Capital Press | Capital Press Thu, 23 Oct 2014 07:56:59 -0400 en Capital Press | DOL seeks additional charges against growers Wed, 22 Oct 2014 09:09:51 -0400 Mateusz Perkowski The U.S. Department of Labor wants to pursue additional charges against Oregon blueberry farmers that it accuses of “hot goods” labor law violations.

In 2012, the agency claimed that the two farms — Pan-American Berry Growers and B&G Ditchen — paid harvesters less than the minimum wage, which rendered their blueberries unlawfully produced “hot goods” that couldn’t be shipped in interstate commerce.

To prevent their crop from rotting, the farms agreed to pay $220,000 in alleged back wages and penalties and waived their right to challenge the agency’s allegations in court.

However, earlier this year, the farmers convinced a federal judge to overturn those settlements because they had been signed under economic duress.

Because the deals were invalidated, the DOL’s litigation against the growers was effectively re-opened.

Now, the agency has asked a federal judge to allow it to add new charges to the original complaints and expand the time frame of the farms’ alleged wrongdoing.

Specifically, DOL wants to amend the complaints to claim that the farms unlawfully withheld wages and hired pickers “off the books” in 2010 and 2011, in addition to the alleged violations in 2012.

The original complaints accused the growers of violating the Fair Labor Standards Act by paying substandard wages, but the DOL now wants to charge them under the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act as well.

The agency claims the farms violated this statute by not properly recording the hours worked by each worker to ensure they were paid the proper wage rate, among other allegations.

Also, DOL wants to add new defendants to the case: Steve Erickson, the CEO of Pan American, and three labor contractors who worked for the farms.

The agency said it will also seek a permanent “hot goods” injunction preventing the movement of unlawfully produced crops in interstate commerce.

Tim Bernasek, attorney for the farms, said he is objecting to the DOL’s motion to alter the complaints because it’s unclear how the new allegations pertaining to harvests in 2010 and 2011 fit into the case at hand and how an injunction would apply to those years.

“There was no investigation,” he said. “We don’t know of any findings related to activities on the farm during that period.”

Apart from asking to amend its complaint, DOL wants a federal judge to dismiss the growers’ counterclaims against the agency. The companies claim that shipping delays caused by the controversy in 2012 diminished fruit quality, resulting in $150,000 in lost revenue.

DOL also argues that, although the settlements were vacated, it can’t return $73,500 of the alleged back wages paid by the growers because the funds have already been disbursed to workers.

A hearing on the counterclaims and disbursed funds will be held in Eugene, Ore., on Oct. 28.

Rain damage hits Idaho Barley Commission budget Wed, 22 Oct 2014 16:33:23 -0400 John O’Connell ABERDEEN, Idaho — The Idaho Barley Commission has approved nearly $33,000 in budget cuts for the current fiscal year and anticipates drawing $150,000 from reserves to offset lost revenue resulting from widespread rain damage to the 2014 crop.

Idaho had a record barley yield in 2014. But based on the likelihood that the commission’s 3-cents-per-hundredweight assessment won’t be collected on a considerable volume of sprout- and mold-damaged malt barley being diverted to feed channels, the organization approved a trimmed $681,000 budget during its Oct. 21 board meeting, cutting back on line items in which contracts weren’t already in place.

IBC Administrator Kelly Olson said the organization collects assessments on nearly 90 percent of its malt barley, and grain elevators are also good about setting aside the assessment when they’re the first to purchase feed barley from a grower. Even some large dairies that buy barley directly from growers have made sure to collect the assessment. However, the commission won’t try to police direct sales of feed barley to neighbors, or to other states that are unfamiliar with the assessment obligation.

“There’s going to be feed barley that moves through alternate channels that’s not part of the tax collection process, and we’re not going to collect on that,” Olson said.

Olson said rent below budget for the organization’s Boise office and operating several months without an administrative assistant have minimized costs.

Commissioners also suggested that IBC sell food barley seed it has in storage, which could raise an additional $10,000.

IBC ended fiscal year 2014 with unexpectedly high reserves of $510,000 but will likely have to draw about $150,000 from the account this season.

“We’ve never dipped into a reserve to that extent in our 26-year history,” Olson said.

Based on the vital role reserves have played this season, commissioners intend to implement more formal reserve guidelines during their February meeting.

“I think this train wreck has validated the point that we do need a healthy reserve,” said Commissioner Scott Brown, of Soda Springs.

Commissioner Pat Purdy, of Picabo, advocates heading into the next year with a goal to rebuild some of the lost reserves.

Commissioners also intend to communicate with recipients of IBC funding that in the event of another “train wreck,” even some contracted commitments could potentially need adjusting.

•Also during the meeting, the commission selected Bonners Ferry grower Tim Dillin as its new president and Brown as its new vice president.

•The commission discussed a strategy of rebranding food barley as a “super fiber.” IBC has a planning meeting upcoming for a technical symposium during the winter at the Wheat Marketing Center in Portland, Ore., where the organization and partners Highland Specialty Grains and Ardent Mills hope to stimulate interest among U.S. companies in using barley as a food ingredient. Olson hopes to visit with marketing teams from companies who attend about contracting for food barley production.

Economist doubts population projections Wed, 22 Oct 2014 13:11:34 -0400 Mateusz Perkowski PORTLAND, Ore. — Expectations of booming global populations, often associated with upward pressure on commodity crop prices, are unrealistic, according to an economist for a major bank.

“It’s too simplistic,” said Michael Swanson, agricultural economist for Wells Fargo.

While populations will grow, current projections are often unsophisticated and rely on scant analysis, he said during an Oct. 22 economic forum hosted by the company here.

Much of the population increase over the next two decades is expected to occur in sub-Saharan Africa, but that projection is based on the current trajectory of reproduction in that region, Swanson said.

In reality, though, this type of “click and drag” forecast doesn’t account for societal changes that occur when economies become more robust and complex, he said.

As incomes rise, people generally move to cities and have fewer children, dampening the rate of population growth, Swanson said.

The trend has been observed in the U.S. and other developed countries but it is also becoming apparent in China, which has relied on a massive population for its economic success, he said.

There’s no reason to think Africa will be any different as education levels and urbanization rise, Swanson said.

People also often have outdated views of population trends in countries like Mexico, which is stereotypically associated with big families but where reproductive rates have actually slowed, he said.

For those reasons, Swanson said he’s skeptical of the notion that an enormous demand for commodity crops will steadily drive up prices in the long term.

Due to corn-based ethanol production, demand for that important commodity crop is now intertwined with oil and fuel prices, he said.

The long-term demand for oil will be shaped by what happens in China, which is becoming more of a mature economy prone to volatility and slower growth just like other developed nations, Swanson said.

The Chinese market will also affect the U.S. timber industry, which was buoyed during the housing downturn by log exports to that country.

Aside from China’s economic performance, demand for U.S. timber there is affected by competition from Russia — a country with major forests directly to the north of China, said Kevin Bergquist, senior vice president and agribusiness consultant for Wells Fargo.

Russian log shipments to China were hindered by an export tariff that was intended to spur processing within Russia, he said.

Improved lumber production in Russia may occur over the long term, but roads, railroads and other infrastructure in the heavily forested eastern portion of that country remain primitive, Bergquist said.

The tariffs have provided a competitive leg up for U.S. timber producers, but Russia may change them at any time in reaction to geopolitical tensions, he said. “Russia is a real wild card.”

