Monday, December 11, 2017

DOI Recommendations



Risch, Crapo, Simpson Applaud DOI’s Final Decision on Craters of the Moon National Monument

Washington–After a nearly eight-month review of National Monument designations under the Antiquities Act, U.S. Senators Jim Risch and Mike Crapo and U.S. Representative Mike Simpson today applauded the Department of Interior’s (DOI) decision to follow the delegation’s recommendation to make no modifications to Craters of the Moon National Monument.

"The monument review was about hearing local voices and the people of Idaho, along with Senator Risch, Senator Crapo and Congressman Simpson made it clear where they stand,” said Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. “I'm grateful for their continued participation in the review and look forward to visiting Idaho again sometime soon."

“I have long held that state Governors and Legislators should have substantial input in the monument review process - not bureaucrats who live on the banks of the Potomac,” said Senator Risch. “I was pleased that DOI followed the delegation’s unanimous recommendation to make no modifications to Craters of the Moon.”

“Effective federal land management decisions require meaningful input from the local stakeholders that live, work and depend on those lands in order to foster both acceptable natural resource protection as well as resilient, self-sustaining economies in our rural communities,” said Senator Crapo. “ The Department of the Interior has made the right decision to honor the input and feedback from Idaho’s communities in not modifying Craters of the Moon.”

“I applaud the Department of the Interior 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 am grateful Idahoans voices were heard and that this review reflects our local solution.”

Friday, December 8, 2017

Idaho Farm Bureau Annual Meeting



Idaho Farm Bureau Honors Madison County Volunteers

FORT HALL - Dean and Shirlene Schwendimann of Madison County are the 2017 recipients of the Idaho Farm Bureau President’s Cup Award. The Schwendimann’s received Farm Bureau’s most prestigious award on Wednesday, December 6 during the organization’s 78th annual convention.

The Schwendimann’s are lifelong farmers from Newdale and have volunteered their time and effort to the organization and their fellow farmers and ranchers for the last 40 years. Shirlene served in leadership on the Women’s Leadership Committee for more than 15 years. Dean served on the State Board of Directors for nearly 20 years. Prior to that they were both involved at the county level.

About 350 Farm Bureau members representing 36 county Farm Bureaus attended the Annual Meeting. Delegates to the convention set policy to ensure all water agreements protect Idaho’s longstanding water doctrine, first in time, first in right. Delegates opposed fire rules proposed by the Idaho Department of Lands which will impose regulatory burdens on small landowners and supported additional measures to reduce wolf depredation. Delegates also adopted language calling for a study on Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) and the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) to determine whether rural counties, burdened with high percentages of federal land, are getting a fair shake from the federal government.

Bryan Searle of Bingham County was re-elected as president of the Idaho Farm Bureau. Mark Trupp of Teton County was re-elected vice president.

Gerald Marchant of Cassia County, Luke Pearce of Payette County, Marjorie French of Latah County and Dan Garner of Franklin County were re-elected to the Idaho Farm Bureau State Board of Directors. Travis McAffee of Lost Rivers Farm Bureau was elected to serve as a state director from District 2. He replaces Danny Ferguson who retired.

Kyle Wade of Bannock County was elected as the Idaho Farm Bureau Young Farmer and Rancher chairman. He replaces Lanae Nalder of Minidoka County, who aged-out of the program.

Sherril Tillotson of Bannock County and Doris Pearson of Twin Falls County were re-elected to serve on the Idaho Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Committee. Sandy Daniel of Boundary County and Kristie Dorsey of Canyon County were elected to serve on the Women’s Leadership Committee.

Winner of this year’s Young Farmer and Rancher discussion meet was Dusty Clark of Rigby. He comes from a ranching family and works as a veterinarian. He received a Polaris ATV and an all-expense paid trip to Nashville, Tennessee to compete in the American Farm Bureau Discussion Meet in January.

LaNae Nalder of Minidoka County won the Young Farmer and Rancher Excellence in Agriculture Award. Cole and Lynette Smith of Bear Lake County received the Young Farmer and Rancher Achiever Award. Nalder won a $5,500 credit toward a Polaris four-wheeler while the Smith’s won a Polaris Ranger. Nalder and the Smiths will also travel to the American Farm Bureau Convention in Nashville in January to compete for the national Excellence in Agriculture and Achiever competitions.

Dealers from 17 Idaho Polaris Dealerships donated the Polaris Ranger and Northwest Farm Credit and Idaho Farm Bureau donated the Polaris four-wheeler.

Recognized as Women of the Year were Karen Matthews of Bear Lake County, Carleen Clayville of Cassia County, Helen Percy of Elmore County, Sheryl Nuxoll of Idaho County and Stephanie Mickelsen of Bonneville County.







Thursday, December 7, 2017

Common sense stewardship


AFBF Hails Bears Ears, Escalante Reforms

WASHINGTON– The following may be attributed to American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall:

“Today’s reduction in the size of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments marks a return of common sense to environmental stewardship.

“The 1906 Antiquities Act was clear in its purpose, even if the government has not always been. It was designed to stop theft and destruction of archaeological sites and other federal lands of historic or scientific interest. The act requires the president to reserve ‘the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.’ Unfortunately, that law has been abused to quarantine millions of acres of already-scarce grazing land, harming farmers, ranchers and struggling small towns across the West.

“Other presidents have established and reduced the size of monuments. Presidents Taft, Wilson, Coolidge, Eisenhower, and Kennedy all shrank the size of established monuments. Farm Bureau is pleased to see President Trump doing likewise at Bears Ears and the Grand Staircase-Escalante. This is different from the previous administration, which created and expanded more new national monuments than any other in U.S. history, locking up 5.44 million acres of land and 545 million acres of water resources in the process.

“Rural America continues to struggle economically, even as large cities boom. We hope Congress will also move to improve accountability and transparency in the designation of national monuments so that we do not once again find ourselves at the mercy of a remote bureaucracy. With common sense public policies, we can preserve antiquities while providing prosperity and opportunity for rural America.”

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

President's Cup 2017





Idaho Farm Bureau President Bryan Searle presented Dean and Shirlene Schwendiman the 2017 Presidents Cup at the Idaho Farm Bureau Annual meeting, Fort Hall, Idaho.



Idaho Farm Bureau's 78th Annual Meeting


Rigby’s Dusty Clark wins State YF&R Discussion Meet

Fort Hall—Dusty Clark from Rigby won the Farm Bureau Young Farmer and Rancher Discussion meet Tuesday in Fort Hall.

Clark is a veterinarian out of Rigby, He won a close and competitive discussion meet using a barrage of trade facts and figures. The Farm Bureau interviewed Clark after the meet:

Did you think you could win the discussion meet in such a strong field?

I’ve competed against several of the individuals before, I knew it was going to be a good discussion and I was excited about it.I think this competition is just another way of making friends with people and I have become friends with the fellow competitors over the years. It was just a good time and I think we had a positive discussion.

The question concerned the renegotiation of trade agreements, a timely topic?

The question dealt with overcoming negative public perception with regards to foreign trade and how we can negotiate new trade agreements with foreign entities to help our agricultural products. It's tough because there is such a negative perception in the public eye and that was something I touched on. I think its a big hurdle for us as a nation to overcome so we need those emerging markets because our products are safer and higher quality than most around the world. At the same time, we have to protect ourselves against cheap agricultural and manufacturing goods coming into the country. That's something we can't compete with here in the United States as far as production goes.

You were very knowledgeable about the Trade topic, did you research it?

