Friday, April 21, 2017

Trump signs Presidential Disaster Declaration


Boise – President Donald J. Trump signed a Presidential Disaster Declaration today for 11 southern Idaho counties, triggering the release of federal funds to help communities repair public infrastructure damaged by severe winter storms and related flooding from February 5 through March 3.

Damage assessments in Bingham, Cassia, Elmore, Franklin, Gooding, Jefferson, Jerome, Lincoln, Minidoka, Twin Falls and Washington counties exceed $30 million. Many primary and secondary roadways were damaged beyond repair, forcing residents in some areas to get around in small boats or kayaks.

“We are grateful that President Trump acted quickly to support parts of Idaho struggling through one of our worst weather-related disasters in recent memory,” Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter said. “But it’s important to remember that areas of Idaho beyond these 11 counties also were impacted and now face the threat of serious flooding as a result of our heavy winter snowfall. This is great news, and there should be more to come.”

Last month the State of Idaho requested a Presidential Disaster Declaration for five Idaho counties affected by severe winter snow in December 2016 and throughout the month of January. Residents in Ada, Canyon, Custer, Payette and Washington counties sustained widespread damage to roofs, roadways and additional infrastructure as a result of record snowfall. That request was denied and the State has appealed.

“The destruction caused by all this water is breathtaking in its scope and magnitude,” said Brad Richy, deputy chief of the Idaho Office of Emergency Management. “The assistance made available through this Presidential Disaster Declaration will go a long way in repairing disaster damaged public infrastructure. There is still a lot of flooding going on around the state. It is critically important that all Idahoans heed the warnings for flooded areas, and be prepared for worst-case scenarios.”

Information on signing up for alerts and warnings, along with Flood Watch information, can be found at The Idaho Emergency Operations Center also remains activated due to ongoing spring flooding statewide.

Just in

Boise River Flows Increasing to 8,800 cfs 

BOISE–The Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will increase flows from Lucky Peak Dam Friday, April 21 due to a continued wet pattern forecasted for the Boise River drainage. An extremely large mountain snowpack and continued above-normal precipitation have resulted in significantly less flood control space in the Boise River reservoirs than is required. 

Irrigation demand has also been slow to start with the wet and cool conditions in the Treasure Valley. Flows through the City of Boise will increase 250 cubic-feet-per-second (cfs) from the current flow of 8,550 cfs to approximately 8,800 cfs on Friday, April 21. 

The adjustments in releases from the reservoir system are necessary to help reduce the risk of more severe flooding later in the spring, which can happen with rapidly melting snow and seasonal precipitation. A flow rate of 7,000 cfs is considered flood-stage level at the Glenwood Bridge gauge on the Boise River. 

At 8,800 cfs, additional sections of the Boise Greenbelt adjacent to the river will be submerged, and erosion of river banks will continue to be a significant problem. Minor flooding will continue to occur on sections of Eagle Island and in other low spots near the river. 

Some roads in low-lying areas may experience flooding. Some homes and businesses may experience water in their basements due to subterranean water level increases. Floating debris could become a problem if large quantities collect on bridges and impact river flows. 

Local emergency management officials strongly advise staying away from the river shoreline and areas posted as closed to the public. Boise River reservoirs are at approximately 68 percent of capacity. More flow increases are possible in the coming weeks, depending on weather conditions. 

For real-time Boise River flows at Reclamation facilities in the Pacific Northwest Region, visit 

Upper Snake poised for flood

Eastern Idaho snow still in mountains, Flood managers worried

Rexburg—Reports indicate that there is still enough snow in the mountains above Palisades reservoir to fill it three times. 

Last month the Bureau of Reclamation reported that the Palisades Dam released 19,500 cubic feet of water per second. Should it reach 20,000 cfs, an emergency could be declared in Madison County, according to the Bureau of Reclamation.

The Army Corp has furiously been releasing water at Palisades but still has water in the reservoir. They hope to have it empty by May 1st, just in time to catch the last part of the snowpack. But most of last winters snowpack is still in the Mountains. 

In a special Statehouse meeting on Wednesday, the NRCS reported thats it is still snowing at most mountain snow-tell sites in Eastern Idaho. In normal years Eastern Idaho mountains start to lose snowpack by late March.

