Capital Press | Capital Press Tue, 23 May 2017 17:12:35 -0400 en Capital Press | ODFW investigating Wallowa County wolf death Tue, 23 May 2017 14:42:11 -0400 Eric Mortenson Wildlife officials are investigating the death of a wolf in Wallowa County, in Northeast Oregon.

The body of OR-42, believed to be the breeding female of the Chesnimnus Pack, was recovered May 8, according to Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy. The finding was not announced until May 23. The wolf was wearing a VHF tracking collar; ODFW went looking for it after receiving a “mortality signal” from the device, Dennehy said.

A forensic examination did not pinpoint a cause of death, but ODFW said foul play, such as poaching, is not suspected “at this time.”

The case remains under investigation, however, and additional lab tests are being conducted by Oregon State University.

The Chesnimnus Pack has two subadult wolves that are wearing ODFW tracking collars.

The department uses GPS collars on some wolves. The collars collect a lot of information and signal a wolf’s exact location, but have a high failure rate and a three-year battery life, according to ODFW. The average life span of GPS collars used by ODFW since 2011 has been 18 months, the department said. Signals from VHF radio collars must be monitored in the field, which is often done from the air, Batteries in VHF collars are expected to last six and a half years.

Oregon State Parks auctioning off 38-acre woodland Tue, 23 May 2017 13:32:45 -0400 DYLAN DARLINGThe Register-Guard EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — In a rare move, Oregon State Parks will auction off a 38-acre piece of property between Eugene and Corvallis with a stand of tall Douglas fir trees.

Once a wayside, or rest stop, along Highway 99 West near Monroe, the woodland will go up for sale this summer, according to State Parks spokesman Chris Havel. The agency more often trades land and rarely sells it outright.

“Right now, the market is such that we could really get some good out of it for the rest of the park system by putting it out for sale,” he said.

High levels of iron and nitrates in the ground­water at the site polluted the drinking water, and the septic systems at the wayside failed 10 years ago, the state said. State Parks then had the building torn down. Officials decided in 2012 to dispose of the land. They first offered it to other state agencies but found none interested.

So the agency is taking the uncommon step of offering the land for sale to the public through an auction, Havel said. State Parks will take bids this summer.

The land is worth an estimated $356,000, according to a January appraisal.

Since 2001, State Parks has disposed of 3,600 acres, with the last auction in 2008 when the agency sold a parcel at the Oregon State Fairgrounds in Salem. Havel said money from such sales goes into a fund used to buy land.

In the past 16 years, State Parks’ overall holdings have gone up from 93,000 acres to 108,000 acres.

Most of the land at the wayside, nearly 31 acres, is in Lane County and is zoned by the county for park and recreation use. The rest of the land, about 7 acres, is in Benton County and zoned for exclusive farm use.

Given that the property is outside any urban growth boundary and has restrictive zoning, it’s unclear what the land could be used for.

Harvesting the timber on the land is an option for the buyer, Havel said.

“That’s where most of the value is in the property,” he said. “It’s in those trees.”

The trees vary from a few dozen feet tall to 175 feet high, and the stand includes maple and ponderosa pines along with the Douglas fir.

The state bought the land in 1926 from William and Mae Washburne and long called it the Washburne Wayside, Havel said.

Motorists frequented the wayside more often before Interstate 5 became the main artery for longer trips.

“It was after I-5 went in and modern rest areas went in that use at that park started to drop pretty sharp,” Havel said.

Brown restores FFA, career tech funding after outcry from supporters Tue, 23 May 2017 11:56:54 -0400 Tim Hearden SACRAMENTO — After hearing an outcry from FFA advocates, Gov. Jerry Brown has reinserted funding in his budget proposal for high school agriculture education and career technical programs.

California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross reassured teachers that the $15.4 million for FFA and related programs zeroed out in Brown’s May 11 revised ledger has been put back in.

“Please be assured, Governor Brown remains committed to ongoing funding for these programs … through the California Department of Education,” Ross told educators in an email. “While one-time funding was used to support these programs in the current year, the governor is committed to ongoing funding for these programs for 2017-18 and beyond.”

The decision pleased Anna Canon, an agriculture teacher and FFA adviser at Orland High School. The school’s ag program has 218 students, or roughly one-third of the entire student body, she said.

“When this came up with the budget cuts, we were asked to bring kids to the Capitol,” Canon said. “That (funding) is how we are able to do what we do. Now the governor’s office is supporting ongoing funding.”

The proposed cut was part of a plan to boost spending for community colleges by $160 million to, among other goals, improve students’ employment opportunities.

Whether the FFA allocation will be moved back from the community college fund or found elsewhere is yet to be determined by Brown and legislators, said Jim Aschwanden, the California Agricultural Teachers Association’s executive director.

“We have to work those details out,” he said. “I haven’t seen the details yet, but the commitment is there to fund it.”

Brown’s reversal came after parents, students and other FFA advocates took to social media to rally support for the programs. Last week, 65 legislators sent a letter to the governor and to budget committee leaders asking that the funding be restored.

The $15.4 million represents the state’s total contribution to FFA and other programs, including one for future business leaders, a family and consumer sciences program and SkillsUSA, a career and technical student organization, Aschwanden said.

“What this money has enabled them to do is hold leadership conferences and bring state officers together to do leadership training for their chapters throughout the state,” he said.

Of the 114,000 California students that would have been affected by the cut, 86,000 are in FFA, which has a foundation to help raise money but relies on the $250,000 state allocation as “base funding,” he said.

“If there weren’t an FFA program, kids wouldn’t have the ability to develop leadership skills and a work ethic and (learn how to) manage money,” said Staci Alves, an agriculture teacher at Willows High School.

Budget negotiations at the Capitol have been ongoing since Brown presented his $124 billion revised ledger. The Democrat-controlled Legislature must approve a 2017-18 budget by June 15.

Dairy prices rise then slip Tue, 23 May 2017 11:11:17 -0400 Lee Mielke Most mid-May CME dairy prices climbed higher, as traders absorbed last Tuesday’s Global Dairy Trade auction and awaited Friday afternoon’s April Milk Production report and Monday’s April Cold Storage data.

Buoyed in part by the GDT, CME butter shot up to $2.43 per pound Tuesday, highest price since Dec. 9, 2015, only to ease back Wednesday, regain some ground Thursday, then slip Friday, finishing at $2.3750, up 11 1/4-cents on the week after jumping 15 1/2-cents the previous week, and is 30 1/2-cents above a year ago.

