Capital Press | Capital Press Tue, 25 Jul 2017 13:51:21 -0400 en Capital Press | Third-party damage exempted from growers’ production history Tue, 25 Jul 2017 11:46:05 -0400 Matw Weaver SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. — Growers with crop insurance will no longer be penalized for damage to their crop caused by someone else.

The USDA Risk Management Agency is now offering third-party damage and fire exemptions — under certain criteria — for events such as chemical drift caused by a neighbor or a fire caused by a cigarette tossed out the window of a passing car.

“They’re all to some extent unavoidable and they’re also uninsured,” said Ben Thiel, director of the USDA Risk Management Agency office in Spokane Valley, Wash. “They sustained damage, it’s not insurable, there’s no idemnity for these types of damages.”

In the past, the damage went on a farmer’s production history report, which is used to establish crop insurance coverage.

Farmers can now report their production as always, but exclude the acres affected by third-party damage, said Rick Williams, senior risk management specialist.

Such situations are fairly rare, Thiel said, but “for those affected, it’s a huge deal.”

Pacific Northwest grower associations requested the change, Thiel said.

“There’s a lot of things the farmer is dealing with, psychologically and emotionally and financially,” Thiel said. “To have just one more thing being piled onto it — ‘Here I’m getting penalized for something that’s no fault of my own.’”

The farmer is responsible for reporting and providing information about a loss in a timely manner to the crop insurance agent. The changes start with the 2017 crop year, Thiel said.

The program works for any crop under crop insurance nationwide, Thiel said. The agency is educating crop insurance companies about the changes.

Trial studies application of herbicide through drip systems in onions Tue, 25 Jul 2017 12:21:35 -0400 Sean Ellis ONTARIO, Ore. — Oregon State University researchers are trying to provide onion growers in the Treasure Valley of Idaho and Oregon with another tool to control the weed yellow nutsedge in fields where red and white onions are grown.

The Oregon and Idaho agriculture departments last year issued a special local need label that allows the herbicide Outlook to be applied through drip irrigation systems in fields where Spanish yellow bulb onions are grown.

The herbicide was already approved for surface application in onion fields but it wasn’t previously approved for use in drip systems in yellow onion fields.

Now, OSU researchers in Malheur County are conducting a field trial in which Outlook is being applied through a drip system in red and white onions.

If that trial is successful, BASF, which produces Outlook, could apply for a similar special need label for white and red onions, said OSU weed scientist Joel Felix, who is leading the trial.

“We’re satisfied with what we’ve seen so far,” he said of the white and red onion trial.

Felix said a previous yellow onion trial showed that Outlook is much more effective in controlling yellow nutsedge when applied through a drip system compared to surface application.

About 90 percent of the Spanish bulb onions grown in the region are yellows, while the rest are whites and reds. About 60 percent of the 21,000 acres of onions produced here each year are grown on drip systems.

Yellow nutsedge is a common weed in the region. While it is fairly easily managed in other crops, “it has been a challenge managing it in onions,” Felix said. “It has been a devastating weed for onion growers.”

Onion farmer Paul Skeen said the special need label for Outlook in yellow onions is a big help in the fight against yellow nutsedge, and getting a similar label for white and red onions would help the industry even more.

“We’re kind of on a learning curve with (Outlook applied through a drip system) but it really does work well,” he said.

While the results of the red and white onion trial are promising so far, it’s likely that BASF will want one more year of data before applying for a special label for reds and whites, Felix said.

He said that when applying Outlook through a drip system for onions, it’s critical to put the correct amount of the herbicide on the correct field size.

“There can be a devastating reduction in onion size if you apply the wrong rate,” he said. “Make sure the area is calculated correctly.”

It’s also important to dilute the herbicide to the point it can be injected through the drip system for at least 8 hours, he said.

ODFW confirms wolf attack on calf in Wallowa County Tue, 25 Jul 2017 12:01:23 -0400 Eric Mortenson A 250-pound calf found with numerous bites and scrapes was attacked by a wolf, an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife investigation confirmed.

A rancher noticed the injuries July 21 while moving cattle on a public grazing allotment in the Harl Butte area of Wallowa County, in northeast Oregon. The cow and calf pair were hauled back to the home ranch. ODFW was notified and investigated the following day.

The calf had multiple bites and scrapes on its back legs, including one open wound that was 4 inches long and 3 inches wide. The size, location and direction of the bites were “consistent with common attack points for wolves,” according to an ODFW report.

The calf was alert and responsive, according to the report. The injuries were estimated to be about seven days old. Tracking collar data showed a wolf designated OR-50 was in the grazing area during the time the attack is thought to have occurred.

Cheese block prices up, barrels down Tue, 25 Jul 2017 10:59:55 -0400 Lee Mielke The CME cheese price gap shot higher last week. The blocks closed Friday at $1.7075 per pound, up 3 1/4-cents on the week, following a 12 1/4-cent jump the previous week, and were dead even with a year ago.

They were unchanged Monday, as traders anticipated the afternoon’s June Cold Storage report, which added a tinge of bullishness to the market Tuesday, but they remained unchanged.

The barrels closed Friday at $1.41, down 6 1/2-cents on the week, 36 1/2-cents below a year ago and gapping 29 3/4-cents below the blocks, largest spread since Oct. 22, 2014, when it hit 30 cents. The record spread since daily trading began on Sept. 1, 1998 was 32 cents on July 30, 2008, according to FC Stone. Eight cars of block were sold last week at the CME and 40 of barrel.

The barrels were also unchanged Monday but jumped 4 3/4-cents Tuesday, to $1.4575, reducing the spread to 25 cents.

Central cheese contacts suggest milk production is easing a bit, but there is still plenty of it, according to Dairy Market News. Plants are running at or near full capacity and demand is generally following seasonal patterns. Sales into food service are steady to lower, ahead of the seasonal gear-up of school and college cafeterias and the advance of the fall pizza season.

Some manufacturers’ cheese stocks are building so they have been actively offering barrels on the CME. Demand for fresh barrel has been able to provide some support to prices, but “the disparity in price, and the length to which it has lasted, is unsettling to some barrel cheese producers in that it makes procurement and cost management more challenging.”

Cheese is also being produced at full capacity in most Western plants as milk is readily available despite higher daytime temperatures. Demand is steady and “with current higher cheese prices in the EU, the international market is showing more interest for U.S. cheese.”

Spot butter finished Friday at $2.5850 per pound, down 1 1/2-cents on the week but still 29 1/4-cents above a year ago, with 26 cars selling last week.

Monday’s price was unchanged but it inched a half-cent higher Tuesday, to $2.59.

