Capital Press | Capital Press Fri, 9 Oct 2015 06:57:21 -0400 en Capital Press | Hamilton City FFA thinks pink Thu, 8 Oct 2015 16:17:05 -0400 Mori LeveroniChapter Reporter With 1 in 8 women being diagnosed in their lifetime, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women. Hamilton City, Calif., FFA is using the awareness month of October as another opportunity to stick by this year’s motto, “Living to Serve.”

On Oct. 7, members of the chapter came together and assembled over 350 carnation wraps in order to reach out to the community through education and support. The wraps were composed of a pink carnation and an informational brochure with facts and symptoms about this tragic disease.

The members then set out and gave away the flowers free of charge at local coffee shops, grocery stores and even to teachers in the district.

Our annual pink campaign could not have been achieved if it wasn’t for the help of our 200 members. Hamilton High School is a small school located in Northern California. We have a small town feel and pride ourselves on having two-thirds of our school participate in FFA. As a chapter we pride ourselves in being active in our community, which can be seen with our pink carnation event. We hope that by spreading awareness locally, we can inspire others to take the first step and get checked.

ODFW report says Oregon has met criteria to delist wolves Thu, 8 Oct 2015 14:12:29 -0400 Eric Mortenson Taking wolves off Oregon’s endangered species list won’t significantly affect their management because the state wolf plan would remain in place, according to a biological status review that will be presented to the state wildlife commission on Friday.

Taking no action on the delisting question, however, might undermine support for the 10-year-old wolf plan and “thereby reducing public tolerance for wolves,” the report concludes.

The report compiled by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists says the state’s wolf population continues to increase in “abundance and distribution” and has met the required criteria for delisting in every instance.

Discussion of the report at Friday’s commission meeting in Florence, Ore., is billed as an informational biological status review, with no action scheduled. But it could provide a preview of the commission’s ultimate decision when it meets again Nov. 9 in Salem.

It also coincides with controversy over ODFW’s refusal to authorize killing Mount Emily Pack wolves that repeatedly attacked a sheep herd this summer, and with the unsolved deaths of two wolves known as the Sled Springs Pair.

To take wolves off the state endangered species, the commission must make five findings. They are: Wolves aren’t in danger of extinction in any portion of their range; their natural reproductive potential is not in danger of failing; there’s no imminent or active deterioration of their range or primary habitat; the species or its habitat won’t be “over-utilized” for scientific, recreational, commercial or educational reasons; and existing state or federal regulations are adequate to protect them.

Each of the criteria is examined in depth in the report. “The probability of population failure is very low,” the biologists concluded.

Wolves in Northeast Oregon have been taken off the federal endangered species list but remain on the state list. The federal listing still applies in the rest of the state, including where the famous traveling wolf, OR-7, resides with his pack in the Southwest Oregon Cascades.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service introduced 66 gray wolves into Idaho and Wyoming in 1995-96. As expected, a few Idaho wolves migrated to Northeast Oregon beginning in 1999. Oregon’s first pack, the Wenaha, was documented in 2008.

Other highlights of the report:

• Oregon’s wolf population as of July is a minimum of 85 individuals in 16 packs or groups, up from 81 wolves at the end of 2014. Biologists believe more wolves live in the state but only 85 are documented. The number does not include pups born this year.

• The population will surpass 100 to 150 wolves in the next one to three years, “regardless of listed status.”

• Wolves now use 12.4 percent of their potential range statewide, 31.6 percent in Eastern Oregon.

• From 2009 through June 2015, confirmed losses to wolves stood at 79 sheep, 37 cattle, two goats and two herd protection dogs. Ranchers believe wolves are responsible for much more damage, saying livestock often disappear in wolf country.

• No wolves have been killed while attacking or chasing livestock. Since 2009, ODFW has killed four for “chronic” livestock attacks, but none since 2011. At least five wolves have been illegally shot since 2000; one died in an ODFW capture attempt in 2011; one was hit and killed by a vehicle in 2000.

Idaho ranks No. 2 in West in net farm income, behind California Thu, 8 Oct 2015 14:00:41 -0400 Sean Ellis BOISE — Idaho ranked No. 2 among the 11 Western states for net farm income in 2014, despite trailing the No. 3 state, Washington, significantly in total farm gate receipts.

California ranked No. 1 in both categories, with $54 billion in total farm cash receipts and $15.6 billion in net farm income during 2014, according to USDA Economic Research Service data that recently became available for 2014.

Washington was second with $10 billion in total farm receipts but Idaho ranked No. 2 in net farm income in 2014, despite trailing Washington by $1.3 billion in farm gate receipts.

Idaho farmers and ranchers brought in a total of $8.7 billion in farm cash receipts in 2014 and had $1.95 billion in net farm income. Washington agriculture recorded $1.88 billion in net farm income in 2014.

Washington has more high-value crops than Idaho, but Idaho farmers’ margins are better, at least in 2014, said University of Idaho agricultural economist Garth Taylor.

“They produce some very high-value crops and they have a lot more revenue but their margins aren’t there when compared with what Idaho produces,” he said.

UI ag economist Ben Eborn, who compiled the data, said Idaho’s large hay production is another factor. Hay is actually the state’s No. 1 crop by value but only half of it gets sold, which means it doesn’t get counted in cash receipts but is reflected in net farm income.

According to the data, Idaho producers spent $2.54 billion on farm-origin inputs in 2014, while Washington farmers spent $1.5 billion.

Washington producers spent $1.8 billion on manufactured inputs, while Idaho’s total was $1.3 billion, and Washington farmers spent $1.8 billion on hired labor while Idaho farmers spent $761 million.

Washington producers spent $2.2 billion on “other” expenses, while Idaho producers spent $1.34 billion. Those include insurance premiums, machine hire and custom work, marketing, storage and transportation and repairs and maintenance.

When ranking states per capita for farm gate receipts, Idaho stood alone at $5,300, ahead of Montana ($4,431) and Wyoming ($3,127) and far ahead of Washington ($1,418), California ($1,391) and Oregon ($1,311).

“It really puts into perspective how large Idaho is in terms of agriculture,” Taylor said. “It makes you realize how big of a powerhouse agriculture is in Idaho compared to the states surrounding us.”

Looking at all of this data, “It should be obvious to everybody that Idaho is the leader in the Western states when it comes to agriculture, not including California,” Eborn said. “It’s good for people to understand that.”

In terms of cash receipts, Colorado ranked fourth in the West with $7.5 billion in 2014 and was followed by Oregon ($5.2 billion), Montana ($4.54 billion) Arizona ($4.4 billion), New Mexico ($3.67 billion), Utah ($2.38 billion), Wyoming ($1.83 billion) and Nevada ($870 million).

In net farm income, New Mexico was fourth with $1.18 billion and was followed by Colorado ($1.13 billion), Arizona ($810 million), Oregon ($780 million), Montana ($720 million), Utah ($550 million), Wyoming ($320 million) and Nevada ($180 million).

WSDA finds gypsy moths thick in Seattle Thu, 8 Oct 2015 10:29:53 -0400 Don Jenkins OLYMPIA — The Washington State Department of Agriculture has trapped 42 gypsy moths this year, including 21 of the European variety on Seattle’s Capitol Hill, a densely populated residential district.

