Capital Press | Capital Press Tue, 28 Mar 2017 18:18:07 -0400 en Capital Press | Dairy has its day at Oregon Capitol Tue, 28 Mar 2017 18:05:15 -0400 Geoff Parks SALEM — Dairy Day at the Oregon Capitol on Tuesday offered generous portions of dairy products — along with continued educational and lobbying efforts on legislative measures important to the industry.

Three FFA Chapters, members of the Oregon Dairy Princess Ambassador program, Oregon State University Dairy Club members and others pitched in to help distribute information and treats in the Capitol Galleria.

But the main purpose of the event was to give a higher profile to measures currently being debated in the Legislature — about 350 of them that are important to the dairy industry, said Tammy Dennee, legislative director of the Oregon Dairy Farmers Association.

March 26 through April 1 is Oregon Ag Week, and this year is “the 20th anniversary of the designation of milk as the official beverage of Oregon,” said Tami Kerr, executive director of the association. A toast to that milestone was held in the Galleria to mark the occasion.

The event was created to be fun and informational for visitors and staff, but also a reminder to legislators to be aware of the impact of bills they are considering have on the lives of dairy producers and family farms.

“We want to make sure that our producers can come in and share information (with legislators) about their farms and how various measures will positively or negatively impact their businesses,” she said.

One measure important to the dairy industry is Senate Bill 197, “which is about air quality and only targets the dairy industry,” Kerr said. The bill would require monitoring and regulation of the air quality at dairy operations.

“It’s still in the Senate Energy Committee right now,” Dennee said. “Fortunately, it is not moving out of committee right now, which is a very good sign for us because we feel our industry has done a great deal to be very progressive and responsive” by following voluntary best practices.

More than 55 pounds of cheese, 400 servings of milk, 25 servings of yogurt and 40 gallons of ice cream were served during the event.

Dennee said the event raises awareness of the dairy industry and helps the public learn about the way the 228 dairy farm families in Oregon manage their 125,000 cows.

Some Washington ranchers fear USFS taking their grazing Tue, 28 Mar 2017 17:30:44 -0400 Dan Wheat OKANOGAN, Wash. — The U.S. Forest Service denies that it’s trying to restrict or take away ranchers’ grazing rights in Okanogan County, but U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., isn’t buying it.

And Okanogan County Commissioner Jim DeTro believes the Forest Service’s aggressive stance may even be part of a larger effort by the agency to restrict grazing before Sonny Perdue is confirmed as U.S. agriculture secretary since he is presumably pro-grazing.

Starting in January, the USFS issued non-compliance letters to 23 of 39 grazing allotment holders in the Tonasket Ranger District in Okanogan County — far more than the usual number of letters.

Ranchers in a Feb. 22 letter to the USFS protested that they have not received any justification for the letters that allege over grazing, grazing in unauthorized areas and streambank damage.

Newhouse wrote a letter to USFS Region 6 Forester Jim Pena on March 10 and copied it to USFS Chief Tom Tidwell stating the way the allotments were monitored and the issuance of the letters violated USFS policy. Non-compliance letters are a first step in the loss of grazing rights, he said.

“There appears to be a reluctance to resolve this issue in an appropriate manner by both (USFS Tonasket) Ranger Matt Reidy and (Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest) Supervisor Mike Williams,” Newhouse wrote to Pena.

In a March 24 response, Pena wrote that he fully supports grazing allotments, that issues of concern arose from monitoring and that non-compliance letters did not mean any decisions had been made regarding permits.

“The Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest does not intend to shorten, limit or in any other way reduce permitted grazing during the 2017 field season,” Pena wrote.

USFS personnel will work “closely and collaboratively to resolve issues” during Annual Operating Instruction meetings with ranchers this spring, Pena wrote.

Monitoring data will be shared with ranchers and joint monitoring will take place this season, he wrote.

But that does not “address many of the issues the congressman and ranchers have raised over the monitoring process having been conducted in a manner that appears inconsistent with USFS policy and procedures,” said Will Boyington, a Newhouse spokesman.

“It’s nothing more than horse manure and white wash,” DeTro said of Pena’s letter.

One registered letter of non-compliance for overgrazing went to a permittee who had no cows on the allotment, DeTro said. In another case two monitoring sites were not on the rancher’s allotment, he said. At the least those instances constitute “gross negligence,” he said.

Permittees were not notified or invited to participate in monitoring despite a clear policy requiring it, Newhouse wrote in his March 10 letter to Pena.

None of the permittees were warned of potential issues before receiving non-compliance letters three months later and none of them received any documentation, Newhouse wrote. That also violates USFS policies, warrants a full review and the non-compliance letters should be voided or amended, he wrote.

Reidy, the Tonasket ranger, said policies were not violated because permittees were told during AOI meetings in 2016 that monitoring would occur. Notification requirements depend on the circumstances, he said.

“We will improve things for 2017. We will call them (permittees) a week before the monitoring so they have an opportunity to join us. In 2016, we didn’t do that in all instances,” Reidy said. “I’m absolutely committed to improving our relationships, coordination and communication.”

Newhouse wrote to Pena that most of the permittees “are third- and fourth-generation families who have operated the allotments for decades,” have had good relations with the USFS and never received non-compliance letters.

The Washington Farm Bureau and Cattle Producers of Washington also sent letters to the USFS objecting to the non-compliance letters.

The unprecedented number of letters has “deeply insulted these (rancher) families and broken trust between the agency and the public,” said Nicole Kuchenbuch, a rancher and president of the Okanogan County Farm Bureau.

Lengthy meetings between ranchers and Reidy resulted in the ranger being unwilling to be held accountable and refusing to answer questions, Kuchenbuch said.

“We had two meetings with a small group of permittees and ranching advocates and had some really, really good discussions,” Reidy said, adding that he rescinded one letter because he had made an honest mistake.

In the rest of the cases, he said, letters of compliance will be issued once monitoring shows collective solutions have worked.

Last season, a USFS range technician threatened to bring in federal marshals and have a rancher arrested if he didn’t have his cattle off an allotment on time, said DeTro, who called USFS actions like the “Gestapo.”

“Never before have we been treated with such unwarranted disrespect from the Forest Service. ... We are asking them to rescind the letters and make a good faith effort to rebuild rapport in our community,” Kuchenbuch said.

Kuchenbuch, Newhouse, DeTro and the Washington Farm Bureau made the point that USFS ignored repeated requests for proof that ranchers had overgrazed, grazed in unauthorized areas or damaged streambanks.

One family was sent an official Freedom of Information Act case number and a bill for $175 even though it did not submit a FOIA request but simply wanted access to its file, Newhouse wrote to Pena. Newhouse requested ranchers be allowed full access to their files without cost.

The large increase in non-compliance letters was because more grazing violations occurred because parts of the allotments had been burned in 2015 wildfires, Reidy said.

It’s taken time to compile data supporting the non-compliance letters but the information is being shared in this year’s AOIs, mailed or picked up by ranchers at the district ranger office, he said.

“I’m personally committed to work with permittees to implement sound rangeland management strategies,” Reidy said. “Our collective goal is to make sure lands are managed in sustainable and healthy condition for now and future generations.”

Hemp bills would move crop into mainstream Tue, 28 Mar 2017 16:57:45 -0400 Mateusz Perkowski SALEM — Hemp would be brought further into the mainstream of Oregon agriculture under two bills that create a commodity commission and seed certification process for the crop.

“Industrial hemp has a huge potential in Oregon, we just need a few tweaks to help move it forward,” said Matt Cyrus, who grows hemp in Deschutes County, during a March 28 legislative hearing.

Under House Bill 2372, Oregon’s hemp industry would join 23 other crop, livestock and seafood sectors to have a state commission aimed at promoting and researching a commodity through fees raised from producers.

