Capital Press | http://www.capitalpress.com Capital Press Sat, 23 Sep 2017 19:46:45 -0400 en http://EOR-CPwebvarnish.newscyclecloud.com/apps/pbcsi.dll/staticimage/images/rss-logo.jpg Capital Press | http://www.capitalpress.com Staying above the fray on social media http://www.capitalpress.com/Opinion/Columns/20170922/staying-above-the-fray-on-social-media http://www.capitalpress.com/Opinion/Columns/20170922/staying-above-the-fray-on-social-media#Comments Fri, 22 Sep 2017 14:49:07 -0400 Kari Barbic http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2017170929956 Keeping a discussion on social media constructive can be a real challenge, especially when the other side goes negative, or even hostile. But nobody wins in an online shouting match. So how do we advocate and educate on controversial issues without getting drowned out by the noise?

1. Find your common ground.

This may be easier said than done, but we can usually find some level of common ground with people who hold opposing viewpoints. Granted, those people may have some harsh opinions and unkind words as the conversation heats up, but chances are the discussion would look far different if they weren’t shielded by their computer screens.

As you prepare to address a topic, consider opposing views and the types of people who may disagree with your stance. When it comes to agriculture, there’s no shortage of opinions — informed or not. This shouldn’t surprise us. The people who would tell you how to run your farm may have equally strong opinions on how their doctors and mechanics should do their jobs as well.

We don’t have to make sense of everyone else’s viewpoints but we can evaluate their perspective and find broad areas to agree on. Take a mom who’s anti-GMO. Do you both want safe, affordable food for your families? It’s probably safe to assume the answer is yes. You may differ in how to arrive at that goal, but you can lay the groundwork for a productive discussion if you at least share the same starting point.

2. Keep your facts front and center.

Be sure to have solid examples and numbers on your side from the start. It’s not hard to rally like-minded peers around an issue, but if you want to engage in a thoughtful debate with opposing viewpoints, do your homework and triple-check your facts. Bringing facts straight from your farm can help educate your audience far more effectively than broad generalizations.

When you’re advocating for regulatory reform, talk about the specific steps you’ve taken and farming techniques you’ve adopted that have improved your farm’s sustainability. Show the difference in the amount of water and pesticides you use thanks to advances in technology. Even better, show your audience pictures or videos of what a modern sustainable farm looks like, or use Facebook Live or Instagram Stories to bring visitors to your farm in real time. You may not win over your opponent with one compelling photo or clip, but you’ll leave them with something to think about as you set the stage for your next interaction.

3. Acknowledge when the other side has a valid point (and learn from them).

We may learn a thing or two by studying our opponent’s playbook. Are there specific strategies and messages that seem to be working for them? To help sharpen your own tools, take some time to consider what makes their messages effective.

None of us can be right about all the things all the time. But we can go a long way in establishing credibility with others who may be listening in on our debate if we give credit where it’s due when the opposing side makes a good point. If you stay focused on building your reputation as a credible resource, you have a better chance of making all your words count, even if you don’t get the last word.

Few of us have been persuaded to change our opinions after just one discussion. Keep that in mind and relieve yourself of the pressure of trying to change a person’s opinions and habits via just one Facebook thread.

Kari Barbic is a media specialist at the American Farm Bureau Federation.

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LMIC: Cattle industry swimming upstream http://www.capitalpress.com/Livestock/20170922/lmic-cattle-industry-swimming-upstream http://www.capitalpress.com/Livestock/20170922/lmic-cattle-industry-swimming-upstream#Comments Fri, 22 Sep 2017 09:07:52 -0400 Carol Ryan Dumas http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2017170929968 A build-up of the national cattle herd, dynamics of international trade and competition from pork and chicken are making 2017 a transitional year for the U.S. cattle industry.

“We’re still swimming upstream against the current, and that’s an environment where it takes more decisive business planning and more business planning than when times are easier,” Jim Robb, director of the Livestock Marketing Information Center, said this week in an outlook video for Northwest Farm Credit Services.

The industry saw record-high prices in 2014 and has been building the herd, but prices have eroded since then. While the worse seems to be over, generally lower prices — but not dramatic declines — are expected for the next couple of years, he said.

The floods in Texas — which have been a disaster for many producers and have also damaged forage supplies — and the drought probably are not having an enormous impact in the short term, but they will likely push cattle to market, he said.

In other areas, however, some of the small-grains grazing areas, wheat graze-out areas and those types of planting programs are benefiting from ample moisture.

“So it’s a mixed bag, one that’s probably too early to tell. (Although) certainly the situation in Texas is very difficult for those producers,” he said.

On the broader stage, Russia has stymied the world in terms of exports there. Russia is not a big market for U.S. beef, but its import ban has an indirect impact as it affects exporters in competition with the U.S., he said.

“So the world is very much interrelated,” he said.

And there are other geopolitical uncertainties that could have a positive or negative effect on U.S. beef, such as the meat scandal in Brazil, renegotiation of NAFTA, possible renegotiation of the U.S.-Korea trade agreement and U.S. actions against North Korea.

There will be opportunities for U.S. cattle producers, but it’s a more difficult management environment than when cattle numbers are shrinking in the U.S., he said.

In putting together financial plans in the short term, cattle producers will want to take advantage of opportunities when they come along — such as the run-up in prices since last October until recently. But they should also be cognizant that there’s a bigger calf crop ahead and shouldn’t push things too far, he said.

The size of U.S. calf crops has increased each of the last three years, and the 2017 crop looks to be the largest since 2008. Based on the cowherd, both the 2018 and 2019 calf crops are expected to be even bigger. While calf prices are expected to be higher year over year in the last quarter of 2017, larger calf crops ahead will make it a challenging environment for continued price increases, LMIC reported in its latest Livestock Monitor.

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Amalgamated expects to equal or best record beet yield http://www.capitalpress.com/Idaho/20170922/amalgamated-expects-to-equal-or-best-record-beet-yield http://www.capitalpress.com/Idaho/20170922/amalgamated-expects-to-equal-or-best-record-beet-yield#Comments Fri, 22 Sep 2017 13:12:06 -0400 John O’Connell http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2017170929957 RUPERT, Idaho — Amalgamated Sugar Co. officials say their early harvest results suggest they’ll equal or exceed last season’s record sugar beet yields, despite facing harsh growing conditions this season.

Duane Grant, chairman of the board with Snake River Sugar Co., which owns Amalgamated, explained the Idaho and Oregon sugar beet crops got off to a slow start due to cool spring weather, which was followed by the arrival of excessive heat in June.

The company, nonetheless, projects its growers will at least equal the 41 tons-per-acre of beets they averaged during last year’s harvest — and Grant said it’s possible they could set a record yield for a fourth consecutive year.

“They came out of a cooler spring than normal and a hotter summer than normal with good yields,” said Grant, of Rupert. “We really attribute that to the steady improvement in the quality of the genetics of the crop we plant today.”

Grant noted this was the first season that growers planted a variety developed specifically for Idaho’s conditions, and more Idaho-specific varieties will be released next season.

However, Grant anticipates the sugar content in each beet will be down significantly from last season, resulting in less finished sugar production for the company. He said Amalgamated projects its average sugar content will be about 17.5 percent, compared with 18.3 percent last season.

“In my own personal harvest, we’re seeing yields comparable with last year and up slightly,” Grant said. “My sugar is down half a percent to a full percent.”

Grant said growers are anticipating a profitable year, nonetheless, based on the strength of the domestic sugar market.

American Sugar Alliance economist Jack Roney said several factors have aligned to create a “bullish” U.S. sugar market outlook. Primarily, Roney said the U.S. recently reached an agreement with Mexico that effectively ends ongoing dumping of subsidized Mexican sugar onto the U.S. market. Based on the elimination of market “uncertainty” due to the agreement, Roney said U.S. wholesale refined sugar prices have risen from 28 cents per pound to about 33 cents during the past half year.

Roney said damage to sugar cane production caused by hurricanes in Florida and Louisiana could also affect sugar prices.

“I think the price outlook going into this harvest is probably the best that it’s been in several years,” Roney said, emphasizing the U.S. sugar program effectively caps domestic sugar prices by allowing more foreign imports to address possible shortages.

Roney said world prices would need to rise for U.S. sugar prices to make steeper gains, and he doesn’t see that happening any time soon.

Amalgamated growers started their early harvest on Sept. 8. The company’s growers planted 178,000 acres, down 2.5 percent from last season, as its factories had reached their production capacity, Grant said. For the budget year that began Sept. 1, Amalgamated increased funding to improve operations at its factories by 60 percent. Grant said the company has already commenced with work to remove factory “bottlenecks” so “any kind of a hiccup doesn’t become catastrophic.”

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West Coast grain price report http://www.capitalpress.com/Markets/20170922/west-coast-grain-price-report http://www.capitalpress.com/Markets/20170922/west-coast-grain-price-report#Comments Fri, 22 Sep 2017 11:09:38 -0400 http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2017170929958 Grains are stated in dollars per bushel or hundredweight (cwt.) except feed grains traded in dollars per ton. National grain report bids are for rail delivery unless truck indicated.

PORTLAND GRAIN

(USDA Market News)

Portland

Sept. 21

Pacific Northwest Market Summary

Cash wheat bids for September delivery ended the reporting week on Thursday, Sept. 21, were mixed compared to week ago noon bids for September delivery.

December wheat futures ended the reporting week on Thursday, Sept. 21, mixed as follows compared to week ago closes: Chicago wheat futures were 9.50 cents higher at 4.5250, Kansas City wheat futures were 7.50 cents higher at 4.4950 and Minneapolis wheat futures trended 8.25 cents lower at 6.2425.

Chicago December corn futures trended four cents lower at 3.5025 and November soybean futures closed 5.25 cents lower at 9.7075.

Bids for US 1 Soft White Wheat delivered to Portland in unit trains or barges during September for ordinary protein trended steady to 2.50 cents per bushel higher compared to week ago prices for the same delivery period from 5.10-5.3750.

Some exporters were not issuing bids for nearby delivery.

White club wheat premiums were zero to two cents per bushel over soft white wheat bids this week and last week.

