Capital Press | Capital Press Tue, 30 Aug 2016 11:50:02 -0400 en Capital Press | Wolf shootings test pact between ranchers, conservationists Tue, 30 Aug 2016 10:54:38 -0400 Don Jenkins The Washington Cattlemen’s Association on Monday thanked conservation groups that are standing behind the state’s wolf-removal policy that they helped write, even as other environmental organizations ramped up their criticism of plans to shoot as many as 11 wolves in Ferry County.

The association’s executive vice president, Jack Field, said that a joint statement by the four conservation groups showed an unprecedented level of collaboration between ranchers and environmentalists on wolf management in Washington.

“A lot of people noted it and were very appreciative of it,” Field said. “I think we’ve got a process, a protocol, that’s absolutely outstanding. We have to give it a chance to work.”

The state Department of Fish of Wildlife spent more than a year meeting with ranchers, hunters and conservationists on a 17-member Wolf Advisory Group to develop a protocol to stop livestock losses. The policy, finalized in May, obligates ranchers to take measures such as putting more cowboys on the range, but also allows WDFW to shoot wolves when preventive measures are infective.

WDFW hoped that a policy agreed to by different interest groups would dampen criticism of the department. That idea is now being tested.

WDFW says shooting two wolves in early August didn’t stop depredations, so the entire Profanity Peak pack in northeastern Washington will be eliminated.

WDFW has reported shooting six wolves so far. WDFW shot seven wolves in 2012 and one wolf in 2014 to stop depredations, but it has never killed an entire pack.

Wolf Haven International, Defenders of Wildlife, the Humane Society of the United States and Conservation Northwest said last week that removing the pack was “deeply regrettable,” but within the lethal-removal policy.

“We’re all getting some heat for it,” said Paula Swedeen, who represents Conservation Northwest on the advisory group.

“There’s a lot of emotion right now. A lot of emotion. We’re trying to keep things calm,” she said. “It’s not easy, but we still feel like it’s the right thing to do. It highlights how hard real peace making, collaboration is.”

Criticism is coming from many environmental groups, including the Kettle Range Conservation Group, whose director, Tim Coleman, is on the Wolf Advisory Group.

Coleman joined three other environmental organizations in a joint statement denouncing the killing of the wolf pack.

The U.S. Forest Service should have been more active in preventing conflicts between wolves and cattle grazing in the Colville National Forest, Coleman said in an interview.

“I’m just frustrated by the whole thing,” he said. “The wildest areas of our national forests should be a place where wolves can roam free.”

A forest spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

Environmental groups complained that the state is shooting wolves to protect privately owned cattle grazing on public land.

About 18 percent of Ferry County is privately owned, according to a county profile by the state Employment Security Department.

With 15 of the state’s 19 wolf packs concentrated in one corner of the state, conflicts are inevitable on public or private land, said Cattle Producers of Washington Vice President Scott Nielsen, a rancher in Stevens County, which borders Ferry County.

“That’s the problem. Everywhere up here is an active wolf area,” he said. “If you have to remove cows from where wolves are, there is no place for cows.”

Field said outside environmental groups aren’t appreciating that conservationists on the Wolf Advisory Group are promoting wolf recovery by easing tensions in rural areas.

“It’s unfortunate they’re under as much scrutiny as they are from their peer groups,” he said. “If those groups could only see how hard they worked to find a solution for all sides.”

California dairy industry fights ‘unachievable’ methane mandate Tue, 30 Aug 2016 10:45:20 -0400 Carol Ryan Dumas California dairy farmers are battling proposed state regulations on methane emissions they say are fundamentally flawed and unachievable and will set them up for failure.

They say the state Air Resources Control Board has lost sight of reality in its Climate Pollutant Reduction Strategy to reduce total methane emissions 40 percent by 2030 — including a 75 percent reduction in dairy manure emissions.

While the board’s draft strategy, which also includes reducing black carbon (soot) and fluorinated gases, is not regulation, the reductions have made their way into legislation. SB 1383, awaiting a vote in the state Assembly, calls for a 40 percent reduction in methane, a 40 percent reduction in hydrofluorocarbon gases and a 50 percent reduction in black carbon by 2030.

The majority of the methane reductions in ARB’s strategy are aimed at dairy manure and dairy and livestock emissions but also address landfills, the oil and gas sectors and wastewater.

Rob Vandenheuvel, manager of the Milk Producers Council, said the Legislature is proposing “pie-in-the-sky” goals that target the dairy industry with no viable strategy to reduce methane and no financial assistance.

By the dairy industry’s calculations, ARB’s strategy would require about 500 methane digesters, hundreds of miles of new pipe and new infrastructure, he said.

“How do you get there when digesters aren’t even a slam dunk on any individual dairy?” he asked.

Only 14 California dairies currently have operating methane digesters, built during the last 10 to 15 years. The cost a digester is more than $2 million, and there’s no guarantee of success.

The proposed mandate is simply unrealistic and will drive more dairy families out of business, according to flyers circulated in the Legislature by the Milk Producers Council, Western United Dairymen and the California Dairy Campaign.

The coalition points out California dairy farms have reduced the carbon footprint of a glass of milk by 63 percent since World War II and contends ARB’s “draconian requirements” for a 75 percent reduction in dairy methane emissions are not achievable.

Setting unrealistic goals and offering an incentive-based program is one thing, but when the state sets a goal and tells dairymen they have to meet the regulations when the technology might not even be effective is another, Vandenheuvel said.

The only digesters operating now are on a voluntary basis and funded by grant money. Once the state requires methane reduction, that grant money will cease to exist, he said.

It’s an unachievable goal. There’s no efficient way to do it, and it’s not economically feasible for dairies to install digesters without assistance, he said.

ARB’s strategy states methane emissions may be significantly reduced by switching from flush water lagoon systems without methane capture to dry or slurry manure management practices.

In addition, anaerobic digesters can be installed to capture and utilize manure methane and can be used with flush, dry or slurry practices.

The use of dry manure systems could allow for easier transport and storage to offsite digester systems and improve economies of scale, biogas production efficiencies and nutrient management on the dairy. Captured biogas could be used on or off the farm, and anaerobic digestion on dairies could lead to billions of dollars and thousands of jobs, ARB stated.

“There could be substantial economic upside to most of these” actions, said Dave Clegern, ARB public information officer.

As for digesters, there are other ways to handle methane — especially to avoid it — without the need for a digester. The strategy sees a need for more than 100 but doesn’t envision 500, he said.

ARB’s strategy recognizes the barriers and calls for collaboration between state agencies, dairy farmers and other stakeholders; financial incentives; support for research, infrastructure and market development; and regulatory action.

SB 1383 meets the recommendation for regulatory action and provides for fees, penalties and rate increases but provides no incentives for dairymen.

“The state wants the ability to say, ‘You have to do it and we’re not going to give you incentive to do it,’” Vandenheuvel said.

The dairy industry would prefer the state hold off on regulation and try a partnership approach with an incentive-based structure first to see what can be developed, he said.

“There’s a big gap between liberal legislators and the dairy industry. I don’t know if we can bridge that gap with the state,” he said.

The draft strategy notes the need for further incentives.

However, SB 1613 calls for about $55 million in cap-and-trade money to be designated for this kind of incentive program, Clegern said.

“In addition, the Low Carbon Fuel Standard already exists and would provide a big incentive to get this type of methane into the transportation fuel chain. The cap-and-trade program also has an offset program to incentivize methane digesters,” he said.

The California Public Utilities Commission also has some incentive programs for this type of effort, he said.

“At this point, there’s no actual ARB regulation to plug these programs into, but there are a number of existing incentives which can be made available,” he said.

The dairy industry has plenty of opportunity to weigh in, he said.

