Capital Press | http://www.capitalpress.com Capital Press Thu, 31 Jul 2014 04:19:59 -0400 en http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcsi.dll/staticimage/images/rss-logo.jpg Capital Press | http://www.capitalpress.com H-2A visa processing halted for pickers http://www.capitalpress.com/Washington/20140730/h-2a-visa-processing-halted-for-pickers http://www.capitalpress.com/Washington/20140730/h-2a-visa-processing-halted-for-pickers#Comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 12:32:41 -0400 Dan Wheat http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2014140739984 OLYMPIA, Wash. — The Washington Farm Labor Association says it has quit bringing H-2A visa guestworkers into Washington from Mexico because of the U.S. State Department’s inability to produce visas.

Fortunately, most H-2A guestworkers needed in Washington, mainly for harvest of tree fruit, are already in the state, but more than 1,000 in WAFLA’s program for the first three weeks of August are now on hold, said Dan Fazio, WAFLA director.

Washington will exceed 8,000 H-2A workers this year with 80 percent of those handled by WAFLA mainly for Central Washington tree fruit growers.

Many have been in the state for cherry harvest and apple thinning and will continue into apple and pear harvest. But more come as H-2A workers and make up about one-sixth of the labor force needed to harvest apples and pears. Harvest starts soon and growers have already been concerned about having enough pickers because they expect a record apple crop.

The federal H-2A program allows farmers to request visas for workers when there is a shortage of domestic workers. Farmers must pay round-trip transportation costs for the workers from their country of origin and provide housing for them while they work in the U.S.

A usually smooth, two-day visa process slowed July 8 and has been at a standstill since July 21, Fazio said.

A group of farmworkers seeking visas has been stuck at the border for nine days. They are running out of money and are relying on money wired from prospective employers, he said, noting he has canceled all upcoming consulate appointments in his program for farmworkers seeking visas.

“This is truly a crisis. The workers are stuck at the border with no money and the farmers have no workers,” Fazio said. “This is not any way to treat employers who are paying thousands of dollars per worker or workers who are trying to do the right thing.”

In early July, an informal liaison with the U.S. Consulate staff in Tijuana indicated the delays were caused by the humanitarian crisis related to unaccompanied minors from Central America, he said. On July 24, the State Department issued a statement blaming a technical glitch and promising to resolve the problem as soon as possible, he said.

But the problem is affecting H-2A visas at Tijuana, Nogales and other entry points and other states needing H-2A workers, he said.

North Carolina uses the most H-2A workers, but most of them are already in the state, he said. California uses about 3,000 to 4,000, he said.

WAFLA is working with the State Department and the offices of Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Denny Heck, D-Wash., to resolve the matter, but so far there has been no breakthrough, Fazio said.

The government is asking potential employers to give workers stuck at the border $30 a day, he said.

WAFLA is asking Congress to pay that $30, plus $150 per day per worker in lost wages and $500 a day in lost productivity to growers, he said.

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News in Brief http://www.capitalpress.com/20140730/news-in-brief http://www.capitalpress.com/20140730/news-in-brief#Comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 14:52:09 -0400 http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2014140739983 North vs. South

To the editor:

On and after Oct. 1 (the re-opening of clam digging), South County clam diggers request that the North County clam diggers stay north of the Sunset Beach approach.

The South County citizens are sick and tired of being exploited by the North County. It is common knowledge South County pays most of the county bills via the South County tax base.

The North County wanted a five-lane highway through our town just so all the traffic could move expediently and zip through Seaside to the North County at the expense of our fine city. Thanks much!

The fairgrounds could have been located in Warrenton. No, it had to be in the arms of Astoria. The Port of Astoria is, at least financially, the port of Clatsop County. South County would like acknowledgment and a conscious effort to be inclusive regarding the port.

The college could have been located in Warrenton, but no, Astoria had to have it within its arms, too. It’s an old condemned high school on top of a hill inaccessible in bad weather. Now the landscapers are complaining because of the difficulty of working on the steep terrain!

It would be nice, to say the least, if North County would put forth a big and constant effort to be “county wide” inclusive for the good of all Clatsop County citizens! Until the North County residents become less inclusive, the South County diggers want our beach for ourselves and want the North County diggers to stay north of the Sunset approach. You don’t see us on the North beach ever, if at all!

Happy digging!

Russ Earl

Gearhart

Why?

To the editor:

To the person or persons who vandalized the Seaside American Legion Post 99 building on Monday, July 21: Why?

The legion serves veterans and this community! Again, Why?

Tim Flynn

Seaside

Thank you

To the community of Cannon Beach:

Please accept Rose’s and my heartfelt gratitude for the July 9 farewell potlucks at the City Hall and chamber of commerce to celebrate my retirement from city management.

Our years in Cannon Beach have been a truly wonderful experience from both a personal and professional standpoint, and we will always remember the generosity and dedication of the employees and volunteers who help make the the Cannon Beach community what it is — a very special place.

The cards, letters and gifts we received are very much appreciated and will always remind us of the 8 1/2 years we have spent here. And, as long as we remain in Cannon Beach, we will continue to remain involved in the community.

Thank you again and best wishes.

Rich and Rose Mays

Cannon Beach

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House passes Endangered Species Act reform http://www.capitalpress.com/Nation_World/Nation/20140730/house-passes-endangered-species-act-bill http://www.capitalpress.com/Nation_World/Nation/20140730/house-passes-endangered-species-act-bill#Comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 08:58:12 -0400 Matw Weaver http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2014140739996 The U.S. House has passed a bill that amends the Endangered Species Act to require publishing the reasons for protecting a species.

HR 4315 requires the Secretary of the Interior or the Secretary of Commerce, as appropriate, to provide on the Internet the best scientific and commercial data that are the basis for the determination of whether a species is an endangered species or a threatened species, including proposed regulations for the listing of a species.

The bill was introduced by Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash. It passed 233-190 in the House, and now goes to the Senate.

Hastings cited the listing of the White Bluffs bladderpod, a plant found on thousands of acres of land in Franklin and Benton counties in Washington, as a prime example of the need for federal data transparency.

“Instead of focusing on meeting a mega-settlement deadline, the Obama Administration should incorporate local scientific data and input from local property owners to better serve both species and people,” Hastings said.

“It’s time this law was brought into the 21st Century,” Hastings added. “These are very simple, straightforward and common-sense measures that aim to increase transparency, enlist greater consultation by states, localities and Indian tribes in species listings, and reduce taxpayer-financed attorneys’ fees to help invest more funding in actual species recovery.”

Hastings doesn’t expect the Democrat-controlled Senate to take up the bill, because President Barack Obama has threatened a veto on the bill.

According to a statement of administration policy from the president’s Office of Management and Budget, the bill would “rigidly constrain science, public input and data in making Endangered Species Act determinations.”

According to the statement, the bill would require several changes “detrimental” to implementation of the act. The bill “would deem all data from a state, tribal or county government to be ‘best available’ without regard to the quality or merit of the data,” the statement said, and require federal agencies to consider information based on its source rather than substance.

Requiring federal agencies to publish on the Internet all data used in listing determinations would “limit the amount and quality of information supporting ESA decisions by discouraging data sharing by scientists, state and local governments and particularly private landowners, who do not want their information disclosed online,” according to the statement.

The provision “could also expose vulnerable wildlife and rare plants to increased poaching or vandalism,” the statement states.

It would add “yet another administratively burdensome reporting requirement to an already long list of reporting requirements, diverting limited agency resources away from species recovery efforts toward more paperwork,” according to the statement.

The bill would “limit the ability of citizens to seek recourse in the courts against unlawful federal actions, diminishing a critical tool for citizens,” according to the statement.

Co-sponsors of the bill include Rep. David Valdao, R-Calif., Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash.

Hastings said the bill incorporates legislation from several other bills passed out of the House Committee on Natural Resources. Among the other elements of the bill are:

• A requirement that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to make available online the amount of money used to respond to ESA lawsuits, the number of employees dedicated to it and attorneys’ fees awarded during litigation and settlement.

• Places caps on attorneys’ fees under the ESA similar to caps in place at other federal agencies. Under the ESA, attorneys are awarded rates as much as $600 per hour, according to a Walden press release. The federal government limits fees to $125 per hour in federal suits involving Social Security, veterans and disability claims.