Butter manufacturing is at seasonal levels, says DMN, encouraged by readily available cream. Stocks, in general, are in balance and some suppliers indicate that their inventories are in good shape for impending fall needs. Expectations by some are that milkfat shortages in Europe will track butter prices to $3.00 by year’s end.

Western butter makers also report strong sales and some buyers feel U.S. butter prices are more attractive than prices overseas where milk fats are in tight supply in some markets.

Cash Grade A nonfat dry milk saw a Friday close at 87 1/4-cents per pound, up a penny on the week and 2 3/4-cents above a year ago, on 28 sales for the week.

The powder inched a quarter-cent lower Monday and lost a half-cent Tuesday, slipping to 86 1/2-cents per pound.

Preliminary USDA data shows June milk output in the top 23 producing states at 16.9 billion pounds, up 1.7 percent from June 2016. Revisions added 17 million pounds to the original May estimate, now put at 17.8 billion pounds, up 1.9 percent from a year ago. The June 50-state total is 18.0 billion pounds, up 1.6 percent.

June milk cow numbers in the 23 states totaled 8.73 million head, up 4,000 from May and 83,000 more than a year ago. Output per cow averaged 1,939 pounds, up 13 pounds from a year ago.

Heat took a heavy toll on California cow numbers and milk output, down a hefty 2.1 percent, and the fifth month in a row the state’s output was below a year ago. Cow numbers were down 13,000 head, cow disposal services couldn’t keep up. Output per cow was down 25 pounds. Wisconsin was nowhere close to making up the difference, up just 0.2 percent, as output per cow was only up 5 pounds and cow numbers were unchanged.

Texas continued to outpace the rest of the states, up a tank-busting 15 percent, driven by 40,000 more cows and a 115-pound gain per cow. New Mexico, was up 9.8 percent, on 22,000 more cows and a 50-pound gain per cow from a year ago.

Idaho was up 1.9 percent, on 8,000 more cows and 10 pounds more per cow. Michigan was up 2.8 percent, also on 8,000 more cows and a 20-pound gain per cow. A 40-pound gain per cow propelled Minnesota to a 1.4 percent increase, despite a 4,000-cow loss. New York inched 0.4 percent higher on 4,000 more cows outweighing a 5-pound drop per cow. Pennsylvania was unchanged. A 15-pound gain per cow was offset by 5,000 fewer cows. Washington state was down 1.3 percent on a 10-pound loss per cow and 2,000 fewer cows.

Americans and exports consumed plenty of butter and cheese during June. The Agriculture Department’s Cold Storage report shows U.S. butter stocks stood at 310.1 million pounds on June 30, down 3.5 million pounds, or 1.1 percent, from May and 18 million pounds, or 5.8 percent, below June 2016, the third month in a row they were below a year ago.

American type cheese, at 810.3 million pounds, was down 26.4 million pounds or 3.3 percent from May but 53.3 million pounds or 7.0 percent above a year ago.

The total cheese inventory stood at 1.32 billion pounds, down 13.2 million or 1.0 percent from May, and the second month in a row that stocks declined, but are 66.5 million pounds or 5.3 percent above June 2016.

Toxic tansy ragwort makes a comeback in W. Oregon Tue, 25 Jul 2017 10:44:58 -0400 Aliya Hall The toxic weed tansy ragwort has spread this year around Western Oregon with particularly large populations in Marion and Clackamas counties.

The outbreak is the worst Sam Leininger, WeedWise program manager, has seen in the program’s eight years of operation. WeedWise began in 2008 to “support more effective management of invasive weeds in Clackamas County,” according to its website.

Tansy is dangerous to humans and livestock because of a poisonous alkaloid in the plant’s tissue that causes liver damage when eaten. Signs of poisoning are consistent with liver failure, said Dr. Charles Estill, Oregon State University Extension veterinary agent.

“Horses get jaundiced, lethargic, slow, depressed, stop chewing in the middle of eating and wandering — some die from the wandering, from either walking off a cliff or walking into a pond and drowning,” said Estill.

While grazing animals generally avoid eating tansy, heavily infested pastures or hay contaminated with the weed can make it nearly impossible for the animals to avoid consumption. If tansy is more than 5 percent of the plants in a pasture, it creates an opportunity for toxicity, Estill said.

Young animals are especially susceptible because “they have different physiology or not as much life experience,” he said, as well as being less discriminatory of what they eat.

Tansy can take anywhere from two weeks to six months to kill an animal. No treatment is available.

“(An animal) can ingest it now and die at Christmastime,” Estill said. Most cases are suspected and not confirmed, he said.

There haven’t been any reported cases so far this year of animals killed by tansy consumption, but it is too early in the year to know, said Dr. Morrie Craig, professor of toxicology at Oregon State’s veterinarian research laboratory.

Unlike horses and cattle, sheep have ruminal microbes in their stomach that can eat the alkaloids that the tansy produces. Craig said research is underway to take advantage of these ruminal microbes.

“We’re thinking we’re going to try a way to capsulate ruminal microbes, and make a probiotic out of it that you can give to a cow,” Craig said, “and then it’ll have the microbes in its stomach to break it down.”

Tansy ragwort is identifiable by its flat yellow flowers that cluster at the top of the plant. The stems are green — occasionally with a reddish tinge — and the leaves are ruffled and dark green, according to a report by WeedWise. At maturity, the plant can grow up to 6 feet tall and produce up to 200,000 seeds that remain in the soil for more than 10 years.

The infestation is most likely caused by the cool, wet and mild springs that Oregon has had for the past two years, Leininger said. The conditions have undermined biological controls such as the Cinnabar moth and flea beetle, which during the larval stage eat the roots of the plant. They were introduced from 1960 to 1971 by the Oregon Department of Agriculture. By the mid-1980s cattle deaths by tansy had been reduced by more than 90 percent, a report from the ODA said.

Butler explained that these biological controls work on a cycle with the plant.

“With a crash in the tansy population we have the mirror image of the bio-controls dropping off. Then when the (tansy) comes back there will be a lag time for the fleas to come back,” he said. “People who want to get more bio-controls, we can’t supply anything that’s going to speed up the natural process. It won’t make a significant difference.”

At this point, it’s too late to spray the weeds with herbicide, he said.

“Spraying won’t do anything. The time to spray is early spring when it’s a rosette, or in fall after the rain,” Butler said.

Mowing the tansy when it’s in full bloom isn’t a solution, either, because it can cause plants to become short-lived perennials, and grow back next year.

However, Butler understands the motivation behind mowing, whether it’s to appease neighbors or make the pastures look better.

