Capital Press | Capital Press Fri, 6 May 2016 15:43:52 -0400 en Capital Press | April Oregon heat produced dramatic snowmelt Fri, 6 May 2016 14:27:09 -0400 Eric Mortenson PORTLAND — Where did Oregon’s snow go? April’s heatwave was so intense that nine automated snow monitoring sites recorded the most dramatic April snowmelt on record.

Among monitoring sites that typically have snow on May 1, 75 percent lost between 3 and 4 feet of snow in the month, according to the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The early runoff helped fill reservoirs around the state, but means streamflows will be below normal this spring and summer, especially in Southern and southeastern Oregon, the NRCS reported in its May water supply bulletin.

“Once the snow is gone, streams will be at the whim of temperatures and spring rainfall,” the NRCS’s Portland snow survey team reported. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center said the state can expect above normal temperatures for the next three months, although with above normal rain in Southern Oregon.

The rapid melt adds to a wacky water year. Much of the Pacific Northwest received normal to above average rain or snow last fall and winter, and by the end of March the snowpack was above average in many areas. April changed that.

“This year highlights not only the importance of peak snowpack quantity, but also the importance of the rate, timing and amount of snowmelt,” the NRCS said in its Oregon report. “These snowmelt characteristics are arguably as important as peak snowpack amount in shaping how streamflow is distributed throughout the spring and summer.”

Normally, melting snow feeds streams at a slower pace that sustains the water supply later into summer, the NRCS said.

Spring rains will be come more important factors than usual, the agency said.

“If plentiful, it could help delay irrigation demand and increase reservoir storage, potentially offsetting or buffering the impacts of early snowmelt,” the agency’s snow survey team concluded.

Cattle group’s suit says beef checkoff violates First Amendment Fri, 6 May 2016 11:36:56 -0400 John O’Connell BILLINGS, Mont. — A cattle organization based here has filed a First Amendment lawsuit against USDA seeking to block beef checkoff fee collections on behalf of the Montana Beef Council, arguing members have been compelled to fund speech contrary to their best interests.

Bill Bullard, CEO of the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America, said the lawsuit, filed May 2 in U.S. District Court in Great Falls, Mont., is a test case, and similar lawsuits will follow in other state if it’s successful.

R-CALF’s suit alleges that the council’s promotions have generically highlighted the benefits of beef, treating foreign beef as equivalent to U.S. beef, though many in the cattle industry would prefer to emphasize the superiority of domestic beef.

“It contradicts the message our members, through voluntary dues to R-CALF, have been disseminating,” Bullard said. “That message is, ‘Demand U.S. beef.’”

Chaley Harney, with the Montana Beef Council, said her organization is reviewing the case and declined to comment on pending litigation. Todd Johnson, vice president of federation services with National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said his organization is still reviewing the case, and it would be premature to comment.

In defending beef councils, Will Wise, CEO of Oregon Beef Council, said his organization doesn’t specifically promote U.S. beef but serves the interests of local producers through research to address their needs, foreign market development and by promoting Oregon companies.

Beef producers pay a $1 assessment per head for research and promotion — half goes to the national program, which is administered by USDA, and half is returned to state beef councils.

Bullard acknowledges national promotions — such as NCBA’s “Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner” campaign — are considered government speech and can’t legally endorse a brand.

But the Montana Beef Council is unaffiliated with the government, he said. Nonetheless, the state council’s promotions have also extolled beef as a generic commodity, Bullard said.

The lawsuit references the council’s partnership with the fast-food chain Wendy’s, promoting a hamburger made with beef from North America, and a promotion to get Montana State University football fans to “eat more beef.”

Bullard said standards on veterinary care and food safety of foreign meat imported into the U.S., which accounts for 18 percent of the domestic supply, were relaxed in the mid-1990s, placing U.S. producers at an economic disadvantage.

“Our argument is we should not be compelled to pay for private speech espousing a message that is contrary to our interests,” Bullard said.

Thought details in the suit are specific to Montana, Bullard emphasized it asks the court to block checkoff fee funding to beef council’s nationwide, leaving the door open for the ruling to be more broadly applied.

David Hudson, a Vanderbilt University law professor and a scholar with the First Amendment Center, believes R-CALF’s suit “may have legs.”

“It depends on whether the program is considered permissible government speech or whether it is unconstitutional compulsion of private speakers,” Hudson said.

Hudson cited a 2001 U.S. Supreme Court case in which mushroom growers prevailed in arguing their assessment violated their First Amendment rights.

According to R-CALF’s lawsuit, the checkoff fee sends about $40 million per year to state beef council’s, of which the Montana Beef Council receives about $870,000.

Bullard believes beef labeled as a product of the U.S. brings a premium, but he acknowledges capitalizing on it is more difficult since Congress repealed mandatory country-of-origin labeling on beef last fall. His organization is encouraging consumers to demand that packers label country of origin voluntarily.

Opponents of COOL, including NCBA, raised concerns about Mexico and Canada threatening retaliatory tariffs on a host of U.S. products if it were left in place.

Idaho Supreme Court candidates tout ag experience Fri, 6 May 2016 11:23:02 -0400 John O’Connell BOISE — The four candidates running for an open seat on the Idaho Supreme Court are all touting their strong backgrounds in agricultural issues.

The election to replace retiring Chief Justice Jim Jones will be May 17.

Two of the candidates — Twin Falls attorney Robyn Brody and Idaho Deputy Attorney General and Natural Resources Division Chief Clive Strong — have played roles in some of the state’s landmark water decisions.

Attorney Curt McKenzie, a Republican state legislator from Nampa, has the endorsement of Idaho Farm Bureau Federation for a voting record the organization considers strong on private property rights. The only sitting judge of the group, Idaho Court of Appeals Judge Sergio Gutierrez, has been an advocate for farm worker rights.

Though candidates are limited in discussing issues in detail that could potentially come before the Supreme Court, both Brody and Strong spoke on their backgrounds before the Committee of Nine — a powerful group of state water managers.

From a water perspective, Idaho Ground Water Appropriators, Inc., Executive Director Lynn Tominaga believes the election is vital for farmers and the future of the state’s economy.

“You need somebody who understands that water is a limited resource and needs to be managed,” Tominaga said.

He noted that Jones authored the majority opinion on a recent 3-2 ruling in the Rangen, Inc., water call, which reaffirmed the validity of using a so-called trim line to confine water calls only to areas where a significant amount of water stands to reach a senior user from curtailment of a junior user. The minority opinion emphasized the importance of the Idaho water law provision “first in time, first in right.”

For the past five years, Brody has represented Rangen, a Hagerman trout farm that prevailed in its call against junior well users, arguing their consumption contributed to declines of Rangen’s spring.

“I completely understand the importance of water to Southern Idaho and what it means to our community and state,” Brody said.

Brody, who obtained her law degree from University of Denver, has litigated several agricultural cases. Her first case before the Idaho Supreme Court was a water case involving two trout farms.

Strong has worked in the Attorney General’s Office for 33 years and helped water users reach the monumental Swan Falls Agreement in 1984, establishing minimum flows for Idaho Power hydroelectric production and setting the stage for the Snake River Basin Adjudication. Strong also helped members of the Surface Water Coalition reach a settlement last summer with IGWA to stabilize the aquifer, and his campaign has been endorsed by both IGWA attorney Randy Budge and the coalition’s attorney, John Simpson.

“My career has been trying to find settlements that resolve some of these complex problems,” Strong said.

Steve Howser, general manager of Aberdeen-Springfield Canal Co., has also endorsed Strong, believing the state needs a water law expert who has “pretty much been involved in every major water decision” to replace Jones.

McKenzie said he’s aided farmers in the Legislature by carrying various bills, including one requiring state agencies to carefully analyze how regulations may detract from the economic value of private property. McKenzie, whose law degree is from Georgetown University, has support from Treasure Valley canal companies. Idaho Farm Bureau spokesman Russ Hendricks said his organization was comfortable endorsing McKenzie based on his voting record.

“He’s been a strong supporter of private property rights, the Second Amendment, the Priority Doctrine for state water rights and the state maintaining sovereignty of Idaho water,” Hendricks said.

Gutierrez initially planned to be a bilingual teacher but pursued a career in the law based on his experiences working with farm laborers through an Idaho Legal Aid Services program. He obtained a law degree from University of California, believing he could better help farm workers access their rights, and returned to work as a staff attorney for Legal Aid’s farm worker division.

“It was a turning point in my life,” Gutierrez said.

As a judge, Gutierrez said he’s aimed to help youths and families.

