Monday, July 31, 2017

Canadian Trade Minister visits Idaho

Bryan Searle photo

If NAFTA isn’t broken, be careful how you fix it, says Canadian Ag Minister MacAulay

Boise--Canadian Minister of Agriculture Lawrence MacAulay met with Lt. Governor Brad Little,  and Idaho Farm Bureau President Bryan Searle and other Idaho Ag and trade leaders.

After a week of discussions last week with Northwest lawmakers it was hard for the Minister MacAulay to get away from the North American Free Trade Agreement.

"The minister and his staff were very appreciative Idaho and the United States for wanting to work together for mutual benefit," said Idaho Farm Bureau President Searle who attended Fridays meeting at the Idaho Department of Ag.

Searle asked in the meeting if there was anything Canada wanted to addressed or changed in NAFTA. MacAulay said that they were not the ones asking to renegotiate the treaty. But said that they were willing to see what happens and address issues as they arise. For instance he said, NAFTA was negotiated before the internet. He said since there are many technological things that need a closer look, but by and large NAFTA has worked.

“The message I hear on both sides of the border is ‘be sure how you fix something that’s not really broken," MacAulay told reporters after the meeting at the Department of Ag on Friday.

MacAulay spent time in Oregon and Idaho promoting the bilateral trade relationship between Canada and the United States. He also delivered a keynote address at the Pacific Northwest Economic Region Summit in Portland and another meeting in Sun Valley.

The meetings were timely with NAFTA renegotiations on the horizon, MacAulay says it’s important to understand the roles Canada, Mexico and the United States play in the agreement’s success.
The Ag minister used an agri-food example to illustrate how all three countries work together to enhance the success of the trade agreement.

“Using a hamburger as an example, let’s say the meat comes from Calgary, the grain for the bun comes from the United States and during the winter the tomato comes from Mexico,” said MacAulay. “Any time someone eats a hamburger, they’re eating something from all three countries.”

The Office of the United States Trade Representative released its negotiation objectives on July 17. The USTR outlined a number of ag-related objectives, including expanding trade markets and eliminating some tariffs.

"Canadians and Americans really do benefit from agricultural trade. Just last year, our countries exchanged more than $47 billion in agriculture and agri-food products. This relationship provides greater access to well-priced, high-quality foods and supports millions of middle-class jobs and strong rural communities on both sides of our border. My job is to work hard with all levels of government in the U.S. to ensure that the agriculture sector in North America continues to grow, and the best way to do that is by continuing to share a strong and open dialogue," said MacAulay.

MacAulay is confident US Ag Secretary Perdue’s previous experiences can help the negotiations progress smoothly.

“There’s absolutely no question Sonny Perdue knows the value of trade and appreciates the value of trade,” he said. “He's been a Governor for two terms and he’s a politician that’s fully aware of the value of NAFTA.”

Idaho Ag Director  Lt. Governor Little know the value of Canadian trade to Idaho. Trade north of the Idaho border means nearly a half billion dollars in trade year year and more than 32-thousand jobs.

Irrigation outlook

Despite Magic Valley Heat wave, Irrigation water supply at record levels

Twin Falls—With July in the record books, the 2017 season is unlike any the past five decades. That's according to Brian Olmstead general manager of the Twin Falls Canal Company.

“We’re in great shape,” said Olmstead. “The reservoirs are still well over 90-percent full and we’re not close to anybody running short on the whole river. It was on natural flow until mid-jury and since then even we’ve still been on good natural flows so far. Twin Falls Canal company, we’re still on almost entirely natural flows and probably will be for another week or two.”

Olmstead says that even with the heat and near record plantings, there’s still going to be a surplus.
“I think through the whole Twin Falls canal system we are going to carry over so much that we’ll probably have to release some water to get down to the reservoir winter levels. So nobody will run short, everyone will carry over water and we’re set up for a big water year next year,” added Olmstead.

Olmstead says that more than a quarter of a million acre feet of water was dedicated to recharge the Eastern Snake River Plain Aquifer.