Online

https://beta.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/4315

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Simplot feedlot fined $24,000 for alleged pollution violation http://www.capitalpress.com/Washington/20140730/simplot-feedlot-fined-24000-for-alleged-pollution-violation http://www.capitalpress.com/Washington/20140730/simplot-feedlot-fined-24000-for-alleged-pollution-violation#Comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 12:24:18 -0400 Matw Weaver http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2014140739985 The Washington Department of Ecology has fined a Walla Walla County feedlot $24,000 for an alleged air pollution violation.

The department alleges beef cattle feeding operation Simplot Feeders LLP violated air quality rules when it released large amounts of dust into the air while grinding hay in March 2014.

Simplot spokesperson David Cuoio declined to comment.

The company has 30 days to appeal the fine to the state’s Pollution Control Hearings Board.

Brook Beeler, communication manager for Ecology in Spokane, said fines are based on a number of contributing factors. The agency can fine for up to $10,000 per violation per day, but the maximum violation is not typically reached, she said.

“In this case, the fine is based on three individual violations that added up to the $24,000 total,” Beeler said.

According to an Ecology press release, inspectors observed particle pollution above limits allowed in the company’s air quality permit for the feedlot and outside the property boundary. Simplot’s permit requires the dust to be controlled by an air filter and remain within the feedlot property boundary.

In calculating a fine, the agency considers whether a company knew better, among other factors, Beeler said. The agency had received complaints about the company before.

Beeler said hay grinding produces dust, which is a typical pollution problem, especially in the Wallula, Wash., area. Walla Walla County has a problem with dust and has not attained dust standards in the past, she said.

“For this sort of operation, dust from hay grinding and dust from manure are common sources,” she said.

According to the agency, Simplot recently upgraded equipment but underestimated the dust the new hay grinding would release into the air.

Beeler said the company is already working to modify its operation to reduce the amount of dust released by hay-grinding activities. Options include installing air filters on grinders or enclosing the hay grinding from outside air completely.

If the company makes those changes, they must still pay the penalty, Beeler said.

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DOL’s ‘hot goods’ tactics leave reps cold http://www.capitalpress.com/Oregon/20140730/dols-hot-goods-tactics-leave-reps-cold http://www.capitalpress.com/Oregon/20140730/dols-hot-goods-tactics-leave-reps-cold#Comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 11:07:24 -0400 Mateusz Perkowski http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2014140739986 A bipartisan Congressional panel has criticized the U.S. Labor Department’s policy of invoking the “hot goods” provision of labor law to force financial settlements from farmers.

“It coerced farmers into forfeiting their rights by threatening their very livelihoods,” said Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., during the July 30 hearing before a House subcommittee on horticulture.

The hearing focused on DOL’s actions in 2012, when the agency accused three Oregon blueberry farmers of violating the federal minimum wage law.

The agency threatened to block shipment of their crop as unlawfully produced “hot goods” unless they agreed to pay $240,000 in fines and alleged back wages.

To avoid spoilage of their fruit, the farmers agreed to the hefty settlements and waived their right to challenge the agency’s findings in court.

However, two of the three farms later sought to void those consent decrees.

A federal judge overturned those deals earlier this year, finding they were unlawfully coercive, but the DOL is seeking to appeal that ruling and refuses to return the money.

The DOL wants to use the “hot goods” provision as a tool of fear and intimidation, which was never the intent of Congress, said Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga., the subcommittee’s chairman.

Scott and other committee members repeatedly asked why the agency wouldn’t return the money and questioned its decision to continue litigating the case.

“I quite honestly think you’re trying to teach that farmer a lesson, that if you stand up for your rights, we’re going to pummel you,” said Scott. “You know you can spend that farmer into bankruptcy.”

Brad Avakian, commissioner of Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries, testified that he was troubled by the DOL’s actions.

It would be a different matter if the agency took possession and sold the blueberries, then kept the proceeds in trust until the dispute was resolved in court, Avakian said.

Instead, the invocation of the “hot goods” provision renders the perishable crop unsalable for an indefinite amount of time, he said.

“The value of the goods has been converted to zero,” Avakian said. “That huge imbalance of power creates a constitutional due process problem.”

A top DOL official refused to discuss the details of the Oregon cases, citing ongoing litigation, but he was unapologetic about the agency’s actions.

The hot goods provision is “an important tool we use carefully and appropriately,” said David Weil, administrator of the agency’s Wage and Hour Division.

Invoking the hot goods provision is meant to prohibit unlawfully produced goods from polluting interstate trade, which benefits workers and employers who follow the rules, he said.

“The statute does not exclude any sector based on perishability,” Weil said.

Even so, DOL officials seek to resolve such cases quickly precisely due to the product’s short shelf life, he said. “That’s why our investigators move with alacrity, because they’re aware it’s perishable.”

Weil said he disagreed with the committee members’ characterization of how DOL uses its “hot goods” authority, saying the agency acted responsibly.

“I wouldn’t call it threatening employers or farmers,” he said.

The agency simply asks the grower to voluntarily restrain shipment of the crop until the matter is resolved, Weil said.

For the DOL to actually block shipment under the hot goods provision, the agency would have to obtain a court order, he said.

“The investigator doesn’t have the right to seize the goods,” Weil said.

When asked about the requirement that farmers forego challenging DOL’s findings in court, Weil responded that such waivers are common in settlement deals to ensure all parties respect the agreement.

As for the possibility of placing funds in escrow until the dispute is resolved — which the Oregon growers weren’t allowed to do — Weil said the agency considers that option when it encounters “good faith cooperation” from the employer.

That response sparked a sharp rebuke from Schrader, who said the farmers in Oregon did cooperate with the agency’s investigation.

“You keep digging a bigger hole for the Department of Labor with your testimony, sir,” he said.

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Grant will fund onion promotion in Mexico, Latin America http://www.capitalpress.com/Profit/20140730/grant-will-fund-onion-promotion-in-mexico-latin-america http://www.capitalpress.com/Profit/20140730/grant-will-fund-onion-promotion-in-mexico-latin-america#Comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 10:14:08 -0400 Sean Ellis http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2014140739987 FRUITLAND, Idaho — Idaho and Eastern Oregon onion growers hope a $40,000 specialty crop grant could help the industry make more inroads into Mexico and Latin America.

The Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee’s export committee received the grant through the Idaho State Department of Agriculture. It is more than the committee’s annual $35,00 export budget.

“To receive an additional $40,000 is a great opportunity to help build our export markets,” said IEOOC Executive Director Candi Fitch. “It’s always important to get your name out there and try to build new markets and one of our focuses is down in Mexico and Latin America.”

The grant will fund a two-year project that will include in-store promotions in several Mexican cities as well as three trade missions.

Onion consumption per capita in Mexico is much higher than what it is in the United States, said Grant Kitamura, manager of Murakami Produce, one of the area’s largest onion shippers.

“Hopefully, the grant will help get our product in front of more people down there,” he said. “If we can get a foothold in that market, that would be tremendous for our industry.”

More than 90 percent of the onions grown in this region are yellow onions and it’s important to educate Mexican consumers and retailers about their benefits, Fitch said.

Many Mexican consumers view yellow onions as inferior to white onions and the industry has tried for several years to reverse that opinion, she added.

Although the industry has made some strides on that front, “yellow onions really aren’t accepted in the Mexico market,” Fitch said. “They like the white onion. This project will allow us to educate them about yellow onions, cut them open and show them that … a yellow onion is just as usable and good as a white onion.”

Less than 5 percent of the big bulb onions grown in this region are exported, but the potential in Mexico and Latin America is big, said Kay Riley, chairman of the federal marketing order that represents more than 300 onion growers and 36 shippers in southwestern Idaho and eastern Oregon.

“Hopefully, they will be able to use that money to create a long-term relationship with more consumers and buyers down there,” said Riley, manager of Snake River Produce. “That’s the goal.”

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Crews make gains on 2 California wildfires http://www.capitalpress.com/California/20140730/crews-make-gains-on-2-california-wildfires http://www.capitalpress.com/California/20140730/crews-make-gains-on-2-california-wildfires#Comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 09:59:25 -0400 FENIT NIRAPPILand SUDHIN THANAWALA http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2014140739988 SHINGLE SPRINGS, Calif. (AP) — Fire crews gained ground Tuesday on two of the largest wildfires in California, lifting evacuation orders for about half the homes in the path of a blaze in Yosemite National Park and redeploying firefighters battling another fire in the Sierra Nevada foothills east of Sacramento.