WeedWise encourages removing the seed heads and putting them into bags to keep seeds from spreading. If there is a concern about exposure to cattle and horses, Leininger said to remove the tansy from the field.

“Some (people) want to pull it and leave it, but the plant’s potability can increase in its wilt phase,” Leininger said. “You have to understand it’s a big task, but preventing seeding is the ideal scenario.”

Craig said that grazing sheep on tansy-covered pastures could be a way to clean up the weed.

Tansy populations may have increased, but it doesn’t compare to the infestation in the 1970s and 1980s. Butler said that historically the Tillamook Valley at this time would be yellow with tansy, but this year there are few plants.

“We have to look at where there isn’t tansy; that’s the real success story,” Butler said. “It shows areas that are doing quite well and free from tansy. Every year there’s going to be pockets of tansy. It’s frustrating and I understand that, but it’s not the problem it once was.”

To prevent future infestations Leininger recommends spraying in the fall. He said that large-scale operations should apply a broadcast herbicide, but smaller operations can control it with a backpack sprayer.

“We are definitely encouraging people to control it as much as they can,” Leininger said. “It’s not something that any singular entity can take after, it takes a community.”

There are no silver bullets when it comes to tansy, Butler said.

Nevada wildfire expands, prompts voluntary evacuations Tue, 25 Jul 2017 10:29:57 -0400 GARDNERVILLE, Nev. (AP) — A lightning-caused wildfire in northern Nevada continues to grow, prompting officials to keep voluntary evacuations in place for areas near Gardnerville.

The Douglas County sheriff’s office tells the Reno Gazette-Journal the fire has now spread to 3,130 acres.

Authorities say the fire is moving northward and toward residential areas. The county’s community and senior center has been set up as a shelter for evacuees. The county fairgrounds is open for the evacuees’ large animals.

The newspaper reports the fire started early Monday and spread quickly, with high winds pushing it past retardant lines.

Reinforcements arrive to help with destructive Montana fires Tue, 25 Jul 2017 10:28:31 -0400 MATT VOLZ HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Crews and equipment from 34 states arrived Monday to help fight four massive wildfires that have destroyed a dozen homes in eastern Montana and forced ranchers to let their livestock loose as the blazes spread unhindered across roads, rivers and man-made fire lines.

The reinforcements come from states from Alaska to Florida. They were particularly needed Monday, as shifting winds threatened another run by the fires in a rural area south of the Missouri River that have burned a combined 353 square miles.

It’s the largest complex of fires in a state with 18 blazes burning, which is more than twice as many as Alaska, the next highest state with eight, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

Many of the Montana fires were ignited by lightning strikes over the past week, and spread rapidly thanks to a heatwave and drought conditions.

The sudden rash of fires caused Gov. Steve Bullock to declare an emergency Sunday that will allow the state to use the National Guard in the firefighting efforts.

The eastern Montana fires have been burning since Wednesday through private farmland with scattered homes, along with a mix of rolling open land used for grazing and timber-choked river bottoms.

One of the fires jumped the Musselshell River and leapt over fire breaks cleared by bulldozers, frustrating crews that have contained just 5 percent of the fire complex.

The destroyed homes were discovered within the area ravaged by the largest blaze between the towns of Jordan and Winnett, east of the Musselshell River.

Another 50 homes in the area were under evacuation orders.

A heat-related injury caused a firefighter to be pulled from the line, fire information officer Tim Engrav said.

Livestock have likely died in the fires, but responders have not had a chance to make a tally. Ranchers were cutting fences to let their cattle out as the fire line spread toward their land.

“There’s been a lot of scattering like that,” Engrav said. “We know there is probably going to be some losses.”

In the mountains near the Idaho border, another fire was threatening 50 homes and other structures after growing to 2 square miles.

The fire was burning near the town of Superior in Lolo National Forest, about 60 miles west of Missoula.

Elsewhere, people living near a wildfire in a rural area of northeast Washington state have been ordered to evacuate.

The wildfire had grown to about 350 acres and there was no containment.

A wildfire near a heavily populated area in Colorado may have been sparked by a grass mower.

Investigators are still looking into what sparked the fire south of Fort Collins, which temporarily triggered an evacuation south of Horsetooth Reservoir on Saturday.

Progress made on fighting Montana wildfires Tue, 25 Jul 2017 10:23:32 -0400 HELENA, Mont. (AP) — More favorable weather conditions have allowed firefighters to make some progress on trying to contain wildfires that have destroyed 16 homes in eastern Montana.

Firefighters say they have stopped most of the growth and gained 20 percent containment on the fires that were started last week by lightning.

They expect to make additional progress Tuesday because of lighter winds and slightly cooler temperatures.

The four fires burning in the same area have charred about 390 square miles that includes private farmland with scattered homes, a mix of rolling open land used for grazing and timber-choked river bottoms.

The fire complex is the largest of the blazes that are scorching Montana in the middle of a heatwave and drought conditions.

California governor to extend climate change bill 10 years Tue, 25 Jul 2017 10:21:13 -0400

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown is set to sign legislation Tuesday keeping alive California’s signature initiative to fight global warming, which puts a cap and a price on climate-changing emissions.

The Democratic governor will be joined by his celebrity predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who signed the 2006 bill that led to the creation of the nation’s only cap and trade system to reduce greenhouse gases in all industries.

The program has become closely watched around the world, promoted by Schwarzenegger and Brown alike a successful way to reduce emissions that hasn’t taken the steam out of California’s thriving economy.

Brown’s signature will add 10 years to the program, which had been scheduled to expire in 2020. It follows a frenetic push by Brown and his legislative allies to craft a plan that businesses and environmentalists would both find acceptable.

In the end, the extension was supported by a wide range of business and environmental groups that said it’s the most cost-effective way to combat climate change. But it met fierce opposition from environmental justice groups that said it’s riddled with giveaways to the oil industry, including too many free pollution permits.

Schwarzenegger signed a bill in 2006 that authorized state environmental regulators to create a cap and trade program, but the authorization would have expired in 2020 without action from lawmakers.

After the extension passed, Schwarzenegger highlighted the support from eight Republican lawmakers, saying they’ve shown that the GOP can get behind free-market solutions to climate change.

Schwarzenegger’s bill required the state to reduce its carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 — a target the state is on track to meet. Legislation approved last year set a new, much more aggressive goal to reduce emissions another 40 percent by 2030.

Cap and trade puts a limit on carbon emissions and requires polluters to obtain permits to release greenhouse gases. Some permits, known as allowances, are given away while others are auctioned, generating billions of dollars in revenue for the state. The money is a key funding source for a high-speed train between San Francisco and Los Angeles, one of Brown’s top priorities.