The butter eased back 1 1/4-cents Monday and held there Tuesday, at $2.3625.

Butter production is active in the Central region, reports Dairy Market News, and some were taking discounted cream from the Southwest. Better-than-expected retail sales are reported; others report a seasonal slowdown. “Global tightness on milk fat has some buyers purchasing butter ahead of an increasing export demand.”

Western butter output is generally steady but larger pulls of cream from ice cream manufacturers are allowing butter makers to ease output.

The cheddar blocks hit $1.67 per pound Tuesday, then slipped back, recovered, and closed Friday at $1.67, up 3 1/2-cents on the week, 35 1/2-cents above a year ago, and the highest price since Feb. 6, 2017.

The barrels finished at $1.47, down 6 cents on the week but 11 1/2-cents above a year ago.

The blocks lost 2 cents Monday and a half-cent Tuesday, slipping to $1.6450. The barrels gained a penny Monday but gave back three-quarters Tuesday, and were at $1.4725, a still-too-high 17 1/4-cents below the blocks.

FC Stone says they continue to hear of better cheese demand, in particular from food service. “This combined with short-term tightness of 30-day or fresher block cheese is why we have a big block-barrel spread,” wrote broker Dave Kurzawski, who also asks, “Why are U.S. spot prices able to rise during one of the greatest cheddar cheese builds in U.S. history?” Like a broken record, DMN reports there is no shortage of milk for cheesemakers in the Midwest.

Western output remains at or near capacity. The grilling season has begun and domestic retail demand is steady but some feel price increases could choke off export opportunities.

Cash Grade A nonfat dry milk ended the week at 91 1/2-cents per pound, 5 1/4-cents higher than the previous week and 10 cents above a year ago.

Powder was up a penny Monday and a half-cent Tuesday, reaching 93 cents, highest price since Feb. 9, 2017.

Preliminary data pegs April milk output in the top 23 producing states at 17.2 billion pounds, up 2.0 percent from April 2016. The 50-state total is 18.3 billion pounds, also up 2.0 percent. The most bearish part is cow numbers, up for the seventh consecutive month, totaling 9.39 million head in the 50 states and 8.72 million in the 23 states, 8,000 more than March and 81,000 more than a year ago. Output per cow was above the prior year for the 18th consecutive month, averaging 1,967 pounds, up 20 pounds from a year ago.

California output was below a year ago for the fourth month in a row, off 1.1 percent, on a 10-pound loss per cow and 11,000 fewer cows. Wisconsin was only up 0.6 percent. Output per cow was only up 10 pounds and cow numbers were up 1,000 head.

Texas again showed the biggest gain, up 12.8 percent, thanks to 45,000 more cows and 55 pounds more per cow. New Mexico was up 7.5 percent, on a 40-pound gain per cow and 17,000 more cows.

Gains in milk per cow were not as great as some expected but still evidence that producers know how to get more blood out of a turnip.

Arizona saw a 40-pound gain per cow and 4,000 more cows push the state’s output 3.8 percent higher than a year ago. Michigan cows produced 50 pounds more each and there were 8,000 more of them to move the state up 4.2 percent.

Minnesota saw a 40-pound gain per cow and, while cow numbers were down 1,000, overall output was up 2 percent. New York was up 3.6 percent, on a 65-pound gain per cow and 3,000 more cows. Pennsylvania was up 2.5 percent, thanks to a 60-pound gain per cow outweighing a loss of 5,000 cows.

Idaho found itself in the negative column, output per cow was off 30 pounds and even though cow numbers were up 5,000, the state’s overall output was down 0.7 percent. Washington state’s output per cow was off 30 pounds, cow numbers were down 3,000, and total output was down 2.5 percent.

U.S. cheese stocks are climbing. USDA’s April Cold Storage report shows American stocks at 835.1 million pounds, up 32.7 million pounds, or 4 percent, from March and 101 million pounds, or 14 percent, above a year ago. The total cheese inventory hit 1.33 billion pounds, up 42 million, or 3 percent, from March and 125.3 million, or 10 percent, above a year ago.

The butter inventory stood at 292.3 million pounds, up 19.8 million pounds, or 7 percent, from March but 3.5 million, or 1 percent, below April 2016, first time inventory fell below a year ago in 25 months.

Idaho, Oregon researchers work on stevia seed line Tue, 23 May 2017 10:51:35 -0400 Sean Ellis NAMPA, Idaho — Researchers in the Treasure Valley area of Idaho and Oregon are trying to develop a reliable seed line for stevia, a plant that is 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar.

Once that happens, the plant could be an attractive option for the region’s farmers.

But the plant likely won’t be grown commercially here until researchers learn how to reliably produce the small shrub from seed.

Stevia is used as a natural sweetener in drinks and food.

Unlike potatoes, corn and other crops that farmers have bred for hundreds of years, stevia has only been researched for about 50 years, said Cheryl Parris, research and development manager at S&W Seed Co.

Because of that, there is currently too much genetic diversity in stevia to grow it from seed, so it’s being grown from clones, or rooted cuttings, that are produced in a greenhouse and then transplanted into the field.

The labor and expense involved in growing stevia that way at 40,000 plants an acre makes it too expensive to be an attractive alternative to commercial farmers in the U.S., Parris said.

The company’s stevia research is centered in Nampa. Parris is trying to develop a reliable seed line that farmers can plant.

She said this is an ideal region for growing stevia. The company has received a lot of inquiries from farmers interested in growing stevia seed.

“There is a lot of variability in the plants because there is so much that hasn’t been bred out yet,” she said. “It will become more ideal as we develop a seed line. It’s still really an emerging market in the United States because of the cost at this point.”

The wide genetic diversity in stevia means the progeny is usually not as good as the parents, said Clint Shock, director of Oregon State University’s research station in Ontario.

“How to efficiently propagate stevia by seed hasn’t been solved,” said Shock, who has researched the plant for more than a decade. “In order for it to be competitive in the U.S., you need to be able to cross reliably and efficiently from seed. That is the Achilles heel of growing stevia in the United States.”

Most of the world’s stevia is grown in nations with much lower labor costs, Shock said.

“The competitive advantage now is for places that have super cheap labor,” he said.

Parris and Shock are also trying to breed out the sometimes bitter aftertaste associated with stevia.

“We’re trying to develop a plant that tastes better, doesn’t have a bitter aftertaste and can be used more as an additive to food products,” Parris said.

