Capital Press | Capital Press Wed, 28 Jan 2015 22:04:58 -0500 en Capital Press | Forester teaches tree owners management Wed, 28 Jan 2015 16:33:51 -0500 Matw Weaver COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho — When forest owners in the Idaho Panhandle began noticing an increase in the snowshoe hare population, Chris Schnepf went looking for an expert.

When he couldn’t find one, Schnepf put in the time to research the hare compared to other possible causes of damage to young trees and shrubs, grasses and other plants. Schnepf hasn’t gotten a lot of calls about damage yet, but said the hare population goes through a nine- or 10-year cycle.

It’s all in a day’s work for Schnepf, University of Idaho Extension educator for forestry in the Idaho Panhandle. He’s worked for the extension service since 1988.

Schnepf speaks to a broad audience that includes family forest owners, who own roughly 40 percent of the forest land in the panhandle; loggers; and professional foresters.

“My goal is to give them enough forest ecological literacy to make decisions that are going to help them meet their goals in their forest,” he said.

Working in the forest is not the main job for most family forest owners. Schnepf estimated only a few dozen in the region earn the majority of their income from logging. Some are also farmers.

“Most (family forest owners) have very little training on their forests, even simple things like tree identification,” he said. “It’s very different from cereal producers, where you have people who have been growing a crop most of their lives and do a fair amount of management activity every year. A lot of our time is spent giving people a basic literacy on forestry and forest ecology.”

Schnepf works with loggers and forest owners to determine how their needs can influence UI research. Loggers in particular are looking for more efficient and sustainable timber management methods, he said.

Al Kyle in Athol, Idaho, is part of the master forest stewards program, designed by Schnepf so that experienced foresters can advise newcomers.

“He’s a personable person — he’s interested in the people and helping them to really manage what they have better all the time so we can improve the health of the forests all over the state,” Kyle said of Schnepf. “He’s effective. He’s been a real asset to the forest community.”

Janet Benoit in Careywood, Idaho, is also a master forest steward.

“I think he has had quite an impact with those people who actually want to learn something about their property,” Benoit said. “He makes certain he is hitting what they think they need to learn.”

Schnepf enjoys the reactions from people who are “grateful to learn something new about something they were struggling with.”

“I work with so many people who just love to learn about this stuff,” he said. “You get energized by that. It’s a real high satisfaction job.”

Chris Schnepf

Occupation: Area Extension Educator-Forester

Hometown: LeMars, Iowa

Current location: Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

Age: 54

Family: Married, three children


Potential E. coli contamination promptsWashington Beef recall Wed, 28 Jan 2015 15:18:50 -0500 Washington Beef, LLC, a Toppenish, Wash., establishment, is recalling 1,620 pounds of boneless beef trim product that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service announced Wednesday.

For more information, see the department’s news release

IDFA: Regulations hinder innovation, opportunity Wed, 28 Jan 2015 14:11:56 -0500 Carol Ryan Dumas Food companies will have to be more innovative in meeting the environmental, social, economic and quality demands of more sophisticated and engaged consumers.

That was the opening message delivered by Connie Tipton, president and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association, during the 2015 Dairy Forum this week in Boca Raton, Fla.

“The good news for dairy is that we’ve become a food industry pioneer, an innovator and a leader in many ways,” she said.

But dairies also suffer from inherent impediments, many of which the industry put in place to build consumer trust, she said.

Those include decades-old milk-pricing policy, product identity standards and label restrictions, which are dragging the industry down and keeping it from delivering on the changing consumer proposition, she said.

“They all add up to a straight jacket on innovation and marketing, which we can ill afford in today’s dynamic global marketplace,” she said.

Regulation of commerce, services and transportation increases costs and heaps on inefficiencies, she said.

“On the other hand, deregulation spawns greater competition, innovation and consumer choice,” she said.

Elimination of the Dairy Product Price Support program and a new safety net for dairymen in the form of the Milk Margin Protection Program were steps in the right direction for shifting industry focus more to markets, she said.

“But additional steps need to be taken, and we need to take them in unison,” she said.

To meet growing and changing global demand, the U.S. dairy industry must change its regulated milk-pricing policy and gain greater flexibility in how product identity standards are interpreted, she said.

The domestic pricing system has some “chilling effects” on some sectors of the domestic industry as input costs have soared while consumption has declined, she said.

“That alters market dynamics, with exports driving growth and demand for farm milk while our domestic pricing system uses these higher values for pricing products largely marketed here in the U.S., things like milk, yogurt, ice cream,” she said.

U.S. milk production has grown by 36 billion pounds since 2003, with nearly 70 percent of that going overseas, she said.

“Now is the time to move away from our domestic pricing system and allow milk to flow to its highest value use dictated by the market and not by the government,” she said.

In the area of product identity standards, IDFA is urging the administration and Food and Drug Administration to take another look at how standards are interpreted to allow dairy companies to come up with more creative products that meet consumers’ increasing demands, she said.

The industry needs to convince FDA to allow “better-for-you” product innovations to fit within various dairy standards of identity, she said.

Changes in that area could be a significant breakthrough for milk and other dairy products, allowing products with higher protein and lower sugar, for example, to still be called “milk,” she said.

The industry needs to be proactive in changing policies and regulations to create products for changing markets, she said.

“Whether it’s milk-pricing policy, standards of identity, immigration reform, infrastructure improvements or any other issue, it’s time to push the envelope and it’s time to take advantage of our opportunities,” she said.

Hilmar Jerseys wins dairy innovation award Wed, 28 Jan 2015 13:59:19 -0500 Hilmar Jerseys, a 6,000-cow dairy operation in Hilmar, Calif., was named the 2015 Innovative Dairy Farmer of the Year during an awards ceremony Monday at the International Dairy Foods Association’s Dairy Forum in Boca Raton, Fla.

The dairy’s co-owners, Chuck and Mark Ahlem, and herd manager Frank Dinis were recognized for applying creativity, excellence and forward thinking to achieve greater on-farm productivity and improved milk marketing, according to a press release from International Dairy Foods Association.

Hilmar Jerseys was selected because of its dedicated focus on animal care, which the owners call stockmanship, said Connie Tipton, IDFA president and CEO.

“At a time when animal care is gaining headlines and sound bites, we thought it was important to honor and highlight a dairy farm that is doing all the right things and spreading the knowledge to the broader dairy community,” she stated in the press release.

Hilmar Jerseys, formed by Chuck Ahlem in 1982, now includes five dairies on 4,000 acres that market 143.8 million pounds of milk each year.

The company’s employee training program on animal care and stockmanship produced dramatic improvements on its five dairies. As employees learned to understand cow behavior and how to handle animals properly, they began to take more pride in their jobs and proactively identified areas of improvement for cow care and comfort. Also, employee injuries related to working with the cows dropped by 50 percent, the press release stated.

Noting these positive changes, the Ahlems shared the results with Hilmar Cheese Co., their milk processor. Impressed with the results, Hilmar Cheese partnered with the Ahlems and Elanco, a global animal health company, to promote the animal care and employee engagement concepts that Hilmar Jerseys was using. To date, more than 200 people representing 50 dairies have participated in this animal-welfare training.

