Friday, May 25, 2018

US pushes China to double Ag Imports

Washington—US Trade officials want China to increase US Ag imports each year.

Trade negotiators want China to import at least $25 billion more next year, which doubles the $20 billion China now buys, according to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

Perdue stressed that it won’t happen right away saying that the. countries would need at least two years to build up trade to that level.

The USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service has overseen every phase of the latest round of talks will be accompanying Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross next week when he leads a negotiating team to Beijing.

The last round of talks was held in Washington last week, that's when the two countries first announced a willingness of China to increase its Ag imports.

In a joint news release, the two countries were hopeful for a thaw in trade relations. “Both sides agreed on meaningful increases in the United States agriculture and energy exports.”

Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue said there were Ag crops that the Chinese needed and were willing to but right away.

“There are several commodities … we’re capable of selling a lot more of to China,” said Perdue. “Including rice, corn, poultry, soybeans and distiller’s dried grains.” The distiller grains come from Idaho.

Perdue said talks are progressing and that why he’s sending the USDA’s FAS team. “We’re going to try to tie down the details of these negotiations,” added Perdue. China announced last Friday it was scrapping its 179 percent anti-dumping duty on US sorghum.

But right now China is still levying tariffs on US pork, almonds, oranges, wine and other commodities in retaliation to US tariffs on steel and aluminum. Not to mention a 25 percent tariff on US soybeans in response to the US plan earlier this year to penalize the country with tariffs for intellectual property theft.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

ESPA Recharged

Half Million Acre feet sent into East Snake Aquifer

BOISE – Idaho Water Resource Board officials estimate they will reach a new record of 524,000 acre-feet of water flowing into the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer (ESPA) by the end of the winter 2017-18 recharge season – more than double the annual recharge goal of 250,000 acre-feet.

The Water Resource Board set a record with 317,000 acre-feet of recharge flows into the ESPA last year. The Board had recharged approximately 520,000 acre-feet of water into the ESPA with about a week remaining in the recharge season,said Wesley Hipke, the Board’s recharge program manager.

As of last week, the Board worked with irrigation districts and canal companies in the Upper Snake River region to recharge 235,275 acre-feet of water into the ESPA, as well as 278,184 acre-feet in the Magic Valley area.

Hipke said surplus water in the Upper Snake reservoir system and additional recharge site capacity developed by the Board and its partners has led to a very successful recharge season. The average recharge flow throughout the season this winter was 1,021 cubic feet per second, compared to 641 cfs last year – a 59-percent increase.

“You’ve done a great job for us,” Board Chairman Roger Chase told Hipke. “We also really appreciate our partnershipswith the canal companies and irrigation districts. Their cooperation and support have been absolutely vital to the successof the recharge program.”

Because of the record recharge season, the Board voted to increase the budget to pay recharge partners up to a total of $4.7 million for the winter of 2017-18. The Board had budgeted $2.5 million based on the previous recharge season. Each canal company and irrigation district gets paid on an acre-foot basis for assisting the Board with recharging the ESPA. The recharge program is aimed at restoring the ESPA to sustainable levels after many years of over-drafting the aquifer by about 200,000 acre-feet per year.

In other action, the Board approved the FY 2019 Secondary Aquifer Planning, Management and Implementation Fund budget of $17.8 million, including $4.3 million for ESPA recharge operations; $6.9 million for ESPA recharge infrastructure projects; $1.8 million for Treasure Valley water projects; $75,000 for water projects in the Camas Prairie; $380,000 for water projects in the Big Lost River Basin; $100,000 for the Palouse Basin; $250,000 for the Bear River Basin, and $2 million for other statewide water projects including aquifer monitoring and cloud-seeding.

