Capital Press | Capital Press Sat, 18 Nov 2017 09:21:55 -0500 en Capital Press | Rural Utah farmer, market owner makes exclusive cheese Fri, 17 Nov 2017 11:22:08 -0500 KATHY STEPHENSONThe Salt Lake Tribune SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Randy Ramsley is Wayne County’s ultimate Renaissance man.

The Caineville farmer grows vegetables, bakes bread in a wood-fired oven, operates the rural Mesa Farm Market and tends to a herd of goats, turning the milk into some of Utah’s best and most exclusive cheeses.

“It’s amazing what a guy will do to make a living in Wayne County,” joked Ramsley, owner of the 50-acre Mesa Farm on Highway 24 about 24 miles east of Capitol Reef National Park.

Ramsley has a 1-acre garden, as well as a greenhouse and high tunnel for assorted vegetable production. There are chickens for eggs as well as an orchard that provides fruit.

But it’s the goats — 50 in all — that rule the roost. Ramsley’s goats graze freely on the banks of the Fremont River, where they feed on rabbit brush, tamarisk and other vegetation ideal for producing rich milk for cheese.

“There is a lush pasture where they can graze,” he said of the animals. “But they prefer the shady spots down by the river. They can wander down there anytime they want.”

While the southeastern Utah farm and market could be called a hidden gem, it actually has been listed as a “must stop” destination in several international guidebooks, Ramsley said.

Between April and the first of November, when the market closes for the season, hundreds of visitors stop at the little purple store to take in the view and enjoy a rustic midday meal that includes a loaf of fresh-baked bread, a hunk of cheese and fresh-picked tomatoes.

“Europeans are fond of that,” Ramsley said of the do-it-yourself lunch he makes and serves. “They spend an hour or two eating bread and vegetables and it frees me up to do other things.”

Like making brined feta, smooth chevre or Ramsley’s signature semi-firm tomme, a cheese typically produced in France and Switzerland. “I knew I was doing something right when the Europeans said they liked my cheese,” said the 66-year-old Ramsley.

The cheese experts at Caputo’s Market in Salt Lake City also are taken by the farmstead cheese and have created a unique relationship with the farmer. Ramsley makes the cheese and Caputo’s ages and sells it exclusively at its Salt Lake shops.

Mesa Farm’s two varieties of tomme have become signature offerings, said Antonia Hornre, Caputo’s affineur — aka finishing and aging expert. The raw milk tomme, called Barely Legal, is aged 60 days, while the Mesa Tome, made with pasteurized milk, is aged 30 days and gets a “nice fluffy rind that is quite tasty,” she said. Both cost $24.99 a pound.

Once a week, Ramsley overnights — via FedEx — batches of cheese to Caputo’s, where Horne rubs the wheels with a thin layer of goat butter (to retain moisture) before placing them in the cheese cave to age.

“We put a little lotion on the baby and let them do their thing,” she said.

While Caputo’s sells other farmstead cheeses, it is partial to Ramsley and his products, said Horne. “We are in love with what he is doing and we want to do everything we can to support him.”

Another affineur might try manipulate Ramsley’s cheese, but Horne deliberately keeps a hands-off approach.

“The beauty of the cheese from Mesa Farm is the terroir,” she said, using a term used most often in winemaking to describe the soil, climate and natural environment. “I deliberately don’t manipulate them because it is all about the land and letting that shine through.”

This time of year, Ramsley gets about 12 gallons of milk per day, down from the 18 or 20 gallons collected during peak summer production. “Even though the goats produce less milk, the fat content increases, so it’s making better cheese,” he said.

Born and raised on a farm in South Dakota, Ramsley said he has worked in the garden since he was 11 months old, standing at his grandmother’s knee.

He always wanted to be a farmer. “But they told me in high school that I was too smart, so I set aside the dream for a few years.”

The self-described hippie ran a remodeling business in Salt Lake County for 15 years. But in the mid-1990s, while canyoneering in southeastern Utah, he spotted a “for sale” sign on the Caineville property.

“It was a terrible piece of land for farming,” he said, “but it had water, electricity and it was cheap.”

At first, he made a living growing vegetables and selling them to area restaurants, but he knew that to create the sustainable farm he desired he needed animals.

“I knew I could handle goats,” he said. Unlike larger animals, “you can point them in the right direction.”

Monsanto asks Arkansas judge to halt state’s herbicide ban Fri, 17 Nov 2017 10:46:14 -0500 ANDREW DeMILLO LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A major agribusiness company asked an Arkansas judge Friday to halt the state’s plan to ban an herbicide that’s drawn complaints from farmers across several states who say the weed killer has drifted onto their fields and caused widespread damage.

Monsanto asked a Pulaski County judge to strike down the rule approved by the state Plant Board earlier this month that would prohibit the use of dicamba from April 16 through Oct. 31. The ban is expected to go before a legislative panel next month, but the Missouri-based company said action is needed now because farmers are already buying their products for next year’s growing season.

“The ban severely curtails Monsanto’s ability to sell its new dicamba-tolerant seed and low-volatility dicamba herbicide within the state, and every day the ban remains in place costs Monsanto sales and customers,” the company said in its filing.

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Agriculture declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Dicamba has been around for decades, but problems arose over the past couple of years as farmers began to use it on soybean and cotton fields where they planted new seeds engineered to be resistant to the herbicide. Because it can easily evaporate after being applied, the chemical sometimes settles on neighboring fields. The state earlier this year approved a temporary ban on the herbicide’s sale and use, and has received nearly 1,000 complaints about dicamba this year.

The request to halt next year’s ban was added to a lawsuit Monsanto filed last month over the board’s decision in 2016 to prohibit the use of dicamba.

In its amended lawsuit filed Friday, the company argued the Plant Board exceeded its authority by banning dicamba and did not consider the financial impact on the state’s farmers. Monsanto said it would ask the court to move quickly on its complaint, and hoped the board would join in that request.

“This is all about having the newest technology available to growers so they can choose what products they wish to use to combat those difficult-to-control weeds,” said Scott Partridge, the company’s vice president of global strategy. “There’s no reason to delay.”

The company also challenged the makeup of the 18-member board, arguing a state law that gives private groups such as the state Seed Growers Association power to appoint members violates Arkansas’ constitution.

Farmers have also complained about dicamba causing damage to their crops in other states, including Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota and Tennessee. The Environmental Protection Agency last month announced a deal with Monsanto and two other makers of dicamba herbicides, BASF and DuPont, for new voluntary restrictions on the weed killer’s use.

Selected Western Livestock auctions Fri, 17 Nov 2017 13:57:05 -0500 Washington


(Toppenish Livestock Auction)

Nov. 16

Note: Due to the Thanksgiving Holiday this report will not be issued again until Dec. 1.

Receipts: 2400 Hd

Compared to Nov. 9: Stocker and feeder cattle 2.00-6.00 higher as local feed yards pursue numbers. Trade active with good demand. Slaughter cows and bulls 4.00-8.00 lower as supply exceeds demand. Trade active with light to moderate demand. Slaughter cows 65 percent, slaughter bulls 10 percent, and feeders 25 percent of the supply. The feeder supply included 55 percent steers and 45 percent heifers. Near 61 percent of the run weighed over 600 lbs. Replacement Cows: Pre-tested for pregnancy, and age.

Feeder Steers: Medium and Large 1-2: 400-500 lbs 170.00-172.00; 500-600 lbs 149.50-156.75; 600-700 lbs 149.00-156.00, Calves; 700-800 lbs 146.00-155.00; 800-900 lbs 140.00-145.00. Large 1: 1000-1100 lbs 116.00. Small and Medium 2-3: 400-500 lbs 133.00.

Feeder Heifers: Medium and Large 1-2: 400-500 lbs 135.00-146.50; 500-600 lbs 139.00-143.75; 600-700 lbs 134.00-145.00, Calves; 700-800 lbs 130.00-133.00.

Large 2-3: 800-900 lbs 93.75; 1000-1100 lbs 71.00; 1200-1300 lbs 84.00. Small and Medium 2-3: 300-400 lbs 135.00; 400-500 lbs 116.00.

Slaughter Cows:

Boners: 80-85 Pct. Lean; 1300-1900 lbs; Avg Dressing 55.00-60.00; Low Dressing 49.00-55.00

Lean: 85-90 Pct. Lean; 1100-1800 lbs; Avg Dressing 56.00-61.00; Low Dressing 50.00-56.00

Lean: 90 Pct. Lean 900-1400 lbs; Avg Dressing 45.00-50.00; Low Dressing 40.00-45.00

Slaughter Bulls:

Yield Grade 1-2: 1600-2400 lbs; Avg Dressing 73.00-79.00; High Dressing 80.50; Low Dressing 64.00-73.00

Bred Heifers (Per Head): Medium and Large 1-2: 1137 lbs. 1050.00 6-9 mos.

