Capital Press | Capital Press Thu, 27 Nov 2014 22:55:45 -0500 en Capital Press | New Program Seeks Growers to Help Curb Declining Bee Population Wed, 26 Nov 2014 15:31:37 -0500 San Francisco, Calif. (November 19, 2014) – The U.S. Bee Buffer Project, a Pollinator Partnership (P2) initiative, is immediately seeking 300 farmers, ranchers and foresters in California to set aside small plots of land as bee buffer zones. The soon-to-be-established honey bee forage supports pollination-reliant crops, which represents one-third of the food we eat.

“Honey bees play an integral role in the success of American agriculture,” says Laurie Adams, executive director for the Pollinator Partnership. “By fostering the health and growth of bee colonies, farmers are helping to enrich their crops and, ultimately, improve their bottom line.”

Why Bees? Why Now?

Honey bees are valuable to the nation's? crops and economics, contributing approximately $15 billion to the U.S. economy each year. Still, U.S. bees are having trouble finding food to store for winter months; 2012-2013 winter losses totaled more than 30 percent of honey bee colonies nation-wide[1].

Specific to California's? economy agribusiness community, the state's high-value crops requiring extensive pollination include[2]:
• Almonds - ?annual state crop value 4,347,200,000 (U.S. dollars)
• Berries - ?annual state crop value 2,121,574,000 (U.S. dollars)
• Avocados - ?annual state crop value 386,449,000 (U.S. dollars)

Bee buffer zones help to offset losses for the bee industry while improving the health of crops and orchards within four miles.

"We are excited to work with California farmers to improve bee habitat across the state, says Bill Lewis, president of the California State Beekeepers Association and U.S. Bee Buffer beekeeper partner. "T?his initiative is vital to encouraging a healthy pollinator habitat that results in a vibrant and diverse forage base for bee pollinators throughout the state, which is critically important to sustaining healthy bee colonies."

Save bees. Protect crops. Help yourself.

Land owners in California willing to dedicate and maintain .25 to 3 acres – collectively impacting 6,000 acres – for an official bee buffer zone, can apply for the U.S. Bee Buffer Project. Those selected will receive free flower seed kits to plant in their buffers.
To learn more, reference the U.S. Bee Buffer Frequently Asked Questions. To review the eligibility requirements and complete participant application, visit  
The U.S. Bee Buffer Project is sponsored in part by Burt’s Bees®-- through its non-profit organization The Greater Good Foundation – formed to help create 10,000 acres of healthy pollinator forage in the United States by 2020.

About the Pollinator Partnership

The Pollinator Partnership is a non-profit 501©3 organization—the largest organization in the world dedicated exclusively to the protection and promotion of pollinators and their ecosystems. Birds, bats, bees, butterflies, beetles, and other small mammals that pollinate plants are responsible for bringing us one out of every three bites of food. They also sustain our ecosystems and produce our natural resources by helping plants reproduce. Without the actions of pollinators agricultural economies, our food supply, and surrounding landscapes would collapse.  Learn more at

[1] United States Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service – “Fact Sheet: Survey of Bee Losses During Winter of 2012/2013”
(May 2013).
[2] United States Department of Agriculture: National Agricultural Statistics Service – "California Agricultural Statistics 2012 Crop Year" (2013).

Westeel adds Cost-Effective Catwalks to its Product Offering Wed, 26 Nov 2014 15:29:19 -0500 FARGO, NORTH DAKOTA – Westeel today announces the addition of Catwalks to its product line to better serve the global agriculture industry. The Catwalk system is engineered and precisely manufactured by Westeel and the modular design requires less towers and less installation time than traditional systems.

Westeel engineers optimize every Catwalk system to the location’s specific weather conditions, seismic zones and site, providing a cost-effective solution. Westeel Catwalks and Goal Posts support high capacity conveyors of over 400 tonnes/hour (14,700 bushels/hour*) with minimal use of towers, greatly reducing material and installation costs. The product meets or exceeds European and North American codes, including EN ISO 14122-1, 14122‑2, 14122-3, 14122-4 and ANSI A1264.1-1995 (R2002).

The first Westeel Catwalk system was installed in Ontario. “The Westeel Catwalks installation went seamlessly and took half the time to install compared with other systems,” said Harold Wilcocks, Manager & Sales of Wilcocks Brothers of Watford Limited. Westeel’s Ontario Distributor is also very satisfied with the product “We are happy to provide our customers with this well-engineered solution tailored to their specific needs,” said Pat Fischer, President & CEO of John Ernewein Limited.

“We see grain storage and handling trending towards larger and larger operations. Along with our PTM Technology line of conveyors and bucket elevators and with our extensive line of bins, our Catwalks allow us to better meet those growing needs,” said André Granger, President and General Manager of Westeel.

Westeel Catwalks can be supplied with or without conveyor path; with dual walkway; with dual conveyor path; with service platforms; with a bin peak connection and roof stairs; with punched or bar grating floor and with a number of other features.

*Based on wheat

About Westeel

Westeel is a division of Vicwest Inc. Westeel’s comprehensive catalogue of products includes a wide range of on-farm and commercial grain handling and storage solutions for today’s agricultural industry, as well as storage and containment solutions to meet the needs of the petroleum, water and industrial sectors. Westeel has sales and engineering offices in Canada, the United States, Spain, Italy and India. The company exports its products across all continents. Vicwest Inc. is traded on the TSX under the symbol VIC.

Christmas tree checkoff delayed again Wed, 26 Nov 2014 13:46:46 -0500 Mateusz Perkowski A checkoff fee intended to raise money for promoting Christmas trees won’t be collected this harvest season because the USDA has delayed implementing the program.

Supporters of the national 15 cent per tree checkoff fee — which would generate roughly $2 million a year — say the Obama administration has postponed appointing a governing board for the program due to fears of a political backlash.

When the checkoff program was supposed to be enacted in 2011, conservative bloggers derided it as Obama’s “new Christmas tree tax” and caused an online firestorm.

“There’s a concern there will be some bad publicity,” said Betty Malone, a tree farmer in Philomath, Ore., and a chief checkoff supporter. “I understand the sensitivity on that, but I think it’s overblown.”

After the conservative backlash in 2011, the USDA indefinitely suspended the checkoff program until Congress mandated its implementation in the 2013 Farm Bill.

The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that originally called the checkoff fee a tax, has since tried to revive the outrage over the program but has received tepid media response, said Malone.

Mainstream media outlets got “burned” when they realized the program had been mischaracterized, as the checkoff idea was initiated by growers, not the government, she said.

The Obama administration nonetheless wanted to avoid another controversy shortly before the recent elections but has assured attorneys for checkoff supporters that a governing board will be named in early January 2015, Malone said.

“Once the board is named, the whole program starts,” she said.

At that point, the board can hire an executive director, a marketing firm to design promotions and a compliance officer to ensure the fees are collected, Malone said.

“You hire a professional to do that kind of work,” she said.

Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., was a strong proponent of the checkoff in Congress and remains concerned about the ongoing delay, said Paul Gage, his chief of staff.

“There’s no good reason for it,” Gage said. “They told us they will be appointing a board in the January of the new year and we will be holding them to that.”

The reliability of the USDA’s plan is a concern given past delays, but Schrader will review his options to force the agency to act if it doesn’t live up to its word, he said.

Capital Press was unable to reach a spokesperson for USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, which oversees 22 national checkoff programs.

The delay in implementing the checkoff was caused by the federal government, not the Christmas tree industry, but that doesn’t mean the program is entirely uncontroversial, said Bryan Ostlund, executive director of the Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Association.

“There are people not crazy about a checkoff, but I’m not aware of anybody contacting the USDA in opposition,” he said.

Holiday Tree Farms, a major producer, is skeptical for practical reasons, said Greg Rondeau, its sales manager.

The Christmas tree industry is diffuse with multiple points of sale, so fee collection will be a massive undertaking, he said. “How are they going to enforce the payments?”

Even if the program manages to attain 100 percent participation, there still probably won’t be enough money for an effective promotions campaign, Rondeau said.

Rather than dilute the promotional dollars across the entire U.S., a targeted, regional approach makes more sense, he said. For the Northwest, for example, a major market is California.