UP surcharge raises intermodal freight costs Wed, 22 Oct 2014 11:54:30 -0400 Carol Ryan Dumas Union Pacific Railroad’s new surcharge for overweight intermodal containers is adding $200 to $300 per container to transport product to West Coast ports for export.

On Oct. 1 UP began charging a $300 surcharge for 40 foot/45 foot containers exceeding 26 tons and a $200 surcharge for 20 foot containers exceeding 22 tons. The company said the surcharge will allow it to “efficiently and safely” transport double-stacked intermodal containers.

UP spokesman Mark Davis said the charge is tied to handling the heavier containers, which cannot be stacked on top of lighter containers or on top of each other.

The heavier containers were prohibiting UP from double stacking containers on westbound intermodal trains out of terminals such as Chicago, causing UP to operate extra trains to get the containers to West Coast ports, he said.

“We are not trying to prohibit overweight containers, but rather the surcharge is in place to compensate us for the inefficiencies and additional costs associated with those heavier containers,” he said.

A significant increase in heavier containers in recent years limited UP’s ability to double stack containers and forced UP to inefficiently transport single-stacked containers, leading to the surcharge, said UP Chairman, President and CEO Jack Koraleski in an Oct. 15 letter to Idaho Gov. Butch Otter.

The intermodal containers are primarily used for consumer goods, and most shipping out of western ports are headed for the Pacific Rim, Davis said.

The nearest intermodal connection for Idaho is Salt Lake City, where containers are offloaded from trains, trucked to Idaho and trucked back, he said.

That’s how Standlee Premium Western Forage in Eden, Idaho, gets its forage products to its big three overseas customers — Japan, China and Taiwan, said Jay Shansby, Standlee’s general manager of Marketing.

Exports are a small portion of the Standlee family business, which primarily focuses on supplying 3,500 retail stores across the country, but the surcharge is raising its overall cost per ton of exported product, he said.

Rates vary, but Standlee pays an average of $1,250 to $1,400 per container. A $300 surcharge for overweight containers is an increase of more than 20 percent, Shansby said.

Standlee has tried to avoid the surcharge by reducing container weights. But keeping weights below the threshold means shipping more containers and increases freight costs per ton of product, he said.

Standlee either has to internalize that added cost and reduce overall profits or pass it on to the customer, he said.

UP only gave three months notice before applying the surcharge, but freight rates are negotiated on a yearly basis, he said.

Travis Jones, executive director of Idaho Grain Producers Association, said only so much Idaho grain moves by container, but rail surcharges have been a problem for some time. They primarily apply to grain growers as a fuel surcharge or a premium to get a rail car to show up when it is wanted — which can be as much as an additional $900 per hopper car, he said.

Groups seek foreign buyers for ethanol cereal byproduct Wed, 22 Oct 2014 11:14:53 -0400 Don Jenkins SEATTLE — Two U.S. business groups hosted a conference this week to meet and impress people like Manzoor Elahi of Bangladesh.

Elahi is shopping for feed for poultry, fish and shrimp, which are being raised in a country that lags behind its neighbors in per capita consumption of meat.

“We are hungry. We are 160 million people,” he said. “There is an opportunity for you and an opportunity for us, too.”

Representatives from 32 countries gathered at the Sheraton Hotel Oct. 21-22 for Export Exchange, a meet-and-greet organized by the U.S. Grains Council and Renewable Fuels Association.

The spotlight was on distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS).

Once viewed as little more than waste left over from converting corn into ethanol, DDGS has become an $8 billion to $9 billion a year product, said Geoff Cooper, senior vice president of the Renewable Fuels Association.

Cooper said the supply of DDGS will grow with the ethanol industry. What’s uncertain, he said, is whether demand will keep pace.

The grains council and fuels association are eager to promote DDGS as a way to feed the animals that will feed the world’s growing population.

For grain producers, DDGS is another source of revenue for farmers.

For ethanol manufacturers, the livestock feed combats the claim that alternative fuels cuts into the food supply.

Almost one-third of the grain used by ethanol plants is converted into DDGS to feed cows, hogs, poultry and fish, according to the fuels association.

As the ethanol industry grew, U.S. production of DDGS grew sevenfold in the past decade to about 37 million metric tons a year, according to the fuels association.

U.S. farmers use about 25 million tons and the other 12 million are exported.

China took about 6 million tons, half the export total, until disallowing the import of U.S. distillers grains in July.

The Chinese demanded the U.S. Department of Agriculture guarantee no shipment contains Syngenta’s biotechnology corn trait MIR 163.

The Chinese action caused DDGS prices to collapse, Cooper said.

The issue has yet to be resolved.

“I think there is a lot of uncertainty where this is heading with China,” Cooper said.

Cooper estimated that exports to other countries in the meantime could grow by more than 1 million tons in the next year.

The potential customers are businessmen such as Elahi, chief coordinator for the Paragon Group in Bangladesh.

“I came here to look for the opportunity to get good, quality raw material for my feed mills and, of course, for a good price,” he said in an interview.

Elahi said he has bought small volumes of DDGS to feed poultry and fish and wants to buy more.

“Gradually, we are increasing orders here,” he said.

He said future orders will depend on transportation, supply and price.

“I have to have an unbroken supply chain,” he said. “I believe U.S. farmers can provide the supply, but again, the price is the most important factor.”

Conference speakers talked about global economics, animal nutrition and other topics related to making, delivering and using DDGS.

During breaks, at the urging of conference organizers, the some 300 people at the conference mingled.

Portugal livestock producer Jose Romao Leite Braze said his family’s business, Financor Agro-Alimentar, has been buying U.S. distillers grains shipped from Savannah, Ga., for two years.

“It’s good for production, good for the animals. It’s a very valid alternative,” he said.

The U.S. Grains Council’s regional director for South and Southeast Asia, Kevin Roepke, singled out Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and India as countries with the greatest potential to import more U.S. distillers grains.

Populations and incomes are growing, he said. “The demand for animal protein will only increase as long as that is happening.”

He delivered a speech that was understated but clear: The U.S. has the capital, transparency and ingenuity to deliver safe livestock feed.

Montana farmer Buzz Mattelin, who grows wheat, barley and sugar beets in the northeast corner of the state, has never cultivated a crop for fuel, but said he believes ethanol’s demand for corn helps wheat farmers.

“I don’t know if I can substantiate that, but I certainly have that feeling,” Mattelin said in an interview. “What’s good for corn is at least positive for wheat.”

The ethanol and DDGS industries could suffer a setback this year if the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency pulls back on renewable fuel standards, the amount of ethanol oil refineries are required to blend into transportation fuels.

The EPA made a preliminary proposal to cut back the renewable fuel mandate from 16.5 billion gallons in 2013 to 15.2 billion gallons this year. Some 13 billion gallons would be made from corn ethanol, while 2.2 billion gallons would be made from other biofuels.

The EPA has yet to make a final rule. Its proposal angered cornbelt leaders, especially with farmers sitting on a record crop.

The chairman of the U.S. Grains Council, Illinois corn and soybean farmer Ron Gray, said he thinks ethanol and DDGS will remain politically popular, and good markets for growers.

“If air quality is an issue for you, ethanol is on your list of priorities,” Gray said. “If protein for livestock is an issue for you, DDGS will be high on your list.”

If ethanol demand falters, farmers will adjust, he said. “We grow for the markets.”