Trade is interesting to me because it came up in the Presidential election. Trade was something that President Trump, then-candidate Trump hammered on, specifically some of the unfair deals we had with China. Especially some of the manufacturing of products we use in this country tends to be overseas. China is a major player, I thought this would be a good place to start as far as the discussion goes. Another area I looked at is cattle production. I researched Argentina, Brazil, and Austrailia. I was interested in what their laws and tariffs did to their trade economies.

Why did you single out Argentina as a trade policy example?


Argentina was a good trade example to use in the discussion meet because their farmers and ranchers switched to soybeans to make money because trade tariffs and restrictions made soybeans more profitable. It wiped out their cattle market, they dropped from the top ten in the world. They went from the number 3 cattle producer in the world to not even the top 10 because of their restrictive government policies. It stresses the importance of what we do here and what the Farm Bureau does.

The National Discussion meet is coming up next week, are you ready?

Getting ready for the national meet in Nashville, I won't do anything differently. I'm going to continue to read and study. I think so much depends on your opening and closing statements. Those are areas that can be polished specifically to each question and so my research will continue on each question. I'd like to polish my opening and closing statements better. I have offers from past winners to practice and do mock competitions with them, I'll touch bases with a few judges so I can get constructive feedback.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Idaho Farm Bureau's 78th Annual Meeting

Searle Opens the Idaho Farm Bureau's 78th Annual Meeting

Fort Hall--Idaho Farm Bureau President Bryan Seale opened the Farm Bureau's 78th Annual meeting to an energetic, packed house at the Fort Hall Convention Center.

More than 300 County Presidents and Delegates from all of Idaho's 44 Counties were in attendance for the start of the 3-day conference.

President Searle thanked Farm Bureau volunteers for blazing for hard work and sacrifices. He said the volunteers have made a difference and have benefited Idaho Agriculture.

Searle also urged Young Farmers and Ranchers to not only stay active in Idaho's largest Agriculture organization but to leave a legacy for future generations. We spoke to President Searle after the speech:

Your message at today’s Idaho Farm Bureau Annual Meeting?

Our theme for the conference and our message is be unified in Agriculture. In order for us to accomplish anything, we have to come together to join forces and give and take at times, because we don't always get our way. But we can accomplish great things when we come together.

In Years past we have issues that have split this organization apart, and some say it has hurt us more than helped us?

We continue to feel those wounds as you go forward. That’s where again sometimes we feel like some are for it and some against it. We have to be careful how we handle those things and the positions we take. Sometimes we have to step back and just allow issues to play out.

The Bible says to love your enemies, you addressed this today in the speech?

It was written many, many years ago for us and if we abide by what we’re told then great things will happen. We continually learn those lessons.

The Farm Bureau is in its 78th year. This organization has been around since the 1930’s, where is this organization heading?

In this 78th year, we are at 78-thousand members! We’re growing more than a thousand new members a year. We’re destined to be stronger and better in the future. We have great Young Farmers and Rancher members, these strong individuals will continue to be stronger and our voice will continue to be louder.

Has the image of the Idaho Farmer has changed?

It's tough to farm without an MBA and high tech equipment. There were more of us farming back in the old days but its a business and you have to have a degree and all the high tech assets. Whether its a family operation or not, we have to treat it as a business. Do we love that? Some do, some don’t. It is what it is and in order to produce food that's, the direction farming has to go. We have to adapt to that in order to grow.

Do you think farming is cool again?

It is. To provide food and fiber to everyone throughout the world is cool. But there is a generation that doesn't care to work at some of the tasks at which we excel. I see some farms getting bigger and they’re struggling to get qualified help to do that, it is cool. There is nothing better than planting and see crops grow to harvest.





Monday, December 4, 2017

Idaho Farm Bureau's 78th Annual Meeting

Properties to be sold at auction


Properties with Unpaid Irrigation Taxes to be Sold at Public Auction

Nampa--A total of 19 Ada and Canyon county properties worth a total assessed value of more than $3 Million faces the possibility of being sold at public auction for pennies on the dollar because their owners have failed to pay delinquent 2014 irrigation taxes, NMID officials advised today.

For example, one Meridian property with an assessed value of $328,900 could be sold for only $260.37 in taxes, interest and fees and administrative fees and costs.

The total tax, penalty and administrative fees owing on the properties is $6,800.00 while the total assessed value according to Ada and Canyon counties assessor records is $3,021,000. The delinquent 2014 irrigation taxes on the properties represent 2 tenths of 1 percent of the total assessed value of the homes and land.

There are 11 properties in Meridian, 4 in Boise and 4 in Nampa. Individual taxes owed by the property owners range from $246 to $1,103.

The State requires irrigation districts to initiate the tax deed action if the property owners have failed to pay their irrigation taxes for the past three years. In this instance, the unpaid taxes are for 2014, according to Daren Coon, NMID Secretary-Treasurer.

NMID mailed certified letters in August to all delinquent property owners officially notifying them that unless action is taken by the last day of December 2017 their properties will be put up for sale at public auction. The 19 property owners are those who did not accept the certified letters.

The District is also publishing the names and address of the 20 property owners four different times in local newspapers. In addition, a final warning will go out later this month.

“Tax deed action is the most distressing action we are required to take against land owned by our patrons. It represents a last-ditch measure the District goes to great length to prevent but which state law demands if the taxes are not paid,” Coon explained. “Fortunately these properties represent just a tiny percentage of our 38,000 property owners in the District.”

The property owners have until December 31 to pay at least their delinquent 2014 tax bill. Otherwise, the properties could be sold at auction in August 2018 for the taxes owing, plus additional legal and administrative fees. Most property owners pay up prior to that but each year some properties do end up being sold at auction, Coon added.

Coon noted the problem sometimes grows out of a mistaken belief that property owners do not need to pay the annual assessment because they do not receive or use irrigation water. In other cases, property owners assume the irrigation tax payment is part of their escrow tax payment being made by the mortgage company but it is not.

The taxes pay for operation and maintenance of the canals, laterals, drains, and dams that make up the District's water delivery system. Levies also are assessed against individual subdivision parcels using pressurized irrigation systems in subdivisions around the valley.

NMID officials stress that individuals who own property inside the District and have questions about their tax assessments should call the District office at 466-7861

The Nampa & Meridian Irrigation District is a water storage, conveyance and distribution system founded in 1904. NMID supplies irrigation water to some 69,000 acres of farmland, residential and commercial lands including pressurized irrigation for more than 16,000 individual parcels of land in Ada and Canyon counties.

Friday, December 1, 2017

La Nina and Early Idaho Snowpack




Idaho Falls--The US Bureau of Reclamation told water users that they will keep Southeastern Idaho canals flowing this winter.

During normal years the Bureau has a requirement that Palisades Reservoir must shut down the canals for the winter to rebuild the water supply. But things are different this year because Upper Snake Reservoirs are nearly full after a record rainfall this year.


Thursday, November 30, 2017

2017 Wheat Crop

Wheat Yields down 12-Percent, Quality Excellent

BOISE — The 2017 Wheat crop might go down in history as one of the best ever, despite lower yields from last year.

Idaho farmers produced 90.7 million bushels of wheat in 2017, but that's 12 percent less than last year’s total of 102.8 million bushels. The Idaho Wheat Commission says this year's crop is about statewide quality.

“In the 15 years I’ve been here, this is, in terms of quality, the best wheat I’ve seen statewide,” said Idaho Wheat Commission Executive Director Blaine Jacobson. “The whole state had a good crop.”

The Idaho Wheat Commission says that quality was excellent across the state and it's unique because growers in North and South Idaho grow different classes of wheat for different markets and there were very few discounts taken this year.