The Board also approved three projects in its Water Transactions Program to benefit anadromous fish in the Upper Salmon River Basin. The first project, on Bohannon Creek, a tributary of the Lemhi River, pays ranchers $1.3 million for increased irrigation-pumping costs over 20 years to change the point of diversion to the river, leaving more water in the creek for steelhead, salmon and resident fish. The second project on Big Timber Creek, a tributary of the Lemhi River, moves the point of diversion to the river, leaving more water in the creek for fish while paying water users $117,937 for increased irrigation-pumping costs over 20 years. The third project involves buying a water right on Knapp Creek for $775,322 related to the conservation purchase of a 159-acre ranch in the Stanley area. Knapp Creek is tributary to the Middle Fork Salmon River and supports wild steelhead and salmon. Funds for the transactions come from the Bonneville Power Administration and the Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery Fund.
In other action, the Board:
  • Approved $100,000 to work on modeling studies with the Utah Division of Water Resources related to a joint water-rights filing for water storage in Bear Lake.
  • Received a presentation about a proposed $18 million, 25-mile pipeline from the Snake River to the Raft River area to improve water supplies for Raft River ground water users and potentially recharge the Raft River aquifer. The Raft River aquifer has been over-drafted by at least 36,000 to 120,000 acre-feet per year, officials said. A team of water users behind the proposal indicated they would apply to use Snake River surface water for the project that would be junior – and therefore subordinate – to existing water rights. An environmental analysis will be prepared in the next year by the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Agriculture could be big winner in U.S.-China trade thaw

POCATELLO – Agriculture could end up being one of the big winners of what was until very recently a looming trade war between the U.S. and China.

The two nations in March and April announced hundreds of billions of dollars in tariffs on each other and China’s proposed tariffs had largely targeted the United States’ agricultural sector.

But in a joint statement issued May 19 by the White House, the U.S. and China announced a framework that could reduce the United States’ $375 billion trade deficit with China.

The big winners look to be this nation’s agriculture and energy sectors.

During an interview with Fox News May 20, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said the nations are stepping back from a possible trade war.

He also said the U.S. expects to see a 35 to 45 percent increase in agriculture exports to China this year alone, as well as a doubling of U.S. energy purchases by China.

The U.S. exported $21 billion worth of agricultural products to China last year, making that nation the United States’ No. 2 export market for ag goods, behind Canada ($22 billion).

The joint statement issued by the White House said that at the direction of the two nations’ presidents, “the United States and China engaged in constructive consultations regarding trade in Washington, D.C.” May 17-18.

A consensus was reached to take “measures to substantially reduce the United States’ trade deficit in goods with China,” it stated. “To meet the growing consumption needs of the Chinese people and the need for high-quality economic development, China will significantly increase purchases of United States goods and services.”

Both sides, the statement added, “agreed on meaningful increases in United States agriculture and energy products. The United States will send a team to China to work out the details.”

Idaho Farm Bureau Federation President Bryan Searle, a farmer from Shelley, applauded the nations' decision to move beyond threatened tariffs to reasonable solutions.

“We applaud both nations for choosing talks over tariffs,” he said.

China earlier this year announced it would impose tariffs of 15-25 percent on a long list of U.S. farm products, including wheat, corn, beef, fruit and wine, products that Idaho produces an abundance of.

Idaho’s beef cattle industry brought in $1.8 billion in farm-gate revenue last year, while the state’s wheat farmers received $415 million in total revenue for their 2017 harvest, according to University of Idaho estimates.

Grain corn in Idaho brings in about $70 million each year in farm-gate revenue.

Idaho’s fruit industry, which includes apples, peaches, pears, and cherries, brings in about $30 million per year.

An Idaho Wine Commission study showed the state’s wine industry has a $169 million annual direct and indirect impact on Idaho’s economy.

While neither the tariffs announced by the U.S. or China had gone into effect yet, the possibility that they could be imposed had caused concern among Idaho and U.S. farmers.

However, the recent announcement that the two nations are pulling back from a possible trade battle has reduced those concerns.

“That was certainly a relief to get some good news on China,” said “Genesee” Joe Anderson, a North Idaho grain farmer who had previously been very concerned about the possible impacts the proposed tariffs could have on the U.S. agricultural sector. “That was great news.”

Michael Williamson, manager of Williamson Orchards and Vineyards in Caldwell, had also been concerned about the impact the tariffs could have on the U.S. fruit and wine industries.