Note: The USDA LPGMN price report is reflective of the majority of classes and grades of livestock offered for sale. There may be instances where some sales do not fit within reporting guidelines and therefore will not be included in the report. Prices are reported on a per cwt basis, unless otherwise noted.



(Shasta Livestock Auction Yard)

Nov. 10

Receipts: 2,856

Compared to last sale: Slaughter cows $5 lower with big supply. Yearlings in smaller supply $3-5 lower on tough week in futures. Cattle under 600 lbs. $2-10 higher with some rain. Off lots and singles $25-50 below top.

Slaughter cow:

High Yielding: 58.00-63.00; High Dress 64.00-67.00 Few; Heiferettes 70.00-95.00

Med Yielding: 48.00-57.00

Low Yielding: 30.00-45.00

Bulls 1&2: 60.00-86.00

Feeder steers (Top offerings & pen lots): 400-450 lbs 175.00-223.00 Few; 450-500 lbs 160.00-205.00; 500-550 lbs 155.00-185.00; 550-600 lbs 145.00-169.00; 600-650 lbs 140.00-159.00; 650-700 lbs 140.00-159.00; 700-750 lbs 135.00-149.50; 750-800 lbs 135.00-145.00; 800-900 lbs 135.00-145.00; 900-1,000 lbs 130.00-136.50 Few

Feeder heifers: (Top offerings & pen lots): 300-400 lbs 140.00-181.00 Few; 400-450 lbs 140.00-164.00; 450-500 lbs 140.00-171.00; 500-550 lbs 135.00-155.00; 550-600 lbs 125.00-145.00; 600-650 lbs 125.00-138.50; 650-700 lbs XXX; 700-750 lbs 137.50 (1 lot); 750-800 lbs 125.00-138.50; 800-900 lbs 138.50

Pairs: Young pairs $1,800-2,000. Running age $1,250-1,550. Old $1,000-1,150.

Calvy cows: Full mouth $1,400-1,885. Bred heifers $1,000-1,425. Older $700-1,025



(Lebanon Auction Yard)

Nov. 16

Receipts: 396


Butcher Cows

Top Cow: 67.00

Top 10 Cows: 64.30

Top 50 Cows: 60.71

Top 100 Cows: 57.37

Top Bull: 70.00

Avg. all: 77.46


Butcher Cows

Top Cow: 76.00

Top 10: 72.46

Avg. all org.: 58.23

Feeder steers: 500-600 lbs $107.50-147.00; 700-800lbs $104.00-121.00

Oregon FFA, Les Schwab team up to collect 510,000 pounds of food Fri, 17 Nov 2017 13:10:43 -0500 As the holiday season descends upon us, most people get to over indulge in creamy mashed potatoes, savory turkey, and delectable desserts.

But for many Oregonians, the holidays are more famine than feast as numerous residents struggle to provide food for themselves and their families.

Since 2008 the Oregon Food Bank has seen the demand for emergency food boxes increase by 40 percent. It is for that reason agriculture students across Oregon want to help feed those that need it most.

In the spirit of the holiday season, the Oregon FFA partnered with Les Schwab Tire Centers, Wilco Coop, Capital Press and the East Oregonian newspaper to help combat hunger. The initial goal of raising 250,000 pounds of food in 2015 seemed daunting but the more than 6,000 FFA members from over 100 chapters and Les Schwab Tire Centers across Oregon made great strides to help provide the Oregon Food Bank and other local food pantries with much needed food.

This year the Drive Away Hunger Event collected over 510,150 pounds of food, double the original goal, and enough to provide more than 380,000 meals. Over the past three years, the event has raised over 1.5 million pounds of food for those suffering from food insecurity, enough food to help nearly 3500 Oregon families for more than a month.

The efforts to collect the food were as diverse as the communities themselves.

In Adrian, students gleaned farm fields after harvest to collect much needed produce as well as held a class competition, all of which helped collect over 7 tons of food. Some chapters focused on working with local farmers, like Jefferson FFA, who partnered with Case Farms, who donated more than 20,000 pounds of winter squash.

Other chapters, like Canby FFA, hit the streets and went door-to-door dropping off collection bags in a trick or treat for cans.

In Prineville, where Les Schwab Tires first began, the FFA chapter raised a crop of potatoes and was able to donate over 9,000 pounds to the local food banks.

“The FFA thanks all the farmers, community members and everyone who brought food, donated time and helped give to this effort.” remarked Kevin White, executive director of the Oregon FFA Foundation.

In addition to local chapter efforts, people were encouraged to drop food off at any local Les Schwab store, and collection bags were distributed by the Capital Press, the East Oregonian, Hermiston Herald, Blue Mountain Eagle, and the Wallowa Chieftain.

Bags were also available at Oregon Les Schwab and Wilco locations. Most of the food will be distributed by the Oregon Food Bank network and end up back in the communities in which it was raised.

This is a very special project for the Oregon FFA, where members were given the chance to embody the FFA motto of “…learning to do, doing to learn, earning to live and living to serve. In this hunger initiative, FFA members set an example of service leadership”, said White. “It is essential for these young people to have a partner like Les Schwab. Les Schwab employees have, for decades, served as role models to our members by serving their communities and neighbors.”

The Oregon FFA is part of the National FFA Organization and is a national youth organization of 653,359 student members — all preparing for leadership and careers in the science, business and technology of agriculture. There are 8,568 local FFA chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Oregon FFA has more than 6,000 members in 105 chapters throughout the state. The FFA mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.

To learn more or to get involved, visit the Oregon FFA Facebook page or #TIREdofhunger. To learn more about FFA visit or

University, Idaho Wheat Commission agree on new royalty plan Fri, 17 Nov 2017 11:41:41 -0500 Sean Ellis BOISE — Idaho Wheat Commission and University of Idaho officials have reached an agreement that will result in hundreds of thousands of dollars being put into UI’s wheat variety development program.

The arrangement spells out how much of the wheat seed royalties generated from UI’s public varieties should be put back into the university’s wheat breeding program.

Before the agreement, none of the money was specifically earmarked for the wheat breeding program.

Now, 60 percent will be earmarked for the program and 14 percent will go to the breeder who invented the variety. The rest will go to UI’s Office of Technology Transfer and to the college to distribute as it chooses.

Three of UI’s publicly released wheat varieties — UI Magic, UI Palouse and UI Castle — have generated more than $400,000 in royalties during the past two years.

IWC Executive Director Blaine Jacobson said the agreement will result in a large amount of money going into UI’s wheat breeding program in the next several years.

“We’re certainly into the hundreds of thousands of dollars (in royalties) now,” he said. “But by the time these three varieties run their natural course, it will probably be in the millions of dollars, with a certain percentage of that going back into the breeding program.”

The IWC provides UI with about $1.25 million annually for agricultural research.

The wheat commission will continue to provide grants to individual wheat researchers and the royalty money will be infused into the broad aspects of the overall wheat variety development program, Michael Parrella, dean of UI’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, told Capital Press.

“All of the researchers that are involved in wheat development will benefit from the royalties,” he said. “I think it’s going to solidify our wheat development program and bring us even closer to the Idaho Wheat Commission as partners going forward.”

The university and IWC had been negotiating the issue since last November and commission board members took a firm stand in June, telling university officials they expected it to be resolved sooner rather than later.

IWC board member Bill Flory, a North Idaho farmer, told Capital Press that growers helped pay for the development of those public varieties through their wheat checkoff dollars, a good chunk of which go to UI’s wheat breeding program.

There is no justification for most of the money generated by the royalties from those varieties not going back into the program, he said.

Flory, who came close during the commission’s June meeting to making a motion to stop IWC wheat research funding to UI until the issue was resolved, applauded the university for its ultimate response.

“The university responded to growers on this issue very well,” he said. “It was a methodical response and it was an appropriate one.”

Royalties from UI’s public wheat varieties weren’t an issue until recently because there traditionally have been no royalties associated with them. However, they are now in play because of a public-private partnership between the IWC, UI and Limagrain Cereal Seeds that was reached in 2012.

Malheur occupier Duane Ehmer sentenced to one year in prison Fri, 17 Nov 2017 11:35:57 -0500 Conrad WilsonOPB via The man whose horse-riding, flag-carrying images became an icon of the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was sentenced Thursday to a year and a day in federal prison.