Idaho Governor Butch Otter says Eastern Idahoans should pray for mild temperatures to allow snows to melt slowly.

“As I’ve traveled around the state in the past three months, I’ve seen firsthand the destruction caused by this unprecedented weather. Now the snow that in some areas is continuing to fall is turning into runoff that’s filling our rivers and reservoirs to overflowing, threatening people and property statewide,” Governor Otter said. “Most of our counties have declared disasters, and we’re working to get assistance and relief deployed wherever it’s needed as quickly as possible.”

Lt. Col. David DeLarosa of the Army Corp of Engineers says Eastern Idaho counties are preparing for possible flooding that could reach levels as high as those recorded in 2011. At that time water poured over embankments and flooded portions of Beaver Dick Park for several weeks. The previous winter, snowpacks were at 180 percent of normal, according to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services. 

“We started vacating space in Jackson Lake and Palisades weeks ago. We’ve cleared 1.4 million acre feet in anticipation of what’s coming off those mountains. Right now Palisades is 13 percent of capacity, the potential of flooding in Eastern Idaho is high,” said DeLarosa. 

The Army Corp says they’ve done everything they can operationally to to make space for melting snow.  “But we must prepare for the flood fight thats still to come,” said DeLarosa.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Flood Emergency

This home near Parma has been flooded since February, Ritter photo

Idaho Faces Flood Emergency into the Summer months

Boise-Idaho Governor Butch Otter says the state faces a flooding emergency.

"We've got to get the word out that this is a disaster waiting to happen and we don't need people to add to it by getting on the river," Otter said.
This as city and county administrators work to get across the severity of the situation at hand.

Boise Mayor Dave Bieter echoed the governors comments saying the Boise River is running above flood stage.

"We've closed the Greenbelt in many, many areas. Far more areas are closed than are open because of the unpredictability of this situation,” said Bieter.

Canyon County Commissioner Tom Dale says all the runoff from Boise runs through Canyon County. Its so wet that farmers cannot irrigate to ease flooding and areas along the Boise and Snake Rivers are treacherous.

"I had a report from a rancher just last week of a bull being washed away. It got too close to the bank and if a bull can get washed away, a kid can get washed away, you can get washed away as an adult. So if that bank is not stable that river is powerful,” Dale said.

Snowpack in the mountains should be melting, but most snotel sites report gains around the state. According to NRCS snow depth is more than double the average in many areas. That means that counties, cities and homeowners need emergency plans in place now, because three warm days in a row could be disastrous.

Water managers said on most days water is coming into the Boise reservoir system faster than what the Army Corp of Engineers is letting out. Over time it's eaten into the remaining capacity, which the Corp says is at 32 percent; only half of what they have normally at this time.

"We have made a very calculated decision to this point to keep the flows at where they're at, we absolutely could have released enough water to match up with those record run-offs, but the result would have been absolutely flooding Boise," LTC Damon Delarosa with the Army Corp of Engineers said.

The Bureau of Reclamation, Board of Control and the  U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will run the river at high flows over a longer period of time and into the summer to avoid even larger releases that could flood residential areas.

In Eastern Idaho snowpacks are 120 to 150 percent of normal, they’re still waiting for the big runoff, and managers say they can’t keep up. At Palisades and other reservoirs above the Snake River they've been releasing water for months. The flood emergency could stretch into the June and July, according to the Corp of Engineers.

The Idaho Office of Emergency Management says the initial damage estimates from flooding, avalanches, and mudslides from all across the state are in the excess of $62 million. The state has applied for federal aid, but was denied.

Otter announced an appeal to that decision is in the envelope and plans to be sent off Wednesday.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Wheat Glut

High Tech farming

Drone Mapping Helps Catch a Major Aphid Infestation

Rupert— Dusty Wilkins of Rupert bought new equipment for the farm last year about this time.  

The tiny piece of equipment cost close to a thousand dollars and in the scheme of things not a major purchase, but it ended up saving him 50 times that.

The Rupert beet farmer told everyone he bought a Phantom 3 drone to map his fields, but he secretly wanted to fly the Snake River Canyon and get video of the all spectacular waterfalls. 