Despite its misgivings, the company plans to make the best of the checkoff, Rondeau said. “You’ve got to roll with it and make it work.”

Tight supply to bolster soft white wheat prices Wed, 26 Nov 2014 13:23:50 -0500 Matw Weaver A tight supply will lift soft white wheat prices in the coming months, Northwest wheat marketing experts say.

According to USDA Agricultural Marketing Services, soft white wheat prices were mostly $7.19 per bushel, ranging from $6.96 per bushel to $7.36 per bushel.

Ty Jessup, merchandiser for Central Washington Grain Growers in Waterville, Wash., and industry representative for the Washington Grain Commission, expects soft white wheat prices to remain at the same level.

Moving into the winter, the market will turn its attention to next year’s crop, Jessup said. Prices will adjust according to the outlook.

“The challenge for next year’s crop is not knowing what next year’s crop is going to be,” Jessup said, pointing to possible impacts of a recent cold snap. “The hard part about winter weather conditions is we can kill a crop several times, but you don’t ever know the answer until next spring.” Soft white wheat is a little high in protein, but good quality, said Dan Steiner, grain merchandiser for Pendleton Grain Growers and Morrow County Grain Growers. The 2015 crop does not appear to be off to a good start, with dry conditions and late planting affecting development of the root system, he said.

He expects prices will remain steady through the holiday season. But he’s encouraged by USDA reports calling for the second-tightest carryout — the amount of wheat left over from 2014 — since 1988.

“The only year it was tighter than that was the year it went to $16 per bushel,” he said. “No, we’re not going to $16, I don’t think, but we’re going to have really tight carryouts.”

If production problems occur in a major wheat-producing corner of the world, Steiner said, prices could easily reach $8 per bushel.

“This market’s not going to stay down long - it may dip, we may have adjustments of the futures, but right now there’s not any serious downside for any extended period of time,” he said.

Byron Behne, marketing manager for Northwest Grain Growers in Walla Walla, Wash., agrees that a tight supply will likely raise prices in February or March.

“That might be the time period where we start to see some big gains,” Behne said. “With white wheat being the only variety of wheat that’s super tight this year, prices should stay firm and move higher, maybe towards $8 per bushel.”

The world wheat supply is strong enough that Behen also doesn’t foresee $16 wheat.

“Prices are at the highest levels we’ve been since prior to harvest, so if a guy needs money it’s not a bad time to sell some wheat,” Behne said. “But if you don’t have to, I don’t mind sitting on wheat just to see what happens.”

Idaho farmer inducted into coop hall of fame Wed, 26 Nov 2014 12:50:34 -0500 John O’Connell AMERICAN FALLS, Idaho — LaMar Isaak doubts he or any of his family members would still be farming if not for the cooperative system.

The American Falls farmer’s strong belief in cooperatives was rewarded during the Northwest Regional Cooperative Institute’s recent annual meeting in Boise, where Isaak was inducted into the Idaho Cooperative Council Hall of Fame.

Washington inducted Eric Strutzel, who retired in August as production manager of Blue Star Growers in Cashmere, and John Anderson who retired at the end of October as general manager of Ritzville Warehouse in Ritzville. Oregon inducted Manuel Silveira, who was born in Portugal and retired in 2013 as field operations manager with NORPAC Foods. Silveira is also a past president of the Agricultural Cooperative Council of Oregon.

Isaak, 61, who raises cattle, sugar beets, corn, alfalfa and barley in southeast Idaho, said he was so proud he was speechless upon being presented the honor. Since 2007, he’s served on the Idaho Cooperative Council, which represents several cooperatives and works closely with state lawmakers on agricultural issues.

“It’s one thing to buy products from somebody, but with the cooperative system, you’re the ownership, also,” Isaak said. “You have a steady supply going forward, and you get a share of the profits.”

He’s also served on the Bingham Cooperative board since 1996, is a past president of the Upper Snake River Growers Association and the Power County Farm Bureau board and a past chairman of the Idaho Farm Bureau Hay and Forage Committee.

On behalf of the sugar industry, he’s been a board member with American Sugar Growers Association and has often traveled to Washington, D.C., to educate lawmakers about the U.S. sugar program.

“The first time I was back there, I was caught by surprise that there were as few people who know about farming as there was,” Isaak said.

Isaak graduated from Idaho State University’s automotive and diesel mechanics programs in 1973 and went to work for a reclamation company that brought equipment back from Vietnam. But he explained he had a love for working the soil and opted to return to the family farm to work along side his father. In 1980, his father was killed in a farming accident. Isaak was only in his mid-20s, but he and his brother, Duane, his mother and his father-in-law banded together to save the farm.

“When you lost your leader, it was a little tough,” Isaak said. “All of us worked together until we got out of the financial stress of losing my father.”

Isaak bought some land in 1982 and continued gradually expanding the size of his farm. Isaak now works closely with his son, Conrad, who has his own farm land. His daughter, RaNae, is an engineer with Cummins Diesel in Indiana.

Beef supply to tighten in 2015, while general protein supply rises Wed, 26 Nov 2014 12:44:32 -0500 John O’Connell SUN VALLEY, Idaho — A cattle market analyst predicts the U.S. beef supply could reach its tightest point in decades next year.

However, Kevin Good, senior analyst with CattleFax, said pork and poultry producers will also be ramping up production to take advantage of greater profit margins, which should increase the overall supply of animal protein. He anticipates pork and poultry production will both be up about 5 percent next year.

“Even though beef supplies will be thinner in 2015, total meat supplies will be more in 2015,” Good told ranchers during a recent Idaho Cattle Association annual convention. “For protein supplies, the tightest point is actually behind us. It was the third quarter of this year.”

Good explained during 15 of the past 17 years, the nation’s cattle producers have liquidated herds. He said years of declining herds and lower feed costs following consecutive moist seasons have finally contributed to strong profits. The Omaha price for corn is now about $3 per bushel, the lowest price for the commodity since 2006, before the ethanol boom.

As beef producers seek to increase production to capture higher prices, they must save more heifers to build up their herds, further tightening supply in the short term. Good said national cow slaughter this year will be down by about 15 percent, or 940,000 head, with further slaughter reductions of about 230,000 head next year. Heifers now represent about 35 percent of fed cattle for slaughter, down by about 2 percent from the seven-year average, Good added.

Despite higher prices, Good said, consumer demand for beef remains strong. But he warned the price gap between beef and other animal protein sources has grown wide. He said wholesale prices of 90 percent lean hamburger have been about $3 per pound, up from $2 per pound a year ago. Wholesale boneless, skinless chicken breasts, however, have been ranging from $1.50-$2 per pound.

“(Beef) demand is better but the price spread (with pork and poultry) is likely going to be a limiting factor for how far you can push beef prices,” Good said.

Good said the limited beef supply has also driven up foreign beef imports from countries such as Australia, as well as feeder cattle and calf imports from Canada and Mexico. For 2014, Australian beef has averaged 30 cents per pound cheaper than domestic beef, taking transportation costs into account. Combined feeder cattle and calf imports from Canada and Mexico are up 200,000 head, or 20 percent, from last year.

USDA buying cranberries to stabilize prices Wed, 26 Nov 2014 11:25:43 -0500 LONG BEACH — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approving up to $55 million nationwide to purchase up to 68 million pounds of surplus cranberry products, a move that federal lawmakers say will provide stability to Washington state cranberry growers.

According to the Cranberry Marketing Committee, there are 110 farms in Washington state on 1,700 acres of farmland supporting approximately 165 direct jobs and $8 million in local revenue. The purchase will be made under USDA’s Section 32 program, which provides funds for USDA to purchase surplus foods from farmers for use in USDA food and nutrition programs.

According to recent projections by the Cranberry Marketing Committee, an expected 30 percent increase in inventory, amounting to 7.5 million barrels (750 million pounds) of cranberries, will be carried into the 2015 crop year. This inventory represents 90 percent of projected yearly sales and will place continued pressures on cranberry commodity prices, which are the lowest that they have been in nearly 15 years.

Given the increase in production over the past three years, the projected 2014 crop — which is anticipated to be the second largest crop in history — and the continued growth of the industry outside of the U.S., the cranberry industry requested that USDA consider a purchase that would remove approximately one million barrels of cranberries from inventory. The USDA move announced this week grants 68 percent of that request.