U.S. District Court Judge Anna Brown handed down the penalty to Irrigon, Oregon, resident Duane Ehmer for his role in the 41-day occupation. He also faces three years of supervision after prison.

In March, a jury found Ehmer guilty of depredation of property, a felony. Brown also found him guilty of two misdemeanors: trespassing and tampering with vehicles and equipment.

“It’s not lost on me that he’s never accepted responsibility for his criminal conduct,” Brown said in handing down her sentence at the federal courthouse in downtown Portland.

“He hasn’t even apologized today,” she added. “He had the opportunity to leave at any point and stayed and ended up committing this felony crime.”

Ehmer said he plans to appeal his conviction.

Defense attorney Michele Kohler argued her client — a disabled veteran and single parent to a 14-year-old daughter — should be sentenced to probation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ethan Knight argued for a 14-month prison sentence.

During the occupation, Ehmer participated in digging a trench.

Defendants argued at trial that the trenches were defensive, aimed at protecting themselves against any attack from law enforcement. Federal prosecutors said the trench showed the remaining occupiers were fortifying themselves for a fight with the FBI.

Federal prosecutors said Ehmer spent only about eight minutes operating heavy machinery owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — a fraction of the time it took to dig the trench. It was completed by another defendant, Jake Ryan. Ryan has not yet been sentenced.

The land is an archeological site and considered culturally significant to the Burn Paiute Tribe.

The tribe was outraged when it learned not one, but two trenches had been dug at the refuge.

Diane Lorraine Teeman, the tribe’s cultural heritage representative, spoke at Thursday’s hearing.

“Malheur Lake is our heart,” she said from the witness stand.

Teeman said tens of thousands of tribal members have had a connection to the land for at least the last 15,000 years.

The area where Ehmer and Ryan dug, she said, was a effectively a burial site. Teeman said she was aware of several significant sites near the trench.

“There was a sense of devastation, heartbreak and despair,” Teeman said, when she and other tribal members learned the occupier had dug a trench at the refuge

“I knew our ancestors were being excavated by that machinery,” she said, at one point pausing to grab a tissue to dab her tears. “Not being able to do anything was really heart-wrenching.”

Before he was sentenced, Ehmer read a statement while choking back tears. He spoke of his military service and his daughter. He also spoke of being terrified.

“All of my focus was on protecting human life,” Ehmer said.

He said he has a reverence for history.

“I have the utmost respect for Native Americans,” Ehmer said.  “I would never hurt any artifacts.”

Ehmer also spoke of his 20 years of sobriety, something he said he was able to maintain during the stress of the occupation.

“I’m one of the few that’s been able to make it through an FBI standoff sober,” he said. “I’m very proud of that.”

Prior to Brown’s sentence, Knight said it was important for the judge to look at Ehmer’s actions in context of the occupation.

“It was a culmination of a series of choices by Mr. Ehmer to damage a property and place that was not his to damage,” Knight said.

In addition to prison time, Ehmer has agreed to pay $10,000 in restitution.

Justice Department won’t release national monument documents Fri, 17 Nov 2017 11:31:54 -0500 KEITH RIDLER BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Documents possibly outlining legal justifications for President Donald Trump to shrink national monuments don’t have to be provided to an Idaho environmental law firm because they’re protected communications, federal officials say.

The U.S. Department of Justice on Wednesday asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit from Advocates for the West seeking the information.

The environmental law firm filed a public records request for documents on the national monuments earlier this year, and the Justice Department released more than 60 pages in May.

The agency withheld 12 pages, however, contending they are protected by attorney-client privilege and intra-agency communication rules, making them exempt from Freedom of Information Act requests.

“The FOIA request that is the subject of this lawsuit implicates certain information that is protected from disclosure by one or more statutory exemptions,” the Justice Department wrote in the court document. “Disclosure of such information is not required.”

Advocates for the West filed the lawsuit in Idaho’s U.S. District Court last month, asking a judge to force the government to turn over the information that the group suspects makes a legal argument for shrinking national monuments.

“We believe there may well have been a new Department of Justice interpretation in order to provide them with cover, and that’s what we’re trying to get at,” said Laird Lucas of Advocates of the West. “The top lawyers in the county advising the president on what the law says should be information that all of us get to review.”

The monuments have been created under the Antiquities Act, a 1906 law that allows presidents to protect sites considered historic or geographically or culturally important.

National monuments that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has recommended that Trump shrink include Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah, Nevada’s Gold Butte and Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou. Zinke has also recommended that Trump shrink two marine monuments in the Pacific Ocean.

“We have never seen an event like this in the history of the Antiquities Act,” said John Freemuth, a Boise State University environmental policy professor and public lands expert. “I don’t think the normal rules apply anymore.”

Freemuth said the interpretation of language within the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act, which deals with lands administered by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, would likely play a role in potential legal battles if Trump decides to shrink some monuments.

Whatever happens will likely be precedent setting for national monuments, Freemuth said.

The U.S. has more than 120, ranging from the Statue of Liberty National Monument in New York to many others scattered across the U.S. West, including Bears Ears that covers 1.3 million acres (5,300 square kilometers).

Trump is expected to offer more details about his plans for that and other monuments when he visits Utah in early December.

If he announces a significant reduction in the size of a national monument, said Lucas, “I can assure you there will be one or more cases filed very quickly.”

Those lawsuits could result in the Justice Department making public the documents Advocates for the West is seeking, he said.

Montana rancher sentenced to probation for eagle’s death Fri, 17 Nov 2017 11:25:10 -0500 BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A rancher in eastern Montana was fined and sentenced to one-year probation after pleading guilty in August to killing a bald eagle through a poisoned calf carcass.

The Billings Gazette reports a federal judge issued the ruling on Thursday in Billings and ordered 66-year-old Dale Duwayne Buerkle to pay a $1,000 fine and $1,000 in restitution.

Prosecutors say Buerkle injected a carcass with a pesticide in an attempt to kill coyotes that were attacking his calves last year. The poison killed three coyotes as well as a hawk and the eagle.

Judge Timothy Cavan says Buerkle did not intentionally try to kill an eagle, but his actions were unlawful.

Buerkle’s attorney Albert R. Batterman says his client made a mistake and “wants to put this behind him.”

California pot rules open way for potentially larger fields Fri, 17 Nov 2017 11:08:10 -0500 MICHAEL R. BLOOD LOS ANGELES (AP) — California released long-awaited rules Thursday that will govern the state’s emerging legal marijuana industry, while potentially opening the way for larger-scale cultivation that some fear could strangle small-farm growers.

The thicket of emergency regulations will allow the state to begin issuing temporary licenses for growers, distributors and sellers on Jan. 1, when recreational sales become legal.

They provide a regulatory roadmap for business operations, from licensing fees to establishing guidelines for testing, growing and distribution of marijuana in what is projected to be a $7 billion economy, the nation’s largest.

As for infused munchies, “edible products cannot be shaped like a human, animal, insect, or fruit,” according to a summary of the rules.

And if you are thinking about alternative transportation for that pot, don’t: It’s prohibited to use “aircraft, watercraft, drone, rail, human-powered vehicle and unmanned vehicle.”

The regulations have been in development for months and in some cases covered familiar ground: At first, the state will issue only temporary licenses to growers and retailers, provided they have a local permit to open for business.

Other changes appeared significant.

The state has been trying to determine what should be the appropriate size limit on cannabis farms, a debate that has echoed fights over corporate-scale farming in the Midwest.

At one time 4 acres was under consideration, but preliminary information from the state earlier this week indicated a maximum 1-acre cap would be set on most cultivators.

But the regulations issued Thursday did not include that language, instead placing limits on only certain medium-sized growers’ licenses. Beyond those “there is no limitation for the other categories of licenses,” Steve Lyle of the state Department of Food and Agriculture said in an email.

Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers Association, an industry group, said the rules appeared to allow large businesses to obtain “as many licenses as they could afford,” opening the way for vast cannabis grows that could threaten the viability of small farms, long the backbone of the state industry.

California “could have just opened the door for well-capitalized interests ... to really jeopardize the success of the marketplace,” he said.

With the state already saturated with marijuana, it could “make an oversupply problem into an oversupply crisis,” he added.

According to the regulations, annual fees for cultivation licenses could be nearly $80,000, or as little as $1,200, based on production. In issuing growers’ licenses, the state must also ensure it doesn’t violate any local rules.

Voters last year legalized the recreational use of marijuana beginning in 2018, a watershed decision that will unite that new market with the state’s long-running medical marijuana industry.

Within several years, the state expects to collect up to $1 billion in new taxes.

