Friday, March 31, 2017

Just in

Farm Bureau Cheers Perdue Committee Vote, Urges Full Senate to Confirm

Washington—The following may be attributed to Zippy Duvall, President, American Farm Bureau Federation:

 “The vote by the Senate Agriculture committee to move Sonny Perdue’s nomination to the full Senate for confirmation recognizes what we’ve said all along: Gov. Perdue is supremely qualified to run the USDA. He knows agriculture inside out, from veterinary medicine to row crops to the business of handling and exporting the food Americans grow for the world. He is a real-world farmer who wants to build on farmers’ successful efforts to sustain and conserve the natural resources that surround us. He understands the great good – and serious harm – government can do to farmers and ranchers. We could not be happier or prouder to support Sonny Perdue for confirmation by the full Senate.”

Just in

Farm Bureau Applauds Law to Restore Local Control of Federal Lands
WASHINGTON– The following may be attributed to Zippy Duvall, President, American Farm Bureau Federation:

“Land management decisions governing federal lands are best left to state and local officials and other stakeholders. We are pleased that Congress passed and President Trump signed a law to overturn the flawed ‘Planning 2.0’ rule issued by the Bureau of Land Management. The new law places management decisions back in local hands, where they belong.

“The rule was a clear overreach by the BLM. It would have jeopardized the lawful requirement for multiple uses of federal land and dismantled the ideal of cooperative federalism. By reducing the opportunity for public comment, minimizing federal requirements to coordinate with state and local governments and imposing new mitigation requirements, the rule would have caused significant problems in federal land use planning processes.

“Everybody who lives in rural America knows how important it is to have a good relationship with neighbors. It was clear to us that the Planning 2.0 rule would have set up a potentially unworkable and adversarial relationship for many who farm, ranch and live near federal lands. Congress and President Trump did the right thing in rolling back this flawed rule and restoring state and local control.”

Thursday, March 30, 2017

SCOTUS Confirmation

AFBF President Duvall Urges Swift Confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court

WASHINGTON– American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall urged swift confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court in a letter to the full Senate.
“Supreme Court decisions affect farmers’ and ranchers’ ability to be productive,” wrote Duvall“Important cases are expected to be coming up and we need a full Supreme Court to provide for the full functioning of our third branch of government. Most important, we need a justice as qualified and dedicated as Judge Gorsuch.”
Duvall also noted that previously, the Senate confirmed Judge Gorsuch for the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals without a single dissenting vote.

Just in

Ag Groups Call for Estate Tax Repeal, Continuation of Stepped-up Basis

Washington—As congressional lawmakers turn their attention to taxes, farmers and ranchers are urging them to include an estate tax repeal in any tax reform legislation they consider this year.

“The estate tax is especially damaging to agriculture because we are a land-based, capital-intensive industry with few options for paying estate taxes when they come due. Unfortunately, all too often at the time of death, farming and ranching families are forced to sell off land, farm equipment, parts of the operation or take out loans to pay off tax liabilities and attorney’s fees,” 32 agriculture organizations, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, wrote to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and Ranking Member Richard Neal (D-Mass.).

The groups also asked lawmakers to ensure the benefits of estate tax repeal are not eroded by the elimination of or restrictions to the use of the stepped-up basis.

Because farmland typically is held by one owner for several decades, setting the basis on the value of the farm on the date of the owner’s death under stepped-up basis is an important tax provision for surviving family members.

— Thirty-two agriculture organizations in a letter to House Ways and Means Committee leaders

The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 permanently extended the estate tax exemption level to $5 million per person/$10 million per couple indexed for inflation, and maintained stepped-up basis, but the current economy, combined with the uncertain nature of agricultural production has left many farmers and ranchers guessing about their ability to plan for estate tax liabilities and unable to make prudent business decisions, the letter noted.

“Until the estate tax is fully repealed it will continue to threaten the economic viability of family farms and ranches, as well as the rural communities and businesses that agriculture supports,” the groups wrote.

Emphasizing that the most effective tax code is a fair one, the organizations asked that “any tax reform legislation considered in Congress [strengthens] the business climate for farm and ranch families while ensuring agricultural businesses can be passed to future generations.”