DOL, farmers in talks to resolve ‘hot goods’ lawsuits Wed, 26 Nov 2014 11:11:52 -0500 Mateusz Perkowski The U.S. Department of Labor said it’s negotiating a possible end to litigation with Oregon blueberry farms the agency accused of “hot goods” labor law violations.

The agency has asked a federal judge to postpone proceedings in its lawsuit against the growers while they try to reach a resolution.

In 2012, the agency claimed that Pan-American Berry Growers and B&G Ditchen paid pickers less than the minimum wage, rendering their blueberries unlawfully harvested “hot goods” that can’t be shipped in interstate commerce.

The farms agreed to pay $220,000 and waive their right to challenge DOL’s findings so the agency would lift the “hot goods” objection, thus preventing their crop from rotting.

Those deals were found to be unlawfully coercive earlier this year by a federal judge who vacated the settlements and re-opened the litigation.

Since then, the legal conflict has escalated. The farmers demanded their money back, plus $150,000 in damages for the shipping delay that hurt fruit quality.

DOL countered that it couldn’t return the money that had already been disbursed to workers and refused to pay damages or attorney fees.

The agency also upped the ante in its complaints against the farms, seeking to add new defendants and additional charges of wrongdoing stretching back further in time.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin was set to hear oral arguments on DOL’s motion to broaden the charges against the farms on Dec. 3 and to accept court briefs regarding the payment of restitution and attorney fees.

The agency has now asked him to postpone that hearing until Jan. 13, 2015 and delay court briefing of the other legal issues.

DOL and the farms “have exchanged proposals for resolution of all the combined cases in this matter” and it may conserve the resources of everyone involved if the proceedings were delayed, the agency said in court documents.

The DOL’s documents claim that Tim Bernasek, the farmers’ attorney, has agreed to postpone the oral arguments and briefings but Capital Press was unable to reach him for confirmation.

Researchers find almond snacks curb appetite at meals Wed, 26 Nov 2014 10:52:19 -0500 Tim Hearden MODESTO, Calif. — New research commissioned by a commodity group here has found that women who snack on almonds in the morning are less likely to overeat at later meals.

The study, published this fall in the European Journal of Nutrition, tracked the calorie intakes of 32 healthy women and found that those who ate 1.5 ounces of almonds as a snack took in significantly fewer calories at lunch and dinner.

The research was done in the United Kingdom by Leatherhead Food Research, and its nearly $100,000 cost was funded by the Almond Board of California, said Karen Lapsley, the almond board’s chief scientific officer.

“Satiety ... is a hot research topic in the food industry, both from a food company perspective as well as from the perspective of obesity research,” Lapsley said. “We have been exploring satiety for about a decade, and recently we’ve started working with both food scientists and psychologists ... who are doing more in-depth interviews of people.”

The study is the latest in a long string of research that suggests tree nuts are a healthy snack or food ingredient, providing nutrients and energy as well as preventing or treating obesity by curbing appetites.

A University of Toronto study earlier this year found that participants who ate almonds improved factors associated with heart disease risk. That study followed a large-scale review by Harvard University that found that eating at least an ounce of almonds weekly lowered incidents of fatal and non-fatal heart attacks and diabetes.

In a 2013 Almond Board survey, more than one in three consumers identified almonds as the nut most associated with heart health, weight management and overall nutrition.

Facilitating research is a key function of the Almond Board, which has spent $42 million since 1973 on studies related to almond production, quality and safety, nutrition and environmental aspects of farming, according to a news release.

The latest calorie research builds on work last year by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, whose scientists determined that tree nuts have fewer calories than previously believed because of how the digestive process removes fat from the body.

In the UK study, groups of women were fed no almonds, 1 ounce of almonds and 1.5 ounces, and their calorie intake and sense of fullness were tracked throughout the day. Those who ate the larger serving of almonds had the best success at curbing their portion sizes at meals, the researchers found.

“We expected whole almonds to be a food that provides satiety because of their combination of protein, fiber and good fats,” lead researcher Sarah Hull said in a statement. “However, it was interesting to see the midmorning snack provided a long-lasting effect on appetite at dinner, not only at lunchtime.”

Among scientists’ most important recent discoveries is that foods that take an effort to chew have a psychological impact on fullness, Lapsley said.

“People should be thinking about foods that have fiber and protein in them,” she said, “and ones that you have to spend a little bit of time chewing.”


Almond snacking report in the European Journal of Nutrition:

Portland daily grain report Wed, 26 Nov 2014 09:25:42 -0500 Portland, Ore., Wednesday, Nov. 26

USDA Market News

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

In early trading March wheat futures trended 2.25 to 4.00 cents per bushel higher than Tuesday’s closes.

Bids for US 1 Soft White Wheat for November delivery in unit trains or barges were not fully established in early trading but bids were indicated as higher compared to Tuesday’s noon bids in lining up with the higher Chicago March wheat futures. Some exporters are not issuing bids for nearby delivery.

Bids for 11.5 percent protein US 1 Hard Red Winter Wheat for November delivery were not fully established in early trading but were indicated as generally higher compared to Tuesday’s noon bids. Bids were higher in following the higher Kansas City March wheat futures. Some exporters are not issuing bids for nearby delivery.

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

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

All wheat bids in dollars per bushel

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

Nov mostly 7.2075, ranging 7.0075-7.4075

Dec 7.0075-7.4575

Jan 7.0075-7.5575

Feb 7.0075-7.6575

Mar 7.0075-7.6575

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

Nov mostly 9.4575, ranging 9.4075-9.5075

Not fully established and limited.

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


Ordinary protein 7.3100-7.3300

10 pct protein 7.3100-7.3300

11 pct protein 7.3900-7.4300

11.5 pct protein

Nov 7.4300-7.4800

12 pct protein 7.4300-7.5300

13 pct protein 7.4300-7.6300

Not fully established and limited.

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

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

13 pct protein 8.3800-8.6300

14 pct protein

Nov 9.6300-9.8300

15 pct protein 10.4300-10.6300

16 pct protein 11.2300-11.4300

Not fully established and limited.

US 2 Yellow Corn in dollars per CWT

Domestic-single rail cars

Delivered full coast-BN NA

Delivered to Portland NA

Rail and Truck del to Willamette Vly NA

Rail del to Yakima Valley NA

Truck del to Yakima Valley NA

US 2 Heavy White Oats in dollars per CWT 13.2500

Not well tested.

Exporter Bids Portland Rail/Barge Oct 2014

Averages in Dollars per bushel

US 1 Soft White by Unit Trains and Barges 6.7900

US 1 Hard Red Winter (Ordinary protein) 7.3200

US 1 Hard Red Winter (11.5% protein) 7.4400

US 1 Dark Northern Spring (14% protein) 8.9600

Source: USDA Market News Service, Portland, OR

Landmark court ruling recognizes limits on ESA power Wed, 26 Nov 2014 09:12:09 -0500 Jonathan Wood The town of Cedar City, in southwest Utah, has been going to “the dogs” because of federal regulations for the Utah prairie dog that have prevented homeowners, businesses, farmers and public officials from using and maintaining their property in normal, responsible ways.

But now, help has arrived in the form of a landmark court decision that recognizes that the Endangered Species Act is not all-encompassing and that the Constitution’s Commerce Clause imposes real limits on the law’s jurisdiction.

For the first time, a federal court has held that the federal government has no constitutional authority to regulate for species — like the Utah prairie dog — that exist in only one state and have no discernible impact on the nation’s $17 trillion economy.

Federal District Judge Dee Benson’s ruling, issued two weeks ago, has implications for landowners nationwide, by staking out clear constitutional boundaries for ESA regulators.

Although an environmentalist-intervenor group has signaled that it will appeal, the people of Cedar City — and believers in constitutional, limited government everywhere — already have good reason to celebrate. For 40 years, federal officials have been putting the interest of rodents before the interests of the people of southwest Utah — and finally a court has stepped in on the side of common sense and constitutional principles.

Although many communities across the country have suffered under burdensome endangered species regulations, Cedar City’s plight was particularly appalling. Residents were forbidden from building homes or businesses if working on their property might interfere with the rodent’s spread. Farmers’ tractors and other equipment have been damaged or destroyed by prairie-dog mounds. The local government has been blocked from protecting parks, playing fields, airport runways, and even the local cemetery, from the burrowing, tunneling, and flower-eating prairie dog.