The rules were issued just 45 days before legal sales can kick off, and at a time of widespread confusion and anxiety for many in the industry.

Some predict high taxes — in some places, as high as 45 percent — will drive consumers to the black market. Most banks won’t do business with cannabis companies. And Los Angeles and San Francisco are among many cities without local rules in place.

Meanwhile, big gaps loom in the system intended to move cannabis from the field to distribution centers, then to testing labs and eventually retail shops.

In general, California will treat cannabis like alcohol, allowing people 21 and older to legally possess up to an ounce and grow six marijuana plants at home.

New Mexico posing quarantine to stop pecan weevil bug Fri, 17 Nov 2017 10:48:07 -0500 LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico agriculture officials are issuing a quarantine in hopes of stopping the spread of an invasive bug threatening the state’s pecan industry.

The New Mexico Department of Agriculture says an emergency pecan weevil quarantine will take effect Monday and last for 180 days.

No pecan shipments from Chaves, Curry, Eddy and Lea counties will be permitted.

Meanwhile, the agency is also working with pest control companies to remove the weevil from residential and commercial trees.

In late 2016, and January of this year, the weevil was found in pecan orchards in multiple counties in southeast New Mexico.

Pecan producers worry the quarantine could prevent them from trading to the west where New Mexico’s $180 million pecan industry is most lucrative.

Candidates for Idaho governor address potato growers Fri, 17 Nov 2017 09:57:49 -0500 John O’Connell FORT HALL, Idaho — Two Republican candidates for Idaho governor shared their visions with potato farmers Nov. 14 on topics such as helping rural America, providing relief for small business owners and reversing the trend of Idaho youths leaving the state to start careers.

Idaho Lt. Gov. Brad Little, a third-generation rancher, and Tommy Ahlquist, a developer, business owner and emergency room doctor, spoke during the Idaho Potato Commission’s Big Idaho Potato Harvest Meeting, hosted at the Shoshone-Bannock Hotel and Event Center.

Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, is also among the front-runners in the race for governor but couldn’t attend the forum due to votes in Washington, D.C.

Little emphasized that Idaho leads the nation in both job and income growth, and he believes the state’s large cities are benefiting from increasingly diversified economies.

“We’re on a pretty good trajectory,” Little said. “Idaho has one of the most solid fiscal positions of all 50 states, and vastly superior to the federal government.”

But Little said he’s concerned about rural Idaho, and described how his hometown, Emmett, lost its major employer when its sawmill closed.

Little said the potato industry has been “in the lead” of adding value to its commodity in Idaho, processing potatoes into frozen products at local plants, and he believes other Idaho commodities must follow suit. Little said he’s participated in foreign trade missions to develop new foreign markets for Idaho agricultural products. He also emphasized the need to better prepare students as early as seventh-grade for careers that may not require a college degree, such as working in a modern Idaho food processing plant.

Ahlquist, who grew up on a small farm in Hunter, Utah, has worked as an emergency room doctor, is chief operating officer of the real estate development company Garden Co., and is a founder of Stat PADS, a major manufacturer of medical defibrillators.

“Idaho feeds the world, and I want you to know that I understand that,” said Ahlquist, who has chosen an Oakley farmer, Todd Cranney, as his “right-hand man” for his first campaign for public office.

Ahlquist said he empathizes with farmers, who run small businesses, because he’s encountered “stifling” state and federal regulations as a business owner. He hopes to change the state’s business culture.

“In Idaho, if you are a special interest group or a big company, you will be taken care of,” Ahlquist said. “But if you are a family or small business in Idaho, you won’t be.”

Ahlquist believes the state is too focused on college education and ought to place greater emphasis on preparing students for “the jobs sitting all around us,” including apprenticeships and work-study programs.

Ahlquist also supports “rolling back regulations that have destroyed medicine” and suggests the state needs a “crash course on ethics in politics,” especially pertaining to campaign finance laws.

Labrador, who has been invited to address potato growers during the University of Idaho’s late-January potato conference in Pocatello, submitted a statement to Capital Press highlighting his efforts on behalf of agriculture. Labrador said he introduced legislation that has streamlined grazing permit renewals, and he’s proposed legislation to force environmentalists to pay legal fees for “frivolous lawsuits.”

“I’ve also supported Idaho’s right to manage sage grouse, rejected federal restrictions on our lands and stood up against the (Environmental Protection Agency), leading the fight to repeal Waters of the U.S. regulatory overreach,” Labrador said in his statement.

Idaho ag export value up 12 percent in 2017 Fri, 17 Nov 2017 09:47:29 -0500 Sean Ellis BOISE — The total value of Idaho agricultural exports increased 12 percent through the first nine months of 2017 compared to the same period last year, led by a large increase in dairy export value.

Many of the state’s main farm commodities drew higher prices in 2017 and above-average farm production last year carried over to 2017 as higher inventories, said Doug Robison, Northwest Farm Credit Services’ senior vice president for agriculture in Idaho.

“The combination of large inventories and better pricing are supporting strong export growth in 2017,” he told Capital Press in an email. “Farm production in 2017 has been near trend-line average and will support continued growth in exports, though at a slower pace, for the remainder of the year.”

Idaho ag exports totaled $607 million from January through September, up 12 percent from $543 million during the same period in 2016, according to the Idaho State Department of Agriculture data.

A weakening U.S. dollar was also a significant factor in the increase because it makes U.S. products more competitive in the global market, said University of Idaho Agricultural Economist Garth Taylor.

Idaho dairy product exports totaled $136 million through the third quarter, up 48 percent from $91 million during the same period last year.

Dairy accounted for 22 percent of Idaho’s total agricultural export value through September, up from 17 percent last year.

Exports included in the edible vegetable category increased 28 percent to $104 million through the third quarter but oilseed exports were down 16 percent to $79 million.

Canada remained the top destination for Idaho ag exports, as that nation purchased $166 million worth of Idaho farm products during the first nine months of 2017, a 10 percent increase over 2016.

Edible vegetable exports to Canada increased 9 percent to 30 million, prepared vegetable and fruit exports rose by 7 percent to $29 million and oilseed exports declined 21 percent to $28 million.

Idaho ag exports to Mexico declined by 5 percent to $119 million, but farm product exports increased 95 percent to South Korea ($47 million), 28 percent to China ($41 million), 20 percent to Japan ($35 million) and 133 percent to Australia ($17 million).

Most milk produced in the state is turned into cheese and Idaho cheese exports soared to some countries through the third quarter. Cheese exports to South Korea rose 143 percent to $41 million and they increased 2,892 percent to Australia ($8 million).

Idaho dairy exports to China increased 70 percent ($27 million).

Based on USDA data and calculations by University of Idaho ag economists, the value of Idaho ag exports equals about 25 percent of the state’s total farm cash receipts, according to Rita Du, an assistant professor in UI’s Department of Agricultural Economics.

Idaho ag export value set records each year from 2011-2014 before declining in 2015 and 2016.

“A lot of the fluctuation in (Idaho’s ag) export value, at least between 2010 and 2016, is coming from price fluctuations rather than export quantity fluctuations,” Due told Capital Press in an email.

Wildlife Services officials urge ranchers to report all cattle deaths Fri, 17 Nov 2017 09:37:37 -0500 Carol Ryan Dumas SUN VALLEY, Idaho — Coming across a dead cow in the herd with no outward signs of what killed her often leaves cattlemen guessing about the cause.

But they shouldn’t assume it was poison, bloat, a broken neck or that she got stuck on her back. Her death could have been caused by a wolf, Todd Grimm, Idaho state director of USDA Wildlife Services, said during the Idaho Cattle Association annual convention.

A wolf’s teeth are blunt and not meant to rip, puncture or tear; they’re meant to crush muscle. Because of their thick hides, a significant majority of dead adult cattle killed by wolves show no outward sign. But they do show subcutaneous hemorrhaging and bite marks under the hide, he said.

Those clues can help investigators confirm a wolf depredation — but only if cattlemen report the death. The agency is urging cattlemen to report all deaths and to leave the carcass undisturbed to preserve the evidence.

In the past 22 years, the agency has confirmed 750 wolf depredations in cattle, affecting 400 producers in 32 counties in Idaho. But deaths from wolves are likely much higher, he said, adding that the science says that for every kill confirmed, there are probably six or seven more.

The agency needs additional data to take to the predator control board to show the problem is bigger than estimated to ease the restrictions it faces on wolf removal.

And it’s had success in doing that in the McCall zone, a chronic depredation area, where ranchers have responded to the agency’s request to report all livestock deaths.