Previous winners of the Innovative Dairy Farmer title include Clauss Dairy Farms, Hilmar, Calif. (2000); Si-Ellen Farms, Jerome, Idaho (2002); C Bar M Dairy, Jerome, Idaho (2004); KF Dairy, El Centro, Calif. (2006); and Joseph Gallo Farms, Atwater, Calif. (2007)

Hundreds of Idaho FFA members meet with lawmakers, ag leaders Wed, 28 Jan 2015 13:24:54 -0500 Sean Ellis BOISE — More than 500 FFA members from around Idaho got a chance to learn how public policy is developed and meet with farm industry leaders Jan. 26 during the group’s annual “Cenarrusa Day on the Hill” event.

The event brings together FFA students, lawmakers and members of Idaho’s agricultural industry.

“It’s real important to connect both our students and lawmakers and the industry that helps run our state’s economy,” said Shane Stevenson, who teaches agricultural education at Rocky Mountain High School in Meridian.

The event also gives legislators a chance to learn more about FFA and the importance of secondary ag education, said J.R. Morrow, an ag science teacher in Genesee.

“The legislators also ask them questions,” he said.

The event is named after former Idaho Secretary of State Pete Cenarrusa, who started the first ag classes at Cambridge and Carey high schools and served in the legislature and executive branch of Idaho government for 51 years.

Cenarrusa, who passed away in 2013, is the longest serving public servant in Idaho history.

During a luncheon attended by about 600 people, Toy Smith, president of the Idaho Cooperative Council, presented friend of the industry awards to Sen. Jim Guthrie, a Republican rancher from McCammon, and Rep. Gayle Batt, a Republican farmer from Wilder.

The council, which represents agricultural co-ops in Idaho and sponsors the FFA event, recognizes two legislators each year who show outstanding dedication and leadership in support of agriculture, Smith said.

“What’s good for agriculture is good for cooperatives,” he said.

Batt is involved in her family farming operation near Wilder and has a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business management from Oregon State University.

She said she could think of no better group to be honored by than FFA, which she said consistently puts “out productive and committed students who become leaders in our community.”

Guthrie, who grew up on a family farm and ranch and is still actively involved with that operation, said he is always impressed with FFA members.

“When we look at investing in (education), the example you set makes it very easy to do that,” he said.

During the luncheon, Idaho FFA President Mitch Royer gave honorary FFA memberships to three lawmakers for their help in passing most of the 2014 Idaho Ag Education Initiative, which provides about $2 million more in annual funding for secondary ag education in Idaho.

Idaho Speaker of the House Scott Bedke, a Republican rancher from Oakley; Rep. Marc Gibbs, a Republican farmer from Grace; and Sen. Dan Johnson, a Republican from Lewiston, were instrumental in passing the initiative, “which directly influences the lives of thousands of students,” Royer said.

Gov. Butch Otter has asked Idaho lawmakers to approve an additional $600,000 for secondary ag education this year.

“The most important issue this year in Idaho is education and (no one) epitomizes that more than the people in this room right now,” Lt. Gov. Brad Little, a rancher, told FFA members.

Idaho grower touts benefits of companion crops Wed, 28 Jan 2015 13:20:08 -0500 John O’Connell POCATELLO, Idaho — Steve Shibely sprinkles in a bit of radish seed before he plants his winter wheat.

For a $12 per acre seed investment, the Mud Lake, Idaho, farmer believes his experiment with a so-called companion crop has improved soil moisture penetration, saved him on fertilizer and slightly boosted his yields.

Shibely participated in a panel discussion on cover crops — crops planted solely for soil health benefits — during the recent 47th Annul University of Idaho Potato Conference in Pocatello.

Cover crops have been catching on throughout Idaho, but Shibely considers himself a pioneer within his region in companion crops, which contribute soil health benefits even as he raises a cash crop.

The radish roots scavenge for nitrogen and other nutrients that may be inaccessible by wheat. Radish dies in the winter and slowly releases nutrients for the grain as it decomposes.

“I think there’s a lot of room for (companion crops) to grow here and a lot of people aren’t aware of them in this area,” Shibely said.

In a comparison of adjacent fields both following potatoes, Shibely said the field with radish companions required 35 units of nitrogen less than the field of winter wheat alone, and enjoyed a 4-6 bushel yield advantage.

Shibely has also been stepping up his no-till acreage and has seeded wheat directly into a prior cover crop of radish and triticale.

Aberdeen, Idaho, farmer Doug Ruff finds when he can get his mustard cover crop seeded by Aug. 10, following winter wheat, there’s a lush stand to disc into his soil for an organic matter boost by October. He said hot mustard also acts as a natural fumigant to control verticillium wilt, though he doesn’t view it as a replacement for fumigation in susceptible varieties such as Russet Burbank. When conditions make it impossible to plant his cover crop in time, he irrigates harvested winter wheat to produce a volunteer grain cover crop.

“The area we farm, like a lot of Idaho, came out of the desert. There’s not much organic matter,” Ruff said.

Bill Meadows, owner of Mountain States Oilseeds in American Falls, suggests growers try raising a volunteer cover crop following commercial mustard.

Aberdeen farmer Rob Giesbrecht has been raising cover crops since 1995 and advises growers it’s a longterm investment in soil health.

“If you’re going to do it, commit to it. Don’t just put seed on and forget about it,” Giesbrecht said.

He also recommends that growers start small with cover crops.

Ray Archuleta, a soil health specialist with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Greensboro, N.C., promotes planting a diverse mixture of cover crops to derive a broad array of benefits. Barley, oats, and cereal rye, for example, contribute high amounts of carbon to soil. His potato growers have enjoyed the greatest success by rotating spuds every other year with a multispecies cover crop.

Archuleta advises against tilling cover crops into soil, which disturbs organic matter gains, and suggests no-till farming, whenever possible.

“Once you understand soil function, you cannot exclude cover crops,” Archuleta said. “Cover crops are not optional.”

50th Colusa Farm Show kicks off event-filled week Wed, 28 Jan 2015 10:29:36 -0500 Tim Hearden COLUSA, Calif. — An almond growers’ meeting and a presentation on new farm bill programs will be featured as the self-proclaimed “Granddaddy of Farm Shows” holds its 50th annual showcase next week.

As many as 40,000 visitors — nearly twice the population of this rural county — may attend the Colusa Farm Show Feb. 3-5, where exhibitors large and small will peddle their products.

With humble beginnings as an orchard fair, the farm show at the fairgrounds here has blossomed into an event that attracts vendors and visitors from throughout California and generates lots of revenue for local business, said John Morton, office manager of the Colusa County Chamber of Commerce.

“I think that it speaks to the tradition of farming, and it speaks to the value of the ag community that we live in and the legacy,” Colusa County Farm Bureau executive manager Melodie Johnson said of the farm show’s longevity.

The farm show offers one-stop shopping for the latest in machinery and techniques, with tractors and other large equipment filling the parking lot and some lawn areas while smaller products are displayed indoors.

This year’s show will feature a Natural Resources Conservation Service crop pollination workshop, a presentation on new Farm Bill programs by the Colusa County Resource Conservation District and an almond workshop hosted by the University of California Cooperative Extension.

The annual farm show breakfast, sponsored by California State University-Chico’s College of Agriculture and its supporters, will be Feb. 4. The breakfast has raised nearly $200,000 for scholarships and leadership programs.

Tickets for the breakfast are $30 in advance or $40 at the door; call (530) 898-4597.

In addition to providing shopping ideas for farmers, the show is an important tool for educating the public about agriculture, including about farmers’ need for water, Johnson said. The show also educates high school students about careers in agriculture, she said.

