Capital Press | http://www.capitalpress.com Capital Press Wed, 4 May 2016 16:16:48 -0400 en http://EOR-CPwebvarnish.newscyclecloud.com/apps/pbcsi.dll/staticimage/images/rss-logo.jpg Capital Press | http://www.capitalpress.com What’s Upstream finally makes impression on Washington lawmakers http://www.capitalpress.com/Washington/20160504/whats-upstream-finally-makes-impression-on-washington-lawmakers http://www.capitalpress.com/Washington/20160504/whats-upstream-finally-makes-impression-on-washington-lawmakers#Comments Wed, 4 May 2016 11:00:10 -0400 Don Jenkins http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2016160509950 A campaign funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to sway Washington legislators apparently went unnoticed during the 2016 session, but it’s getting unflattering attention now.

The chairmen of the Senate and House agriculture committees Tuesday criticized the What’s Upstream advocacy campaign, saying it reinforced negative views of the EPA as an overreaching agency.

“If they truly did agree to this lobbying, someone with the EPA needs to be held accountable, not just a slap on the wrist, but held accountable for violating the law,” said House Agriculture Committee Chairman Brian Blake, D-Aberdeen.

What’s Upstream has angered some federal lawmakers, who allege the EPA has broken laws related to lobbying and unauthorized spending.

The campaign, however, was ostensibly directed at state lawmakers. The campaign’s lead organizers, the Swinomish Indian tribe, set a goal of changing state water-pollution control laws by this year, according to EPA records.

In separate interviews, Blake and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake, said they learned about the EPA-funded campaign after the Legislature adjourned March 10.

“It was a total waste of time and money if they were trying to get my attention,” Warnick said. “The only attention they got from me was a negative impression.

“I was angry about how it was paid for, how it came about and even more angry about where the actual picture of cows came from,” said Warnick, referring to a What’s Upstream billboard photo taken in Amish country of cows in a stream.

Warnick said she’s met constituents who see the EPA-funded campaign as more evidence government is hostile toward agriculture.

“They think every time they turn around there’s another fee, another requirement. To have an agency like EPA come in and do something like this is over-the-top, in their opinion,” she said.

Visitors to the What’s Upstream website were urged to “take action” by sending a form letter to state legislators asking for mandatory 100-foot buffers between farm fields and waterways.

The link has been removed from the website. Before then, the EPA said the link did not violate prohibitions on using federal funds to lobby because the letter did not take a position on specific pending legislation.

The Swinomish tribe, however, had been involved in a proposal presented during the 2016 session to require buffers on some farmland.

Rep. Derek Stanford, D-Bothell, introduced a bill to require property owners participating in a voluntary farmland preservation program to leave buffers along salmon-bearing waterways.

Stanford said Tuesday that he worked for many months on the proposal with the tribe’s environmental policy director, Larry Wasserman.

“I don’t know if they were working on the What’s Upstream campaign at that point. I hadn’t heard of that until much more recently. But, yeah, it would tie with what the goals are of protecting the salmon,” Stanford said.

Stanford said he can understand why the website upset farm groups and some lawmakers. But he also said the site has an important message.

“I think it’s reasonable to say, ‘This is a problem and needs to be fixed,’” Stanford said. “I think part of the problem is that people feel frustrated about how little progress has been made.”

The bill was referred to the House Agriculture Committee, and Blake declined to give it a hearing.

Blake said the bill would have undermined voluntary farmland preservation efforts by imposing uniform-sized buffers.

“You may get 95 percent of the benefit with 10 feet of buffer. Adding another 95 feet makes no sense. It’s taking land out of production with very little benefit,” he said.

Efforts to reach Wasserman were unsuccessful.

According to EPA records, by the time the Legislature convened in January, the Swinomish tribe already had spent an estimated $570,000 on the campaign.

Washington Public Disclosure Commission spokeswoman Lori Anderson said groups that organize grass-roots lobbying must register if they spend at least $700 in a month or $1,400 over three months.

What’s Upstream did not register. “We haven’t heard about them before now,” Anderson said Wednesday.

The Swinomish tribe hired a Seattle PR firm in 2012 and formed partnership with several environmental groups. The campaign was launched by 2013, according to EPA records, but apparently had little impact.

“I can’t categorically say I never received a letter, but I don’t remember seeing anything,” said Longview Rep. Dean Takko, the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Takko said he took his first look at the website Tuesday. “It looks like someone went out of their way to make farmers look like bad guys,” he said. “If you want to see water that color (brown), wait until a good rain, especially on this (west) side of the mountains.”

Efforts to obtain comment from the EPA were unsuccessful.

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Contaminated compost causes organic rift http://www.capitalpress.com/Organic/20160504/contaminated-compost-causes-organic-rift http://www.capitalpress.com/Organic/20160504/contaminated-compost-causes-organic-rift#Comments Wed, 4 May 2016 14:29:07 -0400 Mateusz Perkowski http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2016160509949 A rift has developed among environmental and organic groups in a lawsuit over compost contaminated with pesticides used in organic farming.

Several environmental organizations are asking a federal judge to overturn the USDA’s policy of allowing organic growers to use under certain circumstances compost from plants treated with pesticides.

The plaintiffs — Center for Food Safety, Center for Environmental Health and Beyond Pesticides — claim that USDA has disguised this policy as a “guidance” to the industry, thereby unlawfully circumventing notice-and-comment procedures for enacting regulations.

The USDA has countered that the “guidance” isn’t subject to this rule-making process because it’s merely informing the organic industry about how the agency will be “enforcing compliance” with existing regulations.

Shortly after the parties submitted their legal briefs to U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley, in advance of oral arguments scheduled for May 12 in San Francisco, several organic farming groups asked to weigh in on the lawsuit.

The Western Growers Association, whose members grow roughly half of the organic produce in the U.S., asked the judge not to vacate the USDA’s “guidance” if she finds the agency violated administrative law.

If the “guidance” is invalidated, the WGA fears that organic farms will effectively have to test compost to ensure it’s free of any synthetic pesticides, which would be “analytically and economically impossible” given the multitude of possible contaminants.

The impact would be that many organic farms would stop applying compost to the soil, impeding necessary nutrient-building, until the USDA develops proper rules, the WGA argues.

Overturning the USDA’s policy would also invite litigation by consumers who could claim they’d been misled into buying organic food produced with contaminated compost in violation of organic standards, the group said.

These objections were joined by the Organic Trade Association and California Certified Organic Farmers, which have previously allied with the Center for Food Safety in controversies over biotech crops.

For example, the Organic Trade Association supported the Center for Food Safety’s battle against genetically engineered sugar beets and alfalfa.

In this case, though, the organic groups say the lawsuit could have severely disruptive consequences.

The organic industry needed a policy clarification from USDA after the California Department of Food and Agriculture prohibited several compost products with residues of a common household pesticide in 2009, said Zea Sonnabend, organic inspector for CCOF.

The CDFA’s approach threatened to stop compost manufacturers from serving the organic industry, which prompted the USDA to issue its “guidance” the following year, Sonnabend said.

“The need to establish a consistent approach for all certifying agents operating across the United States while maintaining organic integrity was of paramount concern,” she said in a court filing.

The Center for Food Safety opposed the organic groups’ request to file court briefs in the case, claiming they’re untimely and irrelevant because the plaintiffs aren’t seeking an injunction requiring additional compost testing.

However, the judge has agreed to consider the organic groups’ arguments but only in regard to a “remedy” if the USDA’s “guidance” is held unlawful.

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Idaho sheep video gets 262,000 YouTube views http://www.capitalpress.com/Idaho/20160504/idaho-sheep-video-gets-262000-youtube-views http://www.capitalpress.com/Idaho/20160504/idaho-sheep-video-gets-262000-youtube-views#Comments Wed, 4 May 2016 10:42:36 -0400 Sean Ellis http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2016160509951 WILDER, Idaho — A 23-minute video about Idaho sheep has generated a lot of attention on YouTube and nobody is quite sure why.

The video has been viewed more than 262,000 times since it was posted in June 2013.

It features Wilder sheep rancher Frank Shirts and some of his 28,000 ewes and lambs. Shirts speaks openly about the love he has for the job and the challenges he faces.

Shirts said though he’s “tickled to death over” the video’s success, he’s not surprised by it because a lot of people love sheep.