One year ago bids for US 1 Soft White Wheat any protein for September delivery by unit trains and barges to Portland were 4.75-4.8775 and bids for White Club Wheat were 4.75-4.88.

Forward month bids for soft white wheat ordinary protein were as follows: October 5.20-5.38, November 5.20-5.42, December 5.20-5.46 and January 5.32-5.49.

One year ago, forward month bids for soft white wheat for any protein were as follows: October 4.75-4.8275, November 4.75-4.9275 and December

4.7775-5.0275.

Bids for US 1 Soft White Wheat guaranteed maximum 10.5 percent protein during September trended steady to 2.50 cents per bushel higher than week ago prices for the same delivery period from 5.10-5.3750. Some exporters were not issuing bids

for nearby delivery.

White club wheat premiums for guaranteed maximum 10.5 percent protein soft white wheat this week were zero cents per bushel over soft white wheat bids this week and last week.

One year ago bids for US 1 Soft White Wheat guaranteed maximum 10.5 percent protein for September delivery by unit trains and barges to Portland were 4.75-4.9275 and bids for White Club Wheat were also 4.75-4.9275.

Forward month bids for soft white wheat guaranteed 10.5 percent proteins

were as follows: October and November 5.20-5.38, December 5.20-5.41 and January 5.32-5.45.

One year ago, forward month bids for soft white wheat for any protein were as follows: October 4.75-4.8275, November 4.75-4.9275 and December 4.80-

5.0275.

Bids for 11.5 percent protein US 1 Hard Red Winter Wheat for September delivery were 7.50 cents per bushel higher compared to week ago noon bids for the same delivery period. Some exporters were not issuing bids for nearby delivery.

This week, bids were as follows: September 5.3950-5.7950, October 5.6950-5.7950, November and December 5.6950-5.8450, and January 5.7750-5.8250.

Bids for non-guaranteed 14.0 percent protein US 1 Dark Northern Spring Wheat for Portland delivery during September were 8.25 cents per bushel lower than week ago noon bids for the same delivery period. Some exporters were not issuing bids for nearby delivery.

This week, bids for non-guaranteed 14 percent protein were as follows: September 7.1425-7.3425, October 7.3425-7.4425, November and December 7.3425-7.4925.

Coarse feeding grains: Bids for US 2 Yellow Corn delivered full coast Pacific Northwest - BN shuttle trains for September delivery had no recent price comparison as week ago bids were not available, but bids were 3.9725-4.0025. Some exporters were not issuing bids for nearby delivery. Forward month corn bids were as follows: October not available, November 4.1525-4.2025, December 4.2025-4.2225, January and February 4.33-4.35.

Bids for US 1 Yellow Soybeans delivered full coast Pacific Northwest - BN shuttle trains for September delivery were trended 5.25 to 8.25 cents lower than week ago bids for the same delivery period at 10.4575-10.5875. Some exporters were not issuing bids for nearby delivery. Forward month soybean bids were as follows: October 10.4575-10.5675, November 10.4875-10.5675, December and January 10.63-10.65. Bids for US 2 Heavy White Oats for September delivery trended steady at 3.12 per bushel.

Pacific Northwest Export News: There were 11 grain vessels in Columbia River ports on Thursday, Sept. 21, with five docked compared to five last week with one docked. There were no new confirmed export sales this week from the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) of the USDA.

CALIFORNIA GRAINS

(USDA Market News)

Sept. 21

Paid by feed manufacturers and other users, delivered plant or receiving station. All prices are offers for prompt shipment unless otherwise stated.

Due to limited availability, prices were not available with the exception of the following categories:

BARLEY US No 2 (46 lbs. per bushel)

FOB Solano County NA

Colusa County NA

Tehema County NA

Rail Any Origin – via

BNSF and U.P.

Central Valley NA

Stockton-Modesto-

Oakdale-Turlock NA

Tulare County NA

Truck Petaluma-

Santa Rosa NA

Stockton-Modesto-

Oakdale-Turlock NA

Kings-Tulare-

Fresno Counties NA

Kern County NA

Colusa County NA

Glenn County NA

CORN US No 2 Yellow

FOB Stockton-Modesto-

Oakdale-Turlock NA

Modesto-Oakdale-

Turlock NA

Kings-Tulare-

Fresno 6.70

Turlock/Tulare 7.90

Rail Single Car Units

via BNSF

Los Angeles-

Chino Valley NA

Truck Petaluma-

Santa Rosa NA

Stockton-Modesto-

Oakdale-Turlock 8.20

Kings-Tulare-

Fresno Counties 8.20

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California shell egg price report http://www.capitalpress.com/Markets/20170922/california-shell-egg-price-report http://www.capitalpress.com/Markets/20170922/california-shell-egg-price-report#Comments Fri, 22 Sep 2017 10:50:31 -0400 http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2017170929959 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.

DAILY CALIFORNIA SHELL EGGS

(USDA Market News)

Sept. 22

Benchmark prices are unchanged. Asking prices for next week are 2 cents higher for Jumbo, 13 cents higher for Extra Large, 10 cents higher for Large and unchanged for Medium and Small. The undertone is firm. Demand ranges from moderate to good, mostly moderate to fairly good. Offerings are light. Supplies are light to moderate. Market activity is moderate to active. Small benchmark price $1.14.

Size Range Size Range

Jumbo 167 Extra large 167

Large 168 Medium 134

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

Prices to retailers, sales to volume buyers, USDA Grade AA and Grade AA, white eggs in cartons, delivered store door.

Size Range Size Range

Jumbo 154-167 Extra large 153-157

Large 153-162 Medium 115-126

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Fluid milk and cream review — West http://www.capitalpress.com/Markets/20170922/fluid-milk-and-cream-review-x2014-west http://www.capitalpress.com/Markets/20170922/fluid-milk-and-cream-review-x2014-west#Comments Fri, 22 Sep 2017 10:42:40 -0400 http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2017170929960 FLUID MILK AND CREAM REVIEW – WEST

(USDA Market News)

Sept. 21

In California, farm milk production is trending slightly up after a sharp decrease a few weeks ago. According to some contacts, this period is the time with the lowest milk production for the remainder of this year.

Class I orders from retailers and educational institutions are stable. Milk supplies are less available in the spot market, but continue to be sufficient for manufacturing needs.

Premium alfalfa hay is limited in the market, but demand is solid. Interest in medium to low quality alfalfa hay is light to moderate.

In Arizona, farm milk is available to processors. Production is steady. Milk intakes are also at the same levels compared to last week.

Class I demand from schools is steady as pipelines are filled.

Seventy percent of alfalfa hay is rated good to excellent this week, compared to 65 percent last week. Topsoil and subsoil moistures are respectively 92 and 91 percent adequate.

In New Mexico, milk production continues to increase. Due to unforeseen events, milk delivery to some Class III manufacturing facilities was delayed. In addition, repair/maintenance work at some processing plants caused a decrease in Class III intakes. Class II interest is up, whereas Class I demand is lower. The fourth cutting of alfalfa hay is 90 percent complete while the fifth and sixth cuttings are 50 and 27 percent complete, respectively. Topsoil and subsoil moistures are both 62

percent adequate to surplus as they are being depleted by hot and dry weather conditions.

Pacific Northwest milk handlers suggest milk production has eased back further. Intakes are generally in good balance with production needs. Bottling demand has leveled off. Some rain has entered the region providing a relief to the long dry spell and heat. A few fires are causing the rerouting of milk loads, but limited disruption to production or processing.

In the mountain states of Idaho, Colorado and Utah, milk supplies are still long.

Excess milk loads, searching out a home, often move at discounted prices, some at $3.50 under Class III. Processors are pulling hard at available supplies, but a few manufacturers have some scheduled down time to get routine maintenance completed. The market for condensed

skim is steady.

In the West, spot loads of cream are moving to butter plants at average market prices.

However, a number of manufacturing facilities stopped churning butter until Thanksgiving. Cream multiples are steady at 1.05-1.26. Some western cream is moving to Mexico at higher multiples.

According to the DMN National Retail Report-Dairy for the week of Sept. 15-21, the national weighted average advertised price for one gallon of milk is $2.45, down $0.40 from last week, and $0.26 lower from a year ago.

The weighted average regional price in the Southwest is $2.62, with a price range of $2.59-$2.69.

The weighted average regional price in the Northwest is $1.99, with no price range reported.

The NASS Milk Production report noted August 2017 milk production in the 23 selected states was 17.0 billion pounds, 2.1 percent above a year ago.

Milk cows in the 23 selected states totaled 8.73 million head, 66,000 head more than a year ago.

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Western hay price report http://www.capitalpress.com/Markets/20170922/western-hay-price-report http://www.capitalpress.com/Markets/20170922/western-hay-price-report#Comments Fri, 22 Sep 2017 10:31:11 -0400 http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2017170929961 Hay prices are dollars per ton or dollars per bale when sold to retail outlets. Basis is current delivery FOB barn or stack, or delivered customer as indicated. Grade guidelines used in this report have the following relationship to Relative Feed Value (RFV), Acid Detergent Fiber (ADF), TDN (Total Digestible Nutrients), or Crude Protein (CP) test numbers:

Grade RFV ADF TDN CP

Supreme 185+ <27 55.9+ 22+

Premium 170-185 27-29 54.5-55.9 20-22

Good 150-170 29-32 52.5-54.5 18-20

Fair 130-150 32-35 50.5-52.5 16-18

Utility <130 36+ <50.5 <16

WASHINGTON-OREGON HAY

(Columbia Basin)

(USDA Market News)

Sept. 22

This week FOB Last week Last year

4921 tons 6300 tons 23,200 tons

Compared to Sept. 15: Premium export Alfalfa weak in a light test. Export Timothy steady. Rain showers over most of the trade area this week is hurting quality. Most export and retail hay the grower pays for the tarping. Trade slow to moderate with good demand. Retail/Feedstore steady.

