Tuesday, August 22, 2017

2017 Potato crop

2016 Packing season over, 2017 outlook bright

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 21, 2017

Just in

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

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

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Jefferson County Fair

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

Range Tour

Ranchers, BLM Meet to Tour Morgan Creek Allotment

Article and photo by John Thompson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just in

Ag leaders agree to show united front in latest farm bill

By Ron Sterk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Rate change

Theres change brewing on the Idaho range

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

From Capitol Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Eclipse 2017

This road north of Weiser is dead center in the eclipse path of the totality, its also on the Chandler ranch

Eclipse County Prepares for Worst

Weiser—As the eclipse nears, Washington County officials are bracing for the crush of people expected to gather under the path of eclipse totality. 

Next Monday the population of the county could triple and  beside that, their biggest fear is wildfire.

“The main thing we’re concerned with is the fire danger and our ability to fight fires. We worry about law enforcement and Emergency Medical Services to meet the needs of people. This is a hard thing to prepare for because we don't know whats going to happen,” said Washington County Commissioner Kirk Chandler.

Chandler says his office could see as many as a 100,000 visitors, another study predicted just 10-thousand. Nonetheless, Chandler says just 10-15-thousand visitors could grid lock tiny Washington County. One study shows that Weiser is the closest eclipse location in the path of totality for the 38-million people living in nearby metro areas Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

“It’s frustrating because we don't have any idea how many people, we hear of new groups and more people everyday and we have to plan for that, we hope this week when people start showing up that we can get an idea and plan accordingly,” said Chandler.

After record snowfall and precipitation this spring, tall grass in Washington County is at record levels and in some places is over a foot high. Ranchers met with Commissioners last week. Some wanted to close roads to keep people from touching off wildfires on the range.

“We’ve considered that but most of those road access public lands and it would put the County at a huge liability to close off public lands. The Sheriff is meeting with the Bureau of Land Management and the US Forest Service. The Forest Service is not closing any of their roads, we know people are getting maps and they intend to go there,” said Chandler.

Chandler says in Washington County landowners can post no trespassing signs on their land and protect it, but for the most part roads will be open as usual. Rancher, next door neighbor and son, Cody Chandler says his land is at ground zero. It is touted as the most optimal spot in the Pacific Northwest to view the eclipse.

“My biggest concern is the fact that ground on both sides of the road have fuel loads more than a foot high. This is where we graze our cattle, especially in the fall. A lot of this feed will get us through the middle of winter and there is a lot of fuel for fire. All it takes is a single car pulling off the road with a hot muffler touching off a range fire. I think if it happens, it would be just about unstoppable,” said Cody Chandler.

Chandler urges motorists to stay on the roadside and do not drive off gravel shoulder. If you see tall grass, don’t drive into it. 

“Keep hot exhaust pipes and anything that can ignite wildfire away from the tall grass. We will have visitors that have never been around brown grass. A cigarette butt or anything like that could ignite this grass in an instant and it’s our worst fear,” added Chandler.

Commissioner Chandler says his ranch is bordered by two county roads and says he's been burned out in the past because of careless motorists. With all the threats at home and in the county they’re taking no chances next week.

“We’re setting up an Incident Command Center that starts this Friday. We’ll set up HAM radios in case the cell towers get over loaded and we’ll be in touch with the Idaho Command Center. We declared a disaster in our county due to the eclipse way back on the 19th of June just as a precaution,” said Kirk Chandler.

Washington County suffered through a four-month disaster when buildings started collapsing under the weight of deep snow starting last January. The County had 228 buildings collapse and it took out $2.4 million dollars in County assessed value. Their command center operated all winter from the snow and into June with spring flooding.

“We have an idea of what to do, but a fire is much more complex for the Country.”

Monday, August 14, 2017

USDA Supply and Demand Estimates report

USDA says Wheat, Corn yields up this year

Washington-Farmers hoping for a good crop report last Thursday had their hopes dashed by the USDA’s predictions of strong wheat and corn yields. So much that the report dropped the futures market on the Chicago Board of Trade.

“This is a pretty big shock to the market,” said John Newton, the director for market intelligence at the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Market watchers expected the new forecasts in USDA’s monthly World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report to push yield estimates down for both crops, Newton said, but it was the opposite.