“That’s great news,” he said of the recent announcement. “Hopefully, now things can continue as normal.”

Monday, May 14, 2018

Idaho grower featured in Smithsonian 'Precision Farming' exhibit

By Sean Ellis
Idaho Farm Bureau Federation
POCATELLO – Robert Blair’s North Idaho farm is one of four farming operations around the country that are being featured in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History during 2018.
The operations’ use of modern technology is highlighted in a “Precision Farming” display within the Washington, D.C., museum’s “American Enterprise” exhibition.
U.S. farmers already know how technology has and is changing agriculture, but the average American has no clue and Blair is one of the farmers the museum is using to provide people a glimpse of how technology is changing agriculture in the United States.
The museum is marking 2018 as the Year of the Tractor and the Precision Farming display within the museum’s American Enterprise exhibition helps tell agriculture’s story to Americans, many of whom have no idea about how modern agriculture works, said Peter Liebhold, the museum’s agriculture curator.
A green, yellow and red 1918 Waterloo Boy tractor is at the entrance of the American Enterprise exhibition and it highlights the introduction of lightweight gasoline-powered tractors, which, according to a Smithsonian news release, began “a major revolution in agriculture that moved farming firmly into the realm of commercial production.”
The Precision Farming display helps people understand how farmers have adapted to technology – location-tracking technology such as GPS, drones, moisture content measurement, crop yield monitors, variable rate application of seed, water and fertilizer, etc. – that is changing agricultural practices in fundamental ways, Liebhold said.
Featuring the faces and practices of real farmers helps demonstrate that, he said.
“We want them to know what real farmers are doing,” Liebhold said. “As fewer Americans have a connection to farming, many of them have no idea what’s going on. A lot of Americans don’t even know what a farm looks like. We pull back the curtain and show them what’s really going on.”
The Precision Farming display features Blair’s use of drones, GPS equipment, crop yield monitors and other devices “to create a new way of seeing and managing his fields.
Blair, who was an early adopter of this technology and has helped pioneer the use of drones in the U.S., uses an unmanned aerial vehicle, known as a UAV or drone, to keep tabs on changing conditions in his fields.
“From a drone, Blair can take GPS-indexed near-infrared photos of plants in his fields,” the display states. “Using these colorful images, he can determine what areas need more nitrogen fertilizer, allowing Blair to save money and avoid environmentally harmful over-fertilization.”
Blair said it was a big honor to be included in the exhibit, “although now I have to hear a lot of jokes about me being a fossil and an antique.”
He said being included in the exhibit “is a validation of the time and effort I’ve put into this technology” and he credited groups such as Idaho Farm Bureau Federation and Idaho Grain Producers Association with helping him.
“I owe quite a bit to grain producers and Farm Bureau for opening doors,” he said. “You never make a journey by yourself. You always have some help along the way in some way, shape or form.”
Liebhold said most people who tour the exhibit, which opened in January, are astonished to learn how much technology is used by American farmers.
“The average American is absolutely amazed to find out how technical the business is,” he said.
The industrial revolution that tractors brought 100 years ago “is similar to the revolution farming is experiencing now as farmers are adopting GPS, computer analysis and other technology,” Liebhold said. “The new crop of the 21st Century is information.”
About 1.5 million people will visit the agricultural part of the exhibit this year, Liebhold said.
“It’s a pretty doggone good topic and one that all our visitors find interesting,” he said.
The Precision Farming display also features:
  • Iowa corn and soybean farmer Roy Bardole, an early adopter of precision farming. “GPS equipment, crop yield monitors and other devices turned his combine into an information control center,” the display states. “His combine has a yield monitor and a GPS receiver so that he can record exactly which portion of the field is most productive.”
  • The Burnetts, dairy farmers from Carpenter, Wyo. “At Burnett Enterprises … every cow wears a computer chip on its neck with a number,” the display states. “The computer records how much milk each cow produces at every milking. Animal health is critical in a dairy. The computer system allows the Burnetts to run reports on cows that are dropping in production, identify cows that need checking for health issues and find cows being milked in the incorrect pen.”
  • Zach and Anna Hunnicutt, who rely on center pivot irrigation systems to grow popcorn, soybean and wheat in Giltner, Neb. “Precision farming – the variable rate application of seed, water, fertilizer and pesticides – helps the Hunnicutts make their farming operations efficient and environmentally strong,” the display states. “Using soil moisture sensors and remotely actuated computerized sprinkler controls, their irrigation system conserves the amount of water needed to turn the dry Nebraska Great Plains into productive farm fields.” 