Breeders of new hemp varieties could also get the purity of their seeds certified under House Bill 2371, similarly to other crop species, through a system overseen by Oregon State University.

“It’s truly about a certified seed, one we know Oregon can count on,” said Jerry Norton, a hemp grower.

To comply with federal provisions in the 2014 Farm Bill that allow hemp research, HB 2371 would also create a hemp pilot program at OSU, among other changes to Oregon hemp statutes.

Commercial hemp production is illegal under federal drug laws that lump hemp, a form of cannabis, in the same category as its psychoactive cousin, marijuana.

Aligning Oregon’s hemp laws with the 2014 Farm Bill provisions will likely ease financial transactions for hemp growers, since many banks are otherwise leery of dealing with the crop, Cyrus said.

“The banks are looking for specific language in statute,” he said.

If there’s ever a change in federal law regarding cannabis, Oregon’s seed certification process would let hemp breeders patent their varieties, said Jay Noller, head of OSU’s crop and soil science department.

Because cannabis is illegal under federal law hemp varieties can’t be protected, he said.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has authorized Noller to import high-quality hemp seeds from Canada and elsewhere.

At this point, though, foreign companies are reluctant to export hemp seed into Oregon due to a provision in state law allowing growers to save and plant it, he said.

Under HB 2371, that provision would be struck from Oregon law, hopefully opening the way for new hemp genetics to enter the state, Noller said.

Oregon’s hemp statutes are already setting an example for other states and the proposed changes will let growers “get off the airstrip and into the air,” said Norton.

“We feel that hemp in Oregon is going to be the new crop of the decade, if not the century,” he said.

Read signals intent to pursue public ownership option for Elliott Forest Tue, 28 Mar 2017 15:57:52 -0400 Claire Withycombe Capital Bureau

SALEM — After a sustained outcry from environmental groups, Oregon Treasurer Tobias Read appeared to signal his intent Tuesday to side with the governor in her evolving plan to stop the impending sale of an expanse of coastal forest in Southern Oregon.

Read said Tuesday that he sees a “path forward” for public ownership of about 82,500 acres of the Elliott Forest in Coos and Douglas counties.

Last month, though, the treasurer voiced qualified support for a proposal to sell the forest to a partnership between a Roseburg timber company and a Native American tribe.

Read announced Tuesday that he would work with the Department of State Lands to develop a plan for the forest that would end its obligation to generate revenue for the Common School Fund, which is essentially an endowment for K-12 education.

In 2015, the State Land Board — then comprised of Gov. Kate Brown, then-Treasurer Ted Wheeler and then-Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins — decided to sell the land after litigation challenged the state’s management of areas occupied by protected species. The state said lawsuits prevented it from harvesting enough timber to generate money for the fund.

But a year later, only one entity — the partnership between Lone Rock Resources, a Roseburg timber company, and the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians — had submitted an acquisition proposal, which drew fire from the state’s environmental groups.

And Brown has said she no longer wants to sell the forest.

Environmental activists have been lobbying the board for months, and of late have focused on Read.

They warn that the sale of the Elliott to a private company would realize fears that under the administration of President Donald J. Trump, states will follow the president’s lead and privatize public land.

In a statement Tuesday, Brown alluded to those concerns, saying public ownership was “critical” to sustainable timber harvests and protecting the environment for future generations.

“I remain committed to exploring a path toward public ownership of the Elliott that continues to honor the Common School Fund,” Brown said. “I am heartened that Treasurer Read shares this vision and I appreciate his unwavering commitment to the state’s fiduciary responsibility to Oregon schools.”

Brown has proposed using the state’s bonding capacity to buy a portion of the forest. Read said Tuesday that the governor had worked to drum up support for that strategy.

“I have made it clear to all sides that if Gov. Brown brought forward a viable alternative I would consider it,” Read said. “The Governor and her team have continued to refine her framework, and most importantly she has worked to build support for key bonding components among legislators, including the Senate President.”

Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, has suggested using revenue bonds payable from revenues generated by the forest — whether through timber harvests or other activities.

The lone Republican on the land board, Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, voted in favor of moving forward with the sale in February. His office did not immediately respond Tuesday to a request for comment on Treasurer Read’s announcement.

On Sunday, the Democratic Party of Oregon passed a resolution that urged the state Land Board to work with the governor on the public ownership option.

The move puts newly elected party chair Jeanne Atkins in the position of advocating against a concept she signed off on when she was secretary of state and member of the land board in 2015. Read, who was elected treasurer in November, is a Democrat, as is Brown.

The land board meets again May 9 in Salem, Until then the Department of State Lands is both preparing a sale agreement and a report on public ownership options.

Bill would remove barrier to Oregon pesticide lawsuits Tue, 28 Mar 2017 11:00:10 -0400 Mateusz Perkowski SALEM — Filing lawsuits over alleged pesticide damages would be easier in Oregon under a bill that would eliminate a plaintiff’s responsibility to first notify farm regulators.

Currently, anybody who claims to be harmed by pesticides must submit a report within 60 days to the Oregon Department of Agriculture before taking legal action against the landowner or applicator.

Senate Bill 500 would remove this requirement, which is characterized by proponents as an unfair impediment to justice and by critics as a reasonable barrier to frivolous litigation.

“Keep things the way they are,” urged Denver Pugh, a farmer near Shedd, Ore., during a March 22 legislative hearing.

Pugh said pesticide spraying at his family’s operation was blamed for injuring the trees and shrubs of a nearby organic grower, who filed a “report of loss” with the ODA.

After an investigation, ODA determined the damage was actually caused by hail, not pesticides, which prevented an unnecessary lawsuit, said Pugh.

Critics of the bill argue the reporting requirement allows ODA to gather facts substantiating or repudiating the claims of pesticide loss, thus avoiding litigation based on weak or nonexistent evidence.

The 60-day window also ensures that accused farmers have an opportunity to collect their own evidence, which may not be possible if a lawsuit is filed long after an alleged incident, opponents say.

Greg Peterson, a tree farm owner, said ODA officials determined that his pesticide usage had no connection to the death of fish at a nearby property, contrary to the neighbor’s accusations.

“It was very good they were able to act as an intermediary,” Peterson said. “To unravel that would have been horrendous for us as landowners.”

Supporters of SB 500, on the other hand, say the “report of loss” requires submitting specifics that are difficult for people to obtain, such as the type of pesticide applied and who sprayed the chemical.

“Most people have to work with a state agency to get that information and it takes more than 60 days,” said Lisa Arkin, executive director of Beyond Toxics, which supports the bill.

Gary Hale, a resident of Lane County, said rural residents who are exposed to pesticides often won’t realize they must submit a report to ODA.

“There’s a very small percentage of Oregonians who expect that to be a requirement,” he said.

Once they find out about the 60-day deadline, it may be too late to submit the report of loss, permanently blocking the possibility of legal recourse, Hale said. “There is no justice after that.”

Being tapped state president a dream come true for Baker City FFA member Tue, 28 Mar 2017 08:36:06 -0400 Marina Riker REDMOND, Ore. — When 18-year-old Kourtney Lehman made the nearly five-hour trek from Baker City to Redmond for the 89th Oregon State FFA convention last week, she never imagined she would return as the organization’s state president.

“You always dream to get to this point, but it’s hard,” said Lehman. “It definitely feels like I’m in a different world right now.”

Lehman, a senior at Baker High School, was named president of the 2017-18 Oregon State FFA officer team on Monday, the final day of the convention held at Deschutes County Fair and Expo Center over the weekend of March 24-27. More than 2,000 FFA members and hundreds of other attendees, judges and sponsors flocked to the event — along with a few horses, ducks and sheep.

During the weekend, thousands of students decked out in blue-and-gold corduroy participated in events ranging from debates on hot-button agricultural topics to marketing contests. Depending on how they fared, they were hand-picked by judges to lead the organization for the next year.