“We did well over 300,000 feet that I know of on the Eastern Snake River Plain Aquifer. Thats the good thing that we have this much water.  When we have lot of reservoir water in the fall we can recharge with the storage because it has to go. It can’t go over Milner Dam so I think we might recharge another 100,000 this fall and that would unprecedented and thats an exciting prospect,” according to Olmstead.

Three hundred-thousand acre feet could stand as a recharge record, but Olmstead thats just what the Water Resource Board did.

“Above that there was quite a lot of private recharge and then there was all the recharge from out in the lava rock. I bet overall between natural and managed we probably did a million acre feet and thats the most ever,” he said.

The Magic Valley has weathered through a three weeks of scorching hot temperatures, but that hasn’t affected water supply in the least.

“The demand peaked the first week of July because thats when everyone was finishing grain. Even with all the grain shut down and the heat we’re still using less water. For instance on the Twin Falls system right now we’re using 3100 cubic feet per second. We were running 3500 cfs three weeks ago and thats the case for the rest of the Snake River Plain,” said Olmstead.

Triple digit heat shouldn’t affect irrigation on the Twin Falls system.

“The late season crops are sitting good because farmers have all covered their rows, corn, beans, beets and now they don't take as much water. And frankly its muggy with clouds every afternoon and that holds the moisture. Even though its hot the evaporation hasn’t been that high, unlike there in Boise,” said Olmstead.

Olmstead says this summer is a landmark year for Twin Falls Canal Company, but they can’t close the book on the 2017 season yet.
“We’re going to be talking about getting some more recharge done this fall and then looking forward to good water supply next year. Right now, I don’t now how we can miss,” said Olmstead.

Friday, July 28, 2017

2017 Wheat Harvest

Wheat Harvests underway

Emmett--Treasure Valley farmers are getting the wheat in. At Walton farms in Gem County, Tracy Walton is thrashing soft white Ovation wheat.

The USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service estimates average yields of 86 bushels per acre in Idaho, down 8.5 percent from 94 bushels per acre in 2016.

Idaho Wheat Commission executive director Blaine Jacobson confirmed a number of farmers are harvesting in North Ada and Gem County so far in Idaho, but more farmers will start harvesting this weekend.

“We expect good yields from our winter wheat,” Jacobson said. “We don't know if it will be as good as last year, we don't know much at this point.”

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

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

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

"Prices are slowing going up," said grower Tracy Walton and says they might break even this year.

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

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

Thursday, July 27, 2017

IFBF New Website

Idaho Farm Bureau Launches New Website                     

POCATELLO - The Idaho Farm Bureau Federation introduced a new website this week directed at better serving its 76,000 member families, and informing the general public about agriculture, natural resources and the organization’s grassroots policy.

Joel Benson, Idaho Farm Bureau’s manager of member benefits and digital marketing, said the new site will be more nimble and responsive to the needs of the membership.

“The new website at, utilizes responsive design, which means it’s clear and legible for all devices on any size screen,” Benson said. “As technology changes and improves over time it will adjust for the future needs of the organization.”

The new site includes a digital newsroom and will be updated daily (five days per week) to provide the most recent news and information including video and print news, photographs, blog posts and social media links.

Regarding advocacy, the site includes a new page that will help members stay informed on critical issues and provide several tools to encourage interaction with local, state and federal agencies and politicians.

In the member services category, the new website is a clearinghouse for the numerous programs provided to Farm Bureau members as well as an organization event calendar and pre-registration page for important meetings, conferences and seminars.

The new site was designed by Manwaring Web, an Idaho Falls firm and will be maintained and updated by Idaho Farm Bureau staff.

Wine and bees

Bitner Winery hosts Bee researchers

Sunnyslope—At the Bitner Winery south of Caldwell, Ron Bitner not only knows wine, he's one of the foremost authorities on bees in the Northwest.

Bitner hunches over an orange flowering plant at the edge of his vineyard with two exchange students from Ireland. They’re watching a burrowing bee at the base of the plant.