Idaho apple growers report bumper crop Wed, 22 Oct 2014 10:48:39 -0400 Sean Ellis CALDWELL, Idaho — Idaho’s commercial orchardists are reporting a bumper apple crop this year.

“It looks like a huge year for Idaho apples,” said Michael Williamson, owner of Williamson Orchards in Caldwell. “People are scrambling to find as many bins as possible.”

With harvest winding down, yields have been great and apple quality is excellent, said Kelly Henggeler, general manager of Henggeler Packing Co. in Fruitland.

“The quality has been good and yields are very good,” he said. “The weather we’ve had has made for an ideal growing season (and) so far we’ve had a nice harvest season.”

Production in some orchards is reaching record levels, he added.

“There are a lot of bins full out there,” he said. “We have a nice, promotable crop out there.”

Idaho produces about 70 million pounds of apples annually and growers say this year’s production could be one of the highest in years.

“It’s the largest I’ve seen in probably 15 years,” said Henggeler co-owner Chad Henggeler.

Idaho’s apple harvest generally begins around the first part of September and is mostly wrapped up by the end of October, though some picking extends into November.

A hard spring frost and extremely high summer temperatures affected the size of Idaho’s 2013 apple crop but weather this year has been more favorable, Williamson said.

“What I’m seeing looks really promising,” he said. “The apples are of excellent quality and yields are very good.”

Idaho orchardists said this year’s peach crop also looked good, though it wasn’t as impressive as the apple crop in terms of production.

Idaho produces about 7,000 tons of peaches each year and most of them are picked in September.

“The peaches were ... not a bumper crop by any means like apples were but quality is good,” Williamson said.

Idaho fruit growers have struggled to find adequate labor in recent years and 2014 was no different, but that didn’t significantly impact this year’s crop, Williamson said.

“It was a little tight,” he said. “We probably got some of our peaches a little softer because there wasn’t enough labor and we didn’t get them in time.”

It has traditionally been tougher for fruit growers in the Treasure Valley to find workers during August and September because a lot of other crops such as onions, beans and feed crops are also being harvested then, Chad Henggeler said.

“We had a sufficient supply of labor but we could have used more,” he said. “We would have liked to have had about 15 percent more pickers.”

Washington apple harvest starts final leg Wed, 22 Oct 2014 10:24:25 -0400 Dan Wheat WENATCHEE, Wash. — Harvest of the largest apple crop in Washington state history is entering its final weeks as growers turn in earnest to the picking of later varieties, mainly Fuji and Cripps Pink.

“We essentially walked away from Golden Delicious blocks that had average quality and we’re being selective on Fuji and leaving under-color Fuji and Braeburn in the field,” said Andy Gale, general manager of Stemilt AgServices in Wenatchee.

Everyone is doing more selective picking than usual given the crop likely will end up around 150 million boxes, Gale said.

The industry’s Aug. 1 forecast of 140.2 million boxes will be updated with a Nov. 1 storage report. The prior record is 128.8 million in 2012.

“We ended up picking over estimate in Gala, organic and conventional, and substantially over on Reds (Red Delicious),” Gale said. “Granny Smith is a little under. Fruit size on average has been bigger.”

Cooler weather is bringing better final finish color to Cripps Pink and Fuji, he said.

Stemilt AgServices manages more than 8,000 acres of orchard throughout Central Washington and is the orchard management subsidiary of Stemilt Growers Inc.

Gale said Stemilt AgServices is about 85 percent through harvest with Fuji, Cripps Pink and Braeburn left to go in Ice Harbor, Mattawa and Royal City.

Labor has been tight but is better as picking winds down, he said.

Dan Plath, orchard manager at Washington Fruit & Produce Co., in Yakima, said his company has had enough pickers all season, supplemented by 400 H-2A foreign guestworkers.

“I would say we were never behind on it. We got everything picked when we wanted to, so quality and condition are good,” he said.

Without about 8,000 H-2A workers industry-wide the industry would have been in trouble, he said.

Harvest weather has been good, but there’s been a few more days of rain than the last few years. Picking stops in rain. It isn’t safe for pickers to use wet ladders.

“Rain is starting to be a factor. It’s an annoyance,” Plath said. “It rained last night so we’re slow this morning to get going. We’re waiting for apples to dry off.”

Too many rainy days could put remaining harvest behind schedule, he said.

Jon DeVaney, president of the Washington State Tree Fruit Association in Yakima, said labor has been tight, but not “disastrously so.”

Early season sales remain “very brisk” with more than 2.94 million boxes of apples shipped the week ending Oct. 18 and 2.85 million the week before, DeVaney said. That compares with 2.7 million per week at the same time two years ago during the previous record crop, he said.

As of Oct. 18, 17.6 million boxes had been shipped this season compared to 11.7 million in 2012.

Apples are stored and shipped throughout the year. Harvest will wrap up in early November with a few stragglers finishing mid-month.

New efforts to ban tobacco farm child labor Wed, 22 Oct 2014 10:17:38 -0400 FREDERIC J. FROMMER WASHINGTON (AP) — Two years after the Obama administration backed off a rule that would have banned children from dangerous agriculture jobs, public health advocates and lawmakers are trying anew to get kids off tobacco farms.

The new efforts were jumpstarted by a Human Rights Watch report in May that said nearly three-quarters of the children interviewed by the group reported vomiting, nausea and headaches while working on tobacco farms. Those symptoms are consistent with nicotine poisoning, often called Green Tobacco Sickness, which occurs when workers absorb nicotine through their skin while handling tobacco plants.

“I think that many members of Congress have been shocked that children are suffering nicotine poisoning from working in U.S. tobacco fields,” said Jo Becker, Human Rights Watch’s children’s rights advocacy director. “In response, they are pushing tobacco companies to adopt stronger child labor policies, introducing legislation and urging the Department of Labor to take action.”

The approach includes legislation to ban kids under 18 from working on such farms, pursuit of a narrower federal rule than the one that was scuttled and public pressure on tobacco companies from lawmakers and health groups.

There has been some movement within the industry. This month, the Tobacco Growers Association of North Carolina said it “does not condone the use of child labor” and said tobacco growers and farm labor contractors should not employ workers under 16 years old.

Philip Morris International, which limits the type of work children can do on tobacco farms, says it would like to see stronger U.S. regulations in this area.

And the Labor Department said in a statement that its Occupational Safety and Health Administration is working to determine best practices to reduce worker exposure to nicotine during tobacco harvests.

In 2011, the Labor Department proposed preventing some children from working in dangerous farm jobs, including cultivation, harvesting and curing of tobacco. The department tried to pre-empt a backlash from small farmers by excluding from the rule children who worked on their parents’ farms.

Nevertheless, the proposal became a political punching bag for Republicans, who called it an impractical, heavy-handed regulation that ignored the reality of small farms.

In an election-year decision, the Labor Department withdrew the proposed rule in 2012. In doing so, officials appeared to close the door on any action even after the presidential election: “To be clear, this regulation will not be pursued for the duration of the Obama administration,” the Labor Department said in withdrawing the rule in April 2012.

But the release of the Human Rights Watch report, based on interviews with more than 140 children working on tobacco farms in North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia, sparked new interest in the issue.

Last month, 35 House Democrats wrote to Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, calling for a new rule focused solely on banning children from working in the cultivation or curing of tobacco. The department hasn’t yet responded to the lawmakers’ letter.