A total of 1.1 million acres of wheat was harvested in the state this year, down slightly from 1.13 million acres last year. Yields averaged 82.2 bushels per acre statewide in 2017, down from last year’s record of 91.4 bushels.

What Idaho’s wheat industry lacked in total production in 2017 was made up for in quality. Doug Barrie farms outside of Idaho Falls. He said after a late start and lots of worries the harvest was excellent.

“Our harvest this year was pretty good. We did about 100 bushels per acre, that's down from last year but the quality was better,” said Barrie.

Brian Darrington of Rupert set another personal record. He had a field of Soft White that topped 160 bushels per acre. But he also had fields that brought in 100 bushels, he said his average was 131 bushels per acre. He said that his 2017 crop was just as big as last year.

“We had a couple of fields that we had to replant last spring and we were off to a slow start, but we got caught up,” said Darrington. "We're very happy with what we had, we'll take a 131-bushel acre average any day."

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Aquifer Recharge

Aquifer Recharge on pace to match last year's record

IDAHO FALLS— The US Bureau of Reclamation told water users that they will keep Southeastern Idaho canals flowing this winter.

During normal years the Bureau has a requirement that Palisades Reservoir must shut down the canals for the winter to rebuild the water supply. But things are different this year because Upper Snake Reservoirs are nearly full after a record rainfall this year.

“I just checked and most of the state is at 145-percent of average precipitation. This is a good thing for recharge. It’s a good thing to get all that water back in the ground,” said Idaho farmer Danny Ferguson of Rigby.

Last years landmark winter left record snowpack and because of that, streamflows continue to run high. Water District 1 officials say that flows at the Heise gage north of Idaho Falls are the second highest in recorded history. The Idaho water year officially ended Sept. 30th, but last years snowpack will extend into next summer.

“I don’t see a downside to releasing this water at all,” said Ferguson who gets his water downstream from Palisades, “On the Harrison canal, we shut down for a couple of weeks but the canals are running again and all of the water is going into the aquifer.”

Under the Reclamation’s Winter Water Savings Program, Canal companies must close their canals for 150 consecutive days after the irrigation season, which allows the reservoirs to fill back up.

After last winter, The Department of Idaho Water Resources reported more than 315,000 acre-feet of water was recharged this past year in accordance with the state’s water right. Canal companies and irrigators recharged another 140,000 acre-feet. And pumpers are doing their part with an agreement to cut well irrigation by more than 240,000 acre-feet a year to help build the aquifer back up.

It all started exactly a year ago according to the National Weather Service. The fall of 2016 brought heavy rainstorms in Boise, Twin Falls, and Pocatello. The Snake River plain got almost 3 inches of precipitation, that's almost 2 inches more than normal with heavy snow and cold temperatures into May. The National Weather Service says we’ve had a nearly identical pattern so far this year.

That weather pattern has water managers already thinking where to put all of that water.  Water District 1 in Eastern Idaho reports their reservoirs have just a million acre-feet of available space, they usually have nearly twice that much storage space behind the dams.

The Bureau of Reclamation is acting proactively, they’re suspending the Winter Water Savings requirement for the next three months. The usual Palisades winter release is about 900 to 1,100 cubic feet per second. But so far this winter they’re releasing more than 3,000 cubic feet per second and could keep those flows well into March depending on snowpack.

“We need the measuring stick that last year provided us, we need to see the science and this release will show us what we’ve done over the past couple of years. It's exciting because these measurements will tell us what we’ve done and where we need to go in terms of restoring the aquifer,” said Ferguson.

The state has a special water right on the Lower Snake specifically for aquifer recharge. Recharge involves paying canal companies to run water through unlined canals or into spill basins where water seeps naturally into the aquifer and restores groundwater.

Wes Hipke heads the Idaho Department of Water Resources recharge program and says they’ve already recharged 120,000-acre-feet, 61,000 acre-feet of that came from the Surface Water Coalition. The coalition received the water from junior groundwater users and food processing companies.

“We’re running water everywhere,” said Hipke. “Above Minidoka, Springfield, American Falls, Twin Falls Canal company, Southwest Irrigation District. There are at least 12 different entities taking part in this recharge effort.”

The Bureau’s announcement will enable some canal companies to continue recharging the storage water for the state in November when they’d normally restricted by Winter Water Savings.

“We’re off to an amazing start, normally we’d be at 20,000-acre-feet and currently we’re six times that,” said Hipke.

With winter weather the canals are starting to freeze up. That limits recharge but a warm fall kept the recharge going at a record pace. Still, even with snow and ice the Department of Water Resources expects to drop 600 to 700 cubic feet per second into the aquifer through the winter and hope to triple that in March depending on snowpack.

“My current numbers show at least 280,000-acre-feet for the current year. That doesn’t count the Little and Big Wood rivers, and the Upper Valley. There's a good chance we can do what we did last year, but that depends on Mother Nature, this is far beyond our expectations three years ago,” said Hipke.

The Recharge program is still making calls to find more recharge partners. They’re also speeding up releases in the Upper Valley to free up space in Palisade Reservoir.

Last month the National Weather Service declared that the Pacific Northwest was under the influence of the La Nina weather system.

“Right now in terms of precipitation, we’re 20 percent higher than last year at this time and well above normal. But that doesn’t mean much until January. That's when the weather patterns start diverging. But we’re in a really good place right now, we’ve had a wet Fall and were off to a great start, and the reservoirs started nearly full this water year that started in October,” said Hipke.

Idaho water officials have asked Congress to approve a permanent policy change that would make it easier for the Bureau to dispense with Winter Water Savings during wet years. Farmers are on board and look forward to restoring the aquifer.

“We’re going into this winter, wet,” said Ferguson who runs a large alfalfa operation outside of Rigby. “We have above average precipitation, I’m positive about this. Instead of flushing it out for fish, we’re doing something for the aquifer. We have so much water that we have to get rid of reservoir water just to hold off a normal year.”

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Good year for potatoes


Potato yields down, prices excellent

Idaho Falls—The Thanksgiving holiday drove potato prices up and a trucking shortage might keep them there.

That's the word from growers who are basking in strong prices but worry about getting spuds to market.

“The market is pretty good,” said producer Bryan Searle out of Shelley, “but we’re having trouble shipping potatoes right now. We can’t find enough trucks or railcars and that might be helping the prices and it’s definitely working in our favor but its something we worry about.”

Over the Thanksgiving, holiday retailers told the Packer magazine that consumer bags of potatoes flew off grocery store shelves. Packer reports that producers harvested larger potatoes this year and there are fewer small sized potatoes for the small bag market.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that 50-pound cartons of five 10-pound film bags of russet norkotahs spiked from $5.50 per carton on Sept. 5 to $6 per carton by Nov. 1, with russet burbanks at $6.50 per carton for the same pack on Nov. 1. Prices at the same time last year were $4.50 to $5 per carton.

Russet norkotah 50-count potatoes are $9 per carton, compared with $12 for 80 count cartons. Prices for both sizes were well above a year ago when 50 count norkotahs were $5.50 per carton and 80 count norkotahs were $6 per carton in early November.

Bryan Mickelsen of Mickelsen Farms outside of Rigby says yields were down but quality very good with sizes all over the charts.

“We had big, middle and mediums and our sizes were all over the place. We had an excellent quality crop but the size range varied from field to field. We had to adapt a little bit, but it worked well with the way we market," said Mickelsen.

The Packer reports that everyone has the big potatoes but the smaller grocery store sizes are hard to find this season. The 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s are short and producers specializing in those sizes made money.