The fire in the foothills, which forced the evacuation of more than 400 homes, was 85 percent contained after burning 6½ square miles.

Crews discovered six more homes destroyed by the fire, bringing the total to 19, state fire Battalion Chief Scott McLean said. The fire, which began Friday, also has claimed 48 outbuildings.

Some firefighters were released Monday and more were expected to be taken off the blaze Tuesday. The total fire force was down to around 1,600, about 300 fewer firefighters than Sunday.

The Yosemite fire about 100 miles away, had burned through 5½ square miles and was 34 percent contained. It forced the evacuation of about 100 homes after it began on Saturday.

Residents of Old El Portal were permitted to return home Tuesday. About 45 homes in the community of Foresta remained evacuated, park fire information spokeswoman Jennifer Wuchner said.

Both fires grew rapidly over the weekend before being brought under control. Their spread underscored the tinder-dry conditions resulting from California’s third year of drought.

Residents of the Sierra foothills fire said they were forced to evacuate quickly, and some vowed to keep a list of items to take with them in case of another blaze.

Laurel Fulton, a 66-year-old evacuee, had to leave behind an obstinate horse.

“When the sheriff is banging on your window yelling, ‘Get out now, get out now,’ you don’t have much of a choice,” Fulton said.

Fulton said the fire was so hot and so fast, the sand along a nearby river burned to glass. She managed to rescue four dogs, a cat and her other horse. She said her neighbor stayed behind and has been reporting that her horse is OK.

Fire crews also were battling a 3-square-mile blaze in the Sierra National Forest about 60 miles northeast of Fresno that shut down some campgrounds and was threatening 28 structures, some of them homes.

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Daily California egg report http://www.capitalpress.com/Markets/20140730/daily-california-egg-report http://www.capitalpress.com/Markets/20140730/daily-california-egg-report#Comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 09:55:46 -0400 http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2014140739989 Prices are steady. Trade sentiment is steady to lower. Offerings are moderate although reported as more readily available than previously noted. Retail and food service demand continues moderate to instances fairly good.

Warehouse buying interest is light as participants await further market adjustments. Supplies are light to moderate. Market activity is slow to moderate.

Shell egg marketer’s benchmark price for negotiated egg sales of USDA Grade AA and Grade AA in cartons, cents per dozen. This price does not reflect discounts or other contract terms.

RANGE

JUMBO 182

EXTRA LARGE 187

LARGE 176

MEDIUM 125

Source: USDA AMS Livestock, Poultry & Grain Market News

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New California fines for wasting water take effect http://www.capitalpress.com/California/20140730/new-california-fines-for-wasting-water-take-effect http://www.capitalpress.com/California/20140730/new-california-fines-for-wasting-water-take-effect#Comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 09:49:21 -0400 http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2014140739990 SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — New regulations that include fines up to $500 a day for residents who waste water are taking effect in California.

The State Water Resources Control Board approved the rules earlier this month, making it illegal for people to hose down driveways and sidewalks, waste water on their lawns or wash vehicles using a hose without a shut-off nozzle.

The Sacramento Bee reports the regulations took effect Tuesday after a state legal review.

The stronger enforcement was triggered in part by a state report that found water consumption has actually risen amid the worst drought in nearly four decades, despite Gov. Jerry Brown’s push to cut water use by 20 percent.

The rules apply to residents and business owners for nine months, but they could be renewed.

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Idaho suspends plan for hired wolf hunter http://www.capitalpress.com/Idaho/20140730/idaho-suspends-plan-for-hired-wolf-hunter http://www.capitalpress.com/Idaho/20140730/idaho-suspends-plan-for-hired-wolf-hunter#Comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 09:45:55 -0400 http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2014140739991 BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho Fish and Game officials say they’re suspending a plan to use a hired hunter to kill wolves in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness until at least November 2015.

Jeff Gould, wildlife bureau chief for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, made the declaration in a document filed with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week.

A coalition of wildlife advocacy groups sued the state and federal officials in federal court earlier this year, asking a judge to stop a state-hired hunter from using the U.S. Forest Service’s backcountry airstrips to reach and kill wolves in the Frank Church River of No Return wilderness. A federal judge rejected their request for a temporary restraining order, but state officials pulled the hunter out of the region after he killed nine wolves.

The lawsuit is on appeal before the 9th Circuit.

“As we mark the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act this September, we are relieved that the Frank Church Wilderness will be managed as a wild place, rather than an elk farm, for at least the coming year,” Earthjustice attorney Timothy Preso said in a written statement. “Now we must make sure that wilderness values prevail for the long term.”

Earthjustice is representing Idaho wilderness advocate Ralph Maughan, Defenders of Wildlife, Western Watersheds Project, Wilderness Watch, and Center for Biological Diversity in the lawsuit.

In his declaration to the court, Gould said the Idaho Department of Fish and Game has decided it is in a better position to defend Idaho’s sovereign wildlife management authority by improving the Forest Services’ understanding of how the state applies wilderness considerations to its decisions, and how the state believes that reducing the wolf population will help mitigate the negative impact wolves have on other wildlife.

Gould said the wildlife department will gather information on the impact of wolves, the effects of wolf control activities and elk mortality over the next year.

Suzanne Stone with Defenders of Wildlife said the opposing groups had reached a yearlong truce in Idaho’s wolf reduction efforts in the Frank Church.

“Wolves belong here as they have made the ‘Frank’ truly wild again,” she said in a written statement. “Ensuring healthy wolf populations here is critical for the recovery of wolves throughout the entire northwestern region.”

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Wyden weighs ideas to reduce wildfire costs http://www.capitalpress.com/Oregon/20140730/wyden-weighs-ideas-to-reduce-wildfire-costs http://www.capitalpress.com/Oregon/20140730/wyden-weighs-ideas-to-reduce-wildfire-costs#Comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 09:31:23 -0400 Amelia TempletonOregon Public Broadcasting http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2014140739992 Nearly 1 million acres of forest and range have burned so far this summer in Oregon and Washington, and the risk of wildfires will remain high through September.

That’s the message delivered Saturday by the region’s top fire managers when they met with U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

Wyden was in Portland to receive a briefing on the fire season from the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center. He used the occasion to discuss the ballooning cost of fighting wildfires.

According to the Montana research group Headwaters Economics, fighting wildfires costs the federal government more than $3 billion a year, on average. Those costs consume half the U.S. Forest Service’s annual budget and more than 10 percent of the budget for the Department of Interior.

Wyden is promoting a bill that would dedicate natural disaster funds to pay for the most expensive fires. He said he will also push for Senate passage of President Obama’s request for $615 million in additional wildfire suppression funding this year.

“We can’t afford to wait on this,” Wyden said.

Congress leaves for recess July 31 and the wildfire dollars are part of the President’s controversial $3.7 billion emergency funding request to deal with child migrants from Central America.

Wyden told state officials he’s also looking for creative ideas to bring down the cost of firefighting. One big cost driver is the need to defend homes and developments built near forests in what’s called the “urban-wildland interface.”

Oregon State Forester Doug Decker suggested that insurance companies could create incentives for people to take steps that reduce risk, like replacing a cedar shingle roof with a metal one.

“With the profusion of homes in the woods in the Northwest, how do we link the level of insurance and the premium costs with the risk that’s presented by the development?” he asked.

Wyden said he would try to convene a group of insurance companies and wildland firefighting agencies to discuss the idea. In California a law requires homeowners to thin trees and clear brush for 100 feet around their homes.

Nineteen large wildfires are burning in Oregon and Washington and forecasters predict another large lightning storm will hit Southern Oregon on Sunday. Wyden said the forecast reminded him of the conditions that ignited the Biscuit Fire in July 2002, the most costly fire in Oregon’s history.

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Idaho growers scale back zebra chip programs http://www.capitalpress.com/Idaho/20140730/idaho-growers-scale-back-zebra-chip-programs http://www.capitalpress.com/Idaho/20140730/idaho-growers-scale-back-zebra-chip-programs#Comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 09:28:11 -0400 John O’Connell http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2014140739993 Potato farmers throughout Idaho have significantly scaled back their insecticide programs amid a second consecutive season of light pressure from the winged psyllids that spread the crop disease zebra chip.