“My biggest goal is just serving the members,” said Lehman. “They’re all so passionate about making a difference in their communities.”

Just minutes after Lehman was named president, her social media accounts exploded with congratulatory messages and blue-and-gold heart symbols. Even though she won the state job interview contest and placed third place in a public speaking competition earlier in the weekend, she was shocked to learn she’d been named the state’s FFA leader.

“It’s been an amazing experience,” said Lehman, whose father, brother and sister were also FFA members.

Over the next year, officers such as Lehman will be responsible for holding events including educational workshops and leadership camps, as well as governing thousands of members statewide.

Emma Rooker of the Bend FFA Chapter was selected as state vice president, while Wade Rynearson of the Union FFA Chapter was named treasurer.

Lee Wesenberg of the Sutherlin FFA Chapter was chosen as state reporter and Gaby Santa Cruz of Hood River Valley High School is sentinel.

After three long days of interviews with judges, Jensen Kemble of Ontario High School was picked for state secretary. Kemble, 17, said he was overwhelmed by the “whirlwind” that came before the announcement of the new officers — especially on Monday morning, when the judges’ votes were tallied.

“The process leading up to the announcement is very intense,” said Kemble. “It takes several minutes to calculate the votes and the entire time you just grab onto the other candidates for support and hope for the best.”

The convention’s theme was “Don’t Back Down,” a concept that was weaved into many of the weekend’s events ranging from debate challenges to marketing competitions.

On Sunday, Sevana Patrick, a senior from the Hermiston FFA Chapter, spent the entire morning preparing materials for the convention’s marketing competition finals.

The 18-year-old said her favorite part of participating in the organization is learning leadership skills and being supported by peers. After high school, she plans to enlist in the U.S. Navy, where she wants to further hone her skills as a leader and team member.

“It’s about being accepted and having that family, and having something that’s greater than yourself,” said Patrick, whose team placed third in the marketing competition.

The weekend was 18-year-old Sebastian Powers-Leach’s second time attending the FFA convention. The North Marion High School senior raises market sheep and wants to work in agriculture, but his favorite part of the FFA is competing in debate contests.

Powers-Leach and his peers were tasked with researching and debating agricultural issues that ranged from whether to label genetically modified foods to the perks of state farm-to-school food programs. Last year, the students debated immigration issues — a heated topic — in addition to less controversial ones such as whether to hold the convention at a single location each year, Powers-Leach said.

“A lot of it is opinion-based to an extent,” said Powers-Leach. “But there are others where you really need the facts to back it up with research.”

Most dairy prices confound bears Tue, 28 Mar 2017 10:31:53 -0400 Lee Mielke The bears found enough to feed on last week as spring began, but cheese prices pushed higher. The cheddar blocks closed Friday at $1.44 per pound, up 4 cents on the week but 5 cents below a year ago. The barrels finished at $1.39, up 2 1/2-cents on the week and 6 cents below a year ago. Nineteen cars of block traded hands last week at the CME and 23 of barrel.

The blocks inched a half-cent higher Monday but were unchanged Tuesday, holding at $1.4450. The barrels dropped 2 cents Monday and stayed there Tuesday, at $1.37, a slightly higher than normal 7 1/2-cents below the blocks.

FC Stone’s Brendan Curran wrote in Monday’s Insider Opening Bell that “Growth in milk production, heavy stocks and a lethargic international market all add ammo to the bearish camp, especially with flush on the doorstep. The larger question/issue facing the trade will be whether demand is strong enough to support prices at current levels or if the ensuing tide of milk will wash things out a bit more.”

Cheese output in the Midwest is active, reports Dairy Market News. Contractual milk supplies are generally meeting cheesemakers’ needs, however, spot offers continue to come in at Class to $3.50 under. Pizza cheese producers reported a seasonal uptick in orders and retail is steady to strong. Some suggest increased advertising and promotions have bolstered orders but cheese inventories are long.

Western cheese production is strong and moving steadily. A few manufacturers suggest sales have drawn down inventories somewhat but the consensus is that stocks are still long, especially for barrel cheese.

Cash butter shed 3 1/4-cents last week, pressured by large stocks, and closed at $2.0975 per pound, still 17 1/2-cents above a year ago. That is the lowest it has been since Dec. 15, 2016 but only five cars were sold on the week at the CME.

The resilient butter was up a quarter-cent Monday and held at $2.10 on Tuesday.

Butter production is active across the Central U.S., says DMN. Class II interest in cream has yet to affect butter makers’ accessibility. Butter demand is fair to strong and some contacts suggest recent butter related news articles have prompted some uptick in ordering.

Western production is active and stable. Demand is steady in advance of the spring holidays but buyers are expressing little interest beyond immediate needs.

Cash Grade A nonfat dry milk climbed to 84 1/2-cents per pound Thursday but closed Friday at 82 cents, up 1 1/2-cents on the week and 9 1/2-cents above a year ago. Twenty carloads were sold on the week at the CME, 17 on Friday alone.

The powder was unchanged Monday but gave back a half-cent Tuesday, slipping to 81 1/2-cents per pound.

The February Cold Storage report pegged U.S. butter stocks at a bearish 282.6 million pounds, up 61.1 million pounds or 28 percent from January and 47 million pounds or 20 percent above February 2016.

American type cheese, at 774.1 million pounds, was up 21.9 million pounds or 3 percent from January and 57.7 million or 8 percent above a year ago.

The total cheese inventory stood at 1.26 billion pounds, up 34.9 million pounds or 3 percent from January and 75.1 million or 6 percent above February 2016.

The January American cheese estimate was lowered 8.5 million pounds from last month’s report and the total inventory was lowered by 10.1 million pounds.

The April Federal order Class I base milk price is $16.05 per hundredweight, down 85 cents from March, $2.31 above April 2016, and equates to $1.38 per gallon, down from $1.45 in March. It is the lowest Class I since November 2016 and puts the four-month average at $16.78, up from $14.30 at this time a year ago and $16.47 in 2015.

The USDA surveyed butter price used in calculating the Class I value averaged $2.1932 per pound, up a half-cent from March. Nonfat dry milk averaged 85.06 cents per pound, down 13.7 cents. Cheese averaged $1.5793, down 11 cents, and dry whey averaged 52.35 cents per pound, up 3.6 cents from March.

February dairy cow culling was down from January and a little below a year ago, according to USDA’s latest Livestock Slaughter report. An estimated 253,200 head were slaughtered under federal inspection in February, down 15,900 head from January and 3,200 below February 2016, but the data is skewed because of February 2017 having one day less than February 2016.

China dairy firm says it can’t contact exec after stock dive Tue, 28 Mar 2017 09:57:15 -0400 KELVIN CHANAP Business Writer HONG KONG (AP) — A Chinese dairy company whose stock plunged last week, wiping billions off its market value, denied rumors Tuesday of forged invoices and misappropriated funds, but also said it can’t contact a key executive.

China Huishan Dairy Holdings Co.’s Hong Kong-listed shares tumbled 85 percent in minutes on Friday morning before they were halted. The reason for the sell-off was unclear.

Huishan’s statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange on Tuesday was its first public response since the stock plunge.

The company denied two rumors that it said were making the rounds. One claimed that an audit turned up a large number of fake bills issued by company members, and another that Chairman Yang Kai had misappropriated 3 billion yuan ($436 million) to invest in real estate in the northeastern rust belt city of Shenyang, where Huishan Dairy is based.

“The company categorically denies having approved the issue of any forged invoices and does not believe there to be any misappropriation,” it said.

It also denied a rumor that one of its controlling shareholders sold off 3.4 billion shares because of a margin call.

The company was the subject of a report in December by U.S.-based short-seller Muddy Waters accusing it of reporting fraudulent profits, but it said then that those accusations were false.