Plentiful navel orange harvest begins to wind down Fri, 6 May 2016 10:59:32 -0400 Tim Hearden The harvest of navel oranges in the San Joaquin Valley is entering its home stretch, and growers say they’re picking an more abundant crop than expected.

Consistently large oranges could help the industry surpass the 86 million cartons the National Agricultural Statistics Service predicted for the 2015-16 season, said Bob Blakely, vice president of the Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual.

“It’s been picking out heavy,” Blakely said. “We didn’t have any real slowdowns so the fruit continued to grow. There was some inside fruit they didn’t know about when they did their estimates.”

As it is, an 86-million carton haul would be a more than 8 percent increase from last year’s 76 million cartons harvested and would come with at least 2,000 fewer acres of bearing trees in the ground.

Growers have said all season that this year’s navels are larger and have a better fruit set in most groves, as warm temperatures last summer bolstered the oranges’ sugar content and winter rains helped the fruit gain in size.

The industry withstood several hard freezes in December, and Citrus Mutual noted that early-season cold snaps actually help navel oranges develop color and flavor.

Utilization rates — the amount of fruit that’s sold as fresh and not diverted to juice — have consistently scored above 80 percent all season, although they could dip into the high 70s as the season winds down, Blakely said.

“What we have seen with the bigger crop is lower prices, so one kind of offsets the other,” he said. “There are growers that did not get a lot of fruit off early in the season … and we’re starting to see utilization fall off so they’re being impacted by lower utilization and lower prices. So growers that didn’t have fruit all the way through the season are probably not going to do as well as growers that had their fruit off earlier in the season.”

Blakely said that navels should be available in stores through mid-July.

Meanwhile, some Valencia orange growers are beginning to pick what is expected to be a 21 million-carton crop as packing houses are shipping exports, he said. Most harvests will begin after navels are finished, he said.

A slight increase in production would be good news for Valencia growers, whose roughly 20 million cartons last year was a little more than half the 39 million cartons produced in 2001-02, according to NASS.

Wash. water rule will be tough on farmers, group warns Fri, 6 May 2016 10:23:24 -0400 Don Jenkins By late this summer, Washington is expected to adopt new and higher water-quality standards that could eventually lead to more stringent regulations on agriculture, according to a Washington Farm Bureau official.

Commonly known as the fish-consumption rule, the standards are meant to protect the long-term health of people who over their life spans eat large amounts of fish harvested in Washington.

Mandated by the Clean Water Act and written by the state Department of Ecology, the regulation will apply directly to industries with permits to discharge wastewater laced with one or more of nearly 100 chemicals.

The proposed rule, however, also retains a requirement that so-called “nonpoint pollution sources,” such as runoff from cities and farms, meet the standards and authorizes DOE to set “best management practices” to ensure compliance.

Melissa Gildersleeve, a manager in the DOE water quality program, said the department has had that authority for decades. Farmers already are prohibited from discharging pollutants into waterways, and the new rule is focused on certain chemicals and companies with discharge permits, not farmers, she said.

The farm bureau, however, and other groups, including the Northwest Food Processors Association, argue that DOE has proposed overly strict standards, with far-reaching consequences.

“We agree that the rule, as proposed, will likely affect more than just (discharge) permit holders, because that’s just the way the octopus that is the federal Clean Water Act works,” the bureau’s associate director of government relations, Evan Sheffels, said Thursday in an email.

Sheffels suggested DOE reinforce its assurances to farmers by stating in the rule that the standards will not affect agriculture.

“Down the road … the proposal will likely result in much more stringent regulation of nonpoint agriculture, too,” Sheffels said. “So, yes, we are very concerned that these proposals will harm local food security and the long-term viability of agriculture.”

The new water-quality standard will replace one set in 1992.

According to the proposed standard, a 176-pound person who eats 6.15 ounces of fish a day for 70 years will increase their chances of getting cancer by one in 1 million.

A person who drank 2.4 liters of untreated water every day for 70 years would face the same elevated risk.

The standard is currently that if a 154-pound person ate about 6.8 ounces of fish a month over 70 years, they would increase their chances of getting cancer by one in 1 million.

DOE says the current standard lowballs fish consumption, particularly among Native Americans, and doesn’t take into account weight gains among the general population.

DOE last year proposed increasing the body weight to 176 pounds and the fish consumption to 6.15 ounces a day for 70 years, but increasing the cancer risk to one in 100,000.

The Environmental Protection Agency, conservation groups and tribes protested, and DOE withdrew the rule.

Industries are complaining that DOE has moved in the wrong direction.

“At some point, a level of risk that was considered to be ‘essentially zero’ has come to be identified as a maximum level of acceptable risk,” stated Pamela Barrow, the food processors association’s vice president for energy, environmental and sustainability, in a letter to DOE.

The Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, a consortium of 20 tribes, said 6 ounces per day is less than the contemporary and historical consumption of tribal members. Habitat loss and chemical contamination have made fish and shellfish less available and suppressed consumption, according to the commission.

Lawmakers question wolf collar data blackout for ranchers Fri, 6 May 2016 10:09:36 -0400 Matw Weaver Several Washington lawmakers are questioning a lack of wolf location data for ranchers during a key point in the season for both wolves and livestock.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife shares raw locations and GPS coordinates off of wolf collars with ranchers with livestock in wolf pack territory, to help reduce the risk of conflicts between wolves and livestock. The department shares the information online with producers who have a data-sharing agreement except for the denning season. Wolf location around den sites may make the animals more vulnerable, said Donny Martorello, wolf policy lead for the agency.

Washington Rep. Shelly Short, R-Addy, and Stevens County Commissioner Wes McCart say the wolves’ location should be available to ranchers year-round.

Denning coincides with calving, the most vulnerable time for a rancher’s operation, Short said.

“Once again, my farmers and ranchers are the ones getting the short end of the stick,” Short said. “They need access to that data when they are vulnerable.”

“If it’s illegal to go out and poach those animals, I don’t see any one of our ranchers, farmers, anybody that’s going to risk being put in jail or fined just to go track down one den of wolf pups,” McCart said. “I think there’s a total lack of trust on behalf of the department to those that are being affected.”

The online tool to look at the raw information is turned off during this time, but the department still shares the information with ranchers verbally or with printed maps, Martorello said.

“There’s always some risk, particularly when wolves and livestock are in close proximity,” Martorello said.”If we have any producers that overlap with those den sites, we make sure those producers are aware of that.”

Some ranchers make routine calls to determine wolf locations or the department provides a weekly map of the wolves’ activities, he said.

Ranchers concerned about possible close proximity should contact the department, Martorello said.

McCart doesn’t believe the department’s current steps are adequate.

“We have enough money in this state to be paying people to watch computer screens of where these wolves are and give affected property owners a phone call, rather than just let them do it on their own?” he said. “That makes no sense.”

Live collar data will be available to ranchers signed up with a data-sharing agreement again beginning June 1, Martorello said.

The department will meet with county commissioners shortly to determine if there are other solutions to data sharing and den sites, he said.

“We’re looking for a creative solution that meets the needs of identity of critical points on the map for a recovering wolf population but at the same time, meets the needs of producers being able to minimize risks,” he said. “I can’t say what it’s going to look like, but we’re going to roll up our sleeves and try to figure something out,”

“The department is trying to work on these things really hard,” Short said. “My big frustration continues to be, it’s not on my ranchers’ timeline. If they’re the ones on the forefront of feeling the impact, then it ought to be, frankly, done on their time frame, not everybody else’s. We’ve been at this for years and my ranchers continue to be impacted.”

Cayman Islands to deploy genetically modified mosquitoes Fri, 6 May 2016 09:48:57 -0400 JENNIFER KAYand BEN FOX MIAMI (AP) — British biotech company Oxitec and the Cayman Islands government announced plans Thursday to release millions of genetically modified mosquitoes in the fight against a species that spreads Zika and other diseases.

Deployment of the mosquitoes against the Aedes aegypti species in the Cayman Islands is a major advance for Oxitec, which has promoted the method heavily as an environmentally safe way to combat the vectors of mosquito-borne illnesses while confronting public concerns about the technology.

The company has deployed its mosquitoes to fight Zika in Brazil following initial trials there and previously conducted tests in the Cayman Islands and Panama. Oxitec and officials in the Florida Keys have proposed testing there as well and are awaiting U.S. regulatory approval.

The Cayman government approved the full deployment after what they called a successful, peer-reviewed trial in 2010, Bill Petrie, the director of the British territory’s Mosquito Research and Control Unit, said in a statement.