Short-lived climate pollutants are chemicals with global warming potential far beyond carbon dioxide. While carbon dioxide can remain in the atmosphere for a century or more, these chemicals remain for periods as short as a decade or so, but because they have such intense heat-trapping capacity they can do substantial harm in a relatively brief period of time, Clegern said.

Methane is the most plentiful of the SLCPs and has a global warming potential about 72 times more intense than carbon dioxide. In California, it makes up about 9 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Agriculture is responsible for approximately 60 percent of those SLCP emissions and dairies are responsible for about 45 percent of the total SLCPs, he said.

“Controlling emissions from these chemicals will give a considerable boost to our efforts to reduce GHGs more quickly. They can provide much more rapid reductions than we can get from CO2 and buy us some time to work on reducing the CO2 emissions, which are a much larger challenge — about 85 percent of all GHGs,” he said.

Another issue is the state’s “go-it-alone” approach to climate-change regulations. The regulation doesn’t exist anywhere else in the country, Vandenheuvel said.

“If the whole country is doing it, it might be foolish but the U.S. is a big country. Methane is a global gas. China’s not doing it; are we just driving business elsewhere?” he asked.

California has already lost 600 dairies in the last 10 years. Such a mandate would only exacerbate the decline, as dairymen could relocate to another part of the country where such regulations don’t exist, he said.

The bill passed in the Senate with a minimum vote, and will likely be voted on in the Assembly before the session closes on Aug. 31, he said.

Armyworms invade Willamette Valley grass seed fields Tue, 30 Aug 2016 10:41:17 -0400 MITCH LIES The Oregon State University Extension Service has issued a pest alert regarding the presence of true (common) armyworms in Willamette Valley grass seed crops.

The service wrote that large numbers of the pest have been spotted in tall fescue and orchardgrass seed fields in the past two weeks in both the south and north Willamette Valley.

The pest, Mythimna unipuncta, also has been seen on sudan grass planted as a cover crop between nursery stock rows.

“Extensive damage may result if the population is not treated,” the alert states. “Large numbers of larvae feed so voraciously that mass migrations of larvae can occur within a field and to adjacent fields very quickly.”

Armyworm outbreaks occur suddenly, the alert states, and in large numbers. In the alert, extension personnel Amy Dreves, Nicole Anderson and Clare Sullivan compared the pest to the new winter cutworm, which erupted in grass seed fields last summer.

According to an extension publication issued in February, cutworm damage is less uniform than armyworm damage, but both pests move en masse, potentially inflicting widespread damage to new growth in late summer and early fall.

The armyworm, like the cutworm, also inflicts damage sporadically. The last time an armyworm outbreak occurred in the Willamette Valley was 2004-2006, according to the alert. In that outbreak, the pest also was found in Southwest Oregon near Myrtle Point, and damaged grass pasture and corn in that area, according to Dreves.

In grass seed crops, the pest damages new growth by feeding on leaves and stems, leaving notched leaves and jagged leaf edges, according to the alert. Armyworms, like cutworms, can cause extension defoliation of plants over broad areas.

The alert advises growers to scout for the pest in and around crowns where birds are feeding and to dig around in the thatch of a plant and at its base. The pest feeds at night and curls into a C shape in the day in areas where it can avoid daylight.

The pest is not well adapted to light and needs moisture, according to the alert.

“We expect larval activity may slow down for a short period of time,” the Aug. 29 alert states. “However, activity will likely pick back up.”

The pest looks similar to winter cutworm, but the true armyworm is more smooth-bodied, tan-to-brown in color, about 0.5 to 1.5 inches long, with several alternating dark and light stripes and yellow-orange bands.

The alert states that several pesticide products are labeled for armyworm control, and that insecticides are most effective when applied while larvae are small.

“There is little benefit to spraying when the (larval) pest is full grown,” the alert states. “We recommend spraying at night, and rotating chemistries if more than one application is needed.”

Larger apple crops predicted for many countries Tue, 30 Aug 2016 10:18:58 -0400 Dan Wheat WENATCHEE, Wash. — Larger apple crops this fall in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and large crops in Europe and China will make the new sales season for Washington growers tougher than the one just ending, a longtime industry observer says.

The export market will be tough and prices likely will slip but should hold up better than they did for the record crop in 2014, said Desmond O’Rourke, a consultant and retired Washington State University agriculture economics professor.

“The big positive so far is that we are early so a lot of our product is beating Michigan and New York in the domestic market. Gala and Honeycrisp are shipping. That’s a huge advantage for us,” O’Rourke said.

Bruce Grim, manager of the Washington Apple Growers Marketing Association in Wenatchee, agreed, saying Washington has enjoyed a good three-week jump on East Coast producers and is opening with strong prices. Maintaining those prices will be a challenge as the season progresses but it helps to have better size and grade Gala apples with less sunburn this year than last, Grim said.

Marketers will keep volume moving to try to maintain prices, he said. About 1.7 million boxes of Gala had been shipped through Aug. 26 of an estimated 30.3-million-box Washington Gala crop, up 27 percent from last season.

O’Rourke has predicted Gala prices will average $21 per box through the new marketing year, down from $24 in the season just ending because of greater volume in the U.S. and other countries.

O’Rourke and Grim attended the U.S. Apple Association’s 121st annual conference at the Chicago Ritz-Carlton on Aug. 25-26.

USDA estimates a 248 million, 42-pound box fresh and processed apple crop for 2016. The association forecast is 245.9 million boxes, up 3 percent from last year and from the five-year average.

While growers continue to increase production, the crop is well within the industry’s capacity to effectively and profitably market, said Mark Seetin, the association’s director of regulatory and industry affairs.

Of the total, Washington is No. 1 at 149 million boxes, Michigan is 31 million boxes, New York is 30 million boxes and Pennsylvania is 11 million boxes.

The next tier in millions of boxes: Virginia, 4; Oregon 3.9; California, 3.5; North Carolina, 2.5; West Virginia, 1.9; Idaho, 1.4; and Ohio, 1.2.

Michigan production is up 49 percent. Growers there have been replacing older orchards with higher-density plantings, almost doubling their yield per acre. Michigan could surpass New York this year as the No. 2 producer. That appeared to happen in 2013 but a USDA tally was in error.

New York’s crop, hampered by drought, could increase this fall if growers get rain, and there’s usually 2 million to 3 million boxes of roadside sales not counted, Grim said.

Nationwide, Red Delicious is forecast at 53.2 million boxes, up from 50.3 million; Gala is forecast at 44 million, up from 37.5 million; and Honeycrisp is 15.3 million, up from 13.2 million. Granny Smith, Fuji and Golden Delicious are all close to last season.

Canada is up 17 percent at 17.1 million boxes and Mexico is up 15 percent at 31.2 million boxes. Europe is down slightly but still huge at 660 million. China, the largest apple producer at 2.3 billion boxes, consumes most of its crop internally but is Washington’s biggest competitor in Asia.

Washington’s 2016 harvest began at the end of July and will finish in early November.

Gala harvest is finishing with good fruit size and good maturity, said Andy Gale, general manager of Stemilt AgServices in Wenatchee. There are hardly any cracks at the stem, an indicator of over maturity, he said.

“Generally, labor has been a challenge. People with H-2A (foreign guestworkers) are happy but there are a lot of ‘Help Wanted’ signs up around the Columbia Basin and ads on Spanish radio for pickers,” Gale said. “It’s tighter than last year.”

Jon Alegria, president of CPC International Apple Co. in Tieton, Wash., was elected chairman of the board at the U.S. Apple Association meeting, succeeding Mike Wade, general manager of Columbia Fruit Packers, Wenatchee.