A few years ago, one of those students was Mike Jones, a 4-H member who came to the show with his group from Sutter County. Now Jones works for the Beeler Tractor Co., in Colusa.

“We would just go and look at everything,” he said of the outings. “They would basically try to teach us all about agriculture ... I had a lot of fun. There was a lot of stuff that was given away.”

The farm show kicks off a busy week for farmers, ranchers, timber producers and ag-related businesses in Northern California and Southern Oregon as shows and sales kick into high gear.

After this weekend’s Red Bluff Bull and Gelding Sale wraps up, many in the cattle industry will head to Klamath Falls, Ore., for the Klamath Bull and Select Ranch Horse Sale Feb. 5-8. The 55th annual event will include a Western trade show, stock dog trials, stock horse classes, a bull and horse sale and a ranch rodeo.

Other vendors and farm enthusiasts may proceed to the 66th annual Sierra Cascade Logging Conference and large-equipment expo Feb. 5-7 at the Shasta District Fair grounds in Anderson, Calif.

The conference and forest products expo will include speakers and panel discussions as well as an education day with area schoolchildren, logging exhibitions, log loading and truck driving skills competitions and a “backhoe rodeo.”

Washington cattlemen pan statewide water fee Wed, 28 Jan 2015 13:09:22 -0500 Don Jenkins OLYMPIA, Wash. — The Washington Cattlemen’s Association opposes a new property fee to pay for water supply, flood control and stormwater management projects, the group’s executive vice president, Jack Field, said.

The new per-parcel fee would significantly raise property tax bills for ranchers, who might not see any benefit, he said.

“They’re concerned about paying for something that they may never see in their neighborhood,” Field said in an interview Tuesday. “I understand the need for water storage, but I don’t think this is the right approach.”

Senate Bill 5628 became publicly available just before a hearing Monday by the Senate Ways and Means Committee. It would levy a per-parcel fee ranging from $35 to $500 a year depending on the size and purpose of the property.

The statewide fee would be adjusted annually for inflation.

The fee would have to be approved by the state’s voters in a November referendum. It would initially raise an estimated $180 million to $220 million a year, according to Senate staff. Local jurisdictions would be eligible to apply for money to fund water projects.

The Office of Financial Management, which provides official revenue estimates, has not completed a report on the bill.

In the buildup to the bill’s rollout, legislation backers showcased Chehalis River flooding, Yakima Basin water shortages and Puget Sound stormwater pollution.

Yakima Basin irrigation districts and the Washington Tree Fruit Association testified in support of the bill, as did some environmental groups.

“There’s potentially something here for every community,” The Nature Conservancy’s director of governmental relations, Mo McBroom, said.

The plan, however, ran into opposition from environmental groups that oppose construction projects to increase water storage in the Yakima Basin.

Others questioned whether the program would benefit groundwater users, such as farmers who draw from the rapidly depleting Odessa Subarea in Eastern Washington. Some lawmakers questioned whether the bill would be fair to property owners already paying taxes to support diking and drainage districts.

The bill currently exempts from the fee timberland and agricultural land in counties without irrigation districts, a concession to dryland farmers.

Senate staff members said two-thirds of the state’s parcels, those with a single-family home on less than 1 acre, would be charged $35. The fee would top out at $500 for nonresidential developed property of more than 10 acres.

Farmland without a home or another structure valued at more than $25,000 would be considered undeveloped property. The fee for residential and undeveloped property would top out at $90 for a parcel of more than 10 acres.

State Treasurer Jim McIntire praised the “pay as you go” approach to funding water projects, rather than adding to the state’s debt.

He suggested lawmakers also collect the fee from timberland owners and on agricultural land in counties without irrigation districts.

Documentary chronicles evolution of high lift pumping on Snake River Wed, 28 Jan 2015 12:57:42 -0500 Carol Ryan Dumas A newly released documentary on high lift pumping for irrigation on Snake River plateaus in Idaho chronicles the evolution of the process and the men who envisioned it and brought it to fruition.

“Looking Back” chronicles the development of some of Idaho’s premier farm ground between Nampa and Buhl, made possible by pumping water to desert soils 600 feet or more above the Snake River, said Randy Quigley, the documentary’s creator and producer.

“Looking at this topic through the lens of a camera has helped me realize that there have been some very enterprising men who were ahead of their time, men filled with passion and the tenacity to see their dreams come true,” he said.

The film begins in 1955 with Maurice Eckert’s development of the Magic Water Irrigation Project west of Buhl. It continues with irrigation development in Idaho’s Treasure Valley launched by Allen Noble in the Dry Lake area.

The film chronicles the numerous projects that followed beginning in the 1960s and ends with the development of Idaho’s largest irrigation District, Bell Rapids, west of Hagerman.

It also documents the circumstances that led Bell Rapids growers to sell their water to the state to satisfy the Nez Perce water agreement.

The story unfolds through narration and interviews with key players that helped bring the projects to life and those who were instrumental in the Bell Rapids water negotiations.

The documentary features 16mm movies showing the high-lift pioneers clearing sage brush, digging canals, building pump stations, and harvesting potatoes, as well as aerial footage of Snake River landscapes and dams.

The documentary was 10 years in the making and an absolute labor of love, Quigley said.

A native of Buhl, Quigley worked on the Magic Water project in high school and farmed in the area for 25 years before starting a recording studio about 24 years ago. He branched out to video after working with David Blocker, the producer of Bruce Willis’ movie “Breakfast with Champions” filmed in southern Idaho.

That was just about the time farming at Bell Rapids was set to shut down and recognizing the historical significance, Quigley grabbed his camera and started collecting footage of Bell Rapids.

The film was funded and produced by Quigley, which allowed him the time to let the story of high-left pumping tell itself. It also allowed him to work around his full-time job with Idaho State Department of Agriculture in its pesticide division and his commercial production schedule — doing training videos for the National Agricultural Aviation Association.

Fitting all the information and video he collected into a one-hour documentary was difficult, however, and many interesting side stories were left out of the final film, he said.

The video is narrated by former local television news anchor and radio personality Doug Maughan. The DVD is available for purchase online through PayPal.

PCN water supply forecasts mixed Wed, 28 Jan 2015 12:45:12 -0500 Carol Ryan Dumas Water watchers in the Pacific Northwest and California are forecasting varying degrees of water supplies for the coming irrigation season — but all hope for additional precipitation through the second half of winter.

Last year’s water allocations for irrigation in California were typically about 10 percent of average and will most likely remain the same or near that level this year unless conditions change, said Greg Norris, California state water supply specialist with Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Noteworthy storms during this past December began the process of filling California’s reservoirs. However, because of the long-term drought, most major reservoirs in California, especially those fed by the Sierra Mountains and foothills, are still below average capacity for this time of year, he said.

January snowpack conditions for the northern, central and southern Sierras are below normal for this time of year. Although not as low as last year, snow water equivalents are below 50 percent of normal, with a downward trend due to higher-than-normal daytime temperatures and long durations between storms, according to the latest NRCS report.

Oregon is also being challenged by snowpack levels.

Unlike last year, Oregon has received the normal amount of precipitation since the water year began on Oct. 1, but many locations in Western Oregon are setting new records for low snowpack, said Julie Koeberle, Oregon snow hydrologist with NRCS.

Temperatures have been warm, causing western and central Oregon to receive more rainfall than snow. Recent storms brought mostly heavy rain, washing away lower elevation snow. A few of the higher elevations in Eastern Oregon are holding onto a near normal snowpack, she said.