Massive slide covers stretch of iconic California highway Tue, 23 May 2017 10:39:33 -0400

BIG SUR, Calif. (AP) — A massive new landslide along California’s iconic coastal Highway 1 has buried the road under a 40-foot layer of rock and dirt, the latest hit in winter of crippling slides and flooding.

A swath of the hillside gave way in an area called Mud Creek on Saturday night, covering about one-third of a mile of road and changing the Big Sur coastline immediately below, Colin Jones, a spokesman with the California Department of Transportation, said Monday night.

“A massive slide. We’ve never seen anything like that,” Jones said.

The state already had closed that part of Highway 1 to repair buckled pavement and remove debris after an earlier slide triggered by one of California’s rainiest winters in decades.

Authorities removed work crews from the area last week after realizing that saturated soil in that area was increasingly unstable, Jones said. “Now it’s covering 10 times as much,” he said of the newly deposited rock.

State road officials plan to wait for the immediate slide danger to pass before going back to start figuring out how to strengthen the hillside and rebuild and reopen that part of the road, he said.

Narrow, windy Highway 1 through Big Sur is a major tourist draw, attracting visitors to serene groves of redwoods, beaches and the highway’s dramatic oceanside scenery.

The rough winter has closed at least two other stretches of road in the area, forcing some resorts to close and others to use helicopters to ferry in supplies and guests.

Even though the rainy season mostly has stopped and the sun come out again, “it doesn’t mean the ground isn’t shifting now based on what happened over the winter,” Jones said.

Deschutes County at center of marijuana battle Tue, 23 May 2017 10:35:12 -0400

BEND, Ore. (AP) — Deschutes County finds itself in the middle of a marijuana tug of war just two and half years since Measure 91 legalized recreational marijuana in Oregon.

The Bend Bulletin reported Saturday that due to its unique farmland setup, and its restrictive, discretionary rules governing the growing of marijuana outside of city limits, Deschutes County is in the middle of battles over how, when and where plant owners can grow and produce the crop.

Deschutes County Commissioner Tony DeBone says rules established by the county in 2016 help balance the needs of marijuana growers looking to set up shop in rural parts of the county.

Both DeBone and Community Development Director for Deschutes County Nick Lelack say Deschutes County is open to revisiting its rules on marijuana production.

Trump budget slashes money of clean air and water programs Tue, 23 May 2017 10:28:17 -0400 MICHAEL BIESECKER WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump Administration budget released Tuesday slashes funding for the Environmental Protection Agency by nearly one-third, laying off thousands of employees while imposing dramatic cuts to clean air and water programs.

The White House’s proposed spending plan for the EPA amounts to $5.6 billion, a 31 percent cut from the current budget year, according to a briefing provided in advance to the media. Adjusted for inflation, that would represent the nation’s lowest funding for environmental protection since the mid-1970s.

The proposed cuts are in line with views expressed by President Donald Trump and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who portray the environmental agency as a job-killing federal bureaucracy. Both have called for increased fossil fuel production while expressing doubt about the scientific consensus that man-made carbon emissions are the primary driver of global warming.

“The president’s budget respects the American taxpayer,” Pruitt said. “This budget supports EPA’s highest priorities with federal funding for priority work in infrastructure, air and water quality, and ensuring the safety of chemicals in the marketplace.”

Since taking office, Pruitt has moved to roll back or delay numerous Obama-era programs to cut pollution from mining operations, oil and gas wells and coal-fired power plants. Pruitt has said he will instead focus on cleaning up decades-old contamination, announcing Monday the creation of a new task force to “streamline and improve” the Superfund program.

Despite expressing that cleaning up toxic pollution would be his top priority, the administration’s proposed budget cuts funding for Superfund by $330 million, to about $762 million. Current spending for Superfund is already down to about half what it was in the 1990s.

“I am confident that, with a renewed sense of urgency, leadership and fresh ideas, the Superfund program can reach its full potential of returning formerly contaminated sites to communities for their beneficial use,” Pruitt said.

Also hard hit would be the EPA’s science and technology programs, with a total reduction of 38 percent. Dozens of programs would be eliminated entirely, including $427 million in regional programs that help decrease pollution in the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, Puget Sound and other large water bodies. Though the administration has said state agencies should take more of the lead in enforcing environmental laws, the budget also reduces grants that help states pay for those programs by more than half.

Environmentalists said the administration’s spending plan, if adopted by Congress, will lead directly to more pollution-related illnesses and deaths.

“This proposal would guarantee more children will suffer life-threatening asthma attacks and be forced to drink water polluted with pesticides and other toxic chemicals,” said Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group. “It is crystal clear that for President Trump, public health protection is not a priority, but a target.”

Trump’s budget is likely to face an uphill fight on Capitol Hill, where even lawmakers in his own party have already shown a wiliness to ignore the president’s fiscal priorities. Many of the regional programs the administration has targeted for the chopping block have bipartisan support.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which has received more than $2 billion in federal funding since it was established in 2010, has nearly unanimous backing from members of both parties across region’s eight states, from New York to Minnesota. They fiercely resisted cuts during the Obama administration and last month warded off Trump’s proposal for a $50 million reduction to help pay for a U.S.-Mexico border wall.

“The health and vitality of the Great Lakes are instrumental to having sustained economic growth in Michigan and across the entire Great Lakes region,” said Rep. Bill Huizenga, a Michigan Republican who co-chairs the House’s Great Lakes Task Force. “I remain committed to working with both Republicans and Democrats to prioritize, strengthen, and defend the Great Lakes.”

Quincy to Seattle ag rail shipments discussed Tue, 23 May 2017 10:27:32 -0400 Dan Wheat QUINCY, Wash. — The Port of Quincy Intermodal Terminal may become a testing ground for rail shipments of Eastern Washington agricultural commodities to the ports of Seattle and Tacoma.

The Northwest Seaport Alliance, the marine cargo operating partnership of the ports of Seattle and Tacoma, is interested in reducing truck traffic and congestion into the ports by having agricultural goods coming by rail. Currently, none do. It would require intermodal terminals in Eastern Washington to load containers from trucks onto rail cars.

“We’re ready to go. We could start shipping tomorrow once we had a train schedule,” said Curt Morris, a Port of Quincy commissioner.

The Quincy terminal has 8,000 feet of siding track with 5,000 feet suitable for loading and unloading, and that can be doubled, Morris said. There is space for thousands of 20-foot and 40-foot containers, a facility to clean them and equipment to move them, he said.