This year, the agency has confirmed 70 wolf depredations of cattle in the region, compared to 32 in 2016. The increase in confirmed deaths is not just from more wolf activity, but also from the agency paying more attention and ranchers calling the agency to look at every carcass, Grimm said.

“We realize there are a lot more kills that cattleman aren’t identifying,” said Greg Jones, a trapper-gunner with USDA Wildlife Services.

The agency has found many of those mysterious deaths show signs of exertional myopathy, which could be caused by the stress of being chased by a wolf.

It’s found dead cows with grass or dirt pushed up in their nostrils, indicating a face plant. Other signs are animals with nose in legs out, buckled hoofs, legs straight out and no ground disturbances around the carcass, which would signify a struggle — such as being stuck in the mud or trying to get up.

“She’s dead on her feet before she hits the ground,” he said.

While there might be no external signs of a wolf attack, investigators can skin the carcass to look for subcutaneous hemorrhaging with associated bite marks that can confirm wolf depredation.

If ranchers find a dead animal, the agency wants to look at it, he said.

“We need to look at it so we can confirm. If you see something, don’t just run on by,” he said.

The only way to reduce wolf depredation is to remove more wolves, and the agency needs the data to do that, he said.

Increased depredations in chronic areas have led the agency to look at more animals it can confirm, and myopathy is playing a part, Grimm said.

“The bottom line is it doesn’t cost anybody any time or money to have us come out and look at it at the least,” he said.

Even if it’s in backcountry, cattlemen can report the death and GPS coordinates of a dead animal and the agency will investigate. It has also been able to confirm wolf depredation on scavenged carcasses, he said.

Forest bill allows tribes to grab county power, lawyer says Fri, 17 Nov 2017 08:36:40 -0500 Dan Wheat YAKIMA, Wash. — While intended to improve forest management to reduce the threat of wildfires, the Resilient Federal Forests Act also allows the federal government to supplant the voice of counties with that of Indian tribes in managing some federal lands, a constitutional attorney says.

“It’s a mystery to me why this passed out of the Republican House with this language intact,” said George Wentz, a constitutional lawyer and former Reagan administration official. He spoke at the Washington Farm Bureau’s annual meeting in Yakima on Nov. 15.

The act, HR 2936, which the House passed 232-188 on Nov. 1, includes a section allowing the secretary of the Interior or the secretary of Agriculture, at the request of a tribe, “to treat federal forest land as Indian forest land for purposes of planning and conducting forest land management” … if it “is located within, or mostly within, a geographic area that presents a feature or involves circumstances principally relevant to that Indian Tribe.” This includes land ceded to the U.S. by treaty, federal land within a current or former reservation or land adjudicated to be tribal homelands.

Authority is limited to planning and conducting management and “shall not be construed to designate federal forest land as Indian forest land,” the bill states.

Currently, federal forest lands are under the dual jurisdiction of counties and the federal government, said Wentz, a partner in Davillier Law Group in New Orleans and Sandpoint, Idaho. The bill removes county jurisdiction and replaces it with tribal jurisdiction at the discretion of one of the department secretaries, he said.

“With regard to planning, this would make the tribe the dominant party interacting with the Forest Service on land rather than the county. Think of the impact on issues like harvesting timber and water rights,” Wentz said.

“This could be used, along with the Antiquities Act, to tie up vast areas of the West,” he said. “How does the federal government have the right or power to remove land within a county from the jurisdiction of the county and suddenly treat it as tribal land? People in the county have no voice in the decision to remove it.”

Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, has said he will try to fix it in conference committee with the Senate, “but there’s no certainty it can be fixed at that point and I can’t understand why 17 Republicans put it in there,” Wentz said.

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., and co-sponsored by 16 Republicans and two Democrats. Republicans include Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Dan Newhouse of Washington and Greg Walden of Oregon. Capital Press is seeking comment from them.

Presidents have long used the Antiquities Act of 1906 to designate millions of acres of Western lands as national monuments, he said, including President Obama’s designation of 1.35 million acres in San Juan County, Utah, now under review by the Trump administration.

Utah is considering a legal challenge to the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, which says the government can’t dispose of Western federal lands without a compelling national interest.

Wentz told the Farm Bureau crowd that Western lands were only destined to be held in trust by the federal government pursuant to an agreement to get Maryland to sign the Articles of Confederation. The land was to be given to Western states as they were created but most of it wasn’t because the government no longer needed the revenue when it adopted the federal income tax in 1913, he said. Continued federal ownership over much of the land in 12 Western states denied them equal sovereignty with Eastern states, he said.

It’s a civil rights issue, not a property rights issue and affects self-governance of the West, he said. It affects Western land, infrastructure and economic development and gives federal agencies police power over vast lands, he said.

“It’s an unelected bureaucracy wielding power over us and we can’t vote them out of office. They control our daily lives. It’s not the structure intended by the framers (of the Constitution),” he said. “It’s the largest civil rights violation of our time.”

More growers planting spring wheat in the fall Fri, 17 Nov 2017 09:24:36 -0500 Matw Weaver More farmers are planting spring wheat in the fall in an effort to tap into higher prices, several Washington Grain Commission board members say.

More than half of the wheat in the Columbia Basin is fall-planted spring wheat, said Dana Herron, who represents Benton, Franklin, Kittitas, Klickitat and Yakima counties and is co-owner of Tri-State Seed in Connell.

Some spring wheats have enough winter wheat parentage to allow it to be planted in the fall and survive winters, Herron said.

“We’re trying to get a winter wheat yield with a spring wheat price,” Herron said. “It’s one of the few recommendations we can make to add two dollars-plus per bushel to the guy’s bottom line. Today, that’s a big deal.”

Soft white wheat currently sells at $5.20 per bushel to $5.35 per bushel on the Portland market. Dark northern spring wheat sells at $7.02 per bushel to $8.24 per bushel, depending on the protein level.

Spring wheat typically has a 75-cent premium over winter wheat, but would also have a lower yield than winter wheat, said Damon Filan, industry representative on the commission and manager of Tri-Cities Grain. That yield lag isn’t present when spring wheat is planted in the fall, he said.

“Better yield, quicker harvest – that way they can double crop,” Filan said.

Growers are able to harvest the spring wheat in late June instead of late July and then plant timothy hay or sweet corn, he said.

Protein levels are improved with the earlier harvest, Filan said. The Basin consistently produces spring wheat with desirable proteins and test weights, he said.

“The risk is arctic blasts without snow,” Filan said.

Herron estimates he’s lost one fall-planted spring crop in eight years because it was thinned out.

“If weather is anything (other) than severe, it’ll make it,” Herron said.

Filan anticipates no more than a third of dark northern spring wheat to be planted in the fall.

“There’s more acres being planted than I’ve seen, ever, because they’ve been so successful the last couple years,” he said.

Some growers have been planting this way over the last decade, Filan said. The varieties have improved in the last 10 years, he said. Fifteen to 20 years ago, efforts weren’t very successful north of Pasco, he said.

Filan expects more farmers to consider fall planting as they talk to growers who have been successful doing it.

“It’s building on itself and it will keep doing it,” he said.

The fall-planted spring wheat is taking acres from fall-planted winter wheat, Herron said.

Whether such methods continue depends on the price spread, Herron and Filan said.

“I think some of the acres will go away, but it’s going to continue to be a good practice,” Herron said.

Idaho Potato Commission takes steps to address quality concerns Fri, 17 Nov 2017 09:08:54 -0500 John O’Connell FORT HALL, Idaho — The Idaho Potato Commission is collaborating with researchers, major buyers, growers and shippers to address recent quality concerns about some of the state’s fresh potato shipments.

Much of the discussion during IPC’s Nov. 14 Big Idaho Potato Harvest Meeting, hosted at the Shoshone-Bannock Hotel and Event Center, focused on the need to reduce bruising and other imperfections in fresh shipments.

IPC President and CEO Frank Muir explained the commission is partnering with Walmart and a major food service buyer to learn more about the causes of quality problems, in response to an increasing number of customer complaints since the 2015 harvest.

Muir said IPC also plans to conduct quality-improvement workshops for growers and shippers, is developing a handbook outlining best practices for handling potatoes and has commissioned University of Idaho potato researchers Nora Olsen and Mike Thornton to study the supply chain and determine causes of damage.

“When you have a premium brand, it has got to be backed up with premium quality,” Muir said, after reading complaints from buyers left on social media and IPC’s voice mail. “We can’t rest on our laurels. We have got to always be improving.”