The new USDA report – the forecast for this year’s corn, soybeans, wheat and cotton – is predicting the average corn yield at 169.5 bushels per acre. That slightly below the August prediction, but up sharply from market expectations of about 166 bushels, Newton said.

“We’re right on the trend line in terms of yield, but that puts us above the trade expectations,” USDA Chief Economist Rob Johansson said today about the new corn numbers.

The report pegged total corn production at 14.2 billion bushels, a 102 million bushel decrease from the July projection. If achieved, that would represent a 7 percent drop from last year, but still the third highest yield and production on record for the US.

USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service interviewed more than 21,000 farmers in the largest farming states that make up 75 percent of US. production.

“It’s just completely bearish news across the board for corn and soybeans at a time when farm income and commodity prices are already so low,” Newton said. The reports sent commodity prices in a tailspin. September corn finished the day 15 cents lower; September soybeans dropped 32 cents.

Thursday’s reports also projected a one percent decrease in wheat production from July estimates. Yet yields could make up for the cut back in wheat production. This month’s WASDE is based on pre-Aug. 1 data, so the situation could still change, according to a Farm Bureau analysis released today.

“With the 2017/18 crop still in the ground, a significant amount of uncertainty remains,” the AFBF report stressed. “Given that many fields are far from maturity, these yields and production numbers are subject to revision in the coming months.”

USDA’s Johansson agreed, saying: “We still have a month of weather to push the soybean numbers around a little bit.”

For now, though, the situation is grim.

“There’s still a lot of uncertainty left, but I certainly think that a lot of folks were hoping to see yields come down a little bit and provide an opportunity to lock in some more favorable prices for some of that new crop,” Newton said. “That’s certainly not the case after Thursday’s report.”

Friday, August 11, 2017

Farm Bureau Scholarship Winner

Boise--Beth Carter of the Ada County Farm Bureau presents Ross Blattner of Kuna a Farm Bureau state scholarship. Blattner will attend the University of Idaho this fall with hopes of earning an Ag Systems Management degree.


Idaho Farm Bureau President Bryan Searle takes the floor at the AFBF House of Delegates
AFBF Policy Analysis Versus Policy Development

Washington--The American Farm Bureau Federation has a long and proud history of carefully evaluating the economics of policy proposals in order to understand potential pitfalls and other unintended consequences. At the same time AFBF has, since its inception, had a well-defined process for determining the organization’s policy positions. Each year the organization’s delegate body of farmer and rancher members deliberates and responds to challenges facing agriculture.

Following the Delegates work, the AFBF Board of Directors interprets and gives direction to AFBF staff to proceed with advocacy actions to communicate the message from farmers and ranchers to leaders in all branches of government.

With Congress moving past the opening days of debate on the next farm bill, AFBF economists will once again take up the challenge of analyzing the effects of various policy alternatives. Two recent analysis pieces look at two specific commodities – cotton and dairy – that are facing challenges in terms of the federal safety nets (Are MPP Dairy Improvements on the Way? and Cotton Coming Back in Title I?). These commodities have been subjected to considerable discussion by Farm Bureau members, as well as by AFBF’s Board of Directors.

The Congressional Budget Office’s June 2017 Baseline for Farm Programs reveals that both of these commodities, under the current Farm Bill, have very limited safety net support: 2017 to 2027 budget outlays for dairy are estimated at $839 million and for cotton these outlays are estimated at $874 million. Based on these CBO projections, program payments for cotton and dairy represent 1.5 percent and 0.18 percent of the of the farm value of these commodities, respectively.

This means that in order to provide additional support in the near term, as is being proposed in the Senate Ag appropriations measure, resources will need to found and likely to also require finding 60 votes when the measure comes to the Senate floor. These political realities point to why the analysis has been done and critical to helping Farm Bureau, from the grassroots members to leadership, evaluate and determine our position and advocating from that decision.

To state it another way, the purpose of economic analysis is to help inform the membership and the leadership of Farm Bureau on the potential effects of these proposals on farmers and ranchers. It is not a Farm Bureau policy position, which is the purview of the membership and the Board. Analysis can help inform that process, but will never – should never – replace it.

2017 Potato crop

2016 Packing season over, 2017 outlook bright Rigby—Rigby Produce outside of Rigby reached a milestone this past week. The 2016 season ...