“The bee burrows a tiny little hole down six inches and they will gather pollen, lay the egg on it and then will come up and cover it. There were hundreds of them here early in the spring. I never used to have them until I planted these flowers six years ago,” 

And thats the point, Bitner has planted flower beds along the border of his chardonnay vineyard and his house. The flower beds are ten feed wide stretch a hundred yards. Bitner says they’re designed for bee diversity and build native bee populations.

The US Department of Agriculture released a report saying that parasites and disease have threatened bee populations and that enhanced genetic diversity is needed in bee colonies. Bitner’s  flowerbeds will help that and also helping are two exchange students staying at the vineyard from Ireland. Both are interested in bee research and learning as much as they can from Bitner.

Ruth Farnan from Dublin is studying out of the University of Idaho Agriculture Extension office in Parma.

“I think a lot more research needs to be done with mites and maybe how they transfer to native populations as well. Although people are worried about the commercial pollinators they’re forgetting about the pollinators that pollinate other plants. Bees are really important to plants and crops and they might be affected as well, and we’re studying them,” said Farnan.

The USDA estimates that one-third of all food and beverages in the United States come directly from bee pollination. Canyon County is one of the most important counties in the nation because a lot of the nation’s seed crops come from this county.

Farnan says something as simple as bee gardens could help bring populations back to sustainable levels.

“You can start a pollinator garden, theres a lot of information on the net, about what plants are good for your area and you can find good ones for wild pollinators and not just the honey bee they are important too. theres a lot of products you can buy and look into that and buy organic sustainable food that supports pollinators. We need a bit more pollinator programs. It’s important for all of us to look out after the bees,” said Farnan.

Student Kim White of Dublin says she's impressed with the U of I Extension program, she’s now considering writing her thesis on bees.

“I just want a good experience, I want to bring some of things I learn here back to Ireland back to my studies. We do a lot of lab based research we don't get that much opportunity in Ireland So that is what I want to do and bring it back to Ireland and possibly find a title for my thesis,” said White.

“Working with Ron Bitner has been interesting because I’m learning about the leaf cutter bee and alfalfa. We don't have the leaf cutter bee in Ireland and it’s been very unique. I definitely have an interest in apiology, I think thats something I might look into doing for a living,” said Farnan.

A decline in bee colonies puts pressure on agriculture in Canyon County. The alfalfa that powers the state dairy industry is pollinated by bees. Bitner vineyards and the young researchers are working to find answers to curb bee mortality.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

2018 Farm Bill

Groups outline priorities for Farm Bill 2018

Washington-The American Farm Bureau, Independent Community Bankers, AFBF, ASA were among those testifying at Senate farm bill hearing yesterday afternoon on Capitol Hill.

The groups are outlining their goals and priorities for the next farm bill. On July 25, the Senate Agriculture Committee held a hearing focused on credit and crop insurance, "Commodities, Credit, and Crop Insurance: Perspectives on Risk Management Tools and Trends for the 2018 Farm Bill."

The Bankers of America are asking for a multi-year farm bill that allows multi-year business decision-making.

The American Farm Bureau Federation is calling on Congress to maintain a unified farm bill that keeps nutrition and farm programs in the same bill. Crop insurance industry leaders stressed the importance of crop insurance in their testimony.

A Montana sugar beet grower testified in favor of maintaining a strong no-cost U.S. sugar policy in the bill. Soybean farmer Kevin Scott testified on the importance of risk management programs.

American Farm Bureau outlines priorities
The American Farm Bureau went to the Committee hearing with a specific agenda.
"Congress must counter a steep, four-year drop in commodity prices that has left farmers and ranchers in worse shape than any time since the farm depression of the 1980s," Kentucky Farm Bureau President Mark Haney told members of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

“2017 and 2018 will be a critical period for farmers and ranchers,” Haney said. “Farmers and ranchers are tightening their belts and paying very close attention to their individual financial situations. Simply put, they are in greater need of strong, secure safety net programs and risk management tools than has been the case for several years.”