Reid Maki, coordinator of the Child Labor Coalition, a Washington-based advocacy group, called the prospect of action by the Obama administration a long shot, given the Labor Department’s 2012 statement.

“When it comes to the health and safety of children, the administration should not worry about promises it made in the middle of an election, especially when that promise concerned a refusal to protect children from known safety hazards in the workplace,” he said.

Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., who signed the letter to Perez, has sponsored a bill to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to ban children under 18 from jobs where they have direct contact with tobacco plants or leaves. There’s no companion bill in the Senate, but Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, chairman of the Senate committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, said in a statement that he’s working with other lawmakers and the administration to find common ground.

In June, Harkin and 16 other Democratic senators urged several major tobacco companies to prevent children under 18 from working in direct contact with tobacco. Philip Morris International responded that it prevents children from working in hazardous conditions, including those that could involve physical contact with tobacco plants. The company does allow children to work with seedlings or in barns sorting dried tobacco leaves, but may prohibit those activities depending on specific circumstances.

Philip Morris International spokesman Corey Henry said in an email that the company would “welcome strengthening of the U.S. regulatory framework for child labor in agriculture in line with international standards and the standards we expect to be met on all farms where we source tobacco.”

Rustlers grab 3 calves from Culver ranches Wed, 22 Oct 2014 10:15:30 -0400 MADRAS, Ore. (AP) — The Jefferson County sheriff’s office says there have been three recent reports of cattle rustling in the Juniper Butte area near Culver.

In each case, the rustlers removed newborn baby calves in the middle of the night.

KTVZ reports as many as 200 head of cattle are stolen each year in Oregon but many losses aren’t reported to law enforcement.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture says higher beef prices have led to an increase in cattle thefts statewide.

Woman killed in tractor accident Wed, 22 Oct 2014 10:13:54 -0400 LEBANON, Ore. (AP) — The Linn County sheriff says his deputies are investigating a tractor accident that killed a 47-year-old Lebanon, Oregon, woman.

Sheriff Bruce Riley says Doris Jennings was working Tuesday afternoon with a 49-year-old man in an effort to remove an oak tree on private property. She had a chain attached to the tree and to the back of the tractor. The witness tells deputies that when the rear tractor tires started to spin, Jennings applied more throttle to the engine. That caused the front of the tractor to lift and flip over on top of her. She suffered severe head injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Portland daily grain report Wed, 22 Oct 2014 10:11:35 -0400 Portland, Ore., Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014

USDA Market News

Bids for grains delivered to Portland, Oregon during October by unit trains and barges, in dollars per bushel, except oats, corn and barley, in dollars per cwt. Bids for soft white wheat are for delivery periods as specified. Hard red winter wheat and dark northern spring wheat bids are for full October delivery. Bids for corn are for 30 day delivery.

In early trading December wheat futures trended 6.50 to 7.25 cents per bushel higher than Tuesday’s closes.

Bids for US 1 Soft White Wheat for October delivery in unit trains or barges were not fully established in early trading but bids were indicated as higher compared to Tuesday’s noon bids for the same delivery period. The higher Chicago December wheat futures supported cash bids.

Bids for 11.5 percent protein US 1 Hard Red Winter Wheat for October delivery were not fully established in early trading, but were indicated as higher compared to Tuesday’s noon bids in lining up with the higher Kansas City December wheat futures.

Bids for 14 percent protein non-guaranteed US 1 Dark Northern Spring Wheat for October delivery were not fully established in early trading but were indicated as higher compared to Tuesday’s noon bids. The higher Minneapolis December wheat futures supported cash bids.

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

All wheat bids in dollars per bushel

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

Oct mostly 6.9400, ranging 6.8150-7.0650

Nov 6.7500-7.1150

Dec 6.7500-7.1650

Jan 6.8525-7.2525

Feb 6.8525-7.2525

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

Oct mostly 9.1900, ranging 9.0650-9.3150

Not fully established and limited.

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


Ordinary protein 7.4225-7.7225

10 pct protein 7.4225-7.7225

11 pct protein 7.5025-7.8025

11.5 pct protein

Oct 7.5425-7.8425

12 pct protein 7.5425-7.8425

13 pct protein 7.5425-7.8425

Not fully established and limited.

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

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

13 pct protein 7.6550-7.8550

14 pct protein

Oct 9.2050-9.2550

15 pct protein 10.0050-10.2550

16 pct protein 10.8050-11.2550

Not fully established and limited.

US 2 Yellow Corn in dollars per CWT

Domestic-single rail cars

Delivered full coast-BN NA

Delivered to Portland NA

Rail and Truck del to Willamette Vly NA

Rail del to Yakima Valley NA

Truck del to Yakima Valley NA

US 2 Heavy White Oats in dollars per CWT 13.2500

Not well tested.

Exporter Bids Portland Rail/Barge Sep 2014

Averages in Dollars per bushel

US 1 Soft White by Unit Trains and Barges 6.7500

US 1 Hard Red Winter (Ordinary protein) 7.0200

US 1 Hard Red Winter (11.5% protein) 7.1500

US 1 Dark Northern Spring (14% protein) 8.3400

Source: USDA Market News Service, Portland, OR

U.S. dairymen adding cows on good margins Wed, 22 Oct 2014 09:27:44 -0400 Carol Ryan Dumas More cows in the parlor and better production per cow pushed September milk production, at 15.5 billion pounds, 4.1 percent higher than September 2013, USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Oct. 20.

September milk production was up year over year in all of the 23 major states reporting, sans Illinois, which was down less than 1 percent. Big percentage increases were seen in Colorado, up 10.8 percent; Texas, up 9.6. percent; and Kansas, up 9.2 percent.

Increases in the top five milk-production states were more modest, ranging from an increase of 2.9 percent in California to 4.5 percent in New York.

Cow numbers, at 8.59 million, were up 78,000 head over a year earlier and up 4,000 head from the August count in the 23 major states. Cow numbers were up in 14 of the reporting states, down in eight and steady in one.

The largest increases in cow numbers were in Texas, up 30,000 head; Michigan, up 14,000 head; and Washington, up 11,000 head.

Average production per cow averaged 1,804 pounds, 56 pounds above September 2013 and the highest September production per cow since the 23 state series began in 2003, NASS reported.

High milk prices and lower feed costs continue to bring favorable margins for dairy producers, said Bob Cropp, professor emeritus, University of Wisconsin, in his Dairy Situation and Outlook report also released Oct. 20.

But higher milk production, slowing dairy exports and higher dairy imports are pushing down milk prices, a scenario that is forecast to carry into next year, he said.

“Dairy product prices have declined considerably from where they were back in September with butter prices leading the way,” he said.

The September Class III price was $24.60 per hundredweight, the highest this year and $6.46 above a year earlier.

Cropp expects that to drop to near $23.95 in October, down to around $19.50 by December, about $18.25 by January and falling into the $17s most of 2015.

The September Class IV price was $22.58, $3.15 higher than September 2013.

Cropp expects lower butter prices to drag that price down to $22.20 in October and $17.10 by December. With anticipated much lower butter prices and lower nonfat dry milk prices, Class IV will likely be in the low $17s and high $16s in 2015, he said.

Two big uncertainties for milk prices next year are the level of dairy exports and how much milk production will increase, he said.

The U.S. milk price could average $3 to $5 a hundredweight lower than this year, and some forecasters are expect the decrease to be even greater, he said.