“It wasn’t me,” he said. “The people that watched it won’t even remember my name. People love seeing those baby lambs.”

Most of the 58 comments below the video are positive, and it has received 568 “likes” and 33 “dislikes.”

Shirts said he’s most happy that the video has shed some light on some of the positive aspects of the sheep industry.

“If it can help our industry, that’s the main thing I’m happy to see,” he said.

The video was produced by Steve Stuebner for Life on the Range, an Idaho Rangeland Resource Commission educational outreach campaign that informs people about Idaho ranchers.

Stuebner followed Shirts and his flock for an entire year as the sheep were moved from the low country near the Snake River to higher country in the Boise and Payette national forests.

“He just walked us through the whole process of raising lambs and grazing across public and private land to the point they are ready to get shipped to market,” Stuebner said.

The 262,000 views is a lot for a simple farming video, said Jake Putnam, broadcast services manager for Idaho Farm Bureau Federation.

“It just shows the American people are very curious about where their food comes,” he said. “They’re also very curious about farmers and ranchers and they like to put names and faces to their food.”

The Shirts video is one of 30 in the Life on the Range series and is by far the most popular, with second place registering 47,000 views.

IRRC Executive Director Gretchen Hyde said she has no idea why the Shirts video is so popular.

She said none of the videos are scripted.

“It’s really them talking from the heart, which is the most effective way to reach the public,” she said. “I think that comes through really well.”

The videos cover a wide variety of range-related topics, from how to get a BLM permit to photo monitoring to how ranchers are taking care of Idaho’s rangelands and managing them for multiple uses.

“We’re letting people know the positive stories going on on the rangeland; the diversity of ranches and rangeland issues and how people are individually handling them,” Hyde said.

To view the Shirts video, search online for, “A year in the life of raising sheep in Idaho.” To view the other videos, go to www.lifeontherange.org.

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Shepherd’s Grain brings farmers, customers together http://www.capitalpress.com/Profit/20160504/shepherds-grain-brings-farmers-customers-together http://www.capitalpress.com/Profit/20160504/shepherds-grain-brings-farmers-customers-together#Comments Wed, 4 May 2016 09:47:07 -0400 Matw Weaver http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2016160509952 Capital Press

REARDAN, Wash. — The best way for consumers to understand where their food comes from is by talking with the farmer who grows it, the head of Shepherd’s Grain says.

The Portland company sponsored a tour of Eastern Washington farms for customers this week, including visits to operations owned by Jim Nollmeyer in Reardan, Wash., and David Dobbins in Cheney, Wash.

“Relationships are built on communication, and that communication has to be face-to-face,” said Mike Moran, general manager of the company.

The company buys from 41 farmers who grow wheat on roughly 115,000 acres. They sell the equivalent of nearly 650,000 bushels of wheat as flour, Moran said.

Moran said the company pays growers based on their cost of production, not commodity prices.

“We actually survey our growers every year about what it cost them to produce, look at a three-year rolling average on yield and then we use that to set the price we pay the grower,” he said. “It’s a guaranteed profitable endeavor for them. They will make money.”

Such an arrangement benefits the farmers in a year when wheat prices are low.

“That’s a lesson we try to teach people — our price is stable and sometimes higher than commodity, because you’re actually paying what it cost to grow your food,” Moran said.

Most consumers don’t know what it costs to produce food, or how the price they pay at the cash register translates into value for the farmer, Moran said.

“We find that the bakers and restaurateurs who are using Shepherd’s Grain flour are shopping based on supporting agriculture and having that connection to the farm,” he said. “They’re willing to pay a cost of production price because they know what they’re supporting is the long-term health of the farmer.”

Diane LaVonne of Diane’s Market Kitchen in Seattle, said all the products she uses in her cooking school come from local farmers.

“To see the farm is really important,” she said. “Once you can connect a story about a farmer with what happens on a plate, you can change people’s habits.”

Kaye Wetli of the Riverview School District in King County, Wash., said they serve products made from Shepherd’s Grain, including rolls.

“I like this idea of taking a national commodity type of item like wheat but yet they’ve made it into a local product we can buy,” she said.

Shepherd’s Grain will add new farmers only as demand grows, Moran said. The company has a waiting list of farmers.

Shepherd’s Grain’s annual revenue is roughly $6 million. The board hopes to reach $50 million within 10 years, Moran said.

Moran would like to see the company become a model for wheat production and sales. He envisions having Shepherd’s Grain set up in other states, such as Kansas and South Dakota.

“It’s really important farmers are paid a reasonable income for what they do,” he said.

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Fruit packing wastewater permit updated http://www.capitalpress.com/Washington/20160504/fruit-packing-wastewater-permit-updated http://www.capitalpress.com/Washington/20160504/fruit-packing-wastewater-permit-updated#Comments Wed, 4 May 2016 09:24:46 -0400 http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2016160509953 UNION GAP, Wash. — A general wastewater permit for the fresh fruit packing industry is being updated for 191 facilities across Washington by the state Department of Ecology.

The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, or NPDES, permit is updated every five years and assures fruit packers are protecting lakes, rivers and groundwater when managing wastewater.

The draft permit outlines uniform treatment and disposal methods and is available for review and comment through June 17. It includes handling measures for discharge of the new fungicide, difenoconazole.

The draft permit, a fact sheet, and an economic impact analysis comparing compliance costs for small and large businesses are available at www.ecy.wa.gov.

New requirements will be reviewed and training on how to report data online will be offered from: 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. May 18 at Ecology’s Central Regional Office, 1250 Alder St., Union Gap; and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 19 at the Community Fire Hall, 228 Chumstick Highway, Leavenworth.

— Dan Wheat

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Egg prices plunge as supplies rebound http://www.capitalpress.com/Business/20160504/egg-prices-plunge-as-supplies-rebound http://www.capitalpress.com/Business/20160504/egg-prices-plunge-as-supplies-rebound#Comments Wed, 4 May 2016 09:22:33 -0400 Tim Hearden http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2016160509954 FRESNO, Calif. — Commercial egg prices in California are plummeting, and a slow global economy combined with a rebounding chicken flock after last year’s devastating avian flu outbreak are among the contributing factors.

As of April 29, retailers in the Golden State were paying an average of $1.42 to $1.49 per carton for jumbo and extra-large Grade AA eggs, and Southern California retailers paid as little as 68 cents a carton for extra-large eggs and $1.01 per dozen jumbo eggs, according to USDA shell-egg market reports.

It’s a precipitous drop from the more than $2.50 per carton that retailers were paying for jumbo eggs in early 2015.

Egg prices are now on a par with what they were in November 2008 when voters passed Proposition 2, which mandated minimum cage sizes for egg-laying hens.

The price slide shows the industry has withstood the requirement that each egg-laying hen have at least 116 square inches to spread its wings, said Paul Shapiro, vice president of farm animal production for the Humane Society of the United States, which sponsored the initiative.

“Last year was a bit of an anomaly because of the catastrophic bird flu that resulted in tens of millions of laying hens being killed across the nation,” Shapiro told the Capital Press in an email. “All that said, the big story is now that many California retailers are going 100 percent cage-free with their egg supply, and smart egg producers will convert sooner rather than later to capture that market.”

But the drop in prices concerns Karen Ross, California’s secretary of food and agriculture, who noted that prices for feed, water, land and other inputs aren’t going down.

“I’m very worried,” Ross told the Capital Press. “We actually had such high prices for longer than normal, and then to see how far down it’s come.”

Prices may not be finished dropping, either, said Randy Pesciotta, vice president of the egg division for the Bayville, N.J.-based commodity reporting service Urner Barry. As a global economic slowdown and a strong dollar have put a damper on exports, U.S. producers are quickly replenishing their flocks after losing 35 million chickens last year to bird flu.

One industry forecast predicted that U.S. egg producers will have 320.5 million chickens by December, up from 304 million now, Pesciotta said.

“That’s quite a bit of expansion still to come,” he said. “Some of it will be in the form of cage-free. That’s where the push is coming from on the demand side. But if that production is put in before the demand factor (rebounds) … it becomes a generic egg.”

Last year’s high prices prompted many consumers to find substitutes for eggs, Pesciotta said.

“A lot of that business hasn’t returned, and some of it may never return,” he said. “We lost all our export business because the price was so high.”