The 42 also include 10 Asian gypsy moths, which are considered more threatening to forests and orchards than European moths. WSDA hadn’t snared an Asian gypsy moth since 1999.

The discoveries may present WSDA with challenges. Spraying pesticides over Seattle neighborhoods to eradicate gypsy moths has drawn organized opposition in the past. WSDA did not spray on Capitol Hill after trapping six moths last summer.

Meanwhile, Asian gypsy months were found at two ports and several other places this summer. They’re more mobile and eat a wider variety of trees and shrubs than European moths and pose a major threat to urban, suburban and rural landscapes, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

WSDA spokesman Mike Louisell said Wednesday that the department has traps to collect in northwest Washington, but the trapping season is nearly over. The agency likely will decide by the end of the year on a spring spraying program, he said.

“We’re just looking at the scope at what we have before us, and the challenge to respond,” he said.

The caterpillars emerge in the spring to feast on leaves. European gypsy moths have defoliated hundreds of thousands of acres in the Eastern U.S. and Great Lakes region.

Asian gypsy moths aren’t established in the U.S.

WSDA has sprayed 93 times since 1979 to eradicate gypsy moths. Most large applications have been done from the air.

The department last spring sprayed 220 acres in rural southwest Washington with Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki, commonly referred to as Btk and sold under the name Foray. WSDA had trapped 16 gypsy moths and found an egg mass in the area the previous summer and fall.

WSDA hunted in Capitol Hill for coin-sized egg masses to confirm a reproducing population, but did not find any.

WSDA sprayed 725 acres in the Seattle neighborhoods of Ballard and Magnolia in 2000. A King County judge denied a request by a group of residents to stop the application.

Besides the 21 moths found on Capitol Hill, WSDA has trapped European gypsy moths in Jefferson County, Pierce County, two in Clark County, four in Thurston County and three more in King County.

WSDA caught Asian gypsy moths at the Port of Tacoma, Port of Vancouver, Tacoma neighborhood Norpoint, Gig Harbor in Kitsap County, Milton and Fife Heights in Pierce County, Hawks Prairie near Olympia, Nisqually in Thurston County, and two in Kent in King County.

Generally, European gypsy moth eggs are carried into the state overland on outdoor belongings, such as patio furniture.

Asian gypsy moth eggs arrive by sea, attached to vessels arriving from ports in Russia, Japan, South Korea and China, where the moths are prevalent.

WSDA set out 16,000 traps in Western Washington this summer. The agency concentrated traps near ports and where new residents are likely to move.

The number of gypsy moths trapped in Washington has ranged widely. WSDA trapped a high of 1,315 in 1983 and only one in 2013. The number trapped this summer was the most since 2006.

‘Wolf-friendly beef’ idea patronizing to ranchers Thu, 8 Oct 2015 12:18:15 -0400 There isn’t anyone who hasn’t said something that sounded better in their head than it did when they said it out loud.

That’s what we thought when we heard that conservation groups in Washington participating on the state’s wolf advisory panel suggested helping ranchers by creating a premium label for “wolf-friendly beef” for producers who employ Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife wolf protection measures.

Dan Paul, state director of The Humane Society of the United States, said as with cage-free eggs, some consumers would be willing to pay more for beef raised with wolf protection measures.


First, we’d point out that all beef raised on grazing land in wolf country is “wolf-friendly.” It all can fall prey. Ranchers in Washington and Oregon can’t legally shoot a wolf, as they are protected either by state or federal law. In fact, we would argue beef protected by extensive measures championed by the panel is less friendly to wolves. If the measures work — and producers say the results are mixed at best — wolves have to work harder for their meal.

Second, we think the number of people who would pay more for beef in order to somehow help wolves would be small.

Though we don’t necessarily think it’s true, people who buy cage-free eggs believe they’re getting a better quality product because of the way hens are treated. The reasoning goes that cage-free hens are exposed to less disease and stress, therefore their eggs are better.

But there is no corresponding perceived quality enhancement for “wolf-friendly” beef. The benefits from such measures go exclusively to the wolves and their champions.

Ranchers are quick to point out that to recoup the cost of the suggested counter-measures, “wolf-friendly” products would have to be priced 50 percent more than comparable conventional (wolf hostile?) products.

We’ll give the wolf advocates the benefit of the doubt that they are sincere in their desire to help ranchers cope with wolves on the range. But a new marketing ploy is not a substitute for a viable management plan that includes a full range of control options, including lethal measures for problem wolves.

And this is why ranchers are frustrated with efforts they find, at best, patronizing.

The Cattle Producers of Washington has withdrawn from the Wolf Advisory Group, calling it “inept and pointless” and saying it has prevented any action by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife in dealing with wolves that kill livestock.

Though there are some with more strident views, most ranchers at least grudgingly accept that the reintroduction of wolves into the West is a fait accompli. They know they’ll have to find a way to survive in a new paradigm that includes another predator.

Conversely, wolf advocates and government wildlife agencies must also accept that ranchers can’t be expected to provide wolves an unlimited buffet. The tab must be paid, or the losses be stopped.

State-sponsored elimination of ranchers is no more palatable than the wholesale extermination of wolves.

Impending deadline could stop rail shipments in their tracks Thu, 8 Oct 2015 12:17:39 -0400 Erin Anthony Spring planting may seem quite far off, but farmers are already looking ahead with a wary eye on something that may derail all their plans — a nationwide railroad shutdown. Unable to comply with the looming Dec. 31 deadline for implementing positive train control, railroads are warning customers that they might stop rolling altogether — and soon, unless Congress gives them more time.

Positive train control is a GPS-based train control system designed to prevent collisions and over-speed derailments. Under the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, railroads are required to implement PTC systems by the end of this year on mainline tracks that carry “toxic by inhalation” materials like anhydrous ammonia — a key fertilizer ingredient — as well as passenger traffic.

BNSF, Union Pacific and other large rail carriers say they’ve been working on PTC since the mandate was put in place in 2008, but it’s a very large, complex system made up of multiple independent technologies, many of which didn’t exist seven years ago.

According to information from the Federal Railroad Administration and the railroads themselves, no Class I freight railroad will be in compliance with PTC requirements by the end of the year. At least one railroad — BNSF — has said if Congress doesn’t extend the deadline, it plans on stopping all traffic on lines that are required to have PTC installed, and they won’t wait until the end of the year to do so.

To ensure there are no TIH shipments on their systems as of Jan. 1, 2016, many railroads plan on issuing TIH notices prior to Thanksgiving. Faced with the likelihood of fewer rail shipments in the last quarter of this year and potentially no shipments in early 2016, fertilizer manufacturers, who work around the clock to ensure an adequate supply for on-time planting, will probably cut way back on production, according to the Fertilizer Institute. And even if — and that’s a very big “if” — fertilizer manufacturers don’t slow down, fewer shipments in late 2015 will be a big problem for spring planting in 2016 because rail shipments of fertilizer are distributed equally across the year to meet demand.

The American Farm Bureau Federation and other organizations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Retail Federation, highlighted the catastrophic consequences that would follow a shutdown of large segments of the nation’s freight rail network, in a letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. From farm inputs and goods to coal, automobiles, retail consumer goods and chemicals like those used to purify water for drinking, a major service disruption would have cascading impacts on the nation’s food, energy and water supplies, as well as transportation, construction and nearly every sector of the U.S. economy.