“We have wanted to remove this invasive pest for a long time but this has proven very difficult using currently available tools on an island the size of Grand Cayman, so we have been looking for new approaches,” Petrie said.

Male mosquitoes don’t bite. The company says its modified males will mate with females and produce offspring that will not survive to adulthood, which should dramatically reduce the population of the non-native, disease-spreading Aedes aegypti species in the territory.

Oxitec will begin releasing hundreds of thousands of modified mosquitoes per week on the island of Grand Cayman, home to about 50,000 people, starting in June and continue for at least nine months, said Glen Slade, the company’s head of business development.

The mosquitoes will not be used on the two smaller islands of the British territory, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac, which do not have the Aedes aegypti. The company insists it’s not possible for the mosquitoes to fly to other islands or to survive long in the environment if they were to be inadvertently transferred elsewhere. They predict a massive drop in the number of the targeted species on Grand Cayman.

“It’s not unreasonable to think we might achieve elimination,” Slade said.

The company has started outreach on Grand Cayman to address any public concerns. In Key West, Florida, public meetings about Oxitec’s proposed trial there became so contentious that mosquito control officials requested law enforcement protection at an April meeting to discuss the issue.

Phil Goodman, chairman of the five-member Florida Keys Mosquito Control District board of commissioners, said the decision to use Oxitec’s mosquitoes on Grand Cayman was good news for the prospects of a similar trial in Florida if it is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“If everything continues to look good with this and we do get approval and the citizens agree to this, it’s what would work here in the Keys,” he said.

In February, the World Health Organization said it is encouraging countries to conduct further trials of genetically modified mosquitoes to help tackle emerging illnesses such as Zika. The virus has been linked to the birth defect microcephaly and to a temporary paralysis condition known as Guillain-Barre.

Portland daily grain report Fri, 6 May 2016 09:44:58 -0400 Portland, Ore., Friday, May 6, 2016

USDA Market News

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

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

In early trading May futures trended steady to 5.50 cents per bushel higher compared to Thursday’s closes. July futures trended 1.75 to four cents per bushel higher.

Bids for US 1 Soft White Wheat delivered to Portland in unit trains and barges for May delivery for ordinary protein were not well tested in early trading, but were indicated as steady to higher compared to Thursday’s noon

bids. Bids for guaranteed maximum 10.5 percent protein were not well tested in early trading, but were indicated as steady to higher compared to Thursday’s noon bids. Some exporter were not issuing bids for nearby delivery.

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

Bids for 14 percent protein US 1 Dark Northern Spring Wheat for May delivery were not well tested in early trading, but were indicated as higher compared to Thursday’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 May trended higher compared to Thursday’s noon bids.

Bids for US 1 Yellow Soybeans delivered full coast in 110 car shuttle trains during May trended mixed in early trading compared to Thursday’s noon bids.

All wheat bids in dollars per bushel

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

Ordinary protein

May 5.2175-5.4000

Jun 5.3000-5.4000

Jul 5.3000-5.3175

Aug NC 5.3150-5.3300

Sep NA

Guaranteed maximum 10.5 pct protein

May 5.3675-5.7500

Jun 5.3675-5.7700

Jul 5.3675-5.4600

Aug NC 5.3650-5.6600

Sep 5.3650-5.4150

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

Ordinary protein

May 5.2175-5.4000

Guaranteed maximum 10.5 pct protein

May 5.3675-5.9400

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


Ordinary protein 4.9950-5.2750

11 pct protein 5.1950-5.3550

11.5 pct protein

May 5.2750-5.3950

Jun 5.2450-5.3950

Jul 5.2450-5.3950

Aug NC 5.3550-5.4550

Sep 5.4550-5.5050

12 pct protein 5.2950-5.4250

13 pct protein 5.3350-5.4850

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

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

13 pct protein 5.9275-6.1075

14 pct protein

May 6.2475-6.3575

Jun 6.2075-6.3575

Jul 6.2075-6.3575

Aug NC 6.1725-6.4225

Sep 6.2225-6.4225

15 pct protein 6.3875-6.5175

16 pct protein 6.4675-6.6775

US 2 Yellow Corn

Shuttle trains-Delivered full coast Pacific Northwest-BN

May 4.5250-4.5750

Jun 4.5250-4.5750

Jul 4.5150-4.5850

Aug/Sep 4.4525-4.5825

Oct/Nov 4.5475-4.6475

Dec 4.6475-4.6975

US 1 Yellow Soybeans

Shuttle trains-Delivered full coast Pacific Northwest-BN

May 10.5800-10.9000

Jun 10.7700-10.9000

Jul 10.9000

Aug/Sep NA

Oct/Nov 11.0525-11.0725

US 2 Heavy White Oats 3.9200

Not well tested.

Exporter Bids Portland Rail/Barge Apr 2016

Averages in Dollars per bushel

US 1 Soft White by Unit Trains and Barges NA

US 1 Hard Red Winter (Ordinary protein) 5.2700

US 1 Hard Red Winter (11.5% protein) 5.4800

US 1 Dark Northern Spring (14% protein) 6.2700

Source: USDA Market News Service, Portland, OR

In California, couple’s return to meat sparks vegan uproar Fri, 6 May 2016 09:34:03 -0400 CHRISTINE ARMARIO LOS ANGELES (AP) — At the Cafe Gratitude restaurant chain in California, waiters serve plates of vegan rice bowls, vegetable pizzas and tempeh sandwiches with names such as “Gracious,” “Warm-Hearted” and “Magical.”

The last two weeks, though, have been anything but kind.

Angry patrons and animal rights activists are calling on vegans to boycott the restaurants after learning that owners Matthew and Terces Engelhart have begun eating meat and consuming animals raised on their private farm.

“The brand has betrayed my trust by turning around and killing the animals that trust them on their property,” said Anita Carswell, a communications manager for In Defense of Animals who says she won’t eat at Cafe Gratitude again.

Though the restaurants continue to serve only plant-based food, the couple’s decision has provoked a heated backlash in a state where vegan restaurants and juice bars can be as easy to find as burgers and barbecue.

Death threats were left at the couple’s Be Love Farm in Northern California and demonstrators gathered outside a Cafe Gratitude restaurant in Los Angeles last week.

Meanwhile, groups such as In Defense of Animals are calling on the couple to turn their farm into an animal sanctuary.

The Engelharts themselves declined an interview request, but Terces Engelhart’s son and Cafe Gratitude’s chief operating officer said the feud against Cafe Gratitude has unfairly cast his mother and stepfather as deceptive animal killers.

“I personally feel it’s a little illogical to require my parents to remain vegan for the rest of their lives just because they created a vegan restaurant at a point in time that they were vegan,” Cary Mosier said.

The family’s chain includes six Cafe Gratitude restaurants and two Mexican vegan eateries called Gracias Madre in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Matthew and Terces Engelhart were vegetarians for nearly 40 years, but decided to return to eating meat after leaving San Francisco and starting a farm about 55 miles away in Vacaville. They started with eggs and cheese from the farm’s chickens and cows. Then, after one old cow had to be put down, they decided it made sense to incorporate meat into their diets as well.

In a blog post, Terces Engelhart wrote the transition was a “necessary and important part of our own growth as well as the sustainability of our farm.”

The entry was posted in February 2015 but went largely unnoticed until a few weeks ago, when it was shared and went viral on vegan and animal rights websites. The couple is now being inundated with messages on Facebook and social media forums criticizing them as “flesh eaters” and calling them hypocrites for owning vegan restaurants but eating meat at home.

“If they market themselves on ethics, they should follow through on that,” Carswell said.

Mosier said his parents have “literally two cows,” and his mother dotes on them, even rubbing them regularly with coconut oil. While the restaurants are vegan, he said the company has never promoted a “meat is murder” viewpoint.

“I understand people can disagree with eating meat or killing animals,” he said. “But to put those beliefs on another person and call them a liar if they don’t do it, I think, is heading in the wrong direction.

“And if you’re a vegan, why would you want to close and boycott, frankly, the largest vegan restaurant group in California?”

Study: Sudden oak death might be unstoppable in California Fri, 6 May 2016 09:19:03 -0400 DAVIS, Calif. (AP) — An epidemic of the tree disease “sudden oak death” cannot be eradicated in California, but it can be managed, a new study shows.

The computer model used in the study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences took into account topography, weather and factors like funds available to fight the extremely contagious disease. It has killed millions of trees along the Northern California coast since it emerged in 1995.

The study suggests that the disease is spreading too fast to root out statewide, saying it will accelerate after 2020 when it is likely to flourish in California’s northwestern corner, where conditions are perfect for it.