Wilkins got his video, but a short while later he finally flew the drone over the farm. 
And he also signed up with a high-tech Bay Area company called Drone Deploy. 

“You get a paid subscription with Drone Deploy, they call it Plant Health but its basically just NDVI, images. NDVI is short for Normalized difference vegetation index. With the video that I take, the software just filters out the colors and you can see whats going on with the plants in the fields,” said Wilkins.

Last July Wilkins harvested his barley and then flew a routine drone flight over his beet field across the road. Pests like aphids can live harmlessly in barley fields, but when the barley is cut, farmers have to keep an eye on neighboring fields because pests tend to migrate to greener pastures.

That night he uploaded images from the first beet field, a 26-acre plot that took just under twelve minutes to fly at 190 feet altitude. When he took a look on the laptop he was shocked at what he saw. This is a screen shot of the actual image:

The yellow and red areas show aphids covering the plants. Green sections indicate sprinkler lines.Wilkins couldn’t believe his eyes so he walked the field, finding the worst aphid infestation he’d seen. The plants were so completely covered with aphids, they turned his pant legs black with the bugs.

Without the drone mapping, Wilkins says his fertilizer agronomist would have found the pests. “But at this point of the season, we had full leaf row closure,” he said, “so walking through the field takes time and it’s really hard. The field man wouldn’t have picked up the infestation for a week," said Wilkins. Thanks, to the drone he was able to get a crop duster on the field in just a few hours.

“When I was looking at that video for the first time, I was thinking theres no way that this drone caught it at all. So after I physically went out and walked the fields I was thinking this was insane. I tell other farmers who have drones to get good a good drone and get software like DroneDeploy, so you can actually process the information you’re getting. A lot of people have drones and they go take a picture from 400 feet up and they have no idea what the picture means,”  added Wilkins, “and its worthless.

Because he caught the infestation before any real damage was done, Dusty got a head start on treatment and prevented significant loss of sugar content to his beets. A typical aphid infestation can cause up to a one-percent loss in the sugar content that amounts to a four-ton loss per acre. He figures with the exceptionally bad infestation he had last summer, he could easily have lost twice the amount of lost tonnage per acre had he not found infestation early. At $40 per ton, multiplied over 185 acres of beets, he could have been out at least $60,000 in lost revenue.

“So we did 17.3 in sugar content. It’s not bad, I was high on nitrates and that affected it. I wish there was a way to show the damage, like spray half a field, and the other side go, so we could see the actual damage data and calculate the loss. Theres no way to calculate damage and loss outside of a test plot, but we did okay with our beets thanks to the drone,” said Wilkins.

Wilkins will be using the drone this summer. He put 3-thousand miles on the Phantom 3, so this year he bought the updated Phantom 4 and is already mapping fields. He says can’t imagine not using a drone now to fight pests and help with fertilizer in his fields outside of Rupert.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Wheat highs and lows

Best of Times, worst of times for Idaho Wheat

Blackfoot—After the greatest year on record, Idaho wheat producers now face one of their worst market years and they’re sitting on mountains of unsold wheat. 

With wheat prices at $3.40 a bushel this week in Blackfoot, growers are operating below the break even mark.

“There’s five-million bushels of wheat still in storage that needs to move before harvest in Southeast Idaho,” said Clark Johnston, grain marketer at Agrisource. “There’s a glut on the world market, we’re going to carry over about 50-percent of stocks-to-use ratio for next year. In the US the last report showed about 42-percent holdover which is still a lot of wheat but at least it is not 50-percent.”

The hold over wheat has drastically affected spring planting. According to the USDA planted wheat this year stands at 46.1 million acres, down 4.1 million acres and ranks as the smallest acreage planted in the United States since 1919. The winter wheat acreage planted this year is estimated at 32.7 million acres, down 9% from last year and the second-lowest planted acreage on record. 

“There’s a lot of wheat in Idaho this year. So much wheat that flour mills are not taking bids at all. They’re not buying anything until the new crop starts in July. The earliest bids is a July delivery date right now. The millers say their needs are met and the mills don't need anything right now, they got enough,” said Johnston.