The governor’s office said he’ll sign separate legislation tied to the cap and trade extension later this week. That includes a bill that could give Republicans more say in spending the money and another to improve efforts to monitor and clean up the air around some of the dirtiest sources of pollution, such as oil refineries.

Committee updates wine research priorities Tue, 25 Jul 2017 10:11:53 -0400 Dan Wheat YAKIMA, Wash. — A research project shows wine grape quality doesn’t suffer when vineyards are pruned and thinned mechanically, but another year is needed to determine the effects on the wine that is produced.

The project is related to research priorities recently updated by the Washington State Wine Commission’s research advisory committee.

“A lot of growers use a mechanized pre-pruner that knocks off the big stuff and use hand crews to clean things up,” said Melissa Hansen, the commission’s research program manager.

The test is no hand touch at all, and so far there’s no difference in grape or juice composition from total mechanization, she said.

While vineyards producing grapes for the most premium wines can afford hand labor, this shows promise for mid-tier wine producers turning to greater mechanization as hand labor becomes higher-priced and harder to find, Hansen said.

The updated priority list, released July 21, includes a range of issues challenging the wine industry, including improving the efficiency of vineyard water use and working toward improving wine quality through fermentation management in the winery.

The committee used the results of an industry-wide survey to update the priorities which are categorized: fermentation management, aroma and flavor compounds, winery waste, viticulture production efficiency and profitability, pest control, climate impacts on site and viticulture, mechanization options, and emerging issues.

The survey was conducted in April. More than 150 respondents ranked research topics and provided research suggestions.

“The priorities help researchers submit relevant proposals that address the needs of industry,” Hansen said, adding the annual exercise helps ensure emerging issues are not overlooked.

The program’s current cycle, fiscal year 2018, began July 1 and funds $1,053,000 in research, up 20 percent from the previous year. The updated priorities are for fiscal year 2019, starting next July 1. Funding then may be higher or lower. It comes from the commission, the Washington State University Agriculture Research Center, a state liter tax collected on all wines sold in the state and from the nonprofit charitable organization, Auction of Washington Wines.

New tractor company targets small farm market Tue, 25 Jul 2017 09:47:27 -0400 Dan Wheat The manufacturer of a new, small tractor patterned after the Allis-Chalmers Model G of old is targeted at the small-scale farm market.

Horace Clemmons, a partner in CleBer LLC making the Oggun tractor in Fyffe, Ala., says he left IBM in 1983 and started a software company for computerized cash registers that used non-proprietary software.

Clemmons and his business partner, Saul Berenthal, a Cuban-born software entrepreneur, decided to do the same thing with small tractors after U.S. relations with Cuba eased in 2014.

The government there returned land in roughly 40-acre tracts to 300,000 family farms. Clemmons and Berenthal decided the best help would be affordable farm equipment.

They liked the open, simple design of the Allis-Chalmers Model G, of which 29,976 were built from 1948 to 1955 some 40 miles away from Fyffe in Gadsden, Ala.

With rear engines, drivers could see the ground ahead of them, and they were excellent for close cultivation in row crops. Their demise coincided with the growth of farms as bigger tractors were needed on bigger farms, Clemmons said.

The Oggun coincides with the local food movement, where regional farming can be applied globally and solve global food supply issues that will grow as the world’s population does, he said.

“We know we will be successful manufacturing tractors, but it’s not about that but changing the entire business model,” Clemmons said.

He envisions the Oggun, named for the god of metal works in the Santeria religion in Cuba, as a starting point for other countries manufacturing as much of their own farm equipment as possible to help their economies.

The Oggun is built with off-the-shelf non-proprietary components for easy parts replacement. The 19-horsepower gas model sells for $12,500, weighs 1,720 pounds, is 123 inches long and has a ground clearance of 17 inches. A diesel version is $15,500.

Production started in December. Since January CleBer has sold 60 tractors in 18 states, six countries and to eight land-grant universities, Clemmons said.

Seven have been sold to small farmers in Oregon and Washington, and the company donated a prototype to Oregon State University, said Locky Catron, a CleBer partner.

Most have been sold in Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Minnesota and New England because they have the most small farms, Clemmons said.

Reward offered in shooting of Oregon bald eagle Tue, 25 Jul 2017 09:11:20 -0400 Eric Mortenson Capital Press

PORTLAND — Rewards totaling $7,500 are offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person who shot a bald eagle near Gaston, Ore., in late June.

The eagle was captured by an Oregon State Police trooper June 28 and taken to the Portland Audubon’s wildlife rehabilitation center in Portland. It had been reported injured the previous week but was still able to fly at the point and wasn’t caught. The trooper later returned to the area and caught the eagle after following it through brush, a marsh and into a field. The bird was found near Old Highway 47 and Looking Glass Drive north of Gaston, a small community southwest of Portland.

The male eagle appears to have been shot in its right shoulder. The bird is in a rehabilitation flight cage at the care center; its longterm prognosis is not known at this point, a center spokeswoman said.

Although no longer on the endangered species list, bald eagles remain protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. It’s illegal to hunt, capture, injure or kill them. The crime is punishable by up to a $5,000 fine and a year in jail.

The Animal League Defense Fund has posted a $5,000 reward in the case, and Portland Audubon added $1,500 to the fund. In addition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is offering a $1,000 reward.

Anyone with information should contact USFWS at 503-682-6131 or Oregon State Police at 800-452-7888.

Nominations sought for San Joaquin Ag Hall of Fame Tue, 25 Jul 2017 08:23:43 -0400 STOCKTON, Calif. — The San Joaquin County Agricultural Hall of Fame is seeking nominations for outstanding agricultural leaders and local mentors.

Now in their 33rd year, the Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce-sponsored awards recognize those who have contributed to agriculture and to the community in significant ways. Awards are given to at least three living recipients as well as posthumous ones.

All those previously recognized in the Hall of Fame have their pictures and biographies on display at the San Joaquin Historical Society and Museum and in the lobby of the Robert J. Cabral Agricultural Center.

Nominations are requested by 3 p.m. Aug. 11. For information, contact Timm Quinn at (209) 292-8423 or visit

U.S. cattle inventory hits nine-year high Tue, 25 Jul 2017 07:09:13 -0400 Carol Ryan Dumas While the beef cow herd shows the industry is continuing herd expansion, replacement heifer numbers suggest that heifer retention is slowing and expansion is winding down.

Beef and dairy cattle and calves in the U.S. on July 1 totaled 103 million, 4 percent higher than July 1, 2015. The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service suspended the mid-year inventory report in 2016 and 2013, but the most recent July 1 inventory count is the highest since 2008.