To offset the effects of deteriorating farm and ranch conditions, Haney said, Congress should:

Protect current farm bill spending.
Maintain a unified farm bill that includes nutrition programs and farm programs together.
Ensure any changes to current farm legislation be an amendment to the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938 or the Agricultural Act of 1949.
Prioritize top funding concerns -- risk management tools, which include both federal crop insurance and Title I commodity programs.
Ensure programs are compliant with World Trade Organization agreements.
Maintain robust funding for conservation programs that encourage environmentally sensitive farming practices as well as the periodic withdrawal of land from active use.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Just in

Sydney Butler named Miss Rodeo Idaho

Nampa--Sydney Butler, 21 of Boise was named Miss Rodeo Idaho at the Conclusion of the Snake River Stampede in Nampa over the weekend.

After five long days of scorching heat, dust and stiff competition Butler was crowned, she says Miss Rodeo Idaho was the culmination of hard work and dreams.

"I really didn’t know how it was going during the competition," said Butler. " I did know I did my best all week and I was proud of for that but I wasn’t sure If I had it in the bag. But they started listing off categories winners and one by one and slowly I kept checking them off in my mind and when they called my name, it was just surreal. I had so many friends and family there supporting and was just a burst of family and friends. There were hugs all around, and then they had to get all of these pictures and it was a whirlwind."

Butler says her favorite part of the competition involved dust, the arena and riding skills and adds it was also the hardest.

"My favorite event was horsemanship, its the event I worked the hardest for and I actually ended up winning that category so that was exciting for me. We rode horses we had never seen before, so here we were in the horsemanship contest on horses that we’ve never ridden.  We had to do a pattern on one horse and then got on another horse and then we did some rail work, but it was really fun. It was  competitive and all the girls did well but I was lucky to pull it off," she said.

The recent college graduate won things she'll value all her life, a trophy saddle and a chance to further her education.

"First off, Simplot generously donated a saddle. The former miss Rodeo Idaho sponsored a bridle, headstall. Overall I won $5500 in scholarships sponsored by a few individuals and the Snake River Stampede and the Miss Rodeo Board. I walked away with some jewelry from Dales jewelry. So lots of pretty things, lots of useful things and the scholarships, its all so amazing and I'm thankful," said Butler.

From here on Sydney says she'll take a week off and then hit the road with a new perspective.

"As of now Im still a lady in waiting to the Miss Rodeo Idaho. I will go down and support her at the Miss Rodeo America pageant in Vegas in December before taking over the crown myself in January. From there I'll be going to rodeos, school visits and media interviews. I'll have talking appearances all over the state and  the nation, traveling with the other state Queens. It will all culminate with the Miss Rodeo America pageant down in Las Vegas in December of 2018," said Butler.

The Miss Rodeo Idaho in waiting, says the honor hasn't fully set in.

"It's incredible and I can’t wait to represent the State of Idaho, the Snake River Stampede and Miss Rodeo Idaho. Next year I'm wondering if I need a job to hold me over in the mean time, but I'll be plenty busy," she said.

Monday, July 24, 2017

ESA Reform Bills in front of House Natural Resources Committee

Washington—Western ranchers are keeping a close eye on a bill that would delist gray wolves in the Great Lakes region.

The bill give states a larger role in listing species and cap attorney fees awarded to Endangered Species Act litigants.

The legislation had a hearing last week in front of the House Natural Resources Committee and is designed to weaken the ESA by Republican lawmakers.

They say current law cripples economic progress and does little more than prevent species extinction instead of actually helping the species recovery.

Republican Chair Rob Bishop of Utah, said that “in coordination with our colleagues in the Senate and this administration,” the five bills discussed at the hearing will “lay the foundation for ESA reform.”

The panel's ranking member, Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz, says the bills are just “warmed over” proposals from 2014 and represent “only a small sample of the 200-plus legislative proposals to weaken the ESA that have been floated since Republicans took control of the House in 2011.”

Following the hearing, Grijalva said he expects the committee majority would try to kick the bills out of committee and send them to the House floor, but says at this point he doesn't know when it will happen. He also said he and other Democrats on the committee want to get more public input on the bills.