“What I've seen is demand is good across the board,” said Searle. “We have decent size here in the Shelley area but I haven’t seen a shortage of smaller potatoes.”

According to the USDA’s Potato size and grading report, the market is short on smaller size spuds but demand and prices are up.

The report out last week revealed that potatoes in the 2-inch or 4 oz. minimum size and grade requirements for US No. 1 potatoes were 79.7 percent of the total that's down from 82.0 percent last year. Processing grade No. 2’s with a 1.5-inch minimum, accounted for just 15.0 percent of this year's crop.

“After three years of terrible market prices, finally prices are very good for this time of year, and with lower yields its gathering strength,” said Searle

Mickelsen says his research shows that Idaho potatoes could be down 3% to 5% this year and that could keep prices up throughout the winter.

“Most of the projections show that prices will remain steady, at these levels, that's good and there’s a smaller crop so it looks like prices will hold so that's good and its good for everybody,” said Mickelsen.

Mickelsen said the market could climb to $6.50 per carton for 10-pound bags and that’s well above price levels over the past few years. Last year, delivered prices for cartons of 10-pound bags of Idaho potatoes to the Midwest markets was about $9.50-10. This week it is $11.

“I'm happy with this year, especially after three years of bad prices. There are farmers just hanging on by the fingernails and finally this year we have decent prices! These prices are welcome. We have growers that have lower yields but the quality is excellent and market prices are good,” said Searle.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Idaho canals still flowing


Aquifer Recharge on pace to match last year's record 

IDAHO FALLS— The US Bureau of Reclamation told water users that they will keep Southeastern Idaho canals flowing this winter.

During normal years the Bureau has a requirement that Palisades Reservoir must shut down the canals for the winter to rebuild the water supply. But things are different this year because Upper Snake Reservoirs are nearly full after a record rainfall this year.

“I just checked and most of the state is at 145-percent of average precipitation. This is a good thing for recharge. It’s a good thing to get all that water back in the ground,” said Idaho farmer Danny Ferguson of Rigby.

Last years landmark winter left record snowpack and because of that, streamflows continue to run high. Water District 1 officials say that flows at the Heise gage north of Idaho Falls are the second highest in recorded history. The Idaho water year officially ended Sept. 30th, but last years snowpack will extend into next summer.

“I don’t see a downside to releasing this water at all,” said Ferguson who gets his water downstream from Palisades, “On the Harrison canal, we shut down for a couple of weeks but the canals are running again and all of that is going into the aquifer.”

Under the Reclamation’s Winter Water Savings Program, Canal companies must close their canals for 150 consecutive days after the irrigation season, which allows the reservoirs to fill back up.

“We’re going to move a lot of water to make room for flood-control space,” said Corey Loveland of the Bureau of Reclamation. “Water will be available to use for recharge in the Upper Snake Valley this fall and into the winter.”

After last winter, The Department of Idaho Water Resources reported more than 315,000 acre-feet of water was recharged this past year in accordance with the state’s water right. Canal companies and irrigators recharged another 140,000 acre-feet. And pumpers are doing their part with an agreement to cut well irrigation by more than 240,000 acre-feet a year to help build the aquifer back up.

It all started last fall according to the National Weather Service out of Boise.

The fall of 2016 brought heavy rainstorms in Boise, Twin Falls, and Pocatello. The Snake River plain got almost 3 inches of precipitation, that's almost 2 inches more than normal with heavy snow and cold temperatures into May. The National Weather Service says we’ve had a nearly identical pattern so far this year.

That weather pattern has water managers already thinking where to put all of that water.  Water District 1 in Eastern Idaho reports their reservoirs have just 1 million acre-feet of available space, they usually have nearly twice that much storage space.

The Bureau of Reclamation is acting proactively, they’re suspending the Winter Water Savings requirement for the next three months. The usual Palisades winter release is about 900 to 1,100 cubic feet per second. But so far this winter they’re releasing more than 3,000 cfs and could keep those flows well into March depending on snowpack.

“We need the measuring stick that last year provided us, we need to see the science and this release will show us what we’ve done over the past couple of years. It's exciting because these measurements will tell us what we’ve done and where we need to go in terms of restoring the aquifer,” said Ferguson.

The state has a special water right on the Lower Snake specifically for aquifer recharge. Recharge involves paying canal companies to run water through unlined canals or into spill basins where water seeps naturally into the aquifer and restores groundwater.

Wes Hipke, heads the Idaho Department of Water Resources recharge program and says they’ve already recharged 120,000-acre-feet, 61,000 acre-feet of that came from the Surface Water Coalition. The coalition received the water from junior groundwater users and food processing companies.

“We’re running water everywhere,” said Hipke. “Above Minidoka, Springfield, American Falls, Twin Falls Canal company, Southwest Irrigation District. There are at least 12 different entities taking part in this recharge effort.”

The Bureau’s announcement will enable some canal companies to continue recharging the storage water for the state in November when they’d normally restricted by Winter Water Savings.

“We’re off to an amazing start, normally we’d be at 20,000-acre-feet and currently we’re six times that,” said Hipke.

With winter weather the canals are starting to freeze up. That limits recharge but a warm fall kept the recharge going at a record pace. Still, even with snow and ice the Department of Water Resources expects to drop 600 to 700 cubic feet per second into the aquifer through the winter and hope to triple that in March depending on snowpack.

“My current numbers show at least 280,000-acre-feet for the current year. That doesn’t count the Little and Big Wood rivers, and the Upper Valley. There's a good chance we can do what we did last year, but that depends on Mother Nature, this is far beyond our expectations three years ago,” said Hipke.

The Recharge program is still making calls to find more recharge partners. They’re also speeding up releases in the Upper Valley to free up space in Palisade Reservoir.

Last month the National Weather Service declared that the Pacific Northwest was under the influence of the La Nina weather system.

“Right now in terms of precipitation, we’re 20 percent higher than last year at this time and well above normal. But that doesn’t mean much until January. That's when the weather patterns start diverging. But we’re in a really good place right now, we’ve had a wet Fall and were off to a great start, and the reservoirs started nearly full this water year that started in October,” said Hipke.

Idaho water officials have asked Congress to approve a permanent policy change that would make it easier for the Bureau to dispense with Winter Water Savings during wet years. Farmers are on board and look forward to restoring the aquifer.

“We’re going into this winter, wet,” said Ferguson who runs a large alfalfa operation outside of Rigby. “We have above average precipitation, I’m positive about this. Instead of flushing it out for fish, we’re doing something for the aquifer. We have so much water that we have to get rid of reservoir water just to hold off a normal year.”
























Thursday, November 23, 2017

NAFTA





Taking NAFTA to the Next Level for Ag

By Zippy Duvall

Agriculture will be front and center in the recently launched North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations. Trade agreements have a good track record of opening international markets for U.S.-grown products by breaking down trade barriers and reducing tariffs that keep America’s farmers and ranchers from reaching new customers around the world.

NAFTA has been no exception. Annual ag exports to Canada and Mexico soared from $8.9 billion in 1993 to $38.1 billion in 2016. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement.

Renegotiation is an opportunity to make this trade deal even better. The American Farm Bureau Federation is working closely with Congress, the White House, and government agencies so they know what our priorities for NAFTA are, and what we need to make them happen. We are eager for U.S. trade negotiators to take a seat at the table and are confident they will represent the needs of America’s farmers and ranchers. In fact, President Trump has committed to farmers and ranchers that a renegotiated NAFTA will make U.S. agricultural trade even better than it has been these last 24 years.
Renegotiation is an opportunity to make this trade deal even better.