Tons Price

Alfalfa Mid Square

Premium Export 600 155.00

Good Export 450 143.00

Fair Export 450 133.00

Alfalfa Small Square

Premium Export 150 185.00

Retail/Stable 1250 210.00

Orchard Grass Small Square

Prem Retail/Stable 176 225.00

Timothy Grass Mid Square

Premium Export 550 220.00

Good Export 1020 210.05

Timothy Grass Small Square

Premium 275 285.00

OREGON AREA HAY

(USDA Market News)

Sept. 22

Compared to Sept. 15: Prices trended generally steady. Sporadic rain showers and thunderstorms in hay growing areas have increased rain damaged hay availability. Fires and smoke throughout the state have slowed movement of hay due to highway closures and fire mitigation. Retail/Stable type hay remains the largest demanded hay. The export market demand has increased as compared to prior reports.

This week FOB Last week Last year

10,500 8358 5959

Crook, Deschutes, Jefferson, Wasco Counties

Alfalfa Small Square

Prem Retail/Stable 34 215.29

Good/Premium 50 200.00

Orchard Grass Small Square

Prem Retail/Stable 79 224.05

Meadow Grass Small Square

Prem Retail/Stable 75 210.00

Good Retail/Stable 1 175.00

Orchard/Timothy Small Square

Prem Retail/Stable 50 225.00

Oat Small Square

Prem Retail/Stable 25 160.00

Eastern Oregon

Alfalfa Large Square

Premium 200 165.00

Alfalfa/Orchard Mix Lge Square

Good/Premium 30 140.00

Harney County:

Alfalfa Large Square

Supreme 600 144.17

Klamath Basin

Alfalfa Small Square

Supreme 150 188.00

Prem Retail/Stable 75 171.00

Oat Large Square

Good 600 100.00

Small Square

Good 75 100.00

Triticale Small Square

Good 30 100.00

Lake County

Alfalfa Large Square

Supreme 68 215.00

Export 4500 190.00

Prem/Supr Export 2800 175.00

Premium 300 165.00

Small Square

Prem Retail/Stable 40 185.00

Alfalfa/Orchard Mix Small Square

Good/Prem Org 3 200.00

Orchard Grass Small Square

Prem Retail/Stable 15 185.00

Triticale Large Square

Good 600 110.00

Alfalfa/Triticale Mix Large Square

Good/Premium 100 125.00

IDAHO HAY

(USDA Market News)

Sept. 22

This week FOB Last week Last year

3300 11,750 5500

Compared to Sept. 15: Domestic and export Alfalfa steady in a light test. Timothy not tested this week. Trade slow this week as rain showers throughout the trade area slowed movement. Demand remains good.

Alfalfa Mid Square

Good Export 1000 125.00

Fair 1700 102.94

Wheat Straw Mid Square

Good 600 60.00

CALIFORNIA HAY

(USDA Market News)

Sept. 22

This week FOB Last week Last year

8615 9645 12,461

Compared to Sept. 15: All classes traded steady with moderate demand. According to report contact, army worms are an issue with Orchard and Timothy grass in the REGION 1: NORTHERN INTERMOUNTAIN

Includes the counties of Siskiyou, Modoc, Shasta, Lassen and Plumas.

Tons Price

Alfalfa Supreme 150 200.00

Very High Test 250 205.00

Premium 250 180.00

Contracted 1300 180.00

Organic 50 260.00 Retail/Stable 175 140.00

Retail Contracted 150 160.00

Good 250 160.00

Orchard Grass Premium 50 295.00

REGION 2: SACRAMENTO VALLEY

Includes the counties of Tehama, Glenn, Butte, Colusa, Sutter, Yuba, Sierra, Nevada, Placer, Yolo, El Dorado, Solano and Sacramento.

Alfalfa Supreme 25 250.00

Premium 500 234.00

Alfalfa/Orchard Mix

Prem Retail/Stable 25 240.00

REGION 3: NORTHERN SAN JOAQUIN VALLEY

Includes the counties of San Joaquin, Calaveras, Stanislaus, Tuolumne, Mono, Merced and Mariposa.

Alfalfa Supreme Del 400 260.00

Premium 50 220.00

Grassy 75 180.00

Del 1550 245.00

Good 275 190.00

Fair 425 192.35

Del 25 188.00

Oat Good 25 110.00

Region 4: Central San Joaquin Valley

Includes the counties of Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Inyo.

No New Sales Confirmed

REGION 5: SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

Includes the counties of Kern, Northeast Los Angeles and Western San Bernardino

Alfalfa Good/Premium 25 190.00

REGION 6: SOUTHEAST CALIFORNIA

Includes the counties of Eastern San Bernardino, Riverside and Imperial.

Alfalfa Premium 1120 175.09

Good Export 400 160.00

Retail/Stable 45 160.00

Fair 400 121.25

Grassy 200 110.00

Utility Rain Dam 175 60.00

Bermuda Grass Premium 250 170.00

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On last day of summer, snow falling in the Sierra Nevada http://www.capitalpress.com/California/20170922/on-last-day-of-summer-snow-falling-in-the-sierra-nevada http://www.capitalpress.com/California/20170922/on-last-day-of-summer-snow-falling-in-the-sierra-nevada#Comments Fri, 22 Sep 2017 10:25:46 -0400 http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2017170929962

TRUCKEE, Calif. (AP) — Snow fell in the Sierra Nevada on the last day of summer, giving the towering mountain range shared by California and Nevada a wintry look in September and making travel hazardous.

Sixteen vehicles crashed on Interstate 80 as snow and hail fell Thursday, killing a man driving a pickup truck and causing minor injuries to a few other people, said California Highway Patrol Officer Chris Nave.

Snow dusted peaks in Yosemite National Park, briefly closing Tioga Pass road, the soaring eastern entry to the park that typically doesn’t become impassable until mid-November. Park rangers urged drivers to remain cautious after the road reopened.

Fog and clouds along the route covered most of the mountain peaks and steam rose from lakes in some areas, prompting drivers to stop frequently to take photos.

Snow also fell in Mammoth Lakes on Thursday evening, creating slick roads and giving the popular ski resort town more or a winter look than one reflecting the last day of summer.

Several inches of snow were expected at elevations of at least 6,000 feet in the northern Sierra, said National Weather Service forecaster Hanna Chandler in Sacramento.

“The last days of summer,” the Placer County Sheriff’s Office wryly tweeted in a post showing snow falling on patrol vehicles at its Lake Tahoe station.

Sugar Bowl, a ski resort perched atop Donner Summit, received a good snow dusting that’s getting skiers excited about the upcoming ski season, said resort spokesman Jon Slaughter.

“We’ve got people calling about season passes and checking our webcams to take a look at the first snow,” Slaughter said.

Slaughter, however, didn’t anticipate the storm having much of an impact on how early the resort can open because the snow will likely melt.

But the first snow of the season came just four months after Sugar Bowl’s last ski season ended with nearly 800 inches of snowfall, part of a very wet winter that gave California at least a temporary respite from years of drought that left the Sierra with scant snowcaps.

At Oroville Dam, where crews are rushing to repair two badly damaged spillways before California’s winter rainy season starts in earnest, dam operators were keeping an eye on forecasts.

“We’re definitely tracking the weather but it has had no impact and we don’t expect it to,” said Erin Mellon, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Water Resources.

The taste of winter was not expected to last long.

“Fall is a big transition period so we have these big dips in temperature and then we go higher,” said Chandler, the forecaster. “It’s kind of a weather rollercoaster.”

Southern California also took an early leap into fall, with cloudy skies and rain showers across the region in advance of the autumnal equinox at 1:02 p.m. PDT Friday.

The region was also expecting a warm-up next week with the onset of seasonal Santa Ana winds, the warm and dry gusts that blow from the interior and out to sea and often fan the worst of Southern California’s wildfires.

A season outlook issued by the National Interagency Fire Center predicts a near-normal number of Santa Ana wind days through November.

Large fire potential will be above normal because of the abundance of grass spawned by last winter’s heavy rains, the center said.

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Forest Service, Idaho work to boost logging on federal land http://www.capitalpress.com/Idaho/20170922/forest-service-idaho-work-to-boost-logging-on-federal-land http://www.capitalpress.com/Idaho/20170922/forest-service-idaho-work-to-boost-logging-on-federal-land#Comments Fri, 22 Sep 2017 10:21:54 -0400 KEITH RIDLER http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2017170929963 BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The U.S. Forest Service and Idaho have forged 10 agreements for logging and restoration projects on federal land in what officials say could become a template for other Western states to create jobs and reduce the severity of wildfires.

Under the deals, Idaho foresters will administer timber sales on about 10,000 acres the federal agency has on its to-do list but can’t complete because the money for the work is instead going to fight wildfires.

So far this year, the cost of that fight has surpassed $2 billion — more than half the federal agency’s annual budget — during one of the worst fire seasons on record in the West.

The state work involves managing timber sales to a lumber company after determining how much is available and sometimes even marking what can and can’t be cut.

Money generated from the sales goes into accounts in the national forest where the timber was harvested, less expenses incurred by the Idaho Department of Lands for administering the sales.

The federal money is held in accounts to be used for additional work, which can include thinning projects to reduce wildfire threats and projects to improve habitat for fish and wildlife.

The federal-state partnership is possible under the Good Neighbor Authority passed by Congress more than a decade ago that initially involved Colorado and Utah. The 2014 Farm Bill expanded the measure to include other states.

Michigan, Wyoming, Oregon, Nevada and in particular Wisconsin have moved ahead with the partnership. But officials say Idaho — where 38 percent of the land is managed by the U.S. Forest Service — has made rapid progress.

“Idaho has really stepped up to fully embrace that ability for us to work with our state partners to get more work done,” said Intermountain Region Forester Nora Rasure, whose area includes 53,000 square miles of forest lands in Utah, Nevada and portions of Wyoming, Idaho and California.

Government, industry and environmentalists have developed a collaborative approach in Idaho following years of stalemated litigation over forests that were sometimes consumed by flames as decisions were delayed.

“They’re building agreements on being able to manage the forest in such a way that you can get timber off of them but you don’t compromise environmental values,” said John Freemuth, a Boise State University environmental policy professor and public lands expert. “It’s not a panacea, but it’s better than forest wars. That exhausted a lot of people.”

Watchdog groups say they’re concerned the policy might have more to do with avoiding environmental regulations than enhancing forest health. But for now, they are cautiously supportive.

The Idaho Department of Lands manages 2.4 million acres of state endowment land it received at statehood to primarily benefit public schools. About a million of those acres are forested.