Mark Boyer, a principal in Ridgetop Orchards, Fishertown, Pa., was elected vice chairman. Kaari Stannard, president and owner of New York Apple Sales, Glenmont, N.Y., was elected secretary.

UC test projects help Scott Valley rancher conserve water Tue, 30 Aug 2016 09:55:21 -0400 Tim Hearden ETNA, Calif. — Farming in the Scott Valley on the northern edge of California, Jim Morris understands the importance of saving water.

Morris, a cattle, sheep and hay producer whose farm, now the Bryan-Morris Ranch, has been in his wife’s family since 1856, is working with University of California researchers on a couple of water-conservation projects.

In one, he hangs micro-sprinklers from a section of his standard center-pivot irrigation system and compares how his alfalfa field responds to the two types of watering. So far, the section with the micro-sprinklers is showing better yields while wasting less water, he said.

In the other, Morris has permission to take stormwater from a local water district’s irrigation canal and use it in one of his fields to replenish the aquifer. He’s one of numerous growers throughout California doing groundwater-recharge projects in various crop fields with the help of UC Cooperative Extension advisers.

“I’m president of the Scott Valley Irrigation District, and we want to do what we can to benefit the community around us” through water savings, Morris said. “Sometimes we (growers) feel like we have a target on our back, and when we do these things it helps to reduce that target.”

Morris demonstrated the projects for about 50 other growers during a field day on his ranch Aug. 27, sponsored by the UCCE and local cattlemen.

Water conflicts are nothing new to Morris and other growers along the Scott River, a key tributary to the beleaguered Klamath River and spawning ground for endangered salmon. Low levels in the Scott have triggered legal challenges by tribes and environmentalists and led to state restrictions on irrigation.

Amid the drought, researchers throughout the West have been seeking alternatives to the high, overhead sprinklers used by center-pivot systems. Among them are low-energy precision and spray applications, which have been adopted by many growers in the Pacific Northwest.

Morris is testing low-elevation spray applications which lower pivot-arm spray heads to just above the crops, lessening loss of water to wind drift and evaporation. He said the sprinklers have enabled him to get 20 percent more water directly to his plants and achieve about 20 percent more growth than the plants watered conventionally.

For the groundwater-recharge project in the past two late winters and early springs, Morris has applied different amounts of water to different sections of a field to test the tolerance of his alfalfa to the practice.

The trials found that applications of as much as 28 feet of water in February and March showed no discernible effect on alfalfa yield, demonstrating that alfalfa fields could work for groundwater-recharge projects if grown on suitable, well-draining soils.

“This concept has a lot of promise,” said Steve Orloff, a UCCE farm adviser and county director based in Yreka, Calif. “We could potentially do this on about 300,000 acres of alfalfa in California, although we won’t do that because we’d have to have infrastructure and (an easing of) regulations.”

In the Scott Valley, replenishing the aquifer in the winter could help river levels later in the season, Orloff and Morris said.

“This won’t (completely) solve our water problems in the Scott Valley, but it could improve flows,” Orloff said.

Portland daily grain report Tue, 30 Aug 2016 09:25:30 -0400 Portland, Ore., Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016

USDA Market News

All Bids in dollars per bushel. Bids are limited and not fully established in early trading.

Bids for grains delivered to Portland, Oregon in dollars per bushel.

In early trading September futures trended mixed, from 6.75 cents lower to 3.50 cents per bushel higher compared to Monday’s closes.

Bids for US 1 Soft White Wheat delivered to Portland in unit trains and barges for August delivery for ordinary protein were not well tested in early trading, but were indicated as higher compared to Monday’s noon bids for the same delivery period. Some exporters were not issuing bids for nearby delivery. Bids for guaranteed maximum 10.5 percent protein were not well tested in early trading, but bids were indicated as higher compared to Monday’s noon bids for the same delivery period. Some exporters were not issuing bids for nearby.

Bids for 11.5 percent protein US 1 Hard Red Winter Wheat for August delivery were not well tested in early trading, but were indicated as higher compared to Monday’s noon bids. Some exporters are not issuing bids for nearby delivery.

Bids for 14 percent protein US 1 Dark Northern Spring Wheat for August delivery were not well tested in early trading, but were indicated as higher compared to Monday’s noon bids. Some exporters are not issuing bids for nearby delivery.

Bids for US 2 Yellow Corn delivered full coast in 110 car shuttle trains during August trended higher compared to Monday’s noon bids.

Bids for US 1 Yellow Soybeans delivered full coast in 110 car shuttle trains during August trended lower compared to Monday’s noon bids.

All wheat bids in dollars per bushel

US 1 Soft White Wheat - delivered by Unit Trains and Barges

Ordinary protein

Sep 4.6500-4.7275

Oct 4.6275-4.7700

Nov 4.6275-4.8300

Dec 4.6275-4.8800

Jan NA

Guaranteed maximum 10.5 pct protein

Sep 4.6275-4.7775

Oct 4.6775-4.7275

Nov 4.6500-4.7675

Dec 4.6500-4.6775

Jan NA

US 1 White Club Wheat - delivered by Unit Trains and Barges

Ordinary protein

Sep 4.6500-4.7275

Guaranteed maximum 10.5 pct protein

Sep 4.6275-4.7775

US 1 Hard Red Winter Wheat - (Exporter bids-falling numbers of 300 or


Ordinary protein 4.4250-4.6350

11 pct protein 4.5750-4.9750

11.5 pct protein

Sep 4.7250-5.1750

Oct 4.8250-5.1750

Nov 4.8250-5.1750

Dec 4.8250-5.1750

Jan NA

12 pct protein 4.7750-5.2750

13 pct protein 4.8750-5.4750

US 1 Dark Northern Spring Wheat (with a minimum of 300 falling numbers, a maximum

of 0.5 part per million vomitoxin, and a maximum of one percent total damage)

13 pct protein 5.4100-5.6400

14 pct protein

Sep 5.7600-6.0600

Oct 5.8100-6.1100

Nov 5.8100-6.1100

Dec 5.8100-6.1100

Jan NA

15 pct protein 5.9600-6.3400

16 pct protein 6.1600-6.6200

US 2 Yellow Corn

Shuttle trains-Delivered full coast Pacific Northwest-BN

Sep 4.2850-4.3150

Oct 4.1650-4.2650

Nov 4.1150-4.1650

Dec 4.1150-4.1750

Jan 4.1675-4.2175

Feb NA

US 1 Yellow Soybeans

Shuttle trains-Delivered full coast Pacific Northwest-BN

Sep 10.8650

Oct 10.8350

Nov 10.8350-10.8650

Dec 10.7850-10.8350

Jan 10.7650-10.7850

Feb NA

US 2 Heavy White Oats 3.2650

Not well tested.

Exporter Bids Portland Rail/Barge Jul 2016

Averages in Dollars per bushel

US 1 Soft White by Unit Trains and Barges 5.0700

US 1 Hard Red Winter (Ordinary protein) 4.6700

US 1 Hard Red Winter (11.5% protein) 4.9400

US 1 Dark Northern Spring (14% protein) 5.8200

Source: USDA Market News Service, Portland, OR

Cattle ranchers still recovering after 2011 Texas drought Tue, 30 Aug 2016 09:22:20 -0400 AIMEE BREAUXThe Eagle COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — The year 2011 — the driest year on record in Texas — was the stuff of nightmares for area ranchers.

The Eagle newspaper reports that five years later, those who raise beef cattle are just beginning to recover.

Kelley Sullivan, who co-owns Santa Rosa Ranch in Grimes and Houston counties with her father, said the 2011 drought made her a better producer. But at the time, the experience brought back daunting stories her father told her about living through the seven-year drought in the 1950s.

“He said as a boy he remembers it just never rained,” Sullivan said. “He said when it first rained, he remembered asking, ‘What is that?”’