The prospect of increasing prices were a key fear among producers when voters passed Proposition 2, which also established cage size minimums for those farms outside California that sell eggs into the state. Critics of the initiative argued the cost of retrofitting farms to comply with the new law would make eggs cost prohibitive for many consumers.

At first, Midwestern egg producers that didn’t want to retrofit their barns simply avoided California. Those that did want to market to California found confusion in what actually constituted a Proposition 2-compliant cage, said Joy Mench, a University of California-Davis animal science professor.

“(T)he wording of Prop. 2 does not allow it to be regulated, so there is no official definition of what it means,” Mench said in an email. “That will have to be decided in the courts, either because there is a lawsuit or because someone is prosecuted.”

In enforcing the initiative, the CDFA uses the federal Shell Egg Food Safety rule, whose space requirement is larger than the United Egg Producer guidelines that most of the other states use, noted Maurice Pitesky, a poultry specialist at the UC-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

However, more eggs became available to California as numerous major chains — including chain stores such as Costco, Safeway and Walmart as well as food manufacturers such as General Mills and Nestle — announced plans to source exclusively cage-free eggs. Any new egg-laying facilities built in the last three or four years have been compliant, Pesciotta said.

The chain stores “are all coming out making statements due to the pressure put on them by the animal groups,” he said. “It is what it is. They’re bowing to the pressure. The industry has one choice. You’ve got to follow the lead or you’re going away.”

Pesciotta thinks prices will stabilize — in California and elsewhere — as the cage-free supply chain is fully established. Debbie Murdock, executive director of the Pacific Egg and Poultry Association, says she hopes so.

“All those eggs will be California compliant,” Murdock said. “Anybody that sells to those big suppliers, like McDonalds and Walmart, are now going to build to what they’re asking for. That will make it compliant with California.”

Ross believes exports will rebound as California continues to develop trading relationships in places like Southeast Asia, she said. In the meantime, some egg producers grappling with low demand and prices may do what some California dairy farmers have done amid low milk prices — diversify their crops, she said.

“I’m still so optimistic” about the state’s egg industry,” she said. “For all the challenges that we face, there are tremendous opportunities.”

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Labor contractor held liable for $7.7 million http://www.capitalpress.com/Washington/20160504/labor-contractor-held-liable-for-77-million http://www.capitalpress.com/Washington/20160504/labor-contractor-held-liable-for-77-million#Comments Wed, 4 May 2016 09:21:19 -0400 Mateusz Perkowski http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2016160509955 A labor contractor owes nearly $7.7 million to foreign guestworkers for committing “malicious” labor law violations, but the federal government faces new challenges in collecting the money.

Senior U.S. District Judge Edward Shea in Spokane, Wash., has ordered Global Horizons to pay 67 Thai farmworkers roughly $20,000 for each month they were employed under the H-2A visa program.

Some of the employees are entitled to additional payments for sustaining physical injuries or being detained by law enforcement because their passports had been confiscated by the labor contractor, Shea said.

The compensatory and punitive damages were based on abuses for which the judge held Global Horizons responsible, such as forcing them to live in “virtually uninhabitable” housing, threatening to send them back to Thailand for complaining, and subjecting them to insults.

The judge entered a “default judgment” against Global Horizons, which ceased defending itself in court last year due to a lack of funds.

The California-based labor contractor was initially accused of criminal human trafficking charges by the federal government more than five years ago.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission also pursued civil litigation against the company for alleged discrimination, harassment and retaliation against the workers, who were worked on farms in Washington and Hawaii.

The criminal charges against the company’s owner, Mordechai Orian, and several managers were dropped in 2012 because the government admitted it could not prove the human trafficking allegations beyond a reasonable doubt.

Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC, said the U.S. Department of Justice was still in the process of trying to enforce an $8.7 million judgment entered against Global Horizons by a federal judge in Hawaii.

It’s likely that the federal government will have to go through a similar process for the $7.7 million judgment recently won by the EEOC in Washington, she said.

The government may be able to seize other business assets of Orian, the owner, if it can prove another company served as his “alter ego,” Park said.

An attorney for Global Horizons refused to comment on the case.

Last year, the judge ordered EEOC to pay nearly $1 million in attorney fees to two Washington farms — Valley Fruit Orchards and Green Acre Farms — that he found the agency had accused of “baseless, unreasonable and frivolous” labor violations.

Shea cited several failings in the EEOC’s investigation of the farms in rulings that dismissed the charges against them and held the agency liable for their attorney fees.

Now that the overall lawsuit is over, the EEOC can challenged his findings before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, said Park. “In the past, when there has been something like this, we have routinely appealed.”

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Idaho lumber mill closing; workers’ future uncertain http://www.capitalpress.com/Timber/20160504/idaho-lumber-mill-closing-workers-future-uncertain http://www.capitalpress.com/Timber/20160504/idaho-lumber-mill-closing-workers-future-uncertain#Comments Wed, 4 May 2016 08:53:09 -0400 http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2016160509956 GRANGEVILLE, Idaho (AP) — Workers at an Idaho lumber mill have been notified by letter that the mill has been purchased and will be shut down and dismantled.

The Lewiston Tribune reports that the letter from Blue North Forest Products owner Michael F. Burns confirmed rumors that began circulating Friday.

Burns wrote that the past year has been difficult in the lumber business and especially hard for Blue North. He said he was selling the business because he couldn’t sustain any more losses.

Mill manager Herb Hazen says the Idaho Forest Group has tentatively purchased the operation and is looking over the property. He says the mill has about 65 employees and he could not comment on their future employment status.

Idaho Forest Group did not return messages seeking comment.

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Kansan who went with kids to Oregon standoff arrested http://www.capitalpress.com/Oregon/20160504/kansan-who-went-with-kids-to-oregon-standoff-arrested http://www.capitalpress.com/Oregon/20160504/kansan-who-went-with-kids-to-oregon-standoff-arrested#Comments Wed, 4 May 2016 08:51:36 -0400 http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2016160509957 TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas woman who took her children to perform for occupiers during the armed takeover of an Oregon wildlife refuge earlier this year says authorities have removed seven of her children from her home and arrested her for assaulting an officer.

Odalis Sharp, 46, of Auburn was booked into the Shawnee County jail Friday evening for battery of an officer and interfering with a law enforcement officer, jail officials told The Kansas City Star. No charges had been filed as of Tuesday morning. The Shawnee County prosecutor’s office could not be reached for comment.

Sharp was released Saturday on $3,000 bond.

Sharp traveled with seven of her 10 children, who have a family gospel band, from Kansas to Oregon to sing for and support the 41-day occupation by armed militants of at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. One daughter, 18-year-old Victoria Sharp, was riding with Nevada rancher LaVoy Finicum and three of the other militants when Finicum ran a roadblock and was shot and killed by Oregon state police.

Sharp said the arrest occurred after she went to court earlier Friday trying to file paperwork accusing her landlord of breach of contract. Her landlord had earlier sought to have her removed from the home. She said when she returned home, law enforcement and employees with the Kansas Department of Children and Families were waiting.

“They wanted me to go with them,” Sharp told the newspaper. “They wouldn’t let me go to the house. One grabbed my arm and legs and dragged me out of the car. I kicked the woman officer.”

Sharp said the sheriff’s officers arrested her and took one of her children who was with her at the time. Six of her other children had been taken by child welfare workers while she was away, Sharp said. Three older children live elsewhere.

A DCF spokeswoman didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment Tuesday.

“They’re all in DCF custody now, as far as I know,” she said. “They’re evil. They steal kids. This is the devil against my family.”

She said DCF workers visited her at least twice since returning from Oregon and that someone had apparently called the child abuse and neglect hotline recently.

“They’re making false charges,” she said.

In 2011, the Kansas Department for Children and Families removed Sharp’s oldest child who was then 15 and placed him in foster care. Sharp appealed, but the appellate court sided with the lower courts in October.

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Hog injures 2 people at Massachusetts farm http://www.capitalpress.com/Livestock/20160504/hog-injures-2-people-at-massachusetts-farm http://www.capitalpress.com/Livestock/20160504/hog-injures-2-people-at-massachusetts-farm#Comments Wed, 4 May 2016 08:24:07 -0400 http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2016160509958 TOWNSEND, Mass. (AP) — A pig attacked and seriously injured a man less than two hours after the same animal attacked a woman at a Massachusetts farm.

Townsend Police Chief Robert M. Eaton Jr. said his department was investigating “two very unfortunate farm incidents” in the town about 50 miles northwest of Boston.