Friday, May 11, 2018

AFBF Urge House to Oppose Harmful Farm Bill Amendments

Washington--As farmers and ranchers suffer under an agriculture recession entering its fifth year, the American Farm Bureau Federation and more than 300 other organizations are calling on House members to stand firmly against amendments to the farm bill (H.R. 2) that would hurt farm and ranch families.

“A core purpose of a farm bill at any time is to help the country’s farmers and ranchers weather factors beyond their control, including natural disasters, disease, and high and rising foreign subsidies, tariffs, and non-tariff trade barriers. This is especially true during hard economic times,” the groups wrote in a May 9 letter.

While several potentially harmful proposals have surfaced in recent weeks, three possible amendments most frequently reported on by the media propose to gut crop insurance, undermine sugar policy and impose unworkable payment limits.

“We oppose these and any other amendments to H.R. 2 that would harm American farmers and ranchers and jeopardize passage of the bill on the House floor. During a prolonged recession in agriculture, failure to pass a farm bill on time would undermine the financial security of America’s food, fuel, crop, and fiber producers,” the groups said.

The letter can be found here.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Vet shortage

Secure Rural Schools Funding for Idaho Announced

Simpson’s vote for fiscal year 2018 appropriations delivers county payments to Idaho

Washington-The U.S. Forest Service announced Secure Rural Schools (SRS) payment distributions, which is critically important for Idaho’s rural counties. SRS funding fulfills the federal government’s responsibility to counties with tax-exempt federal lands, specifically counties with high percentages of national forests. The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, which passed in March and was signed into law by President Trump, included two years of funding for SRS. Idaho received approximately $26,000,000 in SRS payments. Congressman Simpson supported this legislation to ensure Idaho counties receive both SRS and Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) funding.

“SRS payments are vital sources of funding for Idaho counties,” said Simpson. “I am pleased that the fiscal year 2018 appropriations bill honors the government’s responsibility to Idaho. These funds go to counties’ most critical services such as transportation infrastructure and education. I am also pleased my vote on this bill ensures full funding for PILT, another important funding stream for Idaho.”

Congressman Simpson was a cosponsor of H.R. 2340, a bill to reauthorize SRS. Also included in the fiscal year 2018 appropriations bill is full funding for PILT. Idaho received more than $30 million in PILT funding last year.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Dairy West expands potential reach of Idaho dairy industry