Many growers say they’ve been influenced to put off spraying, at least until psyllids arrive in their areas, by lower-than-desired processing contracts and basement fresh prices. Zebra chip — caused by the liberibacter bacterium, which sullies tuber flesh with bands that darken when fried — was first detected in the Pacific Northwest in 2011.

University of Idaho researchers, who have organized statewide field monitoring each season since the disease’s arrival, confirmed this summer’s first and only liberibacter-positive potato psyllid on July 23 from a sticky trap in a Canyon County spud field. Last summer, UI had confirmed three positive psyllids, all from Canyon County, by the first week of July.

“Now is the time to step up local monitoring and management programs in the area,” UI advised in a grower alert following the recent confirmation of a positive psyllid.

UI research technician Amy Carroll said about 20-30 psyllids have been trapped this season, including one as far east as Power County, with test results for liberibacter still pending on some samples.

In 2012, 30-50 percent of psyllids that were captured tested positive for liberibacter. Carroll said this summer seems comparable to last season, when just 3 percent of more than 1,000 captured psyllids tested positive and little crop damage was reported.

“We have fewer psyllids this year, and we’ve been monitoring about the same amount of fields with sticky cards,” Carroll said. “Usually it does pick up about August, and it has been picking up.”

Wilder grower Doug Gross applied a second round of insecticides shortly after the discovery of the infected psyllid. Nonetheless, he’s scaled back investment in his prevention program from about $220 per acre to roughly $75 per acre this season. He acknowledges he’s taking a risk but remains hopeful 2012 was a fluke.

“With the value of our contract we had to cut somewhere,” Gross said. “We did wait longer (to apply insecticide) and we are using less expensive quick-kill insecticides rather than the systemic type of insecticides.”

Mike Larsen, manager with Grant 4D Farms in Rupert, estimates he’s cut his spraying program in half this season, emphasizing high-risk fields near water where psyllids have been found in the past and relaxing applications on other fields. Liberibacter tests are still pending on a single psyllid found on his farm a few days ago.

“I think many of us are relying more on the monitoring program before we go out and just spray,” Larsen said. “When your contracts are not what they used to be, you sure look at areas you can cut, and there’s a lot of dollars sitting there.”

Jim Tiede, of Power County, is still waiting for psyllid populations to build before spraying.

Jeff Miller, whose Rupert-based crop research business has assisted with psyllid monitoring and chemical trials, believes a wait-and-see approach is appropriate outside of high-pressure areas such as Filer and Canyon County. He advises less expensive foliar chemicals, such as abamectin, may suffice, but he warns growers against following neonicotinoid seed treatments with the same class of foliar insecticides to avoid resistant insects.

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Portland Daily Grain report http://www.capitalpress.com/Markets/20140730/portland-daily-grain-report http://www.capitalpress.com/Markets/20140730/portland-daily-grain-report#Comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 09:24:10 -0400 http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2014140739994 Bids for grains delivered to Portland, Oregon during July by unit trains and barges, in dollars per bushel, except oats, corn and barley, in dollars per cwt. Bids for soft white wheat are for delivery periods as specified. Hard red winter wheat and dark northern spring wheat bids are for full July delivery. Bids for corn are for 30-day delivery.

In early trading September wheat futures trended four to 6.50 cents per bushel higher than Tuesday’s closes.

Bids for US 1 Soft White Wheat for July delivery in unit trains or barges were not fully established in early trading, however bids trended steady to 6.50 cents per bushel higher compared to Tuesday’s noon bids.

The higher Chicago September wheat futures supported cash bids.

Bids for 11.5 percent protein US 1 Hard Red Winter Wheat for July delivery were not well tested, but were indicated as 4.50 cents per bushel higher than Tuesday’s noon bids for the same delivery period, in following the higher Kansas City September wheat futures.

Bids for 14 percent protein non-guaranteed US 1 Dark Northern Spring Wheat for July delivery were not well tested in early trading but were indicated as four cents per bushel higher compared to Tuesday’s noon bids, with support coming from the higher Minneapolis September spring wheat futures.

Bids for US 2 Yellow Corn delivered to Portland and the Yakima Valley were not available.

All wheat bids in dollars per bushel

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

Jul mostly 6.7575, ranging 6.2650-6.9500

Aug NC 6.7650-6.9500

Sep 6.7650-6.9800

Oct 6.7925-7.0100

Nov 6.8425-7.0400

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

Jul mostly 7.4375, ranging 6.7650-7.8650

Not fully established.

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

better)

Ordinary protein 6.9900-7.2400

10 pct protein 6.9900-7.2400

11 pct protein 7.0100-7.3200

11.5 pct protein

Jul 7.1100-7.3600

Aug NC 7.1100-7.3600

12 pct protein 7.1100-7.3600

13 pct protein 7.1100-7.5100

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 7.4650-7.6150

14 pct protein

Jul 7.8950-8.0950

Aug NC 7.6450-8.0950

15 pct protein 8.1350-8.4150

16 pct protein 8.3750-8.7350

US 2 Yellow Corn in dollars per CWT

Domestic-single rail cars

Delivered full coast-BN NA

Delivered to Portland NA

Rail and Truck del to Willamette Vly NA

Rail del to Yakima Valley NA

Truck del to Yakima Valley NA

US 2 Heavy White Oats in dollars per CWT 14.0000

Not well tested.

Exporter Bids Portland Rail/Barge Jun 2014

Averages in Dollars per bushel

US 1 Soft White by Unit Trains and Barges 6.9900

US 1 Hard Red Winter (Ordinary protein) 7.8500

US 1 Hard Red Winter (11.5% protein) 7.9700

US 1 Dark Northern Spring (14% protein) 8.3900

Source: USDA Market News Service, Portland, OR

Niki Davila 503-326-2237 Portland.LPGMNams.usda.gov

24 Hour Market Report 503-326-2022

www.ams.usda.gov/mnreports/jo—gr110.txt

www.ams.usda.gov/lpsmarketnewspage

8:44 P nd

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Family carves out niche for squash seed http://www.capitalpress.com/Oregon/20140730/family-carves-out-niche-for-squash-seed http://www.capitalpress.com/Oregon/20140730/family-carves-out-niche-for-squash-seed#Comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 09:12:41 -0400 Mateusz Perkowski http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2014140739995 Some defective squash seeds sprouted a successful niche business for the Ropp family in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

In the late 1940s, samples from a 500-pound lot of squash seeds grown by A.M. Ropp refused to germinate, rendering it unsalable to a major seed buyer.

Instead, he shipped the seeds to a food company that roasted and sold them to consumers.

Decades later, the Ropp family’s company, Autumn Seed in Albany, Ore., is entirely devoted to producing squash seed for the confectionery market.

The company has also developed automated systems of harvesting and processing the seeds.

Harvesting, which once required splitting the squash with a machete and scooping out the innards manually, is now conducted by specialty machinery the Ropp family has refined over time.

“It’s more trial-and-error than anything else,” said Howard Ropp, the son of A.M. Ropp.

Autumn Seed contracts with dozens of farmers to grow squash on about 2,300 acres across the Willamette Valley.

Once the crop is ready for harvest in late September, however, the company uses its own equipment to pile the bulbous fruits into neat rows and later mechanically break them open to gather the seeds.

With the help of their longtime machinery fabricator, Marlon Kauffman, the Ropps have created a windrower that separates the squash from other plant material as it pushes the crop into rows.

“You’re knocking them off the vines and laying them down on a carpet of vines,” said Greg Ropp, A.M. Ropp’s grandson.

The next step is directing the company’s nine specialized self-propelled combines to scoop up squash and split them open.

The mushy entrails then pass through a revolving perforated drum — the seeds are collected after falling through the holes while the rest of the squash is ejected from the back.

“They take the seeds and leave the meat laying on the ground,” Greg Ropp said.

The seeds are washed and dried at the company’s facility in Albany, then shipped to a food manufacturer that roasts, packages and markets them under the Bigs brand.

Although they’re sold as pumpkin seeds — and the fruit looks similar to a pumpkin — the functional difference between Autumn Seeds’ squash and the type used for Jack O’Lanterns is “night and day,” said Greg Ropp.

The meat of the company’s squash is thicker than a regular pumpkin’s, which prevents the fruit from breaking open during windrowing. The seeds are also thicker and have larger kernels, he said.