This was literally a community overrun – by a pest 40,000 strong.

The consequence of violating ESA protections for the prairie dog was no small matter. The federal government threatened property owners with imprisonment and substantial criminal fines if a single prairie dog was harmed. For the many property owners who had dozens of the animals on their residential lots, the costs of non-compliance could quickly exceed the value of their property.

Consider Bruce Hughes, a small business owner whose plans to develop a vacant lot were dashed. He recounts that after he bought his 3.4-acre parcel as an investment for retirement, “the prairie dogs moved on.” Federal officials said he would have to go through a regulatory process that “would have taken 42 years” before he could hope to do anything on the property.

Later, he was told that if he paid $34,000, he could do away with the prairie dogs. But “if I didn’t pay ... and I killed one prairie dog, it would be a $10,000 fine and five years in federal prison. I could have robbed a convenience store and gotten off easier than that.”

Finally, local residents decided they’d had enough. Last year they sought strength in numbers by coming together to form People for the Ethical Treatment of Property Owners (PETPO). They turned for help to Pacific Legal Foundation, and on their behalf PLF filed a constitutional lawsuit arguing that the federal government had gone too far.

In an eloquent opinion, Judge Benson agreed.

Under our Constitution, issues like protections for a single-state, non-commercial species should be resolved by state and local governments. A small property owner shouldn’t have to get the permission of a Washington bureaucrat 2,000 miles away before doing what most of us take for granted, like building a family home or growing a backyard garden.

Federal lawyers tried to argue otherwise. They claimed the Commerce Clause essentially allows limitless micro-management of people’s land and lives — sweeping authority to regulate everything that affects the ecosystem.

The court soundly rejected this argument. If the government was right, Judge Benson explained, “there would be no logical stopping point to congressional power under the Commerce Clause.” The court also rejected, as specious, the government’s speculation that the Utah prairie dog substantially affects the interstate market for tourism and scientific research.

Although the immediate impact of this decision is limited to the Utah prairie dog, the court’s reasoning could free communities across the country from similarly burdensome and unconstitutional restrictions. Because of the importance of this issue, this case may have a better chance than most to ultimately reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

Jonathan Wood is a staff attorney with Pacific Legal Foundation. He successfully represented property owners of Cedar City, Utah, in their Commerce Clause challenge to ESA regulations for the Utah prairie dog.

Higher prices, plentiful feed buoy US ranchers Wed, 26 Nov 2014 09:11:23 -0500 ROXANA HEGEMAN WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Hay is plentiful and readily for sale again out in cattle country as another winter looms. Herds are contently munching on crop residue left over after the bountiful fall harvest, and ranchers marketing their calves are bringing home record prices for their animals.

Life is good again — or at least far better — for those cattle producers who survived the long, devastating drought that decimated the nation’s beef cow herd and shriveled pastures across a wide swath of the country. The summer rains have eased the dry conditions and helped rangeland recover some, even if it’s not yet entirely healed.

For 15 of the past 17 years, the size of the nation’s cattle herd has shrunk, said Kevin Good, a market analyst for CattleFax, a group that tracks the industry. Producers are now beginning to rebuild it, he said Tuesday. That is further tightening beef supplies as more ranchers hold on replacement calves to rebuild their herds, rather than fatten them for slaughter.

Calf prices are running 40 percent higher this year — the result of a “perfect storm” of years of herd liquidation combined with tight supplies not only for beef, but also for pork and poultry, he said.

Prices for fed cattle are up 23 percent. Retail beef prices for consumers are up 14 percent.

And while consumers are seeing the effects with higher prices at their grocery store’s meat counter, ranchers aren’t “gouging” them and consumers need to understand that it has been “a long haul” for the cattle producer, Good said.

“He has paid his due,” Good said. “It is time to make some money so he can expand.”

Near Brewster in northwest Kansas, rancher Mike Schultz said the drought and feed shortage forced him to cut the size of his cow herd in half, now down to 75 cows. However, he has no immediate plans to expand.

Last winter, Schultz ran out of feed by February and sold off his the 125 replacement heifers. At the time, “things didn’t look very good” — alfalfa hay was fetching $200 a ton where available, and the drought showed no signs of letting up. He said he figured at the time that he was just “dumping money” into livestock that would never pay off.

“I wish I had them back,” Schultz said Tuesday.

The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported this week that 35 percent of the pastures and ranges in Kansas were in good to excellent condition, with 42 percent rated as fair. Stock water supplies are adequate to surplus in 72 percent of the state.

Schultz readily acknowledges that his attitude is much better now as another winter nears. He has some good feed supplies stocked up for his animals. The wheat harvest was good as was the bountiful harvest of fall crops. Forages for livestock have been good.

Even the price of hay to feed his livestock this winter has moderated some, with alfalfa hay selling for around $130 a ton in his area. That is still a little high, he said, but with the high prices cattle are bringing, most folks don’t mind paying it.

“Everybody can share in the wealth, and that helps,” Schultz said.

ILWU its own worst enemy in port slowdown Wed, 26 Nov 2014 09:10:51 -0500 If members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union are looking for someone to blame for their spoiled-child reputation, all they have to do is look in the mirror.

When it comes to agricultural exports, they have the reverse Midas touch. Everywhere they go, farmers have had their livelihoods threatened.

Earlier this year, the ILWU fussed with several grain terminal operators, putting the region’s wheat farmers at risk by picketing and eventually closing one grain export terminal just as wheat harvest shifted into high gear. According to the National Labor Relations Board, they threatened management and harassed barge operators, which were not even involved in the dispute.

Now the ILWU’s finest minds are turning their attention to container ports along the U.S. West Coast. Massive work slowdowns have taken place, with the union blaming shortages of trucks and the Pacific Maritime Association, which operates the ports. They even blame the ship owners, saying modern, larger vessels are too much for them to handle.

All of which is hogwash. The only thing that has changed in the past couple of months is the speed that ILWU members do their jobs.

U.S. agriculture — especially in the West — depends on the export market. Agricultural exporters — apples, potatoes, dairy products, hay, rice, meat, grass seed, nuts, agricultural chemicals, even Christmas trees and dozens of other crops and products — have been put at risk because of the ILWU’s reckless work slowdown. All such crops are time-sensitive and must reach their overseas destinations before they spoil, but the ILWU just keeps slowing traffic down.

The impact continues to spread across farm country and elsewhere. Containers and truckers are tied up at the ports — courtesy of the ILWU — leaving an inadequate supply for domestic deliveries across the nation.

It may be presumed that the ILWU has a beef with the port operators. That’s OK. Unions exist to protect the rights of their members. But when that overflows into a situation that hurts importers, exporters, shipping companies, farmers, cooperatives, cold storages, processors, businesses, truck drivers, consumers — and just about anyone else even remotely related to the ports — that’s wrong.

The ILWU wants a deal with the port operators. Fair enough. Act like responsible adults and negotiate one, don’t try to destroy even the most innocent of bystanders as your union minions whine and moan.

One of the issues the ILWU fears most is automation of the ports. Someday, the ILWU’s leaders fear, computers will operate the cranes and other equipment that load and unload the huge ships that call at the ports.

What they don’t realize is the ILWU, through its actions, has created the best possible argument for that automation. Its childlike protestations, slowdowns and cavalier disregard for everyone else builds the best case ever for automating the ports.

And the fewer ILWU members involved in that, the better.

New water rule raises property-rights concerns Wed, 26 Nov 2014 09:09:09 -0500 Tim Hearden RED BLUFF, Calif. — Steve McCarthy has two reasons — personal and professional — to be concerned about a proposed rule that would change the definition of “waters of the United States” in the Clean Water Act.

On a personal level, he operates a ranch near here that is situated along a creek that could be impacted, and as an attorney he has to discuss and explain the rule to his agricultural clients, many of whom fear the potential fallout from it.

“It’s very cost-intensive to the rancher and there’s no consideration whatsoever for the individual,” McCarthy said of the rule, which was proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers this spring.