The higher count was expected, considering herd expansion efforts since 2014. Without a 2016 mid-year report, there were no comparisons but looking at the last two years, the numbers clearly show significant growth in the total herd and in the beef cow herd in particular, said Derrell Peel, Oklahoma State University extension livestock marketing specialist.

At 32.5 million, the number of beef cows, including heifers that have calved, is 7 percent above the 2015 mid-year count. And the ratio of the July beef cow inventory to the January level (104 percent) is the highest since 1993, during the last full-blown herd expansion, he said.

Compared with historical data, “that’s a big enough ratio to confirm we are still expanding the cow herd this year,” he said.

The data on replacement heifers are a little harder to interpret, but the numbers are quite a bit smaller in this report, suggesting heifer retention is slowing, he said.

Beef replacement heifers on July 1 were down 2 percent from July 2015, and the ratio of those heifers to January’s count is the lowest in the data series, he said.

It’s harder to see a cyclical effect in replacement heifer ratios than in beef cow ratios, but the July to January ratio is 73 percent, compared with a long-term average of 89 percent, he said.

In addition, heifer slaughter is up 11 percent thus far in 2017, and the number of heifers on feed was up 11 percent in the 2nd quarter of this year.

“All those things together would seem to suggest we’re not saving heifers as aggressively as we have,” he said.

The 2017 calf crop is expected to be 36.3 million head, up 3 percent from 2016 and up 6 percent from 2015, USDA reported.

“It’s just part of the story of ongoing herd expansion. We expected it would be bigger,” Peel said.

That means more feeder cattle supplies and increased beef production for another couple of years, he said.

The estimated feeder cattle supply outside of feedlots is 37 million head, 5 percent above the 35.4 million head on July 1, 2015, USDA said.

UC-Davis beekeepers’ conference to cover changes in industry Tue, 25 Jul 2017 07:08:33 -0400 DAVIS, Calif. — Changes and advances in beekeeping will be highlighted in a conference for bee producers Sept. 5-8 at the University of California-Davis.

Early registration for the Western Apicultural Society’s 40th annual conference costs $175 and will be taken through July 31. After that, sign-ups for the entire conference will cost $225, while a single-day registration is offered for $60.

The nonprofit WAS represents mainly small-scale beekeepers in the western portion of North America, many of whom will gather to hear the latest in science and technology pertaining to their industry and how to keep their bees healthy, a news release explained.

At the conference, Bee Culture magazine editor Kim Flotton will address “The Rapidly Changing Bee Scene”; beekeeper and author Les Crowder will discuss managing honey bees in top bar hives; and bee expert Larry Connor will cover “Keeping Your Bees Alive and Growing”.

“The beekeeping and honey industries are, and have been, extremely volatile,” Flottum said in the release. “That’s what happens when you have animals, the weather, government and humans in the mix.”

His presentation will include “what’s going on at the moment that beekeepers should be aware of, and more importantly, what to expect in the near and not so near future” that will affect the industry, he said.

Some sessions will be held outdoors at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility and the adjacent Haagen Dazs Bee Haven, a bee-friendly garden sponsored by UC-Davis’ Department of Entomology and Nematology.

For information or to register, visit .

Delta tunnels project reaches key milestone as opponents may sue Tue, 25 Jul 2017 07:06:25 -0400 Tim Hearden SACRAMENTO — The state has reached a key milestone in its $15.7 billion proposal to build tunnel bypasses around the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta as an environmental group is threatening to sue to stop it.

The twin tunnels, both 40 feet in diameter and 35 miles long, would be California’s most ambitious water project since the 1950s and 1960s. The project would enable Sacramento River water to be sent directly to southern and central California farms and cities, bypassing the Delta.

California’s Department of Water Resources on July 21 certified that environmental reviews for the project, dubbed California WaterFix, meets all requirements under the state’s Environmental Quality Act.

The “notice of determination” is a key step as water districts approach key decision points this fall, contractors said. Construction could begin as early as 2018, DWR officials said.

“We’re pleased to be one step closer to a reliable water system that will protect water for agriculture and millions of Californians, and support a healthier environment,” Jennifer Pierre, general manager of the State Water Contractors, said in a statement.

But Barbara Barrigan-Parilla, executive director of the organization Restore the Delta, said the plan is “deeply flawed” in that it would not create water supply reliability amid a period of increased and prolonged droughts but will saddle ratepayers with up to 75 years of debt.

Restore the Delta has long been an opponent of Gov. Jerry Brown’s twin tunnels proposal, and the organization is working with other environmental groups and parties in the Delta region to prepare litigation, its leaders said.

Barrigan-Parilla would not say where the lawsuit would be filed or what it would allege.

“We always hope for the best and prepare for the worst,” she told the Capital Press, “so that work is being done right now.”

The state’s notice was signed by acting DWR director Cindy Messer and filed with the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research. It follows recent federal biological opinions that state the project is consistent with environmental and wildlife protection laws.

DWR officials say they screened more than 100 proposals before analyzing 18 alternatives in depth in the 50,000-page final environmental impact report, which was certified July 21. Changes were made to shrink the project’s footprint and minimize impacts to Delta landowners, officials said.

In addition to the certification, the DWR filed a “validation action” with the Sacramento County Superior Court to affirm the agency’s authority to issue revenue bonds to finance the project.

Meanwhile, the DWR and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation have been involved in proceedings before the State Water Resources Control Board to change the point of diversion for the state and federal water projects.

Supporters say the project would mean more reliable water for nearly 4 million acres of farmland south of the Delta as well as urban residents in Southern California and parts of the San Francisco Bay area.

Opponents argue the project would devastate the Delta’s agriculture, as well as its historic towns and native species. Delta growers have told the Capital Press the project would take land in its path out of production and worsen water quality throughout the region.

The proposed tunnels are a key agenda item for Brown, who has made a solution to many of the Delta’s water quality woes a focus of his administration. The governor’s fourth term runs through 2018.

Sugar beet growers battle glyphosate-resistant kochia Tue, 25 Jul 2017 07:04:38 -0400 Sean Ellis ONTARIO, Ore. — Kochia weeds that are resistant to the Roundup herbicide can now be found in sugar beet fields throughout Malheur County in Eastern Oregon and parts of Canyon County in southwestern Idaho.

Weed scientists worry it’s a matter of time before they’re abundant in sugar beet fields throughout southcentral Idaho as well.

Virtually all of the 180,000 acres of sugar beets grown in the region are genetically engineered to resist applications of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, the popular weed killer produced by Monsanto Corp.

