Capital Press | Capital Press Sat, 25 Feb 2017 23:44:52 -0500 en Capital Press | Western Innovator: Telling ag’s story on social media Fri, 24 Feb 2017 16:09:00 -0500 Sean Ellis Michele Payn describes herself as a farm girl, author, mom, science enthusiast, motivator and innovator.

She combines all those talents to be a “food translator,” someone who encourages farmers and non-farmers to meet together at the center of the food plate and share their commonalities.

As the keynote speaker during the annual Idaho Ag Summit on Feb. 21, Payn encouraged farmers and other industry leaders to engage people on social media about food and farming issues.

Environmental activist groups are reaching millions of people through Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets — and they are not telling people things about agriculture that are friendly toward the industry, she said.

“Do you think PETA is putting any (positive) images out about farmers and ranchers?” she asked. “If I want the right story to be told about how I’m taking care of my animals the right way, I have to be participating in the conversation.”

Social media conversations about food and farming are happening with or without farmers, Payn said.

“Maybe we all wish it would go away,” she said. “But it’s here to stay and it’s having a substantial influence over your future.”

As an example of how much misinformation there is about farming and food, Payn pointed to peppers with a non-GMO label on them.

“Have there ever been GMO peppers? No,” she said. “Does Suzie Q. consumer know that? No. How is she ever going to know that? There’s no question social media has a lot of nonsense on it. So where is the sense going to come from if it’s not from you?”

Payn, whose second book, “Food Truths from Farm to Table” comes out March 20, grew up on a dairy farm in Michigan and now resides on a small farm in central Indiana with her daughter.

She founded a company, Cause Matters Corp., as a way to “give a voice to the farmers who feed the world.”

Payn encourages farmers to connect with people on a personal level and not “bash them over the head” with facts and science.

“What I always try to encourage them to do is not data dump or puke science on people’s shoes but to connect on a human level,” she said. “Food is a deeply personal choice (and) cramming facts and science down people’s throats closes ears.”

Connecting on a personal level will enable farmers to reach more people, Payn said.

“It’s time to change the conversation, folks,” she said. “We have to look at this a little bit differently.”

Idaho State Department of Agriculture Director Celia Gould said Payn’s message “really resonated with me.”

“I think it’s critical to our industry to explain what we do and why we do it,” she said. “We have to be better advocates of our industry.”

Idaho Barley Commission Administrator Kelly Olson said what she took away from Payn’s presentation is that “not only do we need to have a fuller engagement on the social media platform but we probably need to retool our message. That was enlightening to me.”

Michele Payn

Title: “Food translator,” farm girl, mother, author

Home: Central Indiana

Age: 47

Professional: bachelor’s degrees in animal science and agricultural communications from Michigan State University


Amalgamated Sugar suffers computer breach Fri, 24 Feb 2017 13:19:36 -0500 NAMPA, Idaho — Officials of Amalgamated Sugar Co. say a computer security breach led to the release of the personal information of many of its employees.

The breach resulted from a so-called “spear phishing” email. The hacker sent an email posing as Amalgamated President and CEO John McCreedy requesting copies of the employee data from a corporate employee, according to a Feb. 22 press release.

Amalgamated officials said they learned of the breach within hours and notified local law enforcement, the office of the Idaho attorney general, the State Tax Commission, the FBI and the IRS. Letters have been sent to affected employees. Amalgamated will cover the costs of credit monitoring and identity theft protection services through Lifelock for them.

There’s been no indication that the culprits have sought to use any of the data, according to the press release.

McCreedy said the company is examining its protocols and implementing measures to prevent a future breach.

Cultural changes help growers fight herbicide resistance Fri, 24 Feb 2017 14:49:13 -0500 Matw Weaver Growers have several options for preventing weeds from becoming resistant to herbicides.

Drew Lyon, weed science professor at Washington State University, recommends farmers use practices that limit the introduction and spread of weeds, such as crop rotation and sanitation.

“If you’re growing the same crop, you’re always using the same techniques and over time, you select for the weed biotypes and weed species that do well,” Lyon said.

Farmers have been slow to adopt new practices because of the cost of making the changes, Lyon said. But with low wheat prices, more growers may be willing to consider alternative crops, he said.

“In general, they’re still using the same rotation they were using 10 or 20 years ago,” he said. “That’s the rotation that’s gotten us the weed problems we have today.”

New herbicides are also being introduced. Syngenta recently released Talinor, a post-emergence wheat and barley herbicide designed for broadleaf weed control. It includes the company’s newest cereal herbicide, bicycloprone, combined with bromoxynil.

Herbicide resistance is a big concern, said Don Drader, agronomics service representative with Syngenta in Moses Lake, Wash.

“It takes a lot of years to develop a new herbicide, and it seems like there are fewer and fewer being developed and made available into the marketplace,” he said. “Whenever we see an issue arising where we think we’re having resistance, we encourage the grower and retailer to do heavy-duty scouting.”

Syngenta and other manufacturers are always looking for new modes of action, Drader said.

“It’s harder and harder to find that molecule that’s going to give us the control we want and also be environmentally friendly,” he said. “We’re always searching and it’s taking more dollars every year. We continue to look, and we’re not finding them as quickly today as maybe we did 15 to 20 years ago.”

WSU’s Lyon and Ian Burke, an associate weed science professor, recommend that farmers not count on a lot of new herbicide modes of action to be developed soon.

But as glypohsate resistance problems increase in major corn and soybean production areas, Lyon believes chemical companies will begin investing more.

“We’re not in the golden age of new discoveries,” Lyon said. “The low-hanging fruit has all been discovered. It’s going to be harder to find things.”

Any new discoveries will take 10 years to get to growers, who should make other changes to keep the chemistry that works right now, Lyon said.

“Herbicides have been very effective tools, but we’ve almost relied on them solely,” Lyon said. “We just need to bring some of these other practices back in, so we can keep the herbicides we do have working as long as possible.”

Potato cooperative sues attorneys after antitrust settlements Fri, 24 Feb 2017 14:14:36 -0500 John O’Connell TWIN FALLS, Idaho — A cooperative that sought to influence U.S. potato acreage and some of its member companies are suing their former attorneys, alleging that bad legal advice exposed them to costly antitrust lawsuits.

Salt Lake City-based United Potato Growers of America, established in 2004, once promoted caps on spud acreage to restore market stability following years of overproduction.

The strategy was suggested by attorneys specializing in antitrust law with Utah-based Jones, Waldo, Holbrook & McDonough, according to separate complaints filed during January in Twin Falls County court on behalf of potato companies and UPGA. The lawyer-defendants allegedly assured the potato officials supply-management strategies were protected under the federal Capper-Volstead Act.

But in 2010, the cooperative and several members were targeted by a class-action lawsuit alleging they illegally acted as a cartel to constrain production and artificially raise prices.

The following year, Chief U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill issued an opinion in response to a motion in the case that “acreage reductions, production restrictions or collusive crop planning” weren’t shielded under Capper-Volstead.

In June 2015, UPGA and the potato companies agreed to a $25 million settlement. However, one of the major plaintiffs, Associated Wholesale Grocers Inc. of Kansas City, Kan., opted out of the settlement to pursue its own case. The potato companies and cooperative settled with Associated last November. Terms were not disclosed.

“If you have a greater supply than demand, people go out of business, or they find ways to get prices up,” said Steve Six, an attorney with Associated. “That’s a basic principle, and people don’t want to go out of business.”

UPGA and the members are now seeking more than $30 million in damages from their former law firm, according to attorneys involved in the case.

U.S. District Judge Richard Bevan is expected to rule soon on motions in the recent suit, including a motion for dismissal by UPGA’s former law firm.

According to one of the complaints, filed by two growers involved in the settlement, before the class-action suit was filed, the Department of Justice notified former UPGA attorney Jones Waldo that the cooperative’s tactics were legally questionable. Waldo allegedly failed to notify his clients about the risks. Waldo declined to comment.