Police and emergency responders were called to the farm Tuesday evening for a report of an injured woman. When they arrived they found a 38-year-old woman with lacerations on her body from an apparent pig attack. She was taken to a hospital for further treatment.

Less than two hours later, rescuers were called to the same location for a report of a man who had received more serious injuries from the same animal.

Police said a medical helicopter was requested, but could not fly due to weather conditions. The 50-year-old man was taken to a hospital with life-threatening injuries.

The animal, an adult boar, or male pig, was quarantined pending further evaluation on Wednesday by the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture, State Veterinarian, Animal Rescue League and Townsend Animal Control.

“We will be working closely with our partners in the animal control and veterinary world to determine the best course of action,” Eaton said.

Police did not immediately release the names of the victims.

It was unclear why the pig attacked.

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Engineering firm designing fix for ailing Malheur Siphon http://www.capitalpress.com/Oregon/20160503/engineering-firm-designing-fix-for-ailing-malheur-siphon http://www.capitalpress.com/Oregon/20160503/engineering-firm-designing-fix-for-ailing-malheur-siphon#Comments Tue, 3 May 2016 13:54:04 -0400 Sean Ellis http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2016160509961 ONTARIO, Ore. — Part of the 80-year-old Malheur Siphon, which carries irrigation water to thousands of acres in Malheur County, is starting to fail.

As a result, the Owyhee Irrigation District has hired an engineering firm to assess the integrity of the pipe and design a fix.

The siphon, a 4.3-mile long steel pipe that is a landmark in the valley, delivers up to 325 cubic feet per second of irrigation water from the Malheur Reservoir to farmers on the northern part of the OID system.

“If that siphon went down, the whole north end wouldn’t have any water. It’s very important to this area,” said Paul Skeen, president of the Malheur County Onion Growers Association.

About a third of the OID system is dependent on the pipe and ensuring its survival is a priority, said Bruce Corn, a farmer and member of the OID board of directors.

“It’s absolutely critical,” he said. “If it failed, it would totally dry up that area.”

The major area of concern is east of the Malheur Butte, where the 80-inch pipe is supported by large steel legs, said OID Manager Jay Chamberlin.

“The pipe is starting to fail ... and we need to go in and really figure out what’s going on,” he said. “It’s the heartbeat of this valley. It’s a critical piece of our infrastructure.”

The soil in that area expands and contracts wildly depending on the temperature, and the legs and pipe can move as much as 6 inches a day, he said. “It’s like it’s doing this dance and it’s not all staying together.”

MWH Americas, a Boise engineering firm, is being paid $45,000 to assess the problem and design a fix. Chamberlin met with MWH officials May 2 and received some good news.

“The pipe itself is worth saving. The integrity of the steel is great,” he said. “Now we just have to invest in some good legs to support that pipe for many more years to come.”

The new legs will be designed to allow movement from side to side as well as vertically.

Chamberlin said the goal is to design the fix in a way that OID employees can do most of the work themselves, reducing the cost.

A design fix should be ready by the end of summer and work could begin this fall.

Chamberlin said there are other issues with the siphon that need to be addressed and fixing all of them will take a number of years.

“It really has to be engineered correctly and I think we’re on the right path,” he said.

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PGG members vote to dissolve co-op http://www.capitalpress.com/Oregon/20160503/pgg-members-vote-to-dissolve-co-op http://www.capitalpress.com/Oregon/20160503/pgg-members-vote-to-dissolve-co-op#Comments Tue, 3 May 2016 08:02:15 -0400 GEORGE PLAVENEO Media Group http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2016160509978 PENDLETON, Ore. — Pendleton Grain Growers, the longtime farmers’ co-op that formed out of the Great Depression, is finished. Members present at a special meeting Monday voted overwhelmingly to dissolve PGG, authorizing the board of directors to sell off all property and assets.

That process could take several years before any leftover equity is returned to the co-op’s 1,850 members. About 200 members attended Monday’s meeting, and 186 cast their votes, about 95 percent, in favor of dissolution. At least 50 members were required for a quorum and two-thirds majority to pass the resolution.

PGG is continuing to work with United Grain Corporation, based in Vancouver, Wash., to sell off its upcountry elevators and McNary Terminal along the Columbia River. A deal could be done by June, in time for this year’s winter wheat harvest. The business lines at PGG will remain open until further notice.

PGG was incorporated on March 31, 1930, and soon established itself as a local institution. For 86 years, PGG Country was the signature brand of hometown farms, offering grain, seed, agronomy, energy and irrigation services.

But recent years saw the co-op’s finances plummet into the red ink. The co-op overstated its earnings by $1.8 million in 2010 and $5.7 million in 2011. In 2012 the U.S. Department of Agriculture suspended PGG’s warehouse license for 44 days, citing audit discrepancies.

As PGG tried to restructure its business model — selling off retail stores and agronomy in the process — the co-op continued to hemorrhage money. While the co-op did net a profit of $434,681 in 2012, financial statements show PGG lost approximately $4.4 million in 2013 and $7.9 million in 2014. General Manager Rick Jacobson said the co-op needed at least 8 million bushels from last year’s harvest to maintain its investments, but came nowhere close to meeting that goal.

On the other hand, neighboring Morrow County Grain Growers earned a profit of $321,315 last year, with $207,584 in patronage and equity paid to members. Northwest Grain Growers, based in Walla Walla, also made $4.4 million for the year ending April 30, 2015.

At Monday’s meeting, the PGG board recommended dissolving, which allows the co-op to put its profitable divisions up for sale. By selling off businesses such as the grain division, energy and Precision Rain irrigation subsidiary, the board wants to ensure those services remain intact under new ownership. PGG has 67 employees, most of which Jacobson said would at least be offered the chance to keep their jobs.

“These are all profitable businesses,” said Jacobson, who was hired at PGG in 2012. “We’ll get those sold.”

The first order of business, Jacobson said, is to close the deal with United Grain Corporation, an outfit owned by the Mitsui Group of Japan. United Grain has traditionally been one of the West Coast’s top exporters, and is now expanding its reach to work directly with farmers.

Tony Flagg, vice president of business development, said he couldn’t discuss terms of a deal with PGG, but looks forward to establishing roots in the region.

“We want to do business with producers, not middlemen,” Flagg said. “We think it’s better for both.”

Meanwhile, PGG members won’t see any dividends returned to them for possibly three to six years. Some, like Eric Anderson, have doubts they’ll see any money at all.

Anderson, who’s been a member of the co-op for 40 years, described the mood at Monday’s meeting as one of resignation. He said he and his wife have $36,000 worth of lost dividends from PGG, and they’re far from the only ones. Missing those payments is especially difficult for seniors, Anderson said, who have counted on that income.

“These directors took it from their neighbors,” Anderson said. “It’s their neighbors’ money.”

As for seeing any equity returned, Anderson said it’s a steep climb for a co-op that still has pension obligations, environmental liabilities and a $15 million loan from CoBank left to pay back.

“I hope there will be significant recovery,” he said. “But they’ve not given me much incentive (to believe).”

Jacobson said CoBank has not called on PGG’s loan and has been supportive through the process. He understands some people are angry, but that “it serves no purpose to find a scapegoat.” Jacobson also defended the board, saying they’ve been transparent reporting what they knew about the co-op’s finances.

Jacobson said he has an idea of how much equity will be returned to members, but would not specify.

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Chilean fruit company expands its U.S. footprint http://www.capitalpress.com/Orchards/20160503/chilean-fruit-company-expands-its-us-footprint http://www.capitalpress.com/Orchards/20160503/chilean-fruit-company-expands-its-us-footprint#Comments Tue, 3 May 2016 13:19:22 -0400 Mateusz Perkowski http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2016160509962 A large Chilean fruit company is expanding its U.S. footprint with the purchase of property in Oregon and a merger with a California-based berry producer.

Hortifrut of Santiago, Chile, which last year sold roughly $350 million in berries globally, recently announced the upcoming merger with Munger Bros. of Delano, Calif., which has more than 3,000 acres in Washington, Oregon, California, British Columbia and Mexico.

Details of the agreement were not disclosed and the deal is subject to “various conditions,” including due diligence and shareholder approval.

The two firms, which are currently partners in the Naturipe Farms marketing organization, expect to complete the merger this summer.