US wheat production in 2016 was 2.310 billion bushels. Those high numbers come with 9-million fewer acres. Blaine Jacobson with the Idaho Wheat Commission says in the midst of oversupply and low prices, Idaho producers had the greatest production year on record.

“Last year was incredible for wheat production,” said Jacobson. “Idaho averaged 91 bushels per acre and it was not only an all time record for Idaho, but Idaho led all of the wheat growing states. Idaho is number one in wheat production in the US in terms of bushels per acre.” 

But the greatest production year in Idaho come at a time when demand is at a record lows. That Low demand of has impacts on other crops in Idaho. Johnston says producers are looking at other crops but it’s a tough decision requiring split second timing.

“What are they going to plant? The malt barley guys have cut acreage too and we can’t make money on potatoes. A few producers are planting alternative crops like canola, but thats a minimal amount of acreage. They’re still going to plant wheat, no question about it. The winter wheat crop acreage is good and the crop looks good even with the wet spring, but something has to happen in terms of worldwide crop failure to get those prices back up,” said Johnston.

Johnston says that many Idaho farmers are hanging on for a wild market ride, while a few are gambling and hoping for a break.

“If I’m a betting man, not everyone in the world can have a good year,” said Johnston. “Every year things happen and while it looks bad now, I think things will even out.”

Monday, April 17, 2017

Wine Industry gets glowing endorsement

Chicago Tribune recognizes Idaho Wine Industry

Chicago—The Chicago Tribune discovers an Idaho Gem. 

In the Food and Dining section, columnist Michael Austin wrote a glowing feature story on Idaho’s thriving wine industry. 

The story features a photo from the Crossings Winery in Glenns Ferry and then kicks off  the story talking about Idaho’s mammoth potato crop. He stated what all Idahoans know, that the Gem State has the perfect growing climate for dozens of Idaho crops.

Idaho’s vineyards are located at a higher elevation than most others in the Northwest. Gem State soils are comprised of volcanic ash. The long summer days and cool summer nights produce grapes with concentrated fruit flavors and high acidities. Austin says that he altitude, soil, the long days and cool nights add up to an amalgam of perfection. 

“They don't call it the Gem State for nothing; the place has good growing soil, and for close to 50 years, a small portion of it has been dedicated to growing commercial wine grapes. Idaho's climate is well suited for such a crop, and most of it grows at relatively high elevation, somewhere between 2,500 and 3,000 feet. The state enjoys long, sunny days (for ripening) and cool high-altitude nights (for retaining acidity). Daily temperature shifts of 40 degrees are not out of the question in some vineyard locations,” wrote Austin.

Austin wrote that establishing a wine industry takes time. 

“By 2002 there were still only 11 wineries giving it a go in Idaho. One of them was Ste. Chapelle, which opened in the mid-'70s and remains the state's largest winery. By 2009 there were more than 40 wineries, and less than a decade later, there are more than 50. It's a small group of like-minded folk and a small collection of grapevines. Outside of the Snake River Valley, there are only about an additional 150 acres of vines planted,” Austin wrote.

He then urged food and wine lovers  that Idaho presented a perfect ground-floor opportunity, urging young winemakers to ‘go west’. There, no way to put a dollar amount on a feature article in a major metro market, but one wine grower said millions and millions more is just a beginning.

Austin added in the article that in in developing wine regions that experimentation is common and points to all the varieties of grapes producers grow and that Idahoans have a pioneering spirit and ‘follow their bliss.’  

Austin then put together an Idaho wine list for his Chicago readers:
Recommended Idaho wines