We are glad to see that continued market access remains the top objective for agriculture in the administration’s NAFTA strategy. Even though NAFTA has been positive for agriculture as a whole, there are individual commodities or ag sectors facing trade challenges with our neighboring countries. An updated agreement needs to resolve disputes over fresh produce and horticultural products with Mexico. It should also reduce or eliminate tariffs on dairy, poultry, and eggs in Canada. A truly modernized NAFTA will use science-based rules that prevent and resolve unfair trade barriers allegedly erected in the name of protecting animal, plant or human health.

International trade has given farmers and ranchers partnerships and business relationships with people all over the world. The boost in business abroad bolsters our industry and creates more jobs here at home. Successful trade agreements benefit all parties involved by setting the highest standard of trade rules and improving competitiveness. AFBF together with Canada’s and Mexico’s largest farm organizations all agree that NAFTA has been a huge success for North American agriculture. We even sent a joint letter to our respective governments stressing the importance of NAFTA to the farm economy in all three countries.

We want to see the U.S. and our trade partners become global leaders in setting market-driven and science-based terms for trade. To that end, AFBF has the distinct honor of hosting the 38th biennial North American and European Union Agricultural Conference this fall. Hosting such a prestigious global event here in Washington, D.C., gives us an opportunity to build lasting relationships and friendships to help further opportunities for U.S. agriculture in the global market.

Free trade, while positive, also can be disruptive. It rejiggers markets once thought to be predictable. It might even lead us to change what we grow. But one thing it almost always does is give America’s highly productive and efficient farmers and ranchers an edge in the global economy. It reflects one of the most positive aspects of farmers the world over: our ability to come together and find strength in our differences. It drives growth in our industry and expands access to safe and sustainable products at home and abroad.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Giving Tuesday



American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture Urges Support for #AgGives Campaign on #GivingTuesday

Washington-The American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture is urging support for #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving on Nov. 28 that harnesses the collective power of individuals, communities, and organizations to encourage philanthropy and to celebrate generosity worldwide. #AgGives on #GivingTuesday is an industry-wide campaign to raise funds, find volunteers and build awareness of agriculture in local communities.

#AgGives is a space to tell your story in person or on social media, share ag literacy resources, connect with other ag literacy advocates, and become a part of the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture’s efforts to educate and address the many misconceptions in agriculture.

“Although monetary donations are part of #AgGives, consider giving the gift of knowledge and sharing information with others who may not have a farm background so they can understand what you’re doing on your farm or ranch,” said Zippy Duvall, chairman of the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture and president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Throughout 2017, the Foundation has been celebrating the 50th anniversary of its founding. In the spirit of “50,” a goal of a 50-percent increase in donations was set for the month of November.

To help achieve that goal and spur contributions, every donor contributing $25 or more to the Foundation on #GivingTuesday will receive one entry for a chance to win an exclusive Book of the Year bundle valued at over $80.00! The bundle will include the Foundation’s most recent and popular Book of the Year selections – “The Beeman,” “The Apple Orchard Riddle,” “First Peas to the Table,” “Sleep Tight Farm” and the 2018 Book of the Year, to be announced in January during the American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention and IDEAg Trade Show.

About The American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture

The American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture is working to rebuild the bonds of trust between American consumers and the people who proudly grow their food, fiber, and energy. The Foundation is creating agriculturally literate citizens through educational programs, grants, scholarships, classroom curriculum and volunteer training.


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Resilient Federal Forests Act


House Committee Passes Resilient Federal Forests Act

Washington—The US House of Representatives passed a bill that makes it easier to harvest timber burned in wildfires.

Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR) introduced the bipartisan bill to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire and dramatically improve the health of federal forests and rangelands and implements a more responsible funding stream.

“For too long, the Forest Service has had to borrow from prevention programs in order to fight fires, meaning that we risk leaving a heavy fuel load in the forests for future fires to burn. As the legislative process continues, I look forward to working with Congress as we all seek a comprehensive solution to put America’s forest back to work again,” said US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.

H.R. 2936 permanently ends the practice of transferring forest-management funds to firefighting, or “wildfire borrowing,” by allowing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to transfer funds to the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. The bill would also streamline environmental review to speed reforestation, and supports collaborative efforts between local governments and foresters and land managers.

The bill also modernizes the Secure Rural Schools & Community Self-Determination Act, which allows rural counties, including Idaho County in Idaho, to have greater flexibility over how they choose to use critical funding under the Secure Rural Schools program. While Congress stipulates that a portion of revenues from timber harvests on federal lands go to affected counties to support schools, roads, and other services, that funding has declined as timber harvests have shrunk.

“This is a great news for many rural schools,” said Mark Naugle, superintendent of Custer School District. “This legislation will help to make up for the decrease in revenue from local timber harvesting. It will also help to offset the impact of federal ownership of property in local school districts.”

Westerman urged ending the practice of borrowing funds to pay to fight wildfires and for treating wildfires as natural disasters funded through recovery efforts by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“This year has proven to be another catastrophic year for wildfires. Dozens of lives have been lost, thousands of homes destroyed and millions of acres burned. Congress spoke today and said enough is enough,” Westerman said.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Tax Cut and Jobs Act


House Poised to Take Up Farm Bureau-supported Tax Bill

Washinton--The lower individual tax rates and the new business tax rate contained in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1), set for a House vote on Thursday, hold the potential to reduce income taxes for farmers and ranchers, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

The measure would also preserve many critical tax provisions farmers and ranchers need to manage tight margins and unpredictable income.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act would expand and increase expensing limits for Sec. 179 small business expensing and allow for unlimited immediate expensing. In addition, the bill would let farmers and ranchers continue to deduct customary business expenses including, but not limited to, feed, seed, and other inputs. The deduction for state and local taxes is another tool that would continue to be available under the bill.

“A tax system that is fair to small business must allow for the deduction of all legitimate business expenses,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall wrote in a letter to House members in support of the measure.

Cash accounting and like-kind exchanges for buildings and land would continue under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, though not permanently, as farmers had hoped. These provisions are critical to people who operate low-margin businesses with unpredictable income streams.

“We look forward to working with Congress to make expensing provisions permanent so that farmers and ranchers will have the certainty they need to manage their farm and ranch businesses,” Duvall said.

The bill’s provision to increase the estate tax exemption and permanently repeal the tax in 2024 was cheered by farm and ranch families.

“While we would prefer immediate repeal, the doubling of the estate tax exemption indexed for inflation with a continuation of the spousal transfer is a positive intermediate step that will ease the burden for the vast majority of farmers and ranchers,” Duvall wrote.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Grain Storage Tight



Storage tight At Idaho Grain Elevators

Pocatello—Outside of Pocatello mountains of grain wait for shipment to Ogden and points east.

John Evans of Evans Grain in Burley says grain storage is tight at elevators across the state.

“We just got the 2017 crop in,” said Evans. “But we’re still moving the ’16 grain. The prices just haven’t been there, the futures are looking better but at this point, it all depends on Australia and what kind of crop they export. Our producers are holding onto their wheat.”

The last Combines finished weeks ago. At the start of the season, Evans had enough storage for just 650-thousand bushels of soft white wheat. He quickly filled that up and is now shipping every day.

“Prices are in the low $4-dollar range, but futures look better and if you look around the state, you see the grain piling up in storage. That's because everyone is keeping an eye on the market,” said Evans.