Glyphosate-resistant kochia weeds were first detected in Eastern Oregon and Southern Idaho in 2014 and weed scientists had initially hoped their numbers would remain small.

“In Malheur County in the Treasure Valley, it’s pretty much all over the place,” said Joel Felix, an Oregon State University weed scientist in Ontario. “And we know it’s in Canyon County across the river (in Idaho).”

While glyphosate-tolerant kochia weeds have been found in southcentral Idaho, they aren’t widespread there yet, said Don Morishita, a University of Idaho weed scientist in Kimberly.

However, he added, “I’m waiting for it to start showing up in great numbers here, too. I’m expecting that.”

Felix said kochia is a tumbleweed and he believes some of the glyphosate-tolerant weeds are detaching from fence lines or along field edges and dropping seed as they tumble through sugar beet fields.

“Taking care of fence lines and edges of fields should be a priority to keep kochia from tumbling into fields,” he said.

Idaho and Oregon farmers have been growing GE sugar beets for 12 seasons now and Snake River Sugar Cooperative officials estimate they save Idaho and eastern Oregon growers $22 million a year.

Rupert farmer Duane Grant, chairman of the coop’s board of directors, said kochia weeds are a major challenge in sugar beet production because they are a fierce competitor for sunlight, nutrients and water.

“They must be controlled. If not, they would take the yield in the field below the point anybody would want to grow the crop,” he said. “To the extent kochia is becoming resistant to Roundup, we will as a grower community have to find solutions.”

One solution being developed is an effort by Monsanto and KWS Saat Research, a plant breeding company headquartered in Germany, to develop a genetically engineered sugar beet that is resistant to both glyphosate and dicamba, another popular herbicide.

Incorporating both traits into sugar beets should prevent the proliferation of herbicide-resistant weeds because it’s unlikely a weed would be resistant to both modes of action, a KWS research scientist told sugar beet growers in Idaho in December 2015.

The technology is a couple of years away from being introduced to sugar beet growers, Grant said.

“That really should mitigate the effects of glyphosate resistance in kochia weeds,” he said. “We can hopefully hold them to an economic threshold and persevere until the next set of tools arrive.”

National Milk welcomes improvements to MPP Mon, 24 Jul 2017 08:04:44 -0400 Carol Ryan Dumas The Senate Appropriations Committee on July 20 approved its fiscal year agricultural appropriations bill containing improvements to the Margin Protection Plan for dairy producers.

The plan provides participants coverage when the national margin, the difference between the all-milk price and average feed costs, falls below $4 per hundredweight.

The program has lost favor with producers, who say it’s failed to perform despite collapsed milk prices and severely negative margins. Most of the blame is aimed at USDA’s feed costs calculation, which producers say is too low and doesn’t reflect reality.

National Milk Producers Federation, which developed the program in response to catastrophic losses in 2009, is aware of their frustration and is pushing for changes to the program in the next farm bill.

Enhancements in the Senate committee’s bill are a major step in the right direction, said Jim Mulhern, NMPF president and CEO.

The bill lowers premiums for insured margins for the first 5 million pounds of milk a producer insures and raises the threshold for free coverage on that first 5 million pounds from a margin of $4 per hundredweight to $5.

“By making the dairy safety net program more affordable, this legislation will ensure that more farmers have access to better protection against catastrophic losses, like those we experienced in 2009 an 20012,” Mulhern said.

While 5 million pounds represents production from about 225 cows, the lower premiums on the first 5 million pounds of production apply to all farms all sizes, said Chris Galen, NMPF senior vice president of communications.

“The measure will make insurance coverage for all dairy farmers more affordable,” he said.

The bill would also change USDA’s margin calculation from a two-month average to a monthly calculation. Under the current program, the margin could fall below a producer’s coverage level in one month but be above it the other month in one of the six pay periods. That could result in a two-month average above his coverage level and not generate a payout.

The changes address critical shortcomings in the dairy safety net that would strengthen the program and help pave the way for additional necessary improvements in the upcoming farm bill, Mulhern said.

Minority committee leaders said the updates will improve the program’s effectiveness and offer greater incentives to farmers to participate in the insurance program and select higher, more meaningful levels of protection.

Annual premiums for coverage of 90 percent of production at a margin level of $6.50 per hundredweight, for example, would go from $1,594 to $761 for an average 100-cow dairy; from $21,504 to $17,154 for a 500-cow dairy; and from $56,313 to $51,963 for a 1,000-cow dairy.

NMPF is still working on changes to improve the MPP program, such as adjustments to USDA’s national feed cost calculation. But the committee’s provisions are a great start, Galen said.

Hopefully, it will make coverage better and cheaper, and the additional revenue being added for the lower premiums will increase the federal baseline for spending on the farm bill dairy title. That would make requests for additional changes less costly.

While the committee’s provisions don’t resolve all the problems with MPP, enacting the changes will be a major help, Mulhern said.

Canadian Agriculture Minister urges caution in NAFTA talks Mon, 24 Jul 2017 16:32:36 -0400 Mateusz Perkowski PORTLAND — Canada’s Minister of Agriculture, Lawrence MacAulay, said he’s amenable to negotiations over the North American Free Trade Agreement but hopes the talks proceed with caution.

“It’s put a lot of money in the farmers’ pockets in the U.S. and Canada, so let’s be sure to continue down that path,” MacAulay said. “If you’re going to fix something that’s in good shape, be careful.”

MacAulay stopped in Portland July 24 for the annual summit of the Pacific Northwest Economic Region, a non-profit created by five American states and five Canadian provinces.

NAFTA is top of mind in agriculture these days, with negotiations over the agreement between the U.S., Canada and Mexico set to begin Aug. 16-20 in Washington, D.C.

After meeting with USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, MacAulay sees an ally who’s also supportive of the strong trade relationship between the U.S. and Canada.

Whether Perdue will be able to influence NAFTA’s renegotiation, however, is a subject about which MacAuley said he’d prefer not to speculate.

In late April, it appeared the President Donald Trump was ready to pull out of NAFTA, until Perdue and other pro-trade agriculture groups convinced him to revisit the deal rather than withdraw entirely.

In outlining the Trump administration’s objectives in the NAFTA discussions, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer specifically pointed to “market access issues” related to trade with Canada in grain, dairy and wine that the current deal “is unequipped to address.”

Under the Trump administration, the U.S. Commerce Department also recently imposed tariffs of roughly 4.6 to 7.7 percent on Canadian softwood lumber shipments that the agency determined were sold at less-than-fair-market value.

