than last year. The crop is two weeks behind schedule because of the type of spring we have had. The size is just not going to be there but it should mean a better market for growers this fall,” added Mickelsen.

The USDA reports that Idaho’s 2016-17 crop was marketing throughout the year, with top shipment months noted in September (12% of annual marketings), October (12%), April (11%), March (9%) and May (9%). The comparatively lower volume months were July (6%) and this past August (6%).

“I think we should see higher prices than in ’17 because of the challenges we’ve had with the growing season and we need that to make up for the past 3-4 years the prices we've had in the potato market the last few years,” said Mickelsen.

A five week heat wave stretching from July to mid August stressed potatoes. One farmer said he's doing everything he can to revive what he calls tired plants.

“I think that's a very fair assessment,” said Mickelsen. “We met with the chemical company yesterday and they said all the farmers around here are trying to put anything they can on the vines to try and revive them. They're tired this summer, especially lately because it’s extremely hot. We've had weeks and weeks of heat and dry temperatures.”

Monday, August 21, 2017

Just in

Reuters: Negotiators Should Do No Harm to Agriculture, Says Duvall

Washington--American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall was quoted by Reuters in an article on NAFTA negotiations that began this week. During a press conference Wednesday, Duvall emphasized how important the trade agreement is to U.S. agriculture. “We do not want them to use us as a trading tool and to do harm to the agricultural sector in all three countries,” he said, referring to the negotiators.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Jefferson County Fair

At the Jefferson County Fair in Rigby its fair time and all the action on this day is in the livestock barn.

Range Tour

Ranchers, BLM Meet to Tour Morgan Creek Allotment

Article and photo by John Thompson

In 1976, there were about 30,000 head of cattle in Custer County. Today there are about half that many.

Restrictions applied by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management have taken cattle off of the land in Custer County and throughout the western states. Ranchers contend the restrictions, in many cases, are arbitrary.

A group of Custer County ranchers and state and federal agency land managers recently toured the Morgan Creek Allotment west of Challis to discuss conflicts on federal land and to look at the health of the land.

Ranchers repeatedly questioned the federal officials about stubble height requirements along streams. They say the land is healthy and that is a long-term trend – a claim the BLM officials agreed with. However, stubble height requirements are limiting the number of cattle ranchers are allowed to turn out and that is threatening the future of several ranches.

In the Morgan Creek Allotment ranchers were penalized last year because stubble height measurements were at 3.5 inches, rather than the required 4 inches. Ranchers who attended the tour said overall the allotment is healthy and to restrict grazing because of half inch arbitrary measurement of grass in a creek bottom is harmful to many families and the overall economy of Custer County.

In addition, the grazing allotment is restricted because of the presence of salmon, steelhead and bull trout but the reasoning behind the restrictions is admittedly dubious.

Tom Curet, Idaho Fish and Game Salmon regional supervisor, said steelhead occasionally make it past a natural barrier in lower Morgan Creek but Chinook do not and have not been documented in the creek’s upper reaches. Curet acknowledged that Idaho bull trout populations are healthy and the fish should not be receiving special management considerations. He added that bull trout populations in other parts of the Intermountain region are in danger, which is the reasoning behind the listing. Bull trout, chinook and steelhead are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act which requires special management restrictions that frequently result in cuts to the number of cattle allowed to graze on public land.

Ranchers believe that special restrictions for fish management in the drainage are illogical and unreasonable – especially in the case of bull trout when the numbers of fish present in Morgan Creek and many other rivers, indicate a healthy population.

Curet said Idaho is “lumped” with other regions in regard to bull trout management and in those other regions populations are not robust, which makes the potential for de-listing remote. However, the recent de-listing of the Yellowstone Grizzly Bear population gives hope that distinct population segments of other threatened or endangered species may be released from ESA oversight.

“There are over a million bull trout in Idaho,” Curet said. “They have never been in trouble in Idaho and never should have been listed.”

The latest Census of Agriculture, completed by USDA in 2012, shows 16,400 cattle in Custer County. Estimates show each cow returns about $900 per year to the respective ranches. Custer County is 96 percent federal land, which limits the tax base and in turn the services the County provides its residents. Economic return from cattle is one of the most important income sources in Custer County.

Ranchers and federal land managers discussed a few options for solving problems in the allotment during the tour. It was suggested that flash grazing, or high intensity, short duration grazing may be a solution along Morgan Creek. They agreed that the allotment is healthy from a land management perspective, but cows tend to congregate along streams because of feed availability and shade. Fencing along streams was also discussed as a possible solution.

Rancher and Morgan Creek permit holder Jim Martiny said stubble measurements are a poor indicator of range health. “We are managing the allotment in one small space as opposed to looking at the big picture,” he said. “In year’s past we haven’t met the stubble height standard in a couple of places along the creek and our numbers have been reduced because of that. The end result is we lose numbers because of a half of an inch of grass but in the long run the allotment isn’t gaining anything.”

Rancher Gary Chamberlain asked the federal officials on the tour to take a close look at Morgan Creek. “I want you to pay special attention to the grass right here,” he said. “Last year it was grazed down to 3.5 inches and to look at it today, we didn’t hurt a thing.”