As compliance with the PTC mandate is simply not achievable, the groups are urging Congress to act by Oct. 31 to extend the deadline to allow railroads enough time to put the system in place. In its multiyear highway bill, the Senate has given the railroads another three years to meet the PTC deadline, but the House has yet to act on its version of the bill.

Unless Congress acts it’s not only rail shipments that will be grinding to a halt; farmers, ranchers and the rural communities and the national economy they support will also be well off track.

Erin Anthony is editor of the American Farm Bureau Federation’s FBNews e-newsletter and website.

Teenagers harvest an important lesson Thu, 8 Oct 2015 12:17:06 -0400 Harvest is a special time of year in rural America. In the area surrounding tiny Shelley, Idaho, — population 4,409 — it’s even more special, because of a tradition its farmers and high schools have maintained through the years.

Generations of students from such schools as Shelley High School and West Jefferson High School have pitched in to help with the potato harvest. The students receive two weeks off to work on area farms during this most important time of year. By doing that, they earn money for college or other activities and the farmers get the help they need to get their crops in.

Though many farmers have mechanized their potato harvest, others still rely on the cadre of teenagers to sort and move potatoes — or whatever other chores need to be done.

In our estimation, that’s the way it should be. Not so long ago, other areas of the country relied on teenagers to help pick apples and other fruit, strawberries and other crops. A casual conversation on the subject will still bring up comments such as, “I used to do that when I was a teenager” or “That’s how I paid for college.”

While it still takes place in some areas, state and federal regulators discourage farmers from employing teens, who are ready, willing — and need the work.

But when teens help with harvest, something more occurs. A connection is forged between the sweet, hard work of the farm and the next generation. No matter where those teens head once they graduate from high school, they will remember the long hours spent sorting potatoes or doing other jobs on the farm.

And when some Internet blowhard offers a fiction-based theory about how to farm, those students will be able to correct them.

A further benefit is that harvest helps teens to become a contributing part of the community. They realize they are part of something bigger than themselves.

Almost everyone who lives in the country understands that they depend on their neighbors, and their neighbors depend on them.

When someone needs help, it’s common for neighbors, friends — and even total strangers — to pitch in.

During the best of times such as harvest and the worst of times, they know to step forward whenever and wherever they are needed.

Whether it’s branding time, a wildfire threatening the ranch or anything else, neighbors know to help out each other.

In a very real sense, that lesson may be as important as any others those teenagers will learn in the classroom.

Pick for ag board out of step with Oregon agriculture Thu, 8 Oct 2015 12:14:13 -0400 Kendra Kimbirauskas Recently, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown appointed Marty Myers, general manager of Threemile Canyon Farms LLC, a subsidiary of North Dakota-based R.D. Offutt Co., to the state’s Board of Agriculture. In appointing Myers, the governor overlooked a family farmer, Monmouth dairyman Jon Bansen, who had also applied for the position. This appointment sent a message to agricultural producers across Oregon that Governor Brown, when given a choice, will side with corporate agribusiness over hard-working family farmers.

While Myers is a nice man, the fact is he represents an out-of-state corporation with a checkered past in our state. Threemile Canyon Farms is the very definition of a factory farm, confining over 60,000 cows in an intensive milk production operation where the cows never graze on pasture. Over the years the facility has been at the center of several controversies, including labor violations, allegations of animal abuse, and a major source of air pollution.

In 2005, Threemile revealed they were releasing 5.6 million pounds of ammonia into the air each year, a byproduct of decomposing liquefied manure. The U.S. Forest Service fingered Threemile’s ammonia as one of two major sources of acid rain and haze in the Columbia Gorge.

Rather than mitigating ammonia emissions, Threemile lobbied for the operation to be exempted from Oregon clean air laws. During a Dairy Air Quality Task Force created by the Legislature, Myers was instrumental in crafting a “do-nothing” plan of action.

Myers stands in stark contrast with Monmouth dairyman Jon Bansen. Unlike Myers, who lives in the Portland area, Bansen lives and works on his farm with his wife and children. He is a third-generation dairy farmer producing high-quality organic milk for the Organic Valley Cooperative. Bansen’s farm, Double J Jerseys, is a pasture-based system, where the cows are grazed rotationally outdoors nearly year-round on 600 acres.

The appointment of Myers over Bansen should raise the eyebrows and the concerns of farmers across Oregon. Notably, a 2013 Oregon Employment Department report found that between 2002 and 2007, shortly after Threemile doubled the number of dairy cows in the state, nine family dairy farms went out of business every month on average.

Factory-scale dairy operations across the country have expanded herds, driving down milk prices. Family dairy farmers haven’t been able to compete, and many have closed down their farms. Increased Asian demand for milk products is likely to increase this problem in Oregon. Dramatically increasing Oregon cow numbers to meet this demand, as some have argued for, won’t help independent family dairies. If anything, our state will see a surge in the growth of dairy production from “Threemile-esque” operations. Not only will these massive factory farms present significant challenges for the communities in which they set up shop, they will make it even more difficult for independent producers to compete — possibly driving the final nail into the coffin of many already-struggling independent dairy farmers.

Myers’ appointment should also draw considerable scrutiny of the appointment process for the Oregon Board of Agriculture. Unlike most agency boards and commissions, appointments to the Board of Agriculture are not confirmed by the Senate. This allows the Department of Agriculture and the governor’s office to work in secrecy to secure the appointment of their preference without any public scrutiny. Further, the Board of Agriculture is exempt from Oregon Government Ethics requirements that public officials provide statements of economic interest to ensure financial conflicts of interest are disclosed and addressed.

This is not good government.

At a time when Oregonians have cause to be on high alert for inappropriate conduct at the highest levels of state government, it would appear that this appointment to the Board of Agriculture is simply more of the same “pay-to-play” politics that we’ve seen in the past. Threemile Canyon Farms LLC has spent $178,500 on lobbying in Oregon since 2012, and gave $30,000 to Gov. John Kitzhaber’s re-election campaign in 2014.

It’s time for serious reform to prevent the kind of backroom dealings that allowed an out-of-state corporation to gain a seat on Oregon’s Board of Agriculture. With nearly 85 percent of Oregon farms family-owned and -operated, and most small and mid-sized, Governor Brown’s appointment is completely out of step with the future of Oregon agriculture.

Kendra Kimbirauskas is a third-generation producer and currently raises a variety of pasture-raised livestock in Linn County. She is co-founder of the group Friends of Family Farmers and chief executive officer for the Socially Responsible Agricultural Project.

USPB promotion aims to restore Japanese fry demand Thu, 8 Oct 2015 11:16:18 -0400 John O’Connell The U.S. Potato Board is implementing a plan to restore Japanese demand for U.S. french fries, following the first drop in frozen potato exports to the country in 40 years.

The board’s strategy includes a social media campaign, promotion of an original song about U.S. fries and video advertising in Japanese subway stations.

During the marketing year ending in June 2014, Japan accounted for 29 percent of all U.S. frozen fry exports, purchasing $336 million in product.

During the following marketing year, however, the value of frozen U.S. fry exports to Japan dropped 23 percent to $259 million. By volume, frozen exports dropped by 68,470 metric tons of finished product, according to USPB.