Muir cited statistics showing rapidly growing demand for Idaho potatoes. Last season the state shipped a record volume of fresh potatoes, up 12 percent from the prior year. He said he’d hate to see any perceived quality problems affect that growth trend.

Armand Lobato, IPC’s food service and promotion director for the West, said he’s most concerned about customers who aren’t complaining but may simply shift their business.

“For the most part, we’re pretty darned good, but if we’re at all tempted to compromise that quality, that’s letting our opponent back in the game,” Lobato said.

Olsen and Thornton started their special project for the commission in August. The researchers gathered data during potato harvest using a ball with sensors to simulate bruising. They’ve also studied reports from retailers who rejected Idaho potato shipments during 2016 to identify commonalities, and they have used their data to develop a list of 10 ways growers and shippers can reduce bruising. They advised the industry to take steps such as adding padding to harvesting equipment, reducing the height from which potatoes fall within equipment, harvesting when soil conditions are appropriate and paying close attention to humidity and temperature in storage.

The researchers plan to track several potato shipments from throughout the season, working closely with retailers and buyers and meeting shipments at their destinations to evaluate where problems may be occurring.

“As the 2017 crop is shipped, we will go to distribution centers and look at quality when it is shipped from Idaho and look at quality when it arrives,” Thornton said.

Thornton believes extreme temperature fluctuations during recent harvests could be complicating matters. He also noted farms now harvest higher-yielding crops from far more acres.

“We’re using bigger equipment,” Thornton said. “We’re pushing this crop harder and harder.”

Bellinger re-elected to Westland Irrigation District board Fri, 17 Nov 2017 08:58:27 -0500 GEORGE PLAVENEO Media group HERMISTON, Ore. — In what turned out to be a closely contested race, incumbent Jack Bellinger was re-elected Tuesday to the Westland Irrigation District board of directors, defeating challenger Ray Vogt by just 12 votes.

Bellinger, owner of Bellinger Farms in Hermiston, kept his seat by a narrow count of 107-95, according to unofficial results. The Westland board will meet Monday, Nov. 20 at 1 p.m. to certify the election and announce an official winner.

The Westland Irrigation District delivers water to approximately 260 patrons in the Umatilla Basin. Only district members were allowed to vote in the board election, with voting weighted by land ownership. Anyone with up to 40 acres received one vote, while anyone with between 40 and 160 acres received two votes and anyone with more than 160 acres received three votes.

Vogt, who raises beef cattle and alfalfa on 24.5 acres, said he ran to improve transparency between the board and patrons, and to ensure small farmers like himself have a voice in major decisions moving forward, such as the ill-fated Central Project to secure mitigated water from the Columbia River.

“I just don’t feel like the smaller farmers have been asked for their advice in any of those decisions,” Vogt said. “The small guy has just as much right to his water as the big guy has to his water.”

While Vogt said he will support Bellinger, he added that the tight race does show there are patrons out there questioning whether small farmers are truly being represented.

In an interview Wednesday, Bellinger said his goal is to unite the district in the face of a lawsuit filed against it last year by a group of patrons with senior water rights.

“We need to resolve this lawsuit so it’s not hanging over our head,” Bellinger said. “Until we do, I don’t think our district can come together to do big things.”

The lawsuit accuses Westland of systematically taking water from the plaintiffs to benefit three larger farms with junior rights. Those patrons seek $4.14 million in combined damages. Bellinger said he disagrees with the premise of the suit, adding that arbitration appears unlikely.

“I think there needs to be a precedent set where their claims are ruled upon,” Bellinger said. “Then we can move forward.”

As for the long term, Bellinger said he remains committed to finding new sources of water for the district to ensure a full irrigation season every year. Unlike the neighboring Hermiston, Stanfield and West Extension irrigation districts, Westland remains entirely dependent on live flows from the Umatilla River and stored water in McKay Reservoir.

The Westland board, however, voted unanimously in May to abandon the Central Project — a $14.4 million proposal that would have brought mitigated water from the Columbia River — over fears the project could be stalled or derailed by the lawsuit.

Bellinger said that loss still hurts, so much that he considered not running again for the board.

“This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that we let slip through our fingers,” he said.

Ultimately, Bellinger said there are things the district can do to benefit all farms, large and small, if they come together. He specifically thanked the Westland Water Users Group for coming together after the Central Project fell through to combat what he described as misinformation within the district.

After 16 years on the board, Bellinger said he is encouraged that more people are starting to pay close attention to issues affecting Westland, and participating in the board’s monthly meetings.

“It’s made me be a better board member,” he said. “I’m much more conscious of my role, and procedures.”

Northwest winter forecast tilts toward wet, cold Fri, 17 Nov 2017 08:50:53 -0500 Don Jenkins A new winter forecast, heavily influenced by La Nina conditions, rates the chances of a cold and wet winter in the Northwest higher than a month ago.

Washington, in particular, can expect below-average temperatures and above-normal precipitation for December, January and February, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center said. A month ago, the center rated the state’s odds of a cold and wet winter at 50-50.

Washington State Climatologist Nick Bond said that La Nina almost always leads to a healthy amount of snowpack to supply water for summer irrigation.

“There’s always a chance for a rude surprise, but right now, in terms of water supplies for next year, it looks good,” Bond said.

The long-range forecast, scheduled to be updated Dec. 21, reinforced the role La Nina, a lowering of Pacific Ocean temperatures, will have on the U.S. winter. The new outlook generally increased chances for wetter weather in the northern U.S. and drier weather in the southern U.S.

Climatologists expect the La Nina to remain “weak,” a measurement of how much lower than normal sea temperatures are. However, the prediction center noted than a large reservoir of cold water across the Pacific could foreshadow a stronger La Nina.

Bond said he doubts a strong La Nina will develop, though a moderate La Nina could evolve. Even a weak La Nina influences the weather, he said. La Nina conditions were weak last winter, but a large snowpack supplied irrigation systems through a hot and dry summer.

Bond said La Nina conditions have their greatest effect in the Northwest after the first of the year.

“As the season goes on, its influence grows,” Bond said. “I would say the evidence that it’s going to be colder than normal in December is on the skimpy side, but there’s no evidence it will be warmer than normal.

“For later in the winter, there’s more of an argument that it’ll be on the chilly side.”

Snowpacks in basins throughout Washington are well above normal for mid-November. Bond said the early start in accumulating snow doesn’t necessarily telegraph what the rest of winter will be like.

“The connections are pretty weak,” he said. “Things can change.”

Besides Washington, Western Oregon and the Idaho panhandle are forecast to be colder than normal for the three-month period. There is no strong signal for Eastern Oregon, Northern California and most of Idaho, according to the prediction center.

Southern Idaho falls in the portion of the country expected to have a winter warmed by La Nina.

Washington, Idaho and the northern half of Oregon are expected to be wet. The southern half of Oregon and Northern California are forecast to have average precipitation.

No protection needed for wolves Thu, 16 Nov 2017 11:17:55 -0500 What would you do?

Put yourself in the boots of the Oregon hunter who says he was attacked by a wolf.

“I screamed, got it in my (scope) crosshairs, saw fur and pulled the trigger,” Brian Scott of Clackamas, Ore., told our reporter, Eric Mortenson.

Though his story has been doubted by some and he has been criticized by the trolls on social media, Scott appears to have done the right thing. With a wolf running toward him and at least two others flanking him, he protected himself.

Some experts insist that wolves are shy little things that avoid people, but hunters often mask their scent using pine boughs to avoid detection by elk. Some hunters also use a cow call or rub antlers on trees to attract bull elk. The wolf probably thought it was going to have elk for lunch.

Those or other factors might have led the wolf to charge Scott on that fateful day in Eastern Oregon.

We refuse to condemn a man for protecting himself against a charging predator. He broke no laws. Though unusual, wolves have killed people in the past, and no one on any side of the debate wants to see that happen.

By our lights, he did everything right, including calling the authorities and reporting the incident.

We’re a bit less sympathetic toward whoever has been shooting wolves in southern Oregon. Three of the protected animals have been killed in that part of the state, a violation of state and federal law.

We did not write the law, nor do we agree that wolves should be a protected species. But to blatantly violate the law only bolsters wolf advocates’ arguments for protecting the animals.

Wolves are thriving in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and other states — even California. The idea that any resources or protections are required to help those populations of apex predators spread borders on laughable. We’ve said before in this space that ranchers need protection from wolves, not the other way around.

What is needed is for our elected members of Congress to get off their rear ends and lift the protection for wolves in the West. There are plenty of wolves in this part of the country — more than 1,000 in Oregon, Washington and Idaho alone. Wildlife managers readily acknowledge that their counts are low-ball estimates, since wolves seem to be popping up unannounced all over the region.