While there is still time for improvement, each day without precipitation raises concerns for summer water supplies, she said.

In broad terms, Western and Central Oregon have well-below-normal snowpack, whereas, the eastern side of the state has near-normal or above-normal snowpack levels.

Given the wide range of possible outcomes for remaining snowpack and precipitation this season, the outcome for Oregon’s summer water supplies remain uncertain, according to the latest NRCS report.

Washington and Idaho are faring better, according to NRCS state water specialists.

Overall irrigation supplies for Washington are looking pretty good. Carryover from last season and heavy fall rains helped refill reservoirs to above-normal levels for this time of year, said Scott Pattee, NRCS water supply specialist for Washington.

“However, we’re not sure how those basins without reservoir storage are going to fair yet,” he added.

More rain than snow is affecting snowpack in Washington, particularly on the western side of the state. October, November and December delivered some of the wettest conditions on record, but precipitation fell as rain across much of the state. Statewide, Jan. 1 snowpack was 51 percent of normal for Jan 1, with most areas measuring 25 percent of annual total snowfall, according to the latest NRCS report.

Idaho’s water supply is off to a good start, with the majority of basins at 90 percent to 105 percent of normal for this time of year. Water supplies should be adequate with some exceptions for basins in south-central Idaho, said Ron Abramovich, NRCS water supply specialist in Idaho.

Water supplies are only marginal in the Big Wood, Little Wood, Little Lost, Oakley, and Salmon Falls basins due to low reservoir carryover last year. Those basins will need normal or above-normal precipitation for the rest of the winter and into spring, he said

Southern Idaho snowpacks are faring well, with most basins running from 90 percent to 120 percent of average. Average snowpacks for northern Idaho, however, are below normal, with Jan 1 snowpack in the Spokane and northern panhandle regions closer to 60 percent of normal, he said.

More precipitation — in the form of snow or spring rains — is needed in those regions, but there’s still time to make up the shortage, he said.

House panel hears from ag reps on carbon tax Wed, 28 Jan 2015 11:34:11 -0500 Don Jenkins OLYMPIA — Agricultural representatives Tuesday criticized a proposal to cap and tax carbon emissions as a House committee held the first hearing on the centerpiece of Gov. Jay Inslee’s climate change agenda.

“Our maker gave us dominion over this earth, which means we need to be good stewards and take care of his creation, but that doesn’t mean we have to subordinate our life to environmental utopianism,” National Frozen Foods Corp. General Manager Gary Ash said.

House Bill 1314 would limit how much carbon some 130 industries could release. The industries, which include a fertilizer manufacturer and several food processors, would have to bid for permits to emit greenhouse gases.

Inslee and other proponents say the program would curb greenhouse gases while raising roughly $1 billion a year for government services. The Office of Financial Management has not released a fiscal analysis of the bill.

The legislation has a remote chance of passing the Republican-controlled Senate, where a bill has been introduced but no hearing scheduled.

The House hearing was an opportunity for opponents and proponents to pack a hearing room.

Supporters included environmental groups, renewable energy developers and ski resorts.

The bill’s prime sponsor, Environment Committee Chairman Joe Fitzgibbon, said the effects of climate change include less irrigation water.

“The threats of a changing climate are real. We are already seeing them. They demand we act on this issue,” said Fitzgibbon, a Burien Democrat.

Opponents — which included manufacturers, small business owners, fuel distributors and workers — largely steered clear of debating climate change science. But many testified about potential financial hardships if manufacturers are forced to absorb or pass along the cost of buying carbon-emission permits.

“If the price of fertilizer goes up, our small operation will probably not be able to afford the new equipment, which is more fuel efficient,” Grays Harbor County farmer Terry Willis said.

Washington Cattlemen’s Association Executive Vice President Jack Field said producers would be hurt if transportation and feed costs rise.

Ash said Frozen Foods’ three Washington plants consume a lot of energy as they process vegetables from nearly 40,000 acres in the Columbia Basin. The plants have a full-time workforce of about 500, which usually doubles during harvest, he said.

“We are in a very competitive global market with slim profit margins,” he said. “Every time a new regulation or tax is imposed, our costs increase, forcing us to reduce other expenses, like wages or jobs.”

Ash said the company already spends heavily to comply with environmental laws.

“Regulatory agencies continue to raise the bar, increasing onerous requirements that are often unreasonable and costly. Because of this, we find ourselves forced to invest in mitigation systems instead of production machinery,” he said.

Washington lawmakers: Don’t let farmland become wetlands Wed, 28 Jan 2015 10:47:32 -0500 Don Jenkins OLYMPIA — State agencies, tribes and environmental groups rained Tuesday on legislation to stop farmland from being converted to wetlands.

Senate and House committees held hearings on several bills to amend two major state land-use laws to bar dikes from being breached to inundate agricultural land.

Critics said the bills were too inflexible and would prohibit willing landowners from turning over their property to fish and wildlife habitat.

Washington Farm Bureau and Washington Cattlemen’s Association lobbyists said they were concerned property rights would be undermined.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake, said after the hearing that the bills need work. But lawmakers should be worried about losing farmland, she said.

“We can’t rebuilt or recreate agricultural land, and that’s the cost of doing nothing,” Warnick said.

It’s unclear whether Washington is losing productive farmland.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has a broad definition of agricultural land, estimated the state had 14.9 million acres of agricultural land in 2007 and 14.7 million acres in 2012, a loss of roughly 200,000 acres. The Washington Department of Agriculture, however, estimates that the state has more than 7 million acres of cropland, an increase of 200,000 acres since 2008.

“It’s not an exact science,” the state’s Office of Farmland Preservation coordinator Josh Giuntoli said.

The state does not track how many acres of agricultural land have been converted to wetlands. “That’s something we’ve been concerned about for awhile,” Guintoli said.

A bill that would have required the state to compile that information passed the Senate in 2010, but didn’t come to a vote in the House.

Much of the concern about losing farmland to wetlands has come from Snohomish County in northwest Washington.

Republican Rep. Elizabeth Scott, whose district includes a portion of Snohomish County, compared flooding farmland with saltwater to paving it with asphalt.

“It’s not something we can change our minds about later,” she said.

Tribal spokesmen and environmental groups said the bills sponsored by Warnick and Scott downplayed the importance of restoring wetlands and fish runs.

Representatives from the state Department of Transportation and Washington ports said they were worried about highway and port projects from being barred from securing land to make up for filling up wetlands.

Representatives of the Ecology and Fish and Wildlife departments said the bills would interfere with wetland projects agreed upon by local authorities and landowners.

“The blanket prohibition in these bills will not support that work,” DOE environmental policy planner Tom Clingman said.

Many speakers said state land-use laws should balance preserving farmland and restoring wetlands.

Legislation supporters said the state’s Growth Management and Shoreline Management acts are hardly applied even-handedly.

“Balance always runs one way. There is no project to convert wetlands to ag land,” Snohomish County Farm Bureau spokesman Ed Moats said.

USDA cannot restrict GMO pine Wed, 28 Jan 2015 10:18:13 -0500 Mateusz Perkowski A pine tree genetically engineered for greater wood density can be grown without restrictions after the USDA decided it lacks authority to regulate the variety.

The finding has alarmed critics of genetically modified organisms who fear the new cultivar will cross-pollinate with trees in the wild, resulting in unknown consequences for forests.

