Thursday, February 22, 2018

Farm Income up

Idaho net farm income up 15 percent in 2017

BOISE — After a harsh start last spring,  net farm income in Idaho rose 15-percent last year.

The year-end 2017 receipts showed that Idaho net farm income blasted past the USDA’s projected 3- percent increase for all US agriculture.

University of Idaho economist Garth Taylor testified in front of the House Agriculture Committee and gave his annual “Financial Condition of Idaho Agriculture” report.

“Idaho is on a different track than national agriculture and I’m always amazed,” said Taylor. Net farm income is a farmers revenue minus expenses and that represents the farmer’s bottom line.

According to the report farm input expenses were up 2-percent but net farm income still climbed to15-percent.

“Its because we had a 5-percent farm revenue increase across the board. That's the first increase in net farm income in four years,” said Taylor, "Resulting in $1.9 billion in total net farm income for Idaho farmers last year."

Taylor told the committee that dairy leads the way in Idaho.

“A third of our cash receipts come from dairy. “It’s the 900-pound gorilla in the Idaho economy. It’s not famous potatoes, now its famous dairy that’s driving the state,” said Taylor.

Dairy, cattle, and potatoes are the state’s main commodities in terms of income dollars.

“2017 showed solid improvement over last year in terms of cash receipts,” according to Taylor. “The improvement was led by our two biggest commodities, potatoes and dairy. And then there are cattle, that’s driving income as well but clearly, net earnings in dairy drove profits, yet dairy is still below historical averages.”

Taylor’s report also revealed that Idaho net farm income dropped the three previous years — 3-percent in 2014, 9-percent in 2015 and 8-percent in 2016.

“Some farmers say this is the best year in the past 10,” Taylor told the committee “Potatoes and onions helped a lot this year.”

But the report also revealed that low commodity prices continue to threaten the bottom line on the farm.

“After the past three years, we’ll take it,” said Taylor.

Taylor’s report had peaks, valleys, and surprises, like this gem: Idaho’s net farm income has grown 100 percent more than the US since 1997.

“Like I said, we’re on a different track in Idaho than the rest of the nation. Far different,” Taylor said.

Taylor says 60 percent of our cash receipts in Idaho come from livestock and prices were good. “When you start to add in the hay, feed barley, corn, and other feedstocks we’re up 70-80 percent. Idaho’s cash receipts are also driven by the livestock industry.”

Looking to 2018 Dr. Taylor says there are also points of concern in the livestock sector.

“Hay is going to be down and it follows corn and we have surplus stocks of grain out there and that always means the feed is going to be down. That means farmers this spring will look to spuds for a cash crop and you know what happens,” said Taylor. “Prices will be down and it’s going to take a lot to get back where we were in 2017.”

Milk prices started flat in January and have not improved. Taylor says a few dairies are canceling contracts and there have been herd liquidations. “This may be the first time in 2018 where we may see a reduction in herd sizes. It'll be at least the second half of 2018 before we see a turn around in milk prices,” said Taylor.

The UI report revealed Idaho farm expenses topped $6.24 billion in 2017, that's up 2-percent over the $6.14 billion total in 2016.

Also, a 1-percent decrease in costs for farm origin inputs and capital consumption were offset by a 1-percent increase in contract labor costs, a 7 percent increase in property taxes and fees and a 5 percent increase in payments to stakeholders.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

SRS Funding Shortfalls

Secure Rural Schools Act Anything But Secure

Grangeville—Rural Idaho Counties have not received a single Secure Rural Schools and Self-Determination Act or SRS payment in more than 18 months.

Rural Idaho counties usually get the SRS checks in March.

“We haven’t had a check since March of 2015,” said Idaho County Commissioner Mark Frei out of Grangeville.

“We’re working without $1.2 million dollars that we usually have in our operating Road and Bridge budget,” Frei says things are so bad they’ve had to make drastic measures.

“So we have to levy higher taxes on everyone that lives within this Road and Bridge Highway District,” he said.

The SRS is administered by the US Forest Service and originally passed in 2000. Before 2000, many of rural communities supported by this act depended on receiving 25 percent of timber sale revenues from nearby national forests to pay for schools and other critical town infrastructure.

“It was initially approved for six years back in 1995,” said Adams County Commissioner Mike Paradis. “Ever since then it was attached to other bills in various forms. In 2015 we had our last payment and it was $774,000. This year we’re working on a budget of $14,494 dollars.”

Paradis says that roads in Adams County are not being repaired, and many paved roads will go back to gravel. He says Adams will have to tax users just to keep roads and bridges operable. But he says there’s talk of another SRS bill.