Had the state begun fighting the disease in 2002, it may have been possible to eliminate it, the study says.

Critics have faulted the state and federal government for failing to take such stronger actions, the Los Angeles Times reported.

But the report does not give a hopeless portrait, offering recommendations for fighting the disease on a small scale to slow its growth by focusing on restoring small local forests.

“We’re going to have to learn to live with it and try to slow its spread with local management efforts and lots of experimenting,” University of California-Davis, ecologist Richard C. Cobb told the newspaper. “We won’t be able to avoid much of the ecological impacts of losing all these trees ... but there is still time to avoid the worst possible outcomes of this epidemic by prioritizing trees that are most at risk and taking steps to protect them.”

Up to 90 percent of California’s at-risk urban and wildland forests are still free of the disease, and the study intended to provide guidance on how to stop the next wave of its spread.

Cobb worked on the study with colleagues from North Carolina State University and the University of Cambridge in England.

Canada evacuating 8,000 wildfire evacuees by air Fri, 6 May 2016 09:00:39 -0400 FORT McMURRAY, Alberta (AP) — Canadian officials began evacuating 8,000 people from work camps north of devastated Fort McMurray by air on Thursday and hoped to move thousands more via a highway convoy Friday if it is safe from a massive wildfire raging in Alberta that has grown to 85,000 hectares (210,035 acres).

More than 80,000 people have emptied Fort McMurray in the heart of Canada’s oil sands, authorities said.

The Alberta government, which declared a state of emergency, said more than 1,100 firefighters, 145 helicopters, 138 pieces of heavy equipment and 22 air tankers were fighting a total of 49 wildfires, with seven considered out of control. Chad Morrison with AB Wildfire, manager of wildfire prevention, said the fire continued to grow but is moving away from Fort McMurray and the rate of its growth has slowed.

About 25,000 evacuees moved north in the hours after Tuesday’s mandatory evacuation, where oil sands work camps were converted to house people. But the bulk of the more than 80,000 evacuees fled south to Edmonton and elsewhere, and officials are moving everyone south where they can get better support services.

Officials had flown 4,000 evacuees to Edmonton and Calgary by Thursday evening and expected to fly 4,000 more by the end of the day. They hoped the highway would become safe enough on Friday to move the remaining people out via the south. It wasn’t safe Thursday. A helicopter will lead the evacuation convoy on Friday morning to make sure the highway is safe. It will pass through Fort McMurray where the fire has torched 1,600 homes and other buildings.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said the first convoy will be 400 vehicles and officials would see how that goes.

There have been no injuries or death in the province from the fires. Notley said financial support will be provided to Albertans and that cash cards may be made available for evacuated residents.

The Alberta government also declared a province-wide fire ban in an effort to reduce the risk of more blazes in a province that is very hot and dry.

Morrison said rain is needed.

“Let me be clear: air tankers are not going to stop this fire,” he said. “It is going to continue to push through these dry conditions until we actually get some significant rain.”

The fire remained wrapped around the western and southern edges of the city. No rain clouds were expected around Fort McMurray until late Saturday, with 40 percent chance of showers, according to online forecasts by Environment Canada.

Notley said she didn’t know how much better the evacuation could have been when asked if ample warning was given to residents, noting that in 48 hours more than 80,000 people were evacuated from a town that essentially has two roads out of it.

Fort McMurray is surrounded by wilderness and is Canada’s main oil sands town. Despite the size of the town and its importance to the Canadian economy, there are essentially only two ways out via car. The region has the third largest reserves of oil in the world behind Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.

Aided by high winds, scorching heat and low humidity, the fire grew from 75 square kilometers (29 square miles) Tuesday to 100 square kilometers (38.6 square miles) on Wednesday, but by Thursday it was almost nine times that — at 850 square kilometers (328.2 square miles). That’s an area roughly the size of Calgary — Alberta’s largest city.

Unseasonably hot temperatures combined with dry conditions have transformed the boreal forest in much of Alberta into a tinder box. Morrison said they are investigating the cause of the fire but he said it started in a remote forested area and said it could have been lightning.

A combination of factors conspired to make this wildfire especially ferocious, said Bill Patzert, a climatologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. The El Nino global weather system brought Alberta a mild winter and low snowpack, he said. Patzert said the flames sparked at a time between the snowy season and before springtime rains that turn the landscape green, making the region especially vulnerable to wildfire.

“In a way, it’s a perfect storm,” Patzert said. “It’s been warm, it’s been dry and windy. It’s the in-between period before you’re in the full bloom of spring.”

The fire is driving one of the largest evacuations in North America in recent memory, said Bill Stewart, co-director of the University of California’s Center for Fire Research and Outreach at the University of California-Berkeley.

With few exceptions in the United States, an entire town hasn’t been threatened on this scale for more than 100 years, he said.

“You could add five times the number of firefighters, but you can’t get all the embers,” he said. “There’s no way to put out every ember flying over firefighters’ heads.”

Fort McMurray resident Fahed Labek, whose relatives from war-torn Syria recently migrated to northern Alberta as refugees, said his family has escaped one fire for another. Labek fled the encroaching wildfire two days ago with family members, who arrived in Canada in late February.

Labek, who made it to Edmonton after a harrowing journey, is concerned the refugees are enduring additional trauma after leaving the Middle East. But he said he’s taking solace in the helpfulness of Canadians now assisting the tens of thousands of forest fire evacuees.

The fire has dealt a blow to the region’s crude production, with companies curtailing production or stopping altogether. Notley, the province premier, said the infrastructure for oil and gas production remains largely unaffected. What’s slowing down production is that their employees are not there, she said.

The airport only suffered minor damage because of the “herculean”’ efforts of firefighters, said Scott Long of the Alberta Emergency Management Agency. Firefighters have focused on protecting key infrastructure like the water treatment plant, the hospital and the airport. Crews water bombed the city Thursday.

Wildlife group proposes deer farm crackdown to fight disease Fri, 6 May 2016 08:35:19 -0400 TODD RICHMOND MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A prominent sportsmen’s group wants Gov. Scott Walker to crack down on captive deer farms as he considers revising the state’s chronic wasting disease tactics.

The Wisconsin Wildlife Federation’s letter to Walker, announced Thursday, asked him to impose regulations designed to keep CWD from spreading from captive deer to wild deer. The recommendations include requiring farms to double fence, installing warning devices that can detect open gates and annual fence inspections by the state or an independent inspector.

The letter also suggests that farmers be required to inspect their own fences at least monthly and immediately after any major wind storms. They would have to kill their herds within a month if they haven’t double fenced and one of their deer tests positive for CWD. They also would have to maintain liability insurance to cover any damages to the state resulting from escapes.

The DNR recorded 29 escapes from deer farms in 2015 alone. Nevertheless, the agency in December adopted an emergency rule allowing farmers to opt of the state’s CWD program without upgrading their fences.

Before that rule, farms that refused to participate in monitoring had to install double fencing. The new rule allows them to keep single fences and not submit to monitoring, although farms still can’t import or export deer unless they’re in the program. DNR officials said it was designed to simplify farms’ regulatory burden, but the federation opposed the change out of concerns it would lead to more infected captive deer escaping.

Deer farms aren’t to blame for spreading the disease, Rick Vojtik, president of the Whitetails of Wisconsin Association, which represents game farms and hunting preserves in the state, told The Associated Press. Rather, he believes birds are moving the disease from the wild herd into captive deer and he doesn’t understand how double fencing would make a difference.

“We’re going to spend millions and millions of dollars (on fencing) for nothing,” Vojtik said. “(CWD is) everywhere in the wild now.”

A number of deer escaped from Vojtik’s farm near Fairchild in May 2015 due to a storm and again in September after vandals cut his fence, he said.

Between the escapes, one of his does tested positive for CWD. State agriculture officials instructed Votjik to kill his 229-deer herd, which he did in November in exchange for nearly $300,000 in state compensation. According to the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, 33 of the deer tested positive.

Democrats have been pressuring Walker’s administration to do more to contain CWD after infection rates hit an all-time high last year. The DNR initially tried to eradicate as many deer as possible after the disease was discovered in the state in 2002, but backed off after intense public backlash. The agency’s current plan allows for reducing local herds in areas of infection far from known clusters but emphasizes monitoring.

Walker, a Republican, announced last month he’s considering a proposal from Democratic state Reps. Chris Danou and Nick Milroy to require double fencing on deer farms and adopting Illinois’ strategy of killing as many deer as possible in infected areas. The governor said last week his administration plans to come out with new proposals within the next month.