2015 Indian Creek White Riesling. Apple, apricots and pear led to zingy acidity, citrus and a touch of eucalyptus on the finish. $12
2015 Fujishin Family Cellars Reserve Viognier. Minerality and peach were accompanied by a buttery-toasty oak presence and a soft mouthfeel. $17
2015 Hat Ranch Winery Dry Moscato. Light, refreshing, floral and nutty, with a blast of clean citrus toward the finish. $18
2014 Cinder Small Lot Series Sauvignon Blanc. Ripe pear and fennel led to lemon and zippy acidity in this refreshing wine. $25
2012 Williamson Vineyards Sangiovese. Dark cherry, incense, leather and other dark fruits characterized this fun and lively wine. $18
2012 Crossings Winery Cabernet Franc. An expressive wine full of cherry, dill, incense, black licorice and a touch of salinity. $18.50
2012 Ste. Chapelle Winery Panoramic Idaho Petit Verdot. Rich and decadent, full of blueberry and other dark fruits, plus orange zest and smoke. $25
2014 Clearwater Canyon Estate Syrah. A luscious wine offering dark fruits, roasted meat, incense, smoke and a spicy finish. $28
2014 Huston Vineyards Malbec. Plum, blackberry, earth, coffee, leather and spice were all present in this formidable, full-bodied wine. $29
2013 Bitner Vineyards Erletxe Tempranillo. Earthy, floral and herbal, this one was full of rich, red fruits, toast and a touch of leather. $35
2013 Sawtooth Winery Trout Trilogy Carmenere. Plum, blackberry, vanilla, black pepper, leather and spice came together in this silky wine. $40
2014 Koenig Vineyards Botrytis Single Berry Select Late Harvest Riesling. Ripe apple, pear and peach joined by clean, balancing acidity. $30 for a 350-milliliter bottle

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Alt energy

Bioenergy Bonanza Supports Rural Jobs, Minimizes Wildfires

by Joyce El Kouarti, U.S. Forest Service Office of Communication in Forestry Energy

Sonora--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 and 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 Utilization program.

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 last years forest fires could soon add power to the grid.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Just in from USFS

Healthy Culverts Make for Healthy Drinking Water

Posted by Larry Moore, U.S. Forest Service Office of Communication in Forestry
A newly constructed stream simulation culvert on the George Washington National Forest. (Photo by U.S. Forest Service.)
A newly constructed stream simulation culvert on the George Washington National Forest. (Photo by U.S. Forest Service.)
Culverts provide an abundance of benefits to us every day. They allow us to pass over water, and for fish and wildlife to pass beneath us. And they allow us to go about our daily lives and ideally, for fish and wildlife to do the same. But when they’re badly designed, the results can be disastrous for people, communities, and the environment.
Between 2008 and 2015 U.S. Forest Service partnered with more than 200 organizations in the Legacy Roads and Trails Program, which replaced more than 1,000 culverts across the U.S. The aim of the program was to upgrade culverts to emulate natural streams, and to allow fish and wildlife to pass more naturally both upstream and downstream. These culverts are called stream simulation culverts and consist of an arch above an open bottom, allowing the stream to continue beneath as if the culvert was not there at all.
Badly designed culverts come with a host of problems. They can cause devastating infrastructure property and infrastructure damage if they become blocked with debris or become overwhelmed with water.
Beyond the human cost, they can have a profound effect on the health of the watershed and the fish and wildlife that depend upon them. Badly designed or badly maintained culverts can cause bank slumping, erosion, and scouring—severely degrading water quality and habitat. Worse yet, the consequences of bad culvert design don’t stay localized.
“What happens upstream, affects everything downstream,” said Nathaniel Gillespie, Assistant Fisheries Program Manager at the U.S. Forest Service.
Streams, like all waterways, are complex ecosystems. Streams flow into and out of one another, affecting their surrounding environments, and the fish and wildlife that depend on them.
“Fish depend on a sizeable enough habitat to live and grow,” said Gillespie, “but they also depend on access to other bodies of water to breed and thrive.”
Gillespie said when that travel is restricted, it can effect fish populations and restrict the size of the fish living in the waterways. Countless rural communities around the country depend on the $10 billion spent every year in and around National Forests and Grasslands. Much of the appeal in these areas can be attributed to clean, abundant water and healthy fish and wildlife.
Because water systems are so interconnected, and because of the cascading effect of badly designed culverts, the role of well-designed culverts becomes clear.
“The Forest Service made this investment with our partners because these communities and our nation are going to reap so many benefits from it,” Gillespie said.
“With safety, environmental and economic benefits of smart culvert design, good culverts are just good sense.”
A circular culvert on the Klamath National Forest prior to being upgraded. (Photo by U.S. Forest Service.)
A circular culvert on the Klamath National Forest prior to being upgraded. (Photo by U.S. Forest Service.)