“Senators Hatch and Wyden have created another bill but we got to pass a budget, Congress has yet to pass that, so we’re operating on what timber sale receipts that are out there,” said Paradis.

There’s a growing restlessness in the West. Western senators are urging the Trump White House and the US budget office to honor the government's promise to fund the Secure Rural Schools and Self-Determination Act.

“SRS funding extends a lifeline to rural communities by funding road repairs, schools and law enforcement to communities. Our rural counties are dependent on the federal government to help with taxes,” said Idaho Senator Mike Crapo.

The SRS grew out of the 2000 Craig-Wyden Bill to pay rural counties for the decline in timber harvests. SRS provides 775 rural counties across the nation and 4,000 schools with funds to support public services including roads and forest health. PILT compensates local governments for non-taxable federal lands in their jurisdictions to provide roads maintenance and law enforcement.

Since expiration last March, rural counties haven’t had enough money for basic services like law enforcement, road repairs, and snow removal.

According to the Idaho Association of Counties, Idaho County has lost more money than any other county, nearly $7.3 million. Five counties will lose more than a million dollars including Boundary, Clearwater, Custer, Lemhi, Shoshone, and Valley. Adams County has seen more and more logging open up this past year.

“If we can’t get SRS funding we need to open up the forests for logging. Evergreen Forest Products in Tamarac put on another shift because they have the volume to do that, but it is still not enough to fund Road and Bridge,” said Commissioner Paradis.

With gridlock in Congress, Idaho Counties are not optimistic about funding this winter.

“The Congressional delegation says they’re working on it, but it’s not really going anywhere, so we have to levy taxes,” said Idaho County Commissioner Frei. But he says Senator Crapo continues to work SRS behind the scenes.

“We stressed the importance of prioritizing the SRS program in the federal budgeting process,” said Crapo in his last Town Hall meeting in Kamiah. 

“SRS payments provide critical revenues to more than 4,400 schools throughout the country. In many cases, these ‘forest counties’ include massive swaths of public lands in national forests,” said Crapo.

Right now a simple two-year extension is a realistic goal according to County Commissioners. Senator Crapo said in the Town Hall meetings that he wants a long-term effort that’ll provide rural counties stable funding allowing counties to fund programs and move forward, “that’s what our goal is,” added Crapo.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Groundwater meter deadline

IDWR reminds groundwater pumpers of April 1 deadline for installing groundwater meters

BOISE – The Idaho Department of Water Resources is reminding farmers who use groundwater for irrigation in the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer region that they must install department-approved flow meters prior to the beginning of the 2018 irrigation season, which typically commences on April 1.

Groundwater pumpers who fail to comply will have their water supply shut off until they install the flow meters.

“We’re giving them a head’s up that the department will be forced to curtail water use for those who don’t comply at the start of irrigation season,” IDWR Deputy Director Mathew Weaver said.

About 60 percent of the farmers who irrigate with groundwater have complied so far, according to IDWR records, with less than 45 days to go before the compliance deadline. About 5,400 groundwater wells in the ESPA region are subject to the requirement. Domestic and stock water wells and small irrigation wells servicing less than five acres are exempt.

IDWR officials encourage farmers to notify their groundwater districts that they have complied with the order to ensure compliance records are accurate.

A number of groundwater districts have grant funds available to help farmers with the cost of installing the meters, said Lynn Tominaga, executive director of the Idaho Ground Water Appropriators.

“We’ve been working hard to obtain grant funds to help farmers with the expense of installing flow meters in a timely manner, and we’ve got about $2.8 million available,” Tominaga said. “Farmers should contact their groundwater districts to learn how to apply, and do it quickly.”

Groundwater users can file a variance request if they qualify.

“To give the department time to process them, all variance requests should be filed with the IDWR state office by March 1,” Weaver said. Here is a web link to a variance request form and more information about eligibility requirements for variances.

IDWR Director Gary Spackman issued an order on July 20, 2016, requiring the installation of department-approved flow meters for all qualifying groundwater users in the ESPA region by the start of the 2018 irrigation season. In addition, the historic water settlement agreement forged by the Surface Water Coalition and IGWA in 2015 specifically require groundwater pumpers to install flow meters.

The Director’s order required non-irrigation groundwater users such as cities, manufacturing plants, dairies and others to install approved flow meters by January 1, 2018. According to IDWR records, more than 50 percent of those users complied.