Tom Schultz, director of the Idaho Department of Lands, said the work with the Forest Service helps Idaho by reducing the threat of giant wildfires spilling onto state and private forest land, and removing stands weakened by insects or disease to help prevent the spread of those problems to state and private lands.

Another major benefit is jobs. Shultz said an analysis suggests 12 to 15 direct and indirect jobs will be created for every million board feet of lumber harvested.

The watchdog groups wonder how well Idaho can mesh its forestry program, which is geared to maximize revenue over the long term, with the Forest Service’s multiple-use mandate that includes timber sales, recreation and wildlife habitat.

“We’d like to see them recognize that you can still have a profitable timber sale while protecting some of those sensitive resources,” said Jonathan Oppenheimer of the Idaho Conservation League.

The Idaho Department of Lands has received a three-year grant for $900,000 from the Forest Service for the program and Idaho lawmakers have authorized $250,000 from the state general fund. State officials say the goal is to have the program paying for itself with profitable timber sales in three to five years.

“We want to significantly increase the number of acres being treated,” Idaho State Forester David Groeschl told Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter and other elected officials during a Tuesday meeting of the Idaho Land Board, which previously approved entering into the agreements with the Forest Service.

The 10 projects in Idaho are in various stages, with two currently being logged and a lot of curiosity about how state-managed timber sales on federal land will turn out.

“There’s probably a natural tension between agencies, but I think that we’re making real progress in getting beyond some of that,” said Jane Darnell, a deputy regional forester with the Forest Service whose area includes northern Idaho. “We’ll get there.”

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Study: Montana&#x2019;s average temperature continues to increase http://www.capitalpress.com/State/Montana/20170922/study-montanas-average-temperature-continues-to-increase http://www.capitalpress.com/State/Montana/20170922/study-montanas-average-temperature-continues-to-increase#Comments Fri, 22 Sep 2017 10:10:38 -0400 http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2017170929964 BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — Montana’s average temperature continues to increase, leading the fire and growing seasons to last longer and causing drought conditions to increase in frequency and duration, a new report said.

The Montana Climate Assessment , carried out by the Montana University System’s Institute on Ecosystem, suggests Montana may need to start storing more water and farmers and ranchers may need to switch to more drought-tolerant crops or grazing grasses.

“So much of our ranging production is irrigation and timing, so the snowpack and these different variables will help us start to make more insightful decisions for our ranchers moving forward,” said Errol Rice, executive vice president of the Montana Stockgrowers Association.

The two-year study, released Wednesday, looked at past climate data and the impact on the state’s water, forests and agriculture.

The assessment is meant to help Montanans “plan, make wise decisions and become more resilient,” Montana State University Professor Cathy Whitlock said Wednesday.

The authors plan to travel the state over the next year to discuss the findings.

Between 1950 and 2015, Montana saw an average 2 to 3 degree Fahrenheit increase in temperature, said Kelsey Jensco, state climatologist. “That’s double what the United States as a whole has seen.” The study suggests future temperature changes will be larger in magnitude and occur more rapidly.

The study found no significant trends in annual precipitation, but winter snowpack has decreased while spring rains have increased. That could be due to the natural variability of climate.

The Montana Climate Assessment projects precipitation will increase for all regions of the state in the fall, winter and spring and decrease in the summer. That coupled with the warming trend will lead to longer and deeper droughts and an increase in the size, frequency and severity of forest fires, the study said.

Lola Raska, executive vice president of the Montana Grain Growers Association, said the information will help drive research efforts in creating crop varieties that can thrive in a warmer climate.

The authors plan to expand their work in the future to address the effects of Montana’s climate on tourism and recreation, fish and wildlife, human health and energy development.

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USDA, House agriculture staff injured in car accident http://www.capitalpress.com/Business/20170922/usda-house-agriculture-staff-injured-in-car-accident http://www.capitalpress.com/Business/20170922/usda-house-agriculture-staff-injured-in-car-accident#Comments Fri, 22 Sep 2017 10:06:26 -0400 MARY CLARE JALONICK http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2017170929965 WASHINGTON (AP) — An Agriculture Department employee and two staff members on the House Agriculture Committee were injured Thursday in a car accident south of El Campo, Texas.

A statement from the committee says the staffers were treated at a local hospital and released. The accident occurred after an event with farmers who had been affected by hurricane Harvey.

Statements from USDA and the committee say that Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, House Agriculture Chairman Michael Conaway and Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller were in a separate car and were not injured.

The Texas Department of Public Safety says an SUV driven by one of the staffers pulled out from a private drive onto a highway and collided with a semitrailer hauling 41,000 pounds of refrigerated chicken.

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Wildfire season sparks calls for forestry reform http://www.capitalpress.com/Nation_World/Nation/20170922/wildfire-season-sparks-calls-for-forestry-reform http://www.capitalpress.com/Nation_World/Nation/20170922/wildfire-season-sparks-calls-for-forestry-reform#Comments Fri, 22 Sep 2017 09:30:44 -0400 GEORGE PLAVENEO Media Group http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2017170929966 PENDLETON, Ore. — Out of the ashes of another record-breaking wildfire season across the West, Oregon lawmakers are calling for changes in the way national forests are managed and how the government pays for fighting increasingly large, destructive fires.

Rep. Greg Walden, the state’s lone Republican member of Congress, visited Pendleton and Hermiston on Thursday where he touted the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017, which passed the House Committee on Natural Resources in June. The controversial bill includes provisions that would expedite certain forest thinning projects, while establishing a pilot program to resolve legal challenges through arbitration.

Democrats Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, meanwhile, joined a bipartisan group of senators pushing to end the practice of “fire borrowing,” where the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are forced to rob money from fire prevention programs to pay for fighting wildfires.

Their bill, the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act of 2017, would make federal disaster funding available when the cost of firefighting exceeds the 10-year average, thereby maintaining the agencies’ budgets for other conservation and restoration programs.

In a statement Wednesday, Wyden said communities are put in danger and fire prevention work is left undone because of the backward fire budgeting system.

“It’s past time for Congress to make it a top priority to end fire borrowing, stop the erosion of the Forest Service becoming the ‘Fire Service,’ and start treating wildfires like the natural disasters they are,” Wyden said.

The Forest Service has spent more than $2 billion so far on wildfires nationwide in 2017, setting a new record. Nearly 8 million acres of forest have been consumed by fire this summer, including 678,000 acres in Oregon.

The problem, Walden said, is a lack of active management in the forests, which has resulted in a buildup of overly dense and dead tree stands ready to burn.

“I don’t want to see our forests continue to go up (in flames) like they are,” Walden said during a meeting Thursday with the East Oregonian editorial board.

More than three-quarters of the Umatilla and Wallowa-Whitman national forests are at moderate to high risk for uncharacteristic fire, according to the Northern Blue Mountains Coalition, a group dedicated to increasing forest thinning and logging. Across the country, 58 million acres of national forests are at high or very high risk of severe wildfires — an area equal to the size of Pennsylvania and New York combined.

“We’ve got to deal with these forests,” Walden said.

A version of the Resilient Federal Forests Act has passed the House each of the last four years. It focuses on measures to speed up the pace of restoration, providing categorical exclusions for certain projects to expedite environmental review.

Projects that would qualify for categorical exclusion include hazardous fuels reduction, salvaging dead trees, protecting watersheds or improving wildlife habitat. The bill caps project sizes at 10,000 acres, or 30,000 acres if they are developed by a multi-interest collaborative group.

The bill also directs the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a pilot program to resolve lawsuits filed against forest management through arbitration, rather than heading to court, and would prevent plaintiffs from recovering their attorney fees in such cases under the Equal Access to Justice Act.

Opponents of the legislation, however, claim it would severely undermine environmental review and cater to the interests of the timber industry. Steve Pedery, conservation director for Oregon Wild, described the bill as a wish list for timber lobbyists.

“It’s really about maximizing the profits of logging corporations over the health of our public lands, and the ability for Americans to enjoy them,” Pedery said.

Specific to Eastern Oregon, the Resilient Federal Forests Act would allow logging of trees more than 21 inches in diameter. Individual forest management plans would also no longer be subject to the National Environmental Protection Act — the Blue Mountains Forest Plan, which includes the Umatilla, Wallowa-Whitman and Malheur forests, is 13 years overdue for its latest revision.

Speaking Sept. 14 to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Walden urged support for the bill as a means to jump-start forestry reform.

“Year after year, we have catastrophic wildfires on federal lands, some of which have been set aside and managed in a way that they have no management,” Walden said. “So if you want to do something that is extraordinarily important, join us in reforming the way we manage our precious public lands and federal forests to reduce the fuel loads.”

As for fire borrowing, a bipartisan group of senators has introduced the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act to ensure the firefighting budget does not eat into the fire prevention budget, and allow projects to proceed with greater financial resources.

In the same joint statement with Wyden, Merkley said it is time to reverse what has become a vicious cycle.

“The way we fund wildfire suppression today is counterproductive and crazy,” Merkley said. “As this fire season has proven all too vividly, robbing from forest health and fire prevention programs to pay for suppression only creates a vicious cycle of bigger and bigger fires.

The bill would work by capping the firefighting budget at the most recent 10-year average, with any additional funding for fighting wildfires coming from federal disaster relief coffers. That would place wildfires more in line with other natural disasters, such as the hurricanes that have devastated parts of Texas and Florida.

Supporters include other Western lawmakers from across the political aisle, including Idaho Republicans Mike Crapo and Jim Risch; Colorado Republican Cory Gardner and Democrat Michael Bennet; California Democrat Dianne Feinstein; Washington Democrat Maria Cantwell; and Utah Republican Orrin Hatch.

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Northwest drought retreats; seasonal outlook turns colder, wetter http://www.capitalpress.com/Water/20170922/northwest-drought-retreats-seasonal-outlook-turns-colder-wetter http://www.capitalpress.com/Water/20170922/northwest-drought-retreats-seasonal-outlook-turns-colder-wetter#Comments Fri, 22 Sep 2017 09:14:09 -0400 Don Jenkins http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2017170929967 Oregon and Washington’s flash droughts are receding, and La Nina is shaping up in the Pacific Ocean, causing long-range forecasts for the Northwest to turn wetter and cooler, federal climatologists reported Thursday.