Huishan Dairy said Tuesday that for the past week, it has not been able to contact its senior executive in charge of treasury and cash operations, Ge Kun, whose work it said intensified after the Muddy Waters report.

On March 21, Yang “received a letter from Ms. Ge indicating that the recent work stress had taken a toll on her health, that she would take leave of absence and does not want to be contacted at this time,” the company said in the statement.

Huishan also said it was late on some of its bank loan repayments and has sought to have them rolled over. The company said shares would remain suspended until it got an update on its financial position.

Trump puts anti-global warming projects on chopping block Tue, 28 Mar 2017 09:47:10 -0400 MATTHEW DALYand JILL COLVIN WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order Tuesday aimed at moving forward on his campaign pledge to unravel former President Barack Obama’s plan to curb global warming.

The order seeks to suspend, rescind or flag for review more than a half-dozen measures in an effort to boost domestic energy production in the form of fossil fuels.

As part of the roll-back, Trump will initiate a review of the Clean Power Plan, which restricts greenhouse gas emissions at coal-fired power plants. The regulation, which was the former president’s signature effort to curb carbon emissions, has been the subject of long-running legal challenges by Republican-led states and those who profit from burning oil, coal and gas.

Just as former President Barack Obama’s climate efforts were often stymied by legal challenges, environmental groups are promising to fight Trump’s pro-fossil fuel agenda in court.

Trump, who has called global warming a “hoax” invented by the Chinese, has repeatedly criticized the power-plant rule and others as an attack on American workers and the struggling U.S. coal industry. The contents of the order were outlined to reporters in a sometimes tense briefing with a senior White House official, whom aides insisted speak without attribution despite President Trump’s criticism of the use of unnamed sources in the news media.

The official at one point appeared to break with mainstream climate science, denying familiarity with widely publicized concerns about the potential adverse economic impacts of climate change, such as rising sea levels and more extreme weather.

In addition to pulling back from the Clean Power Plan, the administration will also lift a 14-month-old moratorium on new coal leases on federal lands.

The Obama administration had imposed a three-year moratorium on new federal coal leases in January 2016, arguing that the $1 billion-a-year program must be modernized to ensure a fair financial return to taxpayers and address climate change.

Trump accused his predecessor of waging a “war on coal” and boasted in a speech to Congress that he has made “a historic effort to massively reduce job-crushing regulations,” including some that threaten “the future and livelihoods of our great coal miners.”

The order will also chip away at other regulations, including scrapping language on the “social cost” of greenhouse gases. It will initiate a review of efforts to reduce the emission of methane in oil and natural gas production as well as a Bureau of Land Management hydraulic fracturing rule, to determine whether those reflect the president’s policy priorities.

It will also rescind Obama-era executive orders and memoranda, including one that addressed climate change and national security and one that sought to prepare the country for the impacts of climate change.

The administration is still in discussion about whether it intends to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Trump’s order could make it more difficult, though not impossible, for the U.S. to achieve its carbon reduction goals. The president’s promises to boost coal jobs run counter to market forces, such as U.S. utilities converting coal-fired power plants to cheaper, cleaner-burning natural gas.

Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency chief, Scott Pruitt, alarmed environmental groups and scientists earlier this month when he said he does not believe carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming. The statement is at odds with mainstream scientific consensus and Pruitt’s own agency.

The overwhelming majority of peer-reviewed studies and climate scientists agree the planet is warming, mostly due to man-made sources, including carbon dioxide, methane, halocarbons and nitrogen oxide.

The power-plant rule Trump is set to address in his order has been on hold since last year as a federal appeals court considers a challenge by coal-friendly states and corporations who call the plan an unconstitutional power grab.

Opponents say the plan will kill coal-mining jobs and drive up electricity costs. The Obama administration, some Democratic-led states and environmental groups countered that it would spur thousands of clean-energy jobs and help the U.S. meet ambitious goals to reduce carbon pollution set by the international agreement signed in Paris.

Trump’s order on coal-fired power plants follows an executive order he signed last month mandating a review of an Obama-era rule aimed at protecting small streams and wetlands from development and pollution. The order instructs the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to review a rule that redefined “waters of the United States” protected under the Clean Water Act to include smaller creeks and wetlands.

While Republicans have blamed Obama-era environmental regulations for the loss of coal jobs, federal data shows that U.S. mines have been shedding jobs for decades under presidents from both parties as a result of increasing automation and competition from natural gas, which has become more abundant through hydraulic fracturing. Another factor is the plummeting cost of solar panels and wind turbines, which now can produce emissions-free electricity cheaper than burning coal.

According to an Energy Department analysis released in January, coal mining now accounts for fewer than 75,000 U.S. jobs. By contrast, renewable energy — including wind, solar and biofuels — now accounts for more than 650,000 U.S. jobs.

The Trump administration’s plans drew praise from business groups and condemnation from environmental groups.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas J. Donohue praised the president for taking “bold steps to make regulatory relief and energy security a top priority.”

“These executive actions are a welcome departure from the previous administration’s strategy of making energy more expensive through costly, job-killing regulations that choked our economy,” he said.

Former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy accused the Trump administration of wanting “us to travel back to when smokestacks damaged our health and polluted our air, instead of taking every opportunity to support clean jobs of the future.”

“This is not just dangerous; it’s embarrassing to us and our businesses on a global scale to be dismissing opportunities for new technologies, economic growth, and U.S. leadership,” she said in a statement.

Coke, Pepsi look to make water rain money Tue, 28 Mar 2017 09:41:57 -0400 CANDICE CHOIAP Food Industry Writer NEW YORK (AP) — Bottled water is starting to seem more like soda, and sometimes taste like it, too.

As bottled water surges in popularity, Coke, Pepsi and other companies are using celebrity endorsements, stylish packaging and fancy filtration processes like “reverse osmosis” to sell people on expanding variations of what comes out of the tap. They’re also adding flourishes like bubbles, flavors or sweeteners that can blur the lines between what is water and what is soda.

For this year’s Super Bowl, PepsiCo even ran an ad for its new Lifewtr, promoting the drink in a spotlight typically reserved for sodas. Also running their first Super Bowl ads were Fiji and Bai Brands, which sell “enhanced waters” made with fruit juice and stevia sweetener.

Michael Simon, Bai’s chief marketing officer, says its drinks “give people that healthy profile they’re looking for, but now they no longer have to sacrifice on taste with the neutrality of water.”

Bottled water has been gaining ground for years, and overtook soda as the No. 1 drink in the U.S. by sales volume last year, industry tracker Beverage Marketing Corp. said. Some of the fizzy, sweetened drinks are considered water by the companies and industry trackers, as the distinctions between them lose meaning. Companies aren’t as interested in the big, economy packs of plain bottled water that have been fueling the growth, says Ali Dibaj, a Bernstein analyst who covers the industry, since those are less profitable than sodas and are a “horrible business to be in.”

So Coke and Pepsi are focusing on pricier options that compete with brands like Evian and Perrier. And they’re introducing fizzy and fruity varieties to get a better foothold in increasingly crowded marketplace where options like LaCroix and others are gaining popularity. Showing just how blurry the lines are getting, PepsiCo launched a drink last week that it describes as “sorta juice, sorta soda, sorta sparkling water.” Such options can capture people looking to cut back on sodas or juices, and may get people who might buy lower-priced waters to upgrade.

“You can get up the ladder in terms of water and get out of the categories that don’t drive a lot of value,” Coca-Cola’s incoming CEO James Quincey said in September.

Quincey cites Smartwater, which has enjoyed sales growth in North America, as a way for Coke to profitably expand its water business. The brand is billed as “vapor distilled” and features actress Jennifer Aniston in its ads.

He also said that in the crowded Chinese market, Coke is upgrading people to a water brand it markets as “socially responsible” with a different blend of minerals, which costs twice as much.