Hortifrut also recently bought eight parcels totaling more than 550 acres near Forest Grove, Ore., for $11 million from the Glenn Walters Nursery.

Bob Hawk, president and CEO of Munger Bros., said he’s not prepared to make a public statement about plans for the property, which is still being evaluated.

“We found it to be a good investment opportunity,” he said. “There’s no short-term plan to begin planting anything at this point in time.”

For the past 15 years or so, berry production has become increasingly globalized as farmers seek to diversify their holdings, said Bernadine Strik, berry specialist with Oregon State University Extension.

Growing numerous types and cultivars of berries across different geographies allows companies to supply grocers with fresh fruit for longer periods of time, even throughout the year if they own properties in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, she said.

Such diversification also helps mitigate risk, Strik said. “If there’s a climate event or pest problem in one region, and that’s the only region where you grow, it hits harder economically.”

Before its recent acquisitions, Hortifrut had nearly 3,200 acres in production in Chile, Brazil, Mexico and Spain, with about 80 percent of that acreage in blueberries and the remainder in raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and cherries, according to its 2015 financial report.

The company also sources berries grown by about 700 suppliers in various countries where it has operations.

About 60 percent of the company’s revenues are generated in North America, 25 percent are generated in Europe and the remaining 15 percent come from Asia and South America.

Hortifruit was founded in Chile in 1980 and began exporting its berries to the U.S., Europe and Asia, eventually becoming a publicly traded company in 2012 with a stock offering that raised more than $67 million.

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Lesson plans teach elementary-school students about almonds http://www.capitalpress.com/Orchards/20160503/lesson-plans-teach-elementary-school-students-about-almonds http://www.capitalpress.com/Orchards/20160503/lesson-plans-teach-elementary-school-students-about-almonds#Comments Tue, 3 May 2016 14:02:14 -0400 Tim Hearden http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2016160509959 MODESTO, Calif. — A growers’ group has put together a lesson plan for elementary-school teachers to enlighten youngsters about almonds.

The Almond Board of California’s new video and activity book follow similar lessons the organization has worked on over the past six years with the help of the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom, the group’s representatives say.

The materials provide instructors with a fun way to teach third- to fifth-graders about the importance of almonds in California, which produces 80 percent of the world’s supply of the nut, according to Rebecca Bailey, the board’s program coordinator for industry relations.

“Members of the almond industry have taken the video and activity books to schools in the Central Valley, and now teachers can use these educational tools in the classroom,” spokeswoman Linda Romander said in an email.

The idea for the lessons came from two participants in the board’s Almond Leadership Program, a yearlong series of seminars during which people work on presentations that they give in their final month.

The lessons instruct children how to be aware of what’s being grown around them and to develop a sense of responsibility for the land. The board believes students will be more excited about eating nutrient-rich foods if they feel a personal connection with growers, a news release explains.

The lessons come as the Almond Board has tried harder in recent years to educate the public about the industry amid criticisms of its impacts on water and the environment. Two years ago, the board put out a cartoon bee video to inform consumers as well as growers about its best-management practices for deploying bees during bloom.

The board is trying to get schools to incorporate the new lesson plan before classes let out for the summer.

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Pending Idaho Supreme Court ruling could ease Rangen water call burden http://www.capitalpress.com/Water/20160503/pending-idaho-supreme-court-ruling-could-ease-rangen-water-call-burden http://www.capitalpress.com/Water/20160503/pending-idaho-supreme-court-ruling-could-ease-rangen-water-call-burden#Comments Tue, 3 May 2016 13:56:14 -0400 John O’Connell http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2016160509960 Capital Press

HAGERMAN, Idaho — Officials with Idaho Ground Water Appropriators Inc. say they hope a forthcoming state Supreme Court ruling will ease their burden in the Rangen Inc. water call and provide a means for them to resolve other looming calls in the area.

Idaho Department of Water Resources Director Gary Spackman determined junior Eastern Snake Plain groundwater users owe the Hagerman trout farm 9.1 cubic feet per second of spring water due to spring-flow depletions caused by their wells.

Since February 2015, IGWA has piped water to Rangen from the nearby Magic Springs trout farm to fulfill its obligation. IGWA estimates power and operating expenses of the pipeline at up to $100,000 per year.

However, the Supreme Court ruled on Feb. 29 that Rangen has been illegally diverting up to 12 cfs from the Bridge Diversion of Billingsley Creek for more than 50 years.

Rangen attorneys argued the hatchery’s decreed water right, called Martin-Curren Tunnel, refers to the entire spring complex across a canyon wall. The Supreme Court affirmed that it refers only to a specific 10-acre tract, as confirmed during the Snake River Basin Adjudication process.

“It is undisputed that the Bridge Diversion lies outside of the decreed tract,” the ruling reads.

IGWA has filed on the water right, hoping to grant Rangen continued use of the Bridge Diversion to meet the water call shortfall, said IGWA Executive Director Lynn Tominaga.

IGWA attorney Randy Budge said IGWA is engineering various alternatives to redirect water now supplied to Rangen to satisfy other potential calls. For example, the pipeline could be rerouted to Sandy Pond — a small re-regulating reservoir that supplies water to the Curren Ditch, serving irrigators mulling calls against IGWA, including one farm with an 1893 surface right.

IGWA has been providing irrigators along the Curren Ditch water that flows into Sandy Pond from Northside Canal Co.’s operational spills, but fears that supply isn’t reliable, as the company has prioritized running its system more efficiently.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule soon on the validity of IGWA’s application for the Bridge Diversion water right, which was denied by Spackman and subsequently upheld by Fifth District Judge Eric Wildman on appeal.

Rangen attorney Fritz Haemmerle, who wasn’t available for comment for this story, previously told Capital Press there’s case law against water diversion by an applicant who doesn’t own the surrounding land or have the owner’s permission, and IGWA would need condemnation authority to access the diversion.

Tominaga said IGWA has delivered mitigation water in the past where it didn’t own land at the diversion.

In a separate April 26 ruling, the Supreme Court upheld the district court’s decision affirming IGWA’s pipeline as a valid mitigation plan. Rangen had argued the plan lacked adequate contingency provisions.

Furthermore, Rangen contended Spackman erred by offering to lift IGWA’s obligation if it didn’t allow construction of the pipeline, and by failing to first evaluate the pipeline’s impacts on other senior rights.

“Rangen brings a delivery call that claims they’re short of water, yet Rangen has fought every effort to deliver them water,” Budge said.

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Idaho brand inspector facing 2 felony charges resigns http://www.capitalpress.com/Idaho/20160503/idaho-brand-inspector-facing-2-felony-charges-resigns http://www.capitalpress.com/Idaho/20160503/idaho-brand-inspector-facing-2-felony-charges-resigns#Comments Tue, 3 May 2016 08:49:44 -0400 http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2016160509974 MERIDIAN, Idaho (AP) — Idaho State Police say one of the agency’s brand inspectors has resigned after being charged with two felonies involving a check writing scheme.

Police in a statement late Monday say 32-year-old Justin Archer of Kimberley resigned after being charged with grand theft and conspiracy to commit grand theft.

The Jerome County Sheriff’s Office says Georgina Zamora wrote a check from funds held from cattle sales by her employer, Producers Livestock, to Archer.

Police say the two then split the money.

The Times-News reports that Producers Livestock discovered the check late last week and contacted the sheriff’s office Monday.

Idaho State Police say the check has no relation to Archer’s duties as a brand inspector and that the agency is cooperating with the sheriff’s office.

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Growers staff up for cherry harvest http://www.capitalpress.com/Orchards/20160503/growers-staff-up-for-cherry-harvest http://www.capitalpress.com/Orchards/20160503/growers-staff-up-for-cherry-harvest#Comments Tue, 3 May 2016 12:21:40 -0400 Dan Wheat http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2016160509963 WENATCHEE, Wash. — A total of 682 people applied for cherry sorting and packing jobs in association with Stemilt Growers’ 12th annual job fair on May 2, as Pacific Northwest growers and packers hire workers for the 2016 cherry crop.

That’s shy of the 750 people Stemilt needs and indicates a tight labor supply, but the company figures to make up the difference in the next few weeks.

Many packers and growers think they’ll get by, but some are more worried than others.

They will be helped by a light crop, believed to be about 19 million 20-pound boxes, which is the same as last year, versus the record 23.2 million of 2014. Harvest will start early again, likely in late May, and finish in August.