Peter Carstensen, an emeritus law professor specializing in agricultural antitrust law at the University of Wisconsin, said Winmill’s opinion in the potato case has driven settlements in similar cases involving other commodities, including dairy and eggs. Carstensen said there was no case law suggesting supply management is covered by Capper-Volstead when UPGA formed, but there were some “yellow flags” regarding the risk. Carstensen suspects cooperatives that have tried the strategy reasoned that “if we all say this is the interpretation, maybe the courts will agree with us.”

“The statutory language is quite clear there is no expressed authorization to do supply management,” Carstensen said.

Before forming UPGA, the potato companies could have asked the Department of Justice for a legal opinion on their proposed structure, noting the opinion would have provided strong protection in court, Carstensen said. They could have also filed for a formal order placing restrictions on the volume of potatoes growers could bring to market, he said. Such an order would require approval by the Secretary of Agriculture and be subject to public oversight.

Jed Ellithorpe, a Center, Colo., grower and current UPGA chairman, said the organization continues to provide valuable data to the industry — including a variety trends assessment and an annual estimate of planted potato acres based on physical inspections of farm fields. He said UPGA is also working closely with Potatoes USA to help growers become more sustainable in their operations. UPGA also has a new president and CEO, Mark Klompien.

“I am excited to begin to work on some strategic planning without these legal distractions,” Ellithorpe said. “It’s going to allow us to go forward.”

California growers assess damage amid storms, flooding Fri, 24 Feb 2017 13:48:40 -0500 Tim Hearden CASTROVILLE, Calif. — Farmers are still taking stock of the damage from this week’s heavy storms that flooded fields, blew trees over and caused havoc with the almond blossom.

Standing water was still in farm fields in the Sacramento Valley a week after heavy rain forced the evacuation of Maxwell, Calif., Colusa County agricultural officials said.

In the Salinas Valley, the artichoke and cauliflower fields that weren’t under water after nearly 3 inches of weekend rainfall were so muddy that workers couldn’t get to them. The conditions slowed harvest and caused delays in planting.

“We’ll have to throw away all these artichokes, sure,” said Joe Pezzini, president of the Castroville-based Ocean Mist Farms, as he looked at a flooded field near the Central Coast town. “We really need a few days to dry out.”

In the San Joaquin Valley, several dairy farms near the Tuolumne and San Joaquin rivers had to move their animals to higher ground as river levels rose, and other farmers were nervously watching river levels and preparing to move animals out, the California Farm Bureau Federation reported.

With the wet winter prompting dam operators to send more water downstream, state and federal workers joined farmers with tractors to shore up weak spots in nearly 1,600 miles of levees in the Central Valley, The Associated Press reported.

It could take several weeks for growers to assess damage from the storms, which combined with already saturated ground and high river levels from reservoir releases to cause widespread flooding.

The storms’ peak was Feb. 17, when Santa Barbara sopped up 4.16 inches of rain. Elsewhere, 3.26 inches of rain fell on Oxnard, 2.34 inches were recorded in Red Bluff and 1.72 inches were dumped on Salinas, according to the National Weather Service. Two to 3 feet of new snow fell on the northern Sierra Nevada over the weekend, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

The storms came a week after growers in Butte, Yuba and Sutter counties were among the 188,000 people forced to evacuate as the Oroville Dam’s secondary spillway was in danger of failing. Crews later used trucks and helicopters to move large rocks and gravel to fill in erosion on the emergency spillway.

A large portion of the Eastern Sacramento Valley’s $1.5 billion agriculture industry is directly in the path of flood waters from Lake Oroville if the dam or its spillway were to fail.

Perhaps the biggest concern from all the stormy weather is with the almond blossom. 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.

“While today is a beautiful day and yesterday was a beautiful day, it’s downright chilly,” Butte County Farm Bureau manager Colleen Cecil said on Feb. 23, when the high temperature was 52 degrees. “I know that bees are pretty resilient.”

Moreover, some trees were blown over by strong winds, although Cecil said the damage wasn’t as severe as on Jan. 4, 2008, when Butte County lost 10 percent of its almond trees to a windy rainstorm.

“We’re seeing a lot more aerial application of bloom sprays right now ... because it’s just too wet to get in there with a tractor,” she said.

On the Central Coast, the rains delayed strawberry harvest, and production may be temporarily reduced as farmers wait for waterlogged fields to dry and discard rain-damaged berries, the CFBF reported.

“Certainly some of the fruit is not going to come out of the fields because of the rain,” said Carolyn O’Donnell, spokeswoman for the California Strawberry Commission.

It’s still early in the season, however, as production was expected to ramp up in mid-March, she said.

Among other crops:

• The standing water in vineyards and orchards is causing concern for the health of the trees and vines, the National Agricultural Statistics Service reports. Trees and vines that are in standing water for too long can develop root diseases.

• Fall-planted grain crops that have germinated could take on too much water, which could reduce yields, while soggy or flooded fields will delay planting for a number of crops, the CFBF notes.

• Heavy rains in the foothills washed out some private roads, making it hard for ranchers to reach their cattle, and muddy pastures limit ranchers’ ability to reach herds on horseback, according to the Farm Bureau.

But the winter’s precipitation has improved the condition of non-irrigated pasture and rangeland, enabling ranchers to reduce supplemental feeding, NASS reports.

Natural resource groups skeptical of science panel proposal Fri, 24 Feb 2017 12:46:45 -0500 Mateusz Perkowski SALEM — A bill before Oregon lawmakers has raised a philosophical question: Is it possible to achieve an unbiased scientific opinion?

Or more precisely, is a politically appointed scientific panel capable of reaching such an impartial truth?

Legislators recently pondered this problem while deliberating Senate Bill 198, which would create an Independent Science Review Board to ponder some of the thornier controversies facing state regulators.

Oregon’s farmers and ranchers are no strangers to science-related disputes over wolves, pesticides and genetically engineered crops, among others.

Natural resources groups, while commending SB 198’s noble aim, are nonetheless skeptical of how the review process would play out in reality.

State agencies that make “high impact” decisions affecting natural resource industries are already overseen by boards and commissions, said Mike Freese, vice president of Associated Oregon Industries, who testified at a Feb. 22 hearing before the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

“Simply having the same debate in front of a new board doesn’t make a lot of sense to me,” said Freese, who testified on behalf of AOI and other groups, including the Oregon Farm Bureau, Oregon Forest Industries Council and Oregon Dairy Farmers Association.

Under SB 198, the Independent Scientific Review Board would be appointed by Oregon’s governor, just like the commissions overseeing state agencies. The governor would also hire an administrator for an Oregon State University “secretariat” to assist the board with its work.

The current version of the legislation doesn’t adequately ensure the Independent Science Review Board would be free of political influence, Freese said.

As a result, the new panel would become another venue for advocacy groups to seek a stamp of approval for their policy positions in “age-old debates,” he said.

Natural resources industries are concerned about perceived biases not only in panel’s conclusions, but also in the type of questions that it decides to pursue, Freese said.

Sen. Alan Olsen, R-Canby, said he hopes the Independent Science Review Board would provide clear, transparent information to help lawmakers make decisions involving multiple agencies or scientific disciplines.

Lawmakers would ideally present scientific questions for the panel a year before the pertinent legislation is introduced, he said.

It’s currently difficult for legislators to decide whose experts to listen to, said Sen. Herman Baertschiger, R-Grants Pass. “We’ve got peer reviewed science on both sides.”

Sen. Arnie Roblan, D-Coos Bay, said he’s “seen belief trump science repeatedly” in the legislature and noted that advocates often bring in their own scientists to discount opposing views.

“It puts the panel right in the middle of the most contentious issues we have in the state,” Roblan said.

The current language of SB 198 has raised some concerns among task force members who recommended the Independent Science Review Board’s creation.

While the task force generally supports the bill, the administrator overseeing the panel’s “secretariat” would be more insulated from political influence if appointed directly by panel members, rather than the governor, said Dan Edge, associate dean of OSU’s College of Agricultural Science.