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Just in

Judge Approves Settlement to Protect Farmers’ Privacy

WASHINGTON-- The American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Pork Producers Council yesterday closed the final chapter of their lawsuit challenging EPA’s release of farmer and rancher personal information, when a federal judge approved a settlement that secures the private information of thousands of livestock and poultry farmers in 36 states.

“This lawsuit has won a major victory for personal privacy,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall. “Months ago, we won a court decision that vindicates the rights of farmers and all Americans to protect their personal information from dissemination by the government. This settlement is the final step, requiring that EPA scrub all personal information from the records involved and train its staff on the proper handling of personal information.”  

AFBF and NPPC filed the lawsuit in 2013 after EPA released a vast compilation of spreadsheets containing personal information about farmers and ranchers in 29 states who raise livestock and poultry, in some cases including the names of farmers, ranchers and sometimes other family members, home addresses, email addresses, GPS coordinates and telephone numbers.  EPA was poised at that time to release more spreadsheets containing similar information on farmers in an additional six states. 

“Farm families usually live on the farm and releasing this type of information was a clear violation of their personal privacy,” Duvall said. “The information could easily be used to encourage harassment or even violence against farmers and ranchers.”

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled last September that EPA abused its discretion by handing the FOIA requestors a “complete set of data on a silver platter … whatever their motives might be.” The court of appeals then sent the case back to the federal district court in Minnesota to decide whether to issue an injunction ordering EPA not to release the personal information.

The settlement agreement, reached with current EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, eliminates the need for a court order by spelling out exactly what information can remain in the spreadsheets released by the agency: only the city, county, zip code and permit status of an operation will be released. The agreement also requires EPA to conduct training on FOIA, personal information and the Privacy Act.

Just in from Washington

New Legislation an Investment in Agriculture’s Future

Washington—A pair of recently introduced bills gives a boost to young people in agriculture by allowing 4-H and FFA students to keep more of the modest income they earn. The students can turn around and put the money toward their education or future agricultural projects.  
The Agriculture Students Encourage, Acknowledge, Reward, Nurture (EARN) Act (S. 671) and the Student Agriculture Protection Act (SAPA) (H.R. 1626) would create a tax exemption for the first $5,000 of income students 18 years of age or younger earn from projects completed through 4-H or FFA.

The Farm Bureau-supported measures were introduced by Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas).

“The long-term sustainability of agriculture depends on talented young people pursuing careers in farming and ranching and other agricultural production and food chain professions. Student agricultural projects increase awareness of and foster an interest in fields of study that will provide the next generation of farmers and ranchers, food scientists, agricultural engineers, agronomists, horticulturalists and soil scientists,” American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said in a letter to Moran, Ernst and McCaul.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

First sign of Summer...

Photo Caption:   Last November NMID workers lined some 1,300 feet of the Ridenbaugh Canal west of Linder Road with 920 cubic yards of concrete.  NMID Photo


Nampa--The area’s above average snowpack means water managers with the Treasure Valley’s largest irrigation district anticipate a full irrigation supply of water when they open the headgates of the historic Ridenbaugh Canal near Barber Park at 3 a.m. on April 3 to start water flowing in the canal and officially launch the start of the 2017 irrigation season.

“Mother Nature has been extremely generous with winter snow this year after some pretty lean water years so we are pretty confident that we can provide water users a full supply throughout the irrigation season,” said Greg Curtis, NMID Water Superintendent. In a normal irrigation season NMID delivers irrigation water until the first week of October.

The NMID Water Superintendent also pointedly issued a strong warning about the high drowning risk posed to both adults and children by full irrigation canals.

Once the water is flowing, the District will bring its 80 canals and laterals into service slowly and check for leaks or other problem areas. It will take about two weeks to fill the entire 500-mile system and readied for irrigation water deliveries to its users by about April 17, Curtis added.

Nampa & Meridian crews are finishing up a variety of operation and maintenance projects to prepare for the new irrigation season. The work includes installing concrete lining or converting areas of open canal to underground pipe. The projects can significantly reduce both water loss and system maintenance.

NMID will start April 4 to check pressurized irrigation lines in residential subdivisions where the District operates the system,” Curtis added.

Irrigation canals are deep and flow swiftly with very cold water that can cause hypothermia in a matter of moments. Canal banks are very steep which makes it very hard for people, especially children, to get out should they fall in.