MacAulay was tight-lipped on the role that agricultural goods will play in the upcoming negotiations, saying it would be inappropriate to guess about potential points of contention before the talks are underway.

“We have to see what is put forward before we discuss it,” he said.

However, MacAulay said the supply management system for farm products — which has stirred trouble with the U.S. dairy industry — continues to be favored by Canadian farmers and the nation’s government.

“Supply management has been in place for many years and it’s working well,” he said.

Growers in the U.S. and Canada have prospered from free trade and both countries are keen on technological progress, MacAulay said.

“Farmers were always innovators from the day it started,” he said.

Since NAFTA was enacted, U.S. exports of agricultural products to Canada and Mexico have grown from less than $9 billion to more than $38 billion last year. Meanwhile, farm exports from those trading partners into the U.S. increased from $7.4 billion to $44.5 billion.

Trade between the U.S. and Canada works best when regulations are based on science, which should be emulated by other countries in the world, MacAulay said.

Before entering politics nearly 30 years ago, McAulay himself raised seed potatoes and dairy cows in Prince Edward Island, a province northeast of Maine.

Though he’s sold off the dairy herd and leased his acreage to other growers, McAulay still lives in the same house in which he was born.

Washington falling number funding request progressing Mon, 24 Jul 2017 12:06:11 -0400 Matw Weaver Washington wheat farmers’ request for money to fund research for falling numbers is progressing in Washington, D.C., the state association executive director says.

Washington Association of Wheat Growers representatives flew in to Washington, D.C., the week of July 17 to meet with legislators and representatives of USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Risk Management Agency and the Department of the Interior.

“It was probably one of the best trips that I’ve been on for advocacy,” said Michelle Hennings, executive director of WAWG.

The wheat growers’ appropriations request for $1 million from USDA ARS to study the accuracy of the falling number test survived House and Senate agriculture committee markups, but still must go through other steps in the budget process.

“This is a big win for wheat,” Hennings said. “We just need to keep advocating. We are being heard but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep going over there.”

WAWG’s request for $2 million in National Institute of Food and Agriculture and Agriculture and Food Research Initiative grants to study quality loss in soft white wheat went through House appropriations. The request is advancing, Hennings said.

Washington Department of Agriculture Director Derek Sandison also attended WAWG’s meetings, advocating for funding to conduct falling number research.

Hennings said she hasn’t heard any instances of falling number problems this year, but it’s still very early in the harvest season.

“We’re crossing our fingers that hopefully this year farmers will not have to deal with that devastating factor,” she said.

WAWG emphasized trade, crop insurance, research and conservation during meetings with decision makers.

The organization met with Ray Starling, special assistant to President Donald Trump for agriculture, trade and food assistance.

Sarling told WAWG members that the Trump administration understands trade for agriculture, Hennings said.

Washington State University President Kirk Schulz attended the meeting, Hennings said.

“It shows (decision makers) how much we use WSU for our research and how important these funds are so they can help us prevent wheat quality issues,” Hennings said.

WAWG is inviting U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to visit the Pacific Northwest in the fall. Hennings hopes to convey the importance of the various wheat varieties grown and of the region’s port system for shipping grain overseas and to the Midwest.

WAWG will next fly in to Washington, D.C. in September, alongside National Association of Wheat Growers representatives. Hennings said the organization intends to be in D.C., “quite often,” speaking with legislators about Farm Bill priorities.

“This is a very important time for us to get our message out,” she said. “We’ve been there with good timing, and I think that has made a big difference.”

Water plentiful in Eastern Oregon, southwestern Idaho Mon, 24 Jul 2017 13:23:14 -0400 Sean Ellis BOISE — Many reservoirs in southwestern Idaho and Eastern Oregon are still close to 90 percent full, despite a brutal July heat spell that has kept high temperatures near or above 100 degrees the entire month.

Irrigators who get their water from the Boise Project Board of Control get by on natural flow in the Boise River until the amount of water leaving the river’s reservoir system exceeds the amount entering.

Then the project starts using water stored in the system’s three reservoirs and sets an allotment for how much water irrigators can receive from the reservoir system. That didn’t happen until July 14 this year, well beyond the normal June time-frame for that switch.

The BPBC set its 2017 allotment at 2.45 acre-feet, which is slightly less than the 2.6 acre-foot allotment in 2016.

However, the project only got by on natural flow until June 15 last year and that means some farmers, such as Drew Eggers of Meridian, will end up receiving all the water they need this year.

Eggers said he used about 3 acre-feet of water for his mint crop before the allotment was set and he probably won’t need to use all the water he is entitled to this year.

“We’re having a good water year,” he said. “I’ll have enough water to finish the crop and water the mint back up after harvest.”

The water outlook is just as good for the 1,800 farms in Eastern Oregon and part of southwestern Idaho that receive their irrigation water from the Owyhee Reservoir.

The reservoir, which supplies water to 118,000 acres, is 86 percent full.

That’s quite a switch from many of the previous five years, when the reservoir was almost tapped out at this date and irrigators received as little as a third of their full 4 acre-foot allotment.

“It’s unbelievable,” Owyhee Irrigation District Manager Jay Chamberlin said about the difference. “It’s almost the complete opposite.”

Chamberlin said the reservoir is enjoying one of its top five water supply years in its 82-year history and it’s possible water managers will run water later into October this year to help farmers finish off their crops.

“It will be nice to help them on the tail end because for four or five years, they’ve been short on the tail end,” he said.

Irrigators on the Weiser River system are also sitting good this year in terms of water supply and the system will likely carry over a decent amount of reservoir storage water into next season, said watermaster Brandi Horton.

“It’s definitely one of the better (waster supplies) we’ve seen in several years,” she said.

The Payette River system didn’t enjoy the same type of near-record snowpack that other basins in the region did this winter but its snow pack was above normal and irrigators can expect a good water supply this year, said watermaster Ron Shurtleff.

“We’re in fine shape. We’ll have plenty of water this year,” he said.

Interior pick on track for Senate approval despite lobbying Mon, 24 Jul 2017 10:41:02 -0400 MATTHEW DALY WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats and environmental groups are criticizing President Donald Trump’s nominee for the No. 2 position at the Interior Department, arguing that David Bernhardt has continued to advise a California water district even after he withdrew his formal registration as a lobbyist last year.

His nomination flies in the face of Trump’s pledge to “drain the swamp” in Washington of influence peddlers, said Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.

“I’m afraid he’s not draining the swamp. He’s actually helping to fill it,” Cantwell said.