USPB attributes much of the decline to a labor slowdown at West Coast ports from October 2014 through February 2015. However, USPB officials note the volume of frozen exports from other countries was also down, indicating much of the decline was due to “continuing economic doldrums in the country” and “societally driven shifts away from western-style quick-service restaurant fare in the country.”

“We’re not only trying to regain our overall market share. We’re also trying to rekindle consumer demand to eat and purchase fries,” said USPB Chief Marketing Officer John Toaspern.

Toaspern said USPB during its March meeting allocated $300,000 from its reserves toward regaining market share in a few key countries. About a third of that extra funding will go to Japan, he said.

He said the supplemental programming in Japan started in August and should be completed within six months.

In the subway and train station in Tokyo, USPB has funded 30-second advertisements, played on a video loop emphasizing U.S. fries are fun and tasty.

The board has created a new consumer website on U.S. fries called Discovery Zone, featuring games, videos and contests with prizes for those who submit videos of themselves eating U.S. fries.

USPB’s Japanese representative also developed a song about U.S. fries and how much fun they are to eat. USPB hired dancers and produced a video. The Japanese teen pop group ILoVU liked the tune and started performing its own adaptation.

“We put it on the Internet, and somehow this pop group found out about it and decided they wanted to do it, and they asked if they could use it,” Toaspern said. “We got this much broader and more excellent exposure beyond our video.”

Though Toaspern said it’s too early to measure the effectiveness of the program, he’s pleased by the ongoing trend of Japanese restaurant chains switching back to U.S. fries from other sources found during the labor slowdown.

Judge: EPA can scrap livestock database proposal Thu, 8 Oct 2015 10:36:56 -0400 Mateusz Perkowski The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency didn’t violate the law by scrapping a proposed national database of concentrated animal feeding operations, according to a federal judge.

In 2011, the EPA proposed requiring all CAFOs to submit information to a national database about their location, operator name, number of animals, acreage and other features.

The proposed “information rule” came as the result of a legal settlement with environmentalists over disputed Clean Water Act regulations, but EPA dropped the idea in 2012 because it decided to rely on existing data collected by states.

Livestock groups opposed the national database because they believed the EPA was exceeding its authority by requiring CAFOs to disclose information even if they don’t discharge pollutants into waterways.

Critics also feared the data would be exploited by animal rights activists, who have relied on such information to sabotage livestock operations.

After the agency withdrew the information rule, several environmental groups filed a new lawsuit claiming the EPA lacked a clear reason for ditching the proposed regulation in violation of administrative law.

U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss in Washington, D.C., has now rejected those arguments, finding that EPA wasn’t legally required to make the regulation final.

It’s reasonable for the EPA to instead work with state Clean Water Act administrators, even if the all the information it seeks isn’t uniformly available, Moss said.

“Although not perfect, existing sources may yield ‘much’ of the information that the agency needs. Other approaches, including the proposed information rule, are also not perfect, and may divert agency resources,” he said. “So, at least for now, the EPA believes that it is sensible further to explore, to develop, and to assess existing sources, while maintaining the option of adopting a mandatory reporting requirement or other approach based on what the agency learns from its current efforts.”

The environmental groups claimed that a national system was preferable to the information maintained by states because it would include data about CAFOs that don’t operate under a Clean Water Act permit.

The judge discounted this argument because such operators are likely to be unaware of the reporting requirement or that it applies to them.

The plaintiffs also argued that state information about CAFOs is often inadequate — for example, the location of an operation may not include precise geographical coordinates.

Moss held that EPA wasn’t required by law to obtain such data and would “face significant hurdles” in collecting it even if the agency went forward with the national database.

“Gaps will undoubtedly exist, but the EPA has not promised perfection, and the record provides substantial support for the more limited objective the agency has decided to pursue at this time,” he said.

Otto top wheat variety planted in Washington Thu, 8 Oct 2015 10:26:30 -0400 Matw Weaver Otto, a soft white winter wheat developed by Washington State University, tops the state grain commission’s 2015 variety survey.

Nearly 222,000 acres were planted to Otto this year. The variety debuted in fourth place last year with 125,000 acres.

“That’s really what it’s all about — releasing varieties that are going to be profitable to growers,” said Arron Carter, WSU winter wheat breeder.

Carter believes a lot of the positive reception is because Otto is similar to Eltan, an older WSU-USDA winter wheat that many farmers already know. Eltan this year dropped from nearly 107,000 acres to 97,600.

“A lot of the things we’ve been seeing this past couple years as issues, this variety has been able to manage that,” Carter said. He cited Otto’s good yield potential and emergence and cold tolerance.

“It just goes to show that new varieties are increasing in adaptability,” Washington Grain Commission CEO Glen Squires said.

The other top varieties farmers also planted this year were:

• ORCF-102, 218,000 acres.

• SY Ovation, 187,000 acres.

• Bruehl, club wheat, 147,000 acres.

• Xerpha, 126,000 acres.

The commission does the survey for overseas customers.

“They’re interested in what’s being produced and what’s coming,” Squires said.

Carter hopes to continue to replace existing varieties with others that have improved characteristics. His new variety Jasper seems to compete with Xerpha, which is known for its high yield potential, and has added disease resistance and quality. Carter expects Jasper to have a slower start compared to Otto.

“Most varieties, people want to get familiar with — they’re going to start out a little slow, see how they perform over a couple years in field conditions,” Carter said.

Carter’s Sprinter, a hard red winter wheat that looks like a spring wheat, had roughly 13,400 acres. Carter expects it to stay at that level.

“That’s really one of the varieties you put out and let the marketplace determine its fit, because it is very unique and a very niche market,” Carter said. “There were farmers that succeeded with it and farmers that didn’t have a success, just because of the winter we had.”

Early frost damaged some Sprinter acres, Carter said.

Growers planted 196,000 acres of soft white club winter wheat. ARS Crescent, with nearly 41,000 acres, was the second most popular club variety after Bruehl.

Farmers planted 10,790 acres of soft white spring club wheat. All but 127 acres were planted to JD.

Farmers planted roughly 218,000 acres of hard red winter wheat, 304,000 acres of soft white common spring wheat, 8,400 acres of hard white spring wheat and 222,000 acres of hard red spring wheat.

Overall, they planted roughly 1.76 million winter wheat acres in 2015, up from roughly 1.75 million in 2014, and roughly 545,000 spring wheat acres in 2015, down from 606,700 acres in 2014.

Washington wheat acres totaled 2.31 million in 2015, down from 2.35 million in 2014.

Group has plan to educate students about driving jobs Thu, 8 Oct 2015 10:15:33 -0400 John O’Connell BOISE — The Idaho Trucking Association is planning a program to educate middle school and high school students about job opportunities in the trucking industry, in the face of a growing national shortage of truck drivers.

Julie Pipal, the association’s president and CEO, plans to partner with the Idaho Department of Labor, The College of Western Idaho and SAGE Technical Services Professional Truck Driving School.

Pipal explained the partners will produce an online portal with general information on trucking industry jobs and links to several members’ pages with company-specific details. They’ll also print posters and other materials with QR codes linking to the portal to be distributed to school children.

Pipal plans to work directly with school counselors in order to reach students about trucking industry jobs. Pipal said the program’s soft launch is planned within the next four weeks, and she intends to distribute printed materials by late November.