Dairy Situation and Outlook:

September milk production, top 10 states. Figures compare September 2013 production, in million pounds, to September 2014, and the percent change.

Calif. 3,197 3,291 2.9

Wis. 2,220 2,292 3.2

Idaho 1,099 1,136 3.4

NY 1,080 1,129 4.5

Penn. 835 864 3.5

Texas 748 820 9.6

Minn. 725 736 1.5

Mich. 739 790 6.9

NM 625 646 3.4

Wash. 513 541 3.2

U.S. 14,874 15,485 4.1*

* 23 major states


Michigan warns of Serrano peppers with salmonella Wed, 22 Oct 2014 08:49:23 -0400 LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Officials say some Serrano peppers distributed by Meijer stores in Michigan are potentially contaminated with salmonella.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development on Tuesday issued a consumer advisory for the peppers, which were supplied by Bailey Farms of Oxford, North Carolina. Michigan says no illnesses have been reported to date.

An infection can cause diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps after exposure.

The peppers were sold from Oct. 14 to 19. They were shipped in Bailey Farms labeled boxes with the lot code 33714 and 1460410. A random sample was taken by the Michigan agriculture department on Oct. 13 was confirmed to test positive on Oct. 18.

Consumers who have purchased Serrano peppers involved in the advisory are urged to return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.

Fire burns pallets, hay in Gilroy Wed, 22 Oct 2014 08:47:49 -0400 GILROY, Calif. (AP) — Crews are battling a large fire that is burning hay and wood pallets in Gilroy.

The flames were reported Wednesday morning and were visible from Highway 101.

KNTV in San Jose says the fire was burning on a ranch. Fire crews from San Jose, Gilroy and Morgan Hill as well as the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection were fighting the flames.

Americold opens third Idaho cold-storage facility Tue, 21 Oct 2014 12:23:23 -0400 CaRol Dumas Americold has opened a cold-storage facility for agricultural products in Heyburn, Idaho, bringing to three the number of facilities the Atlanta-based company operates in the Gem State.

The company, which offers temperature-controlled warehousing and logistics to the food industry, announced the opening of the Heyburn facility on Monday, stating it would complement its other Idaho facilities in Burley and Nampa.

The 160,000-square-foot building has capacity for more than 17,000 pallets — 10,000 steel-racked and 7,000 bulk-storage positions, Daniel Cooke, Americold marketing director, told Capital Press.

The company provides warehouses for refrigerated and frozen ag products to support the food logistics industry, assisting with storage, transportation and delivery, he said.

The company’s customers include some of the largest companies represented in the frozen and refrigerated aisles in the supermarket. Americold stores and transports all of those products, from ice cream to meats and vegetables, Cooke said.

The company located a second facility in the Magic Valley of south-central Idaho in response to customers who were looking for additional space and non-customers looking for new space, he said.

“Our customers have told us — and our research has shown — that the Magic Valley region is poised for exponential growth potential in the dairy and agriculture industries, and the demand for temperature-controlled, secure storage is rapidly increasing,” Americold President and COO Fred Boehler, said in a press release.

The facility’s close proximity to the Union Pacific rail line and Interstate 84 provides customers greater transportation alternatives to suit their distribution models, he said.

The company is leasing a facility recently vacated by the Simplot Co., Cooke said. The property lies within the industrial park owned by the city of Burley and managed by the Boyer Co. of Ogden, Utah, said Doug Manning, Burley’s economic development director.

Americold has been in touch with Boyer for some time and was just waiting for Simplot to pull out, he said.

Americold had been looking for space and opportunity in the area and came in right behind Simplot, said Kae Cameron, executive director of the Mini-Cassia Chamber of Commerce.

Simplot had used the facility for cold storage and warehousing. It was a natural fit and a good opportunity for workers who lost their jobs with Simplot, she said.

Americold will condition the facility to accommodate the local dairy and agricultural market. The secured building, with 10 truck and seven rail dock doors, has the ability to maintain temperatures ranging from 5 degrees to 50 degrees, the company’s press release stated.

The company will employ as many as 35 people at the facility, the press release stated.

According to its website, Americold owns and operates more than 175 temperature-controlled warehouses, with 1 billion cubic feet of storage, in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, China, Argentina and Canada. Its warehouses connect food producers, processors, distributors and retailers to consumers. The company serves more than 3,000 customers and employs 12,000 associates worldwide.



77,000-acre cattle operation changes hands Tue, 21 Oct 2014 11:39:01 -0400 Mateusz Perkowski A large Central Oregon ranch property recently changed hands, with the property’s East Coast owner selling the 77,000-acre cattle operation for $19.9 million.

The sale included 21,500 acres of private property near Post, Ore., and grazing rights for roughly 50,000 acres owned by the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

The operation had been owned since the 1980s by Arthur Gutierrez, founder of a Massachusetts construction company, who decided to sell it for estate planning purposes, said Roger Dryden, a real estate broker who represented the buyer, Hamilton Ranch LLC.

Hamilton Ranch’s articles of organization show the company was formed earlier this year with Kelley Hamilton serving as its manager. Hamilton is the CEO of Bonaventure Senior Living, which operates 37 retirement homes in the Northwest.

“It’s a big transaction for Oregon,” said Dryden.

The sale comes shortly after another major real estate sale in Central Oregon. Ochoco Lumber sold a 32,000-acre tract for $18.5 million to Stafford Ranches of Fields, Ore., with part of the proceeds intended to pay for upgrades to its sawmill and biomass facility in John Day, Ore.

Dryden said these large land sales reflect the improving economy in the area, with investors becoming more comfortable about the state of the real estate market.

“You don’t necessarily want to put it in the bank to feel comfortable,” he said. “It’s a pretty safe place to put capital.”

The contiguous tract recently bought by Hamilton Ranch will continue to be used for cattle production, Dryden said. “It’s one of the premier cattle operations in the state.”

Rice growers wrap up drought-diminished harvest Tue, 21 Oct 2014 16:53:42 -0400 Tim Hearden WILLIAMS, Calif. — As rice growers in California wrap up their harvest of a drought-diminished crop, good yields and more widespread sales of rice straw are helping them to at least partly make up for lost acreage.

The rice harvest was 85 percent complete as of Oct. 19, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service. Leo LaGrande, a grower here, finished work over the weekend and said his yields deteriorated as the season went along.

“We had some fields that looked good earlier and we thought it would be better, but it didn’t quite mature to the yields we wanted,” he said. “I would call it an average year for us.”

But yields remained strong for Marysville, Calif., grower Charley Mathews, who also finished harvesting last weekend, he said. Good weather during crop development led to rice that grew tall and went flat, making for slow going during harvest, he said.

“It helps,” Mathews said of the big yields. “The yields might be up ahead of last year’s state average, but not enough to close the gap in our shortfall (in acreage).”

California rice growers are expected to produce 36.8 million hundredweight, down 23 percent from last year, NASS estimated. About 140,000 acres of rice went unplanted this year because of water shortfalls — a 25 percent decrease from last year’s crop, according to the California Farm Bureau Federation.

LaGrande had to leave about one-quarter of his land unplanted, he said.

“We thought we were very fortunate because some of our neighbors had to leave 100 percent out,” he said.

However, the yield forecast of 8,000 pounds per acre would be a 1 percent increase from last year and would tie records set in 2004 and 2008, according to NASS’ office in Sacramento.