By Sean Ellis
Idaho Farm Bureau Federation
BOISE — The potential market reach of Idaho’s dairy industry has been greatly expanded with the formation of Dairy West.
Dairy West, created last year, is a non-profit organization that will continue the work of United Dairymen of Idaho, which promotes and markets the state’s dairy industry and represents its 490 family-owned dairy operations.
The group is funded through a producer assessment equal to 15 cents per every hundred pounds of milk produced.
UDI became a partner of Dairy West one year ago and on April 9, the Dairy Council of Utah/Nevada also became a partner. This will allow Dairy West the ability to tap into the Utah market, which has 3.1 million people, and segments of the Nevada market.
Idaho’s population is 1.7 million and the state’s dairy operations produce 15 billion pounds of milk annually while Utah and Nevada produces only a fraction of that.
The milk assessment, or “checkoff,” that Idaho’s dairy farm families pay to fund UDI have provided that organization with a large number of resources, while the Utah council had relatively few resources.
“So, through this collaboration, we have the ability to meet the potential demand in this greater regional effort,”  said Cindy Miller, Dairy West’s communications director.
Dairy West marries up the two states’ resources and provides a broader marketing and promotional opportunity, which is good for the collective dairy industry, she said.
 “What if we move the needle even slightly on yogurt consumption in schools, or milk consumption?” Miller said. “That would be significant.”
While Utah is the first state outside of Idaho to join Dairy West, the potential is there for other states to join forces as well.
“This allows us to go outside of our state boundary to promote our products in other states,” said Buhl dairyman John Brubaker, a member of the Dairy West board of directors. “We’re excited about being able to reach other population bases.”
Idaho’s dairy industry has plenty of funding to work with “but we don’t have the population base to work with,” said Gooding dairyman Steve Ballard, vice-chairman of Dairy West’s board and chairman of Idaho Farm Bureau Federation’s dairy committee. “Dairy West gives us the opportunity to invest some money where the population is in the West. It gives us access to more population centers.”
UDI is a quasi-state agency and didn’t have the flexibility to partner with other entities outside Idaho, said Dairy West CEO Karianne Fallow. 
“Dairy West gives us a lot more flexibility to be able to work outside the borders of Idaho,” she said. 
For now, Dairy West and UDI are being co-branded as the same entity to give consumers time to realize that the same programs and promotion work UDI conducted will continue, just under the Dairy West umbrella, Fallow said. 
“This affords us new opportunities. The potential is huge,” Fallow said. “Farmers, consumers, schools, teachers will continue to see the same great quality programs that UDI has always had, we just now have the opportunity to employ those in a wider geography.”
The Dairy Council of Utah/Nevada will also be co-branded with Dairy West.
Idaho milk flows across borders every day “and following that milk to market and making sure there is demand and consumption happening was a huge motivating factor in forming Dairy West,” Fallow said. 
She said increasing regional demand for milk has the potential to have a positive economic impact for dairy operations, which is no small thing for Idaho agriculture and the state’s economy. 
Revenue from Idaho milk sales accounts for about 30 percent of the state’s total farm-gate revenue.
According to a University of Idaho study, the state’s dairy industry, directly and indirectly, is responsible for about $10 billion in economic output, 39,000 jobs and $160 million in state and local taxes. 
Brubaker said there is still some confusion among consumers about what Dairy West is but that’s quickly becoming less of a challenge.
“I don’t get near as many questions as I used to,” he said. “I think we’re getting the message out pretty good.”
Idaho’s dairy industry, on the other hand, has known about the plans to form Dairy West for several years.
Fallow said a lot of outreach and conversations were held with dairy operators, processors and other stakeholders before the group was launched. 
“This effort has been a long time in the making,” she said. “I believe we did a pretty good job at keeping our stakeholders informed.”
Brubaker said a lot of what he calls “kitchen table conversations” were held with dairymen while the concept was being discussed. 
“From processors to dairymen, we had overwhelming support for it,” he said.
The UDI and Utah dairy council boards still exist and Dairy West has an 11-member board of dairy farmers that reflects a blend of milk production and population.
For example, there is one seat for every 2 billion pounds of milk production and one seat for every 1.5 million people. 
Under that formula, Idaho has eight seats, seven representing production and one population, while Utah has three, two representing the population and one representing production. 

Monday, May 7, 2018

Diesel Fuel Rates Near Late 2014 Levels

Washington--With the vast majority of fresh fruits and vegetables grown in the United States moving to their final destination by truck, on-highway diesel fuel prices play a significant role in setting the rates specialty crop growers must pay to get their product to market. For individual growers, the impact of rising fuel prices depends on distance, perishability of their crop and method of transportation. But as USDA’s Economic Research Service summarized in a 2013 report, “Overall, as fuel prices rise, so do wholesale produce prices and the margins between farm and wholesale prices.” For this reason, the steady upward trend in on-highway diesel fuel rates since early 2016 has growers starting to wonder when they’ll get some relief.

