John O’Connell

Eastern Idaho Reporter
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NRCS plans SNOTEL sites to study mid-elevation snowpack

- USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service plans to build new automated snow survey sites to better understand mid-elevation snowpack, which seems to be disappearing early in recent years.

Three-quarters of Idaho CRP applications rejected

- Competition was stiff for Conservation Reserve Program contracts in Idaho during the recent general sign-up, leaving many growers to enroll in more rigorous continuous-enrollment programs land conservation programs.

Idaho funds Treasure Valley aquifer model

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BOISE — The Idaho Water Resource Board has budgeted $500,000 toward the first year of a five-year effort to study Treasure Valley aquifers and develop an improved model to predict their function.

The project...

Idaho Farm Bureau honors ag-friendly lawmakers

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BOISE — Forty percent of Idaho’s lawmakers voted in line with the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation’s positions on key issues often enough during the past two legislative sessions to be recognized by the ...

USDA to increase raw cane sugar imports

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Concerned about an inadequate supply of conventional sugar to meet demand of food processors, USDA has increased its quota for imported raw cane sugar by 200,000 tons.

Sugar cane varietie...

Idaho curtailment list further trimmed

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BOISE — The Idaho Department of Water Resources sent notices of curtailment May 18 affecting 160 junior groundwater rights in response to the Surface Water Coalition’s 2005 delivery call.

The departme...

Idaho approves plan calling for ag land acquisition

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Capital Press

BOISE — The State Board of Land Commissioners has approved a plan that’s drawn criticism by some agricultural groups, suggesting that purchasing forest and farm land could be a good inve...

Top global chefs tour Idaho, Oregon spud country

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Capital Press

PINGREE, Idaho — Top chefs from throughout the world vow they’ll return home with a new appreciation for U.S. potatoes and several creative menu ideas featuring the vegetable following a...

Idaho to curtail 204 groundwater rights

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BOISE — An Idaho Department of Water Resources official said his agency will send curtailment notices affecting 204 Eastern Snake Plain groundwater rights on May 17, under the Surface Water Coalition’s deli...

Sweetener buyers want to import more raw cane sugar

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The nation’s major sweetener buyers and some members of Congress are asking USDA to increase the import quota on raw cane sugar, arguing there’s been a shortage of conventional sugar to meet the growing dem...

Idaho farmers watching for early insects

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KIMBERLY, Idaho — University of Idaho Extension entomologist Erik Wenninger believes insect development is well ahead of normal in Idaho following a mild winter, and growers could face heightened pest and disease ...

Agriculture slips off political radar

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IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — In a crowded gymnasium at Skyline High School, Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders espoused his many positions for more than an hour on a long list of issues.

“Weȁ...

Idaho dairy program changing health culture in schools

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IDAHO FALLS — Seventh-graders Caleb Messerly and Tyler Shelton say Idaho dairy farmers have done a lot to improve the quality of life at Tigert Middle School in Soda Springs, Idaho.

Their gym class used to t...

Researchers warn of potential for volunteer, late blight challenges

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ABERDEEN, Idaho — Soil temperatures in most of Idaho potato country never got low enough to kill volunteer spuds, which could provide a host to carry the late blight pathogen into this season, University of Idaho ...

Tribes ratify long-term water lease with IGWA

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FORT HALL, Idaho — The Shoshone-Bannock Tribal Council formally ratified a long-term agreement May 6 to lease 45,000 acre-feet of storage water to Idaho Ground Water Appropriators Inc.

The tribes plan to re-...

Idaho snowpack melts at record pace

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Capital Press

BOISE — Parts of Idaho lost a record amount of mountain snowpack during April, according to hydrologists at the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

As a result, peak streamflows...

Cattle group’s suit says beef checkoff violates First Amendment

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BILLINGS, Mont. — A cattle organization based here has filed a First Amendment lawsuit against USDA seeking to block beef checkoff fee collections on behalf of the Montana Beef Council, arguing members have been c...

Idaho Supreme Court candidates tout ag experience

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BOISE — The four candidates running for an open seat on the Idaho Supreme Court are all touting their strong backgrounds in agricultural issues.

The election to replace retiring Chief Justice Jim Jones will ...

Pending Idaho Supreme Court ruling could ease Rangen water call burden

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Capital Press

HAGERMAN, Idaho — Officials with Idaho Ground Water Appropriators Inc. say they hope a forthcoming state Supreme Court ruling will ease their burden in the Rangen Inc. water call and provide a ...

Idaho, Washington wheat growers seek emergency label for wireworm product

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BOISE — Idaho and Washington grain growers hope to obtain a special-needs exemption from the Environmental Protection Agency allowing them to use an insecticide labeled for potatoes to protect wheat from wireworms...

Commodity groups seek freedom of information exemption for checkoff boards

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Several agricultural organizations have gotten language included in the pending fiscal year 2017 House Agricultural Appropriations Bill asking USDA to exempt research and promotion boards funded...

Spud growers join Boise schools’ Potato Celebration Week

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BOISE — The Boise School District’s new Potato Celebration Week enabled Rod Lake of Heyburn-based Southwind Farms to get his company’s fingerling potatoes into a public schools market he’s bee...

Idaho Power offers safety warning after ag accident

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MOUNTAIN HOME, Idaho — Officials with Idaho Power are reminding farm workers to use caution while working around overhead power lines in the wake of an April 18 accident that seriously injured a 31-year-old woman....