The task force is also troubled by the possibility that SB 198 would allow the Independent Science Review Board to be funded with grants and donations, said Edge.

It’d be preferable for the panel’s money to come from the state general fund, to avoid the perception that large donors can steer the review process, he said.

“We’re very concerned we might end up in a ‘pay to play’ situation,” Edge said.

Roblan said he’d “love to spend money on science,” but that realistically, state spending on existing natural resource programs is already constrained.

“If we want to move forward, we need to find creative ways to get resources,” he said.

Ranchers oppose cuts to wolf compensation, predator control Fri, 24 Feb 2017 12:18:30 -0500 Mateusz Perkowski Ranchers who suffer livestock losses from predators stand to lose state support under both budget scenarios currently proposed for the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

Funding aimed at predator control and compensation for livestock depredation would be cut under recommendations from Gov. Kate Brown as well as the co-chairs of the Joint Ways and Means Committee, Sen. Richard Devlin, D-Tualatin, and Rep. Nancy Nathanson, D-Eugene.

The proposed cuts drew objections from the livestock industry during a Feb. 22 hearing on ODA’s budget before a panel of Joint Ways and Means Committee members focused on natural resources.

As the wolf population has grown in Oregon, livestock losses have been a continuing source of frustration for ranchers, said Mike Durgan of the Baker County Wolf Compensation Advisory Committee.

Even when wolves don’t kill cattle, they cause health problems that are considered indirect losses and aren’t compensated with state dollars, Durgan said.

Until wildlife officials find a better way to manage the predators, the livestock industry should receive state assistance, he said. “I want to make it clear I’m not advocating killing wolves today.”

Oregon counties have steadfastly contributed money to their partnership with ODA and USDA’s Wildlife Services division to pay for predator control, even as they’ve fallen short of funds for public safety and other vital services, said Craig Pope, a Polk County commissioner.

“We will have no one else to call if we let this partnership fail,” Pope said. “Counties cannot make up the difference of this funding hole.”

The Oregon Hunters Association and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation testified in favor or restoring the state’s full contribution to the predator control program, which they say is necessary to maintain a balance between predators and deer and elk.

Under Gov. Kate Brown’s recommended 2017-2019 budget, the ODA would eliminate $460,000 in state funding for the USDA’s Wildlife Services division, which kills problematic predators.

An ODA program that compensates ranchers for wolf depredation would be funded at $211,000 under the governor’s proposal, compared to $233,000 in the 2015-2017 biennium.

The co-chairs of the Joint Ways and Means Committee, meanwhile, have proposed a “budget framework” for the upcoming biennium that would decrease funding for the wolf compensation program “and/or reduce funding for predator control.”

While the co-chairs’ budget framework doesn’t specify the exact reductions for ODA programs, it does propose cutting state funding for all natural resource agencies to $405 million, down from $413.6 million during the previous biennium.

Rep. Lew Frederick, D-Portland, said he’s concerned about livestock losses and supports continued assistance from the state but raised concerns about possible hunting of wolves.

While wolves aren’t currently hunted in Oregon, controlled hunts could be allowed during a later phase of wolf recovery under the state’s management plan for the species.

Frederick cautioned against the display of “trophy” wolves killed by hunters, which he said would erode public support for the predator control and wolf compensation programs.

“That’s a political situation that will shut down a great deal,” he said.

Aside from predator control, other ODA programs are on the chopping block under the proposals from Brown and the co-chairs of the Joint Ways & Means Committee.

A coalition of natural resource industry groups — including the Oregon Farm Bureau, Oregon Association of Nurseries, Oregon Cattlemen’s Association and others — urged lawmakers not to curtail those programs.

For example, the co-chairs’ budget framework recommends decreasing the number of positions in ODA’s agricultural water quality program and shifting food safety and pesticide programs from the general fund to program fees.

Industry representatives fear such shifts will effectively increase fees on farmers, ranchers and others.

Under Brown’s budget proposal, about $250,000 in general fund dollars would be cut from ODA’s inspection program for “confined animal feeding operations,” shifting the burden onto fee payers.

A biocontrol program for controlling invasive weeds would also be eliminated, saving $250,000.

Don Farrar, Gilliam County’s weed officer, argued against the proposal because biological control with predatory insects can effectively suppress large infestations of weeds.

“This program has been one of the best in the nation and it would be sad to lose that,” he said.

Washington commission confirms What’s Upstream stayed within state law Fri, 24 Feb 2017 11:54:35 -0500 Don Jenkins OLYMPIA — The Washington Public Commission ruled Thursday that What’s Upstream organizers did not engage in unreported lobbying of state lawmakers, clearing the advocacy campaign funded by the Environmental Protection Agency of one allegation of wrongdoing.

The three-member citizens panel adopted the staff’s conclusion that the push to ban farming within 100 feet of water fell short of lobbying. The commission voted to take no enforcement action, a recommendation that will go to the state attorney general’s office for review.

PDC Executive Director Evelyn Fielding Lopez said “reasonable minds” could differ on the finding, especially since What’s Upstream provided supporters with form letters encouraging lawmakers to impose mandatory buffers.

A PDC investigator said he couldn’t determine whether a website link to the letter alone cost more than $1,400, the threshold for triggering reporting requirements.

A bigger point for the PDC staff was that the letter and other elements of the campaign didn’t mention a specific bill.

Lopez said there wasn’t an “actual nugget of legislation” advocated by What’s Upstream, though she said the commission or Legislature may want to consider whether to tighten that interpretation of the law for future cases.

“Where’s the line? My argument is that there has to be more than a general call to contact your legislators,” Lopez said.

What’s Upstream was funded by an Environmental Protection Agency grant awarded in 2011 to the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission.

The commission passed the money through to the Swinomish Indian Tribe, which used the federal funds to hire Strategies 360, a Seattle lobbying firm. What’s Upstream had a six-year, $655,000 budget, according to EPA records.

The tribe kept EPA informed as Strategies 360 tested pro-buffer statements with voters and crafted a media campaign. The message was that “unregulated” agriculture was killing fish and jeopardizing public health.

What’s Upstream stepped up its campaign for the 2016 legislative session, allowing supporters to send form letters through its website to lawmakers. “Feel free to personalize your message,” read a statement above the online form. “The message will be sent to various Washington senators whose votes we hope to influence.”

EPA abruptly disassociated itself from What’s Upstream last April when members of Congress took note and accused the agency of smearing farmers with an illegal lobbying campaign. An audit by the EPA’s inspector general is pending.

The PDC investigation was in response to a complaint by Save Family Farming against the tribe’s environmental policy director, Larry Wasserman; former EPA Northwest Administrator Dennis McLerran; and Strategies 360.

PDC Commissioner David Ammons said that What’s Upstream struck him as a “sophisticated” and “well-funded campaign to influence the public,” but agreed with the staff recommendation. The commission’s chairwoman, Anne Levinson, said lawmakers may want to “fine-tune” the disclosure law.

Save Family Farming director Gerald Baron said he was disappointed with the PDC ruling and that he hoped the attorney general will come to a different conclusion.

He said he was encouraged by suggestions that lawmakers review the law. The attorney general’s office and lawmakers also should examine the tribe’s position that the PDC had no jurisdiction over it, Baron said.

The PDC staff didn’t take a position on the tribe’s claim of immunity since it concluded there was no grass-roots lobbying.

Wasserman’s attorney, Wyatt Golding, told the PDC that Save Family Farming’s allegation was a reaction to the position espoused by What’s Upstream. “We think these complaints are a manifestation of that push back and an attempt to quiet Mr. Wasserman,” he said.

The EPA had no immediate reaction to the PDC decision.

ICE arrests of criminal illegal immigrants spark concerns Fri, 24 Feb 2017 11:15:17 -0500 Dan Wheat YAKIMA, Wash. — Several agricultural employers, while understanding of the Trump administration’s arrests of criminal illegal immigrants, said at a labor conference that it’s causing apprehension among workers.