“I think we’re getting more and more concerned every year as labor seems to get tighter,” said Ken Bailey, vice president of Orchard View Farms in The Dalles, Ore., that state’s largest cherry grower.

On May 2, Jason Vargas, 30, was second in line and waited more than two hours for Stemilt’s job fair to open at the Wenatchee Convention Center. The line grew to only about 80 when the doors opened early at 1:30 p.m. and just 40 applications were received in the first half hour.

Some 492 applications had already been received by Wenatchee WorkSource, the local job office of the state Department of Employment Security.

The job fair generated 550 applicants last year, 747 in 2014, 960 in 2013 and a record 1,546 in 2010. A Stemilt spokeswoman at the time credited the turnout to high unemployment during the recession. That was a two-day event at which the opening line wrapped halfway around the convention center.

This was the first year applicants could turn in applications at WorkSource, bypassing the fair. In time that may replace the fair but Zach Williams, Stemilt’s director of human resources, said the fair is kept to generate interest and applications.

Stemilt advertises its jobs through its website, WorkSource, newspaper and radio advertisements and, for the first time this year, Facebook.

Stemilt needs 1,500 workers for its two cherry packing plants running double shifts at the height of packing. About half of those will be temporarily pulled from apple packing, Williams said. The other half was to come from the fair. If Stemilt gets more than 750 applicants it will hold them in reserve as replacements for what can be high turnover because of the tedious nature of sorting.

The amount of sorting by humans is being reduced by faster, high-tech optical sorting and sizing equipment by many companies.

Orchard View Farms is just finishing installation of a new, high-tech Unitec line. The company has nearly 2,400 acres of cherries. The company needs 450 to 500 pickers and 175 to 180 sorters and packers and starts recruiting in March, Bailey said.

Orchard View had about 40 percent of a normal crop last season due to a November 2014 freeze. It hopes to have a full crop this year with picking estimated to start June 3 or 4 compared with May 29 last year.

Some Yakima companies struggled last year to get enough sorters and packers, and growers are always looking for more pickers, said Tommy Hanses, operations manager at Washington Fruit & Produce Co. in Yakima.

“We’re in good shape. We just transfer apple people over for packing and our new (high-tech) cherry line (starting its third season) helps reduce the amount of hand sorting,” Hanses said.

Zirkle Fruit Co., Selah, starts hiring in late winter and early spring for June and July cherry packing.

“It’s been slow, but I think we’ll be adequate,” said Mark Zirkle, company president.

The company is completing a new Compac high-tech cherry line just in time for the season. Zirkle said without it he would be concerned.

“We just don’t have the numbers (packing applicants) we use to,” he said. More people want to pick but still the Columbia Basin could be a little short on pickers, he said.

Pickers generally make more money on piece rate than packers at minimum wage.

Norm Gutzwiler, a Wenatchee grower, said he thinks there will be a picker shortage on the front end of the crop.

“California will finish ahead of Washington so pickers should move up, but we don’t see as much migrant movement as we use to,” he said.

Despite a nice bloom, no frost and good pollination weather, the crop just didn’t set up well, Gutzwiler said.

“It won’t be a record crop. It will probably be very similar to last year but there should be a lot of nice-size fruit for the market,” he said.

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Cash prices weaken; butter battles to stay above $2 http://www.capitalpress.com/Dairy/20160503/cash-prices-weaken-butter-battles-to-stay-above-2 http://www.capitalpress.com/Dairy/20160503/cash-prices-weaken-butter-battles-to-stay-above-2#Comments Tue, 3 May 2016 11:16:54 -0400 Lee Mielke http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2016160509964 Cash dairy prices weakened more the last week of April, with CME block Cheddar closing the week and the month at $1.37 per pound, down 5 1/4-cents on the week, down a dime on the month and 24 cents below a year ago.

The barrels finished at $1.4125, down 1 1/4-cents on the week and 20 1/2-cents below a year ago. Thirty-nine cars of block traded hands last week and 13 of barrel.

The blocks lost a penny Monday and another 2 cents Tuesday and dipped to $1.34 per pound, lowest price since Dec. 29, 2010. The barrels were down 1 1/4-cents Monday and lost 3 cents Tuesday, dipping to $1.37, 3 cents above the blocks.

Midwest cheese vats remain full as manufacturers work hard to manage high fluid milk intakes, according to Dairy Market News. “Storage facilities continue to fill and inventories are long. Central producers report steady to moderate increases in orders. As grilling season takes off, demand for American and Cheddar varieties is increasing, while pizza varieties may start to experience some decrease in demand.”

Western vats also remain full and a steady supply of milk is available.

Cash butter ended Friday at $2.12 per pound, up 9 cents on the week, up 16 1/2-cents on the month, and 27 cents above a year ago, with five cars sold last week.

The spot gave back the 6 cents it gained Friday on Monday and shed 3 1/2-cents Tuesday, closing at $2.0250.

Cream is available within the Central region as well as Western and Eastern sellers, according to DMN, and inventories are “steady to building.”

“Some manufacturers indicate they are purposely growing stocks to help cover late summer/early fall demand. Although current cream availability is ample, producers expect upcoming warmer weather will diminish butterfat solids in milk intakes in the near future.”

Western butter makers also report cream is readily available and inventories “steady to building.”

Spot Grade A nonfat dry milk climbed to 77 1/2-cents per pound Tuesday, highest level since March 3, 2016, but lost 2 cents Friday, and closed at 75 1/2-cents per pound, up a half-cent on the week but 17 3/4-cents below a year ago. Eleven carloads were sold on the week.

The powder slipped three-quarters Monday but inched back a quarter-cent Tuesday, to 75 cents per pound.

DMN says the powder market undertone is “unsettled.” “Low/medium heat demand for cheese fortification is active. However, interest from the bakery sector is sluggish.”

The May 3 Global Dairy Trade auction reversed direction following its biggest gain since Dec. 1, 2015, in the April 19 event. The weighted average for all products offered Tuesday slipped 1.4 percent, after jumping 3.8 percent last time.

Rennet casein led the three gainers, up 3.5 percent, following a 7.5 percent gain last time. Cheddar cheese was up 1.8 percent, after dropping 3.9 percent last time, and whole milk powder inched 0.7 percent higher, after jumping 7.5 percent last time.

Butter and buttermilk powder led the losses, both down 5.5 percent, after rising 2.0 and 2.4 percent respectively last time. Skim milk powder was down 3.6 percent, after inching up 0.3 percent on April 19. Lactose followed, down 2.7 percent, after an 8.0 percent gain last time. Anhydrous milkfat was off 1.6 percent, following a 1.6 percent increase last time.

FC Stone reported the average GDT butter price equated to about $1.18 per pound U.S. Contrast that to CME butter, which closed Tuesday at $2.0250 per pound. GDT Cheddar cheese equated to about $1.2368 per pound U.S. and compares to Tuesday’s CME block Cheddar at $1.34. GDT skim milk powder, at 76.04 cents per pound U.S., and the whole milk powder average, at 98.71 cents per pound U.S., compares to Tuesday’s CME Grade A nonfat dry milk at 75-cents per pound.

California’s April 4b cheese milk price is $12.71 per cwt., down 53 cents from March, $1.51 below a year ago, and the lowest 4b price since January 2011’s $12.49. The 4b price average now stands at $13.02, down from $13.93 a year ago and $21.34 in 2014.

The 4a butter-powder price is $12.54, up 13 cents from March, 82 cents below a year ago, and the lowest April 4a price since 2009. The 4a average is now at $12.87, down from $13.33 a year ago and $22.97 in 2014.

A lower All-Milk price slid the latest milk feed price ratio downwards. The March ratio is 2.08, down from 2.15 in February, but up from 2.01 in March 2015, according to the Agriculture Department’s latest Ag Prices report. The March U.S. average All-Milk price was $15.30 per cwt., down 40 cents from February, $1.30 below March 2015, and the lowest level since May 2010. California saw an All-Milk average of $14.13, while Wisconsin’s was at $15.80.

March corn averaged $3.57 per bushel, unchanged from February and 24 cents per bushel below March 2015. Soybeans averaged $8.56 per bushel, up a nickel from February, but $1.29 per bushel below March 2015. Alfalfa hay averaged $144 per ton, up $2 from February, but $25 per ton below March 2015.