ArborGen, a tree seedling producer, altered the loblolly pine variety with a “gene gun,” inserting genetic material from the Monterey pine, the American sweetgum tree, mouse ear cress and E. coli bacteria.

None of these organisms are plant pest risks, so the USDA has determined the pine is not a regulated article and can be freely cultivated without undergoing environmental studies, unlike crops that rely on plant pathogens for their transformation.

Higher density in wood is generally associated with strength and durability in lumber as well as higher energy content for biomass uses, said Steven Strauss, a forest biotechnology professor at Oregon State University.

Biotech cultivars that rely on plant pests for gene transfer often undergo lengthy government scrutiny before they’re brought to market, he said.

“The regulatory process is highly political. It’s not just based on science,” Strauss said.

For this reason, companies are seeking alternate ways of commercializing genetically engineered crops, he said. “That’s understandable from the commercial point of view.”

Arborgen, for example, has tried to gain USDA’s approval since 2008 for a freeze-tolerant eucalyptus tree, which was transformed with a soil pathogen and thus must receive the agency’s permission for widepsread commercialization.

Environmental groups filed a lawsuit to block the company from field testing the trees, but that request was denied by a federal judge.

Even so, Arborgen was asked to submit additional data about the biotech tree in 2011 and the variety remains regulated while the USDA conducts an in-depth environmental review.

Critics of genetically modified organisms such as the Center for Food Safety worry that Arborgen was able to circumvent field trial permits and other regulatory procedures with its loblolly pine cultivar.

The group claims it’s unprecedented for USDA to allow a genetically engineered tree to be cultivated without any government oversight.

“This is a genetically engineered organism that is going completely unregulated,” said Martha Crouch, biotechnology consultant for the organization.

Strauss, of OSU, said he would like to see more “nimble” regulations governing biotech crops but is nervous about USDA’s lack of authority over GMOs produced without plant pests.

While the USDA may not consider such crops to be regulated articles, other countries may disagree — creating the potential for “chaos in the marketplace,” he said.

The Center for Food Safety is concerned about potential environmental impacts, alleging that changes in wood density could affect decomposition rates and forest species.

Because the USDA decided it lacks regulatory authority over the tree, the agency only considered the method of transformation without assessing any other potential risks that it might pose, said Crouch.

“This is an end run around that,” Crouch said.

Very little information is available to the public in Arborgen’s request letter seeking regulatory clearance or the USDA’s response, she said. “We don’t really know how they did it or how big of a change it is.”

Arborgen was formed in 2000 by combining the biotechnology divisions of three forest products companies.

In 2010, the company filed reports with U.S. financial regulators in preparation for an initial public offering of its stock.

Those records show Arborgen losing nearly $15 million on roughly $22 million in revenues during that fiscal year. The firm later withdrew its plans to sell shares to the public due to poor market conditions.

Idaho House OKs farm-friendly change to dust rule Wed, 28 Jan 2015 10:10:25 -0500 Sean Ellis BOISE — A temporary rule that ensures Idaho farmers and ranchers won’t be fined for creating dust has been approved by a House committee. It still needs to pass a Senate committee before it becomes permanent.

The new rule clarifies Idaho’s fugitive dust law as it applies to agricultural activities, Tiffany Floyd, air quality division administrator for the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, told lawmakers Jan. 26.

Idaho’s dust law requires all reasonable precautions be taken to prevent particulate matter from becoming airborne, she told members of the House Environment, Energy and Technology Committee.

The proposed rule states that if a farmer or rancher operates in accordance with generally recognized agricultural practices, that “constitutes reasonable control of fugitive dust,” Floyd said.

Idaho’s agricultural community asked for the amendment to Idaho’s fugitive dust law last year after a Southwestern Idaho lawmaker was contacted by a farmer who was fined by DEQ for creating dust while grinding hay on a feedlot.

DEQ officials told farm industry leaders they had no intention of using the law to target normal agricultural practices, but there was some disagreement between the two sides on what normal farming practices were.

Under the current rule, farming and ranching operations are “subject to violations and penalties every time a wheel turns in a field or someone feeds their livestock,” said Roger Batt, executive director of the Idaho Heartland Coalition, which is made up of several farming groups.

The new rule, which was hammered out after three meetings held under Idaho’s negotiated rulemaking process, lists what generally recognized agricultural practices are.

The definitions were taken largely from Idaho’s Right to Farm Act and include preparing land for agricultural production, applying or handling pesticides, herbicides or other chemicals, planting, irrigating, growing, fertilizing, harvesting or producing agricultural, horticultural, floricultural and vicitultural crops.

It also includes breeding, hatching, raising, producing, feeding and keeping livestock, dairy animals, swine, fur-bearing animals, poultry, eggs, fish and other animals, animal products and by-products, animal waste and compost, and bees.

The new rule states that the DEQ shall consult with the Idaho State Department of Agriculture in determining whether an activity is a generally recognized agricultural practice.

“We see them as more of an expert in this field than we are,” Floyd said.

The amendments to Idaho’s dust law are simple, Batt said: “They clarify that as long as you are following generally recognized agricultural practices, then you are reasonably controlling fugitive dust and not found in violation of the rules.”

“The overall result is good for agriculture,” said Milk Producers of Idaho Executive Director Brent Olmstead. “We needed some clarity ... because agriculture is different from any other industry (DEQ) regulates on fugitive dust.”

The rule faced some tough questions from a few lawmakers, including whether groups representing sensitive populations, such as people in care homes or school children, participated in the rulemaking process. The answer was, “no.”

It passed on a voice vote and now heads to the Senate.

Teams show off potato peeling skills Wed, 28 Jan 2015 09:57:42 -0500 Matw Weaver KENNEWICK, Wash. — No blood, no glory when it comes to peeling spuds.

The Washington-Oregon Potato Conference kicked off Jan. 27 in Kennewick, Wash., and included the first potato peeling competition.

“We’re excited this year that the conference had the opportunity to expand,” said Ryan Holterhoff, QQQ for the Washington State Potato Commission.

The conference increased by 40 exhibits to and expanded from the Three Rivers Convention Center into the Toyota Center next door. Holterhoff said the competition will encourage attendees to move between both buildings.

Conference board members hatched upon the idea to offer a potato peeling contest.

Six teams of three competed, paying a $100 entry fee. The conference is sharing proceeds with the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center agriculture exhibit in Richland, Wash.

The first three teams had 90 seconds to peel as many potatoes as possible using contest-assigned peelers, followed by the next three teams. The winners from the first two rounds then squared off for the title, and were given two minutes to peel as many potatoes as cleanly as possible.

Priscilla Griffith, Minerva Garnica and Jesse Mercado of AgWorld Support Systems in Moses Lake, Wash., took home the trophy.

The winning team said their company CEO informed them they would be competing.

“We’re here to support our growers and processors, just like we do in our everyday duties,” Mercado said.

They did not practice beforehand. Garnica attributed the victory to wanting the win.

Bandages were on hand, which was good — Griffith actually cut herself during the competition, requiring her team’s table to be swapped out before the next round.

The teams peeled a test variety potato, A06021-1T, supplied by Washington State University potato specialist Mark Pavek, based in Pullman, Wash.

The variety has a high fresh-pack yield, stores well and doesn’t seem to bruise too badly, Pavek said.

The Russet variety is also on the lunch menu in order to see what attendees think of its taste, Pavek said.

Pavek said the variety has been raised in regional trials in Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Texas, and still has four years before it would be released commercially.

Holterhoff hopes to continue the peeling contest next year, and beyond.