Conference organizers also shared tips on what owners and managers should do if Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrive at a farm or other workplace.

Paula McKay, manager and principal owner of Mar-Jon Labor, a large labor contractor in Othello, Wash., said workers are worried because of what they see on television. She said employers are not overly worried because it’s nothing new and that ICE arrests of criminal illegal immigrants have been going on a long time under previous administrations.

“What’s new is the media is making a big deal of it and Trump is more blunt,” said McCay, who is Hispanic.

She was among a couple hundred employers at the annual labor conference of WAFLA, formerly the Washington Farm Labor Association, at the Yakima Convention Center on Feb. 23.

“I don’t have a problem rounding up criminals, and most people don’t,” she said.

Rumors spread on social media have proliferated. People on FaceBook in Othello claimed there was an ICE raid at a Moses Lake store but the pictures supposedly showing the raid included green trees, and there are no green trees in Moses Lake this time of year, she said. No ICE raids have been carried out recently in Central Washington that she knows of, she said.

Ed Kenoyer, a Cashmere, Wash., pear grower, said he doesn’t know how concerned people are that there might be some loss of laborers from arrests.

His son, Darrin, said there’s not a lot of worry about criminal arrests but that there is a concern about the issue in general.

One Hispanic woman who didn’t want to give her name said she is a farm employer and that the arrests of criminal illegal immigrants could touch her family.

“We are very concerned. Taking criminals away is OK, but it scares others from coming to work,” said Marion Montgomery, a Good Agricultural Practices specialist at Crystal View Raspberry Farm near Bellingham.

Criminals don’t want to work anyway and are not usually on farms but in cities pushing drugs, she said.

“Ninety percent of those on the farms are desperate for work,” she said.

Dan Fazio, WAFLA director, said arrests usually occur at a residence, not at a workplace. But he offered tips on what employers should do if ICE arrives, starting with receptionists immediately calling a manager if a search warrant is served.

Search warrants need to be dated and signed and should specify what is to be searched, he said.

A company should assign one or two employees to follow each agent on a search and video what they say and do, including any seizures, he said.

Employees or employers should not give any statements without the company attorney present, he said, adding that there’s a fine line between asserting your rights and obstruction.

ICE agents should not be allowed onto property without a search warrant, Fazio said. If they bring an arrest warrant, the employer should bring the employee to the agents, he said.

“The worst thing that happens is half your crew runs away and ICE runs after them because they’re no longer have a right of privacy when they are in the parking lot,” he said.

USDA extends comment period for organic checkoff Fri, 24 Feb 2017 10:18:09 -0500 Carol Ryan Dumas USDA Agricultural Marketing Service has extended the comment period on a proposed organic checkoff to April 19 to “ensure that interested persons have sufficient time to review and comment on the proposal.”

The proposal was published in the Federal Register Jan. 18 with a 60-day comment period to close on March 20.

Developed by the Organic Trade Association, the checkoff could provide more than $30 million annually, and 50 percent to 75 percent would be earmarked for research and related activities, such as technical assistance and dissemination of research findings.

OTA says the checkoff would help the burgeoning organic industry meet demand by supporting more organic acreage and the success of organic producers. It would also help the industry educate consumers and increase market opportunity.

The No Organic Checkoff Coalition, however, opposes the checkoff, contending as little as 12.6 percent of checkoff funding could go to research under the proposal and that promoting sales now would only increase imports and lower prices to U.S. organic farmers.

In a press release on Friday, OTA urged USDA to avoid further delays once the extended comment period expires “in making this innovative program a reality that will help advance the growing organic sector and have important and long-lasting benefits for organic farmers, businesses and consumers alike.”

OTA noted the public support of nearly 1,400 organic stakeholders and the proposal’s overwhelming support, 10 to 1, thus far in the comment period.

Capital Press did not immediately hear back from the Coalition on Friday morning, but it earlier stated its petition against the checkoff has received nearly 1,900 signatures from organic stakeholders and support from 25 organic farming organization representing more than 6,000 farmers.

For more information and to comment, visit

Memorial set for logger struck by tree west of Eugene Fri, 24 Feb 2017 09:43:56 -0500 SWEET HOME, Ore. (AP) — A memorial service for a man who died in a logging accident has been scheduled for Sunday afternoon at the Sweet Home High School auditorium.

The Albany Democrat-Herald reports Colt Campbell was struck by a tree last week while working with his family’s timber cutting business on Weyerhaeuser property west of Eugene.

The 29-year-old timber faller was married and had a 5-year-old son.

Environmental groups reach deal on Idaho wolf derby lawsuit Fri, 24 Feb 2017 09:29:09 -0500 KEITH RIDLER BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit by environmental groups involving a wolf- and coyote-shooting contest in Idaho as part of a settlement agreement that requires federal officials to notify the groups if another contest is planned.

The agreement on Wednesday follows several years of court skirmishes between the groups and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management involving Idaho for Wildlife’s Predator Hunting Contest.

“This cruel, unethical and ecologically damaging contest should not occur on any lands, but particularly not on public lands belonging to all of us,” said Andrea Santarsiere, senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity.

Idaho for Wildlife initially received a permit for the contest from BLM in mid-November 2014, but the federal agency rescinded that decision less than two weeks later following a lawsuit by the environmental groups contending the approval violated environmental laws.

In the settlement on Wednesday, the BLM agrees that it rescinded the permit as well as various decisions in an environmental process leading up to the permit. The agreement also requires the BLM to notify the groups during the next three years if the agency receives a permit application at its Idaho Falls district office for another predator hunting contest. The BLM must also pay $20,000 in court costs.

Sarah Wheeler, a BLM spokeswoman, didn’t return a call from The Associated Press on Thursday.

Idaho for Wildlife held the Predator Hunting Contest on private land and U.S. Forest Service land, but not BLM land, in December 2013 and January 2015 on land outside Salmon, Idaho. The environmental groups say the remote and rugged area in east-central Idaho is considered key for a sustainable wolf population in the state.

Participants in the two predator contests reported killing some coyotes but no wolves. The group, citing lack of wolf-hunting success, didn’t hold the contest the last two winters. But Steve Alder, the group’s executive director, said on Thursday the group would look at possibly holding one in January 2018 following Wednesday’s court action.

“I think we’ll have to consider having some more contests down the road,” he said, noting the group has no definite plans. “We don’t know that we’ll call it a wolf hunt or not because of the crazy wolf nuts. It brings them out in hordes.”

He also noted the “dismal results” the contest has produced for wolf hunters and said future contests, if held, might instead focus on coyotes and jackrabbits.

On a related front, a decision on a separate lawsuit environmental groups have against the U.S. Forest Service involving Idaho for Wildlife’s predator contest is pending.

The predator hunts in late 2013 and early 2015 were allowed on public Forest Service land after a federal judge said organizers didn’t need to get a special permit from that agency.

Environmental groups are challenging that ruling. Arguments were made in federal court on Jan. 11, but the court hasn’t yet announced a decision.

Besides the Center for Biological Diversity, other environmental groups participating in the BLM lawsuit were Cascadia Wildlands, Kootenai Environmental Alliance, Project Coyote, Western Watersheds Project and WildEarth Guardians.

Lawsuit seeks to keep Columbia, Snake rivers cool for salmon Fri, 24 Feb 2017 09:24:04 -0500 Jes BurnsOregon Public Broadcasting SEATTLE — A lawsuit filed Thursday by salmon advocates aims to reverse a trend of high summer water temperatures on the Snake and Columbia Rivers.

The groups are asking the U.S. district court in Seattle to compel the Environmental Protection Agency to issue a warm water pollution standard for the rivers. The standard, called the “Total Maximum Daily Load” (TMDL), sets limits on how high the water temperature can rise and still meet water quality requirements.

The EPA released a draft plan in 2003, but it was never finalized.