Just down the road in Rupert, Brian Darrington set another personal record. He had a field of Soft White that topped 160 bushels per acre. But he also had fields that brought in 100 bushels, but his average was 131 bushels per acre. He’s sold some wheat and will market grain throughout the winter. He said that 2017 was just as big as last year.

“We had a couple of fields that we had to replant last spring, and we were off to a slow start, but we got caught up,” said Darrington.

The grain is piled up, from outside the Pocatello Airport to Burley and Gooding.

Evans says trucks are at a premium and hard to find. When trucks are lined up shippers have to pay the price. But growers like Darrington are taking it in stride.

“I did my part,” said Darrington. “Now it's up to the markets. If they can help out with higher prices we’ll have a really good year.” Darrington said the late start didn’t affect his operation. “We still had very high yields. I’m really happy with the year and way things turned out but these prices have to get better.”

A total of 1.1 million acres of wheat was harvested in Idaho this year, that's down slightly from 1.13 million acres last year. Yields averaged 82.2 bushels per acre statewide in 2017, down from last year’s record of 91.4 bushels.

After Idaho’s second record wheat harvest in a row farmers and grain elevators are struggling for storage space. Piles of last years bumper crop are still sitting beside elevators across the state.

Doug Barrie of Idaho Falls says he’s marketing wheat this month. “I need cash flow, its something I have to do. But I’m moving 2016 grain this week, I haven’t got to this year's crop.”

“Farmers are in a bad spot in terms of storage of grain,” said John Evans of Evans grain in Burley. It’s mainly because we had a lot of white wheat carry-over.

Evans says the Ogden market where most of Eastern Idaho grains are trucked is still awash with wheat.

“Freight rates are so high we can’t ship it down the river anymore for export, That used to be our release but these days no one can afford to get the grain to Portland from here, competitive rates aren’t there,” said Evans.

To deal with the second large crop in a row, farmers, grain elevators, and co-ops are looking at temporary storage space. Evans thinks storage is the key to making money this year.

“If you can figure out a way to store your grain, find a place to store it,” said Evans. “Even if you got to pay 3-cents per bushel to store the stuff, you got to do it. This year is different kind of year than last year. Prices are going to be higher if you can wait and pick the right time to sell.”

“We had drought and weather issues in the Midwest, the Dakotas, and Canada. If you got some white wheat we’re pushing the markets at $4 or above producers need to be ready and take advantage of it,” said Evans.

Evans hopes that producers can get some grain out on the rails and hit the midwest where prices are bit better. He said last year producers had nowhere to go because the market was so overwhelmed with record yields. And the brewing companies will play a factor this year.

“The maltsters like Anheuser Busch over contracted, they sent out a letter in June saying they were not going to take their commitment until September,” said Evans. “That meant that farmers that were hoping to empty their bins by harvest didn’t have a place to go.”

He adds that grain was moving well until trucks got scarce. He said that going into winter producers need to be on their toes when trucks become available and prices improve.

“Right now producers need to shop around for storage, We saw what happened with white wheat last year. The Same thing is happening this year.There’s still so much carry over from last year, I’m telling producers don't get greedy, if you see a good price, sell,” said Evans.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Cost of Thanksgiving dinner drops


Cost of Thanksgiving drops to lowest price in 5 years

Washington--Thanksgiving shoppers are getting a major break this year. Food prices have dropped to the lowest level in five years.

The American Farm Bureau Federation’s 32nd annual price survey found that a Thanksgiving Day dinner for 10 will cost shoppers just $49.12, a 75-cent drop from last year’s average of $49.87.

The big-ticket item – a 16-pound turkey – came in at a total of $22.38 this year. That’s roughly $1.40 per pound, a decrease of 2 cents per pound, or a total of 36 cents per whole turkey, compared to last year.

“For the second consecutive year, the overall cost of Thanksgiving dinner has declined,” AFBF Director of Market Intelligence Dr. John Newton said. “The cost of the dinner is the lowest since 2013 and second-lowest since 2011. Even as America’s family farmers and ranchers continue to face economic challenges, they remain committed to providing a safe, abundant and affordable food supply for consumers at Thanksgiving and throughout the year.”

The shopping list for Farm Bureau’s informal survey includes turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10 with plenty for leftovers.

Consumers continue to see lower retail turkey prices due to continued large inventory in cold storage, which is up almost double digits from last year, Newton explained.

Foods showing the largest decreases this year in addition to turkey, were a gallon of milk, $2.99; a dozen rolls, $2.26; two nine-inch pie shells, $2.45; a 3-pound bag of sweet potatoes, $3.52; a 1-pound bag of green peas, $1.53; and a group of miscellaneous items including coffee and ingredients necessary to prepare the meal (butter, evaporated milk, onions, eggs, sugar, and flour), $2.72.






“Milk production has increased, resulting in continued low retail prices,” Newton said. “In addition, grocers often use milk as a loss leader to entice consumers to shop at their stores.”

Items that increased modestly in price were: a half-pint of whipping cream, $2.08; a 14-ounce package of cubed bread stuffing, $2.81; a 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix, $3.21; a 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries, $2.43; and a 1-pound veggie tray, $.74.

“Whole whipping cream is up about 4 percent in price, due to increased consumer demand for full-fat dairy products,” Newton said.

The stable average price reported this year by Farm Bureau for a classic Thanksgiving dinner tracks with the government’s Consumer Price Index for food eaten at home. But while the most recent CPI report for food at home shows a 0.5 percent increase over the past year (available online at http://www.bls.gov/news.release/cpi.nr0.htm), the Farm Bureau survey shows a 1.5 percent decline.

After adjusting for inflation, the cost of a Thanksgiving dinner is $20.54, the lowest level since 2013

A total of 141 volunteer shoppers checked prices at grocery stores in 39 states for this year’s survey. Farm Bureau volunteer shoppers are asked to look for the best possible prices, without taking advantage of special promotional coupons or purchase deals, such as spending $50 and receiving a free turkey.

Shoppers with an eye for bargains in all areas of the country should be able to purchase individual menu items at prices comparable to the Farm Bureau survey averages. Another option for busy families without a lot of time to cook is ready-to-eat Thanksgiving meals for up to 10 people, with all the trimmings, which are available at many supermarkets and take-out restaurants for around $50 to $75.

The AFBF Thanksgiving dinner survey was first conducted in 1986. While Farm Bureau does not make any scientific claims about the data, it is an informal gauge of price trends around the nation. Farm Bureau’s survey menu has remained unchanged since 1986 to allow for consistent price comparisons.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Another La Nina Winter?


Winter shaping up, La Nina Could bring another big snow year


Boise-The National Weather Service declared this week that La Nina conditions are officially here.

Forecasters say there’s at least a 65-percent chance that La Niña conditions will continue through the winter.

"Last year, was an unusual year because we had cold temperatures. The last week of January we started getting a lot more snow in the high country and it kept snowing and we had record high-snowpacks" said Ron Abramovich of the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Things are shaping up very much like last year. Fast moving storms have been hitting the Gem State in 3-day intervals since the first of October.

In Idaho, the La Niña weather pattern is known for bringing above-average precipitation to the state while delivering below-average precipitation to Northern and Southern California.

“Last year's season started with a pattern similar to what we're seeing this year as indicators are pointing to another weak La Niña this fall,” said Abramovich. But the veteran NRCS forecaster doesn't think that Idaho will have the same epic winter as last year.

"Storms came through and the precipitation levels last winter in the Boise Basin was 2.5 times normal," said Abramovich."The Big Wood Basin received 5 times normal precipitation in February, It’s going to be hard to duplicate that,” said Abramovich.