Growers can generally earn $1,000 per acre from the crop, though some gave grossed as much as $1,650 per acre due to high yields, Greg Ropp said.

The company is always on the lookout for new farmers, as the crop can only be grown once every three to four years on one field, he said. “That virgin ground gets high yields.”

Rod Chambers, a farmer near Albany, Ore., said he grows the crop for rotation and diversification.

A new pre-emergent herbicide was recently labeled for the crop, which has eased weed control, he said.

Another plus is that Autumn Seed takes over once the squash is ripe, Chambers said. “The big benefit to me is they come in and harvest the crop.”

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Food writers subpoenaed in ‘pink slime’ lawsuit http://www.capitalpress.com/AP_Nation_World/20140730/food-writers-subpoenaed-in-pink-slime-lawsuit http://www.capitalpress.com/AP_Nation_World/20140730/food-writers-subpoenaed-in-pink-slime-lawsuit#Comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 08:30:57 -0400 REGINA GARCIA CANO http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2014140739997 SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Several food writers, including a New York Times reporter, have been subpoenaed by a meat producer as part of its $1.2 billion defamation lawsuit against ABC in regards to the network’s coverage of a beef product dubbed “pink slime” by critics.

The subpoenas were issued to five writers — three reporters for the online Food Safety News, Times reporter Michael Moss and noted food writer Michele Simon — asking each to supply copies of any communications they had with ABC in 2012.

Beef Products Inc. sued the network in 2012 seeking $1.2 billion in damages for the coverage of the meat product the industry calls “lean, finely textured beef,” which critics dubbed “pink slime.” BPI said ABC’s coverage misled consumers into believing the product was unsafe and led to the closure of three plants and roughly 700 layoffs.

ABC’s attorneys say that in each of its broadcasts about the product, the network stated that the U.S. Department of Agriculture deemed the product safe to eat. They say BPI might not like the phrase pink slime, but like all ground beef, it’s pink and has a slimy texture.

A spokesman for ABC on Tuesday declined to comment on the lawsuit and the subpoenas. Attorneys for the network and BPI have proposed a February 2017 trial date.

Attorney Bruce Johnson in Seattle is representing the editor of Food Safety News, Dan Flynn, reporter James Andrews, and former reporter Gretchen Goetz. Johnson on Tuesday said the subpoenas were “overreaching” and that the publication would fight the requests.

BPI attorney Erik Connolly said the subpoenas are “appropriate and would be enforced.”

A spokeswoman for the New York Times said Moss’ subpoena had been stayed.

Simon said she has responded to the request, but did not provide any documents because she doesn’t keep emails dating back to 2012.

“BPI’s lawyers are engaging in a fishing expedition by spreading the subpoenas so far to every journalist and food blogger that has ever said anything about pink slime,” Simon said.

The plaintiffs have also sought subpoenas for two food-safety research labs and a blogger who has written about the meat product.

The product is made using a process in which butchered cow trimmings are heated, lean meat is separated from fat, and ammonia gas is applied to the meat to kill bacteria.

A social media-fueled outcry about the product in 2012 prompted the U.S. Department of Agriculture to offer school districts that get food through the government’s school lunch program choices in ground beef purchases.

Manufacturers of the product say sales of the meat have risen since the height of the controversy two years ago.

In addition to ABC, the lawsuit names ABC news anchor Diane Sawyer, correspondents Jim Avila and David Kerley; Gerald Zirnstein, the U.S. Department of Agriculture microbiologist who named the product pink slime; former federal food scientist Carl Custer; and Kit Foshee, a former BPI quality assurance manager who was interviewed by ABC.

Attorneys for Zirnstein, Custer and Foshee could not be reached Tuesday.

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Michigan’s monarch butterfly population declines http://www.capitalpress.com/AP_Nation_World/20140730/michigans-monarch-butterfly-population-declines http://www.capitalpress.com/AP_Nation_World/20140730/michigans-monarch-butterfly-population-declines#Comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 08:30:48 -0400 http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2014140739998 DETROIT (AP) — Habitat loss and an especially harsh winter are proving to be a destructive combination for Michigan’s monarch butterflies.

The cold weather affected the monarchs’ migration north, causing them to arrive in Michigan later than usual, said Diane Pruden of Milford Township, a citizen researcher for Monarch Watch, a nonprofit education, conservation and research program based at the University of Kansas.

Because of their late arrival, butterflies are laying eggs later and in lower numbers this year than Michigan has seen in the past, the Detroit Free Press reported. Monarchs are usually spotted around the state in May and June, but Pruden said she only recently saw eggs for the first time this season.

Orley Taylor, the founder and director of Monarch Watch, said the monarch population has been on the decline for about 10 years. But he said it reached an all-time low this past winter.

“There’s a great deal of concern that the monarch migration is on the verge of collapse,” he said.

Monarchs only lay eggs on the wild milkweed plant. Michigan’s expansion of corn farming has reduced milkweed growth in recent years.

Taylor said much of the land in the central plains states where milkweed once prospered has been repurposed for corn crops. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics, nearly 23.7 million acres of grassland, wetlands and shrub lands were converted to agriculture in this area between 2008 and 2011.

Steve Mueller, president of the West Michigan Butterfly Association, said people who want to help should plant milkweed at home to compensate for plants lost to agriculture and development.

The monarch is one of a few migratory butterflies. It travels up to 4,000 miles to Mexico every fall. The butterflies that return to Michigan are the offspring of monarchs that lay eggs in Texas and Oklahoma before dying off.

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Sheriff won’t provide escorts in labor dispute http://www.capitalpress.com/Washington/20140730/sheriff-wont-provide-escorts-in-labor-dispute http://www.capitalpress.com/Washington/20140730/sheriff-wont-provide-escorts-in-labor-dispute#Comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 08:23:03 -0400 http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2014140739999 VANCOUVER, Wash. (AP) — The Clark County sheriff has declined a request to escort state grain inspectors past picket lines in a long-running contract dispute between a Vancouver, Wash., grain terminal and a union.

Sheriff Garry Lucas cited neutrality and other reasons to explain why his office would not contract with United Grain Corp to provide security escorts.

The Columbian says he explained his decision in a letter Tuesday.

United Grain and the county’s Board of Commissioners made the request to the sheriff’s office after Gov. Jay Inslee decided last month to stop using the Washington State Patrol to escort state grain inspectors.

The state agriculture department stopped grain inspections on July 7 because of security concerns, and United Grain’s operations were halted.

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Appeals court upholds labels on meat packages http://www.capitalpress.com/Livestock/20140729/appeals-court-upholds-labels-on-meat-packages http://www.capitalpress.com/Livestock/20140729/appeals-court-upholds-labels-on-meat-packages#Comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 15:57:58 -0400 Eric Mortenson http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2014140729838 A federal appeals court has upheld the USDA’s Country of Origin Labeling rule for meat products, saying consumers’ interest in where food comes from outweighs free speech claims by the rule’s opponents.

The Center for Food Safety applauded the ruling by the Washington, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Senior Attorney George Kimbrell, who filed a brief in the case and is based in Portland, called it an “important victory for the U.S. public’s right to know how their food is produced.”

The court said consumers have substantial interest in country of origin disclosure. Such information allows them to choose American-made products, the court said, and is associated with “health concerns and market impacts that can arise in the event of a food-borne illness outbreak.”

In 2013, the USDA revised its COOL rule to require listing not just the country of origin but the production steps — where it was born, raised and slaughtered — occurring in each country.

Instead of saying, “Product of the United States,” for example, the label had to say “Born, raised, and slaughtered in the United States,” or “Born in Mexico, raised and slaughtered in the United States.”

The 2013 revision also tightened rules on “commingling” in labeling, where meat from different countries, but processed on the same day, was allowed to use an identical label.

The changes were in response to a 2009 World Trade Organization decision that said the U.S. policy violated the WTO’s Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade. The USDA change required more precise information.

Monday’s court decision doesn’t settle the issue, however. Canada and Mexico have asked the World Trade Organization to review the U.S. policy and a ruling is expected in September. Canada and Mexico, whose cattle are most often commingled with U.S. beef, believe the USDA’s labeling requirement amounts to “less favorable treatment” for imports.