Walker spokesman Tom Evenson said the governor “welcomes the constructive input” from the federation and will consult with the DNR as he evaluates the group’s recommendations.

Raw milk bill sours in Louisiana agriculture committee Fri, 6 May 2016 08:31:53 -0400 MEGAN TRIMBLE BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana lawmakers have killed an attempt to lift the state’s ban on sales of unpasteurized — or “raw” — milk for the third year in a row.

The House agriculture committee narrowly voted to halt Ville Platte Sen. Eric LaFleur’s proposal to allow limited sales of raw milk from farmers to the public. Lawmakers on the panel voted 8-7 Thursday against the Senate-backed measure.

The Democratic senator argued his “don’t tread on me” bill curbed any risk with pages of regulations, from labeling requirements to inspection specifications. Rep. John Guinn, R-Jennings, applauded the latest version, calling it a “very safe bill.”

Louisiana, LaFleur said, is “one of a handful of states” that prohibits raw milk sales.

The proposal would have only permitted farmers to sell an average of 500 gallons of raw milk a month, or about four cows’ worth of milk production. It wouldn’t permit retail store sales, which LaFleur said spoke to his bill’s spirit -- to grant people the freedom to buy from their neighbors.

“It’s about freedom of choice and getting government out of your hair,” he said.

Adults and children wearing “I love raw milk” stickers gathered to hear the debate Thursday. Supporters testified to having consumed raw milk produced by their own cows or after having bought it in other states, like Mississippi. “Smuggling” the unpasteurized milk can run a hefty price tag, with some saying they’ve paid about $2,000 a year to purchase and transport it over state lines.

State-supported access to raw milk would support food freedom, allow people to seek its health benefits and strengthen Louisiana’s artisanal cheese industry, they said.

But Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain and Louisiana’s chief health officer Jimmy Guidry countered that the bill would threaten public safety because the milk isn’t heated in a process to kill harmful bacteria.

Strain told lawmakers they have “a fundamental duty to protect public health,” while Guidry warned the committee the Louisiana legislature may have to reverse LaFleur’s bill in the future if it led to heightened hospitalizations and disease outbreaks.

Others echoed the concern, comparing feeding children raw milk to handing them cow manure patties.

The debate came down to economics for Daniel Hayes, Jefferson Parish representative of the Libertarian Party of Louisiana, who noted the state allows raw milk consumption but not its sale.

“Let (people) put in their bodies what they want,” Hayes said.

Those against the bill agreed economics was a factor in the debate, but said the health concerns could spill into the economic realm and damage Louisiana’s dairy industry, they said. Strain said milk is made 150 times safer through pasteurization, and could have a negative ripple effect across the milk industry if unpasteurized milk sickened a consumer.

Pasteurized dairy farmer Joy Womack pointed to the federal and state inspections conducted at commercial farms, which must also have liability insurance.

“(With raw milk,) we’re playing Russian roulette. I never play Russian roulette with my children,” she said.


Senate Bill 29:

Oklahoma’s wheat production predicted to rebound Fri, 6 May 2016 08:28:31 -0400 OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma agriculture experts have predicted that the state’s wheat harvest will far exceed that of 2015 after years of farmers struggling through harsh freezes and drought.

The Oklahoman reports that this week agronomists and agriculture educators at the Oklahoma Grain and Feed Association’s yearly meeting in Oklahoma City said this year’s forecast predicts an average of 34 bushels of wheat per acre, or 130.6 million bushels to be harvested from 3.8 million acres.

In 2015, the average bushels per acre totaled 27.

Historic lows in production hit two years ago as an annual average Oklahoma crop of $600 million to $1 billion dropped to a 50-year low of $300 million. The executive director of the Oklahoma Wheat Commission says this year’s crop should be back to the average range.

Rapid Washington snowmelt fills streams Thu, 5 May 2016 09:34:26 -0400 Dan Wheat YAKIMA, Wash. — April was a month of rapid snowmelt in the Washington Cascades giving irrigators plenty of water, but it may not last into late summer in valleys with little or no reservoirs.

Pear orchards in certain parts of the Wentachee Valley, orchards to the north in the Entiat Valley and orchards and hay fields even farther north in the Methow and Okanogan valleys may run low on water in August and September.

Junior water right holders in the Yakima Basin are forecast at 85 percent of the normal supply by late summer, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced May 5. That shouldn’t affect irrigators such as the Roza Irrigation District and Kittitas Reclamation District but means they and other juniors will need to be careful with water, a USBR official said.

“We’ve seen the fastest melt rate we’ve ever seen — record rates or second-fastest rates in over 80 percent of our SNOTEL (snowpack telemetry) sites with 15 years or more of data,” said Scott Pattee, water supply specialist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Mount Vernon.

“Sites below 5,000 feet have melted out two to three weeks early and right now the snow level is 5,000 to 5,500 feet,” Pattee said.

Statewide snowpack was 107 percent of normal on April 5 but had dropped to 73 percent of normal by May 4, he said. The best snowpack all winter was in the upper Columbia (Okanogan and Methow basins), but that’s now 68 percent versus 134 percent a month ago, he said.

May 5 through September streamflow forecasts are reflecting the earlier than desired loss of snowpack, Pattee said.

Some of those forecasts by percent of average flow are: Spokane basin, 78 to 98; upper Columbia, 86 to 101; central Columbia 87 to 103; upper Yakima, 67 to 74; lower Yakima, 72 to 94; lower Snake, 75 to 93; lower Columbia, 89 to 99; and Olympic Peninsula, 73 to 75.

Rapid snowmelt has caused the highest unregulated flows in the Yakima River at the USBR station at Parker, which is 3 miles southeast of Union Gap, in the past 35 years and the second-highest in the past 90 years, said Chris Lynch, USBR hydrologist in Yakima.

The Wenatchee River and other rivers draining the east slopes of the Cascades have been running full for a month. The only thing that’s prevented flooding has been that there was little to no rain, Pattee said.

Precipitation at the five water reservoirs in the Yakima Basin was 14 percent of average in April which is a new record beating 15 percent for that month set in the 1930s and 1950s, Lynch said.

“I don’t want to raise any big alarms, but it’s a very interesting statistic,” he said.

It means April was a very dry month which by itself may not mean much but would if March had been dry, he said. May usually is drier than April.

As of May 3, the five Yakima reservoirs were 94 percent full and 126.7 percent of the average from 1981 through 2010.

“We hope to have them full by mid to late May and be able to make it into June before we start drawdowns for irrigation,” Lynch said.

Irrigation diversion for the Kittitas, Roza and all other irrigation districts upriver from Parker were at 5,065 cubic feet per second on May 3. But that’s all water passing through the reservoirs, spilled to regulate the reservoirs with irrigation being a byproduct, Lynch said. He hopes to stave off drawdowns for irrigation until early June. It started in early April in last year’s drought and the Roza and Kittitas districts lost crops to substantial loss of normal water supply.

UC webinar series to help farms with agritourism Thu, 5 May 2016 16:39:35 -0400 Tim Hearden DAVIS, Calif. — A series of upcoming University of California webinars will provide free marketing and other advice to farms that have made agritourism a part of their business.

The hour-long, 11 a.m. webinars will be held every two weeks starting May 19 and will include topics such as marketing strategies, using social media, complying with regulations and offering a positive experience to customers.

The webinars will be co-hosted by the UC’s Small Farms Program, which is in its fourth year of conducting classes to generate interest among growers to diversify their incomes through agritourism.

“It’s kind of an advanced course,” said Penny Leff, agritourism coordinator for the UC’s Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “It’s not so much how to do agritourism; it’s topics that will be useful to people that are already doing agritourism as well as people in the tourism community and county staff.”

The opening webinar on May 19 will focus on identifying and connecting with customers. Presenters will be Kristen Skaggs and Anna Farrell of the Farrell Design Group and “Farmer Al” Courchesne of Frog Hollow Farm, a 141-acre organic fruit producer in Brentwood, Calif. Other dates include:

• June 2: Kristin York of the Sierra Business Council and Lauren Gagliano Saline of Suzie’s Farm in San Diego will discuss how to get the most out of social media and websites. Suzie’s Farm grows organic produce on 70 acres.

• June 16: Marin County Agricultural Ombudsman Karen Giovannini and Tom Purciel of the El Dorado Planning Department talk about navigating and negotiating permits and regulations.

• June 30: Tiffany Dozier of the Yolo County Visitors Bureau and Evan Oakes of Ag Venture Tours and Consulting will discuss using partners in promotions.

• July 14: The webinar will examine the customer experience with Scottie Jones of the U.S. Farm Stay Association and Meghan Bishop of Bishop’s Pumpkin Farm in Wheatland, Calif.