“We have public opinion on our side and will also begin to deal directly with the Senate early to engage them,” Grijalva said. “We have some pretty strong advocates in the Senate.”

Asked about plans to move the bills through committee, a committee spokesperson said the bills “target specific areas of the law that are identified as failing” but that other ESA-related bills might be addressed “as the House develops broader based reforms.”

Four of the bills address domestic ESA issues, while one would ease restrictions on captive breeding of animals by preventing nonnative species found in the U.S. from being treated as threatened or endangered under the ESA.

Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., spoke in favor of H.R. 424, which would reinstate 2011 delisting rules for gray wolves in the Great Lakes region. A federal judge reversed the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision in 2014, which Peterson said “suddenly put farmers and ranchers throughout Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan in a very difficult situation. Right now its illegal for a farmer to shoot a gray wolf thats actively attacking cattle or pets. When attacks occur, my constituents are forced to choose between following the law or protecting their livestock and livelihoods.”

The bill is backed by the American Farm Bureau Federation, Minnesota Farmers Union, the Public Lands Council and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and all sent letters of support to the committee.

The bill also would “protect Wyoming from further judicial overreach,” Peterson said. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled earlier this year that wolves in Wyoming should be returned to state control, reversing a ruling by a district court judge who had agreed with environmental groups that the Fish and Wildlife Service's 2014 delisting rule was unlawful.

Another bill, H.R. 1274, introduced by Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., would require that FWS and NMFS consider all data submitted by states, tribes, and local governments, as the “best scientific and commercial data available,” the standard imposed by the law, when making listing and critical habitat decisions.

Sheehan recommended modifying the bill to require that FWS simply consider the data when making its decisions. Automatically classifying data submitted by states, tribes and local authorities as the best available “without regard to its quality, would be a significant departure from scientific integrity standards,” Sheehan said.

H.R. 3131, introduced by Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Mich., would cap attorney fee awards in ESA cases at $125 an hour. Republican lawmakers have for years attacked environmental groups that sue frequently using the ESA citizen-suit provision, claiming that they are using the law to bankroll their organizations. The bill also would require a litigant to “prevail” in order to receive attorney fees. Under the ESA, courts can award litigations whenever such costs are deemed “appropriate.”

Friday, July 21, 2017

President's Op-Ed

Time for a NAFTA Tune-UP

By Zippy Duvall, American Farm Bureau President

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

2nd Crop of Hay

Idaho Farmers harvest second hay crop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the Voice of Idaho Agriculture, this is Jake Putnam

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

2017 IFBF Summer Presidents Meeting

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

FBF Women's Leadership Committee Meets at Summer Presidents Meeting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


‘Just a farmer’

By John Schlageck

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

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

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

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

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

Just a farmer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 17, 2017

Spring Wheat Responds to Supply Concerns

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

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

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

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

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

Supply Concerns Spur Price Rally

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Vineyards Wiped out

Vineyards lose ’17 crop

Jake Putnam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bitner has reserves that he’ll market this year:

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

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

For the Voice of Idaho Agriculture Im Jake Putnam

Friday, July 14, 2017

Bee mortality research

Simpson Applauds Secretary Zinke for Craters of the Moon Decision

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Tax relief now

Farms and Ranches Need Tax Relief Now, Farmer Tells Congress 

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

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

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

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

Wheat acres down, Millers worried

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt Credit: AFBF 

Pruitt, Zinke Visit State Farm Bureau Presidents

By Mace Thornton

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

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

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke Credit: AFBF

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

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

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

More markets open after BSE restrictions

US Beef opens another market

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 10, 2017

Potato acres down

Potato acres down in 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Flood recovery funds

NRCS Idaho accepting applications for flood recovery funds

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


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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 7, 2017

Just in

Scaling back Cuban trade hurts Ag

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

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

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

Senator Rand Paul is critical of the cold war embargo.

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

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

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

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

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

Read more here:

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Western Governors meet


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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Wheat acres down this year

Planted acres down, prices up 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Food prices down

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 3, 2017

First harvest: two weeks

Idaho Wheat rallies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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...