The Port of Benton in Richland is considering an intermodal terminal for rail transport westbound through the Columbia Gorge and north on the Interstate 5 corridor to the ports of Tacoma and Seattle, said Pat Boss, Port of Quincy spokesman. The Port of Walla Walla is thinking about a terminal for eastbound goods, he said.

Those ideas and use of the Port of Quincy were discussed at the May meeting of the Washington Public Ports Association in Cle Elum, he said.

“The whole idea is we can’t keep jamming more and more trucks over Snoqualmie Pass especially when it’s shut down in snowstorms, so people are looking at inland ports,” Boss said. “The idea is dry goods so far but frozen could be next.”

Northwest Seaport Alliance and the Port of Quincy are talking with shippers of wheat, dry corn, dry beans, hay, legumes and other grains but a lot of frozen french fries are trucked from Quincy and other places to the ports of Tacoma and Seattle, Morris said.

Discussions are underway with BNSF Railway, he said. Generally, railroads are not eager to stop for short-haul business within 300 to 500 miles of ports, Morris said. While Quincy is just 150 miles east of Seattle and Tacoma, the congestion of those areas and uncertainty of winter travel through Snoqualmie Pass make it viable, he said.

BNSF runs from Quincy through Wenatchee and through the Cascade Tunnel at Stevens Pass which is more dependable than Snoqualmie Pass, Morris said.

Time trucks sit in traffic jams in the Seattle-Tacoma area is part of the equation and talks are ongoing with Ellensburg hay exporters about the cost effectiveness of trucking hay eastward 50 miles from Ellensburg to Quincy for shipment by rail west to Seattle, Morris said.

Railroad rates and a list of shippers are needed to get a test going, he said.

Such services previously operated out of Quincy.

In the early 2000s, export containers of refrigerated agricultural products went from Quincy to Tacoma and Seattle. But the service took longer than trucking, causing apple shippers to quit using it, Boss said.

From April 2010 to August 2014, Cold Train grew to about 700 refrigerated containers per month of apples, produce and frozen goods from Quincy and Portland heading east. Service ended when BNSF reduced service. Cold Train’s owner, Rail Logistics, Overland Park, Kan., sued BNSF for $41 million for breach of contract and reached an out-of-court settlement in 2016.

There are three or four eastbound refrigerated rail services from Seattle, Portland and Spokane now with 70 percent frozen product and 30 percent fresh, Boss said.

Azure Farms ‘on the right track’ but faces challenges in controlling weeds Tue, 23 May 2017 10:17:05 -0400 Eric Mortenson Azure Farms, the Sherman County, Ore., organic operation, faces a difficult and potentially expensive task to control the weeds that neighboring wheat farmers are complaining about.

Judit Barroso, a weed scientist at Oregon State University’s Columbia Basin Research and Extension Station in Pendleton, said she and other OSU experts are willing to help solve the problem that has simmered for years and boiled over this spring into a massive social media campaign that targeted county officials and a confrontational community meeting.

Barroso said the perennial weeds growing at Azure Farms are difficult to control, and it will take more than a single application or action to do the job. Because Azure Farms is organic, it would lose certification for three years if it attacks its weeds with the herbicides used by conventional farms in the area. Some local farmers believe the weed problem is so bad that Azure should spray, take its lumps with decertification and start organic farming again with clean fields in three years.

Dan Arp, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences at OSU, said weed scientist Barroso will provide “evidence-based information with regard to what may or may not work” to control the weeds. The help could include information on treatment methods and weed seed transmission, he said.

“We don’t design management plans,” Arp said. “This clearly is a county issue, the county has authority. They’re the ones who have to approve the plan.”

“It’s an interesting example of the issues around co-existence,” Arp said.

At a Sherman County Court hearing last week in the local high school gym, Azure Farms principals David and Nathan Stelzer presented a plan to control Rush Skeleton, Canada Thistle, White Top and Bindweed growing on their 1,922-acre farm on the outskirts of Moro, the county seat. An estimated 300 people attended, more than one-sixth the county’s population.

The county court had warned it would ask the Oregon Department of Agriculture to quarantine the farm if it did not control its weeds. Other farmers, especially those who grow certified wheat, don’t want weed seeds spreading from Azure Farms to contaminate their crops.

Tim Butler, who manages the ODA’s noxious weed program, said the ag department supports Sherman County’s action. “Our mission is to protect Oregon’s natural resource and agricultural economy from invasive, noxious weeds,” he said. “These things have impact directly on ag.

“I think Sherman County is doing the right thing for the right reasons, for sure,” Butler said.

He said a quarantine for weeds has been used only one time in Oregon that he recalls. The weed management plan submitted by Azure Farms “still needs some work” but is on the right track, Butler said.

“That’s where the weed scientists at OSU can provide some insight,” he said. “I think they can get there.”

The Stelzers, who are brothers, proposed a variety of methods, including deep tillage, mowing, increased crop rotation, over-application of fertilizer and application of such things as boron, salt and citrus pulp mulch. Nathan Stelzer is the farm manager; David Stelzer is CEO of Azure Standard in Dufur, Ore., which distributes organic products.

Bryan Cranston, who grows certified wheat next to Azure Farms, said he hopes the Stelzers, neighboring farmers and county officials can find a solution that works for everyone. “I don’t want them to lose organic certification, I don’t,” he said.

But Cranston also said the time for experimental weed control methods has passed. He believes the only way to control Rush Skeleton weed in particular is with the herbicide Milestone, which is not certified for use on organic operations.

Like many in the county, Cranston was angry the farm used social media to rally customers and organic activists to its side. County officials received approximately 57,000 emails, many from people who angrily denounced the county for what the senders characterized as threatening to poison the farm with herbicides. The county courthouse had to shut down its phone system, because it was overwhelmed. Some critics invoked the specter of Monsanto, which had no discernable role in the matter.

During the Sherman County Court session, Cranston and others made it clear they didn’t appreciate it.

“Noxious weeds spread the same way something is viral on Facebook,” he said during the hearing. “I would appreciate a visit over a tailgate, not a social media campaign.”

During the meeting, David Stelzer apologized for taking the issue to social media.

Speaking this week, Cranston said weeds from Azure have been a problem for 10 years, and he’s frustrated many people are acting like the problem was discovered only recently. He hopes the county will supervise Azure’s progress on its weed management plan, and he believes the organic farm should pay for it.