He urged Treasure Valley parents to make their children understand that they are not to play around any irrigation canal. NMID canals are private property, so playing in a canal or along its banks is considered trespassing under Idaho law.

NMID will launch an extensive canal safety public outreach program in May using television and radio safety messages in English and Spanish to warn parents about the dangers canals pose especially to children and young adults.

NMID delivers irrigation water to approximately 69,000 acres of Treasure Valley agricultural and residential lands in Ada and Canyon Counties including pressurized irrigation for more than 16,000 residential and commercial lots including 410 residential subdivisions. 2017 marks the 113th consecutive year of water deliveries to the Treasure Valley by the irrigation district.

For more information about the District call 466-7861. Information is also available on its Internet website:

Monday, March 27, 2017

Natural Waste products

Bioenergy Bonanza Supports Rural Jobs, Minimizes Wildfires

Posted by Joyce El Kouarti, U.S. Forest Service Office of Communication in Forestry Energy
A woman in a wood pellet production facility
A typical wood pellet production facility like this one in Alaska employs an average of 20 people. Photo by Dan Bihn.
What if there was an endless fuel source that came from widely available natural waste products? And what if converting these products to energy supported tens of thousands of rural jobs?
Wood can be just that fuel. In many places, it already is.
The U.S. Forest Service is working to expand renewable wood energy markets by providing technical assistance and grants to public and private sector partners through its Woody Biomass Utilizationprogram. By supporting efforts to reuse the excess wood from forest thinnings, urban tree trimmings, and forest products manufacturing facilities as well as trees killed by fires, insects, disease, and hurricanes, the agency seeks to increase the amount of locally-produced energy while improving forest health and resilience.
After years of aggressive fire suppression, forests throughout the U.S. are overstocked with standing deadwood and small, easily ignitable twigs and ladder fuels that allow wildfires to spread quickly. Converting these fuels to energy helps reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire and fosters healthier forests.
The Forest Service works with government and private landowners and businesses to mitigate wildfire risk by reducing and removing unwanted forest fuels. However, the question of what to do with these fuels inevitably arises.
Wood energy facilities are part of the solution: they convert unwanted forest fuels into energy in an environmentally friendly manner. When bioenergy is burned under controlled conditions, filters remove 95 percent of the polluting emissions that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere.
Vast quantities of wood waste are widely available nationwide, and that’s good news for rural communities.
One success story is that of the Four Forest Restoration Initiative, a Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program project spanning 2.4 million acres in Arizona. Government, industry, and private partners are working together to support and develop bioenergy infrastructure and markets, including cogeneration and wood pellets. Last year the Collaborative built a new relationship with the White Mountain Apache Tribe that added 5,000 acres of wood product material to existing industries. One partner, Salt River Project, initiated a test burn of more than 3,900 tons of biomass, integrating this fuel into a plant designed to burn coal.
Renewable wood energy is most cost-effective when generated locally, ideally within 75 miles of the wood’s origin. According to Julie Tucker, Forest Service National Lead for Renewable Wood Energy, facilities using wood for heating, cooling, or electricity are usually located in rural communities, where infrastructure investments and jobs are needed the most.
“A typical biomass power plant has annual expenditures of more than $20 million, which includes over $2 million in state and local taxes,” she said. “Just one of these plants can employ up to 120 workers inside the plant and support another 60 indirect jobs.”
Woody debris left from the Rim Fire on the Stanislaus National Forest
Woody debris left from the Rim Fire on the Stanislaus National Forest could add power to the grid. USDA FS photo: Keith Riggs.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Just in from AFBF

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt (r) talks with Will Rodger, AFBF's director of policy communications. 

EPA Chief: Agency Will be States’ Partner in Environmental Issues

 Washington—Just days into his tenure as EPA chief, Administrator Scott Pruitt was at President
 Donald Trump’s side as the president signed an executive order repealing the Waters of the U.S.
 rule. In an exclusive interview with the American Farm Bureau, Pruitt said the WOTUS repeal is
 ushering in a new era at EPA, one in which states have primacy and private property owners have

According to Pruitt, regulators totally missed the marked with WOTUS, going well beyond the 
authority afforded the agency under the Clean Water Act and writing a rule that had farmers, builders
 and many others fearful for their livelihoods.I’m so thankful that we are taking steps already to
 address this. The agency doesn’t have jurisdiction over puddles. [Regulators] don’t have jurisdiction
 over dry creek beds. People across the country canrest assured that we are going to get that fixed. 
— EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on WOTUS

Pruitt is particularly focused on restoring states’ leadership when it comes to the environment.