The optimistic outlook for yields follows a spring planting season that was more drawn-out than usual because exchange contractors along the Sacramento River agreed to space out their water delivery schedules to maintain the right river temperatures for winter run salmon.

Rice is typically planted between mid-April and mid-May, with harvests coming six months later, but many growers didn’t get started until mid-May and were still planting in June. Those that were still harvesting this week ran into a rainstorm on Oct. 20 that stopped their work.

While farmers welcome the rain, their water worries aren’t over. Many are unsure if there will be enough water to decompose rice straw left in fields.

Willows, Calif., grower Larry Maben may pump water from wells into his fields after harvest if there isn’t enough rain, which is “an awfully expensive source of water,” he said.

“It’s going to be kind of a balancing act,” Maben said.

With not as much water available for decomposition, more producers are baling and selling straw “than I’ve ever seen,” said Mathews, who’s on the USA Rice Federation’s executive committee.

University of California researchers reached out to growers this summer to promote converting their rice straw into “strawlage,” a feed that the scientists say is on a par with a low-quality alfalfa. UC Cooperative Extension advisors said the straw would be a good alternative for livestock producers confronted with feed shortages because of the drought.

The straw can also be used for erosion control in forest fire recovery projects, Mathews said. While decomposition helps the soil, growers can make up for the lack of straw by adding nutrients before planting next spring, he said.

LaGrande said he’ll probably bale 60 percent of his rice straw, the majority of which will be fed to cattle.

“It’s huge,” he said. “I think the dairy industry is grabbing onto it more every year. And this year with the drought, some cattlemen who really never tried rice straw before are buying into it. At $300 a ton for alfalfa or $40 a ton for rice straw, you’re going to try it.”

CPOW plans 10th annual meeting Tue, 21 Oct 2014 16:01:28 -0400 Matw Weaver Washington cattle producers will look back at the last decade as they ponder where they want to go in the next decade.

The Cattle Producers of Washington hold their 10th annual meeting and banquet from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m Oct. 31 at Northern Quest Casino, in Airway Heights, Wash.

“This is a really interesting time in the cattle industry, because we’re seeing prices at higher levels than they’ve been in the past,” said Jamie Henneman, media relations specialist for the organization.

That’s partly due to a declining number of ranchers and a reduced supply, she said.

“It’s good news, but it’s also kind of a wake-up call,” she said. “We need to have young people entering the industry.”

The best candidates are the kids who grew up on the ranch, so CPOW hopes to focus on enabling the next generation to stay on the farm. Related items on the agenda include tax preferences when transferring ownership or use of canola meal as a feed supplement.

Many ranchers are at the point where they need to consider what the next decade or so will hold for their operations.

“If you want to stay in business, you’ve got to be proactive on some critical issues,” Henneman said. “Advocacy is becoming increasingly important.

“Heavy” issues like wolves and regulations are affecting the industry, but Henneman said the focus of the meeting will be lighter.

“We wanted this evening to be a little bit more fun and a little less depressing,” she said. “Of course those things need to be discussed, but for this meeting our goal is to get people together to have a great time.”

The day-long meeting includes a cow plop during the lunch hour.

“I bet that’s the first time the casino’s ever seen that,” Henneman said.

The agenda includes presentations from the Washington Beef Commission, Washington Department of Agriculture; Mike Thoren, CEO of JBS Five Rivers Cattle Feeding LLC and James Robb, senior agricultural economist for the Livestock Marketing Information Center.

CPOW will elect a new president, as Hunters, Wash., rancher Dave Dashiell reaches the end of his term.

There are roughly 200 members in CPOW. Henneman hopes they will all attend the meeting. She’d also like to connect with ranchers in areas where CPOW doesn’t have a strong presence and build coalitions.

“It’s a really good opportunity to reflect on what was accomplished in the last 10 years, and look forward to the next 10,” she said. “Celebrate the fact that you’re still here, that you’ve worked hard, and do an assessment of where you want to go in the future.”

Irrigation district to convert wells to surface water Tue, 21 Oct 2014 15:56:43 -0400 John O’Connell RUPERT, Idaho — Engineering is underway on an irrigation district’s plan to build a pumping plant and pipeline to supplement rapidly declining wells with surface water in an overtaxed portion of the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer.

A & B Irrigation District hopes to pipe 4,500 acre feet to supplement about 1,500 groundwater-irrigated acres with surface water, in years when surface water is available. The district, which supplies water to 65,000 acres of well-irrigated land and 17,000 surface-irrigated acres in Jerome and Minidoka counties, expects the pipeline will make it possible to shut down six to eight under-performing wells. The wells could still be used if no surface water rights are found to supply the new pipeline.

The pipeline will also supply additional water to 4,500 acres of farm land that are currently irrigated by surface water but haven’t been getting adequate deliveries during peak months. A & B manager Dan Temple explained the current canal has had additional constraints on it since the mid-1990s, when the district abandoned other declining wells and switched to surface water.

The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is doing the design work on the planned pipeline and pumping plant and has awarded the project $3.8 million in funding previously made available by the former Agricultural Water Enhancement Program for water conversion projects. Earlier this fall, the Idaho Water Resources Board also approved a $7 million loan for the project. Temple said construction should commence next fall, with the goal for completion by 2016. The pipeline will divert water 8 miles west of Burley and run 8 miles perpendicular to the Snake River.

Temple said A & B may use some of its current 137,000 acre feet of storage, rent from the Water District 1 Rental Pool or lease other user’s storage to supply the pipeline.

Temple said the level of the aquifer’s western portion has dropped 19 feet since 1999. Three years ago, the district spent $2 million to purchase its own rotary drill rig and added a licensed driller to its staff to deepen some of its 180 active wells.

“We have been drilling nonstop, and we’re not done yet,” Temple said.

He said they’ve also invested about $20 million “chasing water” since 1990, and the district pursued a failed water call against junior groundwater users.

Heyburn farmer Clay Harrison, a surface water irrigator, said inadequate peak-season irrigation deliveries from the overburdened existing canal have affected his malt barley quality and beet and garden bean seed yields.

“We’ve got quite a large area where the district is struggling to produce enough water from the wells,” Harrison said. “They’ve drilled three to five wells there and gone down to 500 feet and found nothing but dust.”

Elliot Traher, NRCS district conservationist for Cassia and Minidoka counties, said projects putting available surface water to better use and turning off wells are becoming increasing common throughout the aquifer.

“We’ve got to look at water conservation in many different areas across the board when it comes to farming,” Traher said. “I think everyone has a certain responsibility for water conservation.”

Cash dairy markets cause head-scratching Tue, 21 Oct 2014 14:39:19 -0400 LEE MIELKE Cash cheese prices were “mixed” to say the least last week.

The 40-pound block Cheddar saw a second week of strength on bids and closed Friday at $2.2875 per pound, up 9 cents on the week and an astounding 43 cents above a year ago. They jumped another 3 3/4-cents Monday on an unfilled bid but were unchanged Tuesday, holding at $2.3250 per pound.

The 500-pound Cheddar barrels were on a roller coaster, jumping 6 1/2 cents last Tuesday, but lost 7 cents on Wednesday, a half-cent Thursday, and 2 more cents Friday to close at $2.07, down 3 cents on the week, the fourth consecutive week of decline, but 30 3/4-cents above a year ago. They jumped 3 3/4-cents Monday only to give it back and then some Tuesday, plunging 7 1/4-cents, to $2.0350 per pound, a whopping 29 cents below the blocks, a spread that normally averages 3-5 cents.