Willamette Valley farmer Marie Bowers, who grows grass seed and turnip seed, also said co-existence between farmers is the key issue. In her case, she has a turnip field next to wine grapes. She and the vineyard operator notify each other when they need to spray, for example, and time their work so it doesn’t harm the other.

“You want to be respectful of your neighbor, you want to work together,” she said. “That’s part of what we do in Oregon: We check with each other.”

Bowers said the non-farming public may not understand weed control is important to farmers, especially those growing seed. Seed purity, providing a product that is free of weeds, is “pretty much vital to our industry,” she said.

Man dies after being sickened in apparent botulism outbreak Tue, 23 May 2017 10:16:27 -0400

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A botulism outbreak linked to contaminated nacho-cheese dip sold at a Northern California gas station has killed one man and left at least nine other people hospitalized, health officials said.

The San Francisco County coroner’s office identified the dead man as Martin Galindo-Larios Jr., 37.

On Monday, Matt Conens, a spokesman for the California Department of Public Health, declined to release further information on the death, the condition of the other victims, or the status and extent of the investigation into the weeks-old outbreak.

Family members of Galindo-Larios did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. An online fundraising page said the man had been married and the father of two small children.

Tests have confirmed the botulism toxin was present in nacho-cheese dip sold at a gas station in the Sacramento suburb of Walnut Grove, the state health agency said Monday in a statement.

The agency said last week the container and cheese dip were removed May 5, and that authorities believe the contamination posed no further risk to the public.

Wisconsin-based food distributor Gehl Foods said in a statement that it had been notified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that the company’s nacho cheese was among the products that inspectors seized at the gas station.

“We immediately retested samples from the relevant lot of cheese, and it remains clear of any contamination,” the company said. The manufacturer said an independent lab also found no sign of the toxin in the samples tested there.

There is no recall of the nacho cheese product, the company said.

Botulism, a comparatively rare kind of food poisoning, can lead to paralysis, breathing difficulty and sometimes death. Survivors often are forced to spend weeks or months on ventilators to help them breathe.

A major outbreak of food-borne botulism stemmed from a church potluck in Ohio in 2015, when at least 29 people fell ill. Authorities blamed potato salad made from potatoes that had been canned improperly at home.

Trump’s $4T budget arrives on Capitol Hill Tue, 23 May 2017 10:12:09 -0400 ANDREW TAYLOR and MARTIN CRUTSINGER WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Tuesday sent Congress a $4.1 trillion spending plan that relies on faster economic growth and steep cuts to programs for the poor in a bid to balance the government’s books over the next decade.

The proposed 2018 budget immediately came under attack by Democrats and even some of GOP allies declared it dead on arrival. The proposal is laced with cuts to domestic agencies, food stamps, Medicaid, highway funding and medical research.

“It’ll face a tough sled here,” said veteran Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky. Asked about the impact on his constituents from reductions in such programs as food stamps, Rogers said, “These cuts that are being proposed are draconian. They’re not mere shavings, they’re deep, deep cuts.”

The Senate’s No. 2 Republican, John Cornyn of Texas, said the Trump plan joins a tradition of White House budgets that are “basically dead on arrival.”

The proposal projects that this year’s deficit will rise to $603 billion, up from the actual deficit of $585 billion last year. But the document says if Trump’s initiatives are adopted the deficit will start declining and actually reach a small surplus of $16 billion in 2027. However, that goal depends on growth projections that most economists view as overly optimistic and a variety of accounting gimmicks, including an almost $600 billion peace dividend from winding down overseas military operations.

The government hasn’t run a surplus since 2001 and deficits spiked during former president Barack Obama’s first term in the aftermath of the Great Recession.

During the campaign, Trump attacked the weak economic growth of the Obama years, and pledged that his economic program would boost growth from the lackluster 2 percent rates seen since the recovery began in mid-2009. Trump’s new budget is based on sustained growth above 3 percent, sharply higher than the expectations of most private economists. Without more than $2 trillion in such “economic feedback” over the coming decade, the budget would never reach balance and would run a deficit of almost $500 billion when Trump promises balance.

“The president believes that we must restore the greatness of our nation and reject the failed status quo that has left the American dream out of reach for too many families,” the administration said in its budget which was titled, “The New Foundation for American Greatness.”

According to budget tables released by the administration, Trump’s plan cuts almost $3.6 trillion from an array of benefit programs, domestic agencies and war spending over the coming decade — an almost 8 percent cut — including repealing and replacing Obama’s health law, cutting Medicaid, eliminating student loan subsidies, sharply slashing food stamps, and cutting $95 billion in highway formula funding for the states. Cuts to a popular crop insurance program have already landed with a thud.

A program designed to move people receiving Social Security disability payments back into enter the workforce is politically toxic as well. Administration officials defended these measures as a way to reduce government support they contend is keeping millions of Americans out of the work force and thus reducing economic growth.

“We need people to go to work,” White House Budget director Mick Mulvaney told reporters at a briefing Monday. “If you are on food stamps, we need you to go to work. If you are on disability and you should not be, we need you to go back to work.”

Food stamp cuts would drive millions from the program, while a wave of Medicaid cuts could deny nursing home care to millions of elderly poor people.

The budget does feature a handful of domestic initiatives, including a six-week paid parental leave program championed by Trump’s daughter, Ivanka. Another $200 billion in federal infrastructure investments is promised to leverage another $800 billion in private investment.

Trump would keep campaign pledges to leave core Medicare and Social Security benefits for the elderly alone but that translated into even deeper cuts in programs for the poor such as Medicaid and food stamps.

Medicaid, the government insurance program for the poor and many disabled Americans, would be cut by more than $600 billion over 10 years by capping payments to states and giving governors more flexibility to manage their rosters of Medicaid recipients. Those cuts go on top of the repeal of Obamacare’s expansion of the program to 14 million people and amount to, by decade’s end, an almost 25 percent cut from present projections.

Likewise, a 10-year, $191 billion reduction in food stamps — almost 30 percent — far exceeds prior proposals by Capitol Hill Republicans. The food stamp program serves about 42 million people.

Other cuts in Trump’s budget include reductions in pension benefits for federal workers, in part by requiring employees to make higher contributions. In agriculture, the proposed budget would limit subsidies to farmers, including for purchasing crop insurance, a move already attacked by farm state lawmakers.

On taxes, Trump promises an overhaul that would cut tax rates but rely on erasing tax breaks and economic growth to avoid adding to the deficit. It would create three tax brackets — 10 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent — instead of the current seven and promises to lower the corporate tax rate to 15 percent.