McCarthy isn’t alone in his concerns. The rule has ignited a national controversy in which farmers and ranchers see themselves as the potential victims of overreaching federal agencies. Industry groups such as the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association have lined up against the rule, which generated thousands of comments from farmers and ranchers.

Federal regulators, meanwhile, say the new rule wouldn’t expand their authority, and only clarify how the 1972 Clean Water Act is enforced after several U.S. Supreme Court decisions left question marks surrounding which waters are covered by the law.

Fears of land-use restrictions or loss of property rights are unfounded, asserts Robert Daguillard, the EPA’s spokesman for water issues. In fact, the rule doesn’t protect any new types of waters that aren’t already covered under the Clean Water Act, he told the Capital Press in an email.

“The agencies’ intent is to protect clean water without getting in the way of farming and ranching,” Daguillard said. “Normal farming and ranching — including planting, harvesting and moving livestock — have always been exempt from Clean Water Act regulation, and our proposal doesn’t change that.”

In the text of the new rule, the EPA and the Army Corps say they’re providing clarity about whether individual water bodies fall under the Clean Water Act and if discharges into those bodies are subject to permitting.

The rule builds on the 1986 federal definition of “waters of the United States” as including traditional navigable waters; interstate waters and wetlands; the territorial seas; impoundments of navigable waters, such as lakes created by dams; and tributaries of these waters.

A tributary is typically characterized as a stream or creek, but it could also be a wetland, lake or pond if it flows directly or indirectly into a protected water body, according to the rule.

Tributaries are regulated to their origin and can be a man-made canal or ditch, according to the text.

The rule also covers adjacent waters and wetlands that provide “directional flowpaths” to regulated rivers or tributaries, such as swales, gullies, rills and ditches. The flow from the wetland or pond can be seasonal and result from “fill and spill” hydrology after an intense rainfall, but rain runoff itself doesn’t trigger the rule, the agencies explained.

Puddles — small, temporary pools of water that form on pavement or uplands immediately after a rainstorm or snow melt — “cannot reasonably be considered a water body or aquatic feature at all” and are not covered under the rule, according to the agencies.

“About 60 percent of stream miles in the U.S. only flow seasonally or after rain, but have a considerable impact on the downstream waters,” Daguillard said. “And approximately 117 million people — 1 in 3 Americans — get drinking water from public systems that rely in part on these streams. These are important waterways for which the EPA and the Army Corps is clarifying protection.”

However, the agencies also propose that certain “other waters” be considered for Clean Water Act jurisdiction on a case-by-case basis. It’s these “other waters” that are a source of much of the controversy in the proposed rule.

Under this provision, the government could deem an entire area such as a watershed to be covered by the act if its waters have a “significant nexus” to a traditional navigable water or other covered water body, the rule states.

A water body has a “significant nexus” to a covered river or stream if it can affect its chemical, physical or biological integrity; in other words, if polluting one could reasonably lead to polluting the other, according to the rule.

The rule includes potential “eco-regions” with blanket coverage under the Clean Water Act. In the West, they include the Coast Range, the Cascades and their eastern slopes and foothills, the Central California foothills and coastal mountains, California’s Central Valley, the Columbia Plateau and the Klamath mountains.

The agencies could either consider links within these regions on a case-by-case basis or determine that “similarly situated” waters within these regions are included by rule, according to the text.

Daguillard said the “eco-region” approach is a way to identify certain types of wetlands in an area, not a way to regulate all surface water.

But McCarthy, the Red Bluff lawyer and rancher, considers such an extensive interpretation of “waters” to be an overreach.

“I could see it on the Sacramento River or major tributaries, but these secondary or other tributaries, that’s just getting too much government telling you what to do,” he said.

The regional approach is “useful” for protecting overall water quality and the species and habitat that depend on it, said Lisa Belenky, senior attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity.

“The purpose of the Clean Water Act is to ensure that water resources are robustly conserved and protected,” Belenky said. “We want clean water, that’s what we all want. We want to improve water quality across the United States. ... The real issue and fundamental issue is, is the EPA doing what it needs to do to protect our water quality?”

The rule states in several places that existing exemptions for normal farming and ranching activities, such as construction and maintenance of irrigation ditches and stock ponds, would remain intact.

Exemptions apply to prior converted cropland and artificially irrigated areas as well as ditches “that are excavated wholly in uplands, drain only uplands, and have less than perennial flow,” according to the rule. In addition, ditches that don’t flow into regulated waters are exempt, the rule states.

The irrigation-ditch exemptions are important to Stan Wangberg, general manager of the Anderson-Cottonwood Irrigation District in Northern California. The district is lining its main canal, and if it had needed full-blown permitting from the Army Corps of Engineers — which Wangberg suspects might have been the case under the proposed rules — the delays could have imperiled the project, he said.

“We strongly believe that agricultural systems should be exempt from the requirements,” Wangberg said, noting that they have been and should be left intact. “We would like to maintain that status quo. If I had to do a little maintenance on a canal and if I had to contact the Army Corps and go through an entire permitting process, that just would not work.”

Groundwater is not covered by the rule, although shallow aquifers that provide water to regulated streams may be.

But the rule lists no allowances for runoff from farms that might reach a regulated wetland or stream, although discharges of dredge or fill materials as a result of conservation projects are exempt. As such, McCarthy questions whether the ag exemption will be of much help to growers.

“We don’t trust the ag exemption,” he said.

The EPA and Army Corps have sought to redefine waters administratively after a proposal in 2009 to change the definition of “navigable” waters in the Clean Water Act languished in Congress. Western farm groups and lawmakers were concerned that the bill, called the Clean Water Restoration Act, posed serious threats to states’ sovereignty and rural economies.

The agencies assert the definition must be clarified in light of several U.S. Supreme Court decisions, the most recent of which involved Michigan developers who backfilled wetlands near ditches that eventually empty into navigable waters.

In Rapanos v. United States in 2006, developer John Rapanos and other plaintiffs claimed the wetlands were too far removed from the navigable waters to be subject to federal regulation. In a 5-4 decision, the court agreed, albeit for different reasons.

The court’s four conservatives, led by Justice Antonin Scalia, argued that tributaries must be relatively permanent and continuously flowing to fall under the Clean Water Act, and adjacent waters or wetlands must have more than “a mere hydrologic connection.”

Scalia lamented what he called the “immense expansion of federal regulation of land use” under the Clean Water Act in the past three decades.

“The Corps has ... asserted jurisdiction over virtually any parcel of land containing a channel or conduit ... through which rainwater or drainage may occasionally or intermittently flow,” Scalia wrote. “On this view, the federally regulated ‘waters of the United States’ include storm drains, roadside ditches, ripples of sand in the desert that may contain water once a year, and lands that are covered by floodwaters once every 100 years.”

But while Justice Anthony Kennedy concurred that the Rapanos wetlands didn’t fall under the regulation, he said wetlands and other adjacent bodies have been found in previous case law to have a “significant nexus” to regulated waters if they “affect the chemical, physical and biological integrity of other covered waters more readily understood as ‘navigable.’”

Chief Justice John Roberts acknowledged it would be up to others to determine what that means.

“It is unfortunate that no opinion commands a majority of the Court on precisely how to read Congress’ limits on the reach of the Clean Water Act,” Roberts wrote. “Lower courts and regulated entities will now have to feel their way on a case-by-case basis.”

The EPA and Army Corps say that because of the Rapanos case and other court decisions, the scope of regulatory jurisdiction in this rule would be narrower than under existing regulations. The agencies had exerted “broad jurisdiction over most wetlands” since the 1970s, but the legal test for jurisdiction changed because of the Supreme Court’s decisions, Daguillard said.

The Center for Biological Diversity’s Belenky partly agrees, although she said the rule “in some ways would broaden” the government’s authority. She said the center would have preferred a broader definition of tributaries to include “the flashy systems and seasonal systems” prevalent in the West.

“I would say that we think it’s a step forward from where we’ve been, which has been very much a holding pattern for quite a while,” Belenky said of the rule. “The EPA has needed to revise the definition for quite a while. It’s taken them a long time to get the draft out.”

When it comes to such things as agricultural runoff, the EPA should be “stepping up making sure all the measures that can be taken, are taken to improve water quality,” she said.