Nearly 40 inches of snow fell in Boise from December through April while Pocatello had more than 86 inches, that's the second biggest winter on record, rivaling the winter of 1948 In Bannock County.

La Nina is the cousin of better-known El Niño and known for it’s cooling of the equatorial waters in the eastern and central Pacific Ocean and that impacts atmospheric conditions throughout the world.

Idaho has already started seeing the effects of El Nina. Tamarac Ski Area outside of Cascade had a two-day, 20-inch snowstorm on the November 3rd weekend. Smaller storms have blown through and snowpacks are building in the mountains.

Abramovich says last years record snowpack came from the La Niña weather pattern. El Niño and La Niña are opposite phases of the El Niño Southern Oscillation - that's the fluctuation in temperatures between the ocean and atmosphere in the eastern Pacific along the equator.

In normal seasons atmospheric pressure pulls trade winds westward toward East Asia. During El Niña seasons the trade winds weaken, allowing the warmer water to shift east and taking the potential for strong tropical storms with it.

Typically, La Niña follows an El Niño event and Abramovich says its a classic weather correction.

La Niña will show ocean temperatures in the eastern Pacific that are cooler than average. It allows a ridge of high pressure to settle along the West Coast of the United States, pushing the polar jet stream further north and pulling the Pacific jet stream through Idaho and all that moisture with it.

La Niña years usually translate into cooler-than-average temperatures across portions of the Northwest.

So Southern Idaho could once again see cooler-than-average temperatures. When it comes to precipitation, Idaho is on the fringe of a wetter than average winter. But, the Northern Rockies could see another winter with above normal rain and snowfall.

But even with expectations from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Climate Prediction Center, experts have no guarantees about the storms heading our way.

"Are they going to hit Washington and the Cascades or are they going to come through Oregon and Northern California again or nail southern Idaho,” said Abramovich. That's what he and fellow NRCS forecasters want to know.

“Again, we’d be hard-pressed to see back-to-back rainfall patterns like last year,” said Abramovich. “But I think we’re going to get storms.”






Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Just in from Washington


Tax Reform Bill Moves to House Floor This Week


Washington--The House is expected to take up a major tax reform bill in a few days. As passed last week by the House Ways and Means Committee, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1) will preserve many critical tax provisions that farmers and ranchers need to manage tight margins and unpredictable income, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

“America’s farmers and ranchers are ready for a tax system that recognizes their hard work and the unique challenges they face while reducing the tax burden that threatens their livelihoods. Thanks to the leadership of the House Ways and Means Committee, we are closer to that goal,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said in a statement.

Among the most important tax tools addressed in the bill are Sec. 179 small business expensing, immediate expensing, cash accounting and like-kind exchanges.

The measure would expand and increase expensing limits for Sec. 179 small business expensing and allow for immediate expensing (bonus depreciation), but it would not make these provisions permanent, as farmers had hoped. The bill also would let farmers and ranchers continue to immediately deduct customary business expenses including, but not limited to, feed, seed and other inputs.

In addition, the measure would continue cash accounting and the like-kind exchange deduction for buildings and land. Like-kind exchanges would end for equipment and livestock.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act’s self-employment-related provisions would exclude from self-employment taxes the 30 percent of farming and ranching income that is considered a return on investment. Farm rental income and Conservation Reserve Program payments would continue to be excluded from self-employment taxes.

The measure would double the estate tax exemption of $5.49 million to $11 million indexed for inflation starting in 2018 and would permanently repeal estate taxes in 2024. Stepped-up basis is continued as is the transfer of any unused exemption amount to a surviving spouse. Farmers and ranchers have long been calling for repeal of the estate tax.

The bill would keep capital gain tax rates and thresholds at approximately the same rates and thresholds as exist under present law.

The House Rules Committee meets Wednesday, Nov. 15, to establish a rule governing House floor debate. Because the rule could contain additional changes to the legislation and will also determine which, if any, amendments will be allowed, Farm Bureau will wait until its release to take a position on amendments and on passage of the legislation.

Of the Ways and Means Committee-approved measure, Duvall noted, “Farm Bureau looks forward to working with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to improve the bill and ensure reforms reduce the overall tax burden for farmers and ranchers.”

Monday, November 13, 2017

Bio-Tech Reg pulled


USDA Pulls Problematic Biotech Reg Proposal to Re-engage with Stakeholders

Washington--USDA’s withdrawal of agriculture biotech regulations proposed last year will give the department, along with farmers and other stakeholders, time to improve the rules so they better foster innovation while meeting the demands of U.S. agriculture’s international customers, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

AFBF was joined this summer by 102 other agricultural organizations in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue in which they noted the proposed revisions took some very constructive and bold steps in the right direction, but major changes were needed.

“USDA’s proposal had some positives, particularly how the department was viewing new breeding techniques, such as gene editing. However, there were also some concerns, such as how traditional biotechnology production practices might be regulated in the future and what that means for innovation and research and development,” explained Andrew Walmsley, AFBF biotech specialist.

USDA’s plan to start over on the regulations is an opportunity to make sure the department has the best regulatory approach for new breeding techniques, as well as for innovation in biotechnology and agriculture in general, Walmsley added.

Among some of the major concerns Farm Bureau and the other groups had with the proposal were researchers’ and developers’ inability to learn the regulatory status of new genetically engineered organisms without undergoing complex risk assessments. This would have provided little clarity about which products would be subject to regulation.

The requirement that risk assessments would be conducted for plant products based only upon the technology used in their production, rather than actual risk, was another problem.

With the shift of the regulatory burden from commercialization stages to research and development phases, each new GE plant variety would have had to undergo a complex risk assessment and comment period before a single plant could be planted in a small-scale field trial. In addition, the proposed assessment process likely would not have accommodated the scale of U.S. research and development, which could have resulted in many products being stuck in regulatory limbo.

Also at issue were the barriers to innovation that would have been raised under the proposal’s expansion of authority under Part 340, which would have created a redundant weed risk regulatory process. This process currently works under USDA’s Part 360 regulations.

Finally, USDA’s push for major changes to the current regulatory system would likely have had unintended consequences for other regulatory agencies, and domestic and international markets, and would have led to significant litigation risks.

Though USDA did not lay out a timeline for the biotech rule revamp, the department said it is committed to “re-engage with stakeholders to determine the most effective, science-based approach for regulating the products of modern biotechnology while protecting plant health,” so farmers and others are optimistic they’ll have ample opportunity to share their thoughts on a new proposal, Walmsley said.

Friday, November 10, 2017

La Nina winter?

Last year Mores Creek Summit in Boise County was buried under 9 feet of snow.

Winter shaping up, La Nina Could bring another big snow year

Boise-The National Weather Service declared this week that La Nina conditions are officially here. Forecasters say there’s now about a 65 to 75 percent chance that La Niña conditions could continue through the winter.

In Idaho, the La Niña weather pattern is known for bringing above-average precipitation to the state while delivering below-average precipitation to California.

"Last year, we had cold temperatures. And by February we started getting a lot more snow in the high country and had some record high-levels," said Ron Abramovich of the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

"Storm after storm Southwest mountains had twice as much snow as normal last year," said Abramovich."Central Idaho got 5 times the normal precipitation in February.” Nearly 40 inches of snow fell in Boise from December through April while Pocatello had more than 86 inches, that's second-biggest winter on record.

Abramovich says that all that snow last year came from the La Niña weather pattern. El Niño and La Niña are opposite phases of what is known as the El Niño Southern Oscillation - that's the fluctuation in temperatures between the ocean and atmosphere in the eastern Pacific along the equator.