For many Texas ranchers, the 2011 drought was similar to what the state experienced in the 1950s — but much worse.

“What we had at that time was not only the weeks upon weeks without any moisture, but the unbelievable heat,” Sullivan said. “It just completely parched the earth.”

Sullivan was able to stave off losing cattle, but ranchers across Texas tightened belts and cut about 20 percent of beef cow herds. Statewide, herds shrank by more than 1 million beef cattle, and by 2014, the number in Texas dropped to 3.9 million, the lowest since 1958, according to National Agricultural Statistics Service, or NASS.

“Cattle were sold and moved to other states, and our state became depleted of cattle, because we just didn’t have the grass and water to do our business,” said Richard Thorpe, president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.

Brazos Valley was no exception. Beef cow herds in Brazos, Leon, Madison, Milam and Washington counties dropped to as low as 167,000 in 2014, according to NASS. Since then, herds across Texas and in Brazos Valley have expanded slowly. In January, the beef cattle herds in local counties reached 183,000 while across Texas the number reached nearly 4.3 million.

Experts such as Dave Anderson, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agricultural economist, expect these numbers to continue to grow, but getting back to the amount of beef cows produced a decade ago will take time. Anderson, who is also a professor at Texas A&M, attributes the slow growth to urban development, rising costs and the lasting effects of drought.

“Since the drought was so severe, it really colors everything after,” Anderson said. “A drought that severe takes multiple years for plant life to recover.”

Anderson said farmers and ranchers can use creative irrigation methods and drought-tolerant crop varieties to lessen the effects of dry weather, but ultimately, expanding herd sizes depends on rainfall and grass growth. As such, Anderson said the lifting of burn bans across Brazos Valley recently is a good sign for an industry at the mercy of the weather.

But as ranchers expand, certain growing pains arise. With larger herds, ranchers are able to put more beef in the market, which in turn means lower prices for cattle. Thorpe said issues such as this are small concerns when held up to issues related to water rights and eminent domain.

“But, you know, this is business as usual for us,” Thorpe said. “The people who are in this business do it because they know how to make money with it. And they do it because they love it — they love the land, and they love the lifestyle.”

For Sullivan, the biggest obstacle Santa Rosa Ranch faces now is a complete 180 from the problems it faced in 2011. The portion of the Trinity River that runs through Sullivan’s Houston lot has come out eight times in the past year and a half.

“It was almost the reverse drought. Half of our ranch was not useful, because it was underwater,” Sullivan said. “So, it was almost the opposite — well it was the opposite. Still the circumstances were very, very similar.”

Despite this, Sullivan is grateful for the rain. After her ranch flooded Memorial Day weekend, Sullivan said her land had a small dry spell.

As Sullivan puts it, in Texas, “you’re only two weeks from a drought.”

Yellowstone River closure worries outdoors industry Tue, 30 Aug 2016 09:01:49 -0400 MATTHEW BROWN LIVINGSTON, Mont. (AP) — Tens of thousands of dead fish have closed Montana’s Yellowstone River and stirred new worries Monday about lasting impacts to the region’s lucrative outdoors industry.

Gov. Steve Bullock declared an “invasive species emergency” over an aquatic parasite blamed for the dying fish. A 183-mile stretch of the Yellowstone and all waterways that drain into it have been closed since Aug. 19 to prevent the deadly parasite from spreading. The unprecedented move came after thousands of dead mountain whitefish started washing up on the river’s banks downstream from Yellowstone National Park.

Smaller numbers of other fish species have been killed. That’s offered hope that the parasite will spare the trout populations that made the Yellowstone a destination for fly fishers from around the world.

But uncertainty over how long the closure will remain in force — and whether the parasite will crop up again in future years — has unsettled those whose livelihoods depend on the river.

Fishing guide Chase Chapman of Livingston said he’s losing tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of business as customers cancel previously booked trips. The losses are likely to grow as the closure continues, he said. Yet Chapman is not interested in training for another occupation and foremost wants to know when the river will re-open.

“I don’t think anyone wants re-training,” Chapman said Monday, during a workshop in Livingston for affected workers that was hosted by the state Department of Labor and Industry. “We all have established businesses. We’re not going anywhere.... Now what do we do?”

Monday’s emergency proclamation from Bullock will allow Montana to spend up to $15.4 million on worker retention grants and other programs meant to blunt the economic harm of the closure, state officials said.

The number of people and businesses that lost work over the closure has not been tallied, said Scott Eychner, workforce services administrator of the state labor agency. Eychner said officials did not want to wait until that information was tallied before holding Monday’s workshop, so that assistance could be given to those who need it as quickly as possible.

Repairing the river’s reputation is another matter.

Paul Weamer, who manages a fly fishing shop in the Paradise Valley north of Livingston, said he has no doubt the Yellowstone and its fishery will recover. But Weamer said news reports of the fish kill have left a negative impression among outsiders that will be hard to overcome even when the Yellowstone reopens and fishing resumes.

“You hear dead fish and that freaks people out and I understand that. But I really think our fishery will be good next year,” Weamer said.

State officials on Monday said infected fish have been discovered in Laurel, more than a hundred miles downstream from the epicenter of the fish kill. A small number of whitefish that were collected near Laurel have tested positive for exposure to the parasite, officials said.

Whitefish exposed to the parasite also were collected near Columbus, Big Timber and at the mouth of the Boulder River, but officials said all the downstream fish were still alive and appeared healthy.

The rate of fish dying appears to have eased in recent days, said Sam Sheppard, regional supervisor for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

Sheppard added that it was too soon to say if the decrease in deaths would prove lasting.

Officials have warned outbreaks of the parasite are possible in future years now that it’s been established in the Yellowstone.

Sugar beets high and dry after irrigation canal break in Montana Tue, 30 Aug 2016 08:47:25 -0400 BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The breach in the wall of an irrigation canal south of Sidney has left some sugar beet acreage high and dry.

The Billings Gazette reports the Aug. 21 breach blew out the main canal bank of the Lower Yellowstone Irrigation Project, flooding a nearby sheep farm.

Sidney Sugars agricultural manager Duane Peters says the breach affects about 13,000 acres of beets.

Crews installed temporary dams to allow irrigators upstream from the break to continue watering their crops. Peters says some downstream users are able to pull water from the Yellowstone River.

Irrigation project manager James Brower says the repairs will cost about $500,000. Irrigators will foot the bill based on the amount of water they use.

Brower says decaying tree roots likely created the path for the water to breach the side of the canal.

500 cows rustled from New Zealand farm Tue, 30 Aug 2016 08:45:25 -0400 NICK PERRY WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — How do you steal 500 cows?

Probably not all at once. That’s according to New Zealand police, who said Tuesday that they were investigating reports of the unlikely crime at a South Island farm.

Locals said they’d never before heard of cattle rustling on such a massive scale. And that’s in a nation that’s home to some 10 million cows, more than double the number of people.

The farmer involved is feeling too sheepish to talk about what happened, according to friend Willy Leferink.

“He’s absolutely gobsmacked, and deeply embarrassed,” Leferink said. “If you had three-quarters of a million dollars go missing, you wouldn’t want to talk about it either.”

Leferink said each milking cow was worth about 1,500 New Zealand dollars ($1,090) and weighed more than half a ton. He said the cows could have been taken from the herd of 1,300 near the town of Ashburton anytime between early July, when they were last counted, and late August.

He said the cows weren’t being milked because it was winter, but the farmer did notice they weren’t chewing through as much feed as normal.

Police said the incident came as a reminder to farmers that they should be checking their fences and counting their stock regularly.

“It’s unlikely the theft of hundreds of animals could be completed at once, and is more likely that multiple thefts could be carried out over a period of time,” Senior Sgt. Scott Banfield said in a statement.