But farmers and ranchers “are the best environmentalists the world has ever known,” counters McCarthy, the Red Bluff attorney. And the rule will further erode their property rights, he said.

“We’ve gone from private property rights that are guaranteed by the Constitution to an emperor deciding what you can do with private property,” McCarthy said. “And I think this is a private property issue.”


Waters of the U.S. proposed rule:

Rapanos v. United States:

Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to Downstream Waters:

And you thought wolves were a problem Wed, 26 Nov 2014 08:53:18 -0500 BEIJING (AP) — A rare Siberian tiger released into the wild by Russian President Vladimir Putin is keeping farmers in northeastern China on edge.

China’s official Xinhua News Agency said Wednesday that the animal, named Ustin, bit and killed 15 goats and left another three missing on Sunday and Monday on a farm in Heilongjiang province’s Fuyuan county.

Xinhua said the farm’s owner, Guo Yulin, was stressed about the tiger, but that he would be compensated by the local forestry department for the loss of the 18 goats.

According to Xinhua, Russian experts rescued five tiger cubs two years ago. Ustin was one of three released by Putin in May in a remote part of the Amur region, which straddles the border between far eastern Russia and northeastern China.

Two of the tigers entered China. They were fitted with tracking devices and are monitored by Chinese wildlife protection workers.

The other tiger to enter China, Kuzya, was believed to have raided a farm and eaten five chickens last month in another Heilongjiang county.

Guo told Xinhua that he was alerted by dog barks on Sunday night, but that his check turned up nothing unusual. He said he woke up the next morning to find two goats dead and three others missing.

Xinhua said the goats’ skulls were crushed by the tiger and that a hole the size of a human finger was visible on each goat’s head.

The farmer said the tiger returned the following night but made no noise at all.

“When I opened the goat house in the morning, dead goats were everywhere,” Guo said, according to Xinhua.

Local experts found the tiger’s footprints around the goat house and on its roof, Xinhua reported. Guo was asked to either relocate his goats or reinforce his farm, it said.

Train carrying corn derails in Northern California Wed, 26 Nov 2014 08:51:25 -0500 BELDEN, Calif. (AP) — Crews are cleaning up corn that spilled down a canyon and into a river when a freight train derailed in rural Northern California.

Union Pacific Railroad spokesman Aaron Hunt says 11 of the train’s 106 cars came off the tracks a little past 3 a.m. Tuesday in the Feather River Canyon near the town of Belden in Plumas County. The train — headed from Nebraska to the Central Valley — had an engineer and conductor on board, but they were not injured.

Hunt says the train was not carrying any hazardous material. The cause of the crash is under investigation.

Crews were expected to be at the site all night trying to clean up the spilled corn and clear the tracks.

The rail line does not carry passenger trains. Hunt says Union Pacific can reroute freight trains as necessary.

Egg demand soars as prices follow Wed, 26 Nov 2014 08:46:41 -0500 DAVID PITT DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The egg is on a roll. It has never been more popular as a fast-food restaurant breakfast staple, and its appeal has broadened far beyond the day’s first meal.

High demand has kept egg prices at record levels, even as production soars.

“A lot of it has to do with quick service restaurants offering breakfast now and many of them include egg whites and some whole eggs in their breakfasts,” said Maro Ibarburu, associate scientist and business analyst at the Egg Industry Center at Iowa State University. The center researches egg production, processing and product development.

McDonald’s, long the fast-food breakfast leader, added the Egg White Delight to its menu last year as part of the trend toward high-protein, lower-cholesterol egg whites. Adopting similar strategies have been Dunkin’ Donuts, with its egg-white flatbread sandwiches, and Jack in the Box, with its egg-white & turkey breakfast sandwich. Convenience store chain 7-Eleven also began offering a low-calorie egg-white breakfast sandwich in January.

Eggs have gotten an additional boost from chefs increasingly using them in menu items not normally associated with eggs. The industry website predicted in January that 2014 would be the year of the egg when it surveyed menus across the U.S. and found egg-topped burgers and pizza. Chefs also worked them into salads and stir-fry dishes.

“At the end of 2013 we started seeing it on the burger — the fried egg or the juicy egg over cheeseburgers,” said Tania German, director of marketing for the website. “As this year went on we noticed it on pizza and more Mediterranean dishes.”

Cold weather drives more egg demand as more families choose a hot breakfast, said Rick Brown, senior vice president at Urner Barry, which provides analysis and information for the protein commodity markets. Egg purchases peak just before the holidays as baking and home cooking boost demand even further, Brown said.

U.S. Department of Agriculture figures showed in a Nov. 17 report that use has grown to 261 eggs per capita, up 4 percent from 250 in 2011. The figure is expected to grow to nearly 266 eggs per capita next year.

The demand spike comes as producers are beginning to prepare for the implementation of a new California law that requires chickens to have more space in which to move. Producers selling eggs in the shell to California must comply with the law which for many means reducing flocks so each chicken has more room. Increasing demand and potentially smaller flocks are helping drive record prices, Brown said.

Egg prices have broken records each day for the past 10 days, Brown said. The Midwest price reached $2.18 a dozen on Monday, a new high.

The USDA reported Friday that Iowa, the nation’s leading egg supplier, produced a record 1.41 billion eggs in October, a 4 percent increase from a year ago. Iowa also had more laying hens on hand than ever before at 59.2 million, a 3 percent increase. Ohio was second in egg production with 731 million eggs in October.

Iowa excels at egg production because corn and soybean meal, the primary ingredients in chicken feed, costs less in the state that also is the leading corn producer and the second leading soybean grower behind Illinois. Feed is 65 to 70 percent of the total cost of egg production, Ibarburu said.

Exports also were increasing with shipments of eggs and egg products up 19.2 percent in September from the year before. Canada was the largest importer followed by Mexico.

USDA buying cranberries due to oversupply Wed, 26 Nov 2014 08:27:30 -0500 MADISON, Wis. (AP) — An oversupply of cranberries from record harvests in Wisconsin and Canada has prompted the U.S. Department of Agriculture to buy up to 68 million pounds of berries.

The result will be more stable prices for cranberry growers. The oversupply means growers are getting between 10 cents and 19 cents a pound.

Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association says growers need 25 cents to 30 cents a pound to break even.

Association spokesman Tom Lochner tells Wisconsin Public Radio News growers asked the USDA to buy around 30 million pounds of excess cranberries. The agency instead said it would more than double that.

The cranberry products will likely be distributed to school lunch programs and food pantries.

Minnesota, Wisconsin lead Thanksgiving farming Wed, 26 Nov 2014 08:25:46 -0500 MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Families across the country can be thankful for Minnesota and Wisconsin farmers this holiday season.

The Star Tribune reports Minnesota is the top state in the nation for turkey production, while Wisconsin leads in cranberries.

The U.S. Agriculture Department estimates Minnesota will have raised 45 million turkeys by the end of 2014, out of 242 million nationwide. North Carolina is set to produce 35 million, with Arkansas following at 29 million.

About 46 million of the birds are expected to land on American tables on Thanksgiving Thursday alone. Most of them will be from turkey production farms, but there are more than 7 million wild turkeys across the country.

Wisconsin is expected to produce 538 million pounds of cranberries, followed by Massachusetts at 210 million pounds.

Deere dips on shaky outlook for fiscal 2015 Wed, 26 Nov 2014 08:24:28 -0500 NEW YORK (AP) — Deere’s fourth-quarter results were stronger than Wall Street expected but it says its farm equipment sales and profits will keep falling in its new fiscal year as the sector remains weak.

Its shares fell 3 percent in premarket trading on Wednesday.

The world’s biggest farm equipment supplier says its annual net income will drop about 40 percent and revenue from agricultural and turf equipment will fall further than it did in fiscal 2014.

Falling commodity prices and lower farm income are hurting companies like Deere & Co., and in August, Deere lowered its outlook and said it would cut production in response to weak sales.

The Moline, Illinois, company said agriculture and turf equipment fell 13 percent in fiscal 2014 and it expects them to drop 20 percent in the current fiscal year. Deere got almost three-quarters of its revenue from those products in the last fiscal year. The company expects revenue from construction and forestry equipment to keep improving.