For farmers and ranchers who rely heavily on truck transportation, the last five years have been anything but steady. In that time, we’ve witnessed three distinct periods. During the first period, on-highway diesel prices typically exceeded $3.75 per gallon and averaged nearly $4 per gallon. However, once diesel prices broke the $3.75 per gallon barrier in September 2014, rates fell steadily and significantly. Diesel prices hit a five-year low on Feb. 15, 2016, at $1.980 per gallon. Since that low point, diesel prices have steadily risen. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service’s weekly Specialty Crops Truck Rate Report, released on May 2, 2018, reports a U.S. average price of $3.157 – a level last seen in January 2015. The diesel price roller coaster is depicted in Figure 1.

While rates have yet to reach the fevered level of 2013/2014, the steady climb has growers concerned that prices may be headed in that direction. In Figure 2 we see that since mid-January, on-highway diesel prices have exceeded the price paid during the same month in all of the last three years. In recent weeks the increase over year-ago prices has been even more dramatic. The U.S. average on-highway diesel price was more than 22 percent higher at the end of April 2018 than the end of April 2017.

Not unexpectedly, the U.S. average masks pretty significant differences that exist between regions. Since the beginning of 2018, East Coast prices have averaged 3 cents per gallon higher than the national average, while Midwest prices have averaged 6 cents per gallon lower. Prices have averaged 20 cents per gallon lower than the national average in the Gulf Coast region. At the same time, West Coast prices have averaged a whopping 40 cents per gallon higher. While we see in Figure 3 that these levels generally track with the recent five-year history, the spread between the West Coast and the rest of the country began to be more pronounced during the summer of 2016 and hasn’t changed.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Farm Bureau Hails Publishing of Food Disclosure Standard

WASHINGTON– The following statement regarding the proposed National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard may be attributed to American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall.

“The proposed National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard, published today by the Agriculture Department’s Agricultural Marketing Service, will give consumers a valuable resource for making informed decisions about food. Just as important, USDA is doing this the right way, providing consumers access to information about their food purchases while also allowing farmers and ranchers to embrace the sustainable tools of modern agriculture.

“The proposed rule is based on sharing factual information, rather than emotional scare tactics. Science proves that GMOs are safe, and this national proposal strikes a much-needed balance compared to the chaos that would come from a patchwork of state-level labeling initiatives.

“America’s farmers and ranchers respect the need for consumer choice and we take immense pride in producing safe, healthful food. From both standpoints, this proposal is fair and ensures that food facts win the day over food hype. Bold leadership from Agriculture Secretary Perdue on this vital matter has helped ensure transparency and choice built on the clear foundation of sound science. We will further analyze the proposal and comment on areas that need improvement, but this proposal is a positive first step in a process that is important to farmers and consumers alike.”

Farm Bureau to Offer Dairy Revenue Protection Insurance

WASHINGTON– The American Farm Bureau Federation, in cooperation with American Farm Bureau Insurance Services, has developed a new risk-management insurance product for dairy farmers. Approved by the Agriculture Department’s Federal Crop Insurance Corporation, “Dairy Revenue Protection” insurance will provide dairy farmers the opportunity to manage risk by focusing on revenue from milk sales.

“We know that the level of risk protection available to dairy farmers was inadequate and we saw a clear opportunity to help by specifically addressing the impact of milk price volatility on a dairy farmer’s revenue,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “This coverage will help shield dairy farmers from unexpected declines in milk prices as well as unexpected declines in milk production by addressing overall revenue. We are excited about teaming up with American Farm Bureau Insurance Services to offer this new risk management tool to dairy farmers.”

As designed, Dairy Revenue Protection will provide several levels of insurance coverage based on the value of the farmer’s milk. One option will use manufacturing milk futures prices, and the other option would be based on the value of milk components, such as milk fat, protein, and other milk solids. A majority of dairy farmers selling milk in the U.S. are paid based on the amount of milkfat and protein in their milk.

Other than those dairy pricing options, Dairy-RP coverage otherwise functions similarly to area-based crop revenue protection insurance policies. The coverage would offer revenue guarantees based on futures prices, expected production and market-implied risk. The premiums for coverage will be subsidized.

It is expected that Dairy-RP policies will be available in late summer 2018.

US pushes China to double Ag Imports

Washington—US Trade officials want China to increase US Ag imports each year. Trade negotiators want China to import at least $25 billi...