“I think there will be a lot of people hanging around, kind of wanting to see what this is,” Holterhoff predicted before the competition. “It may be one of those things that we’ll get a few people involved this year and I would expect that next year there will be more interest and teams wanting to sign up and participate.”

Portland daily grain report Wed, 28 Jan 2015 09:18:32 -0500 Portland, Ore., Wednesday, Jan. 28

2015 USDA Market News

Bids for grains delivered to Portland, Oregon during January by unit trains and barges, in dollars per bushel, except oats and corn, 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 January delivery. Bids for corn are for 30 day delivery.

In early trading March wheat futures trended nine to 12 cents per bushel lower compared to Tuesday’s closes.

Bids for US 1 Soft White Wheat delivered to Portland in unit trains and barges for January delivery were not available for ordinary protein.

Bids for guaranteed maximum 10.5 protein were not well tested, but were indicated as steady to lower compared to Tuesday’s noon bids for January delivery in a limited test.

Bids for 11.5 percent protein US 1 Hard Red Winter Wheat for January delivery were not well tested in early trading, but were indicated as lower than Tuesday’s noon bids, due to the lower Kansas City March wheat futures. Several exporters are not issuing bids for January delivery due to adequate nearby supplies in the pipelines.

Bids for 14 percent protein US 1 Dark Northern Spring Wheat for January delivery were also not well tested in early trading, but bids were indicated as lower compared to Tuesday’s noon bids, due to the lower Minneapolis March wheat futures. Several exporters are not issuing bids for January delivery due to moderate supplies in the pipelines to meet

nearby exporter demand.

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

Ordinary protein

Jan NA

Feb 6.4500-6.9000

Mar 6.5000-6.9000

Apr 6.5300-7.0500


Guaranteed maximum 10.5 pct protein

Jan 7.0700-7.5500

Feb 7.0700-7.5700

Mar 7.0700-7.6000

Apr 7.1200-7.6000

Aug NC 5.6200-6.2000

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

Ordinary protein

Jan NA

Guaranteed maximum 10.5 pct protein

Jan 9.0700-10.2000

Not fully established and limited.

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


Ordinary protein 6.0725-6.4025

10 pct protein 6.0725-6.4025

11 pct protein 6.1525-6.4825

11.5 pct protein

Jan 6.1925-6.5225

Feb 6.1925-6.5425

Mar 6.1925-6.5925

Apr 6.3550-6.6550

Aug NC 6.3850-6.5350

12 pct protein 6.1925-6.5225

13 pct protein 6.1925-6.5225

Not fully established and limited.

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

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

13 pct protein 7.0750-7.3250

14 pct protein

Jan 8.1250-8.2750

Feb 8.2250-8.3250

Mar 7.8750-8.3250

Apr 7.9525-8.5025

Aug NC 7.0875-7.3375

15 pct protein 8.7250-9.0750

16 pct protein 9.3250-9.8750

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 Dec 2014

Averages in Dollars per bushel

US 1 Soft White by Unit Trains and Barges 7.1900

US 1 Hard Red Winter (Ordinary protein) 7.3800

US 1 Hard Red Winter (11.5% protein) 7.5200

US 1 Dark Northern Spring (14% protein) 9.4000

Source: USDA Market News Service, Portland, OR

Reports: Washington, Oregon could expand renewable power production Wed, 28 Jan 2015 09:13:16 -0500 Jes BurnsOregon Public Broadcasting Solar, wind, hydropower, biomass, geothermal and waste-to-energy electricity production could account for 98 percent of Oregon’s and Washington’s electricity needs in just 15 years, according to two new reports.

The reports from the Wind Energy Foundation’s  Renewable America project, which promotes wind development, say developing renewables would create hundreds of thousands of jobs for the region.  

The analyses, “Powering Up Oregon” and “Powering Up Washington,” put forth two scenarios for alternative energy production.  One documents the power production path each state is currently following. If hydroelectric is included, both states are on track to produce at least 65 percent of their electricity from renewables.  

But the outlook for getting off of fossil fuels increases considerably in the second scenario — under which each state would reach nearly 100 percent renewable energy by 2030.  

It’s a fast turnaround, but lead author Ryan Hodum says the foundation has already been laid for renewables.

“There’s an equal opportunity to continue to drive that kind of investment, track that kind of investment,” he says.  

The analyses find that development could mean 300,000 temporary and about 6,000 permanent jobs between the Oregon and Washington, with many jobs in rural communities.  

Hodum says achieving this level of renewables and economic growth relies on continued support from policy makers and communities and a continued increase in demand for electricity.  

It will also likely mean more investment from private industry.

That could be tough with fossil fuel prices currently being so low, says Greg Blair, managing general partner of Biomass One.  

“It’s very difficult to get folks to necessarily agree to pay more for something whose primary attribute is the reduction of carbon emissions,” Blair says.

Biomass One’s Southern Oregon plant produces 30 megawatts of electricity — enough to power 20,000 homes in Jackson County.  

“A policy decision must be made by communities and their elected officials to decide how much of the energy requirements should be met from these sources,” Blair says.  

This is exactly what is happening at many utilities in the Northwest. The board of Washington’s Snohomish County Public Utility District made the decision to pursue “cost-effective conservation,” says PUD spokesman Neil Neroutsos.  

“So all the new things we’re looking at to meet growth are things like hydropower, solar, wind — and even looking at things like geothermal and tidal energy, which we’ve done some research and development on,” he says.  

The Snohomish PUD is currently developing three new hydropower projects to meet the energy demands of its growing community.  

The 98 percent renewable capacity laid out in the reports is derived from data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Renewable Electricity Futures study. The figure is much more ambitious than current statewide and federal goals, in part because they don’t include some hydropower production. Oregon aims to reach 25 percent renewables by 2025.  Washington wants 15 percent renewable electricity production by 2020.    

Study author Ryan Hodum says that because the potential for renewable electricity capacity is so far beyond the reality, both states are positioned to attract significant economic investment in the six renewable energy industries.  

“There’s an opportunity to be ambitious,” he says.

Medford Darigold plant to close at end of February Wed, 28 Jan 2015 09:06:20 -0500 Greg StilesThe Mail Tribune MEDFORD, Ore. — Medford’s last milk processing plant will shutter Feb. 28, putting 29 employees out of work.

Seattle-based Darigold is the nation’s fourth-largest dairy cooperative based on milk volume and one of the largest privately held companies in Washington state, with annual revenue of more than $2 billion.

“The need to significantly upgrade the facility to maintain compliance with food safety, employee safety and environmental regulations, and the plant’s distance from its core markets, among other reasons, led to the decision to close the plant,” Darigold said in a news release.

For several years, Darigold has recognized the aging plant, just west of the Rogue Valley Mall, required improvements. In 2013, the company announced plans to upgrade the waste-water system at the plant, installing two 16,500-gallon tanks, as part of a multi-year modernization of its 12 facilities in five states.

“Medford is an old facility and it is becoming more and more of a struggle to keep effective and efficient handling of waste water,” Steve Rowe, senior vice president of corporate affairs, said at the time.

Consolidation has been a part of the industry for decades as distribution and ownership changed.

“The closure of Darigold’s Medford milk processing plant is the next step in that continuing pattern,” the company said. “Newer, more modern facilities can provide customers, dairies and the public a higher degree of reliable food safety, employee safety and protection of the environment. While this decision is not taken lightly, it is necessary to ensure we are meeting the needs of our customers and the broader community that relies on the safe and environmentally sound production of high quality dairy products throughout the region.”