Trials evaluate cereal cyst nematode resistance

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Capital Press

ABERDEEN, Idaho — Aside from diversifying their crop rotations, Pooria Ensafi believes selecting resistant varieties is the best way for the region’s grain growers to protect their crops...

ISDA Japanese beetle treatment area cut in half

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Capital Press

BOISE — An Idaho State Department of Agriculture Japanese beetle eradication program has reduced the Ada County population of the invasive pest by nearly 90 percent, and the agency plans to cut...

Diminishing supply fails to lift Idaho spud prices

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ABERDEEN, Idaho — Idaho potato farmers say favorable weather conditions have helped them get an early start to planting their 2016 crop.

They’re becoming concerned, however, that prices of their 2015 ...

Potatoes USA hires global retail marketing manager

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DENVER — Potatoes USA has hired a former ConAgra Foods official to oversee its effort to bolster retail potato sales domestically and abroad.

Ross Johnson, 34, the former national account manager with ConAgr...

Potato truck may roll indefinitely

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EAGLE, Idaho — Basketball star Kobe Bryant had the Great Big Idaho Potato Truck on his mind during one of the final games of his storied career, a sign to the Idaho Potato Commission that their traveling promotion...

Unprotected junior Idaho well users face curtailment

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BOISE — Amid a decent water year, several Idaho irrigation wells will nonetheless likely be curtailed this summer, according to officials with the Idaho Department of Water Resources.

At risk are Eastern Sna...

Dryland wheat off to a good start in Eastern Idaho

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Soil moisture was ideal when Kendall Jones planted his dryland wheat last fall, and the Raft River, Idaho, farmer believes spring showers have further helped the crop progress.

“My dad was saying, ‘We...

APHIS proposes PCN program revisions

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IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — USDA has proposed restricting the use of the powerful fumigant methyl bromide for eradicating pale cyst nematodes in Eastern Idaho, and acknowledging the potential of a plant that stimulates &...

Idaho growers propose irrigation and recharge pipeline

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RAFT RIVER, Idaho — Nine irrigators who draw from the declining Raft River aquifer have proposed building an 11-mile pipeline, planning to switch fields to surface water when it’s available for lease and to...

Southern Idaho grower raising hay with buried drip

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RAFT RIVER, Idaho — Farmer Todd Garrett believes water has become a precious enough commodity in southeast Idaho to justify his investment in costly buried drip irrigation at a commercial scale.

On April 15...

Idaho drafts water sustainability plan

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ST. ANTHONY, Idaho — A subcommittee of the Idaho Water Resource Board has completed a draft sustainability plan, offering guidance to preserve the state’s water supply.

Pending approval by the full bo...

State falls short of recharge goal, but develops new infrastructure

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RIRIE, Idaho — An Idaho Department of Water Resources official said the state failed to meet last winter’s volume in its recently concluded Snake River managed aquifer recharge program, and fell well short ...

Aberdeen Plant Materials Center to start cover crop research

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ABERDEEN, Idaho — The local Plant Materials Center, run by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, is in the process of hiring an agronomist who will be tasked with conducting cover crop and soil...

Employees help Bingham Coop transform workplace safety

- Bingham Cooperative has solicited ideas from employees that have helped transform its safety culture.

Child’s remains from 1981 tragedy found in Eastern Idaho canal

- Upper Snake River flows were briefly reduced to facilitate the search for human remains in Eastern Idaho's Great Feeder Canal.

Wet March means favorable Idaho irrigation outlook

- A wet and cool March has maintained a strong water outlook for Idaho irrigators this summer.

IGWA, tribes reach long-term water lease agreement

- Idaho Ground Water Appropriators Inc. has reached a five-year agreement with the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes to lease 45,000 acre-feet of water to fulfill a long-term mitigation obligation to the Surface Water Coalition.

Idaho city forcibly annexes food processor

- The City of Blackfoot has forcibly annexed 17 acres that include Basic American Foods facilities.

Mussel threat spurs plans to block boats from reservoirs

- Irrigation reservoirs in Franklin County that are popular with anglers will likely be closed to boats this season, following a decision by the Idaho State Department of Agriculture that pilot program, reservoir-specific che...

New irrigation method catching on in West

- The Idaho Falls office of USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service is offering grants to help farmers convert pivots to an experimental configuration that's proven to conserve water and reduce electricity use.

Corn acres up in Northwest as farmers seek better return

- Growers in Idaho and nationwide say they plan to plant a lot more corn, according to a recent USDA report.

ISDA defends organic program in light of fraud case

- Officials involved with Idaho's organic program say it has many safeguards to prevent fraud, in the wake of a federal court guilty plea involving a Bliss, Idaho, farmer who made more than $7 million in sales of conventional...

Growers turn to owls for vole control

- A Canyon County program is helping farmers protect their fields from voles and gophers with owl boxes.

Curly top resistance confirmed in breeding beet

- A new doubled haploid sugar beet line developed by the USDA's Agricultural Research Service in Kimberly, Idaho, as a breeding cultivar has the best resistance to curly top virus ever tested.

UI economists question buy-local movement

- University of Idaho economists who have run modeling analysis on the local foods movement believe allowing growing regions to specialize and trade with other regions to broaden food variety may be the most economical approa...

Idaho farmer pleads guilty in organic fraud case

- A Bliss farmer has pleaded guilty to charges of fraudulently labeling seed as organic.

Idaho cities submit water call mitigation plan

- A group of cities drawing water from the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer has reached an agreement with the Surface Water Coalition on broad concepts to mitigate for their impacts on declining groundwater levels.