That includes the pack that managers didn’t know about that attacked the hunter in Eastern Oregon.

It’s time to end the protections for wolves as they continue to multiply and spread across the region without any help from wildlife managers.

AP Explains: Farm runoff and the worsening algae plague Thu, 16 Nov 2017 11:16:55 -0500 JOHN FLESHER Harmful algae blooms have become a top water polluter, fueled by fertilizers washing into lakes, streams and oceans. Federal and state programs have spent billions of dollars on cost-sharing payments to farmers to help prevent nutrient runoff, yet the problem is worsening in many places. Here’s a look at the algae menace and what’s being done:

Among the oldest life forms, algae are simple aquatic plants that form key links in food chains. Some types of bacteria are also considered algae, including cyanobacteria, or “blue-green algae,” which is increasingly common across the U.S.

Scientists believe a combination of factors can trigger large blooms, including warm temperatures, slow water circulation and excessive nutrients, especially nitrogen and phosphorus. Among nutrient sources are runoff from farms and urban lawns as well as industrial wastes and sewage.

Some blooms generate toxins such as microcystin, which can cause nausea, fever and liver damage in humans and kill animals. A federal study detected microcystin in nearly 40 percent of lakes sampled around the nation, although mostly at below-harmful levels. Even when blooms aren’t toxic, they can turn waters ugly shades of green or other colors, stink like rotten vegetables, foul beaches and kill fish by sucking oxygen from the water as they decompose.

The U.S. isn’t alone.

Many countries are experiencing “disturbing trends of increasing bloom incidence” and growing economic losses, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says.

China’s largest blooms on record washed onto beaches in 2013 from the Yellow Sea, as bulldozers scraped up rotting mats by the ton. A bloom the size of Mexico spreads across the Arabian Sea twice a year.

In Australia, blue-green algae extended more than 1,000 miles on the Murray River in 2016.

A European Commission study says blooms in Greece, Italy and Spain cost the economy $355 million annually.

University of Alberta researchers say microcystin has been detected in more than 240 Canadian water bodies. Lake Winnipeg algae blooms are so large that they’re visible from space.

Many scientists believe global warming is making conditions more favorable for algae blooms, primarily by raising water temperatures and causing heavier rainstorms that wash more nutrients into waterways.

A study in the journal Science this year said nitrogen runoff into lakes, rivers and bays could increase 19 percent by the end of the century if greenhouse gas emissions keep rising.

Climate change research in the journal Environmental Science and Technology predicts the number of days U.S. reservoirs are infected with blue-green blooms could triple by 2050.

Congress first enacted legislation to deal with harmful algae in 1998 and has updated it several times, with another version pending. Critics say it’s too little and too slow.

A White House report last year said progress had been made in forecasting blooms and issuing warnings. The Governmental Accountability Office said 12 agencies had spent $101 million on studies and monitoring between 2013 and 2015.

But only in 2014 was the law updated to make inland waters a priority; the focus previously had been on coastal areas and the Great Lakes. Even then, no funding was included for inland water study.

And the law sidesteps the nutrient runoff problem, with no limits and no enforcement provisions.

The Associated Press obtained data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture about the costliest of several programs that help farmers avoid pollution.

The agency awarded $1.8 billion between 2009 and 2016 for use of 45 practices intended to prevent fertilizer runoff.

The five most heavily funded included upgrading irrigation systems; managing brush growth; planting “cover crops” in fall and winter that hold soil in place and absorb fertilizers; stabilizing erosion-prone areas used by livestock; and developing plans for applying fertilizer in ways that will minimize runoff. Another popular measure is planting grass or other vegetation between croplands and streams.

Farmers in Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Indiana and Nebraska were pledged the most funding between 2009 and 2016.

Farmers in Sussex County, Delaware, a top poultry-producing area, received $17 million over the seven years, the most of any U.S. county.

John Flesher reported from Traverse City, Mich. AP data journalist Angeliki Kastanis contributed from Los Angeles.

Nature’s Path settles with Washington Ecology Thu, 16 Nov 2017 11:16:06 -0500 Don Jenkins Organic foodmaker Nature’s Path has agreed to spend an estimated $29,800 for a park and stormwater treatment project in Blaine, Wash., to settle a claim by the Department of Ecology that it violated its permit to discharge wastewater.

The company, based across the Canadian border in Richmond, British Columbia, denied any wrongdoing, but agreed to the resolution to avoid further litigation, according to settlement documents.

“Nature’s Path is very pleased that the DOE dismissed our case and accepted our 2016 appeal that enables us to make significant environmental reports to Blaine,” the company vice president for operations, Peter Dierx, said in a written statement.

Ecology fined Nature’s Path $22,000 a year ago, alleging that the company’s records showed it discharged acidic wastewater from its Blaine plant. The company said faulty equipment misrecorded pH levels and appealed the fine to the Pollution Control Hearings Board. The settlement ends the appeal.

Nature’s Path agreed to spend $20,000 to buy two lots along Caine Creek in Blaine for a city park.

The company also will spend $3,000 for clean up and restoration, including removing weeds and planting trees. The agreement calls for Nature’s Path to provide work parties next spring and in 2019.

The company also will spend $1,000 on park signs and another $800 for ongoing garbage pickup and a three-year supply of bags to dispose of pet waste.

Nature’s Path will also contribute $5,000 to a city project to treat stormwater going into Drayton Harbor.

The company in August submitted a report to Ecology on improvements to the wastewater treatment system at the plant. According to the report, fat, oil and grease interfered with equipment measuring pH levels in wastewater.

The plant has been in compliance with standards for pH levels since January, according to the settlement.

“We’re pleased to see this excellent progress at Nature’s Path facility and these valuable enhancements for the city.” Ecology’s Northwest regional director Tom Buroker said in a written statement. “We value this partnership because the assistance to the city goes above what our penalty assessed and, more importantly, beyond what’s required to comply with the permit.”

The 150,000-square-foot processing and packaging plant opened in 1999. The plant produces approximately 750,000 pounds of cereal, granola and bars in a week, according to the company’s report.

Trump EPA nominee opposed by GOP senators from N.C. Thu, 16 Nov 2017 11:08:29 -0500 MICHAEL BIESECKER WASHINGTON (AP) — North Carolina’s two Republican senators say they oppose President Donald Trump’s pick to oversee chemical safety at the Environmental Protection Agency, putting Michael L. Dourson’s nomination at serious risk.

Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis issued statements saying they will vote against Dourson to serve as head of EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.

Environmentalists and Senate Democrats have vehemently opposed Dourson, a toxicologist with close ties to the chemical industry. That means only one more Republican “no” vote would likely be needed to torpedo his nomination.

Moderate GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine told reporters Thursday she is also leaning against supporting Dourson, but has not yet made a final decision.

The White House and EPA did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday or Thursday.

Despite the fact he hasn’t yet been confirmed by the Senate, Dourson has already been working at the agency as a senior adviser to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. The agency’s press office did not respond to emails seeking how much he is being paid.

The Associated Press reported in September that Dourson has for years accepted payments for criticizing studies that raised concerns about the safety of his clients’ products, according to a review of financial records and his published work.

Past corporate clients of Dourson and of a research group he ran include Dow Chemical Co., Koch Industries Inc. and Chevron Corp. His research has also been underwritten by industry trade and lobbying groups representing the makers of plastics, pesticides, processed foods and cigarettes.

Burr and Tillis, both of whom are considered reliably pro-business conservatives, cited Dourson’s past work and worries among their home-state constituents about tainted drinking water in opposing his nomination.

“Over the last several weeks, Senator Tillis has done his due diligence in reviewing Mr. Dourson’s body of work,” said a statement from Tillis’ office. “Senator Tillis still has serious concerns about his record and cannot support his nomination.”

Marine veterans and their families blame decades-old contamination of wells at a North Carolina base with solvents and dry-cleaning chemicals for infant deaths and serious health problems that include cancer.

More recently, concerns have been raised about undisclosed discharges of chemicals used to manufacture Teflon and GoreTex into the Cape Fear River, a source of municipal drinking water for Wilmington and other southeastern North Carolina communities.

Dourson worked at the EPA for more than a decade, leaving in 1994 as the manager at a lab that assessed the health risks of exposure to chemicals. The following year, he founded Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment, a private toxicity evaluation nonprofit organization that tests chemicals and produces reports on which chemicals are hazardous in what quantities.

Dourson’s views toward industry are consistent with others Trump has selected as top federal regulators. Among them is Pruitt, who in March overruled the findings of his agency’s own scientists to reverse an effort to ban chlorpyrifos, one of the nation’s most widely used pesticides.