“We won’t be looking for new recruits in a vacuum, which is where we are right now,” Pipal said.

A new American Trucking Association report estimates the U.S. trucking industry is already short about 48,000 drivers, and the shortage will only get worse in the near future. Though Pipal said her association has focused on recruiting truck drivers due to the imminent need, she emphasized the portal will also highlight dispatchers, logistics planners and a wide variety of other career opportunities in trucking.

“This is an opportunity for young people to get into a dynamic and growing industry and work in whatever field they want,” Pipal said.

Report: Truck driver shortage getting worse Thu, 8 Oct 2015 09:59:02 -0400 John O’Connell The U.S. trucking industry needs nearly 48,000 more drivers to meet current demand, and an improving economy is expected to balloon the shortage to nearly 74,000 drivers by the end of 2016, according to a recent American Trucking Association Study.

The study, conducted by ATA chief economist Bob Costello and economic analyst Rod Suarez, projects the shortage will reach 175,000 drivers by 2024 if nothing changes.

The report finds the industry will need to replace 89,000 drivers per year over the next decade — mostly due to retirement and industry growth. Costello said the industry was short 20,000 drivers when the industry last studied the issue in 2005. There was a brief driver surplus during the recession, but the shortage resumed growth in 2011.

“We saw an improving economy last year, and for the most part, this year. Next thing you know, you have fleets that want to add trucks and they simply can’t,” Costello said.

For shippers of agricultural commodities and other goods, Montana transportation analyst Terry Whiteside said the shortage has already translated to increased trucking rates, and rather than seeking greater market share, railroads are raising their own rates accordingly.

Cameron Kerbs, transportation manager with Wilcox Fresh Produce in Rexburg, Idaho, predicted, “I think the overall trend we’ll see is truck rates will continue to gradually increase and the shortage will continue to increase, especially due to the fact that all of these guys are going to retire.”

Kerbs said trucking rates have actually declined a bit this year. Jason Andrus, chief financial officer with Doug Andrus Distributing in Idaho Falls, said rate decreases are due to a drop in the fuel surcharge, but his base rate is up by about 6 percent. His company has boosted driver wages by 10 percent during the past year and a half and hired a second driver recruiter, but annual turnover still ranges from 45 to 60 percent.

“Probably our No. 1 focus is how to recruit more qualified drivers to keep our trucks moving,” Andrus said.

Whiteside believes the problem is largely with the trucking lifestyle.

“The biggest problem is trucking keeps people away from their families,” Whiteside said. “Everybody wants to make lots of money, but at some point, family becomes really important.”

Keith Poulter, 52, of Pocatello, Idaho, changed careers and started long-haul driving for Doug Andrus two years ago, attracted by the opportunity to make a good living without a lengthy schooling period. His company recently asked drivers to take extra work to keep pace with harvest shipping demand.

“I think they’re always scrambling to find drivers,” Poulter said. “It means I have as much work as I can handle.”

But he acknowledges it’s taxing to spend so much time in traffic, to be away from family and to have no time for hobbies.

“It’s a real sacrifice to be away from family,” Poulter said.

The report estimates 68.9 percent of U.S. freight tonnage is moved by truck. To address the shortage, the report advises lowering the long-haul driving age from 21, increasing at-home time for drivers, hiring more military veterans and working to improve the image of drivers and the trucking industry.

Washington conservation district signs sage grouse plan Thu, 8 Oct 2015 09:42:14 -0400 Dan Wheat WATERVILLE, Wash. — A conservation district in Washington’s largest sage grouse area has signed a general conservation plan with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Foster Creek Conservation District, in Central Washington, is telling members that it’s vital to carry out the plan even though the federal agency recently decided not to list the sage grouse as threatened or endangered.

USFWS may still list the sage grouse in five years if state and local entities don’t do enough to protect it, said Jonathan Merz, manager of he district.

USFWS officials in Spokane agreed.

Sage grouse are protected by the state and are an important part of the state’s shrub steppe habitat, said Russ MacRae, USFWS field supervisor in Spokane.

“We’re excited that agricultural people in Douglas County are working to conserve species,” said Michelle Eames, USFWS biologist in Spokane and an author of the plan.

The district covers Douglas County and is headquartered in the county courthouse in Waterville and has been working toward a plan for sage grouse and other species since 1998.

On Sept. 18, the district signed an agreement with USFWS that covers sage grouse, federally endangered Columbia Basin pygmy rabbits, the sharp-tailed grouse and Washington ground squirrels.

“After many years and with the help of many people, the district is proud to be the first conservation district in the nation to lead a complete a general conservation plan,” Merz said.

He said he’s looked at all habitat conservation plans on record and that most are written by companies and very few by groups of individuals.

The agreement covers 879,000 acres of private agricultural land in Douglas County where approximately 650 sage grouse live. Some of the land is in the Conservation Reserve Program.

The plan requires ranches or farms to have Natural Resources Conservation Service plans and allows ranchers and farmers to tailor their own plans for protecting sage grouse and the other three species within the district’s general conservation plan, Merz said.

Individual plans will identify habitat areas and seek to protect and improve them. Plans will protect sage grouse nests in the ground and may include staying out of the birds’ mating dance areas at night. Plans could include different types of tillage and developing borders of native vegetation around planted fields.

The district will help landowners write the plans, which will go to USFWS for approval.

The plans enable ranchers to receive Section 10 takings permits, which means USFWS won’t hold them liable and will defend them against third-party lawsuits if they are following their plans but accidentally kill some of the species or accidentally damage their habitat, Merz said.

A farmer can still farm in parts of habitat if it is in his accepted plan. Farmers are not liable for the number of a species on their land but are liable for the amount of habitat, he said.

About 150 ranchers and farmers in the county are expected to write individual plans, Merz said. That’s the majority of those in areas of concern, he said.

“We made a deal and said if you give us local control to manage habitat the way we know how, we will take care of the problem,” Merz said. “And they (USFWS) said OK. The onus in on us.”

The district will celebrate the signing of the general conservation plan at 9 a.m. Oct. 26 with a sage grouse habitat tour followed by a noon lunch at the North Central Washington Fair Grounds in Waterville. A ceremony starts at 1 p.m. The public is welcome and asked to RSVP at or at 509-888-6372.

Portland daily grain report Thu, 8 Oct 2015 09:19:46 -0400 Portland, Ore., Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015

USDA Market News

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

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

In early trading December wheat futures trended two to 5.50 cents perbushel lower compared to Wednesday’s closes.

Bids for US 1 Soft White Wheat delivered to Portland in unit trains and barges for October delivery for ordinary protein were not well tested in early trading, but were indicated as steady to lower compared to Wednesday’s noon bids for the same delivery period. Bids for guaranteed maximum 10.5 protein were not well tested in early trading but were indicated as steady to lower compared to Wednesday’s noon bids.

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

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

Bids for US 2 Yellow Corn delivered full coast in 110 car shuttle trains during October trended lower compared to Wednesday’s noon bids.

Bids for US 1 Yellow Soybeans delivered full coast in 110 car shuttle trains during October were lower in early trading.