Exactly what makes water seem like it’s worth the extra money varies, but image is key.

PepsiCo had toyed with names like “Qua” and “Om” before settling on Lifewtr. The company points to the artwork featured on its bottles, and the “reverse osmosis” filtration the water undergoes, with electrolytes added for taste. “This is where consumers are heading,” said Todd Kaplan, vice president of marketing at PepsiCo, about lower-calorie drinks like Lifewtr.

Both Lifewtr and Smartwater, which account for a small portion of the overall packaged water market, are made with municipal water and were selling for $2.79 for a 1-liter bottle at a 7-Eleven in New York City. The convenience store chain’s private label brand was selling for $1.50 for the same size bottle.

The challenge for Coke and Pepsi is people like Andrew Allen. The New York City resident said he is trying to drink more water, but isn’t loyal to a particular brand and buys whatever he can get a deal on.

“I just wanted to stop drinking soda — just give it up,” Allen said.

Julie McKnight, who also lives in New York City, said the distinctions made by some bottled waters are not worth the extra price. “It doesn’t seem any different,” she said. Mostly, McKnight said uses reusable bottles that she fills with filtered tap water.

To help address people’s concerns about the environment as well as paying for a variation of what they could get from the faucet, companies like Nestle have been “light weighting” the packaging to use less plastic and keep prices down.

In addition to the still, unflavored versions, Coke’s Dasani and Pepsi’s Aquafina have been rolling out sparkling and flavored extensions. Such options are making it trickier to define drinks that may be fizzy and sweet, yet marketed as water. Beverage Digest, another industry tracker, counts flavored sparkling varieties in its water category, as well as Sparkling Ice, which is made with artificial sweeteners.

“Someone could argue with a straight face that maybe those belong with (sodas),” executive editor Duane Stanford noted. But, he said, people drink Sparkling Ice with the “mindset” that it is water.

Worst humanitarian crisis hits as Trump slashes foreign aid Tue, 28 Mar 2017 09:39:03 -0400 JUSTIN LYNCH NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — The world’s largest humanitarian crisis in 70 years has been declared in three African countries on the brink of famine, just as President Donald Trump’s proposed foreign aid cuts threaten to pull the United States from its historic role as the world’s top emergency donor.

If the deep cuts are approved by Congress and the U.S. does not contribute to Africa’s current crisis, experts warn that the continent’s growing drought and famine could have far-ranging effects, including a new wave of migrants heading to Europe and possibly more support for Islamic extremist groups.

The conflict-fueled hunger crises in Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan have culminated in a trio of potential famines hitting almost simultaneously. Nearly 16 million people in the three countries are at risk of dying within months.

Famine already has been declared in two counties of South Sudan and 1 million people there are on the brink of dying from a lack of food, U.N. officials have said. Somalia has declared a state of emergency over drought and 2.9 million of its people face a food crisis that could become a famine, according to the U.N. And in northeastern Nigeria, severe malnutrition is widespread in areas affected by violence from Boko Haram extremists.

“We are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the United Nations,” Stephen O’Brien, the U.N. humanitarian chief, told the U.N. Security Council after a visit this month to Somalia and South Sudan.

At least $4.4 billion is needed by the end of March to avert a hunger “catastrophe” in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in late February.

But according to U.N. data, only 10 percent of the necessary funds have been received so far.

Trump’s proposed budget would “absolutely” cut programs that help some of the most vulnerable people on Earth, Mick Mulvaney, the president’s budget director, told reporters last week. The budget would “spend less money on people overseas and more money on people back home,” he said.

The United States traditionally has been the largest donor to the U.N. and gives more foreign aid to Africa than any other continent. In 2016 it gave more than $2 billion to the U.N.’s World Food Program, or almost a quarter of its total budget. That is expected to be reduced under Trump’s proposed budget, according to former and current U.S. government officials.

“I’ve never seen this kind of threat to what otherwise has been a bipartisan consensus that food aid and humanitarian assistance programs are morally essential and critical to our security,” Steven Feldstein, a former deputy assistant secretary of state in the Obama administration, told The Associated Press.

In an interview last week with the AP in Washington, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rejected the proposed cuts to foreign aid. “America being a force is a lot more than building up the Defense Department,” he said. “Diplomacy is important, extremely important, and I don’t think these reductions at the State Department are appropriate because many times diplomacy is a lot more effective — and certainly cheaper — than military engagement.”

The hunger crises in Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan are all the more painful because they are man-made, experts said, though climate change has had some impact on Somalia and Nigeria’s situations, said J. Peter Pham, the head of the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council.

South Sudan has been entrenched in civil war since late 2013 that has killed tens of thousands and prevented widespread cultivation of food. In Nigeria and Somalia, extremist groups Boko Haram and al-Shabab have proven stubborn to defeat, and both Islamic organizations still hold territory that complicates aid efforts.

If Trump’s foreign aid cuts are approved, the humanitarian funding burden for the crises would shift to other large donors like Britain. But the U.S.’s influential role in rallying global support will slip.

“Without significant contributions from the U.S. government, it is less able to catalyze contributions from other donors and meet even minimal life-saving needs,” Nancy Lindborg, president of the United States Institute of Peace, said in prepared remarks to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, neighboring African countries will feel the immediate consequences of famine, experts said. On Thursday, the U.N. refugee chief said Uganda was at a “breaking point” after more than 570,000 South Sudanese refugees had arrived since July alone.

Others fleeing hunger could aim for Europe instead.

“We are going to see pressure on neighboring countries, in some cases people joining traditional migration routes both from the Sahel into Europe, or south into various destinations in Africa,” Joseph Siegle, director of research at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, told the AP.

“You have 19 countries facing some degree of food stress in Africa, and three of them are facing famine conditions. All three of them are facing conflict, and the vast majority of the countries facing more serious crises are non-democratic governments,” Siegle said.

He described a series of possible consequences. Most likely there will be increased flows of people migrating from Somalia and the vast Sahel region north into Libya, where trafficking routes are a valuable source of finance for the Islamic State, he said.

Closer to home, people from South Sudan and Somalia seeking food likely will strain the resources of neighboring countries where political will and goodwill to refugees can be fleeting, said Mohammed Abdiker, director of operations and emergencies with the International Organization for Migration.

The regional consequences will depend on how the international community responds, Abdiker said.

Alex De Waal, executive director of the World Peace Foundation, summed up the situation: “Famine can be prevented if we want.”

Grocery tax repeal bill heads Idaho governor’s desk Tue, 28 Mar 2017 09:36:32 -0400 KIMBERLEE KRUESI BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho would join 37 other states to not tax groceries under a proposal headed to the governor’s desk.

House members on Monday voted 51-19 to advance the grocery tax repeal bill to Gov. Butch Otter. If approved, Idahoans would no longer pay taxes on groceries starting July 1, 2018.

“I think it’s immoral. I think it’s wrong to tax people on their food,” said House Assistant Majority Leader Brent Crane, R-Nampa. “The time has come to give the people their money back and quit taxing their basic needs.”

However, the fate of the proposal remains unclear as Otter broke from his traditional stance of not commenting on pending legislation and sternly warned legislative leadership that he is against the bill. But he stopped short of promising to veto it.

House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, and Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, voted against the measure.

Idaho lawmakers have voiced support for a substantial tax cut since the beginning of the legislative session, but division has lingered between leadership and members on the best way to provide tax relief. At the beginning of this year, House Majority Leader Mike Moyle presented a roughly $51 million tax-cut plan that only addressed slashing the state’s top income and corporate tax rates.

The proposal easily passed the House, leading many to believe that it would be the key tax relief proposal of the year. Yet that all changed when a faction of both Republicans and Democrats inside the Senate was able to get enough support to completely rewrite the proposal during an amending session. This resulted in a completely different plan that no longer addressed income and corporate tax rates but instead removed the state’s 6 percent sales tax on food and beverages.