Even if the WTO sides with Canada and Mexico and says the U.S. COOL rule is improper, it may have no effect, said Michael Hansen, senior staff scientist with Consumers Union in New York. The federal court has clearly said the labeling requirement is valid under U.S. law, Hansen said. Countries are not required to take action based on WTO findings, but could face financial sanctions, he said. In a previous case, the WTO ruled the U.S. was improperly supporting American cotton farmers. Rather than end the practice, the U.S. now pays multi-millions to Brazil, which had brought the complaint.

Hansen said the WTO may dismiss Canada’s and Mexico’s complaint anyway, because the USDA revised the rules and required more label information in response to an earlier WTO finding. “The USDA went whole hog to go with all the (labeling) information,” Hansen said.

The American Meat Institute opposed the labeling change, saying it violated the First Amendment by “compelling speech in the form of costly and detailed labels on meat products.” A three-judge panel of the appeals court dismissed the challenge earlier this year, and the court’s full 11-judge panel has now reached the same conclusion.

The American Meat Institute’s interim president, James Hodges, called the latest decision “disappointing.”

“We have maintained all along that the country of origin rule harms livestock producers and the industry and affords little benefit to consumers,” Hodges said in a prepared statement.

Although COOL is opposed by meat packers, the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association strongly favors it. In a June news release, the association said consumers have consistently expressed a desire to know where there food is coming from.

“It is unfathomable why any U.S. group, particularly a cattle or livestock trade association, would want to breach the consumer trust and confidence COOL has established,” association President Jon Wooster said in a prepared statement.

Wooster said U.S. cattlemen “must retain the identity of U.S. beef and not allow our product to become a generic North American commodity.”

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Fourth cherry chopper crash in four years http://www.capitalpress.com/Washington/20140729/fourth-cherry-chopper-crash-in-four-years http://www.capitalpress.com/Washington/20140729/fourth-cherry-chopper-crash-in-four-years#Comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 15:44:58 -0400 Dan Wheat http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2014140729839 WENATCHEE, Wash. — A helicopter crash that claimed the life of a pilot July 23 was the fourth crash in as many years for helicopters blowing rain water from cherries in Central Washington.

Tobey Vigil, 40, Beaverton, Ore., “died quickly from blunt force trauma” when the helicopter he was piloting crashed either on take off or landing at a refueling site at Kyle Mathison Orchards on Stemilt Hill south of Wenatchee, said John Wisemore, Chelan County undersheriff. The crash occurred at 2 p.m.

“We don’t know what happened. People heard the crash but no one saw it,” Wisemore said.

Vigil didn’t have a lot of hours flying and was working for Applebee Aviation of Banks, Ore., Wisemore said.

Another pilot was flying another helicopter for Applebee, also drying cherries in the area, he said.

It had rained that day, but was not raining at the time of the crash, Wisemore said.

The downdraft of helicopters blows water off cherries while they are still on trees. It minimizes water absorption by cherries that, combined with high temperatures, causes them to split and be ruined.

The Bell 206A Jet Ranger flipped onto its right side and went down. There was a small fire but Vigil was not burned, Wisemore said.

“It’s so sad,” said Kyle Mathison, orchard owner. He said Applebee was working for him and another grower in the area.

The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board went to the scene, Wisemore said. The NTSB could not be reached for comment.

On June 24, 2013, a Bell Jet Ranger crashed while drying cherries in an orchard between George and Royal City. The helicopter became entangled in bird netting covering trees. The pilot freed himself from the wreckage and was taken to the Quincy hospital for back injuries. The same day a Manson grower, John W. Marker, died in a tractor accident using an empty air-blast sprayer to dry cherries in his orchard.

Marker had sued Golden Wings Aviation, Brewster, for breach of contract for failing to dry his cherries after the company’s helicopter crashed in a neighboring orchard on July 25, 2011, taking the life of the pilot. It struck power lines and the lawsuit alleged the pilot was text messaging on his cell phone at the time of the crash.

A passenger died and a pilot was seriously injured when a helicopter crashed while drying cherries in an East Wenatchee orchard on June 12, 2012. The helicopter’s main rotor clipped a power line, causing the crash, the Douglas County sheriff said.

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Firefighters make progress against wildfires http://www.capitalpress.com/Washington/20140729/firefighters-make-progress-against-wildfires http://www.capitalpress.com/Washington/20140729/firefighters-make-progress-against-wildfires#Comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 17:37:57 -0400 CaSEY MINTER http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2014140729835 Fire crews in Oregon and Washington have been battling several large fires for the past three weeks and are beginning to see results.

Seven of the 16 fires burning in the two states are now more than 80 percent contained, including the nation’s biggest wildfire, the Buzzard Complex in Oregon.

However, the danger has not yet passed, said Carol Connolly, spokeswoman for the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center.

“Two new large fires entered the system today, the Launch fire in Oregon and the Road C Fire in Washington,” Connolly said. The fires are 100 acres and 1,000 acres, respectively, and the causes of both are under investigation.

A total of 814,645 acres are burning in the two states, Oregon having the bulk of that at 526,186 acres compared to Washington’s 288,459 acres.

However, Washington fires are endangering more structures and requiring more personnel. Of the 7,435 fire personnel working in the two states, 4,523 are in Washington and 2,912 in Oregon.

The Buzzard Complex, which blackened a total of 395,747 acres 45 miles southeast of Burns, Ore., is continuing to smoke, but is 98 percent contained. After rampaging across vast amounts of rangeland and brush grass, this fire has become less of a priority, with 234 personnel working on it now. It was the second largest fire in the past decade in Oregon, compared to the Long Draw Fire in 2012 that burned 719,694 acres.

Fire personnel have broken the Carlton Complex, the largest fire in Washington’s history, into three zones. So far, the fire has destroyed 300 residences and is threatening 1,000 others. Some 83 crews totaling 3,085 people are working on containing the fire and parts of the area are still without power. Evacuations are still in place in Okanogan County, where the fire has burned 250,806 acres. Temperatures over 100 degrees, dry conditions and forecasts of lightning and thunderstorms are keeping fire personnel in the area on high alert.

“With warming and drying of last few days, there is a high potential for large fires in the region, the weather is getting the fuels just right for it,” said Connolly.

“There may be some isolated pockets of moisture, will it be enough? We don’t know,” Connolly said, “We do have initial attack resources in place, and that is our number one priority.”

The Chiwaukum Complex, Washington’s second largest fire, is threatening 1,583 residences and is only 25 percent contained. It has burned 12,337 acres and 25 crews totaling 1,231 people are working to bring it under control. National Guard troops are working alongside fire personnel to control the blaze, and hot, dry conditions are expected to allow the fire to grow in the coming days.

Lightning storms are expected to come up from the southern Oregon border and push north into Central and Eastern Oregon, threatening ignition of more small fires that could escalate with the increasingly warm, dry temperatures and gusting winds.

Compared to the rest of the country, Washington and Oregon are still the smokiest states. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, there are 28 large fires in the nation; 16 of those are in Oregon and Washington. Other states reporting large fires are California, Utah, Nevada, Idaho and Colorado.

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Potato industry battles declining demand http://www.capitalpress.com/Profit/20140729/potato-industry-battles-declining-demand http://www.capitalpress.com/Profit/20140729/potato-industry-battles-declining-demand#Comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 17:18:29 -0400 Matw Weaver http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2014140729836 SPOKANE — The potato industry will promote unusual sizes, shapes and colors of potatoes — and their healthful benefits — as growers and marketers try to reverse a downward trend in consumer demand.

Per-capita consumption has been decreasing since the 1990s at a rate of 1 percent per year, said Jeff Bragg, vice president of Meijer North America, which operates grocery stores in the Midwest.

Bragg was one of several speakers during a utilization and marketing symposium at the Potato Association of America meeting in Spokane.

“Potatoes are suffering from the ‘three B blight’ — big, bland and boring,” said Angela Santiago, CEO and co-founder of The Little Potato Co. in Edmonton, Alberta. “You put a regular potato on a plate, and nobody’s getting too excited. We need to make potatoes interesting again, we need to get people excited.”

Consultant and University of Idaho emeritus professor Joseph Guenthner said consumption has decreased due to the perception that potatoes are unhealthful and a lack of convenience in potato products.

Bragg shared a stack of food and health magazines to demonstrate that there were very few articles talking about potatoes or potato recipes.

“Potatoes are one of the leading causes for obesity, and they are zero percent fat — that does not make a lot of sense to me,” Bragg said.