Friday, April 14, 2017

Snow mold

Wet spring impacts Idaho grain

Rupert—Snow and rain this year has created perfect conditions for a wave of fungal diseases not seen in years.

University of Idaho Extension grain pathologists say that heavy Southern Idaho snows has led to snow mold in grain fields across Southern Idaho.

Snow molds are diseases caused by fungi and attack small grain crops under snow cover or in cool, wet weather.

Dusty Wilkins grows barley and alfalfa in the Rupert area.

“We lost a couple of fields to flooding, theres some mold out there and were keeping an eye for it, But its been wet since last November.”

Wilkins had to plow a couple of fields under and start all over again. 

The USDA says farmers have logged just 6 dry days in the first two weeks of April.
The late snow covers a fungus that needs a dark and humid environment that allows it to grow. Its photosynthetic capabilities are restricted and forces plants to use up stored carbohydrates and protein, that weakens barley and grain leaving them susceptible to infection.

“Its hard to tell the difference between snow mold and other winter damage,” said Wilkins.  Plants suffering from winter damage are found on hills or ridge tops where the wind blew the snow away. Snow mold thrives in gullys and protected areas where snow piles up. Snow mold infected plants have a slimy appearance.

As long as the crown of the plant is not infected, they can recover and still have good yields. For fields  infected with snow mold Extension agents suggest farmers to rotate out of winter grain for several years to allow the sclerotia to die.

Extension agents say that they’re expecting to see some barley scald and net blotch in the coming days this spring. Barley scald is well established in southern Idaho, but net blotch is a new.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Just in from the USDA

Equipment is at a standstill till things dry out, Putnam photo

Idaho Spring Ag outlook

Pocatello—Heavy rain across Idaho left water standing in fields for the second straight week and left conditions too wet for work, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service Northwest Regional Field Office out of Olympia, Wash.

Officials are keeping an eye out for fields with standing water, because excessive water creates ideal conditions for certain diseases.

”There’s a Plethora of diseases and if we do have a long, wet spring, that could become a problem. There are places in fields where some that is occurring but they're localized and so far haven't not spread across whole fields,” said Reed Findlay, Bingham/Bannock County Extension Educator for University of Idaho.

The National Ag Stats Service said that fewer than four days were suitable for fieldwork.The month of March was also very wet in Idaho, capping off a year that saw precipitation levels reach as high as 200-percent of normal in the Southeast and well above normal throughout the state, according to data just released by NASS.

"It’s nice to start off a year with a good supply of water,” said Steve Howser, Aberdeen-Springfield Canal Company General Manager. “It reduces a lot of stress.”

For the first time in years canal managers aren't worried about reservoir storage after all the snow Southern Idaho received throughout the winter.

"We really had an incredible winter not only did we get 150-percent snow pack in all the drainages above American Falls, but we also had quite a bit of snowfall on the Snake River Plain that we don't usually see," said Howser.

Many areas, particularly in the North and Southeast regions, were still covered in snow at the end of March. Elsewhere, in areas where the snow had melted or was receding, conditions were soggy and growers were on the lookout for snow mold in winter wheat and were assessing winterkill in fields that were dry enough.

Irrigation water was expected to be in full supply for the season, with 58-percent adequate topsoil moisture and 42-percent surplus, as well as 68-percent adequate subsoil moisture and 32-percent surplus.

Pasture and range conditions were reported to be 9-percent poor, 9-percent fair, 50-percent good, and 32-percent excellent.

In the south-central region, rivers were high with some flooding occurring the first week of April. Despite the very wet conditions, producers there and in the south east completed some fieldwork beginning in late March, planting spring cereals, beets and potatoes.

South central pasture and range grasses greened and grew nicely, while calving progressed at a steady pace.

Bingham and Bannock counties began spring fertilization operations; Jefferson County reported concern about vole damage.
Although some southeast winter wheat did not survive the winter, the crop condition statewide was just 1-percent poor, 32-percent fair, 59-percent good and 8-percent excellent.