The proposal will slash an estimated $52 million from the state’s general fund during the first year of implementation.

“I’m troubled that it’s too much too soon,” said Rep. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, who argued that voting on the grocery tax repeal was one of the hardest decisions she has made all year.

In Idaho, a bill automatically becomes law — even if the governor doesn’t sign it — unless it is vetoed within the legal timeframe. When the Legislature is in session, the timeframe is five days. That deadline is extended to 10 days once the Legislature adjourns. The Legislature is expected to finish its business sometime this week.

Portland daily grain report Tue, 28 Mar 2017 09:36:12 -0400 Portland, Ore., Tuesday, March 28, 2017

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 wheat futures trended 2.25 to three cents per bushel higher compared to Monday’s closes.

Bids for US 1 Soft White Wheat delivered to Portland in unit trains and barges for March delivery for ordinary protein were not well tested in early trading, but were indicated as higher compared to Monday’s noon bids for the same delivery period. Some exporters were not issuing bids for nearby delivery. Bids for guaranteed maximum 10.5 percent protein were not well tested early trading, but were indicated as steady to higher compared to Monday’s bids for the same delivery period. Some exporters were not issuing bids for nearby delivery.

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

Bids for 14 percent protein US 1 Dark Northern Spring Wheat for March delivery were not well tested in early trading, but were indicated as higher compared to Monday’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 March were not well tested in early trading, but bids were indicated as higher compared to Monday’s noon bids for the same delivery period. Some exporters were not issuing bids for nearby delivery.

Bids for US 1 Yellow Soybeans delivered full coast in 110 car shuttle trains during March were not available in early trading as most exporters were not issuing bids for nearby delivery.

All wheat bids in dollars per bushel

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

Ordinary protein

Mar 4.4350-4.6850

Apr 4.4350-4.8000

May 4.4350-4.8000

Jun 4.4675-4.8000

Aug NC 4.5225-4.7200

Guaranteed maximum 10.5 pct protein

Mar 4.4350-4.7500

Apr 4.4350-4.7500

May 4.4350-4.7500

Jun NA

Aug NC 4.5225-4.7000

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

Ordinary protein

Mar 4.4350-4.7850

Guaranteed maximum 10.5 pct protein

Mar 4.5350-4.8350

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


Ordinary protein 4.1425-4.3925

11 pct protein 4.7425-4.9925

11.5 pct protein

Mar 5.0425-5.2925

Apr 5.0425-5.2425

May 5.0425-5.1925

Jun 5.1250-5.2250

Aug NC 5.1200-5.2700

12 pct protein 5.1925-5.4425

13 pct protein 5.4925-5.7425

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 5.7925-6.1025

14 pct protein

Mar 6.3525-6.7025

Apr 6.3525-6.7025

May 6.3525-6.7025

Jun 6.4175-6.6675

Aug NC 6.6425-6.6925

15 pct protein 6.6725-7.1025

16 pct protein 6.9925-7.5025

US 2 Yellow Corn

Shuttle trains-Delivered full coast Pacific Northwest-BN

Mar 4.3500-4.3700

Apr 4.3700-4.3900

May 4.3700-4.3900

Jun 4.3675-4.3975

Jul 4.3675-4.3775

Aug NA

US 1 Yellow Soybeans

Shuttle trains-Delivered full coast Pacific Northwest-BN

Mar NA

Apr 10.2775-10.3275

May 10.2775-10.3275

Oct 10.5275-10.5775

Nov 10.5475

US 2 Heavy White Oats 3.2650

Not well tested.

Exporter Bids Portland Rail/Barge Feb 2017

Averages in Dollars per bushel

US 1 Soft White by Unit Trains and Barges 4.7400

US 1 Hard Red Winter (Ordinary protein) 4.5800

US 1 Hard Red Winter (11.5% protein) 5.4800

US 1 Dark Northern Spring (14% protein) 6.8100

Source: USDA Market News Service, Portland, OR

S. Oregon timber sale halted for environmental study Tue, 28 Mar 2017 09:12:10 -0400 SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A judge has sided with two environmental groups in a ruling that halts a timber sale in southern Oregon’s Umpqua National Forest.

The Statesman Journal reported Monday that Judge Jolie Russo ruled that the forest must conduct a more comprehensive study of environmental impacts caused by the proposed logging project near Crater Lake National Park.

The timber sale calls for 1,400 acres of commercial thinning and construction of nearly 6 miles of temporary roads near popular recreation sites.

Russo’s ruling last week marks the second time the project has been delayed in court.

Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild brought the lawsuit against the timber sale, which was first halted in 2014.

Lawson Fite, with the American Forest Resource Council, disagreed with the ruling, saying the project will have “negligible or beneficial” environmental impacts.

Runaway bull causes six-car crash in Northern California Tue, 28 Mar 2017 09:10:39 -0400 MARTINEZ, Calif. (AP) — A runaway bull on a northern California highway caused a six-car pileup crash.

KPIX-TV reports that several cars were badly damaged when they hit the bull Monday night on Highway 4, in unincorporated Contra Costa County. The bull was killed in the crash, it’s unclear if any humans were injured.

Local rancher Nick Compaglia says the recent weather may have led to the bull getting out. He says erosion underneath a fence caused by rain could have allowed the bull to escape.

Four-legged fugitives take fast lane Tue, 28 Mar 2017 09:08:40 -0400 WALNUT CREEK, Calif. (AP) — That mustang in the rearview mirror turned out to be a real horse running on a Northern California highway — followed by a mule.

Commuters east of San Francisco on Monday were stunned to see a white horse and a brown mule running across Interstate 680.

Steve Burdo with Contra Costa County Animal Services says the animals broke through a fence about a mile away.

The pair adhered to the vehicle code and used an on-ramp to get on the highway.

Authorities shut down lanes shortly before 7:30 a.m. as motorists shot cellphone video and officers rounded up the four-legged fugitives.

Burdo says the horse, a gelding named Striker, appears to have led the breakout. He says Hank the mule is more of a follower.

100 tons of hay on fire in Fresno Tue, 28 Mar 2017 09:06:23 -0400 FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — Authorities say 100 tons of hay is on fire in Fresno.

KFSN reports the fire broke out in a large shed just before midnight Monday.

No injuries have been reported, but the fire is sending flames a good deal of smoke into the air.

What caused the fire had not been determined Tuesday.

No structures had burned early Tuesday.

Firefighters are working to make sure the flames do not spread to another shed nearby.

Washington member of Congress opposes grizzly bear restoration Mon, 27 Mar 2017 17:36:14 -0400 Dan Wheat The National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are moving forward with a plan to restore and reintroduce grizzly bears in the North Cascades without supporting sound science or adequate public meetings, says U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash.

Newhouse, whose 4th congressional district encompasses part of the North Cascades Ecosystem, sent a letter to Karen Taylor-Goodrich, superintendent of the North Cascades National Park Service Complex, on March 27 expressing his “firm opposition” to the plan.

“I believe such decisions should be made with substantial local input and support from the local communities that will be most impacted,” Newhouse wrote.

The general consensus of people attending a March 2015 forum in Okanogan on the issue was “that their concerns were not being taken seriously by federal officials,” Newhouse wrote.

As a result, Newhouse brought the issue to the attention of NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis and USFWS Director Dan Ashe during House Natural Resource Committee hearings in March 2015.

While the directors assured him that public meetings would be conducted appropriately, it subsequently came to his attention that recent public meetings in Okanogan were held in the same manner as those in 2015 “where many residents were not allowed to express their concerns and were treated in an unacceptable manner by the NPS and USFWS employees conducting the session,” Newhouse wrote.

He noted that the last confirmed sighting of a grizzly in the North Cascades was in 1996 and that the agencies’ draft environmental impact statement found it “highly unlikely that the area contains a viable grizzly bear population.”