In the fourth quarter Deere says it earned $649.2 million, or $1.83 per share, down from $806.8 million, or $2.11 per share, a year ago. Its revenue was $8.97 billion, down from $9.45 billion a year ago.

FactSet says analysts expected a profit of $1.57 per share and $7.73 billion in revenue for the quarter, which ended on Oct. 31.

The company’s shares are down $2.68 or 3 percent, to $85.11 in premarket trading about 90 minutes before the market opening. Deere stock has fallen 4 percent in 2014, but it has moved upward since early October, when it traded under $79. The shares reached an annual peak of $94.89 in May.

Cheese market continues to plummet Tue, 25 Nov 2014 14:54:43 -0500 LEE MIELKE The cash cheese market saw another week of decline, following the previous week’s 25 3/4-cent plunge in the Cheddar blocks and 20 1/2-cent drop in the barrels. The blocks lost another 21 1/4-cents last week, closing Friday at $1.73 per pound, 10 1/2-cents below a year ago, first time since Aug. 29, 2013, that the block price was below the previous year. This is also the lowest the blocks have been since Aug. 27, 2013.

This is a three-day week, due to Thanksgiving, and the blocks started the week off by holding steady Monday and Tuesday.

The barrels, almost defying gravity, watched the blocks daily tumble until Thursday last week, then plummeted 16 1/2-cents, and closed Friday at $1.74, down 17 1/2-cents on the week and a penny and a half below a year ago. They lost 2 cents Monday and were down a penny and a half Tuesday, sliding to $1.7050.

The blocks have plunged 72 cents since setting an all time record high on Sept. 19, while the barrels are down 78 1/2-cents from their Sept. 22 record high. A penny movement in cheese equates to about a dime on the Class III milk price.

Cash butter swam upstream, closing Friday at $2.00 per pound again, up 1 1/4-cents on the week and 32 cents above a year ago. The butter picked up 2 cents Monday but dropped 3 Tuesday, slipping back to $1.99.

Cash Grade A nonfat dry milk closed Friday at $1.1375, down 4 1/4-cents on the week and a level not seen since May 22, 2012. The powder was unchanged Monday but lost 2 1/4-cents Tuesday, slipping to $1.1150.

October butter stocks totaled 138.2 million pounds, according to the Agriculture Department’s latest Cold Storage report, down just 7.9 million pounds or 5 percent from September and 43.6 million pounds or 24 percent below October 2013.

American type cheese, at 612.2 million pounds, was down 19.1 million pounds or 3 percent from September and 14 million pounds or 2 percent below a year ago.

The total cheese inventory, at 983.8 million pounds, was down 30 million pounds or 3 percent from September and 35.9 million pounds or 4 percent below a year ago. If the preliminary data is correct, this is the first month that the total cheese inventory has fallen below 1 billion pounds since November 2013.

HighGround Dairy’s Eric Meyer warned that the month-to-month drawdown between September and October was light, particularly for butter.

U.S. milk production was above year ago levels for the 10th consecutive month, according to preliminary data in USDA’s October Milk Production report.

Output in the top 23 producing states totaled 16.05 billion pounds, up 3.9 percent from October 2013. The 50-state total, at 17.1 billion pounds, was up 3.8 percent.

Revisions raised the original September 23-state estimate by 22 million pounds, now reported at 15.5 billion, up 4.3 percent from a year ago.

October cow numbers in the 23 states, at 8.59 million head, were up 3,000 from September and 89,000 more than a year ago. The 50-State count, at 9.28 million head, is up 4,000 from September and 77,000 more than a year ago.

October output per cow in the 23 states averaged 1,868 pounds, up a hefty 51 pounds from October 2013, and the highest production per cow for the month of October since the 23 State series began in 2003.

Increasing cow numbers and output per cow is being driven by cheaper feed and mild weather, not to mention the high milk prices.

California was up 2.7 percent, thanks to a 50-pound gain per cow, though cow numbers were unchanged from a year ago. Wisconsin was up 2.4 percent on a 45 pound per cow increase, but cow numbers were down 2,000 head. Idaho was up 5.1 percent on a 65-pound-per-cow gain and 10,000 more cows. New York was up 3 percent, on a 40-pound gain per cow and 5,000 more cows. Pennsylvania was up 3.6 percent, thanks to a 60-pound gain per cow, though cow numbers were unchanged. Minnesota was up 2.8 percent on a 55-pound gain per cow but cow numbers were down 3,000 head.

No state showed a decline in October and the biggest gain was in Texas, up a whopping 11.6 percent, thanks to 32,000 more cows and a 75-pound per cow increase. Michigan was up 7.1 percent on a 50 pound gain per cow and 17,000 more cows.

Smaller producing states with significant increases included Colorado, up 9.7 percent; Utah, up 7.6 percent; Kansas, up 6.9 percent; New Mexico, up 2 percent; South Dakota, up 4 percent; and Washington state, up 4.6 percent.

Dairy cow culling was up in October but still below a year ago, according to USDA’s latest Livestock Slaughter report. An estimated 252,000 dairy cows were slaughtered under federal inspection, up 14,000 head from September but 25,000 below October 2013 as high milk prices and low feed costs remained an incentive to keep cows in the milking string.

Looking at the first 10 months of 2014, USDA estimates that 2.34 million head of dairy cows made the trip to “McDonalds,” 278,000 head less than the same period a year ago.

The Agriculture Department announced the December federal order Class I base milk price at $22.53 per hundredweight, down $1.53 from November but $2.16 above December 2013, and equates to about $1.94 per gallon. That puts the year’s Class I average at $23.29, up from $18.84 in 2013, $17.46 in 2012, and $19.13 in 2011. Contrast that to the disastrous 2009 average of $11.48.

Tater Tots appealing to hipsters and home cooks Tue, 25 Nov 2014 09:57:36 -0500 MICHELLE LOCKE Tater Tots have come a long way from your school lunch tray.

The comfort (and kid) food staple, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, has been making it big on the bar scene, showing up as a crispy snack recently everywhere from neighborhood holes-in-the-wall to upscale craft bars. Meanwhile, home cooks and haute chefs alike have been inspired to come up with their own tweaks on the Tot.

Barbecue bacon wrapped Tots. Breakfast burrito Tots. Pizza Tots. Totchos — think nachos only with Tots instead of tortilla chips — and the rather meta Tots-topped baked potatoes.

It’s not really surprising that so many people are inspired to become Tater creators, says Julie Crist, whose own love of the spud nuggets prompted her to open The Tot Cart, which has taken such inventions as chicken Tot pie and pulled pork Tots to the streets of the Philadelphia region.

“You can really do anything with a potato. It’s like a blank canvas,” she points out.

Tater Tots began humbly enough as a way to use up left over potato slivers from frozen french fries, which then were a main product of the Ore-Ida company. The Tots’ selling point was that they were crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside, qualities that still appeal.

At Daddy-O, a whiskey bar in New York City, owner Phillip Casaceli has been serving fried Tater Tots for about 15 years. It was one of the first menu items when the place opened in the summer of 1999. “We were a late-night crowd. The Tater Tots just worked really well with that demographic.”

You can get Tater Tots kicked up with cheese and jalapenos at Daddy-O, but the straight-up Tots are also popular. “What most people are looking for is that iconic kind of Tater Tot that brings them back to their youth,” says Casaceli, waxing philosophical.

Today, Casaceli estimates Daddy-O goes through 150 to 200 pounds of Tater Tots a week and he’s seen the trend spread to other bars in the city. They also are on the menu at uber-hip PDT (please don’t tell).

But Tater Tots aren’t just big in the Big Apple. Type “Tater Tot happy hour” into Google and you’ll get results from all over the country. You can find Tots served straight up with sea salt on the side, blanketed with cheese and other sauces, or taken uptown with garlic and truffles.

In Philadelphia, Crist finds her best-seller are Tots tossed in Old Bay seasoning and served with a homemade sauce of something called drunk cheese.

While many use the classic Ore-Ida Tot, some are serving house-made versions, like the brisket tots at The Gander in Manhattan. Chef Jesse Schenker starts with brisket, adds herbs, caramelized onions, apples and mozzarella, cuts the mixture into circles and rolls them in potato flakes. The finished tots are served with an aerated mustard sauce made of creme fraiche and Dijon alongside cylinders of pickled apple.