Last week saw a continued meltdown on butter as the bleeding turned into hemorrhaging. The spot closed Friday at $2.00 per pound, a level not seen since late April 2014, down 80 1/2-cents on the week (the fourth week of decline and largest in 18 years), but still 51 3/4-cents above a year ago. But the butter rallied Monday and crept up 1 1/2 cents, the first positive move since it set its record of $3.06 on Sept. 19. It tacked on another 1 3/4-cents Tuesday, hitting $2.0325 per pound. It had plunged a total of $1.06 since setting its $3.06 record.

Cash Grade A nonfat dry milk held all week at $1.38 per pound, where it had been since Oct. 8, but the powder plunged 6 cents Monday and gave up another penny Tuesday, closing at $1.31.

U.S. dairy farmers got the message. Record high milk prices and low feed costs signaled them to (pardon the pun) “milk ’em for all their worth.” They added cows and got more out of every one.

The Agriculture Department’s latest Milk Production report shows September output in the top 23 producing states at 15.49 billion pounds, up 4.1 percent from August 2013 and the ninth consecutive month output was above a year ago. The 50-state total, at 16.47 billion pounds, was up 4.0 percent from a year ago.

Revisions reduced the original August 23-state estimate by 3 million pounds, now reported at 16.2 billion pounds, up 2.6 percent from a year ago.

August cow numbers in the 23 states, at 8.59 million head, were up 4,000 head from August and 78,000 more than a year ago. The 50-state count, at 9.27 million head, is up 2,000 from July and 59,000 more than a year ago.

August output per cow in the 23 states averaged 1,804 pounds, up 56 pounds from September 2013, and the highest production per cow for the month of September since the 23 State series began in 2003.

California, at 3.29 million pounds, was up a whopping 2.9 percent from a year ago, thanks to a 55-pound gain per cow, though cow numbers were down 2,000 head. Wisconsin, at 2.29 million pounds, was up 3.2 percent, on a 60-pound gain per cow, and cow numbers were also off 2,000.

Idaho was up 3.4 percent on a 40-pound gain per cow and 7,000 more cows. New York was up a hefty 4.5 percent, thanks to a 65-pound gain per cow and 5,000 more cows. Pennsylvania was up 3.5 percent, on a 60-pound gain per cow but cow numbers were down 2,000. Minnesota was up 1.5 percent, despite a loss of 3,000 cows, but output per cow was up 35 pounds.

The biggest increase was in Colorado, up 10.8 percent, followed by Texas, up 9.6 percent, thanks to 30,000 more cows and a 45-pound gain per cow. Kansas was next, up 9.2 percent. Illinois was the only state in the top 23 showing a loss, off 0.7 percent.

Checking some other key players, Arizona was up 6.5 percent, thanks to a 60-pound gain per cow and 5,000 more cows. Michigan was up 6.9 percent, also on a 60-pound gain per cow but with 14,000 more cows than a year ago. New Mexico was up 3.4 percent, on a 60-pound gain per cow and 1,000 more cows. Washington state registered a 5.5 percent gain from a year ago, thanks to a 50-pound gain per cow and 7,000 more cows.

Last week’s Global Dairy Trade auction saw the weighted average for all products inch up 1.4 percent, after dropping 7.3 percent in the Oct. 1 event. This is the first uptick since the short-lived gain on June 17. The price index has pretty much seen declines since reaching its high on Feb. 4. The industry will watch to see if the turnaround is sustained in the next session, which is Nov. 4.

The uptick was led by a 7.4 percent increase in anhydrous milkfat, which was down 5 percent in the last event. Sweet whey powder was next, up 4.3 percent, following a 9.3 percent plunge last time. Butter was up 3.9 percent following a 6.6 percent drop last time. Whole milk powder brought up the rear, up 3.1 percent, after a 10 percent plunge in the last event.

Idaho dry bean industry sets sights on Costa Rica Tue, 21 Oct 2014 14:26:44 -0400 Sean Ellis BOISE ­— The Idaho Bean Commission will use an $18,000 specialty crop grant to try to help the state’s dry bean industry make inroads into Costa Rica.

The Central American nation of 4.6 million people is one of the Idaho industry’s most promising markets, said IBC member Don Tolmie.

“That Costa Rica project probably has as much potential to increase our exports of dry bean seed as anything we’ve ever attempted,” said Tolmie, production manager for Treasure Valley Seed Co.

Idaho has a strict testing program that certifies bean seed grown in the state is disease-free and is the leading bean seed supplier in the nation.

Costa Rican farmers grow a lot of dry beans but that crop faces significant disease pressure there, an issue Idaho can help solve.

“They need a shot in the arm,” Tolmie said. “A good crop of dry beans begins with good seed.”

During a trade mission in February, Tolmie and fellow IBC member John Dean met with representatives of Walmart in Costa Rica and a company that supplies them with red and black beans.

Both companies are interested in certified Idaho seed, Tolmie said, and the project will help Idaho nurture a relationship with them.

The grant, supplied by the Idaho State Department of Agriculture, will allow the commission to take preferred local varieties in Costa Rica that face substantial disease pressure and grown them in a disease-free environment in Idaho.

After that seed is certified, it will be grown in trial plots in Costa Rica so growers there can see first-had the benefits of using certified Idaho seed, said IBC Administrator Andi Woolf.

She said the project could pay off big for Idaho’s dry bean industry. “Costa Rica is a very promising market for us.”

The quality issues Costa Rican bean farmers face are serious and they are clamoring for an answer, Tolmie said.

But he also said growers there don’t fully grasp how complex the process of certifying bean seed is and Idaho’s industry needs to prove to them the value of investing in certified seed.

“They’re begging for clean seed but they don’t understand how complex clean seed is,” he said. “We’re going to have to help educate these folks about that process.”

Yellow spud varieties make debut Tue, 21 Oct 2014 12:56:17 -0400 John O’Connell IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — Yellow is becoming the new gold standard for specialty potato varieties, Northwestern spud industry experts say.

At the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit Convention from Oct. 17-19 in Anaheim, Calif., where produce companies go to show off their latest innovations, Idaho Falls-based Potandon Produce unveiled two new yellow potato varieties.

“We have seen explosive growth in the yellow potato subcategory in our whole potato group,” said Ralph Schwartz, Potandon’s vice president of marketing sales and innovation.

In recent years, Schwartz said yellow potatoes have represented about half of the variety development efforts of Potandon’s breeding division, SunRain Potato Varieties.

Schwartz said double-digit growth gains by the yellow category have led Potandon to believe that consumer preferences are shifting. Yellows still remain a small percentage of the overall potato crop, representing just 2 percent of Idaho’s 2014 fall potato acres and 3 percent of fall acreage in Oregon and Washington.

“We felt our greatest propensity for success was to ramp up the ones that are yellow potatoes,” Schwartz said.

Klondike Royale is high-yielding with yellow flesh and yellow skin bearing purple “kiss” marks. The packaging features purple fairies kissing the potato. Schwartz said the spud also stores well. Klondike Smiley has yellow flesh and light-pink skin with yellow markings that resemble smiling mouths. Schwartz explained it will be marketed as a child-friendly product and will feature Potandon’s first bag with Green Giant’s more youthful mascot, Sprout. Klondike Smiley will also come in microwavable packaging. Potandon will start shipping the two new varieties in November.