Salmon need cool water to complete their life cycles. Sustained water temperatures over about 70 degrees can hurt their chances of reproducing and surviving.

In 2015, drought and high temperatures in the Columbia River Basin caused the premature death of an estimated 250,000 spawning sockeye salmon. This was a wake-up call for environmental and fishing groups, says Kevin Lewis of Idaho Rivers United.

“It took us realizing that rising temperatures in the Snake and Columbia River were not going to be an occasional event,” he said. “It was going to be a, more often than not, standard — basically due to climate change.”  

Idaho Rivers United is one of five plaintiffs in the new lawsuit. The others are the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Organizations, Snake River Waterkeeper, the Institute for Fisheries Resources and Columbia Riverkeeper.

In addition to climate change, the groups point to dams throughout the basin as a factor promoting high river temperatures.

“We have a problem with hot water on the Columbia River and the dams contribute to that,” says Brett VandenHeuvel of Columbia Riverkeeper. “The fact that climate change is causing the heat problem to get worse faster, means that we need to take action, take some swift action.”

If the lawsuit is successful, new TDML standards for temperature could bolster the case for dam removal on the Snake River.

But the idea of dam removal is controversial, and opponents say it would take a toll on the economy of the region. Dam removal is strongly opposed by farmers, ports, utilities, and others who point to benefits for the region from low-cost hydroelectricity and dam-created reservoirs that make the rivers navigable for shipping vessels.

In video, occupiers discuss plan to escape refuge Fri, 24 Feb 2017 09:12:46 -0500 Conrad WilsonOregon Public Broadcasting PORTLAND — Federal employees spoke Thursday about their inability to work during the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation last year.

At U.S. district court in Portland, jurors also viewed a video that showed occupiers talking about killing those workers if they had to flee the Harney County facility.

“I wasn’t able to perform my duties at the refuge,” Linda Beck, a former fish biologist at the refuge, told the court. “It wasn’t safe for me to go to work.” This is the second time Beck and other federal employees testified. She spoke previously in last year’s trial of more prominent occupation leaders. Those men and one woman were acquitted on all charges.

Bureau of Land Management Special Agent Jason Curry talked Thursday about two “Closed Permanently” signs that had been fastened to the BLM office in Hines, near Burns in Eastern Oregon.

“We had to remove the signs before you could open the door,” Curry said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Geoff Barrow later asked if the sign would “physically impede” work by BLM employees.

“Yes, it would,” Curry said.

“I have no further questions,” Barrow responded.

Thursday’s questions were the latest attempts by federal prosecutors to show jurors that the four occupiers on trial were part of a conspiracy whose intent was to prevent federal employees from doing their jobs.

Sixteen employees worked at the refuge at the time of the occupation. Since then, five have taken positions elsewhere. The remaining employees are back, working at the refuge, but the headquarters buildings remain closed to the public. Officials expect they will reopen later this year.

As at the first trial, Barrow showed Beck photos of her office during and after the occupation. He asked Beck questions like whether her office was open to the public and if it looked the same as she had left it before the 41-day long occupation began.

Beck said there was a sign on the fence outside her office that said “closed to the public.”

“Is that your gun?” Barrow asked, showing the jury a photo of occupation leaders Ryan Bundy, cradling a long gun, with Ammon Bundy sitting at Beck’s desk.

Beck responded that it wasn’t.

“I’m not allowed to have firearms in my office,” she said.

As in her testimony during the first trial, Beck said she wasn’t able to conduct carp removal from Malheur Lake and the Blitzen River during January 2016.

During cross-examination, Jake Ryan’s attorney, Jesse Merrithew, asked Beck if any of the men on trial had objected in emails or phone calls to the carp-removal program.

“I have no idea,” Beck responded.

To prove their case, prosecutors have to show the occupiers’ state of mind at the time of the occupation was to keep federal employees from going to work.

Jess Wennick, who runs the grazing program at the refuge, said he was told by his boss to not go to work because of the occupation.

“He said it was not safe to return to work at that time,” Wennick testified.

“If your office had not been taken over and occupied, would you have returned to work?” Barrow asked.

“Yes,” Wennick said.

Borrowing a line from his previous testimony, Wennick referred to the office next to his as a “technological sweatshop” after the occupation because it smelled and computer parts were strewn about the room. Wennick testified it appeared the occupiers brought a scanner to the refuge and used it to copy government files.

During Wennick’s cross-examination, Merrithew again drove at the question of the occupiers’ intent. He asked whether the men on trial had voiced opposition to bird surveys taken at the refuge.

“Not to my knowledge,” Wennick said.

“You don’t know who precisely was in those offices,” Merrithew said.

“No,” Wennick responded.

Federal prosecutors repeatedly stressed through their witnesses that across Harney County, federal employees were impeded by the occupiers.

Matthew Yeager, an FBI agent who analyzed Facebook accounts for some of the occupiers, testified about a series of private messages and public posts. Some were new; others were included as part of last fall’s trial.

“I’m getting conflicting message on the 2nd,” read one private message from Gavin Seim to Ammon Bundy on Dec. 30, 2016, seemingly referring to a planned protest in Burns on Jan. 2. “On one hand it’s being called a rally and protest. On the other it’s a call to action. People are confused.”

“I would never show up to a rally without my arms,” Bundy wrote back.

On Dec. 31, 2016, a man named Brandon Thomas wrote a private message to Bundy:

“I think you aught (sic) make it more clear that people should not take as a green light to stand against the FEDs, like was done at your family’s ranch,” Thomas wrote. “Just my two cents.”

“It’s much more than a protest,” Bundy wrote back.

Facebook messages also showed defendant Darryl Thorn discussing his involvement with the refuge.

“I was part of the federal building occupation,” Thorn wrote in a private message Jan. 3.

A photo posted to Facebook shows Thorn sitting in what Agent Yeager said was the fire tower at the refuge.

“Good good sitting here at the refuge standing guard,” Thorn wrote in another message.

During cross-examination, Marc Freidman, Thorn’s attorney, asked Yeager if Thorn was at the refuge when the photos were uploaded. Yeager said he couldn’t tell, but added that Thorn “was very boastful about his participation in the occupation.”

The day ended with an 11-minute video depicting a meeting in the fire bunkhouse at the refuge on Jan. 26, 2016, after the leaders were arrested and Arizona rancher LaVoy Finicum was shot and killed by Oregon State Police during a traffic stop.

The video depicts defendant Jason Patrick appearing to lead a meeting about whether the remaining occupiers should leave the refuge or stay. Thorn and Ryan are also present.

“We are the David in the David and Goliath story,” Patrick says. He tells the small group assembled in the bunkhouse kitchen that he has already put out a message to the media saying the remaining occupiers want a peaceful resolution.

“If we change tactics, the narrative changes to domestic terrorism,” Patrick says.

Off-camera, an unidentified person can be heard saying, “We already have our martyr,” presumably a reference to Finicum. Another unidentified person suggests the group should “execute” federal employees and their families.

Thorn, who is sitting on a bar stool smoking a cigarette, with a long gun resting against his leg, says the remaining occupiers should stay.

“All I see is a buck of salty motherf------,” Thorn says. “We came here for one reason and that’s to fight.”

At one point in the video, Ryan, who doesn’t appear to speak, is seen standing next to Thorn.

Blaine Cooper, another occupation leader, suggests leaving the refuge in one of the firetrucks and heading for Idaho, where the occupiers can regroup. Cooper says they could put five armed people on the truck and “if they try and follow us, lay lead down.”

Patrick and Thorn can be heard disagreeing with the plan.

“I came to defend the Constitution, not flight,” Patrick says at one point.

But during his redirect, Barrow pointed out that in the end, Patrick, Thorn and Ryan all voted to stay, rather than leave the refuge.

Coke says it supports WHO’s sugar guidelines Fri, 24 Feb 2017 08:55:36 -0500 CANDICE CHOIAP Food Industry Writer NEW YORK (AP) — Coke says it supports the World Health Organization’s guidelines for limiting added sugar, as the company works on repairing its image in public health circles and reshaping its business.