Some 64 percent of Washington is in a drought, down from 78 percent the week before, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Oregon’s drought retreated to 28 percent of the state, down from 43 percent.

An abrupt change in weather patterns stemmed droughts that had been spreading over both states in September. For example, Spokane, which remains in a “moderate drought,” went a record-setting 80 days without rain. The streak ended Sept. 17, with nearly an inch of rain falling over three days.

Looking ahead, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center issued a new seasonal forecast that puts the chances of a La Nina taking shape between November and January at 62 percent, up from 26 percent a month ago.

La Nina, a cooling of sea-surface temperatures, tilts the odds toward wetter and colder winters in the northern U.S., and drier and warmer winters in the southern U.S.

The odds still favor a warmer than usual fall and early winter in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Northern California, but not as strongly as a month ago, according to the Climate Prediction Center.

A large reservoir of unusually cold water on the equator off the coast of South America contributed to the reassessment that La Nina conditions likely will emerge.

Washington received more snow than usual last winter during a weak La Nina, building up a snowpack that helped farmers get through a summer notable for record heat and dry spells, but not water shortages.

Here is a state-by-state look at drought conditions and the October through December forecast:

• Oregon: The northern half of Eastern Oregon remains in a “moderate drought.” Storms washed the drought away from northwest Oregon. Odds favor slightly above-average precipitation for the next three months, except in the southwest corner of the state, where precipitation is expected to be normal.

Washington: Rain rolled back drought conditions in southwest Washington and part of the Olympic Peninsula. Precipitation is forecast to be above-average, except in northwest Washington, where chances are equal for above- or below-average rainfall.

• Idaho: Drought conditions were unchanged, with 23 percent of the state in moderate or severe drought. Odds favor above-average precipitation throughout Idaho.

• California: Drought conditions also were unchanged in California, where 8 percent of Southern California is still in moderate drought. Northern California has equal chances for above- or below-average precipitation.

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Washington farmer&#x2019;s appeal of Ecology order arrives too late http://www.capitalpress.com/Washington/20170922/washington-farmers-appeal-of-ecology-order-arrives-too-late http://www.capitalpress.com/Washington/20170922/washington-farmers-appeal-of-ecology-order-arrives-too-late#Comments Fri, 22 Sep 2017 08:18:42 -0400 Don Jenkins http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2017170929969 A Central Washington potato farmer missed a deadline to appeal an order to stop irrigating more than 500 acres by four days, losing a chance to present his case to a state board and possibly leaving him liable for illegally using an estimated 1,830-acre fee of water.

Moses Lake resident Ron Fode said Wednesday that he thought he would have some leeway in appealing the Department of Ecology’s order since he was representing himself. The Pollution Control Hearings Board, however, ruled this month that a 30-day window to appeal must be strictly enforced.

“I’m trying to be David, but David didn’t win this time,” Fode said. “I just shot myself in the foot, I guess.”

Ecology claims Fode is irrigating land not authorized by his right to draw from the Odessa Subarea aquifer. Fode received an order to stop watering June 28. The hearings board, which hears challenges to Ecology’s decisions, received Fode’s appeal in the mail Aug. 1, past the July 28 deadline. Ecology moved to summarily dismiss the case because of the missed deadline, and the three-member hearings board agreed.

In the meantime, Fode has continued to irrigate. He estimated he stood to lose about $871,000 if he stopped watering potatoes, hay and alfalfa.

Fode said he was confident in his case, based on his state groundwater right, federal water contracts and past practices.

Ecology denied Fode’s request for a seasonal change of his water rights in February. Ecology says that Fode’s groundwater right applies to land that’s also now served by surface water from the Columbia Basin Project. The state says it has invested $75 million to acquire the federal water to replace groundwater drawn from the declining aquifer.

The case involves multiple landowners, multiple legal contracts and differing takes on the events leading up to Ecology ordering Fode to stop irrigating. Fode submitted 61 pages of legal documents. The hearings board’s decision to dismiss his appeal addressed only the missed deadline.

Fode said he still hopes to work out his differences with Ecology. “I want to diplomatically go in and say, ‘Let’s negotiate this thing,’ ” he said.

Ecology’s Columbia Basin watermaster, Kevin Brown, stated in a court declaration that if Fode keeps irrigating through the end of the season, he will have illegally used roughly 1,830-acre feet of water.

Ecology has not fined Fode for using the water, but the agency will evaluate the case at the end of the season to see whether penalties are appropriate, an Ecology spokeswoman said Wednesday.

Fode said that he wasn’t sure what he will do next and that he was worried about being fined.

“I’m very concerned. My livelihood would be completely ruined,” he said. “If I made a mistake, I’ll own it, but I don’t feel like having a monetary penalty.”

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Foreign guestworkers help ag face a growing shortage http://www.capitalpress.com/Orchards/20170921/foreign-guestworkers-help-ag-face-a-growing-shortage http://www.capitalpress.com/Orchards/20170921/foreign-guestworkers-help-ag-face-a-growing-shortage#Comments Thu, 21 Sep 2017 09:12:53 -0400 Dan Wheat http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2017170929981 U.S. farmers are increasingly relying on foreign guestworkers to tend and harvest their crops as the number of domestic farmworkers continues to shrink.

In Washington state, farmers, orchardists and others who raise labor-intensive crops this year asked for 18,796 guestworkers — 43 percent more than last year and the most ever.

The growing number of H-2A-visa foreign guestworkers is evidence of what growers describe as an alarming shortage of workers to handle tree fruit, berries, vegetables, hops, wine grapes and any crops that require lots of workers.

“People not using H-2A think they can just raise wages and get more workers. In the past, that worked. It no longer does. There’s just not the workers out there,” said Dan Fazio, executive director of the Olympia-based farm labor association WAFLA. The association recruits the vast majority of H-2A workers hired in the state, mostly for tree fruit growers.

H-2A guestworkers increase growers’ costs. Workers often are paid piece rate but their minimum wage is higher than state minimum wages, and when a grower hires them he has to pay his domestic workers the same rate. Growers must advertise regionally before applying to bring guestworkers from foreign countries. Employers also must provide them with housing and round-trip transportation to their home countries.

In Washington, apples are a $2.4 billion annual crop. Other labor-intensive crops add billions of dollars more in economic activity. The Washington Employment Security Department says the number of seasonal farmworkers averages about 54,000 per month and hits more than 90,000 in peak months.

But an estimated 50 to 70 percent of non-H-2A farmworkers are in the U.S. illegally from Mexico and elsewhere, according to industry and government sources. Enforcement of immigration laws at the border and in the U.S., workers returning to Mexico and workers retiring or moving into other occupations are all cited by labor experts as causes of the labor shortage.

In the first three quarters of fiscal year 2017, Washington had 15,611 H-2A workers, ranking fourth behind Georgia, North Carolina and Florida, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

California, with 12,292 H-2A workers, ranked fifth, the only other Western state in the top 10.

Nationwide, the Labor Department has certified 160,084 H-2A guestworkers in the first three quarters of 2017 compared to 165,741 for all of 2016.

Kerry Scott is program manager of masLabor in Lovingston, Va., the largest provider of temporary H-2A guestworkers in the nation. The company also provides temporary H-2B non-agricultural workers.

Scott’s company has grown from 600 to 700 clients three years ago to 1,000 today and provided 18,000 workers nationwide this year. That’s up from 15,000 a year ago.

“We’re on track to exceed that next year. The pace of growth is accelerating,” Scott said.

In recent weeks, Scott has met with several large vegetable growers in Ohio, vintners in Virginia and tree fruit companies in Washington state, all of which plan to use H-2A workers next year, he said.

The company has supplied about 500 H-2A workers in Washington and will probably double that next year, he said.

Washington is hurting, he said, because it’s relied on migrant workers from California, and that supply is drying up.

The farmworker shortage is nationwide, statistics show. An estimated 730,800 seasonal and year-round farmworkers were employed nationwide in 2016, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service. That’s down nearly 6 percent from 777,300 in 2013.

They were paid an average wage of $12.98 per hour, up from $12.54 per hour in 2015.

Last year, 157,500 were in California and received an average of $13.81 per hour; 68,800 were in Washington and Oregon and received an average of $13.90 per hour.

In the nation’s most productive farm state, Fresno County Farm Bureau President Ryan Jacobsen says the labor supply was tighter — and earlier — than usual this year, starting with the asparagus harvest in May and remaining that way all summer.

“Numerical information is very hard to come by, but from the pulse on the ground this is probably the tightest year in a decade,” Jacobsen said. “As the economy recovers and people move into other sectors and we don’t deal with immigration on a federal level, we continue to see tightening of that supply.”

Daniel Sumner, director of the Agricultural Issues Center at University of California-Davis, said he believes the labor shortage is getting worse every year. Harvest pressure is exacerbated by hot weather and by several commodities that are harvested at the same time in different regions, he said.

The shortage is driving up wages, but it’s still rare that crops go unpicked because of a lack of labor, Sumner said.

Jason Resnick, vice president and general counsel of Western Growers in Irvine, which represents farmers who grow about half the produce in the U.S., agreed that labor is tight and getting tighter.

“Our members have been telling us anecdotally for a decade now that the lack of labor is pressing farmers, but over the last couple of years it has gotten much worse,” Resnick said.

Many workers are staying in Mexico as that nation’s economy has improved and more jobs become available, he said. Farmworkers in the U.S. are aging, and their children aren’t interested in farmwork, he said.

“The political environment and rhetoric combined with some of the enforcement actions taken by the federal government act as a deterrent as well,” he said.

While California increased its use of H-2A guestworkers by 15 percent in the first three quarters of 2017 over the same period last year, the program is not for everyone.

“It’s notoriously slow, bureaucratic, costly and unpredictable,” Resnick said.

Use of H-2A is still “a fraction of a fraction of a percent in terms of total farm labor,” Jacobsen said. “It’s not a great solution for California agriculture because it’s cumbersome and it’s very difficult to target in February your harvest need in August.”

Many growers will get by with planting less, fallowing land, planting crops that can be mechanically harvested and moving production to Mexico and other countries, Resnick said.