The purpose of the director’s order is to provide the most accurate information to IDWR and groundwater districts about groundwater consumption in the ESPA region. The ESPA has been over-drafted by about 200,000 acre-feet per year since the 1950s. The meters also will help IGWA and groundwater districts track groundwater use reductions as required in the water settlement agreement.

Besides curtailment of their water supply, groundwater users failing to comply with the director’s order also could face civil penalties of up to $10,000 per violation.

“We are hoping that our efforts to inform groundwater users about the compliance deadlines will minimize the number of curtailments,” Weaver said. “We see water shut-offs and a Notice of Violation as a last resort. But we will not be soft on enforcement has given approximately 60 percent of the affected water users have complied with our order and have already purchased and installed measurement devices. We want to be clear that this is a mandatory requirement.”

Affected groundwater users can reach out to IDWR staff, local water districts or groundwater districts officials to receive assistance with technical questions associated with flow meter installation. The water district and IDWR staff will be conducting flow meter inspections through March. Inspections will increase on April 1, officials said.

If water users have questions about the water meter installations, contact Brian Ragan, 208-287-4800 or

FFA Week

FFA Members Across the Country to Celebrate National FFA Week
INDIANAPOLIS Agriculture is part of our daily livesfrom the food we eat to the clothes we wear. Next week, more than 653,000 FFA members will celebrate the role agriculture plays in our lives while sharing the message of agricultural education as part of National FFA Week.

National FFA Week is a time for FFA members to host activities that raise awareness about the role the National FFA Organization plays in the development of agriculture's future leaders and the importance of agricultural education.
National FFA Week always runs Saturday to Saturday and encompasses Feb. 22, George Washington's birthday. This year, the week kicks off on Feb. 17 and culminates on Feb. 24.

The National FFA Board of Directors designated the weeklong tradition, which began in 1948, in recognition of Washington's legacy as an agriculturist and farmer. A group of young farmers founded FFA in 1928, influencing generations that agriculture is more than planting and harvesting it involves science, business and more. The organization’s mission is to prepare future generations for the challenges of feeding a growing population.

Today, FFA continues to help the next generation meet new agricultural challenges, develop unique talents and explore a broad range of career pathways. Today's FFA members are tomorrow's future biologists, chemists, veterinarians, engineers and entrepreneurs.

National FFA Week is a time for FFA members to share agriculture with their fellow students as well as their communities. Chapters also give back to their communities through service projects and recruit students to become FFA members. For example, next week, the Kenmare FFA Chapter in North Dakota will work with local partners to fix up apartments at the Community Housing Facility. These apartments are part of a nonprofit that houses community members in need. Another chapter, located in Whiteland, Ind., will collect supplies for 100 art kits that will go to a local children’s hospital. These are just two examples of the service events during the week.

During National FFA Week, the six national officers will visit chapters across the country. Western Region Vice President Bryce Cluff will visit Utah; Gracie Furnish, eastern region vice president, will visit Alabama; Erica Baier, central region vice president, will visit Virginia; Ian Bennett, southern region vice president, will visit Colorado; Piper Merritt, national secretary, will visit Indiana; and National FFA President Breanna Holbert will visit Minnesota.

National FFA Week is also a time for alumni and sponsors to advocate for agricultural education and FFA. On Tuesday, Feb. 20, the National FFA Foundation will celebrate Give FFA Day, a 24-hour campaign encouraging the public to support various needs impacting FFA members. If interested in giving, visit On Wednesday, alumni and supporters will celebrate Alumni Day and announce a new benefit for members. Friday, Feb. 23, FFA members and supporters are encouraged to wear blue and show their FFA pride!

Sponsored by Tractor Supply Company, National FFA Week will be featured on social media as well. Follow the #FFAweek hashtag on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and don’t miss @NationalFFA Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat posts, including posts from the National FFA Officer Team while on the road. Visit

The National FFA Organization provides leadership, personal growth and career success training through agricultural education to 653,359 student members who belong to one of 8,568 local FFA chapters throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The organization is also supported by 344,239 alumni members in 2,051 alumni chapters throughout the U.S. 

Monday, February 19, 2018

Farm Economy

Net Farm Income up 15-Percent

BOISE — After a harsh start last spring, total net farm income in Idaho rose 15 percent last year.

The final receipts showed that Idaho net farm income blasted past the USDA’s projected 3 percent increase for all US agriculture. That’s according to University of Idaho economist Garth Taylor who testified in front of the House Ag Committee and gave his annual “Financial Condition of Idaho Agriculture” report.

“Idaho is on a different track than national agriculture and I’m always amazed,” said Taylor. Taylor explained to the Committee that Net farm income is a farmers revenue minus expenses and that represents the farmer’s bottom line.