Incoming CEO James Quincey also said the company has “outgrown” its namesake cola and is focusing on becoming a “total beverage company.” Speaking at an industry conference in Boca Raton, Florida, he noted other categories, such as bottled waters and teas, are growing more quickly than sodas globally.

In some cases, a Coke drink could still account for the entirety of a person’s daily sugar intake under the WHO guidelines, which recommend people limit added sugar to 10 percent of their total daily calories. For someone consuming an average of 2,400 calories a day, a 20-ounce bottle of Coke — which has 65 grams of sugar and 240 calories — would use up that limit.

In recent years, however, Coke has increasingly touted its smaller cans and bottles that executives say help people with their desire for portion control. To analysts, Coca-Cola also notes that such packages are more profitable and can increase how often Coke products are purchased. The company says such smaller packages now account for about 15 percent of its carbonated drink transactions in North America.

Coca-Cola Co., based in Atlanta, has also said it’s working on reformulating some drinks and more aggressively marketing options like Coke Zero to bring down its global “sugar footprint.” It noted that people could drink several servings of its products and stay within the guidelines.

The maker of Fanta, Powerade and Smartwater, which has felt pressure from local proposals for special taxes on sugary drinks, isn’t alone in seeking to align itself with public health officials. Candy maker Mars has also supported the WHO guidelines, and last year criticized a study funded by a food industry group that questioned the scientific rigor behind such recommendations on limiting sugar.

Coke and Mars are both members of that group, the International Life Sciences Institute. Emails from 2015 obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request show Coke and Mars executives, along with executives at many other food and beverage companies, were copied on messages planning for the study. On Thursday, Coke said it would likely not participate in supporting a study that may undermine recommendations from leading public health authorities.

As part of its commitment to the WHO guidelines, Mars has also said that it is working with its retail clients to ensure its products are used in ways that are within the sugar recommendations. That includes places such as McDonald’s, which serve McFlurry drinks with Mars candy mixed in.

When asked if it would do the same with movie theaters and other places that serve its sodas — often in generous sizes — Coca-Cola said it is encouraging customers “to examine the serving sizes they offer to consumers.” It also noted that it’s working to offer a wide range of “low- and no-sugar beverages.”

Solar farms banned after complaints in North Carolina county Fri, 24 Feb 2017 08:53:12 -0500 CURRITUCK, N.C. (AP) — County commissioners in eastern North Carolina have imposed an indefinite ban on the construction of solar farms after neighbors complained that they seem unsightly and said they’re afraid of flying glass in the event of severe weather.

Local media outlets report that Currituck County commissioners voted Monday to extend a two-month moratorium into an indefinite ban.

Board chairman Bobby Harig said commissioners have had many plans come at them in addition to the two large solar farms the county has already approved in the last three years. One, in Moyock, covers 2,000 acres and stretches for nearly 2 miles, and its neighbors in the adjacent Ranchland community aren’t happy.

Maui residents protest diversion of water for farming Fri, 24 Feb 2017 08:40:24 -0500 WAILUKU, Hawaii (AP) — Maui residents are calling on Hawaii land owner Alexander & Baldwin to disclose the impacts of the company’s proposed 30-year lease for water from island streams.

The company’s subsidiary, Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co., is seeking 115 million gallons of water per day for future diversified agriculture on about 30,000 acres of old sugar fields, according to a Feb. 8 environmental impact statement preparation notice. The sugar plantation ceased its operations in December.

More than 130 people attended a Wednesday meeting on the company’s application to the state Board of Land and Natural Resources, The Maui News reported.

Many people testified against the proposed lease, saying the company’s history of diverting water from east Maui streams has negatively impacted stream life, taro farming and other Native Hawaiian practices.

“I depend on that water. So do my animals and so does my lifestyle,” said Brendan Balthazar, rancher and board member of the Maui County Farm Bureau and Cattlemen’s Association. He added that the former sugar plantation land should continue to be used for agricultural purposes.

Attendees of the meeting called for stream flow data to be published from each of the streams Alexander & Baldwin plans to divert as part of the lease for use of water on state land.

The company has historically diverted 37 of the 39 identified streams in Nahiku, Keanae and Huelo but is in the process of abandoning five streams and is no longer diverting another waterway.

“I need to know if A&B truly has Maui at heart, not taking all that you can,” said Nalani Kaminau, a Native Hawaiian. “I would love A&B to be transparent for whatever mass farming they are getting into.”

A consultant for the company gave a brief presentation on the lease proposal Wednesday but no company officials were on hand during the meeting.

Alexander & Baldwin recently sold 300 acres of its former sugar fields to a California-based company for $10 million.

wilderness plans draw fire from New Mexico ranchers Fri, 24 Feb 2017 08:37:11 -0500 SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s two senators have introduced legislation they say has been years in the making to set aside tens of thousands of acres as wilderness on opposite ends of the state in areas already designated as national monuments.

But ranchers from some rural communities fear the new designations will amount to another layer of bureaucracy aimed at pushing them from the land. Their concerns mark just the latest battle over public lands in the West, where the federal government already controls millions of acres.

The Northern New Mexico Stockman’s Association has passed a resolution against future wilderness and monument designations, and its members along with groups representing ranchers from elsewhere in the state are standing up to the latest wilderness proposal.

Dave Sanchez, vice president of the stockman’s group, said wilderness designations have been used as a tool by the federal government to terminate grazing permits and suggested that as many as 80 percent of permits on national forest land have been lost over the years in the Southwest region alone.

“The economy of rural New Mexico cannot afford any more wilderness designations,” Sanchez said.

The association maintains that U.S. Sen. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, both Democrats who were advocates of efforts by the Obama administration to add more wilderness to the nation’s conservation system, are aware of their opposition and that Heinrich has declined a request for a meeting to discuss public land matters.

The senators have billed the wilderness proposals as community-driven efforts, and Heinrich’s office has said all stakeholders were invited to the table when discussions first began years ago.

The latest legislation calls for establishing several tracts of wilderness covering more than 300 square miles within rugged parts of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in southern New Mexico. In the north, more than 30 square miles would be set aside as wilderness within the Rio Grande del Norte Monument.

“For both monuments, this legislation will preserve traditional practices, increase recreational access, and help New Mexico’s outdoor recreation economy create new jobs,” Heinrich said in a statement.

Supporters argue that New Mexico’s newest monuments have resulted in increased tourism, evidenced through more gross-receipts and lodgers’ tax revenue.

While the legislation allows for existing grazing rights to be managed under the provisions of the federal Wilderness Act, ranchers say making the areas off limits to vehicles and other mechanized equipment would make their jobs more difficult.

“This continues to put layer after layer of federal discretion over land that doesn’t do any more to protect it but places more constrains on the people who have been living off the land for generations,” said Caren Cowan, executive director of the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association.

U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, the lone Republican in New Mexico’s congressional delegation, has been an outspoken critic of federal efforts to lock up more land in the West and is concerned about the legislation, said spokeswoman Keeley Christensen.

“New Mexicans want more access to federal lands for recreation, hunting, grazing and economic opportunity for local communities,” she said. “This bill is out of step with our values and where we want to be going as a state.”

The ranchers’ opposition to new wilderness also comes as minority farm and ranching groups continue to push the U.S. Department of Agriculture to address decades of discrimination and civil rights violations, particularly against Hispanic ranchers and land grant heirs in New Mexico.

Rural California levees besieged by pounding wet winter Fri, 24 Feb 2017 08:34:59 -0500 ELLEN KNICKMEYER SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Billions of dollars in flood projects have eased fears of levee breaks near California’s capital and some other cities, but state and federal workers are joining farmers with tractors in round-the-clock battles this week to stave off any chain-reaction failure of rural levees protecting farms and farm towns.