Leferink said a trailer-truck would need to be loaded 13 times over to move all the cattle.

“There have to be a number of people involved,” Leferink said. “That’s the biggest chance we have, of somebody cracking at some stage.”

He said the thieves would face a tough time trying to fence the cows, because each one comes with an electronic identification tag in its ear. He said the tags could be removed, but that an honest dealer wouldn’t buy a cow without a tag.

Leferink said farmers can sometimes be relaxed about security.

“They’re good-natured and haven’t got evil thoughts in them,” he said. “This is very hard to deal with.”

Wily Clydesdale named Buddy goes on lam for five days Tue, 30 Aug 2016 08:25:12 -0400 SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (AP) — A dwarf billy goat gave new meaning to the word “scapegoat” when he busted out a surprisingly slippery Clydesdale that went on the lam in California for several days.

The nearly 1-ton horse named Budweiser, who goes by “Buddy,” was safely wrangled back into his pen Sunday in the Santa Cruz Mountains on California’s Central Coast.

The goat named Lancelot knows how to butt open the stable gate, and did just that Wednesday, letting his best friend escape, owner Tamara Schmitz told the Santa Cruz Sentinel newspaper.

Another Clydesdale, Harry, also fled and was nabbed in a meadow the next day. But Buddy is more wary and wily, Schmitz said.

“Buddy’s very elusive,” she said. “He’s not like other horses. He’s not attracted by meadows and other horses. He can stay hidden.”

That made him very hard to find. He eluded volunteers from around the Santa Cruz area for five days, with evidence like tracks and loud snorts suggesting he was as far as 3 miles away.

The owners even trotted out Lancelot and Harry to try to lure back Buddy, but he didn’t fall for it. They just hoped the horse would stay away from Highway 17, a busy and dangerous road running through the area.

A pair of searchers on horseback finally found Buddy hiding amid manzanita shrubs Sunday.

“When we got him back in the pen, he was particularly frisky and playful and happy,” Schmitz said. “I think he was glad to be back.”

Yellowstone’s south entrance reopens Tue, 30 Aug 2016 08:14:54 -0400 YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. (AP) — The south entrance to Yellowstone National Park has reopened after being closed for more than a week because of a wildfire in neighboring Grand Teton National Park.

Firefighters doused hot spots and cleared downed and dangerous burned trees along the highway that runs up the east side of Grand Teton and to the Yellowstone entrance. The highway reopened overnight, and the Yellowstone gate opened at 7 a.m. Tuesday.

Closing the entrance over the last week forced visitors coming up from the popular Jackson Hole area to take a detour that added about an hour of drive time to reach Yellowstone through Idaho and West Yellowstone, Montana.

The fires in Yellowstone and Grand Teton remain active and continue to grow. But all major tourist attractions and roads in Yellowstone are open.

Farmworker overtime legislation goes to California governor Tue, 30 Aug 2016 08:13:03 -0400 ALISON NOON SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Gov. Jerry Brown will again consider a historic proposal calling for farmworkers to receive the same overtime pay as other hourly workers, after the Assembly approved legislation to phase in the change.

California employers are already mandated to pay time-and-a half to farmworkers after 10 hours in a day or 60 hours in a week. That’s longer than the overtime pay for all other workers, who get it after eight hours in a day or 40 hours a week.

The Assembly passed the proposal with a 44-32 vote after two hours of debate over whether the increase in wages would cause managers to cut hours or jobs.

“There may be situations where people may believe that they will lose something in terms of economics, but my father taught me that it was more than about the money, it was about who he was as a man and it was about him being respected by everyone else like everyone else,” said Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, whose father was a sharecropper. “Sometimes, for that reason, you make that economic sacrifice.”

The bill was previously passed in the state Senate 21-14. Brown spokeswoman Deborah Hoffman said he has not yet taken a position on it.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, proposed that the state phase in time-and-a-half pay for farm laborers who exceed eight hours in one day by 2022 on large farms and by 2025 for farms with 25 or fewer employees.

In addition to people who physically harvest the fields and operate machinery, the bill will cover ranch hands and irrigators.

“We’re asking for equality eventually. It starts today, however,” Gonzalez said.

Opponents argue the seasonal nature of farm work does not lend itself to overtime. They said the added costs will require employers to cut workers’ hours, ultimately hurting hundreds of thousands of farmworkers in California.

Assemblyman Devon Mathis, R-Visalia, said many workers who are concerned about looming cuts have been silent on the issue “because they are busy back home working.”

“This bill ultimately will hurt those that it claims to want to help, specifically it’s going to devastate the working families of our farming communities,” said Mathis, vice chair of the Assembly agriculture committee.

The Assembly rejected the proposal in June, when eight Democrats opposed it and another six refused to vote. In what Gonzalez has described as an unprecedented move to revive the bill, she worked around the Legislature’s rules and reinserted the proposal in another bill, angering Republicans who objected to the breach in procedure.

Gonzalez waged a social media campaign to pressure her Democratic colleagues to back AB1066; agreed to compromises to win votes, including giving small farms an extra three years to pay more overtime; and led a squad of Democratic allies in a 24-hour fast paying homage to the weeks-long fast that legendary farmworker activist Cesar Chavez staged when the “Salad Bowl” strike of 1970 initially failed.

Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula, D-Kingsburg, a Central Valley physician said he regularly sees “farmworkers who I was struggling to keep alive because the hours are too long in the brutal sun.”

“It is time to have equal overtime protections in all workplaces,” Arambula said.

Brown, currently serving in an unprecedented fourth term as California governor, first ran for the job on the heels of the nation’s largest agricultural labor strike. Thousands of workers walked off farms in 1970, picketing for farm owners to recognize and negotiate fair labor conditions with the union that Chavez had established nearly a decade earlier.

The strike fizzled with no legislative accomplishments under former Republican Gov. Ronald Reagan. The movement came alive again with Brown’s election to the governor’s office in 1974.

Last week, tensions flared when roughly 300 farmworkers and union leaders who had planned to join a rally learned that Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount, had postponed the vote without explanation. About 100 people congregated outside Rendon’s office, chanted “overtime,” and sang “De Colores,” a Mexican folk song that was a staple at strikes and union meetings when Chavez led the UFW.

California lawmakers passed a similar bill in 2010 that would have deleted the exemption of agricultural employees from overtime requirements. Former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed it.

California lawmakers pass farmworker overtime after 8 hours Mon, 29 Aug 2016 16:44:44 -0400 SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California lawmakers have approved legislation to apply the same overtime laws to people who sow and harvest food as those who pack it and work in other industries.

The United Farm Workers union says California would be the first state to require that farmworkers receive extra pay after eight hours.

California employers are already mandated to pay time-and-a half to farmworkers after 10 hours in a day or 60 hours in a week. That’s longer than the overtime pay for other workers, who get it after eight hours in a day or 40 hours a week.

Opponents say the seasonal nature of farm work does not lend itself to overtime and may cause cuts to hours.

The Assembly approved AB1066 44-32 on Monday, sending it to Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown.

Idaho milk production continues to increase Mon, 29 Aug 2016 15:54:00 -0400 Carol Ryan Dumas Idaho’s milk production was up 3.7 percent in both July and June year over year and is up about 3.3 percent from January through July — almost double the state’s 1.7 percent increase in production in 2015.

Producers have steadily added cows to their operations and increased per-cow output over last year’s monthly production, according to USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service.

But the increase doesn’t indicate any noticeable jump in processing demand, according to industry insiders.

Several factors are affecting production growth. Part of it is just an increase in milk per cow, which typically grows 1 percent to 2 percent year over year, said Rick Naerebout, director of operations for the Idaho Dairymen’s Association.