“Farm expenses were up 2-percent but net farm income climbed to 15-percent,” said Taylor. “Its because we had a 5-percent farm revenue increase across the board. That's the first increase in net farm income here in Idaho in four years.”

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Idaho Legislature 2018

Boyle’s Trespass Bill Clears Ag Committee

Boise—The House Agricultural Affairs Committee overwhelmingly voted to support Rep. Judy Boyle’s, Trespass Bill.

The committee voted 14-1 in support of strengthening Idaho’s outdated Trespass Statutes and sent the bill to the floor of the House.

The one vote against came from House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding of Boise.

The Ag Committee was packed with farmers and ranchers with trespass horror stories including Idaho Farm Bureau President Bryan Searle who testified that the trespassing fine is so low, that it’s not worth the Sheriffs time in his county.

“We’ve experienced all kinds of damage,” said Searle. “At my farm in Shelley, we’ve had pivot tires shot up, fertilizer tanks shot full of bullet holes, we’ve had people drive through plowed fields. We even had a demolition derby with a couple of our tractors, not to mention garbage dumped in our fields.”

Searle says deputies responded to their calls but all he can do is file a report, with just a $50 fine for trespass there’s no investigation, and in all his years farming, he’s seen just a single arrest for littering.

“Farmers want people to enjoy the land, but the challenge comes with vandalism when they damage machinery or shoot things up. We have to have something in place so when we are violated there’s a penalty rather than a $50 fine or what I call 'a fee to have fun'. Fines need to be updated and we need to put some bite into the statute,” said Searle

Cody Chandler from Washington County testified that on his ranch they’re seeing more and more incidences of trespass each year.

“I’’m not an advocate of locking gates, they just keep honest people out, but we continue to have more and more cut fences and vandalism. We had a guy make off with some of our cattle and drove across our property to do it, If we had a stronger statute we could have got him for trespass and subsequently theft, but the laws are so weak we were violated twice.”

Some on the committee thought the bill was too rushed and needed vetting, others questioned its legality but attorney, Gary Allen representing the Idaho Property Rights Coalition said he disagreed with those interpretations.

“The Girl Scouts are not going to become trespassers or felons,” he said, referring to committee concerns that anyone who sets foot on private property without permission could become a felon.

Allen stressed that the bill targets repeat offenders, not people who get lost or accidentally trespass. To that point, Boyle added, that she wants a three-strikes clause: if within a 10-year period someone is convicted of two trespassing charges, the third offense is a felony.

When it comes to trespassing on rural property, the county sheriff’s office enforces the law and the county prosecutor prosecutes offenders. Still, some committee members thought the bill to be too harsh and that some convicted felons could lose the right to carry a firearm and to vote.

Boyle, an avid hunter, and rancher said that Idaho Fish and Game already has a third-trespass-is-a-felony rule. She said her bill adds the exact same language to the criminal trespass section of the law.

“This is all geared to the habitual offender,” she said. “The felony provision has been in Idaho Fish and Game since 1986. No one has demanded it be taken out of the code.”

Boyle says her bill has widespread support: “We’re not talking about public land. We’re talking about private property. People who pay taxes and paid for their land.”

She reminded the committee that 62 percent of Idaho is public land. “There’re plenty of opportunities to fish and hunt without trespassing on private land,” said Boyle.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Video of McDonald House Donation

The Idaho Farm Bureau’s Women’s Leadership Committee met at Boise's Ronald McDonald House this morning with a check that will benefit critically ill children and their families.

Women's Leadership Committee Makes Donation

Leadership Committee Donates to McDonald House

Boise--The Idaho Farm Bureau’s Women’s Leadership Committee met at Boise's Ronald McDonald House this morning with a check that will benefit critically ill children and their families.

The mission of the Ronald McDonald House is to provide a “home away from home” for families of sick and injured children receiving medical treatment at Saint Lukes Medical Center in Boise. Executive Director Mindy Plumlee says more than 500 families spent time at the facility last year and they're almost always booked.

"I think it's wonderful that we are able to bring a focus to something that's so essential.This is a 19 bedroom house and we're at capacity," said Plumlee. "That's why we welcome the Farm Bureau Women's committee donation and all they do for us, It means so much to families staying here."

The Ronald McDonald House, located on Main St. near St. Luke's Hospital, started in 1988 and provides affordable alternative housing for out-of-town families with children who require medical treatment.

Built in the early 1900s and purchased by the late J.R. Simplot for the Ronald McDonald Foundation. Families are charged just a minimal fee per night the balance is paid with public and private donations to the Ronald McDonald house.