Regarding bull trout, steelhead and Chinook salmon, Chamberlain said ranchers are being forced to submit to more regulations that don’t and likely won’t ever provide any benefits to the fish or the land.

“We are told the range looks good and to keep doing what we’re doing but then every time we turn around we have new impositions put on us like stubble height,” Chamberlain said.

Todd Kuck, BLM Challis Field Manager, said the agency is focused on outcome-based grazing and sometimes the terms and conditions written in the permits “don’t necessarily get at the objectives we want out on the ground.” He said the BLM is looking into new projects and strategies that will help meet the objectives they have set.

“We want to come up with objectives for allotments and management strategies that allow more flexibility to permitees on how they manage cattle,” Kuck said. “We do realize there are issues with restrictions in the permits and we are looking at that. It will take some work to come up with how we write objectives and how we monitor to show how we are meeting or measuring what we want the allotment to look like.”

Kuck added that permit holders in the Morgan Creek drainage are doing a “really good job of managing on the ground.” “We are going in the right direction as far as management here,” he said.

Just in

Ag leaders agree to show united front in latest farm bill

By Ron Sterk

SAN DIEGO – Leaders of the nation’s two largest farm organizations shared the stage at the International Sweetener Symposium and said they would help rally agriculture during the upcoming farm bill debate.

“This is not a time to be divided; this is a time to be united,” said Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. At the opening session of the American Sugar Alliance’s annual meeting Duvall said, “It’s our time. We have the right people in the right places and we need to write a food security bill to benefit all Americans.”

Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, agreed and explained that it’s important for agriculture to come together and work closely with members of the nutrition and conservation communities, who will be essential to the farm bill’s passage.

“A farm bill should address needs, not a budget,” Johnson said, adding that the 2018 farm bill is particularly important given today’s tough economic times in agriculture. “The economic situation facing farmers is pretty tough right now and has been for the past several years. This financial pain is felt very broadly across farms of all sizes.” He noted that agricultural loan repayment delinquency rates, bankruptcies and restructured debt were up.

Johnson said he expected the farm bill would be approved “on time” and without cuts, adding that it needed support from farmers and ranchers, conservation groups and nutrition groups.

“Congress needs to show voters in rural America they can get something done,” Johnson said, calling the farm bill “a heavy lift” but easier than some other legislation.

It was the first time in many years that the president of the Farm Bureau, the nation’s largest farm organization, spoke at the sugar meeting, and Duvall said his appearance underscores the need for all of agriculture to come together ahead of the 2018 farm bill.

“We’re telling Congress we need a food security bill for this country,” Duvall said. “It’s not a safety net (for farmers).”

Both farm group leaders said the atmosphere in Washington under the Trump administration was conducive to strong farm policies, and that the current farm economy of mostly low commodity prices and declining farm income would make it easier to get the farm bill passed than in 2013 and 2014, when the farm economy was more robust. They also agreed that grassroots politics was key, urging producers to actively contact their elected representatives during the farm bill process.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Rate change

Theres change brewing on the Idaho range

Boise-The Idaho Department of Lands wants to modify the grazing rate charged to ranchers on Idaho Endowment Lands and rancher Cody Chandler wants ranchers to get involved and comment on the IDL website before September 1st.

From Capitol Hill

New Legislation Would Delay Log-book Device Requirements for Truck Drivers

Washington—A new bill on Capitol Hill will bring a much-needed delay to the problematic electronic logging device mandate for certain drivers, which is set to go into effect in December, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

The Farm Bureau-backed ELD Extension Act of 2017 (H.R. 3282) delays the mandate for two years to allow drivers and truck companies to address a lot of unresolved issues.

“This delay is necessary to adequately account for costs, allay technology concerns, minimize impacts to livestock and other live animals under our members’ care and allow for the proper training to ensure uniform compliance and enforcement,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall wrote in a letter to the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas).

Unless Congress acts, carriers and drivers who are subject to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s ELD rule must install and use ELDs by Dec. 18. While most farmers and ranchers should be exempt because they can claim covered farm vehicle status, drivers who haul livestock, live fish and insects are likely to fall under the requirements.

Drivers who have to use ELDs would be limited to current hours of service rules, which restrict a driver to only 14 “on duty” hours, with no more than 11 active driving hours. Once a driver hits those maximum hour allotments, he must stop and rest for 10 consecutive hours, which would be problematic when transporting livestock and other live animals.

The requirements imposed by the mandate would be harmful to both small business owners, who could be forced out of the marketplace, and livestock, which could suffer if they were no longer hauled by highly skilled and trained drivers and stockmen, Duvall wrote.

“Time spent on a truck can be stressful for cattle and other live animals. Unnecessary stops or multiple loads and unloads add additional stress resulting in potential livestock weight loss and increased animal sickness and death,” he said.

Idaho Wheat Export Deal

Idaho and Taiwan ink wheat deal Boise-Idaho Governor Butch Otter signed a half billion dollar wheat deal with the Taiwan Flour Mill Asso...