Guenthner said the industry needs to determine how to find its way into the stomachs of American consumers.

He cited recent developments, like the use of fresh-cut potatoes for fries and advertising which farm the fries came from at the Five Guys hamburger chain and Potato Flats, a restaurant in Dallas, Texas, that serves a potato bar meal atop a flattened potato.

Santiago said the consumer market has less home cooking and fewer home cooking skills, higher interest in convenience and fresh nutrition options. Consumers are also looking for smaller sizes and a small environmental footprint, she said.

Her company developed new potato products using smaller, creamer potatoes, fingerlings and blue and purple potatoes. The products include microwave-ready and grill-ready kits.

“There are thousands of potato varieties, shapes, sizes, colors and tastes that North Americans have never experienced before,” Santiago said. “Consumers want to see new and interesting products, and we’re committed to delivering.”

Santiago said the biggest difficulty has been having enough inventory to meet the high demand for her company’s offerings.

Bragg compared the many varieties of potatoes to the varieties of wine, apples and table grapes.

“They’re all being written about, described and enjoyed,” he said. “Potatoes are the health food of the present and the future, and we don’t get it out. We have a big opportunity ahead of us.”

Santiago’s company uses a three-pronged approach — exposure, excitement and education.

“We want to get in front of as many people as we can, through as many channels as we strategically can manage,” she said. “We see a future where potatoes are again full of flavor, bursting with nutrition and the centerpiece of every wholesome meal.”

Online

Potato Association of America: http://potatoassociation.org

Meijer: www.meijer.com

The Little Potato Company: www.littlepotatoes.com

Potato Flats: www.potatoflats.com

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Lawmakers urge FEMA to ease ag building rules http://www.capitalpress.com/Nation_World/Nation/20140729/lawmakers-urge-fema-to-ease-ag-building-rules http://www.capitalpress.com/Nation_World/Nation/20140729/lawmakers-urge-fema-to-ease-ag-building-rules#Comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 17:00:17 -0400 Tim Hearden http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2014140729837 Capital Press

SACRAMENTO — A U.S. senator and two congressmen from California are urging the Federal Emergency Management Agency to ease requirements for farmers building or improving agricultural structures in floodplains.

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Reps. John Garamendi, a Democrat, and Doug LaMalfa, a Republican, noted in a letter July 29 that FEMA flood insurance guidelines require producers to either elevate new structures or leave large openings to let water flow through.

In deep floodplains in places like the Sacramento Valley, such rules are unworkable because farmers would have to build 15 feet off the ground or create openings large enough to expose crops to pests and pathogens, the lawmakers wrote in the letter to FEMA director Craig Fugate.

“Given that agriculture is an effective use of deep floodplains and that agricultural structures serve very different purposes than residential structures, we hope your agency will quickly move to provide reasonable options for farmers to mitigate flood risk while building structures suitable for farming purposes,” they wrote.

The lawmakers complained that the rules under the National Flood Insurance Program are so inflexible that some California producers have been forced “to forego plans to construct important agricultural structures in floodplains currently used for producing crops or livestock.”

The letter accompanied a report from the U.S. Government Accounting Office that found California farmers adversely affected by the building requirements had to work around outdated FEMA guidelines that don’t address the challenges of operating in deep floodplains or reflect industry changes, a summary of the report explained.

When asked to comment, FEMA’s media office referred to a statement by Department of Homeland Security liaison office director Jim Crumpacker in the report itself. Crumpacker said he concurred with the GAO’s recommendation that the agency update its guidelines to reflect recent farming developments and structural needs in deep floodplains.

The agency “recognizes that agricultural land is a good use of the floodplain, and that changes in the agricultural industry and the diversity of structures that support agriculture are important to recognize in future guidance,” Crumpacker said in the statement.

He added FEMA is “working to determine the best approach” for updating the pass-through requirement, which the agency refers to as “wet floodproofing.” He said it is “to be determined” when this will be done.

The report and lawmakers’ letter comes as Garamendi and LaMalfa have proposed H.R. 3315, which would exempt structures like barns, sheds and silos from requirements they say effectively prohibit construction in areas prone to flooding.

Garamendi, whose district includes 200 miles of the Sacramento River, has called for a delay in impending flood insurance rate hikes caused by new flood risk maps produced by FEMA. The new maps increased designated flood hazard areas by nearly 80 percent in Sutter County and more than 66 percent in Yolo County, according to the GAO report.

In 2012, Garamendi proposed a bill that would have enabled farmers to obtain subsidized flood insurance on existing and new agricultural structures in areas protected by weakened levees, but that bill died in committee.

Online

Summary of GAO report on National Flood Insurance Program: www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-583

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California growers converting rice straw to cattle feed http://www.capitalpress.com/California/20140729/california-growers-converting-rice-straw-to-cattle-feed http://www.capitalpress.com/California/20140729/california-growers-converting-rice-straw-to-cattle-feed#Comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 15:41:53 -0400 Tim Hearden http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2014140729840 WILLOWS, Calif. — Some rice growers and University of California researchers say they have a solution for livestock producers confronted with feed shortages because of the drought.

The growers have been converting straw left over from harvest into “strawlage,” a moist feed that UC Cooperative Extension scientists say is on a par with a low-quality alfalfa.

Growers have plenty of the straw laying around after harvest now that the industry has stopped burning because of air quality concerns. With the drought leaving ranchers desperate for inexpensive feed, growers believe they’ve found a way to put the straw to good use.

Roy Sandoval, a Colusa County, Calif., rice and alfalfa grower, says he’s been making rice strawlage for about seven years. He says cows love it.

“It’s silage — that’s what it is,” he said. “It’s sweet.”

Sandoval was one of about 50 growers who attended a UCCE-sponsored workshop here on July 29 to either learn or teach their neighbors about the practice.

Extension advisors coined the term “strawlage” as a cross between straw and silage, cautioning that the feed is of lesser quality than true silage. And while they’ve been experimenting with making it since 1999, there are still many unknowns, farm advisor Glenn Nader said.

But Nader hopes to learn more this fall as more growers seek to make a little extra money while helping to feed nearby cows.

“There’s going to be a significant problem with feed coming into this winter and rice strawlage may be an answer,” said Peter Robinson, a UC-Davis animal science specialist who’s been helping with the research.

To be certain, turning the straw into feed can be labor-intensive and tricky. Because dried-out straw loses its nutritional value, the straw has to be baled immediately while it’s still moist, and growers cover the stacks with huge tarps to retain the moisture until it’s delivered and fed to cattle. Mold can be controlled by applying proprionic acid or a urea-and-nitrate solution.

The quality of feed can vary, too, depending on rice variety, nitrogen management and other factors, researchers said. Having turned black and a little slimy, the strawlage isn’t aesthetically pleasing. But most cows apparently don’t care.

“The cattle do eat this really well,” rancher Herb Holzaphel said during the workshop. “It didn’t feed as good as silage, but it fed better than normal straw.”

Rancher Henry Smith said he’s tried lots of different feeds in his cattle operation, including almond hulls. He said growers are still learning how to prepare strawlage, but it’s worth the effort.

“I think we’re just getting started at knowing what we should do and not do,” he said. “I say keep going … It really makes good feed if you luck out and do it right.”

Online

University of California Rice Project: ucanr.edu/sites/UCRiceProject/

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Class I milk price $4.99 above 2013 http://www.capitalpress.com/Dairy/20140729/class-i-milk-price-499-above-2013 http://www.capitalpress.com/Dairy/20140729/class-i-milk-price-499-above-2013#Comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 14:18:33 -0400 Lee Mielke http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2014140729841 The Agriculture Department announced the August federal order Class I base milk price July 23 at $23.87 per hundredweight, up 85 cents from July and $4.99 above August 2013. It equates to about $2.05 per gallon. The eight-month Class I average now stands at $23.13 per cwt., up from $18.39 at this time a year ago, $16.37 in 2012, and $18.91 in 2011.

The two-week, National Dairy Products Sales Report-surveyed butter price used in calculating the August Class I price was $2.3379 per pound, up 15.3 cents from July.

Nonfat dry milk averaged $1.8763, up 2.4 cents. Cheese averaged $2.0445, up 1.1 cent, and dry whey averaged 68.73 cents per pound, up 1.1 cent.