The series, which is funded by the USDA Farmers’ Market Promotion Program, is co-sponsored by FarmsReach, a member-supported private organization that helps small growers. FarmsReach is also offering online forums and an agritourism toolkit.

The webinars come as about 1,500 farms in California incorporate an agritourism component, joining more than 2,000 wineries that have tasting rooms open to the public, Leff said.

Registration is being taken for each of the webinars. Space is limited to 100 people, but the webinars will also be recorded and posted online.

For more information, contact Leff at or (530) 752-7779.

Oregon clarifies industrial hemp rules Thu, 5 May 2016 16:46:22 -0400 Eric Mortenson Oregon has adopted temporary rules for people who want to grow or handle industrial hemp this summer. Revisions in the rules reflect changes made by the Oregon Legislature, state Department of Agriculture spokesman Bruce Pokarney said.

The rules are good for 180 days, after which the ag department will adopt permanent rules. Rules for private testing labs accredited for hemp and hemp products will be covered during the permanent rule process.

The major changes for growing and handling include:

• The minimum acreage requirement for growers is eliminated.

• Growing in greenhouses or other indoor areas is permitted, and growers now can plant in pots or containers.

• All propagation methods are now allowed, including seeds, starts or clones or cuttings.

• A single registration can cover multiple growing areas. While non-contiguous growing areas must be declared, there are no additional fees.

• Growing and handling operations require separate registrations and fees.

• Registration now is good for only one year and costs $500 annually. Growers and handlers licensed under the old three-year permit system get a complimentary registration for the remainder of their term. Growing or handling hemp seed requires registration and payment of a $25 fee.

More information about industrial hemp, a link to the temporary rules and a registration form are at

Congressman Costa Visits Innovative Ag Manufacturing Facility Thu, 5 May 2016 14:51:15 -0400 Representative Jim Costa visits NutriAg USA in supporting the advancement of California agriculture

Biola, Fresno County, Calif. (May 5, 2016) – NutriAg USA, a leading innovator and supplier of nutrient solutions, water conditioners and organic micronutrients, welcomed Rep. Jim Costa (CA – 16) to its newly built Biola manufacturing facility in Fresno County, Calif. today. Rep. Costa toured the facility alongside NutriAg company leaders, receiving a first-hand look at NutriAg’s state-of-the-art operation.

Completed in November 2015, the plant manufactures and distributes NutriAg’s lineup of cutting-edge, environmentally-responsible foliar nutrients (including micro elements) to clients across the U.S., and in Central and South America.

“NutriAg is a shining example of an international business that is making positive contributions to America’s agriculture industry, and above all, NutriAg is providing opportunities for job and economic growth right here in California’s San Joaquin Valley” stated Rep. Costa.

NutriAg is recognized for its advanced foliar feeding technologies using carbohydrate chelates for delivery of micronutrients to crops. The carbohydrates are easily absorbed, resulting in maximum crop yields with no residuals left on the plant or environment.

“We are proud to be manufacturing our products in-house here in California, where innovation and sustainability are at the forefront of technological advancements in agriculture,” explains Ben Cicora, Vice-President, Business Development and Marketing, USA. “NutriAg is dedicated to continuous scientific research inspired directly by the needs of farmers. With added capacity and reduced delivery times made possible by the new Biola manufacturing plant, NutriAg is well positioned to meet the unique needs of growers throughout the western United States.”

Located at 4460 N Biola Ave, the 20,000-square-foot facility will produce and distribute NutriAg’s line up of foliar fertilizers, including Max Products, TruPhos, Plant Activators and Organic Lite. For more information on NutriAg USA please visit

About NutriAg Ltd.
NutriAg is a proven leader in increasing agricultural crop yield through advanced foliar micronutrients and spray adjuvants with a wide range of proprietary products for fruits and vegetables, orchards and vineyards, row crops, turf and tropical plants. NutriAg has headquarters, lab facilities, manufacturing plant and a packaging and distribution center in Toronto, Ontario, and a state-of-the-art manufacturing and distribution center in Biola, California. Patented Max, TruPhos, Organic Lite and Plant Activator Lines are developed, manufactured and tested in-house by NutriAg researchers, plant physiologists, and agronomists.



When it comes to wheat, it’s all about quality Thu, 5 May 2016 09:18:10 -0400 Matw Weaver RALSTON, Wash. — Mike Miller knelt in a field to inspect his wheat crop on a recent April morning.

After two years of drought followed by a wet winter, moisture levels in the field were near average, and an early streak of warm weather had the crop looking good.

Miller was pleased.

Miller raises hard red winter wheat, soft white wheat and dark northern spring wheat under irrigation and dryland dark northern spring wheat and club wheat in addition to potatoes, alfalfa and oilseed crops.

Like other wheat farmers in the Pacific Northwest, most of his crop will go to customers in Asia and South and Central America, where it will be milled and turned into bread, noodles, crackers, cookies, cakes and other products. The quality of that wheat and how well it meets the needs of customers will set it apart from other wheat grown around the world.

Last year, farmers in Idaho, Oregon and Washington produced nearly 239 million bushels of wheat, according to the USDA 2015 small grains summary report. About 80 percent of that was sold overseas. In Eastern Washington, even more wheat goes overseas — about 90 percent, according to the Washington Grain Commission.

The U.S. competes in the global market against other wheat-producing countries, including Canada, Australia and the Black Sea region that includes Ukraine and southern Russia. Some of that wheat is cheaper, and some of it is closer to the countries looking to buy, reducing transportation costs.

“We can’t compete with freight costs and price,” Miller said. “(Quality) is all we’ve got. That’s our true advantage.”

Miller, who farms about 60 miles southwest of Spokane, is chairman of the Washington Grain Commission and secretary-treasurer of U.S. Wheat Associates, which promotes U.S. wheat overseas. He recently returned from visiting buyers in Japan, Taiwan and South Korea.

Miller said the customers he met made it clear they hope the high quality of Pacific Northwest wheat continues.

“They are just making us very aware that we don’t jeopardize that,” Miller said. “If it drops down to where the other competitors are, we’ve lost our competitive edge.”

Perhaps “quality” is better defined as “suitability” to how the wheat is used, said Craig Morris, director of the USDA Agricultural Research Service Western Wheat Quality Laboratory.

For example, a wheat breeder’s best hard red spring wheat variety may be completely unsuitable for making Japanese sponge cakes, he said. But for making some types of bread, it may be just right.

“Understanding what our customers want, what is best-suited for their products, and then using our knowledge and experience to translate that into discrete, technical, well-defined criteria we can measure and communicate with wheat breeders” is crucial, he said.

Many international buyers seek out U.S. wheat because the value is higher compared to wheat from elsewhere, said Steve Wirsching, vice president and director of U.S. Wheat’s West Coast office in Portland.

Soft white wheat and club wheat — a subclass of soft white — are primarily grown in the Pacific Northwest and considered the perfect ingredients for Japanese sponge cakes and cookies.

“Wheat breeders in the PNW have worked for generations to breed varieties that meet the Japanese specifications for sponge cake and the reward is that this wheat is selling for a premium this year,” Wirsching said.

According to the USDA, soft white wheat sells for $5.28 to $5.40 per bushel and $5.50 to $5.75 per bushel for the maximum 10.5 percent protein at the Portland market, compared to $5.19 to $5.34 per bushel for hard red winter wheat.

Many customers expect higher value from the U.S., said Jim Peterson, marketing director at the North Dakota Wheat Commission and chairman of U.S. Wheat’s quality committee.

Quality is the primary consideration in markets such as Northern Asia, parts of Europe, Central America and Mexico, and to a lesser extent in other regions, particularly price-sensitive markets, Peterson said.

Farmers might not immediately see a higher price for quality, said Morris.

“If I grow a better quality variety versus something down at the bottom (and) take a truckload of each to the elevator, is there any price differential?” he said. “Probably not. So am I getting paid for quality? It would appear not. But if I sell a shipload of PNW wheat and not only do I sell that ship, but the price is so many dollars per metric ton over Black Sea (wheat), have I gotten paid for quality? I would argue yes, in some sense you have.”

The marketplace builds in premiums and discounts as a way of differentiating value, Morris said. He argues that Pacific Northwest wheat has higher value and should command a higher price.

Farmers could receive a higher price on a per-truckload basis for easily measured kernel traits such as protein, the falling number test, moisture, test weight or on a regional or class-specific basis, Peterson said.