The Wenatchee River Valley, which stretches 22 miles upstream from Wenatchee to Leavenworth, is touted as the best micro-climate for growing pears in the world. D’Anjou is the top variety, but they are dense and heavy, causing many pickers to prefer picking apples, which weigh less.

In recent years, not all pears have been picked. Growers, particularly the last to harvest in higher elevations at the head of the valley, have increasingly found it hard to find pickers.

One of them, Dennis Nicholson, said he’s short pickers but is getting help from neighboring crews and the wives of regular workers. His son also took vacation time from his regular job to help and people with other jobs have been helping on weekends.

“H-2A doesn’t work for the small grower because we don’t have the housing nor the capital to pay the money they want,” he said.

“Labor is tight but I’m inclined to say it might be a little bit better than the last couple of years,” said Greg Rains, horticulturist and fieldman for Blue Star Growers, a Cashmere packer.

Blue Star has a sign along U.S. Highway 2/97 seeking workers for a night shift. The sign was up last year as well.

More growers share pickers, and there are no days off for domestic workers, Rains said.

A lighter crop and greater use of H-2A guestworkers has helped ease the shortage some this year, he said.

“In the last five years, we’ve gone from zero to maybe as high as 20 percent of our acreage in H-2A. That’s a guess,” Rains said.

Nonetheless, piece rate wages keep trending upward, he said.

Pablo Avila, orchard manager at Independent Warehouse in Dryden, last year paid $23 per bin plus a $1 a bin bonus if pear pickers stayed the whole season. This year, he said, the pay is $27 with a $2 a bin bonus to stay the season.

“We are one of the highest but there are others paying more,” he said, adding the average is about $25.

Avila said he has 35 pickers and needs 70 to harvest the 80 acres.

“That’s pretty much the same as last year and means it just takes a little longer to get it done,” he said.

Independent does not use H-2A workers but is thinking about it for next year, he said.

In Wenatchee, Stemilt AgServices, a subsidiary of Stemilt Growers that manages more than 8,000 orchard acres, used 750 H-2A workers a year ago. It has built housing for 1,200 beds for H-2A and domestic workers in the last three to four years and will build that much or more in the next three years, Bob Mathison, company board chairman, said.

His nephew and company president, West Mathison, said Stemilt AgServices has 1,000 H-2A workers and will hire a few more next year depending on the winter fruit bud analysis.

“We feel labor is tighter. It was reported the unemployment rate is the lowest since the inception of keeping county records. It feels that way to us. I believe the Central Washington economy is doing very well and we are just running out of people who want to work in all sectors,” West Mathison said.

Farther north around Lake Chelan, harvest labor is adequate but there’s no surplus, said Harold Schell, director of field services at Chelan Fruit Cooperative.

“Growers with H-2A have supply, but guys without it are sharing crews and just getting by,” Schell said.

They also are helped, he said, by the pear and Gala apple crops picking short of the volume and size estimate.

“We’re at peak,” he said. “It used to be with more Red Delicious that (labor) peak was early October but now with Honeycrisp and Gala, peak is Labor Day to mid to late September.”

The co-op was short 400 packers three weeks before start of cherry harvest in June, but met the need by advertising in other states and paying higher wages, said Reggie Collins, general manager.

In mid-September, the co-op had enough packers but was a month away from full operations. It was paying $12 per hour, $1 more than it paid last year.

“We were 80 to 100 people short at this time last year, so I’m feeling better about it now,” Collins said.

In Othello, Paula McKay, manager and principal owner of Mar-Jon Labor, the region’s largest farm labor contractor, said it’s been “a lot harder” to find the 2,100 workers she’s needed this year.

“Reliability of workers is not the same anymore. Since there’s a shortage, workers take advantage of it and move back and forth between employers depending on who is paying more,” McKay said.

She paid the state minimum wage of $11 per hour for weeding but other contractors paid $11.50 to $12 and at times she lost a third or more of her crew to them, she said. Onion topping was her biggest shortage, she said.

“We did get the job done for our growers but at a slower pace,” she said.

Growers who normally have 80 domestic pickers had no more than 15 this year, McKay said.

In Oregon’s Willamette Valley, Doug Krahmer, a St. Paul blueberry grower and former state Board of Agriculture member, said there’s no excess but that he had enough workers this season and believes other berry and hop growers did as well.

“I think it’s about the same as last year but it seems better only because I expected worse,” he said.

He’s appreciative that as many migrants showed up from California as did, he said.

A grower since 1980, Krahmer has about 500 acres of blueberries, pays average piece rate, doesn’t use H-2A and remains concerned about the future.

In Caldwell, Idaho, Mike Williamson said he had 15 to 20 workers to harvest his white peaches, which was enough because the crop was lighter than anticipated.

Other tree fruit and wine grape growers “are able to make it because of lighter crops from spring frosts, but guys are pulling from H-2A (visa foreign guestworkers) and from jail work release and prisons so there’s really not an oversupply,” Williamson said.

A new state law three years ago makes it easier for growers to employ prison inmates.

For years, representatives of labor-intensive agriculture have lobbied Congress to help provide a legal and more stable workforce through immigration reform.

In short, growers want legal work authorization for illegal immigrants who make up 50 to 70 percent of their workforce. They also want a more responsive and less costly foreign guestworker program.

But political divisions in Congress over that and broader aspects of immigration reform leave growers wondering if it will ever get done.

“I’ve played the D.C. game where you go back and talk to all the politicians and my head got bloodied and sore against that brick wall and I’m not going to do it anymore,” Krahmer said.

“Someday, we won’t get our crops harvested and you would think consumers will pressure Congress to do something because growers haven’t been able to get it done,” he said.

“It’s like a teeter-totter. Up one day and down the next. We’re all hopeful our country will figure this out and want agriculture to be profitable to feed those we need to feed,” Collins said.

Western Growers’ Resnick said it’s hard to rate the chances of immigration reform in Congress.

“We have spoken to many members in Congress who recognize the need to pass immigration reform measures that will address the current and future labor needs of farmers,” he said.

Previous efforts have failed. Western Growers’ president, Tom Nassif, was instrumental in negotiating the agricultural segment of the 2013 Senate immigration bill with the United Farm Workers union. It failed in the House.

Kerry Scott, of masLabor, said he’s not optimistic about the chances of immigration reform.

“We have been waiting, essentially since 1986, for Congress to do something comprehensive,” Scott said. “If anything, it’s getting harder and harder for Congress to tackle big problems.

“There’s talk about Congress and everyone coming together to help the hurricane victims of Houston and now Florida. That it might be a step in the right direction. And now (President) Trump working with Democrats, but I don’t know how long it will last.”

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U.S. organic sales jump 23 percent in 2016 http://www.capitalpress.com/Organic/20170921/us-organic-sales-jump-23-percent-in-2016 http://www.capitalpress.com/Organic/20170921/us-organic-sales-jump-23-percent-in-2016#Comments Thu, 21 Sep 2017 15:17:16 -0400 Carol Ryan Dumas http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2017170929970 U.S. farmers and ranchers sold $7.6 billion in certified organic agricultural products in 2016, an increase of 23 percent from $6.2 billion a year earlier.

Those sales came from an additional 1,399 certified farms, up 11 percent, and 657,547 more acres, up 15 percent, USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Wednesday.

Ten states accounted for 77 percent of the sales, and California continued to lead the way.

The Golden State accounted for 38 percent of total U.S. sales at $2.9 billion. With the largest share of certified farms and organic acreage, California added 76 farms to its organic ranks and nearly 300,000 acres in 2016.

Washington lost its No. 2 ranking to Pennsylvania but increased sales by $10 million with 79 additional farms and about 7,000 additional acres.

Oregon held its No. 4 spot, increasing sales by more than $81 million on 52 additional farms and 19,000 additional acres.

Nationwide, crops accounted for 56 percent of organic sales at $4.2 billion, and livestock, poultry and their products accounted for 44 percent at $3.4 billion.

Milk, however, led product sales at $1.4 billion, an increase of 18 percent. Eggs followed at $816 million, up 11 percent. Sales of broiler chickens were up a whopping 78 percent to $750 million.

Other heavy hitters were apples, up 8 percent to $327 million, and lettuce – which increased 6 percent to $277 million.

Other top organic crops were strawberries, grapes, tomatoes, corn, potatoes, hay, spinach and mushrooms, NASS reported.

The agency also noted the 2016 survey was expanded to include grape data by variety and to separate information on fresh and processed fruits and berries.

The National Trade Organization said in an email that while it welcomes USDA’s commitment to providing important information on organic agriculture through its farmer-based census, certifier-based estimates show even higher numbers.

Numbers from accredited certifying agents in December showed 14,861 organic farms and 5.3 million organic acres, compared with the 14,217 farms and 5.0 million acres in the Sept. 20 report.

“Precise and current information on organic farm sales and acreage is vital for all organic stakeholders. The organic industry cannot continue to thrive and maintain stable markets without good data collection,” OTA stated.

The organization also pointed out that while overall growth in sales of organic agricultural production is positive news, the latest report highlights that growth in livestock feed grains doesn’t parallel the dramatic growth in livestock products — noting an ever widening gap between the supply of domestic organic feed grains and demand.

“This underscores the need to shore up import oversight and increase support for domestic grain producers through a stronger crop insurance safety net, market access and organic data collection,” OTA stated.

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Purpose of forest management changes http://www.capitalpress.com/Opinion/Letters/20170921/purpose-of-forest-management-changes http://www.capitalpress.com/Opinion/Letters/20170921/purpose-of-forest-management-changes#Comments Thu, 21 Sep 2017 12:11:52 -0400 http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2017170929971 Growing up in Cascade Locks, Ore., in the 1940s I would listen with awe to the many stories about wildfires told by my family and older friends. Stories of fire jumping the Columbia, people covering their shingle roofs with burlap soaked with water to protect their homes from cinders, people riding logging trains out of the mountains while trestles were on fire, etc.

Scary stuff. But, they made me believe that fire prevention was very important.

In the 1950s and 1960s I spent summers working for the Forest Service. Fire prevention was the No. 1 priority for the Columbia Gorge Ranger District and everything we did was done with the understanding we were doing this to better protect our forests.