Proposed restoration also may violate a 1995 state law banning transplanting or introduction of the bears, he said.

“I believe the federal government should defer to the will of state and local communities on species reintroduction issues… There are issues of higher priority that NPS should address…such as the roughly $12 billion maintenance backlog on NPS lands,” he wrote.

Many ranchers in Okanogan County, which includes part of the North Cascades Ecosystem, oppose grizzly bear reintroduction.

The two agencies announced their plan Jan. 12 and have said restoring grizzlies would “enhance the probability of longterm survival and conservation of grizzly bears in the contiguous United States, thereby contributing to overall grizzly bear recovery and greater biodiversity of the ecosystem.”

Grizzlies were listed as a threatened species in the contiguous U.S. in 1975. They were listed as endangered in Washington in 1980.

The North Cascades Ecosystem encompasses 9,800 square miles in the U.S. and 3,800 in British Columbia. The U.S. portion includes North Cascades National Park, Ross Lake National Recreation Area, Lake Chelan National Recreation Area, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

WSU professor backs curbing lethal removal Mon, 27 Mar 2017 17:44:40 -0400 Don Jenkins Wolves shouldn’t be shot on public lands to protect the livestock of ranchers who refuse to sign government contracts to prevent depredations, according to Washington State University wolf scientist Robert Wielgus, who was publicly upbraided by the school in August for accusing a rancher of baiting wolves with cattle.

Wielgus, director of the university’s Large Carnivore Conservation Lab, distributed the recommendation in an email Monday to the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Wolf Advisory Group.

Wielgus restated his position that a ranch put its cattle in harm’s way in the Colville National Forest, leading WDFW to shoot seven wolves in the Profanity Peak pack. WSU administrators last summer issued a statement calling Wielgus’ description of the events inaccurate.

“He’s putting out inflammatory nonsense,” Cattle Producers of Washington President Scott Nielsen said Monday. “It’s the same nonsense that got Rob in trouble last summer.”

Efforts to reach Wielgus were unsuccessful.

Wielgus described his email as a press release from a private citizen, but based on his state-funded research.

Wielgus stated that withholding lethal control of wolves would be an incentive for ranchers to sign depredation-prevention agreements with WDFW.

He stated the agreements could prevent attacks on livestock and noted that the ranch that suffered the most losses last summer did not have one.

The ranch concentrated cattle near the pack’s den, according to Wielgus said.

According to a WDFW report, the den’s location was not known when cattle were released into the national forest.

Two ranchers lost livestock to the pack, and both met expectations for non-lethal deterrence measures, according to WDFW.

The expectations were set by the Wolf Advisory Group, which includes representatives from the Humane Society of the United States and Defenders of Wildlife.

According to WDFW, 54 livestock producers had agreements in 2016. Ranchers who sign agreements are eligible for public funding to employ non-lethal measures, such as range riders, and get access to tracking information collected from wolves wearing radio collars.

Agreements are tailored for each rancher, who must also allow WDFW access to their operations.

Nielsen said that most ranchers, including himself, have not signed agreements. He said ranchers should protect their herds, but shouldn’t be forced to invite WDFW to review and comment on their operations.

“I don’t begrudge anybody who wants to do it,” he said. “But I would argue the department doesn’t know one damn thing about raising cows.”

Efforts to reach WDFW wolf policy leader Donny Martorello were unsuccessful.

The Profanity Peak pack roams across 11 grazing allotments in the national forest. WDFW captured and collared two wolves in mid-June about 2 miles from where cattle were grazing. Attacks on livestock began a month later.

Wielgus told the Seattle Times in August that a rancher “elected to put his livestock directly on top of their den site.” A week later, WSU administrators said the statement had no factual basis and apologized.

WSU crop tours to answer disease questions, highlight new varieties Mon, 27 Mar 2017 17:01:18 -0400 Matw Weaver Washington wheat farmers are expected to ask questions about stripe rust, snow mold and falling number tests during field tours this season, a Washington State University research leader says.

Ryan Higginbotham, director of WSU’s cereal variety testing program, released the 2017 crop tour schedule, which kicks off May 24 in Columbia County and ends July 14 with a barley field day in Pullman, Wash.

New varieties will be highlighted, he said. All major breeding programs will have entries, Higginbotham said, including newly named lines and some still in the experimental stage.

“There’s something new for everybody in just about every location that people will want to keep their eyes on and see how they perform this year,” he said.

Higginbotham is getting questions from farmers about soil fertility, given higher moisture levels.

“Should they or should they not be adding some extra fertilizer?” he said. “That’s a difficult decision to make when it’s $3.50 per bushel wheat — it’s a lot easier to do that when it’s $7 per bushel wheat.”

WSU, Oregon State University and Northwest Grain Growers are cooperating on field trials in Eureka, Walla Walla and Dayton, Wash.

Higginbotham said the researchers decided to work together instead of duplicating efforts. He hopes the cooperative field days will help boost attendance.

WSU’s biennial Spillman Field Day in Pullman, Wash., would normally be held this year, but the university decided not to have it due to lagging attendance in recent years.

“(We’ll) see if we can regroup and maybe try something a little different next summer,” Higginbotham said.

WSU researcher Drew Lyon’s weed science field day June 14 will be in Pullman.

The field day June 28 on WSU’s Wilke Farm east of Davenport, held as a soil workshop, will also be different, Higginbotham said.


28 crop tours scheduled Mon, 27 Mar 2017 17:03:37 -0400 The Pacific Northwest 2017 Crop Tour Schedule, released by Washington State University: Columbia County Conservation Tour: 9 a.m., May 24, contact Paul Carter at 509-382-4741

Horse Heaven: 8 a.m., June 6, contact Ryan Higginbotham at 509-641-0549

Ritzville: 3 p.m., June 7, contact Aaron Esser at 509-659-3210

Western Whitman County and Lacrosse: 9:30 a.m., June 8, contact Steve Van Vleet at 509-397-6290

Connell: 5 p.m., June 8, contact Ryan Higginbotham at 509-641-0549

Pendleton, Ore: 7:30 a.m., June 13, contact Mary Corp at 541-278-4415

Moro, Ore.: 7:30 a.m., June 14, contact Mary Corp at 541-278-4415

WSU Weed Science in Pullman: 1 p.m., June 14, contact Drew Lyon at 509-335-2961

Harrington: 4 p.m., June 14, contact Diana Roberts at 509-477-2167

Lind: 8:30 a.m., June 15, contact Bill Schillinger at 509-235-1933

St. Andrews: 5 p.m., June 16, contact Dale Whaley at 509-745-8531

Mayview: 9 a.m., June 20, contact Mark Heitstuman at 509-243-2009

Eureka: 3 p.m., June 20, contact Ryan Higginbotham at 509-641-0549

Walla Walla (cereals): 1 p.m., June 21, contact Paul Carter at 509-382-4741

Dayton (legumes): 8 a.m., June 22, contact Paul Carter at 509-382-4741

Anatone: 3:30 p.m., June 22, contact Mark Heitstuman at 509-243-2009

Moses Lake (irrigated): 8 a.m. June 27, contact Andy Jensen at 509-754-2011

University of Idaho/Limagrain; Moscow, Idaho: 8:30 a.m. June 27, contact Debby Rigby at 208-885-6681

Almira: 3 p.m., June 27, contact Diana Roberts at 509-477-2167

Reardan: 7 a.m., June 28, contact Diana Roberts at 509-477-2167

Wilke Farm Soil Workshop; Davenport: 9:30 a.m., June 28, contact Aaron Esser at 509-659-3210

Fairfield: 7 a.m., June 29, contact Diana Roberts at 509-477-2167

St. John: 10 a.m., July 6, contact Steve Van Vleet at 509-397-6290

Lamont: 2:30 p.m., July 6, contact Steve Van Vleet at 509-397-6290

Farmington: 8 a.m., July 7, contact Steve Van Vleet at 509-397-6290

Palouse: 3:30 p.m., July 7, contact Steve Van Vleet at 509-397-6290

Bickleton: 1 p.m., July 11, contact Hannah Brause at 509-773-5817

Know Barley, Know Beer; Pullman: 3 p.m. July 14, contact Kevin Murphy at 509-335-9692

Idaho lawmakers OK memorial that asks for all food to meet same standards Mon, 27 Mar 2017 16:39:06 -0400 Sean Ellis BOISE — A House Joint Memorial that asks Congress to ensure that foreign food imports are held to the same food safety standards that U.S. farmers and processors must meet has passed the Idaho Legislature.