“We are farm families, we have a long history with the House. I personally had premature twins, and I know other moms that have come to the house, It is good that they're here and provide services when they're so badly needed," said Women's Leadership Chairman Judy Woody.

Woody also presented the House with money collected from County Farm Bureaus.
"This donation came from just about every county in the state, and what started as a small donation from county to county ended up being a significant amount and we're honored to help out," said Woody.

Legislative Leadership Conference 2018

Strolling Buffet highlights IFBF Legislative Conference

Boise—The buffet tables were stacked with roast beef and ham at Boise’s Riverside Hotel as more than 220 sat down to dinner.

The Idaho Farm Bureau’s annual ‘strolling buffet’ was another big success this year as lawmakers dined with Farm Bureau Members from their home districts.

“There’s not a better way to communicate with lawmakers,” said Idaho Farm Bureau President Bryan Searle. Searle adds that a personal visit with neighbors is good grass-root politics.

The Strolling Buffet has become a Legislative institution and is prized by members and lawmakers because it's low-key, no speeches, no podiums, and relaxed atmosphere.
Each table was marked by Legislative Districts. Farm Bureau members visit the buffet table and then sit at their 'district' table with their Senators and Representatives.

“There’s nothing like this in Idaho. We get to bounce ideas off constituents and they can ask us anything they want,” Said Representative Judy Boyle from District 9, Midvale. "I love visiting with people from back home."

Dinner conversations were lively, with issues ranging from brand inspectors, taxes and private property rights.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Virtual Currencies


Washington--Idaho Senator Mike Crapo, Chairman of the United States Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs,  delivered the following remarks during a full committee hearing entitled “Virtual Currencies: The Oversight Role of the SEC and CFTC.”

The text of Chairman Crapo’s remarks, as prepared, is below.

“This morning, we will receive testimony from SEC Chairman Jay Clayton and CFTC Chairman Chris Giancarlo on the growing world of virtual currencies and the oversight conducted by their two agencies.

“Virtual currencies are meant to act as a type of money that can be traded on online exchanges for conventional currencies, such as dollars, or used to purchase goods or services, predominantly online.

“Additionally, developers, businesses and individuals are selling virtual coins or tokens through initial coin offerings, also known as ICOs, to raise capital.

“Over the last year, many Americans have become increasingly interested in virtual currencies, especially given the meteoric rise in valuation and recent fall of Bitcoin.

“Just for perspective, on January 2 of last year, Bitcoin broke the $1,000 barrier, then peaked in December of 2017 at almost $20,000 and as of this morning is trading at roughly $6,900.

“Today, the market capitalization of Bitcoin is roughly $115 billion.

“This is an incredible rise given that in 2013, when this Committee had subcommittee hearings on the topic, the total value of Bitcoin in circulation was approximately $5 billion.

“As virtual currencies have become more widespread, financial regulators and heads of financial institutions have noticed and voiced their opinions.

“Regulators and heads of industry have tried to educate investors so that they make informed decisions, and ensure that the markets they oversee and participate in are appropriately working.

“For its part, the SEC has put forth many statements and guideposts to help the markets and investors. Namely, the SEC has: issued investor bulletins on initial coin offerings; issued an investigative report on what characteristics make an ICO a security offering; issued several statements by Chairman Clayton on the issue; brought enforcement actions against fraudsters; and issued joint statements with the CFTC about enforcement of virtual currency related products.

“The CFTC has also been helping inform the markets by: launching a dedicated website on virtual currencies to educate investors; bringing enforcement actions against individuals involved in cryptocurrency related scams; issuing several statements by Chairman Giancarlo and other Commissioners on the issue; and scheduling hearings on the topics.

“Much of the recent news about virtual currencies has been negative; between the enforcement actions brought by your agencies, the hack of the international Coincheck exchange, and the concerns raised by various regulators and market participants, there is no shortage of examples that increase investor concerns.

“It is also important to note that the technology, innovation and ideas underlying these markets present significant positive potential.

“These aspects underpinning virtual currencies have the ability to transform for investors the composition of, and ability to access, the financial landscape, thus changing and modernizing capital formation and transfer of risk.

“Technology is forward-looking, and we look to our regulators to continue carrying out their mandates, including investor protection, as the markets evolve.

“I look forward to learning more about virtual currency oversight from the two witnesses, including what their agencies are doing to ensure appropriate disclosures and safeguards for investors.”

Farm Income up

Idaho net farm income up 15 percent in 2017 BOISE — After a harsh start last spring,  net farm income in Idaho rose 15-percent last yea...