As the wet winter forces operators of dams to send more water roaring downstream, the struggle to spot and shore up weak spots in nearly 1,600 miles of levees in the Central Valley is unrelenting, said Rex Osborn, spokesman for emergency operations in San Joaquin County, one of the nation’s main farm and dairy counties.

Hundreds of workers with the state conservation corps, engineers, water experts, emergency-management officials and others were scrambling again Thursday to lay down more rock and earth on levees where flood water was threatening to burst through saturated berms.

“There’s a flood fight taking place at a dozen different places right now,” Osborn said about the levees in his county.

“If they just hold and do their job,” Osborn said. “But if one thing throws it off. ...”

Once the waters ease sometime this summer, California lawmakers will look at releasing $500 million to patch and upgrade the state’s strained flood control system.

But Jeffrey Mount, a flood-control expert and senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California think tank, and other experts say Central Valley levees alone need billions of dollars in work.

Northern California has received more than twice the normal amount of rain and snow this winter, breaking five years of drought. Full rivers and water surging from dam spillways are pouring water into the Central Valley, a 450-mile-long depression running north and south through the heart of California. The region absorbs runoff from coastal mountains and the Sierra Nevada.

Winter rains used to turn the Central Valley into an inland sea hundreds of miles wide each rainy season. The capital, Sacramento, flooded regularly, forcing one governor, Leland Stanford, to row a boat to his 1862 inauguration, according to state lore.

As recently as 1997, Central Valley levee breaks flooded hundreds of square miles and caused billions of dollars in property damage. Nine people died in floods that winter.

Massive spending since then, including a $5 billion bond issue approved by state voters, has strengthened the system of levees, wetlands and weirs that protect the nearly 500,000 residents of Sacramento, along with the people in most of the smaller vulnerable cities elsewhere in the Central Valley.

So far, thanks partly to California’s flood-control efforts and partly to the luck of breaks between storms, experts said, the Central Valley has been spared from major levee breaks this time around. Flooding that forced thousands from San Jose this week came from an overfull reservoir that caused a creek to top its banks, not from a levee break.

“If the system hadn’t been here, all the major cities would have been under water” this winter, said Joe Countryman, a flood-prevention veteran on the Central Valley’s flood-control board. “I can tell you that for sure.”

In rural areas, farmers and others who own and primarily benefit from the levees are expected to maintain them and be the first responders when trouble strikes. Fewer than half of the 1,600 miles of Central Valley levees qualify for repairs through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, whose standards limit, for example, any trees along riverside levees.

Along the San Joaquin River, farmers rolled out in tractors and other heavy equipment, working through the night, earlier this week when they noticed a 30-foot break in a levee after a filling dam upstream had to release more water, alfalfa grower Tom Coit said.

The emergency work that farmers and federal and state workers are doing on the rural levees now is saving their own fields and cattle while preventing the single levee break that could set off a chain of breaks, threatening farm towns downstream, said Osborn, the San Joaquin County emergency spokesman.

It’s a fight that farmers and public employees will be fighting until mid-summer, when the runoff from Sierra Nevada snow eases, said Mount, the water expert.

That’s when California should start another round in its fight for the levees, Mount said — $20 billion in long-needed maintenance and improvements statewide, including preparing for the stronger flows that are coming more often as the climate changes.

“When we wake up, and the waters have passed through ... we’re going to see a very tired, damaged, levee system,” Mount said.

New chancellor named at University of California-Davis Fri, 24 Feb 2017 08:28:42 -0500 SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The University of California’s governing board named a new chancellor at UC-Davis on Thursday, six months after the campus’ previous leader resigned following an investigation into alleged misconduct.

The UC Board of Regents voted to unanimously approve Gary May, dean of Georgia Tech’s College of Engineering, for the top job at UC-Davis, it said in a statement.

May will take on his new role Aug. 1. The 52-year-old native of St. Louis, Missouri, has been at Georgia Tech for nearly three decades.

He will replace UC-Davis interim chancellor Ralph J. Hexter, who assumed the role after former Chancellor Linda Katehi resigned in August after months of turmoil at the public university.

Katehi resigned after being placed on paid leave last April amid allegations of misconduct.

The board also approved May’s base salary of $420,000, noting it is less that his predecessor. Katehi was paid $424,000.

May also receives an endowed faculty chair that pays an additional $75,000, bringing his annual compensation to $495,000.

Voluntary pooling biggest issue in CA marketing proposal Thu, 23 Feb 2017 11:15:37 -0500 Carol Ryan Dumas California dairy co-ops and milk producers have a lot to evaluate in USDA’s recommended proposal for establishing a federal milk marketing order for the state, which has long operated under a state order.

The biggest difference in the two is that California’s order regulates all milk prices, and all processors must pay those minimum prices established for different utilizations. In federal orders — and the proposed order for California — only Class I, milk for fluid consumption, is regulated and manufacturers of dairy products can choose whether to participate in the pool and pay minimum prices.

Participation in the pool results in a blend price to producers based on minimum prices and utilization. Co-ops and producers wanted mandatory pooling to be a part of the federal order.

A number of things in the co-ops’ original proposal were included in USDA’s proposal, such as product price formulas in line with the rest of the country and the retention of quota value — $1.70 per hundredweight above blend price paid to producers holding quota certificates.

But mandatory pooling was not, and that’s probably the piece that’s going to be the most difficult to work around as far as producer acceptance, said Mark Stephenson, director of dairy policy analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“I think it’s a big deal — this is going to get down to asking if you’re going to have a lot of plants opting out of the pool,” wherein they’re not subject to minimum pricing, he said.

Federal orders are all about an orderly market for Class 1 fluid milk, making sure fluid plants get milk when they need it. They contribute money to the pool, and manufacturing processors draw from that pool when they provide milk.

But California’s Class I utilization is low — “it’s not going to be an issue at all; there’s plenty of milk in California,” he said.

Contributions to the pool are likely to be very small, with a lot of unregulated plants, and that’s the balancing question in producer support, he said.

“Do I think I’m going to be better off with a federal order when a lot of plants are opting out of regulated pricing,” he said.

The push to join the federal order system was to realize more equitable prices compared with the rest of the country, particularly for milk to manufacture cheese.

But the price of milk going to cheese could go down under a federal order if cheese processors opt out of the pool. If it isn’t regulated, it’s not Class III milk – it’s just milk, Stephenson said.

On the other hand, processors will pay what they need to get milk in the door. At the end of the day, cheese plants want to make money and if they pay too little, farms will fail.

Coops and producers are the ones who will vote on a federal order, and the question will be whether they’re better off with the state order they have or with the recommended federal order.

“It’s a complex decision, no doubt about that,” he said.

Road closures delay Columbia Basin potato planting Thu, 23 Feb 2017 11:07:33 -0500 Matw Weaver With about 170,000 acres of potatoes to plant, many farmers in the Columbia Basin face delays caused by flooding and road closures, a potato industry leader says.

Planting typically begins around this time, said Dale Lathim, executive director of the Potato Growers of Washington, but almost no field work has been done yet.

Frozen ground caused by the colder winter combined with rain and snow melt has caused flooding across the region.

Lathim is particularly concerned about the impact of road closures and restrictions in Franklin County and, to a lesser extent, Benton and Grant counties.

Spring flooding washed out some roads or made the roadbeds unstable. The county has set load restrictions until the dirt roads firm up.

It’s unusually widespread through Franklin County, with load restrictions on almost every road that isn’t all-season, Lathim said.

“As you can imagine, a 10-wheeler loaded with potato seed is quite heavy and would far exceed the load restrictions,” he said. “It’s going to cause a logistical issue.”

Some seed-cutting operations are not on all-season roads, Lathim said.

“With the roads the way they are, even if the fields were ready to go, we’d have a hard time getting seed to them right now,” Lathim said. “We don’t know how long it’s going to be until they’re operational and usable.”

Growers will try to find a way to work around the closures, possibly using field roads instead of county roads, he said.