“At the end of the day the goal has to be regulatory certainty, objectively measured, so that the
 role of the EPAand the role of the state departments of environmental quality, and the water resources
 boards and all those agencies at the state levels—as well as private property owners and towns and
 municipalities across the countrythat make land-use decisions—that their authority, their power, their
 decision-making is respected and that westay in our lane,” he said.

In that vein, Pruitt said the agency will no longer issue de facto rules under the guise of guidance.

“Guidance is supposed to do what? It’s supposed to give you guidance in respect to rules that are 
already inexistence,” Pruitt noted, emphasizing that there’s a well-defined rulemaking process desig to
 ensure that all stakeholders’ voices are heard by regulators.

“We don’t have all the answers here, and when agencies make rules, they need to know how it 
impacts peoplein all the states across the country and they need to hear from those people and 
respond to those folks and say, ‘I hear you, and here’s how we’re going to address that and we
 think that’s an important point.’ That’s what rulemaking should be about,” he said.

Acknowledging that there’s a time and place for enforcement, and, if need be, prosecution, Pruit 
emphasized that the agency will first approach states as allies, rather than adversaries.

“I really believe citizens care about the water they drink and the air they breathe. We need to believe
 that, trust that and restore that trust between this agency and the states,” he said.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Just in

USDA on Tainted Brazilian Meat: None Has Entered the US

WASHINGTON– Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service  announced additional steps to keep the food supply safe for American families in light of the recent investigations of Brazil’s meat industry.

While none of the slaughter or processing facilities implicated in the Brazilian scandal have shipped meat products to the United States, FSIS immediately instituted additional pathogen testing of all shipments of raw beef and ready-to-eat products from Brazil upon hearing reports of the Brazilian investigation. FSIS has also increased its examination of all these products at ports-of-entry across the country. The agency will indefinitely maintain its 100% re-inspection and pathogen testing of all lots of FSIS-regulated products imported from Brazil.

"Keeping food safe for American families is our top priority,” said Mike Young, Acting Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “FSIS has strengthened the existing safeguards that protect the American food supply as a precaution and is monitoring the Brazilian government's investigation closely.”

The FSIS import inspection system (including equivalence determinations, in-country audits, and re-inspection processes) is designed to ensure that imported meat, poultry, and processed egg products are safe and wholesome. FSIS works closely with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to ensure that these products are safe before they enter the country.

“FSIS will take any additional actions necessary to protect public health,” said Al Almanza, Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety. “It is our mission to keep the food on American dinner tables safe.”

Although none of the establishments implicated in the Brazil scandal have shipped meat products to the United States, effective March 18, FSIS instituted 100% point-of-entry re-inspection of all Brazilian beef imported into the United States, including conducting product examination on 100% of the lots. This re-inspection includes 100% testing of beef trimmings from Brazil for Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, and non-O157 shiga-toxin producing E. coli (STEC). The 100% re-inspection also includes 100% testing of ready-to-eat products from Brazil for Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes. FSIS will take immediate action to refuse entry of product into the United States if there are findings of food safety concern.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Just in from Washington

Farm Bureau Member Discusses ACA with President Trump

Washington--A Georgia Farm Bureau member met with President Donald Trump at the White House this week to discuss how the Affordable Care Act is affecting rural America. Micheal Clements has more.

Brittany Ivey, a Georgia Farm Bureau member and Young Farmer & Rancher Committee chair of Stephens County was invited to participate in a discussion on the impact of the Affordable Care Act at the White House. Ivey was a guest of Congressman Doug Collins at the president’s address to the Joint Session of Congress last month, after she was able to share with the congressman how the Affordable Care Act had impacted her family.

“Congressman Collins’ office called and asked if they could start pushing my story out some and would I be interested in being his guest at the joint address that the president made February 28 to Congress, and so I was able to set in the balcony and hear that. And I thought that was a great day, so you can imagine how floored I was when the White House office called and asked if I’d come back and talk with the President about the Affordable Care Act’s impact on my family,” said Ivey.