Court records show Dourson and his work have often been called on when his corporate clients are seeking to fend off lawsuits.

DuPont was accused of polluting a West Virginia town with Perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, a chemical that the company’s internal tests had long ago concluded was toxic. Corporate officials discussed hiring Dourson as part of a strategy to defend themselves.

Dourson led a team that found in 2002 that PFOA levels up to 150 parts per billion were safe, a level higher than was found in testing of 188 private wells and springs.

That was also well above the 1 part per billion that Dupont’s own scientists had concluded could be considered safe years before. The EPA now says that only 70 parts per trillion of PFOA are acceptable — or only 0.05 percent of what Dourson’s team said was safe.

DuPont and a former subsidiary, Chemours Co., later paid $761 million to settle 3,550 lawsuits stemming from its use of the chemical.

Chemours is the company whose spills of a chemical called GenX, a replacement for PFOA, are now at issue in North Carolina’s Cape Fear River.

“I will not be supporting the nomination of Michael Dourson,” said Burr, the state’s senior senator. “With his record and our state’s history of contamination at Camp Lejeune as well as the current GenX water issues in Wilmington, I am not confident he is the best choice for our country.”

The stand was quickly praised by environmental advocacy groups that rarely find common ground with the two Tarheel Republicans.

“No one who has spent decades arguing on behalf of the chemical industry for weaker safety standards should be charged with reviewing chemicals for the EPA,” said Scott Faber, a senior vice president for government affairs at the Environmental Working Group. “It would be like putting an arsonist in charge of the fire department.”

Limagrain execs tout new wheat varieties Thu, 16 Nov 2017 10:54:40 -0500 Matw Weaver SPOKANE — Limagrain Cereal Seeds has proven its ability to provide yield to wheat farmers and higher quality will follow, company executives say.

“Breeding for field performance is actually a lot easier than breeding for end-use performance,” chief operating officer Frank Curtis said. “It takes longer to finesse the correct parameters you need to produce high quality. As the program matures, the quality is going to get better and better.”

“We’re seven years into this now — we have lots of options and diversity to choose from that we didn’t have the first couple of years,” said Jim Peterson, vice president for research for the farmer-owned and -operated international agricultural cooperative. “It’s a fundamental building block for everything we do.”

The company’s strengths stood out over the past year, Peterson said, with top performance in several market classes and precipitation zones in the Pacific Northwest.

“The material’s performing, just like as scripted,” Peterson said. “The strength of that portfolio is only growing now. That’s the satisfaction of being a competitive breeder. That’s what you want to see, that your decisions are right (and) making sense. We’re there.”

New CEO Tatiana Henry said her priorities for growers are to increase their profitability and yields in the U.S., which is not yet at the level of European varieties. She started in July in the U.S., after working as CEO of field seeds in Ukraine and Russia. She has been with Limagrain for 15 years.

The company’s new varieties include:

LCS Shark: The soft white winter wheat fits in SY Ovation areas, Curtis said, is short-strawed, high-yielding and resistant to soil-borne wheat mosaic virus.

LCS Sonic: The soft white winter wheat is a dryland variety, slated for foundation seed and registered seed increases this year and certified seed next year. It is the top-yielding variety in low rainfall zones, Curtis said, and shorter than Norwest Duet, has resistance to PCH1 strawbreaker foot rot and is winter hardy.

“We think this variety can go a lot further north than any introduction we’ve had so far,” Curtis said.

LCS Hulk: The company expects broad adaptation for the soft white winter wheat. It’s shorter than LCS Sonic, has stiff straw and was designed for dryland but performs well in all production zones. It consistently has one of the highest test weights in trials, Curtis said.

LCS Rocket: The hard red winter wheat has stiff straw, yield potential similar to LCS Jet, helps diversify growers’ acreage and has improved disease resistance.

LCS Fusion AX: The hard red winter wheat variety is part of the CoAXium production system, in collaboration with the Colorado Wheat Research Foundation and Albaugh LLC. It’s designed for dryland regions. It is, however, susceptible to stripe rust, Curtis said.

Farmers must take their message to the public Thu, 16 Nov 2017 09:41:05 -0500 At least a couple times a year one group or another reaches out to the Capital Press seeking advice on how to get their message about agriculture to consumers in urban markets.

The conversation takes a predictable course.

“There’s so much misinformation on the internet. People in the city don’t understand farming (ranching, GMOs, dairies, pesticides, wolves, commodity prices, trade, etc). How can we get the facts and our perspective to city media outlets?”

It’s an age-old question.

You can try to get an op-ed piece printed in the Oregonian or the Seattle Times and you might make some headway. You could go directly to the online sites spreading misinformation and challenge them.

But farmers and ranchers really can’t compete with bomb throwers on the comment sections of social media posts or of stories on news websites.

Those probably aren’t the people agriculture needs to reach anyway. Ag can’t change the minds of activists, but it can engage reasonable people who can be swayed by the facts.

The best way for ag groups to get their message to nonfarmers is to go directly to those consumers, either online or in person. And because facts only go so far, the best way to present the message is to put a human face on it.

There are any number of examples of farmers and ranchers using personal blogs, YouTube and Facebook to refute common misconceptions about agriculture. An Oregon dairy farmer in Tillamook County for example, does an excellent job on Facebook teaching people about his industry. A recent video post discussed the feedstuffs and nutrition supplements he feeds his herd.

We think ag groups should work to get farmers and ranchers in front of the urban civic and church groups that are always looking for a lunch or dinner speaker. These are receptive audiences whose perceptions can be changed.

Closing the rural-urban divide and challenging the misinformation about agriculture found on the internet requires a constant effort. Retail politics wins campaigns.

No quick Hirst fix, Farm Bureau told Thu, 16 Nov 2017 09:06:39 -0500 Dan Wheat YAKIMA, Wash. — Rural Democrats may join Republicans on specific issues but don’t expect them to give Republicans a majority in the state Legislature, a legislative watcher says.

Democrats will control the state Senate by one vote starting in January and already control the House by one vote. While such thin margins have caused switch overs in the past don’t expect it next year. That’s what Todd Myers, director of the Center for the Environment at the Washington Policy Center, told attendees at the Washington Farm Bureau 97th annual meeting at the Yakima Convention Center, Nov. 15.

Democrats are talking about passing a state capital budget but they still need 60 percent so it probably will remain in stalemate over the unpopular state Supreme Court Hirst ruling on water, said Myers, a former executive team member of the state Department of Natural Resources and author of “Eco-Fads: How the Rise of Trendy Environmentalism is Harming the Environment.”

The Hirst decision is shutting down development by requiring studies for authorization of new wells. Senate Republicans, in control until they lost a seat in the Nov. 7 election, refused to pass a capital budget without relief from the Hirst decision.

“Will it be the fix we all want? It will not. I can tell you that right now. There will be elements we will all cringe on but it will be better than what it is now,” Myers said of any legislative Hirst resolution. He also said it won’t happen anytime soon.

Myers said he and a couple other members of the Puget Sound Salmon Recovery Council were able to dissuade the council from working for legislation to codify the Hirst decision. He mentioned that as an example of what the Washington Research Council, an independent, nonprofit think tank, is doing through its new agricultural component.

He said the Building Industry Association of Washington estimates a $37 billion loss in property values in the state due to the inability to drill wells from the Hirst decision.

“Even if the number is half that, it’s a huge cost and compared to the benefit is excessive,” he said.

The state Department of Ecology has said domestic well use is about 1 percent of total consumptive water use in the state so curtailing well expansion doesn’t save a lot of water, he said. While more water in streams help reduce water temperature for fish, it’s hard, he said, to evaluate the connection between wells, streams, temperatures and fish, making it hard to abide by the ruling.

“The frustrating thing to me is the ruling is very divisive and has set us back in working to solve water issues. That’s as high a cost as the financial cost,” he said.

The Washington Policy Center is also very interested in trade and labor issues and recognizes that Washington is one of the most trade dependent states in the nation, Myers said.

He said the center helped the farm labor association WAFLA with a study, released in August, on the economic benefit of H-2A-visa foreign guestworkers.

“It frustrates me when people worry about illegal immigration. I say farmers in Eastern Washington want to do it the right way but also need labor,” he said.

Farmers need to more actively tell their stories about being good stewards of the land, Myers said.

“People on the left surround themselves with concrete, steel and asphalt and conservatives surround themselves with nature. They need to be more active in saying they want to leave a good environment, the land as good or better for future generations,” he said.