Darigold will continue to operate its 11 other processing sites.

Darigold operates 11 manufacturing and processing plants in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana. Five manufacturing plants — Chehalis, Lynden and Sunnyside, Wash.; Caldwell and Jerome, Idaho — processed 5.3 billion pounds of milk and 845 million pounds of finished products during the most recent fiscal year. Those sites operate in tandem with Issaquah, Wash., Seattle, Spokane, Boise, Bozeman, Mont., Portland, and until now Medford.

Which of the packaging plants will take on the additional work created by the local closure remains unknown.

“Those decisions have not been made yet,” Darigold spokesperson Michelle Carter said.

A half-century ago, local dairy operations were plentiful with dozens in some counties. Today, there are six milk processing plants in the state. What changes, if any, consumers may see won’t immediately be known.

“It’s a little too early to tell,” said Umpqua Dairy President Doug Feldkamp, who oversees the closest production plant to Medford. “Distribution systems have definitely improved over the years. Everybody is reaching out farther. I’m sure Darigold’s distribution to Southern Oregon is not predicated on having a plant there.”

Darigold and Umpqua are the primary dairy suppliers for Southern Oregon, each handling private label contracts as well.

“Any time a milk plant stops production it brings a change in our industry, for sure,” Feldkamp said. “This will idle some workers, which is too bad.”

Darigold’s Medford management and staff were not immediately available for interviews. The company’s website lists 26 job openings, including five in Portland.

Umpqua has a distribution warehouse in Central Point off Hamrick Road.

“Potentially we could have use for some of them,” Feldkamp said. “We’re always looking for good people.”

Larger salmon releases planned after California fish die-off Wed, 28 Jan 2015 08:58:24 -0500 REDDING, Calif. (AP) — Officials plan to more than triple the number of endangered winter-run Chinook salmon released into the Sacramento River following a massive die-off last year.

The Redding Record-Searchlight reports that in February the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to release about 600,000 winter-run Chinook into the water below the Keswick Dam on the Sacramento River.

Agency Spokesman Steve Martarano says the first of three releases from the Livingston Stone National Fish Hatchery is expected next week.

Warm water is to blame for killing off about 95 percent of the eggs and recently hatched fish released from the hatchery. The winter-run salmon rely on cool water for spawning.

State Department of Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Jordan Traverso says typically about 27 percent of the young salmon released from the hatchery survive. Estimates put survival last year at 5 percent.

Interior still plans to decide on protection for sage grouse Wed, 28 Jan 2015 08:57:06 -0500 DENVER (AP) — Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has reiterated the federal government will decide whether the greater sage grouse should get protected status despite legislation attempting to block such a listing.

In a letter to Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead released Tuesday, Jewell said the government is bound by court order to make a decision by Sept. 30.

She says the Interior Department still plans to work with states to develop conservation plans for grouse habitat.

A bill passed by Congress last month and signed into law by President Barack Obama included a provision barring money from being spent on rules to protect the grouse.

Hickenlooper’s spokeswoman says the governor is committed to helping preserve the sage grouse without federal protection.

Mead’s chief of staff says she plans to release a response Wednesday.

Inslee’s cap-and-trade plan makes polluters pay Wed, 28 Jan 2015 08:55:13 -0500 PHUONG LE OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — So many people signed up to testify on Gov. Jay Inslee’s sweeping proposal to rein in greenhouse gases that Tuesday’s public hearing on the bill was continued to Thursday.

About three dozen people from across the state testified before the House Environment Committee on a bill to cap the overall amount of carbon emissions in the state and require major polluters to pay for each metric ton of carbon released.

The hearing room quickly filled, and many who couldn’t get a seat had to watch the proceedings on TVs in several overflow rooms.

Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D-Burien, who chairs the committee, said the impacts of climate change are real and the state can’t afford to wait any longer to address it. He’s the prime sponsor of House Bill 1314, which has three dozen Democratic co-sponsors.

The governor-backed bill, which must be approved by the Legislature, faces resistance from some businesses and Republicans, who control the Senate.

Q: Why is the governor proposing it?

A: Inslee says polluters should pay for the emissions they release into the atmosphere and his plan will raise $1 billion in its first year for transportation, education and other needs. The governor says the state has a moral obligation to take action on climate change and his plan will help the state meet a mandate to reduce greenhouse gases linked to global warming.

Q: Who supports it and why?

A: Environmental groups, labor unions, groups advocating for low-income and minority communities, and public health advocates testified in favor of the bill. A coalition called Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy that launched Tuesday is also pushing the plan.

Supporters say the plan will cut pollution and improve public health and the environment. Renee Klein, CEO of the American Lung Association of the Mountain Pacific, was among those who said the state is already facing the consequences of climate change in increased health costs and other problems.

Polluters should be held accountable, supporters said, and the program will ultimately encourage more energy efficiencies and clean-energy innovations.

De’Sean Quinn, a Tukwila City Council member, told lawmakers it’s also an issue of social justice and equity. He and others said minority and low-income communities often have higher rates of asthma and other health issues related to pollution.

Q: Who opposes it and why?

A: The Western States Petroleum Association, Association of Washington Business and others formed a group, the Washington Climate Collaborative, to urge alternatives. Republican lawmakers say the state is already a low-carbon-producing state and they support private market innovations.

Christine Brewer with Spokane-based Avista Corp., which will be covered under the plan, said the costs will fall to ratepayers. Matthew Lyons with Nucor Steel in Seattle said that as the state’s only steel mill, it must compete with others out of state that won’t have to pay those charges. He estimated that the company would have to pay more than $3 million in the first year.

Other business owners said they were concerned that the so-called large polluters would simply pass along the charges onto them in “a trickle-down effect.”

Q: How does cap and trade work?

A: The program sets an overall state limit on carbon dioxide and other emissions and requires major polluters to buy allowances, or permits, for each metric ton released. The cap would ratchet down over time, so fewer allowances are issued and the price for pollution rises. Companies can decide to pay for their pollution or find that there’s more financial incentive for them to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by becoming more energy efficient or finding newer technologies to reduce pollution.

Q: Who would have to pay and how much?

A: The program would apply to major facilities that release more than 25,000 metric tons of carbon a year, such as power plants, oil refineries and food processors. Examples of those likely affected include the Tesoro Refinery in Anacortes, Ash Grove Cement plant in Seattle, Boeing Co.’s commercial airplanes factory in Everett, ConAgra Foods Lamb Weston in Pasco and Richland, and the River Road power plant in Vancouver.

Biomass plants, waste facilities, landfills, and federal and tribal entities are exempt. But the University of Washington and Washington State University would be included because they meet the threshold.

Q: How much would polluters have to pay?

A: The actual price would be set at auction, with a minimum of about $12 a metric ton and no lid on how high prices could go. At $12 a ton, for example, facilities that release 100,000 metric tons of carbon a year would have to pay about $1.2 million.

Q: Who else has a cap-and-trade program?

A: Washington lawmakers failed to pass a cap-and-trade program in 2009 when it was pushed by then-Gov. Chris Gregoire. California rolled out a program nearly three years ago. A coalition of Northeast states has a program that applies to power plants. Europe launched a program in 2005.

Drought forum set for New Mexico Wed, 28 Jan 2015 08:50:50 -0500 SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Gov. Susana Martinez knows firsthand the effects dry conditions can have on agriculture, economic development and even tourism since New Mexico is marching into its fifth straight year of what’s expected to be severe drought.