All wheat bids in dollars per bushel

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

Ordinary protein

Oct 5.4125-5.5800

Nov 5.5125-5.5800

Dec 5.5800-5.6125

Jan 5.5800-5.6850

Feb 5.5810-5.6850

Guaranteed maximum 10.5 pct protein

Oct 6.6125-6.9600

Nov 6.6125-6.9600

Dec 6.6125-6.9900

Jan 6.6350-6.9600

Feb 6.6350-6.9600

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

Ordinary protein

Oct 5.4125-5.5800

Guaranteed maximum 10.5 pct protein

Oct 8.1125-8.9600

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


Ordinary protein 5.8275-6.0975

11 pct protein 6.0275-6.2175

11.5 pct protein

Oct 6.1275-6.2775

Nov 6.1275-6.1775

Dec 6.1275-6.1775

Jan 6.2200-6.2700

Feb 6.2200-6.2700

12 pct protein 6.1775-6.3075

13 pct protein 6.2375-6.3675

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

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

13 pct protein 6.2875-6.4675

14 pct protein

Oct 6.6075-6.7075

Nov 6.3575-6.7375

Dec 6.5075-6.7875

Jan 6.4175-6.8175

Feb 6.4175-6.8175

15 pct protein 6.7675-6.8275

16 pct protein 6.9275-6.9475

US 2 Yellow Corn

Shuttle trains-Delivered full coast Pacific Northwest-BN

Oct 4.5950-4.6650

Nov 4.6050-4.6650

Dec 4.6350-4.6950

Jan 4.7425-4.8225

Feb 4.8025-4.8425

Mar 4.8025-4.8625

US 1 Yellow Soybeans

Shuttle trains-Delivered full coast Pacific Northwest-BN

Oct 9.8175-9.8675

Nov 9.8375-9.8675

Dec 9.8425-9.8925

Jan 9.8325-9.8825

US 2 Heavy White Oats 3.7750

Not well tested.

Exporter Bids Portland Rail/Barge Sep 2015

Averages in Dollars per bushel

US 1 Soft White by Unit Trains and Barges 5.3800

US 1 Hard Red Winter (Ordinary protein) 5.6800

US 1 Hard Red Winter (11.5% protein) 5.8600

US 1 Dark Northern Spring (14% protein) 6.3300

Source: USDA Market News Service, Portland, OR

Collective vision a different agricultural model Thu, 8 Oct 2015 09:17:47 -0400 On an Oregon farm, a collective vision creates a different agricultural model

By Eric Mortenson

Capital Press

SHERWOOD, Ore. — Is this the changing face of Oregon agriculture?

Our Table Cooperative, a 58-acre farm 20 miles southwest of Portland, functions as a collective, with workers, regional producers and consumers buying memberships and sharing risks and rewards.

The farm grows blueberries, apples and an ocean of greens, plus chickens for eggs and meat. It has a small grocery store where it sells its own products and those of producer members. Adjacent to the store is a commercial kitchen, used when hosting farm dinners at $90 a pop. Solar panels provide most of the electricity needed for irrigation and refrigeration. The farm’s delivery vehicle is a commercial-sized Mercedes van.

Its co-founder is Narendra Varma, 47, an Indian-born, American-educated and citizen “visionary,” as a friend calls him, who left Microsoft in 1998 with what he describes as a “stock-option fueled financial windfall” and set out to do some good with it.

After an “obligatory globe-trotting walkabout” and some years involved in property development, he settled on agriculture and its ecological and economic connection to nearly everything, from climate change and social justice to nutrition.

Drawn by Oregon’s land-use laws that protect farmland, he and his wife, Machelle, also a Microsoft refugee, moved from Seattle in 2010 intending to create a farm based on a model of “permaculture.” That is, an agricultural and even social system that mimics natural ecosystems.

Varma believes Our Table Cooperative is an alternative to a food system that she says is broken, unhealthy and mired in “hidden cultural stuff.”

“The problem’s not one of how to grow a better carrot,” Varma said. “It’s much more pervasive and deeper than that.

“People talk about the subsidies in the Farm Bill,” he said. “The real subsidy is not in the Farm Bill, it’s that a soda machine (was) considered normal in a high school. That’s the subsidy to corn.”

He isn’t alone in his thinking.

“We have a generation of people in their 20s and 30s who are interested in going into farming as a business and as a statement of how they see the world,” said Garry Stephenson, director of Oregon State University’s Center for Small Farms and Community Food Systems.

While the number of small farms counted in the 2012 Census of Agriculture actually declined compared to the 2007 census, their impact in urban areas is considerable.

In Portland, self-described homesteaders converted abandoned city lots into specialty herb gardens and sell to high-end restaurants. Others invent tools scaled for small farms, such as battery-powered tillers and adjustable handcarts equipped with bicycle tires. Some carve out a living by hosting farm dinners, selling at farmers’ markets and delivering to community supported agriculture customers.

Increasingly, small farms are gaining institutional recognition and help. OSU’s small farms center and extension programs help beginning and small farmers, while the USDA provides grants and expertise through agencies such as the Natural Resources Conservation Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

In many cases, the agencies are interacting with people who were drawn to farming by a sense that the food system doesn’t work and that regionally, at least, they can fix it.

Josh Volk of Portland, a mechanical engineer who turned his skills to designing and building farm tools, said farming is attracting people who have worked in other industries or businesses.

“They’re not necessarily looking for an easier way to make a living, but they’re looking for a better way to make a living,” he said.

Volk, a consultant who helped design Our Table and who has written a manuscript profiling four farms of less than five acres, said environmental concern is a common entry point for new young farmers, and agriculture is an outlet.

“If you’re going to be growing things, you have to be nurturing in some sense,” he said. “It’s not a coincidence.”

It’s a movement that shows no sign of fading. In September, more than 200 people attended a one-day small-farm school put on by OSU. Also this fall, Clackamas Community College southeast of Portland became the first school in Oregon to offer a certificate in urban agriculture.

The program attracted students such as Andrew Watson, a former statistical engineer for Netflix who, with his wife, is looking to buy a small farm in Oregon. He grew up on a conventional dairy farm in the United Kingdom and now hopes to grow vegetables and have dairy goats and chickens.

“I devoted myself to high-tech, now I’m devoting myself to producing food,” Watson said with a smile. “It’s quite a content switch, but you’re still producing something people enjoy.”

Fellow Clackamas student Chad Bennett was a recruiter for high-tech companies in the Portland area such as Intel before getting laid off. He decided to pursue his real interest, growing food, and established a farm on the one-fifth acre he owns in East Portland. His wife continues to work in high-tech while Bennett grows leafy greens, root crops and salad mixes.

He said Portland is a food-conscious city that supports such ventures.

“It will be more sustainable if people are growing food right around them,” he said. “Otherwise you’re using a truck and driving it across the country.”

Community college instructor Chris Konieczka said some in the urban agriculture program are simply looking to have the “sweetest” home garden, indulge a hobby or make a little money on the side. He said others pursue it as an issue of “food justice” — the concern that the poorest people can’t afford or don’t have access to nutritious food.

Urban agriculture can change the food system, support local economies and spread economic benefit to more people, Konieczka said.

“We’re kicking in a little bit of difference to the world,” he said, “and that feels good.”

Our Table Cooperative, the Sherwood farm, incorporated in 2013 and was founded on that notion of change.