The roundtable discussion featured physicians, small business owners and farmers who talked about the impact of the act on their industries.

“One of them was a row cropper from Tennessee and the other lady was a cattle farmer from northern Colorado. And both of them talked about how the rising cost of their healthcare has prevented them from buying new equipment and expanding their farms,” said Ivey.

Ivey says AFBF programs, including competing in the discussion meet at the 2015 AFBF Annual Convention, helped her prepare for being an advocate for agriculture.

“That really helped me tell my story because the discussion meet covers issues that relate to farms in our areas and it helped me to realize that there’s a place and a time when you need to stand up and you need to be an advocate for yourself and your community, and that’s what I did again today,” said Ivey.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Just in

USDA to invest in Conservation projects, water quality
WASHINGTON- Acting Deputy Agriculture Secretary Michael Young today announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing up to $15 million in technical and financial assistance to help eligible conservation partners voluntarily protect, restore and enhance critical wetlands on agricultural lands. Restored wetlands improve water quality downstream and improve wildlife habitat, while also providing flood prevention and recreational benefits to communities.
Funding will be provided through the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership (WREP​), part of the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), a Farm Bill conservation program. The partnership is administered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the leading federal agency for wetland conservation on private lands. Through WREP, states, local units of governments, non-governmental organizations and American Indian tribes collaborate with NRCS through cooperative and partnership agreements. These partners work with tribal and private landowners who voluntarily enroll eligible land into easements to protect, restore and enhance wetlands on their properties.
“These strong, locally led partnerships help improve water quality, prevent flooding, enhance wildlife habitat and provide landowners the financial resources needed to voluntarily conserve our lands,” Young said.
Easements enable landowners to adopt a variety of conservation practices that improve the function and condition of wetlands. The voluntary nature of NRCS' easement programs enables effective integration of wetland restoration on working landscapes, providing benefits to farmers and ranchers who enroll in the program, as well as benefits to the local and rural communities where the wetlands exist.
This year, NRCS is encouraging partners to propose projects that focus on improving water quality as well as habitat on working landscapes in high-priority areas, ranging from the sagebrush of the West to the Chesapeake Bay. A number of at-risk species rely on wetlands, including the American black duck, bog turtle, wood turtle, spotted turtle, Blandings turtle and greater sage-grouse as well as a variety of mussel and fish species.
Proposals must be submitted to NRCS state offices by April 24, 2017. More information is available on the ACEP webpage.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Just in

Farmers, Ranchers Ask Congress to Strengthen Safety Net

WASHINGTON – The American Farm Bureau Federation and 11 other farm and ranch groups today asked congressional budget and appropriations committees to increase funding for farm programs in the 2018 farm bill.

The coalition underlined in a letter the need for a strong farm safety net in the face of financial hardship not seen for decades.

“While we do not yet have a full-fledged financial crisis in rural America, a good many farmers and ranchers are not going to be able to cash-flow in 2017,” the groups wrote. “With USDA projecting continued low prices in 2018 and beyond, this situation threatens to quickly and vastly expand with each and every crop year.”

The advocates also applauded the House Agriculture Committee for drawing attention to the severe economic downturn facing rural America. Net farm income has dropped 50 percent in the last four years—the largest four-year percentage decrease since the Great Depression.

With no relief in sight, many farmers and ranchers are burning through capital reserves, and beginning farmers may be forced out of business altogether without reserves from good years to carry them through. Banks and other community lenders are finding their hands are tied as well. Without a strong safety net, farmers are unable to secure the loans they need to help with operating costs to keep their businesses running.

Farmers also face the challenges of a strong American dollar as other countries heavily subsidize and protect their producers.

“U.S. farmers have long said they were willing to compete with farmers elsewhere on a level playing field, but they cannot compete with the treasuries of foreign governments,” the groups wrote.
The 2018 Farm Bill presents a prime opportunity for Congress to respond to these sharp declines in farm prices and farm income. In previous years, agriculture was the only industry to take voluntary cutbacks to help reduce the federal deficit.