The Senate is scheduled to vote Monday night on the nomination of Bernhardt, a lawyer and Interior official under President George W. Bush. If confirmed, as expected in the Republican-led Senate, Bernhardt would serve as the top deputy to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

The League of Conservation Voters and other environmental and watchdog groups have urged senators to oppose Bernhardt’s nomination, saying he has long lobbied for the oil and gas industry, mining companies and other businesses regulated by Interior.

“Bernhardt’s list of conflicts of interest is extensive and should disqualify him from this position,” 150 groups said in a letter to senators in May.

Spokeswoman Heather Swift said Zinke was “excited to have David Bernhardt, a highly qualified, veteran official, return to the department to help advance ‘America First’ policy priorities” set by Trump.

“Strongly worded press releases issued by special interest groups alleging any wrongdoing are patently false and are desperate attempts to stop the progress that is being made at the department on behalf of the American people,” Swift said.

Cantwell and other critics said they were concerned over media reports that Bernhardt was working for the Westlands Water District, the nation’s largest irrigation district, at the same time he was serving on the Trump transition team. Bernhardt’s law firm represented Westlands in four lawsuits against Interior.

At a confirmation hearing in May, Bernhardt told Cantwell he would recuse himself from matters involving Westlands and other clients for at least a year, unless he receives authorization to do so.

“If I get a whiff of something coming my way that involves a client or former client for my firm, I’m going to ... run straight to the ethics office,” Bernhardt said.

Cantwell was unimpressed.

“I remain concerned about his record on behalf of these corporations at the expense of the environment, his tenure at the Department of the Interior and many other challenges,” she said on the Senate floor last week.

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said he will oppose Bernhardt because of his refusal to support a moratorium on oil drilling off the Florida coast in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico.

“When it comes to the eastern Gulf, there is no good way to increase offshore production while balancing environmental concerns,” Nelson said, noting that the 2010 BP oil spill fouled the gulf region for years and continues to cause problems.

Nelson helped pass a congressional ban on oil drilling 125 miles off Florida’s coast more than a decade ago. The ban is set to expire in 2022 and a number of congressional Republicans and industry groups are in favor of ending it.

Trump signed an executive order in April to expand oil drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, reversing restrictions imposed by President Barack Obama. Zinke has also ordered a review of a five-year offshore drilling plan to boost production.

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., urged support for Bernhardt, a Colorado native who served as solicitor, Interior’s chief legal officer, during the Bush administration.

Bernhardt, a longtime friend, “is a strong voice for the West and extremely well-qualified to be deputy secretary,” Gardner said.

Evacuations ordered near wildfire in northeast Washington Mon, 24 Jul 2017 10:36:02 -0400 HUNTERS, Wash. (AP) — People living near a wildfire in northeast Washington state have been ordered to evacuate.

The Spokesman-Review reports the fire was reported at about 7:15 p.m. Sunday, according to Jill Jones of the Northeast Washington Interagency Communications Center.

Jones says the fire covered 50 acres near Hunters, Washington on Sunday and grew overnight to about 200 acres.

Residents living near Bissell Road were told to leave the area immediately.

Jones says power outages in the area were complicating matters. About 927 customers along Highway 25, including the town of Hunters, are without power.

Power was lost when the fire burned power poles in the area.

The Red Cross set up an emergency shelter at Columbia School late Sunday night.

Crews stop spread of huge California wildfire near Yosemite Mon, 24 Jul 2017 10:34:15 -0400

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Crews contending with triple-digit temperatures slowed the spread of an aggressive wildfire that destroyed dozens of homes in a rural area of California near Yosemite National Park, officials said Sunday.

The blaze burning for a week has scorched just over 119 square miles of dense brush and dead trees in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Many evacuated residents were allowed to return, but flames continue to threaten about 1,500 homes in Mariposa County.

The fire was 45 percent contained, but officials said it could take crews another two weeks to fully surround it.

“They are still out in front of an uncontrolled fire, but the fire isn’t moving at 30 mph. The fire is crawling along,” fire spokesman Brandon Vaccaro said Saturday. Flames spared Mariposa, a historic Gold Rush-era town, but more than 130 buildings, including 63 homes, were destroyed.

More than 5,000 firefighters fought the blaze using air tankers and fleets of helicopters and bulldozers.

The fire grew by up to 47 square miles a day at its peak. But by the weekend, the growth rate was slowed despite dry, blistering weather, Vaccaro said.

The smoke blurred the scenic vistas of Yosemite National Park, about 35 miles west of the fire. Tourists expecting the grandeur of falls and granite peaks instead saw hazy gray silhouettes.

Some roads remained closed. But Mariposa, with a population of about 2,000, was coming back to life.

Steve Valdez was back at work Saturday at a hardware store despite losing his home of 17 years to the fire.

“There are people out there who depend upon us to get power, to get water, to get their equipment fixed,” he said.

Valdez, 60, and his wife had 20 minutes to grab a few photographs, bills and some family Bibles before they fled the encroaching flames. When they returned, only the home’s chimney was still standing. They plan to rebuild.

The fire was one of more than a dozen that have ravaged California in recent weeks.

To the south, officials have finally lifted all remaining evacuations in a stubborn fire burning for more than two weeks in the mountains of Santa Barbara County. The blaze, which destroyed 16 homes, is 87 percent and hasn’t grown in size for several days.

Punishing drought takes toll on crops across Northern Plains Mon, 24 Jul 2017 10:29:38 -0400 BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A punishing drought that stretches across much of the U.S. Northern Plains could cause farmers to lose 64 million bushels of wheat production this year, according to federal officials.

That dire projection comes as northeast Montana experiences the worst drought in the country, with similar dry conditions in neighboring North Dakota and South Dakota. The federal government has declared numerous counties in the three-state region to be disaster areas and authorized haying and grazing on land meant for conservation to help alleviate the conditions.

Federal agriculture officials have labeled as poor or very poor more than half of Montana’s 2017 crops of spring wheat, lentils and durum. Combined, the three crops were valued at more than $600 million in 2016.

A scant 1.2 inches of rain have been recorded since April 1 in the small town of Nashua on the edge of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation.

Ranchers also will lose in this drought, said Ed Hinton, an auctioneer who drives down from Scobey for the weekly sale at the Glasgow Stockyards. Ranchers turn up every Thursday to sell off an animal or two, usually a heifer who didn’t get pregnant, or a belligerent steer not worth the trouble, or the hay now selling for $180 a ton.

There’s nothing like crop insurance for livestock. In times of drought, the U.S. Department of Agriculture opens up grasslands previously off limits for conservation. After that, there’s low interest loans.

The Thursday sale the week before the Fourth of July brought a thousand cattle to the stockyards, Hinton said, at a time of year when a few hundred cattle at a sale is respectable.