Varma and his wife chose the site carefully, buying land that was close to Portland’s supportive foodies and access to the urban amenities that would be attractive to workers.

They looked for land with good soil and existing water rights, the lack of which hampers many beginning farmers. They purposefully sought property whose previous owners had been through Oregon’s Measure 37 and Measure 49 land-use process, and won the transferable right to eventually add two more residences. Most development is not allowed on Oregon farmland.

When built, those houses will be rented to workers. Varma hopes workers will be attracted by a trade-off of reduced income in exchange for subsidized rent and subsidized food from the farm.

Rather than focus on one crop — by expanding the blueberry acreage that was already in place, for example — the farm grows multiple types of vegetables, berries, flowers and fruit.

“What we lose in efficiency, we gain in resiliency” through diversification, Varma said.

Varma said the farm produces a lot of food but is not yet making a profit and so hasn’t yet paid dividends to co-op members. The farm hopes to make a profit by 2017.

Farm membership shares cost $5,000 for workers; $1,500 for producers and $150 for consumers. Workers can pay the fee up front or with a down payment and payroll deductions. The farm pays a minimum wage of $10.40 an hour for farmer members and no more than two times that for managers. The wage rates are based on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s living wage calculator for the Portland metro area. Varma said MIT recently increased its Portland calculation to $11.25 an hour but the farm can’t catch up to that until 2016. The farm’s three owner groups are represented by a board of directors.

Gianna Banducci, Our Table’s marketing director and a cooperative member, said the farm has had a mixed reception from conventional farmers. Some are apprehensive or merely curious, others identify with the challenges of starting a small, diversified farm.

“For myself, personally, I’ve never worked harder, I’ve never put myself into a job like this,” she said. “At the end of the day, it’s mine. If it doesn’t get done, it’s because I didn’t do it.”

Varma’s overriding concern is maintaining the land for farm use over generations. The average age of American farmers is 57, near retirement, and developers may be the only ones with enough money to buy farmland outright.

The shared ownership model, or holding land in a public trust and leasing to new farmers, may be alternatives, he said.

“We knew we wanted to manage the land with an eye to long-term health,” Varma said.

Haggen puts additional Northwest stores up for sale Thu, 8 Oct 2015 09:17:03 -0400 BELLINGHAM, Wash. (AP) — Grocery chain Haggen has added six more stores in the Northwest to its list of those it would like to sell.

Three stores in Washington south of Seattle and three stores in Oregon have been tacked on to the 127 it wants to shed as part of a bankruptcy plan.

It would leave the Bellingham-based chain with just 31 stores after ridding itself of most of the stores it bought from Albertsons and Safeway in December.

Haggen struggled to convert many of the stores to their brand and filed for bankruptcy protection in September.

The grocer has said they’ve found buyers for 36 stores in California and Nevada. The company has also put into place a bid and auction process for some of the stores.

Indiana community college exploring indoor farming Thu, 8 Oct 2015 08:35:26 -0400 SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — A proposal is under consideration in South Bend to build a $3 million indoor farming operation at Ivy Tech Community College.

Green Sense Farms of Portage wants to build the facility. Ivy Tech Chancellor Thomas Coley says he’ll present the plan to trustees in December. It also needs approval of the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.

The South Bend Tribune reports that under the plan, Green Sense Farms would lease land from the college and build and equip the farm operation. Ivy Tech students would be able to work at the “vertical farming” facility to gain training and eventually earn related degrees from the college.

The company’s Portage location produces about 3 million plants per year for groceries and restaurants.

The proposal was discussed Wednesday at the college.

N.Y.’s governor lauds growing alcohol industry Thu, 8 Oct 2015 08:32:56 -0400 ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York’s beer, wine, cider and distilling industries celebrated another year of growth Wednesday as Gov. Andrew Cuomo vowed to continue to reform Prohibition-era laws and take other steps to encourage a burgeoning sector of the state economy.

Scores of business owners, farmers and elected leaders gathered for the third annual Wine, Beer, Spirits and Cider Summit. Cuomo, a Democrat, said the state has made great strides in helping the industry, which he said can boost local agriculture and tourism as well.

“I don’t think when we first sat down any of us thought the industry could take off like it has,” Cuomo told the group. “What else can we do? What else should we be doing ... if we want to push the envelope, if we want to get more aggressive.”

Since 2011, the number of farm wineries is up by 60 percent. The number of microbreweries has more than tripled. New York ranks third in the nation for wine and grape production and has the fourth-largest craft beer industry.

Industry leaders called for the state to continue to relax regulations covering the industry. Cuomo suggested further state investments in advertising as well as financing help for startup wineries and breweries. He also announced a $7 million state investment in a food research center in Ontario County that he said would yield innovative new techniques for alcohol production.

In a statement, the New York Farm Bureau hailed Cuomo’s continued focus on the industry, saying the state is taking “common-sense approaches that will support beverage makers and continue the successful growth of the industry in every region of the state.”

California governor wants renewable energy for half state’s power by 2030 Thu, 8 Oct 2015 08:30:44 -0400 MICHAEL R. BLOODand JUDY LIN LOS ANGELES (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown dramatically increased California’s climate-change goals on Wednesday, committing the state to use renewable energy for half its electricity and make existing buildings twice as energy-efficient in just 15 years.

Brown tried for an even stronger measure that also would have enforced a 50 percent drop in petroleum use by 2030, but was defeated by oil interests. He called that a short-term setback, and insisted that the world needs to wean itself off fossil fuels as quickly as possible.

“What has been the source of our prosperity now becomes the source of our ultimate destruction, if we don’t get off it. And that is so difficult,” Brown said at a signing ceremony at the hilltop Griffith Observatory, overlooking the haze of downtown Los Angeles.

California already has some of the world’s toughest air quality standards, and set a mandate in 2006 to derive a third of its electricity from renewable sources such as solar, wind and geothermal by 2020. State regulators say they already hit 25 percent last year, as huge solar farms sprouted in the desert and towering windmills went up along mountain passes.

“It’s monumental,” said Alex Jackson, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “For an economy the size of California to commit to getting half of its power needs from renewable energy resources, I think, is a game changer.”

Few question whether the new goal of 50 percent is achievable by 2030, but critics worry that the complex regulations needed to speed the transition from fossil fuels will add unknown costs for consumers and businesses.

Republican state Sen. Jim Nielsen of Gerber predicts more expensive “energy, food and all things that require abundant affordable energy to produce and transport, particularly hurting those California families least able to afford it.”

Just how California will meet the new goal isn’t clear. Brown left the details to the state’s Air Resources Board, Energy Commission and Public Utilities Commission. These boards are led mostly by gubernatorial appointees and have broad influence over economic life.

California’s utilities favored the measure. They mostly use natural gas, nuclear energy and some coal, but solar, wind, geothermal and biomass are growing sources of electricity, and regulators are expected to allow them to pass some costs of the transition on to consumers.

The new law also encourages utilities to expand by building many more charging stations for electric vehicles, and provides for fines or penalties if utilities don’t meet the goals.

Supporters say Californians can keep saving money through rebates and subsidies as they purchase electric vehicles, replace inefficient light bulbs and appliances, and install solar panels or double-paned windows.

Brown, a Democrat, began this year with a vow to push the most aggressive greenhouse-gas emissions benchmark in North America through the Legislature. He took his campaign around the world, even meeting with the pope in July.