“Now we look to Congress to provide the resources necessary to help America’s farmers and ranchers through this very difficult period,” the groups wrote.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

2017 Lambing season

Sheering season at Soulen Ranch

Emmett--Over 4,000 sheep at running through sheering sheds at Soulen ranch outside of Emmett. Its been one of the toughest years on record according to Harry Soulen, but he says they made it through the winter and are looking forward to summer and greener pastures.

"We’re sheering right at 4500 hundred head of sheep here in Letha and we’re in the second day of sheering and the sheering crew are getting through about 800 head a day," said Soulen.

Soulen says they usually run about 10-thousand head but changing times have forced reduction of livestock on the range.

"Its a reduction of what we used to sheer, we used to sheer about 10-thousand head of ewes and yearlings, but with the lost of summer range due to the bighorn situation, this is the herd size we’re limited to. because its the whole piece of the pie and if you have a portion of one thing it affectts your whole operation, so we’re down to where we can only run about 4500 sheep," said Soulen.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Taylor OP-ED

Guest opinion: Growing Idaho agriculture, growing Idaho’s economy

Moscow—On Feb. 7, USDA forecasted a drop in 2017 U.S. farm income of close to 9 percent, half that earned in 2013. This is the fourth consecutive year of income decline, the sharpest since the Great Depression. The economies of the Corn Belt states shutter and tax revenues fall. Idaho ranks fourth in farm contribution to state gross domestic product, behind the Corn Belt states of South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa, respectively.

Is farming an industry upon which Idaho’s economy pivots? Should Idaho be similarly concerned?

Since returning to my native Idaho over 15 years ago, my colleague Ben Eborn and I have witnessed and perhaps even altered the narrative regarding Idaho agriculture. Idaho’s 21st Century economy was predicted to be high-tech manufacturing and professional services. Farming, while big, was fated to an inexorable decline, along with Idaho’s forestry and mining industries. The narrative was abetted by the farmer’s whine — “This may be the last year I’ll be farming.”

Propelled by strong export and ethanol markets, the first decade of the 21st century was christened as the “Golden Age of Agriculture.” Idaho agriculture is on different trajectory than the corn- and soybean-dominant U.S. agriculture.
Idaho’s trajectory stems from Idaho’s agricultural portfolio. In 2016, close to 60 percent of Idaho’s cash receipts came from livestock — 32 percent from milk, 24 percent from beef and 3 percent from trout and other animals.

Livestock feeds, hay, feed grain, beet pulp, silage and the like constituted another 15 percent. Famous potatoes have dwindled to 12 percent.

Since 1997, Idaho livestock real cash receipts, adjusted for inflation, have grown 2.3 times, while real crops receipts have flat lined. In comparison, U.S. real cash receipts have increased 1.6 times.

Ben and I forecasted 2016 net farm to drop by 13 percent, or $1.6 billion. The high was set in 2011 at $2.2 billion.

Farming has always been boom or bust. In 2009, the year of Idaho’s dairy depression, Idaho net farm income dropped by 53 percent, followed by two consecutive years of over 70 percent increases.
Absent government price floors on commodities, the same forces that shape growth increase volatility. This volatility is reflected in tax revenues and farm credit. As one farmer remarked, “Every year, my banker pretends he doesn’t know me.”

Gross domestic product (GDP), or value added, is the broadest measure of prosperity. Since 1997, real GDP created by Idaho farmers has increased 2.4 times, outstripping the state growth of 1.6 times.
In other words, farmers are adding value to Idaho’s economy twice as fast as the economy as a whole.

Like income and cash receipts, farm GDP is likewise volatile.

The rule of thumb defines recession as two consecutive quarters of negative GDP. The Idaho economy underwent four consecutive quarters of negative GDP during the Great Recession. Since 2007, farm GDP in Idaho experienced five farm recessions, dropping by as much 16 percent in a single quarter.
During the Great Recession, farming was one of the few bright spots in Idaho’s economy. Many of Idaho’s farm dependent economies, such as the Magic Valley, with near full employment had little empathy for Canyon and Ada counties.

In the years since the recession, farming has been the third most robust sector, following finance and health care. For the booming first three quarters of 2016, unlike the Corn Belt, agriculture has been the first or second fastest growing sector in the Idaho economy.

The dollars spent at local businesses ripple through the local economy, creating sales and jobs and adding value to the economy.