Spring wheat is about 8-percent planted, a little ahead of last year’s 2-percent but lagging the 17-percent five-year average. Barley is 17-percent planted, dead even with the five-year average. Oats stand at 8-percent and, like wheat, its ahead of last year but behind the five-year average. 

Potatoes are just getting started at 3-percent planted. Sugarbeets are 12-percent, same as the five-year average. And onions are at 9-percent, quite a bit behind last year, when they were 33-percent planted.

The far north just started to get some warmer, drier weather, which began to melt remaining snow and dry the fields.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

State Resolution Meeting April 27th.

State Resolutions meeting April 26th, 2016, Putnam photo

State Resolutions Committee meeting Thursday, April 27, 2017

Boise—On Thursday April 27th, Farm Bureau delegates will gather at the Boise Farm Bureau’s Boise office for one of the most important policy meetings of the year, the Idaho Farm Bureau State Resolutions Committee. 

Legislative Affairs Director Russ Hendricks says the annual meeting is one of the purest exercises of grass root politics in Idaho.

 “Thats how our policies are developed,” said Hendricks. “If somebody has a concern or an issue or an obstacle on their operation, they bring it to a county development meeting. From there they discuss the issue and they vote on it. From there as they talk to other farm bureau members in other counties and gain support for their idea, it might get refined in the process but over time these ideas get voted on at the House of Delegates and can make it to the policy book and then we get to work on it at the Capitol.

The Legislative Affairs team lobbies Farm Bureau policy at the Statehouse. Hendricks says they had a successful year defending and promoting IFBF Policy.

“We had a pretty good year, agriculture overall fared well. We didn't get everything we were hoping to accomplish but a number of our priority issues were accomplished and we’re grateful for that,” Hendricks said.

But Hendricks said there were legislative setbacks.

“A couple of the disappointments that we did have, happened in  the Senate. They held bills in their desk drawers without committee hearings. House Bill 270 would have prohibited taxing districts from using taxpayer money to promote their bonds and levy elections. It seemed like a no-brainer, a basic fairness issue, but it didn't get a hearing in the House or Senate. We were real disappointed,” said Hendricks. 

Hendricks expects to see that taxing district bill back at the Statehouse.

“We’ll be in touch with the bills sponsors and encourage them to bring it back next year. We hope that it will be back. It’s a good issue for us because its about fairness and the use of taxpayer money shouldn't be used to promote taxing district's causes,” Hendricks said.

Hendricks says the resolution committee is made up of 10 delegates elected from the counties.

“The resolution committee is made up of two members from each of Idaho’s 5 Districts.  In the counties the delegates are elected by their peers to come and represent them at this Resolution committee. So at this meeting its 10 members plus the State Vice President Mark Trupp who will act as the chairman,” said Hendricks.

Who: Idaho Farm Bureau Federation
What: District Resolution Meeting
Where: Idaho Farm Bureau Building, 500 West Washington, Boise

When Thursday April 27th, 10-AM.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Grocery tax repeal rejected

Otter vetos repeal of state grocery tax on groceries

Boise—Idaho Governor Butch Otter on Tuesday night vetoed the bill that would repeal of the state sales tax on groceries.

“The costs of this particular proposal are too high and the potential for imminent financial need too great for the small amount of tax relief it would provide,” the governor wrote in his letter to Secretary of State Lawerence Denney.

The veto is no big surprise, Otter hinted that losing the estimated $80-million dollars would impact the state. Supporters rounded up 11th hour support and passed the measure on the final days of the legislative session despite the Governor lobbying against it.

Otter said that in the final weeks of the session that he was worried about flooding doing massive infrastructure to state roads and bridges from the floods and losing tax revenue would lead to major funding shortfalls.

“The income derived from a tax on groceries helps to even out the more dramatic ups and downs in our State revenue stream so that government avoids disruptive and dysfunctional shortfalls and funding holdbacks needed to balance the budget,” Otter wrote.

The Grocery tax repeal, Otter said, “has captured the popular imagination. It purports to provide tax relief for the working poor — a worthy ambition but one already accomplished through the grocery tax credit. The truth is this bill's benefits are largely imaginary while the downsides are many and very real.”