Each year, the three Pacific Northwest wheat commissions release a preferred variety brochure, ranking the quality of the available wheat varieties from Most Desirable to Least Desirable.

“If two varieties have the same agronomic characteristics, we encourage them to choose the one with the higher quality,” said Glen Squires, CEO of the Washington Grain Commission.

The commissions are also considering a redefinition of the rankings to more clearly differentiate them. Changes were made for soft white winter wheat for the 2016 brochure. The commissions are considering changes in the other classes.

Blake Rowe, Oregon Wheat CEO, said the commissions are raising standards so wheat breeders can aim for higher ratings for the varieties they develop.

“There’s always room to try and make the product a little better than what else is available on the marketplace,” Rowe said.

Growers have always been interested in quality, said Blaine Jacobson, executive director of the Idaho Wheat Commission, but now more tools are available to help them grow wheat that meets the more precise standards buyers seek.

“The science regarding the chemistry of wheat has advanced, and so many of our customers are becoming much more specific in the type of wheat they need for their product,” he said.

If a variety is released and is negatively ranked, it can potentially create problems, said Squires.

In the early 2000s, the hard red winter variety Estica, slated for use in Europe, had high yields but poor quality. Japanese customers received a shipload of the variety, but couldn’t use it and refused to buy it, so the export company asked farmers not to grow it, he said.

“If you grow really poor quality, it’s going to negatively affect that market, and that’s what we want to stay away from,” Squires said.

There aren’t presently many low-quality wheats like that in the PNW market, Squires said.

“We want to keep it that way,” he said.

Craig Morris stood in a room filled with about 1,500 flour samples, milled from wheat grown in 2015. Each one represented a variety that could eventually be released to Washington wheat growers.

The Western Wheat Quality laboratory, on the Washington State University campus, also examines 4,500 breeding samples each year, measuring more than two dozen attributes, passing along results to wheat breeders.

“That huge amount of work culminates in releasing two or three varieties each year,” Morris said. “It’s interesting to consider the perspective of 95 percent of what we do is just to throw things away.”

High quality is becoming even more important as farmers around the globe are projected to raise a record 26.9 billion bushels of wheat this year. Combined with a strong U.S. dollar relative to foreign currencies, such a large supply means lower wheat prices for U.S. farmers.

“Last year, the planet Earth grew more wheat than the planet has ever grown,” Morris said.

And more is on the way.

Competing countries in the Black Sea region haven’t yet reached the limits of wheat production, Morris said.

“Currently, is it high quality wheat? Absolutely not,” Morris said. “Is it cheap? Absolutely. Even though we’re super-efficient and super-productive, I don’t know that the U.S. farmer is going to be able to compete, or that we want to compete, on the global stage by producing the cheapest wheat possible.”

As he moves up the leadership ranks of the U.S. Wheat Associates hierarchy in the next few years, Miller expects quality to continue to be one of the main topics.

“It’s a very important topic we have to work through, because of the competition for acres as well as for markets,” he said. Growers elsewhere in the United States could elect to raise corn or soybeans.

Peterson expects demand to remain steady in countries that already demand high quality, and increase in countries where the middle class is expanding. Middle class consumers want a larger variety of wheat products or quicker, more convenient ways to prepare them, he said.

Asked who produces the next-best wheat quality, Squires, of the Washington Grain Commission, said every country is a potential competitor, even in the Black Sea region, where farmers are slowly making improvements.

“Everyone is improving their quality,” he said. “Quality wheat tends to bring in a higher return. That’s why we’ve got to stay ahead of the game.”

Straw-compressing dispute raises Oregon land use questions Thu, 5 May 2016 14:44:34 -0400 Mateusz Perkowski SALEM — A conflict over a straw-compressing facility has raised legal questions over what type of crop “processing” or “preparation” is allowed outright on Oregon farmland.

The Oregon Court of Appeals must now decide whether a farmer near Albany, Ore., may run the facility without a county permit restricting its operation.

The dispute centers on whether straw-compressing qualifies as the “preparation” of a crop, which is allowed outright in farm zones, or if it’s a form of “processing,” which requires a conditional use permit.

Jim Johnson, land use specialist for the Oregon Department of Agriculture, said the ruling would be significant if it affects which activities are considered “farm uses” under the state’s land use law.

Farmers depend on seed-cleaning and straw-compressing services to get crops ready for market, he said. “They also need infrastructure to support their operations.”

In the case, John Gilmour had obtained a conditional use permit from Linn County for the facility but then found that the operational time limits were hurting his reliability as a straw supplier.

In some circumstances, the facility must run around the clock to meet the demands of straw buyers in Asia, Gilmour said. “Without that ability, I’m not very competitive.”

Earlier this year, the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals, or LUBA, held that Gilmour doesn’t need a conditional use permit because straw-compressing is “essentially an extension of the initial baling of the straw, which occurs in the field, that is simply further preparation in the facility, and therefore accurately characterized as a farm use.”

Neighbors who are concerned about traffic and noise from the facility have challenged that finding before the Oregon Court of Appeals, which heard oral arguments in the case on May 5.

Suzi Maresh, a neighbor, said the facility is a “huge safety issue” because large trucks turning onto a narrow roadway are an “accident waiting to happen.”

Neighbors and the facility would be better off if it were located near a major freeway because the nearby roads are inadequate, she said.

Maresh said she doesn’t believe the straw-compressing facility is covered as a “farm use” under Oregon law because it brings most of its straw from other farmers and operates year-round.

“I don’t think this is farming,” she said.

Alan Sorem, attorney for Gilmour, said the facility can accept other people’s straw because it’s also grown on land that’s zoned exclusively for farming.

The fact that trucks are frequently needed to bring the compressed straw to market is expected and doesn’t preclude straw-compressing as a “farm use,” he said. “The commercial nature is not relevant here.”

Straw-compressing is clearly a type of crop “preparation,” unlike the “processing” of berries into jam, which cannot be reversed, Sorem said during oral arguments.

“Whether it’s been compressed or not, once you cut open the bale, it’s just straw,” he said.

Sean Malone, an attorney for the Friends of Linn County conservation group and concerned neighbors, said LUBA committed an error by declaring that straw-compressing is crop “preparation” without sufficiently examining whether it’s also “processing.”

“We’ve been given half a look. We haven’t been given the whole analysis by LUBA,” Malone said.

The agency acknowledged that the two terms were “potentially overlapping,” so the county’s interpretation that straw-compressing is “processing” should stand under Oregon’s land use law, he said.

“Given the ambiguity of the term, that provides the county with a certain latitude,” he said.

Kuna FFA helps thousands of children learn about farming Thu, 5 May 2016 09:43:58 -0400 Sean Ellis KUNA, Idaho — About 4,000 first and second graders from throughout the Treasure Valley received a hands-on farming experience May 2-5 during Kuna High School’s annual agricultural expo.

The school’s FFA students organize the event and guide the children through a series of farm-related experiences, teaching them simple facts about farming.

“We try to educate them about what the agricultural industry does and give them an idea of what true production agriculture is,” said event co-chairman Eric Ball, an FFA student. “We want them to have a good experience with farming while they’re at that impressionable age.”

The kids get to see a wide variety of farm animals, including longhorn steers, dairy calves, horses, cow-calf pairs, baby chickens, sheep, pigs, goats, fish and bunnies.

They also watch videos and view displays that explain agriculture at a simple level and highlight its importance to Idaho and the nation.

They get to climb aboard large pieces of new farm equipment that local farm equipment dealers loan the expo for four days. Those companies also donate the tractors that pull the students around on a hay ride and local farmers provide the trailers.

“We get a lot of industry support for this event,” said Shawn Dygert, who teaches ag education classes at Kuna High School. “All it takes is a phone call and there is no hesitation.”

Kuna is surrounded by farm land but many of the youngsters are from other parts of the valley that aren’t, said ag expo co-chair and FFA student Makayla Berheim.

“A lot of these kids are from subdivisions or cities, so they never experience this before and have no idea about agriculture,” she said. “We want to help them ... have a good knowledge of agriculture and know the good sides of it and how it impacts our whole world.”

Dygert said the event is a valuable experience for FFA students as well.

“These high school kids have to learn agriculture well enough to teach these little kids,” he said. “It takes everything we talk about doing in the classroom and it forces them to actually do it.”

He said the expo brings out the best in some students.

“Some of the students that have been possibly a little less than motivated in the classroom, they get in this environment and they become really good at these different activities,” he said. “It provides a way for them to show talents they may not otherwise have a chance to show.”