Martinez is scheduled to give the opening remarks Wednesday at the Western Governors’ Drought Forum in Santa Fe.

The focus of the two-day event will be on how dry conditions have affected recreation and tourism around the West. Experts from New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah and Oregon will be part of the discussion.

In New Mexico, the lack of meaningful snowpack during the winter months and weak spring runoff has left many of the state’s lakes and reservoirs in bad shape. Some boat ramps were forced to close in recent years.

Expert: Rising blueberry tide no reason for panic Wed, 28 Jan 2015 08:24:09 -0500 Mateusz Perkowski Farmers grew 1.2 billion pounds of highbush blueberries in 2014 — 20 percent more than two years earlier — but a global production expert says that’s no reason to panic.

The size of world’s blueberry crop has continued to swell due to a past surge in plantings, but the growth in new acreage is slowing down, said Cort Brazelton, director of business development for Fall Creek Farm & Nursery near Lowell, Ore.

In the Pacific Northwest, many farmers who are still planting blueberries often have better “alignment” with the supply chain, he said.

In other words, their production is based on forecasted demand from particular buyers, rather than speculation.

“It tends to be a more vertically integrated plan,” he said.

Brazelton complies global production data for the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Commission and presented his latest findings at the annual Oregon Blueberry Conference in Portland on Jan. 27.

Farmers must increasingly manage complexity to be successful, he said. For example, export markets offer great opportunities but require discipline in adhering to various protocols.

“What we have is a maturing industry,” Brazelton said. “It’s not a niche industry anymore.”

Another consideration is rising usage of blueberries around the world, he said.

Between 2010 and 2014, usage grew from about 600 million pounds to 900 million pounds in North America, 123 million pounds to 215 million pounds in Europe and 34 million pounds to 115 million pounds in Asia and the Pacific, Brazelton said.

Based on current trends, projections indicate usage will nearly triple over the next decade, he said. “This is a conservative projection of the opportunity for our industry.”

In the short term, however, fluctuations in supply and demand will generate mixed results for growers.

Blueberry harvests in major North American growing regions overlapped in 2014, driving down prices for the fresh crop during that period of time, said Rod Cook, president of Ag-View Consulting, who tracks supply and demand data.

Higher frozen inventories also reduced prices for the processed crop compared to the prior year, he said.

Packers are receiving roughly $1.20 per pound of premium frozen blueberries — less than growers would like to see but nonetheless a price that moves product, Cook said.

Cold storage supplies are hefty, but with healthy global consumption, those inventories don’t suggest “a gold mine era but they don’t look devastatingly horrendous either,” he said.

The fresh market for blueberries is weather dependent and unpredictable, but the processed price is likely to remain stable unless there’s an unexpectedly large reduction in inventories, he said.

“I don’t see any reason at this stage to see a major change in the marketplace,” Cook said.

‘Dryland’ makes waves across region Tue, 27 Jan 2015 12:01:42 -0500 Matw Weaver The documentary film “Dryland” will be shown at 8 p.m. Feb. 6 at the Spokane International Film Festival and its producers say screenings are planned around the Pacific Northwest.

The film follows Lind, Wash., residents Matt Miller and Josh Knodel from the time they were teenagers until they became farmers hoping to join their family operations.

The film will also be shown 3 p.m. Feb. 4 during the Spokane Ag Expo and Pacific Northwest Farm Forum and is slated for screenings at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Ore.; Boardman, Ore.; Coeur d’Aene, Idaho; Moscow, Idaho; Pullman, Wash., and Missoula, Mont., said Sue Arbuthnot, who produced and directed “Dryland” with Richard Wilhelm.

The filmmakers hope the movie sparks “meaningful” conversations about where food comes from, the future of family farming and sustainable agriculture, Arbuthnot said.

“Wheat farming is an essential part of Eastern Washington life, yet most residents of Spokane know little about the day-to-day existence as experienced by area wheat farmers,” said Dan Webster, who is on the film festival’s board of directors and suggested including the film. “We are hoping that people will be both educated about wheat farming, especially about the various hardships facing today’s farmers, and moved by the desire of the principal characters to continue a traditional way of life.”

It’s been particularly valuable to have the farmers at screenings to speak with the audience about hot-button topics like genetically modified crops and organic and conventional farming, Arbuthnot said. Four cast members are slated to attend the Spokane festival.

“(Older farmers) understand the costs, the ways farmers have to balance so many things in their life to get going,” she said. “There’s a lot of real resonance there.”

However, other viewers have no connection to farming, and are surprised to learn about the values depicted in the film, as opposed to stereotypes they might have picked up, Arbuthnot said.

Arbuthnot hopes to show the film outside the Pacific Northwest.

Arbuthnot and Wilhelm are in the early stages of making another documentary about natural resources and agriculture in the region.


Spokane International Film Festival:

Wolf survey results ease restrictions for some Oregon ranchers Tue, 27 Jan 2015 16:58:45 -0500 Eric Mortenson An annual wolf population survey shows seven breeding pairs in Oregon, enough to meet the state’s conservation objective in Eastern Oregon and to give ranchers more leeway to protect livestock.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, which regulates the state’s wolf recovery plan, said the survey count is a milestone.

“In the past seven years, Oregon has gone from no known wolves, to resident and reproducing wolves, and now to meeting our conservation objective for the eastern part of the state.” ODFW wolf program coordinator Russ Morgan said in prepared statement.

The count moves Oregon’s wolf plan, at least in Eastern Oregon, to Phase 2. Livestock owners are still encouraged to use non-lethal means to protect livestock, but now may shoot wolves that are chasing livestock. Previously, producers could shoot wolves only if they were “biting, wounding or killing” livestock or working dogs, and then only if other conditions were met.

Todd Nash, a Wallowa County rancher and chairman of the Oregon Cattlemen Association wolf committee, told the East Oregonian it is highly unlikely for producers to actually catch a wolf causing trouble in the pasture. The rule does, however, make them feel a little more empowered than they were before.

“We didn’t want wolves to begin with,” Nash said. “We’re trying to get along as best we can in the political climate we live in.”

The next step in Oregon’s wolf management may include removing wolves from the state endangered species list. Nash said the state Fish and Wildlife Commission will consider that at its April meeting, take public comment and vote on the proposal in July or August.

“I’m confident that the commission will vote for it,” Nash said. “I have confidence that the department (ODFW) supports delisting.”

The state listing covers wolves only in Northeast Oregon. The federal Endangered Species Act covers wolves in the rest of the state.

Cascadia Wildlands, an environmental group that took part in developing Oregon’s wolf recovery plan, said the survey result is encouraging but “it is not the time to let up.”

“It is our hope that (ODFW) continues to implement the state’s landmark wolf management plan and rules that have served as a recovery model for other states while preventing burdensome conflict,” legal director Nick Cady said in a news release.

Under the state wolf plan, a breeding pair is defined as a pair of adult wolves that produce at least two pups that survive to the end of the year. Of Oregon’s nine known packs, only the Imnaha pack does not have a breeding pair. The Umatilla pack has not yet been surveyed. Six of the seven breeding pairs are in Eastern Oregon; the other is the famous wanderer, OR-7, his mate and their pups in Southwest Oregon.

The Cattlemen Association passed a resolution at its annual meeting in December that supports lethal control of wolves in three cases: livestock losses, human health or safety and when game populations dip below management levels.