But the budget has virtually no detail to prove it would deliver on Trump’s promise for “massive” tax cuts.

FFA members help special-needs kids raise goats for county fair Tue, 23 May 2017 10:07:45 -0400 Tim Hearden ORLAND, Calif. — All her life, Amanda Houtrouw dreamed of raising her own goat and taking it to auction at her county fair.

This year, thanks to the mentorship of her fellow FFA members in Willows, Calif., she got the chance.

Houtrouw was one of six students with special needs who took part in her school’s first Mighty Honker Goat Project, which paired them with mentors who helped them raise, present and sell goats at the Glenn County Fair on May 18-21.

“I learned how to walk a goat and to clean his pen,” she said, adding that she and her mentor, Gina Amaro, will be friends forever.

The project was created by Willows High School senior Makaylee Lindsey, who saw a similar project at a fair in Southern California, she said.

“I went to the county fair in Santa Barbara and my cousin was a part of the program,” Lindsey said. “I decided to bring the program here.”

She rallied local businesses and agriculture boosters to donate materials and help with the cost, which was about $1,000 per student.

The students with intellectual disabilities were each given a goat purchased by donors in February, and they accompanied their mentors three afternoons a week to the high school’s farm to work with their animals.

The youngsters fed their goats, cleaned the stalls, weighed their goats and practiced showing the animals.

One of the students, Ryan Torres, and his mentor, Luis Garcia, raised the grand champion goat.

“It’s awesome,” said Staci Alves, an agriculture teacher at Willows High. “It kind of brought tears to everyone’s eyes.”

The students got to keep half the proceeds from the sale of their goats, while the other half went into a fund to continue the program.

The project has had an impact on the high school’s campus life, Alves said. Special-education students felt separated from the rest of the school, “but not anymore,” she said.

One of the students didn’t want to make eye contact with people, but now he can, she said.

“I think it has more of an impact on these kids,” the mentors, Alves said. “They’re not even trained (as teachers). It’s very natural.”

The parents of the special-needs kids said the experience taught them responsibility and gave them more confidence. Angelique Gomez said he daughter, Yolanda, has learned respect for animals and how to work with others.

“It’s a good opportunity for the kids,” said Maria Rojo, whose daughter Alejandra participated in the program. “Alejandra is so happy. … This is the first time she could enter. She’s so happy and excited.”

S.E. Idaho growers brace for stripe rust pressure Tue, 23 May 2017 09:54:36 -0400 John O’Connell AMERICAN FALLS, Idaho — Cereal crop experts have discovered stripe rust infections in three areas of southeast Idaho and warn cool, wet weather could result in heavy disease pressure this season.

“Last year was a moderate year for stripe rust, but the susceptible varieties were hit hard,” said University of Idaho Extension cereals pathologist Juliet Marshall. “I suspect higher disease pressure this year.”

Marshall said the potentially devastating fungal disease, spread by orange and yellow airborne spores, has been widespread in Logan, Utah, with infections continuing north into Preston, Idaho.

Stripe rust has also been reported in the Seagull Bay area near American Falls Reservoir and in Arbon Valley.

“If it’s locally established very early in the season, there’s a higher chance of it exploding,” Marshall said. “Our (recent) cool, wet weather and cool nights are really good for stripe rust to continue to expand.”

In recent weeks, Marshall said stripe rust has spread into California, Oregon and Washington, and heavier spore loads could soon blow into Idaho.

Marshall said no stripe rust has been found yet in UI cereal variety trials in Aberdeen and Tetonia.

About a month ago, Chris Merrigan, a crop consultant with J.R. Simplot, Co., confirmed stripe rust in a field in the Seagull Bay area near American Falls Reservoir. Merrigan said between 10 and 20 percent of the irrigated field, planted in a resistant wheat variety, was infected.

However, Merrigan said the field was planted in wheat for consecutive seasons, elevating the infection risk, and he doesn’t believe a fungicidal seed treatment was used. Merrigan said spring grain growers still have time to mix fungicides with their herbicide sprays to prevent the spread of stripe rust, and he urges them to do so.

Lonnie Sparks, a crop consultant with CHS Bingham Cooperative, identified stripe rust in downy brome growing between two irrigated spring wheat fields in Arbon Valley. Based on the discovery, Sparks said the grower mixed fungicide with herbicide used on fall wheat fields planted in a susceptible variety, Brundage, and plans to spray fungicides on his spring wheat as well. Sparks also advised the grower to kill the weeds with a mixture of glyphosate herbicide and fungicide.

Marshall said she’s beginning to see cases of root rot in fall wheat fields that were heavily saturated with moisture, as well as pythium outbreaks in spring wheat. Pythium is a water mold that thrives when crops are planted in cool, wet soils, and can cause heavy damage to newly emerging crops with undeveloped root systems.

The good news, Marshall said, is that barley yellow dwarf virus doesn’t appear to be widespread in Idaho this year, as it has been during the past few seasons. Marshall said the virus, which is spread by aphids, has been confirmed in a few fall barley fields in the Murtaugh, Rupert and Burley areas. She believes growers have minimized the spread by delaying planting of fall crops until aphid migrations have passed and by using insecticidal seed treatments.

Farmers, others seek referendum on planned community Tue, 23 May 2017 09:39:28 -0400 Sean Ellis BOISE — Farmers and other residents of the Dry Creek Valley just north of Boise are fighting a proposed planned community that would eliminate 1,400 acres of prime farmland.

The $100 million development has been approved by Ada County commissioners but opponents have turned to a little-known section of Idaho Code to try to overturn that decision through a public vote.

Idaho Code 31-717 provides a mechanism by which people who gather a certain number of signatures can put a county decision to a vote of the people. The section allows for “people at an election to approve or reject legislation adopted by the board of county commissioners.”

Stephanie Rael, a local farm hand, submitted the initial 20 signatures necessary to prompt a county review of the petition for a special election. If approved, she and others who oppose the project will have 180 days to collect the estimated 40,000 signatures it will take to prompt an election.

Brian Ertz, an attorney who lives in that area, is assisting those opposed to the development with free legal advice.

Idaho Code “allows any ordinance passed by a county, which is legislative in nature, to be subject to a referendum,” Ertz said. “The mechanism ... really hasn’t been used in Idaho.”

Dry Creek Ranch is a proposed development about 5 miles north of Boise that would include 1,800 homes and 85,000 square feet of commercial space on what farmers in the area say is some of the best soil in the county.