And there’s still some trickle through from a banner year for milk prices in 2014, with long-term investments in farms working their way through the system and some new dairies being built, he said.

There have been a few increases in demand from processors, he said, noting Chobani’s recent $100 million expansion of its yogurt plant in Twin Falls.

“But we really don’t see processors looking for more supply,” he said.

Things are pretty much in balance, and more milk moves out of state in peak production months, he said.

Idaho’s dairy industry operates mostly in a business-to-business market, with most processors producing for other brands. As their sales grow, they’ll purchase more milk. But it happens quietly without announcements, he said.

Increased production reflects a 30-year trend of more milk per cow, said Russ De Kruyf, director of milk procurement for Glanbia Nutritionals and president of the Idaho Milk Processors Association.

“Dairymen are becoming more and more efficient every year and getting more and more out of less,” he said.

Of the 3.7 percent increase in milk production in July, 2.1 percent is attributable to more milk per cow and 1.5 percent is attributable to additional cows, he said.

Dairymen ended 2015 with 587,000 cows in December, adding 8,000 in the first seven months of 2016 to hit 595,000 in July.

Milk production is running about 41 million pounds a day, reflecting the 3.7 percent increase, but it’s relatively in balance with demand, De Kruyf said.

“I think we’re able to soak it up,” he said.

Chobani’s milk needs are probably up a little. Glanbia’s is about the same, and the company did turn away some open-market milk above its contracts in July, he said.

When there isn’t quite enough processing capacity in the state, the additional milk goes to Utah to help supply that pool. In general, about 1 million pounds a day leaves the state, he said.

Idaho’s milk production in July was stronger than anticipated, with ideal weather conditions and high quality feed, said Cory Gillins, director of marketing and operations for Dairy Farmers of America, mountain area council.

A few plant issues, such as scheduled maintenance, as well as seasonality of some plants left some processors unable to take additional supply and pushed some milk out of state, he said.

“July milk production was a little bit of an anomaly, but things are back in line and the market is pretty well in balance,” he said.

Smaller crop, growing exports brighten U.S. spud outlook Mon, 29 Aug 2016 15:48:22 -0400 John O’Connell DENVER — U.S. potato growers should have a smaller crop and strengthened export demand as they start to market their 2016 harvest, according to new reports.

Recent estimates by United Potato Growers of America’s Supply-Demand Committee place the 2016-2017 crop at about 2 million hundredweight shorter than last year. Furthermore, a new USDA report concludes the marketing year that ended in June 2016 was the second best on record for foreign potato exports, following a down export year.

Key growing areas have reported their spuds are a week or two ahead in growth, but tuber sets have been lower, according to UPGA.

The UPGA committee, which recently met in Salt Lake City to discuss crop production, anticipates fresh North American new potato crop shipments of 98.6 million hundredweight, compared with 100.6 million hundredweight of 2015-2016 crop shipments. The supply of red potatoes could be especially tight, with red production expected to drop by 7.5 percent.

“These numbers suggest we have a very marketable crop coming,” Cary Hoffman, the chairman of the committee, said in a press release. “The coming 2016-2017 crop appears today to be of better quality and more balanced than last year’s.”

The exceptions may be in Red River Valley, as well as central and east Canada, where challenging weather could hurt both quality and yields, according to UPGA.

Near the end of a crop year in which prices have been depressed, UPGA CEO Jerry Wright sees an improved outlook for spud growers with their 2016-2017 crop.

“While pricing next season will certainly vary by production area based upon local supplies, overall, this year’s balanced crop should mean above grower cost-of-production returns in many parts of the country, and that’s welcomed news,” Wright said in the press release.

Led by 11 percent growth in the frozen sector, the recent trend has also been positive for total U.S. potato exports, which posted a 4 percent increase in value, at nearly $1.7 billion, and a 6 percent increase in fresh weight equivalent, at more than 3.2 million metric tons. Furthermore, fresh potato exports rose 8 percent, potato chip exports were up 3 percent and seed exports were up 6 percent.

Dehydrated potatoes posted the only decline, dropping 3 percent, which Potatoes USA Chief Marketing Officer John Toaspern attributes to a “market correction” following prior-year gains made in the dehydrated sector.

The major U.S. frozen export markets were Japan, which increased its import volume by 9 percent, Mexico, which saw its frozen import volume decrease by less than 1 percent, and China, which imported 58 percent more frozen U.S. potato products. Toaspern warned the gains in China were due to a Simplot fry plant being taken off line, forcing China to import more from the U.S. Simplot is working to partner with a local fry producer at an expanded plant to restore the lost production.

The major U.S. fresh markets were Canada, which bought 10 percent more volume, Mexico, which bought 13 percent more volume, and Japan which bought 108 percent more fresh U.S. spuds, all for making potato chips.

Toaspern credits the gains, in spite of a strong U.S. dollar, to an ample supply of U.S. potatoes, high U.S. quality and Potatoes USA programs to get buyers to switch back to U.S. products following market disruptions due to a labor slow-down at Western U.S. ports.

“We should be back on our growth path,” Toaspern said.

USDA clarifying rule allows ranchers to opt out of beef council checkoffs Mon, 29 Aug 2016 15:45:11 -0400 John O’Connell BILLINGS, Mont. — The USDA is “clarifying” a little-known policy the agency insists has long been in place allowing ranchers to opt out of allocating half of their checkoff fee payments to qualifying state beef councils, according to a court document.

In its Aug. 4 motion in Montana district court, USDA argued that in light of the opt-out policy, the judge should dismiss a case filed by Ranchers-Cattleman Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America challenging the constitutionality of current checkoff fee management.

R-CALF alleges the government has forced member cattleman to fund state beef councils that often promote beef in general rather than U.S. beef or beef from their states, in violation of their First Amendment rights.

R-CALF has asked that the full $1-per-head checkoff fee paid on cattle sales go to the national Cattleman’s Beef Promotion and Research Board, which they agree operates in compliance with the law. R-CALF officials said their suit targets the Montana Beef Council as a test case. Officials of the Montana council declined to comment.

USDA believes publicizing the opt-out provision eliminates R-CALF’s “compelled subsidy claim.”

“To the extent plaintiff’s members are contributing to the Montana Beef Council against their wishes, they are doing so only because they have failed to avail themselves of this procedure,” the USDA motion reads.

Short of a dismissal, USDA requested that the court at least stay the case until after the process of clarifying the policy is complete. Public comment on the proposed clarification rule will be accepted through Sept. 13, and USDA noted R-CALF members are free to participate.

According to USDA’s motion, proposing a rule recognizes “all producers may not have been aware of the option to direct their full federal assessment to the Beef Board, particularly in light of language inadvertently removed from the Beef Order in 1995.”

In response to USDA’s motion for a dismissal, R-CALF attorneys filed an Aug. 24 motion asking the judge to rule in favor of their arguments as a matter of law, without the necessity of a trial.

R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard noted USDA has published a flowchart showing half of checkoff fees must be directed back to a state beef council. Bullard can find no written evidence of any opt-out policy.

“If there was an inadvertent deletion (of an opt-out policy) over two decades ago, you would think a responsible agency would have corrected the mistake through a technical amendment,” Bullard said.

Bullard believes the proposed opt-out rule, as USDA recently described it, is intentionally onerous to ranchers who would seek to use it — requiring them to file monthly paperwork that must be approved by state councils and allowing the councils to hold their revenue for up to 105 days — and that the policy improperly places the burden of correcting a constitutional violation on the victims.

Bullard said a member in Kansas wrote USDA asking to have his full checkoff payment directed to the national organization before the agency filed its rule, and USDA never mentioned the existence of an opt-out policy, instead requesting that he seek the state council’s permission.