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Analysts: Higher placements into feedlots to continue http://www.capitalpress.com/Livestock/20160503/analysts-higher-placements-into-feedlots-to-continue http://www.capitalpress.com/Livestock/20160503/analysts-higher-placements-into-feedlots-to-continue#Comments Tue, 3 May 2016 10:58:09 -0400 Carol Ryan Dumas http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2016160509965 Cattle on feed for slaughter increased about 1 percent year over year on April 1, and although placements into feedlots were lower than market analysts expected, they represent the second consecutive month of a year-over-year increase.

At 10.85 million head in feedlots with a capacity of at least 1,000 head, cattle on feed were up 56,000 head over a year earlier, according to USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service.

March placements, at 1.89 million, increased 83,000 head and 5 percent, although analysts were expecting a 7 percent increase.

Fewer placements might have been influenced by a 20 percent decrease in imported feeder cattle in March and a sharp decline in fed cattle futures in the second half of March, which might have affected the outlook for feedlot profitability in the late summer and early spring, Steve Meyer and Lee Steiner stated in their Daily Livestock Report.

While placements were at the low end of expectations, the second consecutive month of year-over-year increases is a trend that will likely continue as feeder supplies continue to grow in coming months, said Derrell Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock specialist, in this week’s Cow/Calf Corner Newsletter.

The report also shows the first increase in quarterly heifers on feed in 14 quarters, up 4.5 percent year over year. The increase likely reflects a growing heifer supply and some slowdown in heifer retention, Peel said.

“Herd expansion is likely still occurring but at a slower pace in 2016,” he said.

One thing that stands out in the latest cattle on feed report is that feedlots are quickly becoming more current, with the supply of cattle on feed more than 120 days down 6.3 percent from last year, Meyer and Steiner said.

“Currentness is something that feedlots struggled with last year, and it may be what finally helps set a more stable floor under prices going forward,” they stated.

In addition, the report shows the number of steers in feedlots was down 1.3 percent year over year, the first decrease in quarterly steer inventory in feedlots since July 2014, Peel said.

“Though the current steer inventory in feedlots is still large, the decrease in quarterly supplies is a good sign that feedlots are moving steers at a more timely pace this year,” he said.

The decrease follows a dramatic increase in steers on feed last year that coincided with delayed marketings and a sharp increase in carcass weights, he said.

All the increase in March placements were feeders over 700 pounds, with the largest increase in feeders 700 pounds to 800 pounds — up more than 10 percent.

“This trend for placing heavier cattle and the subsequent lower number of days on feed will likely continue for another couple of months due to the sharp decrease in cattle prices and the discount structure in far-deferred contracts,” Brenda Boetel, ag economist with the University of Wisconsin, stated in a market update.

March marketings of finished cattle from feedlots, at 1.75 million, increased 7 percent. That increase was in line with market expectations and reflects an additional marketing day this March. Adjusted for the additional marketing day, the increase was less than 2 percent year over year, Meyer and Steiner reported.

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WSDA report puts the heat on apple maggots http://www.capitalpress.com/Washington/20160503/wsda-report-puts-the-heat-on-apple-maggots http://www.capitalpress.com/Washington/20160503/wsda-report-puts-the-heat-on-apple-maggots#Comments Tue, 3 May 2016 10:44:01 -0400 Don Jenkins http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2016160509966 Compost companies should heat municipal yard waste to kill apple maggots before trucking the material into Washington’s apple-growing regions for final processing, according to a study released May 2 by the Washington State Department of Agriculture.

WSDA commissioned the study by three experts in response to finding apple maggot larva last summer at a Grant County soil-amendment maker, PacifiClean Environmental, which was taking compostable material from Seattle.

WSDA policy adviser Steve Fuller said the study will guide the department as it writes rules for transporting organic waste from areas with apple maggots to pest-free zones.

“The report gives us the best available science,” he said. “It’s going to be the foundation for operations and special permits.”

Apple maggots are found throughout Western Washington and in parts of Eastern Washington. WSDA enforces a quarantine to keep backyard fruit from spreading the insect and threatening the state’s most valuable crop.

Composters in pest-free zones have been taking material from quarantined zones for several years. The practice drew more attention when the apple maggot larva was found a few months after Seattle contracted with PacifiClean.

WSDA suspended the shipments of organic waste between quarantined and pest-free areas. Royal Organic Products in Grant County and Natural Selection Farms in Yakima County also have been affected by the order. Efforts to reach the companies Monday were unsuccessful.

Washington State Tree Fruit Association President Jon DeVaney said the group was reviewing the 271-page report.

“However, it is clear the panel of experts retained by WSDA has validated our industry’s concerns,” he said in a written statement.

WSDA contracted with consultants Victor Mastro of Massachusetts, James Reynolds of Colorado and Claire Sansford of the United Kingdom to do the $150,000 study.

They concluded that apple maggots are “very likely” to spread from Seattle to commercial apple areas without preventive measures.

They suggested that yard waste could be composted in quarantine areas to reach temperatures lethal to apple maggot pupae.

An alternative would be heat the yard waste in trailers to maggot-killing temperatures, taking care to thoroughly heat piles.

The material could be heated with steam, hot air, radiation or other means, according to the report, as long as temperatures were high enough for long enough — 165 degrees for four hours or 194 degrees for one hour.

The report cautioned the methods have yet to be proven on an industrial scale and recommended tests to see whether apple maggots survived.

If the companies can heat a large amount of material, “then it should be possible to safely move the treated” organic waste to pest-free zones “to continue the composing and curing process,” according to the report.

Fuller said heating the yard waste probably will require significant investments by composing companies and additional work for WSDA to inspect the operations.

“We’re going to want to see they have the ability to comply with the conditions before they start moving the composting material,” he said.

The study concluded that grinding the material would expose pupae to the heat. Grinding alone logically would kill some apple maggots, but some would probably escape being crushed, according to the report.

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U.S. milk production pushes ahead http://www.capitalpress.com/Dairy/20160503/us-milk-production-pushes-ahead http://www.capitalpress.com/Dairy/20160503/us-milk-production-pushes-ahead#Comments Tue, 3 May 2016 10:41:25 -0400 Carol Ryan Dumas http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2016160509967 March milk production in the 23 major states was up 1.8 percent year over year on 19,000 additional cows and the highest production per cow for the March since USDA’s reporting series began in 2003.

Total production, at 17.2 billion pounds from 8.6 million cows and an average of 1,993 pounds per cow, was up 4.6 percent from February 2016, According to USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Nationwide, milk cows numbered 9.3 million, the largest since December 2008 — 14,000 head more than March 2015 and up 10,000 head from February.

The increase in the national herd and year-over-year increase in milk production might seem counterintuitive, given milk prices that more than challenge producer margins. But dairymen are trying to weather the downturn by spreading their fixed costs over a greater volume of milk, Dairy Market Analyst reported.

Declining dairy cow slaughter since mid-March has hinted that dairy producers aren’t heeding market signals to reduce output, DMA analysts Jerry Dryer and Matt Gould commented.

While production was down in five of the 23 major states, including a 2.4 percent decrease in top-producing California, it was up significantly in some Midwest and Northeast states.

Major producer Wisconsin posted a 5.3 percent year-over-year increase on 4,000 additional cows and an impressive 85-pound increase in per-cow production.

New York and Michigan were also up in per-cow output — 85 pounds and 90 pounds, respectively. Michigan increased total production 7.7 percent on 13,000 additional cows, and New York was up 5.3 percent on 3,000 additional cows.

South Dakota posted the largest year-over-year increase, up 10.9 percent on 11,000 additional cows and no increase in per-cow production.

California’s production fell for the 15th consecutive month on 5,000 fewer head and a loss of 45 pounds per cow. Other states showing lost product were Florida, down 5.7 percent; New Mexico, down 2.9 percent; Utah, down 1.6 percent; and Virginia, down 0.6 percent.

In the Pacific Northwest, Idaho increased milk production 2.4 percent on 8,000 additional cows and a 20-pound increase in per-cow production year over year. Oregon was up 0.9 percent, up 1,000 head with no change in per-cow production. Washington was up 0.5 in milk production, with the same number of cows and a 10-pound per-cow increase.