“I’ve never farmed on land in my whole life that is so nice,” said Justin Moore, co-owner of Fiddler’s Green Farm. “It seems kind of foolish to take that away.”

He said he understands the region is growing fast and people have to live somewhere.

“But does it necessarily have to be here?” he said. “It would be nice to preserve this unique soil and farming area here. It’s really special agricultural land.”

Since the original development application was approved in 2010, the developer, number of houses and square footage of commercial space have changed, according to a website,, that was created by opponents of the plan.

The county this year approved an amendment to the original plan but opponents of the development believe the developer, Boise Hunter Homes, should have been required to submit a new plan.

Rael said the commission signed an ordinance that changed certain conditions in the original development agreement.

“According to our understanding, that is a piece of legislation and subject to the referendum process,” she said.

She said if the county doesn’t approve opponents’ petition for a referendum, they are prepared to challenge that decision.

Ada County officials did not respond to requests to be interviewed for this article, and Boise Hunter Homes declined to comment.

Moore said he supports the referendum effort.

“I think if more people were aware of what the hell is going on, there would probably be an outcry and people might rethink what’s supposed to happen out here,” he said.

Ag groups on NAFTA: Modernize, don’t jeopardize Tue, 23 May 2017 09:14:32 -0400 Carol Ryan Dumas The Trump administration’s notice to Congress of its intentions to renegotiate NAFTA with Canada and Mexico has been met with a good bit of concern by U.S. agricultural groups.

While most say there’s room for improvement in the 23-year-old trade agreement, they are urging the administration to protect the gains they’ve made in those export markets.

Like many in the ag community, the U.S. wheat industry’s priority is to do no harm.

While it welcomes the opportunity for improving cross-border wheat trade, it would strongly oppose changes that might limit current benefits for wheat growers and their customers, U.S. Wheat Associates and the National Association of Wheat Growers stated in a joint press release.

NAFTA has brought a boom in U.S. wheat trade, particularly in exports to Mexico, which is the largest buyer of U.S. wheat.

“I cannot emphasize enough how important our Mexican customers are to U.S. wheat farmers,” said Jason Scott, U.S. Wheat chairman.

The wheat groups recognize that improvements can be made to NAFTA in such areas as sanitary and phytosanitary rules, but it must be done in a way that benefits the ag sector in both countries.

“It must guarantee growers that new terms won’t reverse the significant benefits for U.S. wheat farmers, like duty-free access,” said David Schemm, NAWG president.

The National Pork Producers Council is urging the administration to ensure that tariffs remain at zero for pork, saying U.S. pork exports to Canada and Mexico have been robust.

“We need to maintain and even improve that trade. We absolutely must not have any disruptions to our No. 2 (Mexico) and No. 4 (Canada) markets,” said Ken Maschoff, NPPC president.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association joined cattle–industry partners in Canada and Mexico in urging their respective countries’ administrations to not “jeopardize the success we have all enjoyed as partners” in NAFTA.

The terms of the current agreement affecting cattle producers are strongly supported and shouldn’t be altered, they said, urging that efforts to resurrect failed policy — especially mandatory county-of-origin labeling — be rejected.

U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, however, disagrees.

Leo McDonnell, chairman of USCA’s trade committee, said since NAFTA was signed “U.S. cattle producers have experience distorted and unfair trading practices with both Canada and Mexico.”

“Specifically, we hope that President Trump will take this chance to strike any provisions that may prevent the re-establishment of a country-of-origin program for U.S. beef products,” he said.

National Farmers Union said renegotiating NAFTA provides an opportunity to reset the U.S. trade agenda, noting that it has led to a $500 billion annual trade deficit for the U.S., lost jobs and lowered wages in rural communities across the country.

“NAFTA has installed, and since cemented, a set of trade parameters that have benefited corporate America and damaged rural American communities and economies, said Roger Johnson, NFU president.

NAFTA was the first U.S. trade agreement to include provisions that allow foreign companies to sue governments over laws that undermine their profits, consolidating money and power in the hands of multinational corporations and ultimately dictating U.S. laws, he said.

Those provisions need to be eliminated. Other facets of U.S. sovereignty, such as country-of-origin labeling, also need to be restored, he said.

While NFU wants the agenda reset, it also wants the administration to do it in a fashion that doesn’t upset positive trade relations.

The U.S. dairy industry is also hopeful that updating NAFTA will address some needed issues while maintaining the nearly $2 billion in U.S. dairy exports to NAFTA partners.

In a joint press release, National Milk Producers Council, U.S. Dairy Export Council and International Dairy Food Association said they are focused on maintaining and building what has worked well, such as trade with Mexico, and improving market access to Canada and tackling that country’s expanding list of protectionist policies and other barriers to U.S. dairy exports.

American Farm Bureau Federation said U.S. farmers and ranchers have benefited from NAFTA, with U.S. ag exports growing from $8.9 billion in 1993 to $38 billion in 2016.

AFBF President Zippy Duvall said the organization looks forward to working with the administration and others “to protect these important markets while also addressing issues that have limited the trade potential for U.S. farmers and ranchers.”

Modernizing NAFTA and expanding markets for the U.S. starts with “ensuring the negotiations protect U.S. agriculture’s benefits under the current trade agreement,” he said.

Lawsuit challenges lifting of Argentinian lemon ban Tue, 23 May 2017 08:52:01 -0400 Mateusz Perkowski A group of U.S. citrus growers has accused the USDA of unlawfully accepting imports of Argentinian lemons based on foreign policy rather than science.

The U.S. Citrus Science Council, a nonprofit representing 750 lemon growers, and five individual California farms have filed a lawsuit claiming the USDA’s decision violated federal laws.

Due to concerns about pests and diseases, the USDA has largely prohibited lemon imports from Argentina for seven decades. The agency briefly opened the U.S. border to Argentinian lemons in 2000, but that decision was soon struck down by a federal court.

The lawsuit argues that USDA began to reconsider the ban last year because the Obama administration “wished to accommodate” Argentina’s newly elected president, Mauricio Macri, “whom it viewed as a potential ally after years of difficult U.S.-Argentine relations.”

A proposed rule allowing imports of lemons from Argentina was finalized by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, or APHIS, in late 2016 and affirmed by the Trump administration this year due to “extraneous foreign policy considerations,” the complaint said.

The rule, set to become effective on May 26, violates the Plant Protection Act by taking into account factors other than the risk posed by plant pests, the plaintiffs argue.