Bullard said R-CALF is educating cattlemen of their right to opt out of the policy, encouraging them to comment on the proposed rule and is supporting a pair of Senate bills introduced by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah. S. 3200 would requires participation in all checkoff programs to be voluntary, and S. 3201 would prohibit the awarding of checkoff dollars to groups that lobby.

Oregon wild horse roundup canceled Mon, 29 Aug 2016 15:32:23 -0400 Mateusz Perkowski A planned roundup of wild horses from the Three Fingers herd in Malheur County, Ore., has been canceled due to a rangeland fire in the area.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management decided to withdraw its decision to gather 100 of the herd’s 200 horses near Jordan Valley, Ore., in late August, forestalling at least temporarily an animal rights group’s lawsuit seeking to block the action.

Of the gathered horses, the BLM planned to remove half for eventual adoption and release the remainder after treating females with a contraceptive to slow the herd’s growth.

Friends of Animals, a New York-based nonprofit, filed a lawsuit against the agency, arguing the roundup was ordered without an environmental review, as mandated by federal law.

According to the complaint, BLM relied on an outdated environmental analysis from 2011 that didn’t take into consideration new information about the negative impacts of the fertility control drug Porcine Zona Penucide, or PZP.

The planned August roundup was also aimed at protecting sage grouse habitat and fire restoration projects, neither of which were studied under the 2011 analysis, the complaint said.

Since then, a study has found that PZP can remain effective longer than expected, causing foals to be born outside the normal birthing season, and is associated with ovulation failure, according to Friends of Animals.

The nonprofit group asked U.S. District Judge Michael Simon to issue a temporary restraining order blocking the roundup, which BLM opposed in court documents.

The BLM argued that it was permitted to rely on the 2011 analysis in forming its most recent decision to gather horses and that Friends of Animals hadn’t followed the proper administrative process to stop the roundup.

If the horses continue to multiply, they will spread out and damage areas that are only now beginning to recover from fires last year, the BLM said.

“That will lead to further degradation of the range, ultimately destroying the habitat on which they and numerous other wildlife rely,” the agency said in a court document.

Before oral arguments in the dispute could be held, however, BLM issued a notice that the roundup won’t take place because a wildfire had burned much of the area where it was to occur.

The BLM apparently referred to the Cherry Road Fire near Jordan Valley, which ignited on Aug. 21 and burned more than 35,000 acres before firefighters contained it on Aug. 28.

Friends of Animals has withdrawn its motion for a temporary restraining order, though it’s not dismissing the lawsuit while it weighs its options, the group said in a court filing.

Washington restores some license sales to sportsmen Mon, 29 Aug 2016 15:25:16 -0400 The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has resumed selling hunting and fishing licenses and the Discover Pass through a network of about 600 dealers, although online sales have not been restored as investigators probe a security breach that also affected Oregon and Idaho.

WDFW suspended all sales Thursday because the breach in an online registration system exposed the personal information of people who bought licenses. Active Network, based in Dallas, Texas, contracts with the state to provide the service.

The breach also closed online sales of hunting and fishing licenses in Idaho and Oregon, though licenses have remained available in those states through dealers.

WDFW said it and the state Office of Cyber Security determined the system used by dealers was secure and restored the service Saturday.

Licenses also can be purchased over the phone by calling (360) 902-2464.

WDFW has suspended fishing license requirements through Tuesday, though other fishing regulations remain in place. Fishing licenses will again be required beginning Wednesday.

A list of places where licenses are sold in Washington can be found at

ODFW says wolf attack was probable cause of sheep’s death Mon, 29 Aug 2016 14:49:22 -0400 Eric Mortenson A ewe was killed and eaten in northeastern Oregon’s Umatilla County in what Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has labeled a probable wolf attack.

The attack happened about 4 p.m. Aug. 16 on public land in ODFW’s Mount Emily wildlife management unit. A sheep herder heard a noise near his camp and found one of his guard dogs fighting with a black wolf. The herder fired his rifle into the air three times, scaring off the wolf. He found the ewe dead near where the dog and wolf were fighting.

The herder told a U.S. Wildlife Services agent about the attack two days later, and ODFW joined in a followup investigation. By then, the sheep carcass had been nearly consumed with only the skeletal system, small amounts of connective tissue, hide, rumen, and wool remaining, according to an ODFW report.

No evidence of a wolf attack could be found at the site, but trail camera video and tracks show a single wolf had used the area, according to ODFW. Coupled with the herder’s statement, it was enough for ODFW to declare the incident a “probable” wolf attack.

Japanese beetle infestation found in Portland Mon, 29 Aug 2016 14:23:48 -0400 Eric Mortenson PORTLAND — Discovery of a Japanese beetle outbreak in Northwest Portland has state ag officials scrambling to determine the size of the infestation.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture said 265 beetles were caught in traps this summer in the vicinity of Northwest Saltzman Road and Northwest Thompson Road. Others were found feeding on homeowners’ roses, and the agency believes a localized breeding population has established itself in the area. They’ve probably been present for a year, the department said.

Japanese beetles are not native to the Pacific Northwest. In the past, they’ve been found near Portland International Airport, suggesting they hitched a ride on air cargo containers. The beetles feed on a variety of plants and pose a particular threat to crops such as cannabis, hops, nursery plants and wine grapes, according to the department.

The ag department does not plan an eradication campaign this year because it’s too late in the season, spokesman Bruce Pokarney said. The department will monitor the situation with the likely intent to do localized spraying next year, he said. The department probably would spray in two phases: Once to spray turf to get the beetles in their grub stage, and a second time to spray bushes once the beetles have emerged as adults.

In the meantime, the manager of ODA’s Insect Pest Prevention and Management program said homeowners can best help by cooperating with field technicians who are maintaining traps. Homeowners also should avoid moving plants, roots or soil from the infestation area because that could spread the beetles elsewhere, program manager Clint Burfitt said in a news release.

East Idaho dairy expands home delivery to Treasure Valley Mon, 29 Aug 2016 14:13:09 -0400 Sean Ellis BOISE — Low milk prices are behind an East Idaho dairy’s decision to adopt a unique business model that its owners believe could result in a 10-fold increase in sales.

Reed’s Dairy, which produces its own cheese and ice cream and delivers milk directly to homes in Eastern Idaho, has purchased Boise Milk’s home delivery service in southwestern Idaho.

This will allow Reed’s to expand its home delivery service to the Treasure Valley area, by far the state’s largest population center.

“We have a really big potential market here,” Reed’s owner Alan Reed said of the Treasure Valley region. “We’re looking at adding about 500 customers a year here.”

Reed’s will bottle the milk at its Idaho Falls dairy and then ship it 286 miles by truck to the Boise area. Smaller trucks will deliver it directly to homes.

Low milk prices drove the decision, Reed said.

The dairy was selling about 2,500 to 3,000 gallons of surplus milk — milk left over after the dairy made its own cheese and ice cream — to a processor.

But the current low prices meant Reed’s was losing money on that surplus milk and the dairy was close to deciding to stop bottling its own milk and just keep its cheese and ice cream business.

“I just needed some way to sell that milk ourselves, directly to the consumer, and that’s when Boise Milk came (available),” he said. “We really purchased Boise Milk so we could stay in the milk business.”

Reed’s also plans to open up three to four retail stores in the Treasure Valley in the next few years, where it will sell its dairy products to consumers.

Reed said there are several dairies around the country that still bottle their own milk and deliver it to homes but he doesn’t know of any others that bottle their own milk, make their own ice cream and cheese and sell them via home delivery and retail.

Dairy economic Marin Bozic, whose words earlier this year helped inspire Reed’s to expand into the Treasure Valley, agrees.