House Joint Memorial 6 ended up facing more opposition from Idaho farm groups than it did in the legislature, where it easily passed the Senate and House on voice votes.

Its author, Canyon County farmer Sid Freeman, said that while there are regulations in place that require foreign food imports to meet the same standards as domestic producers, no one actually knows to what extent that’s happening.

“The percentage of actual inspections of imported food is way too low and it needs to be 100 percent,” he said. “That’s what the citizens of this country are expecting.”

The memorial’s statement of purpose says it wants “to ensure that our domestic farmers, ranchers and food processors are able to compete in a fair and level market environment, and the food security measures required by law are equally applied to all food products allowed to be sold in markets in Idaho and nationally.”

While lawmakers saw no problem with the memorial, some farm-related groups were concerned that some of its language was incorrect or misleading.

Specifically, the Idaho Cattle Association had a problem with language about country of origin labeling. The World Trade Organization ruled against the U.S. COOL law in 2015 and Congress repealed it after that ruling.

Freeman said the language in his memorial was not intended to try to get COOL reinstated but rather to show that U.S. consumers now have no way of knowing where food products are coming from.

Nevertheless, after meeting with members of Food Producers of Idaho, which represents most of the state’s main farm groups, he rewrote his original HJM1 and dropped the COOL language.

ICA lobbyist Wyatt Prescott said the cattle group was OK with the rewritten memorial.

But some other groups were concerned that language in the memorial would give consumers the perception that their food isn’t safe.

Addressing those concerns, Freeman included language pointing out that the Food Safety Modernization Act requires all food products, foreign and domestic, to adhere to the same food safety standards.

But the memorial adds, “and yet only 2 percent of all imported food products are actually inspected.”

Some members of the group struggled with that 2 percent reference and the group opted not to oppose or support the memorial.

Freeman said while he would have preferred to get FPI’s support, “I get and understand their concerns.”

FPI members mostly agreed with the concept of the memorial but struggled with some of its language that they considered to be inaccurate.

“At the end of the day, these (memorials) are assumed to be accurate,” said FPI member Trent Clark, who represents Monsanto Corp. “Our job is to make sure something said about agriculture is right.”

Almond blossom ‘variable’ after February storms Mon, 27 Mar 2017 16:29:29 -0400 Tim Hearden PALO CEDRO, Calif. — Almond growers in some areas say they had a decent blossom despite several fierce storms in February, as cool weather prolonged the bloom and enabled the bees to finish their work.

The almond blossom was a “variable picture,” with orchards that peaked before or after the big Presidents’ Day storm setting the best crops, said Bob Curtis, director of agricultural affairs for the Almond Board of California.

Some growers reported variations in crop set within their operations, as some trees fared better than others, he said.

“We definitely do have a crop out there,” Curtis said. “The beekeepers have been pleasantly surprised. They thought with all this rain, the pollen and nectar that bees are collecting would be down. Actually as they’ve gone in and started pulling their hives out of almonds … they had plenty of pollen and nectar stores. Obviously something was going on out there.”

The Palo Cedro, Calif.-based Wooten’s Queens and Bees found that their hives were in good shape at the end of the bloom, co-owner Robert Wooten said.

“You could probably say the cold did prolong the bloom,” Wooten said. Because the trees did not all bloom at once it was prolonged five or six days, he said.

“If you had a late-blooming variety in my opinion you did well,” he said, adding that some of the early varieties also had good pollination.

Typically, the uniformity of the blossom determines the nut set and later the yields. The blossom was at its peak in many areas on Feb. 16-21, when heavy storms flooded fields and blew trees over.

In Red Bluff, 2.34 inches of rain were recorded on Feb. 17 alone, according to the National Weather Service.

Bees don’t fly in the rain or strong winds and prefer temperatures higher than 55 degrees, so even the clear but cool afternoons after the rain weren’t much help. Some bee boxes were spotted in flooded fields in the Sacramento Valley, though many beekeepers moved theirs onto stands.

The uneven bloom follows the harvest last summer and fall of a record 2.05 billion-pound almond crop, which was aided by a quick and uniform blossom in 2016. A break in rainfall in mid- to late February last year seemed tailor-made for almonds, as bees moved through orchards in a couple of weeks.

“We had a pretty good, solid crop last year,” Curtis said. “It remains to be seen if we have as solid a crop next year. Again, I think we’re looking at a decent supply.”

Judge wants Corps to determine right amount of water for endangered fish Mon, 27 Mar 2017 15:56:26 -0400 PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A federal judge in Oregon says that beginning next year, the government must spill more water from dams on the lower Columbia and Snake rivers to improve the chances that protected salmon will survive.

U.S. District Judge Michael Simon said in a ruling Monday that the salmon continue to be imperiled and that the Army Corps of Engineers must spill more water for the fish at eight dams.

However, he declined to require the Corps to do so immediately, as conservationists requested.

Instead, he told the government to spend the next year studying how best to release the right amount of water without creating strong eddies or other conditions that could further endanger the fish.

Conservationists say the extra water will help young salmon migrate out to sea.

Simon is the same judge who last year urged the government to consider breaching the four dams on the Lower Snake River.

Bird flu found in Georgia chicken flock Mon, 27 Mar 2017 15:49:28 -0400 SUMMERVILLE, Ga. (AP) — About 18,000 chickens were destroyed at a northwest Georgia poultry farm after tests confirmed avian influenza in the flock, the first time the disease has been detected in commercial birds in the state, authorities said Monday.

The infected chickens were flagged by routine screening at a poultry breeder in Georgia’s Chattooga County, said Julie McPeake, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

Surveillance monitoring of all other commercial operations within a 6-mile radius found no further infections. State officials also planned to check all backyard breeders within 2 miles.

Poultry is the No. 1 agricultural sector in Georgia, with breeders and processing plants having an estimated annual $25.9 billion impact statewide.

“We have never had avian influenza in a commercial flock in Georgia,” McPeake said. “This is the first one.”

Chattooga County, about 90 miles (145 kilometers) northwest of Atlanta, is on the Georgia-Alabama state line and not far from Tennessee. Both neighboring states, along with Kentucky, also have reported bird flu in poultry flocks in recent weeks.

Officials in Georgia and the other states say no infected birds have entered the nation’s poultry supply, and the U.S. food chain isn’t at risk. While the disease can devastate bird populations, it rarely jumps to humans.

None of the infected birds in Georgia showed any symptoms, McPeake said, leading officials to believe they had a low-pathogenic form of the disease like those in Alabama and Kentucky.

High-pathogenic bird flu, a deadlier form of the illness, was detected this month in Tennessee, where 145,000 birds were destroyed.

Overall, more than 225,000 birds have been euthanized because of the disease in the four Southern states. In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said earlier this month a flock of 84,000 turkeys had been confirmed with a low-pathogenic bird flu virus in Wisconsin.

The viruses in the current outbreaks are different from the high-pathogenic virus that resulted in the loss of nearly 50 million birds in the Midwest chicken egg and turkey industry in 2015.