Farmers typically stagger planting. As the soil becomes ready, a crop that normally would have been planted over three weeks will be planted at the same time. It will be difficult for fertilizer and chemical companies to service all the acres at once, Lathim said.

Harvest will likely not be affected, Lathim said.

“It will be the weather between when we plant and harvest that will determine that, moreso than the actual planting date,” he said.

Harvest of processing potatoes usually gets underway about July 10.

It’s one more challenge for farmers as the farm economy has declined in recent years.

“It’ll automatically add some cost to things, and for a lot of them, that’s going to be a big concern,” Lathim said. “But where there’s a will, there’s a way. The grower will find a way to make it happen.”


Franklin County road closures:

New president joins Idaho Grower Shippers Association Thu, 23 Feb 2017 10:44:11 -0500 John O’Connell IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — The Idaho Grower Shippers Association has hired a licensed attorney who also holds a business degree to serve as its new president.

Shawn Boyle, 32, was raised in Shelley, Idaho, where his high school mascot was the russet, and he, like many youths in the rural community, earned spending money by working potato harvest.

Now, he’ll represent fresh potato shippers, attending meetings on their behalf with various organizations, planning training classes and organizing events, such as IGSA’s annual summer convention in Sun Valley. He replaced Mark Klompien, who recently left the organization to head Salt Lake City-based United Potato Growers of America.

“I saw this as an opportunity where I could make a difference,” Boyle said.

Boyle had been serving as in-house legal counsel for Brad Hall & Associates, a large petroleum wholesaler also involved in farming and trucking.

In his new position, which he started on Feb. 8, Boyle is eager to spend time in the field, visiting area sheds and learning about members’ concerns.

“Instead of being strapped to my desk, I’m going to be able to get out and network and make friends with a lot of different people in Eastern Idaho,” Boyle said.

Boyle earned his business degree at Brigham Young University-Idaho. His favorite undergraduate course was in business law, which prompted him to get his law degree from University of Idaho. Boyle also has a background in politics, having served as an extern for the Senate majority leadership in the Idaho Legislature. He joined Idaho growers on a recent lobbying trip to Washington, D.C., organized by National Potato Council.

He shares an office in Idaho Falls with Travis Blacker, who provides an Eastern Idaho presence for the Idaho Potato Commission as its industry relations director and served also served as IGSA president from 2008 to 2012, prior to Klompien. Blacker has been introducing Boyle to key industry contacts and answering questions about the job.

IGSA is supported by membership fees and governed by a board of directors. Jon Webster, who heads the IGSA board and serves as general manager of Webster Potato Co. in Rigby, said the organization has focused recently on providing educational classes for members. One recent seminar focused on food safety audits. IGSA will soon choose a topic for its next training, Webster said. Webster said lobbying is also an important aspect of the job.

“The thing that stands out most about Shawn to me is his enthusiasm and his willingness to jump in,” Webster said. “He’s so self-motivated, and he’s got the social skills. You can’t help but like the guy.”

Boyle married his high school sweetheart, Chelsie. They have three young children — Zoey, 7, Ellie, 6, and Isaiah, 2.

Five Idahoans receive awards for excellence in agriculture Thu, 23 Feb 2017 10:33:01 -0500 Sean Ellis BOISE — Five people involved in Idaho’s farming industry have received governor’s awards for excellence in agriculture.

“On behalf of a grateful state, thank you for the work you do all day long,” Gov. Butch Otter, a rancher and farmer, told the recipients Feb. 21 during the Larry Branen Idaho Ag Summit.

The recipients join almost 80 other people or businesses that have received the awards.

“The list reads like a who’s who in Idaho agriculture,” Idaho Ag Summit Executive Director Rick Waitley told Capital Press in an email.

“Idaho agriculture is rich with great leaders who have built, maintained and have a vision for the future of our industry,” he said. “You would like to give 20 awards a year but that is what makes the recognition special — five and only five (receive the awards each year).”

A lifetime achievement award was presented to Doug Gross, whose award write-up called him “one of the most innovative and successful potato producers in the state.”

Gross owns a 1,500-acre diversified farm in southwestern Idaho and is often asked to be a spokesman on Idaho potato issues.

“Doug has been the example that many have looked to for successful operation techniques and strategies,” his write-up states.

R. Garth Sasser, who received a degree in dairy science from the University of Idaho, received an award for technical innovation.

After a 32-year faculty career at UI, Sasser and his wife, Nancy, started a business, BioTracking Inc., that is based on a blood protein associated with pregnancy that he discovered during his research.

“The significance of finding, identifying and commercializing the blood protein for these test kits is that every competing company in the world that tests for pregnancy uses the ... class of proteins that Dr. Sasser discovered,” his write-up states.

Brothers Doug and Art McIntosh, fifth-generation farmers from Northern Idaho, received an award for marketing innovation.

According to their write-up, the two have tried to take advantage of current consumer trends, diversify their operation and add value to their agriculture production.

They joined Idaho Preferred to take advantage of that state branding program for their organic products. They sell their wheat berries, flour and organic oats directly to consumers.

Sid Cellan, who owns and operates a 2,100-acre dryland farm near Soda Springs, received an award for environmental stewardship.

“While Sid is viewed by his neighbors as an excellent farmer and one who raises quality crops, he is also respected in the region and has set a standard for improving and sustaining wildlife habitat for everyone to enjoy,” his write-up states.

Steve Wilder, an FFA instructor at Meridian High School, received an award for education advocacy.

During his 36-year teaching career, he “has positively influenced several thousand students involved in the Meridian Agriculture, Science and Technology Program,” his award write-up states.

Wilder was also a key player in convincing lawmakers to pass the 2015 Agricultural Education Initiative, which provided about $2 million more a year for secondary ag education in Idaho.

Washington doesn’t need more publicly owned land Thu, 23 Feb 2017 09:59:43 -0500 With all the heated talk over the last year about how much of the West is tied up in public lands, the last thing we thought we’d hear is an elected official talk about the need to tie up more.

But we weren’t thinking of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.

Jon Snyder, the governor’s policy adviser on outdoor recreation and economic development, told legislators last week that the state budget office projects Washington will grow by 1 million people in the next decade. What will those new residents want? More public lands on which to hunt, fish, hike, bike, camp and otherwise recreate.

“If we do grow, the possibility for needing more public lands does increase,” said Snyder, who said he was also speaking on behalf of the Department of Natural Resources, Department of Fish and Wildlife, Parks and Recreation, and the Recreation and Conservation Office.

The administration worries that a roughly 14 percent increase in the state’s population — from 7.06 million to 8.06 million — would crowd existing public lands and degrade the experience.

By any objective measure, there is no shortage of public land in Washington.

DNR, WDFW and Parks and Recreation own 6.4 million acres, or about 14 percent of the state, according to a 2014 state land inventory. The federal government owns 12.7 million acres in Washington, or 28 percent of the state.

There are 139 state parks, ranging in size from the half-acre Rothschild House State Park in Jefferson County to the 13,919 acres of Mount Spokane State Park.

Washington state is home to three national parks — Olympic, North Cascades and Mount Rainer. Those areas of the Cascades not a part of a national park are national forest land from the Columbia River to the Canadian border. There are nine national forests, 23 national wildlife refuges and three national monuments.

Viewed on a per capita basis, there is .9 acres of state land per Washingtonian now. It will drop to .79 acres if the population increases by a million. Add in federal land and it’s 2.7 acres per person now, 2.36 acres if the population increases.

Just how much more land is required has not been stated. To maintain the current per capita figure, Washington would have to buy another 845,000 acres.

We doubt anyone is seriously considering that kind of land grab. Probably.

But that’s not the point. Each acre the state takes comes off the tax rolls and out of other useful production. The state owns more, individuals own less.

Rural Washington generally, and Washington agriculture specifically, pay the price when the local economy turns from producing and processing agricultural products to the service-sector jobs fostered by tourism. Rural Washington can be much more than a just a playground for Seattle metroplex.

Enough is enough.