"We'd be hard-pressed to see back-to-back rainfall patterns like what we saw last year,” said Abramovich. “But we’re going to get storms.”






Thursday, November 9, 2017

From the East Idaho News


This year’s spud count was low, but high quality

Carrie Snider, EastIdahoNews.com

IDAHO FALLS — The weather didn’t always cooperate during the 2017 Idaho potato growing season, but in the end, producers turned out good-quality potatoes around the state.

“There is a lower yield this year primarily driven by too much cold and too much heat at the wrong times,” said Frank Muir, president, and CEO of the Idaho Potato Commission. “Growers are good at what they do, but Mother Nature has the last word.”

Still, although fewer potatoes came out of the ground than expected, Muir said the ones that did were good quality and were a good tuber size, meaning easier to sell on the market.



In Idaho, 308,000 acres of potatoes were grown this year, which is 15,000 acres less than last year. About 13 billion pounds of potatoes were harvested.

“That’s a lot of potatoes,” Muir said. “If you filled the Holt Arena from end zone to end zone, it would be a mile high.”

The majority of Idaho’s potatoes are grown in farms ranging from the Magic Valley on up east Idaho. Sixty percent of Idaho’s potatoes are processed into frozen and dehydrated potato products, 30 percent head to the fresh retail and foodservice market, and about 10 percent are certified seed potatoes.

More than 25 varieties of potatoes are grown around the state. The number one potato variety grown in Idaho is the Russet Burbank, followed by other types of Russets: Norkotah, Ranger, and Shephard. Also growing in popularity are other varieties such as yellow, red, purple, and fingerlings.

“The key to marketing is to carry the Grown in Idaho seal,” Muir said. Idaho potatoes are known the world over, and it’s for good reason, he said. “Idaho’s unique climate, soil and water make for better texture and flavor.”

Americans sure love their potatoes. According to the IPC, the average American eats about 113 pounds of potatoes each year.

James Hoff, potato grower and commissioner for the IPC, recently harvested 275 acres of potatoes in Idaho Falls. He is selling his Russet Burbanks to GPOD in Shelley, which offers fresh potatoes to various companies.

Hoff grew up on a farm and remembers his dad also selling potatoes to GPOD. But a lot of things have changed with potato farming as well.

“The equipment has progressed,” said Hoff, who has been farming potatoes for 28 years. “You can get things done faster. The technology of the tractors has helped to increase comfort. The efficiency is phenomenal.”

He’s gone to a lot of IPC meetings over the years and remembers back when there used to be a lot more potato farmers than there are now, but each farm is bigger. Still, he enjoys being on the smaller side.

“I like where I’m at,” he said.

This year, he said, the growing seasons was reasonable, with some hot days in there, but despite that, harvest went well.

“The tubers look nice,” he said.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Rural Schools and Self Determination Act



Western Senators want Rural Schools and Self Determination Act Funded

Boise—There are big problems on the horizon for Idaho County if the Federal Government does not fund the Secure Rural Schools and Self Determination Act.

Idaho County is the 17th largest county in the United States with a population of just 16,000 residents. With more than 5.4 million acres of land, the county is broke because 85% of the county is public land. That means no tax revenue for schools, roads, and bridges without federal SRS funding.

“This has hit all our school districts hard,” said Idaho County Commissioner Skip Brant. “Payments stopped years ago. Our County Road and Bridge budget is $3.4 million. Almost half the budget, $1.2 million comes from SRS and all 12 Highway districts in the county have lost funds.”

With another harsh winter setting in, Western senators are urging the Trump White House and the budget office to honor the federal government's promise to fund the Secure Rural Schools and Self-Determination Act.

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

“The funding to rural communities extends a lifeline by funding road repairs, schools and law enforcement to communities heavily dependent on the federal government to help with taxes,” said Crapo.

Senators Crapo and Ron Wyden of Oregon are encouraging the Trump administration for a two-year authorization of the SRS and Self-Determination Act.

“Secure Rural School payments are critical ensuring that counties across Idaho and the nation, that have tax-exempt, federally managed lands, have the funding necessary for schools, roads, bridges, forest management projects and public safety,” said Senator Crapo.

The payments expired last March, leaving counties without enough money to fund basic services like law enforcement, road repairs, and snow removal in rural areas.

“We stressed the importance of prioritizing the SRS program in the federal budgeting process,” said Crapo in a 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.

Crapo and fellow Western Senators wrote to President Trump that they’re working in a bipartisan way to support strapped rural communities. The lack of certainty about SRS funding comes after another record fire season and rural unemployment at 7-percent in Idaho County.

“These county payments, are designed to offset the loss of the local share of timber sales revenue due to the drastic decline in timber harvests. Nearly 80 percent of Idaho’s counties receive county payments because of a large amount of national forest land in Idaho,” added Crapo.

Counties received their last SRS funds in March 2016. Since the program expired, residents in many of the counties that depend on this funding have had to choose between keeping schools and libraries open and laying off law enforcement.

A two-year extension is our goal in the short term,” said Senator Crapo, adding the long-term effort is a funding fix that provides rural counties stable funding that allows them to fund programs and move forward. Establishing a permanent solution, “that’s what our goal is,” he said.




Monday, November 6, 2017

Just in


Farmers Applaud Move to Reform Tax Code

WASHINGTON – The following may be attributed to American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall:

“Farm Bureau applauds Congress for its progress in reforming the tax code. This new tax plan moves us closer to a tax system that rewards the hard work and entrepreneurship of America’s farm and ranch families.

“Today’s proposal includes expanded, immediate expensing while continuing the business interest deduction important to so many farmers and ranchers. It also provides immediate relief from the estate tax with a repeal to follow in subsequent years. We will be studying the plan to ensure the new rate structure reduces the tax burden on our nation’s farmers and ranchers and gives them the flexibility they need to reinvest in their businesses.

“We are long overdue for a permanent tax code that recognizes the unique financial challenges farmers and ranchers face in managing their businesses and keeping their farms running from one generation to the next.”

Friday, November 3, 2017

Just in


Potato market picking up going into Thanksgiving holiday

Idaho Falls—The upcoming Thanksgiving holiday is driving demand in the potato market.

Eagle produce out of Idaho Falls told The Packer magazine that consumer bags of potatoes are flying off grocery store shelves.

“The poly (bag) situation is going to be brutal here in Idaho,” he said.

Idaho producers harvested larger potatoes this year and there are fewer small sized potatoes for the small plastic bag market.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that 50-pound cartons of five 10-pound film bags of russet norkotahs spiked from $5.50 per carton on Sept. 5 to $6 per carton by Nov. 1, with russet burbanks at $6.50 per carton for the same pack on Nov. 1. Prices at the same time last year were $4.50 to $5 per carton.

Russet norkotah 50-count potatoes were $9 per carton on Nov. 1, compared with $12 for 80 count cartons. Prices for both sizes were well above a year ago when 50 count norkotahs were $5.50 per carton and 80 count norkotahs were $6 per carton in early November.

Beahm says everybody has “the big stuff“ and are trying to find the small. “It won’t be a cheap poly year for sure. All your stuff in the middle — your 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s — you can’t find it,” Beahm adds.

“Prices are strong for this time of year, and I feel like it is gathering strength,” said Ralph Schwartz, of Potandon Produce.

Some think overall production of Idaho potatoes could be down 3% to 5%, according to Schwartz. Another fact is that 20% of the Idaho crop was harvested after the state had several cold days, which likely could result in a higher cull rate for those potatoes.


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