Producer, distributor and institutional chefs team up to go whole hog Thu, 5 May 2016 11:14:38 -0400 Eric Mortenson PORTLAND — A meat distribution company, a catering service that operates corporate and institutional cafes, and a Washington pork producer are tweaking the food system in a way that saves money and reduces waste.

Whether the model can be applied across the broader market is unclear, but observers say it’s an important change that can benefit small to mid-size producers while providing urban consumers with high-quality, food.

Here’s what happened: Corfini Gourmet, a Seattle-based company with a distribution center in Portland, struck a deal a year ago with chefs from Bon Appetit, which operates cafes at business campuses and universities, to buy minimally processed hogs from Pure Country Pork, of Ephrata, Wash.

Instead of trimming fat, removing bone and spending time and labor to package only the prime cuts, Pure Country cuts the hogs into pieces, boxes them up and ships them out. Corfini Gourmet distributes them to Bon Appetit, where individual chefs decide how to use the whole hog.

The butchering and packaging savings are significant. Zack Agopian, Corfini’s Portland sales manager, said he buys whole hogs for about $2 a pound.

While meat producers can get much higher prices for certain cuts, they often must scramble to move the rest of the animal, and sell it cheap. The price received for the most desirable cuts often has to support the rest of the operation.

“The whole pig gets sold all together,” said Paul Klingeman, who with other family members owns and operates Pure Country Pork. “I think it’s working out; it’s good for everybody, I hope.”

Andre Uribe, a former executive chef with Bon Appetit and now director of the company’s service at Willamette University in Salem, was involved in the early discussions with Agopian to make the program work. Uribe said he had the purchasing power, including a corporate customer that bought eight hogs a week, and Agopian had the connections to Pure Country Pork, which Uribe said is the “gold standard” for pork production.

The farm doesn’t use gestation crates and its pigs are free ranging and not treated with growth hormones or antibiotics.

Adopting the program required some adjustment. Uribe said chefs usually decide menus, then place food orders.

“This flipped it on its head,” he said. “You’re getting a whole hog and, based on that, you write the menu.”

Uribe said Agopian, of Corfini Gourmet, provided absolute transparency about the price he was paying for whole hogs and his markup. Bon Appetit was able to buy hogs for about $2.70 a pound as opposed to $5 to $10 a pound for select pieces that had been trimmed and de-boned, Uribe said.

“You make one price for everything and it lowers the cost,” he said. “It’s proven to be very effective as long as there is communication and transparency.”

Lauren Gwin, associate director of the Center for Small Farms and Community Food Systems at Oregon State University Extension, said the arrangement is significant.

“It is huge,” said Gwin, who also co-coordinates a national niche meat processing network. “When a food distribution company like Corfini is willing to work with farmers and ranchers like Pure Country Pork to use the whole animal, it has a huge effect.”

The deal allows Pure Country Pork to avoid having to “scramble all over the place” to sell the rest of the carcass, and eliminates the storage, shipment and processing labor and logistics that come with that, Gwin said.

It’s one thing for a fancy restaurant to buy a whole hog, but Corfini is a high-volume distributor that serves as a gateway to buyers such as Bon Appetit, Gwin said.

To producers such as Pure Country Pork, Corfini is saying, “We will take the whole pig and we will figure out all the ways we can merchandise this,” she said. The company also helps buyers understand their role in supporting local producers who raise meat in a sustainable fashion, Gwin said.

“That’s always been one of the struggles,” she said. “We can produce this amazing meat, but we’re asking them to do all these other jobs.”

More than 500 youths raise livestock for annual show Thu, 5 May 2016 10:27:05 -0400 Matw Weaver SPOKANE — For Brooklynn Phipps, the hardest part is not getting attached.

Phipps, a senior in Deer Park, Wash., High School, is showing two beef cattle to sell at the annual Junior Livestock Show of Spokane.

She is one of 500 youths expected to participate in the show May 4-8 at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center.

Manager Lynn Cotter said the show will feature 300 hogs, 100 steers, 120 lambs and 50 goats.

Last year, Phipps got $2.55 per pound for her animal. This year, she hoped to get $1.90 to $2 per pound just to remain profitable.

“Cattle prices are down, I’m trying to prepare myself for that,” she said.

Phipps owns the mother of the animals she was selling, and said she’d worked hard to raise the twins over the past year and a half, keeping them in separate pens and ensuring they get the right amount of protein and nutrients in their feed.

“I love taking on the responsibility, feeding every morning and every night, being able to learn from them, observing their behavior,” she said.

Shelby Forge, an eighth-grader from Asotin, Wash., also plans to show and sell a steer.

Selling is Forge’s least favorite part of raising an animal.

“Because we have to get rid of it, and they’re so big that you have to get attached to them...,” she said.

Her favorite part is showing.

Forge devoted “a lot of hours” to raising the steer since last November, her mother said. Forge is the family’s third generation to attend the show, following in the footsteps of her grandfathers and her mother.

It was the first time at the show for Robby Parker, a sophomore at Riverside High School in Elk, Wash., with his prospect heifer.

“Just wanted to see if I’d like it or not,” he said, noting his 4-H advisor encouraged him to participate.

Parker’s raised livestock before.

“I love the work,” he said. “It gives me something to do — better than sitting, playing a video game.”

‘Go-slow’ federal agencies hurt farmers Thu, 5 May 2016 09:39:28 -0400 It appears the federal agencies that coordinate the H-2A program to obtain guestworkers for harvesting crops and other farm jobs are giving U.S. farmers the “slow no.”

That’s when they slow down their work — even more than usual — and make farmers wait ... and wait. They make the folks at the driver’s license office look as though they are in overdrive.

Ironically, the slowdown only hurts farmers who jump through all of the H-2A hoops to operate legally, without cutting corners to hire illegal or quasi-legal workers with questionable documentation.

Through the slowdown, the Obama administration appears to be making a point about the illegal immigration problem — a problem it has helped create. By making bringing guestworkers into this country even more difficult, the administration apparently hopes farmers will beg Congress to fix the immigration mess.

In fact, many farmers who rely on labor have been begging Congress to act on the immigration mess for years — long before President Obama was elected.

President Obama has had almost eight years to fix the immigration problem. The best he could do was a couple of executive orders that landed him in court.

The Obama administration burned every bridge with Congress to get its health care law passed. It’s still suffering from the breakdown in communications with Capitol Hill.

Now it’s putting pressure on farmers to push Congress for immigration reform.

That would be interesting political patter if it were not for the fact farmers in 20 states risk losing some or all of their crops because of the H-2A program’s slowness.

Many of them say the Department of Labor is understaffed and has a hard time processing H-2A applications and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is unresponsive.

Last year, H-2A workers were delayed because of visa printing problems, WALFA, an organization that helps farmers procure H-2A workers, said in its annual report.

The slowdown appears to be purposeful. The American Farm Bureau and other organizations point out that H-2A paperwork cannot be sent via email, as is nearly every other document in the federal government, including tax returns. Instead, the paperwork must be sent by the Postal Service’s “snail mail.”

If the administration wants to make progress on immigration, it should first unleash the turtles and help U.S. farmers obtain adequate harvest labor in a timely manner.

Then it should get out of the way and let Congress and the new president get the job done.

Meatless Mondays won’t save the planet Thu, 5 May 2016 09:38:52 -0400 Ask any environmentalist and you are likely to hear that livestock production in the United States is responsible for 50 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. The story goes that cow flatulence and manure methane are killing the planet. If you want to save the planet, they say, cut meat from your diet.

Not so fast, says Frank Mitloehner of the University of California.

Mitloehner, a professor and air quality specialist, used data from the Environmental Protection Agency to show what most of us in agriculture already believed: Livestock production accounts for a small portion of greenhouse gas emissions.

In a white paper released late last month, Mitloehner documented that livestock production accounts for only 4.1 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. That compares to 27 percent attributed to transportation and 31 percent attributed to electrical power production.

Beef cattle account for 2.2 percent of emissions, dairy cows 1.37 percent. The other domesticated farm animals combined account for the remaining six-tenths of a percent.

What about widely publicized campaigns to institute “Meatless Mondays” as schools, colleges and other institutions? Pointless, if the goal is to impact in any meaningful way greenhouse gas emissions.

“It is sometimes difficult to put these percentages in perspective; however, if all U.S. Americans practiced Meatless Mondays, we would reduce the U.S. national GHG emissions by 0.6 percent,” Mitloehner says. “A beefless Monday per week would cut total emissions by 0.3 percent annually.”

For many advocates, attributing greenhouse gas emissions to livestock production has more to do with getting people to stop eating meat than it does with impacting climate change.

We doubt the facts will calm that rhetoric.