“The trade has really worked hard at bringing the yellow to the marketplace with better quality,” Schwartz said. “We expect the yellow potato category to continue to grow. At this point, nobody knows when it’s going to peak.”

Company representatives who helped evaluate Oregon States University’s first-year potato crosses showed a strong preference for specialty spuds with yellow flesh, said OSU breeder Sagar Sathuvalli. He tried to stimulate interest in a specialty spud with white flesh, but the industry representatives assured him white-fleshed specialty spuds are no longer marketable.

“If they see attractive mosaic patterns, they’re picking those up, and yellow flesh and yellow skin they’re picking up,” Sathuvalli said. “In every case they’re picking up the yellow flesh.”

At the retail level, reds have been promoted longer and still enjoy stronger demand than yellows, but interest in yellows is growing rapidly, said Ken Tubman, the Idaho Potato Commission’s marketing director for the Northeast and Canada.

“I think the golds are starting to come stronger,” Tubman said. “I see it ever improving.”

Jonathon Whitworth, a plant pathologist involved in the potato breeding program at the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service in Aberdeen, Idaho, has also noticed growth in yellows, both in produce aisles and within the Tri-State Potato Breeding Program. But Whitworth cautions, “It’s going to take the right varieties to fit that market, and overproduction will saturate it.”

Government Contractor Holds Listening Session on Federal Insurance for Specialty Crops from Food Safety and Contamination Issues. Tue, 21 Oct 2014 12:47:02 -0400 One action in the Agricultural Act of 2014 (Public Law 113-79) was the inclusion of an amendment to Section 522(c) of the Federal Crop Insurance Act (7 U.S.C. 1522(c)). One portion of this amendment added a subparagraph to the Federal Crop Insurance Act directing the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC) to enter into a contract for a study of insurance policies that might provide coverage for specialty crop production or revenue losses resulting from food safety and contamination issues. Specialty crops are defined in law as “fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture.” Health advisories and/or recalls related to contamination concerns and issued by government, retail, or national consumer group will be considered.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Risk Management Agency (RMA) Office of Product Management issued a contract on behalf of the FCIC. In that contract, a “Food Safety and Contamination Issue” is defined as “an issue when a specialty crop food has been contaminated or tainted making it unfit for consumption which results in a recall and causes an inability of producers to market their specialty crop from the field and the specialty crop is lost in field due to physical deterioration by natural causes.”

Watts and Associates, Inc. (W&A) was awarded the contract to conduct this food safety research study. Part of the research involves gathering stakeholder input. To that end, W&A is conducting a listening session open to the public at the Heidrick Ag History Center, 1962 Hays Lane, Woodland, CA 95776 on October 30, 2014 at 9:00 am. W&A hopes to obtain input about food safety and the effects of recalls on the ability of specialty crop producers to market their crops, input on the level of concern these issues raise, and other relevant feedback. If you are unable to attend, you can provide your input to Randy Landgren at W&A by email at

Josephine County to vote on pesticide ban Tue, 21 Oct 2014 11:58:07 -0400 Mateusz Perkowski A legally unenforceable ban on commercial pesticide use proposed in Oregon’s Josephine County is nonetheless troublesome to farmers and other pesticide users who worry it will spur vandalism.

Under Measure 17-63, a county ballot initiative in the November election, licensed corporate and government applicators would be prohibited from using pesticides on land in Josephine County. The ban would not apply to residential properties.

If local governments and courts refuse to enforce the ban, the ordinance would allow people to take “direct action” and use “any activities or actions carried out to directly enforce the rights and prohibitions contained within this ordinance.”

While the Oregon Legislature pre-empted local governments from regulating pesticides roughly 20 years ago, the ordinance could make people feel justified in vandalizing spray rigs or other equipment, said Scott Dahlman, executive director of Oregonians for Food and Shelter, which supports pesticide use.

“This measure is absolutely extreme,” Dahlman said. “It goes beyond a simple regulation.”

The prospect of vandalism against commercial pesticide users is not far-fetched considering two incidents in neighboring Jackson County last year, in which 6,500 genetically engineered sugar beet plants were destroyed, he said.

Aside from potential problems arising from “direct action,” the ordinance could prove costly for Josephine County if anti-pesticide activists try to compel the county government to enforce the ban through litigation, Dahlman said.

The ordinance is also misguided, as it would prevent licensed applicators from using pesticides that would still be available to homeowners with less training and experience, he said.

Supporters of the pesticide ban claim it’s necessary due to inaction by federal and state authorities.

“There is no guardian at the gate,” said Audrey Moore, director of the Freedom from Pesticides Alliance, which supports the measure.

When asked about the state law that precludes counties from restricting pesticide use, Moore said her group’s attorneys think the ordinance passes muster under the Oregon Constitution.

“The purpose of it is to override the pre-emption,” she said. “That’s the chemical cartel having their claws in our legislative body.”

Moore said she believes there is a “cancer cluster” in her area caused by helicopter spraying of pesticides, but residents haven’t been able to convince the state government to investigate.

The possibility of “direct action” is seen as a “last resort if the system fails us,” she said. “There’s some teeth to this initiative.”

Potential vandalism is a “scare tactic” by the ordinance’s opponents, said Moore, adding that she envisions “direct action” as standing in front of a truck to stop chemical delivery, rather than destroying property.

However, opponents of the measure are uneasy about the vague definition of “direct action” — “any activities or actions” to enforce the ban — which they believe could include assault and trespass.

In an explanatory statement, Josephine County’s legal counsel, Steven Rich, said “the measure would prohibit any civil or criminal action against the enforcers.”

Realistically, though, such a provision “would not have any force of law,” said James Foster, a political science professor at Oregon State University.

A county cannot “cherry pick” circumstances under which state or federal criminal laws will go unenforced, he said. “That is fantasyland.”

As for the ordinance superseding the state’s pre-emption of pesticide regulation, it’s also a legal impossibility, Foster said. That could not happen unless Oregon voters changed the state constitution to allow for such control by local governments, Foster said.

“Cities and counties are legal creatures of the state government,” he said. “The state legislature has the ultimate authority. The state legislature has the final word.”

WSU grad named Washington state veterinarian Tue, 21 Oct 2014 11:33:20 -0400 OLYMPIA, Wash. — A Washington State University graduate who has spent much of his career in New Mexico has been named Washington state veterinarian, the state Department of Agriculture announced Monday.

Joe Baker has almost 40 years of experience in veterinary medicine, according to the WSDA.

Baker, who is married and has two grown sons, has held positions with the New Mexico Livestock Board since 2006.

He has headed New Mexico’s Food Safety, Meat and Poultry Inspection Division, worked as a field veterinarian and served as interim state veterinarian.

Paul Kohrs, the assistant state veterinarian, has been acting state veterinarian.

Baker will start with WSDA on Nov. 3.

“Dr. Baker comes to us with the experience and background to be a great state veterinarian,” WSDA Director Bud Hover said in a press release. “He has many years in private practice, but also has a deep understanding of regulatory medicine and policy, both of which will help him work successfully with the livestock industry.”

Baker completed his bachelor’s and doctorate degrees in veterinary medicine at WSU and also completed an equine reproduction residency at the University of California-Davis.

As state veterinarian, Baker will manage WSDA’s Animal Health Program.