We opened trails that had not been worked since the CCC boys left at the beginning of World War II. We opened and built roads to provide quicker access for fire suppression and for potential fire breaks. In the Bull Run watershed small pockets of old dying trees were clear cut to reduce the potential for lightning-caused fires. These small managed clear cuts were done to mimic the ideal forest environment one would hope for in the event of a fire.

The roads to these clear cuts were planned to provide for fire protection with their construction being done by the logging companies. Funds from the sale of the logs would go into the federal coffers to be distributed back to the counties, schools, roads, etc. Everything was done to prevent mega fires.

This appeared to me to be a win-win deal. Fire hazard trees were being removed, roads were being constructed for quick access and funding was being provided for necessary services.

Then the emphasis began to shift. Trails were for recreation, clear cuts were ugly, fire could be beautiful if you would just wait a hundred years, companies were believed to be making money off our trees, lawsuits were filed, roads needed to be destroyed to limit access. We needed to bring the forest back to its prehistoric state. All of this was happening with the population increasing and our climate changing.

Now we are paying the price for this shortsightedness and lack of common sense. We have to decide for whom we are managing these forests. The native population at one time may have burned the forests periodically. Their management objectives were different from what our objective should be. We need to be thinking about 100 years or more from now as well as today.

Carlisle Harrison

Hermiston, Ore.

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Hop stocks continue to outrun demand http://www.capitalpress.com/Orchards/20170921/hop-stocks-continue-to-outrun-demand http://www.capitalpress.com/Orchards/20170921/hop-stocks-continue-to-outrun-demand#Comments Thu, 21 Sep 2017 12:05:04 -0400 Dan Wheat http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2017170929972 YAKIMA, Wash. — Even before this fall’s harvest, U.S. hop stocks are up substantially from a year ago, reflective of an oversupply that’s putting pressure on dealers and growers.

Stocks were up 15 percent at 98 million pounds on Sept. 1 versus 85 million pounds a year ago, according to a report released Sept. 20 by the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service.

It is the largest percentage increase in inventory of the four reports showing supply increases dating back to March 1, 2016. The new report shows dealers and growers with 64 million pounds of hops and brewers with 34 million pounds.

“It’s actually a pretty good-sized overage and it was expected. We knew craft (beer) was slowing while aroma variety hop acreage is still increasing,” said Pete Mahony, director of supply chain management and purchasing for John I. Haas, a major processor and grower in Yakima.

Previous overages, years ago, were high alpha commodity varieties that keep for years, he said. This year’s overage is of aroma varieties for craft beer. Aroma varieties need to be used in a year or two, he said.

This past summer, 47 Hops of Yakima, a hop broker, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to shield itself from creditors while developing a restructuring plan to pay more than $7.4 million in debts and remain operational.

Doug MacKinnon, company president, blamed the bankruptcy on craft brewers contracting for more hops than they needed.

“There definitely will be pressure on the entire supply chain, whether growers or dealers. And will there be other casualties? I don’t know,” Mahony said. “Larger dealers are pretty solid. We’ve lived through these markets for decades. Smaller ones may struggle. It’s all about proper management of inventories. Aroma varieties are expensive inventories.”

For years the proliferation of small, craft breweries fueled the demand for more aroma hop varieties. While still growing, the rate of craft brewery growth has slowed, resulting in some breweries renegotiating contracts that were based on expectations of higher growth, said Ann George, executive director of Hop Growers of America and the Washington Hop Commission in Moxee.

That returns the hops to dealer and grower inventories, she said.

George said the U.S. produces more than 80 hop varieties, and while there’s an excess supply of some, demand for others is still growing.

“The key is re-balancing by changing varieties in response to new contracts,” she said.

It takes a couple of years to bring new hops into full production and for the past five years the industry has been trying to catch up to brewer demand, she said.

“Now it appears hop acreage has exceeded current brewer demand, so it will be important to take the foot off the gas pedal until brewer demand catches up with hop acreage,” she said.

Another factor in the oversupply of hops, she has said, is big brewers are losing market share worldwide because of increased competition from other beverages. The top 10 breweries in the world decreased production by 11.4 million hectoliters — about 301.2 million gallons — from 2014 to 2015, she said.

While craft, export craft and import U.S. beer sales were all up in 2016, overall beer sales were flat, according to the Brewers Association in Boulder, Colo.

In June, NASS estimated Pacific Northwest hop acreage at 54,135, a 6 percent increase over the previous year.

“Hopefully, we won’t see increased acreage in 2018,” George said.

Prices of certain varieties have decreased due to plentiful supplies on the spot market, she said.

However, varieties still seeing increased demand likely will see stable pricing, she said.

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Taiwanese wheat purchases keep 200 Idaho and 800 PNW farms in business http://www.capitalpress.com/Business/20170921/taiwanese-wheat-purchases-keep-200-idaho-and-800-pnw-farms-in-business http://www.capitalpress.com/Business/20170921/taiwanese-wheat-purchases-keep-200-idaho-and-800-pnw-farms-in-business#Comments Thu, 21 Sep 2017 11:27:28 -0400 Sean Ellis http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2017170929973 BOISE — Taiwanese leaders’ Sept. 20 signing of a “letter of intent” to purchase 66 million bushels of U.S. wheat over the next two years was much more than a ceremonial pledge, Idaho wheat industry leaders said.

Taiwan’s annual purchases of U.S. wheat are extremely vital to the state’s wheat industry and about 200 Idaho farms are in business because of that, said Idaho Wheat Commission Executive Director Blaine Jacobson.

The Port of Portland handles about half of all U.S. wheat exports and about 10 percent of those exports are to Taiwan, Jacobson said.

About half of Idaho wheat is exported, most of it through Portland.

Given those numbers, Jacobson estimated that 5 percent, or 5 million bushels, of all Idaho wheat is sold to Taiwan.

“Your business is keeping about 200 farmers in Idaho in business. That’s a big deal,” he told Taiwanese officials during a ceremony at the Idaho Capitol, where Taiwanese and Idaho officials signed an agreement that says the Taiwan Flour Mills Association will buy 1.8 million metric tons of U.S. wheat in 2018 and 2019 combined.

That combined purchase will be worth an estimated $576 million and “a very good portion of that procurement will be from the wheat farmers of Idaho,” said TFMA Chairman Tony Chen.

Jacobson also estimated that Taiwan’s annual U.S. wheat purchases are keeping 800 farmers in the Pacific Northwest — Idaho, Oregon and Washington — in business.

A Taiwanese agricultural trade delegation visits the U.S. every two years to sign the agreement in several wheat-producing states.

Although the signings occur every two years, members of Idaho’s wheat industry weren’t just going through the motions when they traveled to Boise for the 2017 event, said IWC Vice Chairman Bill Flory, a North Idaho farmer.

Idaho’s farmers wanted to make sure the Taiwanese trade delegation understood how much the state’s wheat industry appreciates their relationship, Flory said.

He was one of four IWC board members and farmers who traveled from different parts of the state to attend the event in Gov. Butch Otter’s office.

“This is a big deal,” he said. “The growers of Idaho appreciate this beyond description.”

Chen said Taiwan has other options around the world to purchase wheat but prefers to buy it from the U.S. because of the high quality.

Flory pledged that Idaho would do its part in continuing to provide Taiwan a high-quality product.

“This commission and other Northwest commissions are serious about quality. That’s not going to change,” he said.

The 66 million bushels of U.S. wheat the TFMA has pledged to buy in 2018 and 2019 is 4 million bushels more than it agreed to buy during 2015.

Otter, a rancher and farmer, said it was important for the state’s wheat industry to continue to deliver on its commitment to provide the high-quality wheat Taiwan is looking for and in a timely manner.

“It’s been great to watch this relationship grow, (and) it’s because we kept our promise,” he said. “We delivered on everything we said we would. And, by the way, so has Taiwan.”

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New fight in California water wars: How to update old system http://www.capitalpress.com/California/20170921/new-fight-in-california-water-wars-how-to-update-old-system http://www.capitalpress.com/California/20170921/new-fight-in-california-water-wars-how-to-update-old-system#Comments Thu, 21 Sep 2017 10:20:10 -0400 SCOTT SMITH and ELLEN KNICKMEYER http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2017170929974 FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — In California’s long-raging water wars, pitting north against south and farmer against city dweller, the one thing everybody agreed on Wednesday was that the outdated method of shipping water throughout the most populous state needs a serious upgrade.

A group of influential California farmers shook up the debate a day earlier, backing out of Gov. Jerry Brown’s $16 billion plan to build two massive water tunnels, re-engineering the delivery system. Westlands Water District in Fresno said it was too expensive and came with too few guarantees.

Brown’s administration, however, gave no sign of giving up. Other key water districts serving vast farmland in the most productive agricultural state and millions of residents still have to weigh in, including the behemoth Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

“I don’t think a ‘no’ vote is the end of the story,” said Metropolitan’s general manager, Jeffrey Kightlinger. “We don’t live in a world where we can just turn off the projects and walk away.”

Kightlinger sees a path to launch the project before Brown leaves office next year. It’s impossible to predict what form it will take before all the water districts have voted on whether they’re in or out.

The proposed 35-mile-long tunnels, however, can’t survive as it’s drawn up now without “big players,” such as Westlands, said Kightlinger, who entertains the possibility of a scaled-down project.

Current plans call for building twin tunnels east of San Francisco to deliver water from the Sacramento River mostly to farms and cities hundreds of miles away in central and Southern California.

Backers say the tunnels will stabilize flows, save endangered fish species and ensure a reliable water supply. However, critics say it will be used to drain Northern California dry and further harm native fish.

It is California’s most ambitious water project in more than 50 years, when state and federal officials launched a hard-fought campaign to win support for building the current system of reservoirs, pumping stations and canals.

Westlands farmers on Tuesday became the first of several large water districts to vote, pulling out after having spent millions over more than a decade on drawing up plans and calculating costs.

The shake-up forced a big moment for the players to take stock of the whole water system, said Jay Lund, a leading state water expert at the University of California, Davis.

“It’s a strategic opportunity to make a strategic political decision,” he said.

Among the options are building a single tunnel to serve just municipal districts rather than two, in what Lund called the “garden hose” option, or burrowing one now with the option for a second one later, if it’s needed.

The Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta is such a vital water source for California that somebody will always be advancing projects, Lund said.