“I wanted to come up with a snack that everyone would just love,” says Schenker.

He understands the lure of the classic Ore-Ida product, too. “It’s something about the texture, the saltiness. It’s when you bite into something and there’s that crunch.”

These days Ore-Ida’s Tater Tots are made from dedicated potatoes — not slivers from french fry cutting — but not much has changed about the process except for some technology upgrades, says Fed Arreola, vice president of marketing for Ore-Ida. The company sells about 86 million pounds of Tater Tots each year and officials are, naturally, happy to see Tots popping up on menus and Pinterest pages.

“It’s very exciting,” says Arreola. “They’ve been in the market for 60 years and continue to be on trend.”



Idaho wolf depredation down Tue, 25 Nov 2014 11:42:10 -0500 John O’Connell SUN VALLEY, Idaho — Idaho ranchers have seen a decrease in livestock killed by wolves for a second consecutive year, according to Todd Grimm, state director of USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Service.

Grimm attributes the decline to the success of the state’s wolf hunt and increased funding toward his department’s efforts this year.

Grimm said there were 78 confirmed depredations in the state during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, including 49 cattle depredations, down 44 percent from last year, and 29 sheep depredations, down 67 percent.

A depredation represents a general attack that could involve multiple deaths and injuries. During FY 2014, 36 calves were killed and seven were injured, four cows were killed and six were injured, 114 sheep were killed and two were injured and three guard dogs were killed with three more injured.

For 2014, Idaho lawmakers approved $400,000 in state money for Wildlife Services, matched by $220,000 from cattle and sheep groups and Idaho sportsmen, to direct toward lethal wolf control efforts. Grimm said the funding helped offset federal budget cuts, enabling him to add four additional staff members on July 30 and to authorize overtime to keep up with predator removal in August.

During FY 2014, Grimm said his staff and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game removed 30 wolves involved in depredations, compared with 107 wolves in 2009, before Idaho’s wolf hunt started.

“Those (wolves) that are still around are learning it’s not so safe to be around humans,” Grimm said.

Grimm said a helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft were both used only once this year due to the poor longevity lately of wolves fitted with radio collars.

This year, Fish and Game has sold 41,237 wolf hunting tags and 209 trapping tags, slightly below last year’s tag sales. Since the implementation of the wolf hunt, Fish and Game staff biologist Jim Hayden said pack sizes have shrunk from an average of 8.1 wolves to 5.4 wolves, though the total number of packs is unchanged.

Idaho ranchers also recently received some unexpected help to address wolf kills. John Beals, project manager with the Governor’s Office of Species Conservation, said the state learned a couple of weeks ago that it had been awarded $100,000 from the federal government for depredation compensation.

“It caught us by surprise. For all intents and purposes, we thought the program had been wrapped up,” Beals said.

Beals said the funding is “within the realm of what we’ve compensated in years past,” and application forms are available at He said the state will accept applications throughout November and into December and will award funding based on the number of requests received.

Beals explained the state received the funding for 2013 but used it all to pay outstanding claims from the prior year. The new funds will be awarded only for 2014 losses, with kills documented by Wildlife Services.

USDA’s Farm Service Agency also has funding under the Livestock Indemnity Program in the new farm bill, which is available retroactively for documented losses dating back to 2012. The program covers 75 percent of the market value of an animal, and the deadline for losses through 2014 is Jan. 30.

Wet December on tap for California Tue, 25 Nov 2014 09:52:25 -0500 Tim Hearden Capital Press

SACRAMENTO — Prospects are building for a wet December throughout California, federal forecasters say.

The large low-pressure system that promises abundant rain and snow this weekend will likely be the first in a series of storms to parade through the Golden State, said Michelle Mead, a National Weather Service warning coordinator here.

Above-average rainfall is favored throughout the state in December, according to the federal Climate Prediction Center. Then El Nino conditions portend chances of above-average precipitation south of Sacramento in January and February, the center predicts.

“The storm track is definitely looking like we’re getting more systems lining up in the Northern Pacific that will have the potential to impact Northern California,” Mead said, noting the intensity of storms will depend on whether a high-pressure ridge builds off the coast.

“Right now the models do depict that we should see fairly widespread precipitation, even down into the San Joaquin Valley” from the post-Thanksgiving storm, she said. “The mountains should also see snowfall from that.”

The wet outlook comes as more rain systems have moved across California in October and November than during the same period last year, pushing some northern and coastal areas above their normal seasonal rainfall totals.

But most of those storms have bypassed the parched San Joaquin Valley. Fresno’s 1 inch of rainfall since July 1 is below its average of 1.63 inches by Nov. 24, according to the National Weather Service.

Valley citrus growers are hoping for rain to boost fruit sizes, said Bob Blakely, vice president of California Citrus Mutual. The one rainstorm that came through several weeks ago made an impact, he said.

“Some of our growers and shippers were telling us they believe they’ve seen some improvement in size in the areas that got those rains,” Blakely said. “We have seen some growth from that first rain. We just need more.”

With a wet December on tap, drought conditions are expected to improve in most of California, according to the climate center’s U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook.

However, Mead and other forecasters have cautioned that even normal rainfall this winter wouldn’t totally end the drought.

California rainfall

Here are the seasonal rainfall totals and comparisons to normal for selected California cities, according to the National Weather Service. Totals are as of Nov. 24.

Redding: Season to date 8.14 inches (normal 6.17 inches)

Eureka: Season to date 10.64 inches (normal 7.32 inches)

Sacramento: Season to date 1.73 inches (normal 2.78 inches)

Modesto: Season to date 1.41 inches (normal 1.96 inches)

Salinas: Season to date 2 inches (normal 1.79 inches)

Fresno: Season to date 1 inch (normal 1.63 inches)

U.S. dairy exports slow significantly in third quarter Tue, 25 Nov 2014 11:32:49 -0500 Sean Ellis BOISE — Increased global milk production caused U.S. dairy exports to slow significantly during the third quarter of the year and they are expected to slow even more during the fourth quarter.

However, cheese exports remain a bright spot for the U.S. industry and global dairy demand continues to grow.

U.S. dairy exports soared past record levels during the first half of the year but they hit a speed bump in the third quarter as global milk production continued to ramp up.

According to U.S. Dairy Export Council data, output from the world’s top five dairy suppliers — United States, European Union, Australia, Argentina and New Zealand — increased by 1.7 billion pounds a month during the last 14 months ending in September.

“This increased volume of milk turned out to be more than importers can consume,” USDEC Vice President of Communications Alan Levitt told the Capital Press in an email.

While world prices plunged as a result, U.S. prices remained high because of strong domestic demand and low stocks.

“Our competitors ... have more product to sell, and they are willing to sell at a lower price,” Levitt said. “It’s a buyers’ market now. Hence, we’ve lost some volume.”

During the first half of 2014, U.S. dairy exports averaged 179,712 metric tons of volume per month, 14 percent more than the prior year, according to USDEC.

The third quarter monthly average fell to 156,109 metric tons, 13 percent below the first-half average and 11 percent lower than the same period in 2013.

The value of all U.S. dairy exports averaged a record $653.6 million per month during the first half of 2014, a 26 percent increase over last year. However, that value dropped to $565 million during the third quarter, a 14 percent decline vs. the first half and 6 percent lower than last year.

While 16.4 percent of U.S. milk production was exported during the first half, 14.7 percent was exported during the third quarter.

U.S. cheese exports declined 8 percent during the third quarter compared with the first half but they were 13 percent above the 2013 third-quarter total.

“A real silver lining in our global dairy trade has been the growth in U.S. fresh cheese exports,” said dairy economist Mary Ledman, author of the Daily Dairy Report.

USDEC expects U.S. dairy exports to decline 15-20 percent by volume and 25-30 percent by value during the fourth quarter, compared with a year earlier.

World prices are not expected to rebound until the second half of 2015, Levitt said.

“However, the long-term trend of robust dairy demand growth in emerging markets remains intact,” he said. “In addition, virtually every published analysis concludes that structural issues will prevent the world from producing enough milk long-term to meet this ongoing need. That’s going to require the United States to be a player and milk prices will have to reflect our cost of production.”

“The silver lining is that there is still great growth on the global dairy market,” Ledman said.