Cash cheese prices in Chicago reversed gears the week of July 21 and fell below $2 per pound again. The Cheddar blocks closed that Friday at $1.97, down 5 3/4-cents on the week but still 20 3/4-cents above a year ago. But the blocks reversed direction Monday and inched up a quarter-cent and were up three-quarters on Tuesday, to $1.98, pounding on the $2 door once again.

The barrels finished Friday at $1.9525, down 11 3/4-cents on the week and 19 1/4-cents above a year ago. The barrels rolled a half-cent lower Monday and were unchanged Tuesday at $1.9475, a typical 3 1/4-cents below the blocks. Eleven cars of block traded hands last week and 14 of barrel.

Cash butter, after gaining almost 25 cents in two weeks and hitting 16-year highs, stumbled Friday, losing 3 cents, the first loss since July 11, and closed at $2.59 per pound, still up 11 cents on the week and $1.1575 above a year ago. The spot melted down another 2 cents Monday and dropped 4 1/2-cents on Tuesday, to $2.5250. Ten cars were sold on the week and 15 had already sold this week, Monday and Tuesday.

Cash Grade A nonfat dry milk lost more ground on the week, closing Friday at $1.6750, down 2 cents. Two cars were sold. The powder remained unchanged on Monday and Tuesday.

An estimated 199,000 dairy cows were slaughtered under federal inspection in June, down 11,000 head from May and 21,000 head below June 2013, according to USDA’s latest Livestock Slaughter report issued July 24.

Looking at the first six months of 2014, USDA estimates that 1.391 million head were “retired” from the dairy business, 176,000 less than the same period a year ago.

The Agriculture Department’s National Milk Cost of Production report, issued July 25, shows June’s total costs were up slightly from May.

Total feed costs averaged $13.39 per cwt., down 9 cents from revised May estimates but 16 cents above April. June 2013 estimates were not available due to the federal budget sequestration. Purchased feed costs, at $6.82 per cwt., were up 3 cents from May but 3 cents lower than April.

Total costs, including feed, bedding, marketing, fuel, repairs, hired labor, taxes, etc., at $24.79 per cwt., were up 7 cents from May and 32 cents above the April level. Feed costs made up 54.0 percent of total costs, compared to 54.5 percent the month before.

Read the complete report at: http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/milk-cost-of-production-estimates.aspx.

The Agriculture Department’s preliminary June Cold Storage report, issued July 22, shed some light on what has happened in the U.S. cash markets, particularly in butter.

Butter stocks on June 30, 2014 totaled 186.13 million pounds, down 6.4 million pounds or 3 percent from May and 132.8 million pounds or a whopping 42 percent below June 2013.

American type cheese, at 657.53 million pounds, was up 1.1 million pounds from May or virtually unchanged, but 53.1 million pounds or 7 percent below a year ago.

The total cheese inventory stood at 1.061 billion pounds, down about 4 million pounds or virtually unchanged from May, but 87.8 million pounds or 8 percent below a year ago.

In a dose of current reality in the international market, New Zealand-based dairy cooperative Fonterra Tuesday reduced its forecast Farmgate Milk Price for the 2014/15 season from $7.00 to $6.00 per kilogram of milksolids and announced an estimated dividend range of 20-25 cents per share — amounting to a Forecast Cash Payout of $6.20-$6.25 for the current season.

Chairman John Wilson said the lower forecast Farmgate Milk Price reflected continuing volatility, with the Global Dairy Trade price index declining 16 per cent since the start of the season on June 1.

“We have seen strong production globally, a build-up of inventory in China, and falling demand in some emerging markets in response to high dairy commodity prices. In addition, the New Zealand dollar has remained strong. Our milk collection across New Zealand last season ending 31 May 2014 reached 1,584 million kilograms of milksolids, 8.3 per cent higher than the previous season.

“This drop in the forecast farmgate milk price will have an impact on our farmers’ cash flows. We continue to urge caution with on-farm budgets in light of the continuing volatility in international dairy markets,” Wilson said.

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Portland Daily Grain report http://www.capitalpress.com/Markets/20140729/portland-daily-grain-report/1 http://www.capitalpress.com/Markets/20140729/portland-daily-grain-report/1#Comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 13:18:07 -0400 http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2014140729842 Bids for grains delivered to Portland, Oregon during July by unit trains and barges, in dollars per bushel, except oats and corn, in dollars per cwt. Bids for soft white wheat are for delivery periods as specified. Hard red winter wheat and dark northern spring wheat bids are for full July delivery. Bids for corn are for 30 day delivery.

September wheat futures closed 10.75 to 14.75 cents per bushel lower than Monday’s closes.

Bids for US 1 Soft White Wheat delivered to Portland in unit trains and barges during July trended 7.75 to 14.75 cents per bushel lower compared to Monday’s noon bids for the same delivery period. Bids were pressured by the lower Chicago September wheat futures, however a higher basis bid by some exporters tempered the declines. Some exporters are not issuing bids for nearby delivery.

Bids for 11.5 percent protein US 1 Hard Red Winter Wheat for July delivery trended 14 cents per bushel lower than Monday’s noon bids for the same delivery period. The lower Kansas City September wheat futures pressured cash bids. Some exporters are not issuing bids for nearby delivery.

Bids for 14 percent protein US 1 Dark Northern Spring Wheat for July delivery trended 10.75 to 15.75 cents per bushel lower compared to Monday’s noon bids for the same delivery period. Bids were pressured by the lower Minneapolis September wheat futures and a lower basis bid by some exporters. Some exporters are not issuing bids for nearby delivery.

Bids for US 2 Yellow Corn delivered to Portland and the Yakima Valley were not available.

All wheat bids in dollars per bushel

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

Jul mostly 6.6950, ranging 6.2000-6.9500 dn 14.75-7.75

Aug NC 6.6500-6.9500 dn 14.75-up 0.25

Sep 6.7000-6.9800 dn 9.75-up 5.00

Oct 6.7375-7.0100 dn 4.00-up 5.00

Nov 6.7875-7.0400 dn 4.00-up 5.00

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

Jul mostly 7.3750, ranging 6.7000-7.7500 dn 14.75-4.75

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

better)

Ordinary protein mostly 7.0750, ranging 6.9450-7.1950 dn 14.00

10 pct protein mostly 7.0750, ranging 6.9450-7.1950 dn 14.00

11 pct protein 6.9650-7.2750 dn 14.00

11.5 pct protein

Jul mostly 7.1950, ranging 7.0650-7.3150 dn 14.00

Aug NC 7.0650-7.3150 dn 14.00

Sep 7.1650-7.4150 dn 14.00

Oct 7.4325-7.6325 dn 7.00-12.00

Nov 7.3825-7.6325 dn 12.00

12 pct protein 7.0650-7.3150 dn 14.00

13 pct protein mostly 7.2650, ranging 7.0650-7.4650 dn 14.00

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 7.4250-7.5750 dn 10.75-15.75

14 pct protein

Jul mostly 7.9350, ranging 7.8550-8.0550 dn 10.75-15.75

Aug NC 7.6050-8.0550 dn 10.75-up 4.25

Sep 7.4050-8.1550 dn 10.75

Oct 7.7075-8.2575 dn 10.00

Nov 7.7075-8.2575 dn 10.00

15 pct protein 8.0950-8.3750 dn 10.75-15.75

16 pct protein 8.3350-8.6950 dn 10.75-15.75

US 2 Yellow Corn in dollars per CWT

Domestic-single rail cars

Delivered full coast-BN NA

Delivered to Portland NA

Rail and Truck del to Willamette Vly NA

Rail del to Yakima Valley NA

Truck del to Yakima Valley NA

US 2 Heavy White Oats in dollars per CWT 14.0000 unch

Not well tested.

Exporter Bids Portland Rail/Barge Jun 2014

Averages in Dollars per bushel

US 1 Soft White by Unit Trains and Barges 6.9900

US 1 Hard Red Winter (Ordinary protein) 7.8500

US 1 Hard Red Winter (11.5% protein) 7.9700

US 1 Dark Northern Spring (14% protein) 8.3900

Source: USDA Market News Service, Portland, OR

Niki Davila 503-326-2237 Portland.LPGMNams.usda.gov

24 Hour Market Report 503-326-2022

www.ams.usda.gov/mnreports/jo—gr110.txt

www.ams.usda.gov/lpsmarketnewspage

11:50 P nd

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