“I can’t think of another example,” said Bozic, associate director of the Midwest Dairy Foods Research Center. “I’m really excited about this venture.”

Bozic told United Dairymen of Idaho members in March that in order to maintain their competitive edge in this period of low milk prices, they need to be ready to pivot radically and look for new business models, partnerships and supply chain models.

“We had never really thought about expanding outside of Eastern Idaho,” Reed said. “But when he said that ... I thought, we’ve got to find another market, and then Boise Milk came up.”

UDI Chief Executive Officer Karianne Fallow said Reed’s has struck on an innovative business model but every Idaho dairy is also currently exploring it options.

“There is tons of innovation happening. It’s just taking many different forms,” she said. “Idaho dairy farmers ... are all looking at their own business models in different ways.”

Firm markets WSU grain varieties Mon, 29 Aug 2016 13:56:05 -0400 Matw Weaver RITZVILLE, Wash. — Marci Miller remembers a plaque on the wall in her grandmother’s farm house in Ralston, Wash.

It said, “He who plants the seed beneath the sod and waits to see believes in God,” and depicted a farmer and his wife looking across their land.

“I always remember looking at that and thinking to myself, ‘I love that thought, that theory,’” Miller said. “It takes faith to farm.”

But, she said, “it also takes hard work, a lot of knowledge and education.”

That’s what Washington Genetics LLC, the company Miller owns with her husband, Mike, helps to provide farmers and others.

The Ritzville, Wash., company markets Washington State University’s grain varieties, including answering questions about the varieties and licensing seed dealers.

“When I think of the word ‘genetics,’ I don’t necessarily think of the chemical makeup of something,” Miller said. “To us, it’s more technology advancement and research.”

The information highway is two-way. Washington Genetics also provides information from customers to WSU, helping breeders select the right lines for release and develop a strategy for increase to get new varieties out to growers more quickly, said Jim Moyer, director of WSU’s Agricultural Research Center.

The company also works with the Washington State Crop Improvement Association to manage royalties so everyone understands and meets contract conditions.

“We are exceeding our expectations in terms of market penetration for our new varieties, and this in turn adds to our bottom line for royalty collection,” Moyer said, crediting Washington Genetics’ marketing efforts. “It has almost immediately raised the stature of our breeding program with the private breeders based on the relationships we are developing with the companies.”

Making sure growers are aware of and can access the best WSU varieties increases the industry’s investment in the university, Moyer said.

“Every university approaches commercialization of their varieties differently,” he said. “We are in a definite minority as far as this approach goes, but a lot of our peers are watching us very closely.”

The company goes beyond marketing. It also serves as a resource to help clients ranging from growers to cities and other government entities working with agriculture.

“At some point, everything has some type of agricultural perspective to it,” Miller said. “Every city, big or small, has agriculture on the outlines of it. That does affect anything that goes on in the cities.”

Farmers might be looking to explore new crops or develop a new product. A school might be leasing some farm ground but need help understanding what the farmer is doing or sorting through USDA paperwork.

“There’s a definite gap between who understands who and how they can work together,” Miller said. “Even growing up, I would recognize the struggles my dad would have trying to connect with ‘big ag’ industry-type things and how he could get that to apply to his farm.”

Miller applies the same theory to her current work.

“Tell me what you need, and I will tell you what we can do, or I can point you in the direction of someone who can,” she said.

Besides Washington, the firm serves clients in Idaho, Oregon and Montana and is starting to branch out to Northern California.

Miller believes the company is at a “growing pain” stage: There’s a lot of need, but she’s trying to balance the business, family life with three children and two farms — the irrigated farm she grew up on and Mike’s family farm.

“The opportunities to be able to help the ag industry are endless,” she said. “I’m excited about that.”

Marci Miller

Age: 38

Occupation: Co-owner, Washington Genetics LLC

Hometown: Ritzville, Wash.

Education: Associate degree in applied science, agricultural chemical science and agricultural business science, Spokane Community College

Family: Husband, Mike, is also an owner of Washington Genetics, a member of the Washington Grain Commission and an officer of U.S. Wheat Associates. Three children.


Northwest hydropower study due in five years Mon, 29 Aug 2016 11:54:15 -0400 Mateusz Perkowski Federal authorities have five years to study changes to the operation of 14 Northwest hydropower facilities aimed at mitigating harms to threatened and endangered fish.

Environmental groups had called for a shorter deadline but they’re optimistic the process will compel federal agencies to come up with more aggressive operational changes.

Irrigators who depend on electricity from the hydropower dams, meanwhile, expect the five-year study will amount to an expensive waste of time.

“Nothing good will come out of this,” said Darryl Olsen, board representative of the Columbia-Snake River Irrigators Association.

Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge Michael Simon held that the federal government’s plans for operating the facilities violated the Endangered Species Act so agencies must come up with new “reasonable and prudent alternatives” to protect fish in about two years.

Those plans must also be subjected to an “environmental impact statement,” which environmental groups argued should be completed in three years.

Simon has instead sided with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and given the agencies more time, until 2021, to finish the EIS.

While there is an “urgent need” to correct problems with the hydropower system, rushing the EIS process “to meet an arbitrary court deadline may be counterproductive,” Simon ruled.

The EIS process is critical because the federal agencies will be required to examine several options for altering hydropower operations, such as removing four dams along the Snake river, said Todd True, an attorney for the Earthjustice law firm, which represents environmental groups.

Changes to the energy grid and river shipping will influence the government’s analysis, as will improved information about climate change and dam removal, said True.

“There is a whole other context the government is going to be operating under this time,” he said.

The Columbia-Snake River Irrigators Association isn’t so enthusiastic.

The hydropower system has undergone EIS analysis several times in the past and it’s unlikely that federal agencies will arrive at a different result this time, said Olsen, CSRIA’s board representative.

“It will be another big process and I really don’t expect their conclusions to be much different,” he said.

Irrigators fear that increased costs for operating the dams will drive up electricity rates, which would make pumping water more expensive.

Worries about the system’s impact on fish also discourages state governments from issuing new water rights, according to irrigators.

The five years spent on the new EIS will likely cost $20 million to $30 million, Olsen said. “It’s a consultant’s dream.”

Federal authorities probably won’t remove the dams, so the ultimate outcome will likely be increased spending on environmental mitigation projects by the Bonneville Power Administration, which operates the system, he said.

“The real point is to extract more money out of Bonneville Power Administration,” Olsen said. “There is no objective other than money.”

True of Earthjustice objected to this allegation, stating that the billions of dollars spent so far to protect fish haven’t generated meaningful results.

“I completely disagree,” he said.

Widow of slain federal wildlife refuge occupier plans to sue Mon, 29 Aug 2016 08:16:36 -0400 PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregon police and two FBI agents could face a lawsuit from the widow of an Arizona rancher who took part in the Malheur Wildlife Refuge occupation and was killed in a confrontation with authorities.

California-based attorney Brian Claypool told the Oregonian/OregonLive that the lawsuit on behalf of Jeanette Finicum and the family has not been filed but that they are pursuing it “with 100 percent certainty.”

Prosecutors determined the shots fired at 54-year-old Robert “LaVoy” Finicum were “in fact, necessary.”

“All six shots fired by the Oregon State Police, the three into the truck and the three that struck Mr. Finicum, are justified,” Malheur County District Attorney Dan Norris said.

Claypool says evidence shows shots were fired contrary to statements made during the investigation.

The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating whether an agent lied about firing two shots that did not hit Finicum and if four others worked to hide it later.

Claypool said more details about the lawsuit would be announced at a news conference planned for September.

Jeanette Finicum has said in a statement that her “husband was murdered.”

A family statement said Finicum was “executed in cold blood.”

Claypool also represents Ryan Bundy in his case related to the occupation.