In Northern California, the source of much of the state’s water, Westlands’ vote won cheers from farmers who have fought the project for years.

They contend the tunnels, and their decadelong construction, would have further harmed the delta and San Francisco Bay, destroyed their farms and doomed many sleepy Gold Rush-era towns.

“Does this project end with that vote? I don’t know,” said Russell van Loben Sels, speaking by cellphone Wednesday from his vineyard where one of the giant water intakes for the tunnels would go. “There’ll be a lot of politics and a lot of arm-twisting and that kind of thing.”

Brown’s Natural Resources secretary, John Laird, said Wednesday that there’s broad agreement water deliveries will keep declining without upgraded infrastructure.

“While it’s too soon to speculate on potential changes to the project,” he said, “the state will continue to consider how best to meet the needs of the agencies” that want to participate.

U.S. Rep. John Garamendi, a Democrat from the delta, said it was a matter of time before central California farmers, such as those who are part of Westlands, realized that high cost and uncertainty would crush the project.

The Democratic governor had floated a similar plan during his first two terms as governor, aiming to build a canal around the delta to ship water south. Brown could not let go of it, said Garamendi, who seeks more water storage and fortifying levees.

“It just takes a long time for bad, old ideas to finally die,” Garamendi said. “Hopefully we can move onto cheaper, more effective solutions.”

Another major supporter that has yet to vote, Kern County Water Agency, called it a good project.

“I do think if we don’t go ahead (with the tunnels), California in 20 years will look back on this as a mistake,” general manager Curtis Creel said.

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New Mexico sends crews to help with western wildfires http://www.capitalpress.com/Outdoors/20170921/new-mexico-sends-crews-to-help-with-western-wildfires http://www.capitalpress.com/Outdoors/20170921/new-mexico-sends-crews-to-help-with-western-wildfires#Comments Thu, 21 Sep 2017 10:13:28 -0400 http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2017170929975 SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Firefighters with the New Mexico State Forestry Division are answering the call for help as states around the West are dealing with large wildfires.

At least 100 State Forestry personnel are supporting firefighting efforts around the region.

State Forester Donald Griego says the West has seen one of the worst fire seasons on record with more than 2 million acres burned. With New Mexico’s fire season winding down, he says his agency has been able to share resources.

One crew made up of military veterans and civilians is helping with a fire in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge. This marks the team’s fifth tour and third fire in Oregon.

Crews also have been sent to California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana and Washington state.

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Montana budget director recommends $229M in spending cuts http://www.capitalpress.com/State/Montana/20170921/montana-budget-director-recommends-229m-in-spending-cuts http://www.capitalpress.com/State/Montana/20170921/montana-budget-director-recommends-229m-in-spending-cuts#Comments Thu, 21 Sep 2017 10:11:12 -0400 http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2017170929976 HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The governor’s budget director is recommending Montana agencies cut $229 million in general fund spending over the next two years to balance the state’s budget due to lower revenues than expected and this summer’s higher firefighting costs this summer.

Most of the cuts recommended by Budget Director Dan Villa on Tuesday were proposed by state agencies when they were asked to list how they’d cut 10 percent of their budget. However, Villa is recommending against some cuts proposed by the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation and Disaster and Emergency Services because it would impact Montana’s ability to fight fires.

He also recommended against 50 jobs cuts in the Department of Revenue because they would hurt the state’s ability to collect business income taxes. However, the proposal still calls for cutting 80 jobs in property assessment for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends next June, and leaving 52 of those jobs open in Fiscal Year 2019.

The recommendations include holding vacant jobs open, mandatory furloughs, eliminating some jobs, shifting some costs away from the general fund, reducing payments on outside contracts, cutting travel and training, reducing grants and some scholarships, closing some small satellite offices, delaying computer replacements and reducing services for vulnerable or disabled residents. Cuts in the Department of Justice and the Office of Public Instruction will be decided by the elected agency heads while cuts to the Commissioner of Higher Education’s budget will be decided by the commissioner and the state Board of Regents.

“I have deep concerns about cuts that will ultimately increase the cost of education and reduce services Montanans depend on like health care, child protection services and public safety,” Gov. Steve Bullock said in a statement. “I will be reviewing these recommendations in the next days and weeks, but it remains my hope that both Democrats and Republicans will continue to work with me to find more responsible solutions.”

Republicans on the Revenue and Transportation Interim Committee last week rejected any suggestions of calling a special session to raise taxes to make up for the budget shortfall.

On Tuesday, Bullock discussed the possibility of calling lawmakers back to Helena for a special session to address how to pay for fire costs, Lee Newspapers of Montana reported.

The Legislative Finance Committee will consider the proposed cuts next month before Bullock makes his final recommendations.

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Every county should have an ag commission http://www.capitalpress.com/20170921/every-county-should-have-an-ag-commission http://www.capitalpress.com/20170921/every-county-should-have-an-ag-commission#Comments Thu, 21 Sep 2017 09:43:30 -0400 http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2017170929977 Washington’s Pierce County Council has appropriated $25,000 to re-establish the county’s agriculture commission.

It’s a positive development.

Though ag commissions in Washington serve only in an advisory capacity, producers and ag groups say having an official forum in which to present the views of farmers and ag businesses on policy matters would serve agriculture’s interests.

The county disbanded the ag commission during the Great Recession amid budget concerns. The Farm Bureau, at the county and state levels, advocated restoring the advisory board partly in response to a debate in Pierce County over how much land should be designated “agricultural resource lands.”

Environmental groups said increasing the number of acres with that label would protect farmland from urban sprawl. Some farmers said that zoning — a mixed bag of benefits and restrictions — may preserve farmland, but it wasn’t enough to preserve the business of farming and complained about not being consulted.

The county code calls for the county executive to appoint seven voting members to the agriculture commission. Five must be producers.

We’re happy Pierce County farmers will soon have another venue to tell their story. We hope other counties not now served by such a panel will see the merit and establish ag commissions of their own.

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Congress must &#x2018;let them stay, or make them go&#x2019; http://www.capitalpress.com/20170921/congress-must-let-them-stay-or-make-them-go http://www.capitalpress.com/20170921/congress-must-let-them-stay-or-make-them-go#Comments Thu, 21 Sep 2017 09:42:21 -0400 http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2017170929978 We must clarify our position on the disposition of 12 million illegal immigrants living in the United States.

We continue to believe the answer is to offer illegal immigrants with otherwise clean criminal records temporary legal status and a path to permanent residency (but not citizenship) after 10 years if they meet strict requirements. We think the border should be secured. A viable guestworker program must be established, and employers must verify the work status of their employees.

Only Congress can do this, and we think Congress should act.

A reader correctly points out that Congress has acted. Under long-standing statute, undocumented and unauthorized entry into the United States is illegal, and such persons illegally entering are subject to deportation.

We’ve never thought otherwise.

But perhaps we have not been clear that we do not support the status quo, which supports ongoing criminality. We want Congress to pick between the only two alternatives — “let them stay, or make them go.”

More clearly, Congress should change the law and grant them temporary legal status, or fund the executive branch’s enforcement of current statutes and provide for their orderly repatriation. It seems reluctant to do either.

If we are to honor the rule of law, the 12 million cannot be allowed to stay in the shadows as they have for decades.

Let them stay in the light, or make them leave in the light. Congress must make the hard choice of what law it wants to uphold.

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UI plans ag technology &#x2018;boot camp&#x2019; in Pocatello http://www.capitalpress.com/Research/20170921/ui-plans-ag-technology-boot-camp-in-pocatello http://www.capitalpress.com/Research/20170921/ui-plans-ag-technology-boot-camp-in-pocatello#Comments Thu, 21 Sep 2017 09:38:27 -0400 John O’Connell http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2017170929979 POCATELLO, Idaho — Nephi Harvey’s company has developed technology that enables feedlot operators to diagnose sick cattle about two days before clear symptoms surface by tracking how often they drink from the watering trough.

Harvey, with Fort Supply in Kaysville, Utah, will be among the presenters featuring the latest innovations in crop and livestock production at an Ag Tech Boot Camp, scheduled for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 4 at Idaho State University’s Roy F. Christensen Building.

University of Idaho Extension officials, private industry representatives and state commodity group leaders have formed an informal committee to plan the inaugural event, which is supported by the USDA Risk Management Agency. Admission will be $30, and organizers expect a crowd of about 100 people. Jon Hogge, UI’s Extension cereals educator for Eastern Idaho who is heading the planning committee, said the event will likely rotate among different regions of the state in the future.

Organizers are also mulling a possible trade show and a second day of activities, focused on technology demonstrations.

“These types of educational conferences are important because a lot of producers don’t know what’s out there that may help them with just a little bit of change in what they’re doing,” Harvey said. “We have to be making more money per animal, not just have more animals making less money.”

Harvey’s animal health-monitoring system uses electronic ear tags that can be read from as far away as 25 feet, reducing labor and animal handling. An antenna by the watering trough records when a given ear tag approaches. The company’s algorithm analyzes deviations to normal drinking, factoring in temperature and humidity data from a weather station.

Harvey said he’s approached researchers, including from University of Idaho, about conducting third-party studies on his products. His company has found the producers quickly recoup their investments — $3,500 per pen, plus a monthly charge of 25 cents per head — by reducing livestock mortality and weight loss, as they can take proactive steps to boost cattle immune systems.

The event’s keynote speaker will be Brent Hillman, with Progressive Crop Systems in Shelley. Hogge said Hillman’s staff helps producers integrate yield monitoring equipment into their harvests, and to use the data effectively in making decisions.

Hogge said other event topics may include drones, variable-rate fertilizer, irrigation innovations, running pivots using a cell phone and other topics commodity group leaders may suggest. He’s planning a panel discussion featuring farmers who have effectively implemented technology into their businesses.

Les Nunn, an event organizer with Bear Lake County Extension, anticipates ranchers will be especially interested in advancements in genomics and genetic testing of livestock.

Laura Johnson, with the state Department of Agriculture, said last winter, during an annual agricultural outlook seminar, UI Extension hosted a two-hour discussion on agricultural technology. Surveys of attendees showed the session was extremely popular and prompted UI to “look at something bigger,” she said.

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