But he lost a key political battle among moderate Democrats in Sacramento amid intense lobbying by the oil industry, which financed a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign that raised fears of job losses if cuts in petroleum use were imposed.

Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western States Petroleum Association, said petroleum remains a “safe, reliable and affordable” energy source and that the state already requires clean-burning fuels.

Some lawmakers were willing to accept forced cuts in petroleum use if the Legislature could have more power over the Air Resources Board, which has been implementing the greenhouse gas emissions law.

But Brown refused to give up what he sees as his executive authority.

Both houses are controlled by Democrats, but on Wednesday, Brown squarely accused Republicans of failing to do enough to reverse global warming. He recalled that Ronald Reagan was California’s governor when the state created the Air Resources Board in response to the Los Angeles smog, and that President Richard Nixon signed the Clean Air Act.

“That was a time when Republicans really got it. We hope they are going to come back to the good old days of Reagan and Nixon, when people cared about clean air and clean water,” he said.

California’s new goal builds on landmark legislation signed by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006, which laid the groundwork for the first U.S. program to set up a cap-and-trade emissions system, aiming to reduce pollutants to 1990 levels by 2020.

That program, second only to the European Union’s in size, enables polluters to buy and sell credits on a market, generating billions in revenues since the state held its first carbon auction in 2012.

Businesses will pay an estimated $2 billion in the current budget year to help fund mass transportation including a planned high-speed rail system and pay for appliance rebate programs, building upgrades and forestry and wetland conservation.

Opponents say all this raises costs for consumers, but supporters say initial fears of economic harm have not come true. California’s economy is relatively healthy, with an unemployment rate of 6.1 percent in August. That’s above the 5.1 percent national average, but the lowest it’s been since January 2008.

Central Oregon reservoirs at lowest levels in 20 years Thu, 8 Oct 2015 08:10:03 -0400 BEND, Ore. (AP) — The Wickiup Reservoir south of Bend and the Prineville Reservoir are both at their lowest points in more than 20 years.

The Bulletin reports that Wickiup, which serves as a major water source for farmland in Jefferson County, was only 9 percent full as of Wednesday. Typically, the Wickiup is about 32 percent full.

The last time the Wickiup was this low was in 1994.

Elsewhere in Central Oregon, the Prineville Reservoir is only 30 percent full, its lowest point since 1992.

Officials say low snowpack and the ongoing drought has seriously depleted reservoirs. The Prineville Reservoir is expected to recover before next growing season, but the Wickiup may not.

Environmental group targets Indiana’s right-to-farm laws Thu, 8 Oct 2015 07:59:02 -0400 RICK CALLAHAN INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — An environmental group is challenging the constitutionality of Indiana’s right-to-farm laws on behalf of two rural families who say the stench wafting from a large hog farm west of Indianapolis is making their homes unlivable.

Hoosier Environmental Council attorney Kim Ferraro said the civil lawsuit was mailed Tuesday to Hendricks County Superior Court, and a clerk’s office spokeswoman said it was received Wednesday.

The lawsuit alleges that a Danville farm called 4/9 Livestock LLC, which houses up to 8,000 hogs, has made the plaintiffs’ homes “at times unlivable” since it opened in 2013. It also says odors, gases and dust released by the roughly 38,000 gallons of manure it produces daily have harmed property values.

“No one wants to buy our property because of the smell, so we can’t even move away — we’re prisoners in our own home,” Richard Himsel, one of the plaintiffs, said in a statement. He said the odors from the farm, which is about a quarter-mile away, are so bad his wife has gone to live with their daughter because she “can’t take it anymore.”

The suit also names Co-Alliance LLP, which owns the farm’s hogs, and three individuals who own and operate the farm.

All 50 states have enacted right-to-farm laws, according to the National Agricultural Law Center. Indiana has two, one of which was passed in 2014 and protects Indiana farmers’ rights to use “generally accepted” production practices, including “the use of ever-changing technology.”

The suit alleges the 2014 law gives farms legal immunity and favors their production practices “regardless of the harm those practices cause.” The plaintiffs also argue the state’s laws amount to “an unconstitutional taking of their property rights.”

Indiana’s environmental rules only regulate water discharges from industrial-scale livestock farms, not odors and air emissions, which Ferraro said is “fundamentally unfair.”

“They have no government agency to turn to because the laws are not written to protect them,” said Ferraro, who is the council’s water and agriculture policy director.

Co-Alliance said in a statement that the farmer-owned partnership had not been served with a copy of the suit as of Wednesday and “will reserve further comment” until it evaluates the complaint. A number for 4/9 Livestock’s registered agent, Cory Himsel, a distant cousin of Richard Himsel, was disconnected.

However, the Indiana Farm Bureau said that the lawsuit’s contentions are “completely unfounded.” The 2014 law “simply states that existing laws should be construed to allow any farmer to use generally accepted farming practices,” according to Jay Wood, a spokesman for the state’s largest farmers’ advocacy group.

The suit seeks unspecified damages and a court injunction to compel the farm’s owners to lessen the smells and dust that reach the plaintiff’s properties.

Genetically pure bison to return to northern Colorado Thu, 8 Oct 2015 07:55:26 -0400 FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) — A herd of genetically pure bison will be released to the Northern Colorado plains next month, bringing an end to a years-long effort to return home a species once on the brink of extinction.

The Coloradoan reports the Laramie Foothills Conservation Herd, made up of 10 bison, will be moved to Fort Collins’ Soapstone Prairie Natural Area and Larimer County’s Red Mountain Open Space. The move will take place on Nov. 1, National Bison Day.

The bison, which were born using assistive reproductive technology, are currently being held at Colorado State University’s Foothills Campus. University researchers joined the U.S. Department of Agriculture in using genes from quarantined bison in Yellowstone National Park to create disease-free, genetically pure bison.

The herd will roam 800 acres of their species’ native land.

Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle found on Hawaii’s Waianae Coast Thu, 8 Oct 2015 07:53:32 -0400 HONOLULU (AP) — State officials are looking to step up monitoring of the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle after the invasive species was found on the Waianae Coast.

KITV-TV reports state Department of Agriculture officials say 38 of the beetles have been trapped in Nanakuli and Lualualei since the beginning of the year.

But in a letter sent to State Sen. Maile Shimabukuro, agriculture officials say they are having trouble finding breeding sites on private farms in the Nanakuli area.

Coconut Rhinoceros Beetles attack coconut palms and several food crops, including taro, sugarcane, mango and papaya.

Inslee to announce new approach to updating water quality Thu, 8 Oct 2015 07:51:51 -0400 SEATTLE (AP) — Facing pressure from federal regulators, Gov. Jay Inslee is taking another stab at updating clean-water rules partly tied to how much fish people eat.

Inslee is set to announce his new approach in Seattle Thursday.

In July, Inslee scrapped draft rules after failing to get legislation he wanted. The rules address how clean the state’s waters should be and set limits on the pollutants that can be released into waterways.

Last month, the federal government stepped in to write those rules for Washington. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency prefers the state do its own but Washington must submit a plan before the federal agency finishes its process.

Tribes and environmental groups have argued for tougher rules to reduce water pollution and protect public health, while businesses and others say it could cost billions with little or no benefit to the environment.