When accounting for these multiplier effects, agricultural businesses — and the combined exports of farmers and food processors — are Idaho’s largest industry, creating about $1 in every $5 of business sales, 16 percent of the state’s jobs, and 14 percent of Idaho’s GDP.

Agribusiness impacts are much greater in farming communities. In the Magic Valley, exports from agribusiness directly or indirectly creates over half the jobs and close to 60 percent of the region’s GDP.

Paradoxically, the agriculture volatility has not battered Idaho rural communities. Cows cannot be mothballed when milk prices fall, hay has to be purchased and labor hired to keep milking. The input expenditures continue to ripple throughout the economies of local communities.

Agriculture has been one of the hinges upon which the gate of Idaho economy swings. The fact that Idaho is No. 1 in the nation in potatoes and third in dairy is an expression of the comparative advantage of Idaho agriculture.

The volatility in farm will certainly continue. The downside of having all-your-eggs in the farm basket is the vulnerability to a volatile world export markets, fraught with trade wars, famine, trade embargoes and port slowdowns.

— Economists Garth Taylor and Ben Eborn are in the Department of Agricultural Economics at University of Idaho. They frequently testify before the Idaho legislature on agricultural economic conditions.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Onion disaster

Truck after truck dumps rotting onion at the Clay Peak Regional Landfill in Payette  -- Ritter photo

Rotting Onions being dumped in Washington County

Payette—More than 14 storage facilities were damaged by one of the worst winters in a hundred years.

Millions of pounds of onions were lost when storage sheds were crushed under deep snow.

Now onion producers are in a race against the clock to dump the rotting onions before onion maggots hatch. Producers must keep the pests away from onion fields and storage sheds before they start hatching in the coming weeks or run the risk of contaminating this years crop.

Crews are covering the mountains of onions with a coat of lime and burying them to check the spread of maggots. 

The Treasure Valley is the largest onion growing region in the world. The loss of the 2016 crop has nearly doubled the price of onions,  now producers that took devastating losses with low market prices are now losing more money  working disposing debris, toxic waste and the onions, causing incalculable hardships in the five western onion-raising counties.

The Washington County officials are helping producers with damaged onions and property. “Were doing what we can, but when the new onions start, we have to to maker sure we protect our whole growing region from onion maggot flies, so we’re working to prevent that,” said Washington County Commissioner Kirk Chandler.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Ag Data

Merger of Secure Ag Data Repositories a Game Changer

Washington—Two pioneers in agricultural big data – the Ag Data Coalition and the Grower Information Services Cooperative – have merged their technology repositories.
Today’s announcement by two of the largest efforts to develop a secure data repository for farmers’ agronomic data represents a monumental development in precision agriculture.

The merger will provide the opportunity for the power of big data in agriculture to be firmly in the hands of America’s farmers, said Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.

“Today is an exciting day,” Duvall said. “These kinds of revolutionary changes in agriculture are rare, and this merger provides farmers the kind of certainty and security they have been seeking when it comes to agronomic data management.”

While the data repositories developed by each group are similar, integration of the two will bring the best of both worlds to one project. Principals from each group anticipate the merged database will be ready to store and manage data beginning after this spring’s planting season.

“Almost four years ago, our members requested we become far more involved in the precision ag/big data issue,” Duvall said. “They were adamant about the benefits of the use of precision agriculture and data on their farms and ranches. Virtually all of them highlighted the benefits of more and better information for better business decisions, increasing crop yields, increasing operational efficiency and lowering input costs.”

However, a 2014 AFBF survey showed that 64 percent of respondents said they were skeptical or fearful about the misuse of their proprietary data by third parties. Farmers said they wanted greater transparency as well as more ways to deal with issues such as personal control of their own data; data security; data portability; data storage and availability; and data privacy.

That was when AFBF joined forces with other groups to form the Agricultural Data Coalition. At the same time ADC was working to form a secure repository, the Grower Information Services Cooperative launched a similar effort. Both groups viewed a secure data repository for farmers’ agronomic data as the key to mitigating farmers’ concerns over data management, portability and security.

Both groups believed data repositories should function as cooperatives led by farmers and, potentially, service providers. Now, the groups will share more than just beliefs.

House Passes Interior Bill with Idaho Priorities

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