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Bird flu strikes down Missouri turkeys http://www.capitalpress.com/Livestock/20160503/bird-flu-strikes-down-missouri-turkeys http://www.capitalpress.com/Livestock/20160503/bird-flu-strikes-down-missouri-turkeys#Comments Tue, 3 May 2016 10:11:43 -0400 Don Jenkins http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2016160509968 Bird flu was confirmed in a seemingly healthy 39,000-turkey flock in Jasper County, Mo., the day after officials declared the only other U.S. outbreak this year resolved, the World Organization for Animal Health announced today.

The virus was discovered April 26 during routine pre-slaughter testing, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

USDA confirmed four days later that the flock was infected with a low pathogenic strain of North American bird flu, H5N1. The entire flock was euthanized.

The confirmation came one day after the USDA reported to world animal health officials that a bird flu outbreak that claimed 155,405 turkeys in Indiana had been contained.

The Indiana outbreak began Jan. 16. The turkeys there were also infected with a low pathogenic bird flu of North American lineage, H7N8.

Bird flu claimed 48 million U.S. turkeys and chickens last year as a highly pathogenic Eurasian strain, sometimes combining with North American strains, hit 15 states, including Washington, Oregon, Idaho and California.

Early international reaction to the Missouri outbreak was restrained compared to last year’s responses to bird flu.

Japan today banned poultry and poultry products originating from the immediate vicinity of the infected flock. Kazakhstan banned poultry from Jasper County. No other country immediately announced trade restrictions.

Last year, many countries responded to bird flu outbreaks by completely banning U.S. poultry. The USDA complained that was an overreaction.

The European Union on Sunday lifted a ban on poultry from the two Indiana counties hit by bird flu in January.

USDA called last year’s bird flu outbreaks the worst animal health crisis in U.S. history. Federal and state agencies have collaborated to sample 45,455 wild birds to detect the virus since last summer. Only a mallard in Utah in July and a mallard in Morrow County, Ore., tested positive.

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Portland daily grain report http://www.capitalpress.com/Markets/20160503/portland-daily-grain-report http://www.capitalpress.com/Markets/20160503/portland-daily-grain-report#Comments Tue, 3 May 2016 09:45:56 -0400 http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2016160509969 Portland, Ore., Tuesday, May 3, 2016

USDA Market News

All Bids in dollars per bushel. Bids are limited and not fully established in early trading.

Bids for grains delivered to Portland, Oregon in dollars per bushel.

In early trading May futures trended nine to 14 cents per bushel lower compared to Monday’s closes. July futures trended 10 to 15 cents per bushel lower.

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

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

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

Bids for US 2 Yellow Corn delivered full coast in 110 car shuttle trains during May trended lower compared to Monday’s noon bids.

Bids for US 1 Yellow Soybeans delivered full coast in 110 car shuttle trains during May trended lower in early trading compared to Monday’s noon bids.

All wheat bids in dollars per bushel

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

Ordinary protein

May 5.2275-5.4000

Jun 5.2775-5.4000

Jul 5.2775-5.2800

Aug NC 5.3325-5.3400

Sep NA

Guaranteed maximum 10.5 pct protein

May 5.3775-5.7500

Jun 5.4275-5.7700

Jul 5.4275-5.4600

Aug NC 5.3325-5.6600

Sep 5.4200-5.4325

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

Ordinary protein

May 5.2275-5.4000

Guaranteed maximum 10.5 pct protein

May 5.3775-6.0800

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

better)

Ordinary protein 5.1500-5.3300

11 pct protein 5.2500-5.4100

11.5 pct protein

May 5.3200-5.4500

Jun 5.3000-5.4500

Jul 5.3000-5.4500

Aug NC 5.4125-5.5125

Sep 5.5125

12 pct protein 5.3400-5.4800

13 pct protein 5.3800-5.5400

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

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

13 pct protein 5.9175-6.1375

14 pct protein

May 6.2475-6.3875

Jun 6.2375-6.3875

Jul 6.1875-6.3875

Aug NC 6.2250-6.3750

Sep 6.2750-6.4250

15 pct protein 6.4375-6.5475

16 pct protein 6.4975-6.7075

US 2 Yellow Corn

Shuttle trains-Delivered full coast Pacific Northwest-BN

May 4.5750-4.6150

Jun 4.5650-4.6150

Jul 4.5550-4.6150

Aug/Sep 4.4850-4.6150

Oct/Nov 4.6275-4.6775

Dec 4.6775-4.7275

US 1 Yellow Soybeans

Shuttle trains-Delivered full coast Pacific Northwest-BN

May 10.9550-11.0550

Jun 11.0050-11.0650

Jul 11.0550-11.0750

Aug/Sep 11.1500-11.2200

Oct/Nov 10.8875-11.0375

US 2 Heavy White Oats 3.9200

Not well tested.

Exporter Bids Portland Rail/Barge Apr 2016

Averages in Dollars per bushel

US 1 Soft White by Unit Trains and Barges NA

US 1 Hard Red Winter (Ordinary protein) 5.2700

US 1 Hard Red Winter (11.5% protein) 5.4800

US 1 Dark Northern Spring (14% protein) 6.2700

Source: USDA Market News Service, Portland, OR

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France threatens to torpedo U.S.-Europe trade deal http://www.capitalpress.com/Nation_World/Nation/20160503/france-threatens-to-torpedo-us-europe-trade-deal http://www.capitalpress.com/Nation_World/Nation/20160503/france-threatens-to-torpedo-us-europe-trade-deal#Comments Tue, 3 May 2016 09:09:20 -0400 http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2016160509970 PARIS (AP) — France is threatening to reject a huge free trade deal between the U.S. and the European Union, saying it’s too friendly to U.S. business and probably doomed.

Signs of trouble are dogging the creation of a Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a U.S.-EU free trade zone encompassing half the world economy.

President Francois Hollande said Tuesday that France “will never accept” challenges to its farming and culture in exchange for better access to U.S. markets.

“That’s why at this stage, France says no,” the Socialist leader said at a conference on left-wing politics.

Earlier Tuesday, French Trade Minister Matthias Fekl told Europe-1 radio that negotiations “are totally blocked” and that a halt to talks “is the most probable option.” He insisted on better farming and environmental protections, adding that “in its current state, France cannot sign it.”

“Europe is giving a lot ... but receiving very little in return,” he said.

European officials appear to be toughening their rhetoric after Greenpeace leaked large amounts of confidential negotiating documents that suggest the EU is coming under U.S. pressure to weaken consumer protections in key sectors.

The EU chief negotiator said several Greenpeace conclusions were “false” while U.S. Trade representative spokesman Trevor Kincaid said the interpretations were misleading and sometimes wrong.

Still, EU negotiator Ignacio Garcia Bercero said Monday that major disagreements remain between the two sides following the 13th round of talks last week. The U.S. election campaign is complicating negotiations, making it increasingly unlikely that President Barack Obama can achieve a deal before leaving office.

France and some other European countries with rich culinary and farming traditions are particularly concerned about U.S. policies that give greater freedom to trade in genetically modified food, chlorine-rinsed poultry and hormone-treated beef.

France is also protective of subsidies to its film industry, fearing eventual domination by deep-pocketed Hollywood.

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Molson Coors profit nearly doubles on Vancouver brewery sale http://www.capitalpress.com/Business/20160503/molson-coors-profit-nearly-doubles-on-vancouver-brewery-sale http://www.capitalpress.com/Business/20160503/molson-coors-profit-nearly-doubles-on-vancouver-brewery-sale#Comments Tue, 3 May 2016 09:06:02 -0400 http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2016160509971 DENVER (AP) — Beer maker Molson Coors Brewing said Tuesday that its first-quarter profit nearly doubled as it sold a brewery in Canada.

Molson Coors, based in Denver, sells Coors Light, Blue Moon and other beers in North and South America, Europe and Asia. In the U.S., it’s a part owner of MillerCoors, a joint venture with fellow beer maker SAB Miller PLC.

Molson Coors reported net income of $158.8 million, or 78 cents per share, in the three months ending March 31, compared with $81.1 million, or 43 cents per share, in the same quarter a year ago.

The company said it received $108.6 million in the quarter on the sale of a brewery in Vancouver, Canada.

Adjusted earnings — which remove the gain from the Canada brewery sale and other non-recurring items — came to 54 cents per share.

Revenue fell 6 percent to $657.2 million in the period.

Molson Coors shares fell 26 cents to $96.51 in morning trading Tuesday. Its shares are up 30 percent over the past year.

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