“Nothing in the Act authorizes APHIS, at the behest of the president, to convert import decisions into bargaining chips to achieve unrelated foreign policy objectives. Yet that appears to be exactly what happened here,” the complaint said.

A spokesman for USDA said the agency is aware of the lawsuit challenging its decision to allow imports of lemons grown under a “systems approach” in Northwest Argentina.

“APHIS made this decision because our extensive review and analysis of the science shows that importing Argentine lemons can be safely done while protecting U.S. agriculture from plant pests. APHIS is currently reviewing the lawsuit and will not comment on pending litigation,” the spokesman said in an email.

According to the complaint, USDA has justified its decision by pointing to a 2015 trip to Argentina during which APHIS officials assessed citrus harvest practices, but the agency has refused to disclose key details from the visit.

The plaintiffs allege that USDA has placed an unreasonable amount of confidence in Argentinian regulators’ ability to mitigate pest and disease risks, despite their shortcomings in the past.

Aside from violating the Plant Protection Act and administrative law, USDA also failed to conduct an environmental analysis of its decision as required under the National Environmental Policy Act, the lawsuit claims.

The plaintiffs have asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Stanley Boone in Fresno, Calif., to overturn the import rule and block shipments of lemons from Argentina.

Mexican trip reassures WSDA director about trade ties Tue, 23 May 2017 09:01:15 -0400 Don Jenkins A weeklong trip to Mexico eased worries about trade relations with Washington’s seventh-largest export market for farm products, state Agriculture Director Derek Sandison said Monday.

The trade mission wasn’t a direct response to President Donald Trump’s criticism of the North America Free Trade Agreement, but that’s what everybody wanted to talk about, Sandison said.

“The reason (to go) was to reaffirm our commitment to that partnership with Mexico,” he said. “NAFTA has been very good to Washington.

“It’s a concern, and we’re doing what we can to keep relations on an even keel,” he said. “But it’s less of a problem than we perceived.”

Sandison was part of a business delegation that also included Washington Dairy Products Commission General Manager Scott Kinney and Chairwoman Michelle Schliter, a Lewis County dairy farmer.

While the delegation was in Mexico, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer issued a two-page letter notifying congressional leaders that the White House will re-negotiate NAFTA. The letter stressed that the trade pact with Mexico and Canada needs to be updated and that the Trump administration looked forward to conferring with lawmakers.

The letter’s temperate language contrasted with Trump’s condemnations of NAFTA and threats to withdraw from the trading partnership.

“I think the positive language that was used resonated well with (Mexican officials),” Sandison said. “It’s basically an agreement that needs to be modernized, and I think there is a broad recognition that there is a need to do that.”

Mexico bought $313 million worth of Washington agricultural products last year, according to the state Department of Agriculture. Mexico is the top foreign customer for Washington apples and dairy products, the state’s two most valuable agricultural commodities.

Mexico is by far the top export market for U.S. dairy, with sales topping $1.2 billion in 2016, according to the U.S. Dairy Export Council. The state’s share was $72 million, according to WSDA.

Kinney said Monday that he saw Tillamook cheese in Mexico, as well as California and Wisconsin cheeses. But he said there is an opportunity for Washington’s small cheesemakers to fill a demand for protein.

“We have the perfect product for it,” he said.

Getting more Washington cheese in Mexican stores will take developing supply chains, not revising NAFTA, Kinney said. “NAFTA has definitely been beneficial for Washington farmers as a whole, and we’ll keep our eye on that.”

The delegation also included Washington Commerce Director Brian Bonlender. Gov. Jay Inslee joined the delegation Friday in Mexico City and met with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. Inslee told reporters that NAFTA negotiations could help Washington agriculture, particularly by resolving food-safety issues that the National Potato Council says keeps U.S. spuds from having full access to the Mexican market.

Sandison agreed NAFTA negotiations could help Washington agriculture. “If we follow good, sound principles and don’t get down too far into the weeds, I think it’s going to be a benefit for us.”

U.S. growers face loan defaults over Mexican sugar dispute Mon, 22 May 2017 11:02:10 -0400 John O’Connell A national sugar expert says U.S. sugar growers could face loan forfeitures this summer if nothing is done to stop Mexico from dumping subsidized sugar here.

Jack Roney, director of economics and policy analysis with American Sugar Alliance, explained under a 2014 agreement Mexico is allowed to export sugar duty-free to the U.S. In exchange, U.S. corn syrup is granted open access into Mexico.

While the U.S. has shipped Mexico about 800,000 tons of corn syrup per year, Mexican sugar exports doubled in 2013 to 2 million tons, contributing to a U.S. sugar price collapse, Roney said. The U.S. International Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Commerce ruled in response to a complaint by U.S. sugar growers that the combination of subsidization and dumping by Mexico warranted sugar duties of 48 to 84 percent.

But in December 2014, the governments signed an agreement to suspend tariffs in favor of reference prices and limits on the refined share of Mexican sugar exports. Roney said Mexico hasn’t met the reference prices — the U.S. refined sugar price has dropped from 37.5 cents per pound when the agreement was signed to a current rate of 29 cents per pound. At 26 cents, Roney said growers come out ahead by forfeiting their sugar to the U.S. government rather than repaying their federal loans. Furthermore, Mexico has been shipping the U.S. mostly finished sugar, though the country would rather import raw cane to keep domestic mills in production. Roney holds Mexico accountable for the recent closings of sugar mills in Hawaii and Wyoming.

“Our guys are in danger of forfeiture this summer,” Roney said. “We’ve got to get this settled now.”

In early May, the U.S. Department of Commerce sent a letter to the Mexican government threatening to impose duties of 80 percent on Mexican sugar if new agreements can’t be reached by June 5.

Based on price declines following sugar dumping, Roney calculated Mexico cost U.S. sugar producer $2 billion during 2013 and 2014 combined, and another $2 billion since the suspension agreement was signed.

Duane Grant, chairman of Idaho-based Snake River Sugar Co., said his growers had a profitable 2016 season, but only because they produced record yields and sugar levels. This season, however, cold weather has slowed beet growth.

“We’re well behind in our accumulation of heat units,” Grant said. “That needs to change in order for our crop to get its legs underneath it and start to move toward a yield that would be acceptable.”

Grant said members of his company are optimistic the Mexican dumping problem will be addressed in time to improve prices of the current crop.

Opponents of strengthening the suspension agreements, including sugary food and beverage manufacturers, warn the action would lead to increased food costs for consumers. In a letter dated May 19, 51 members of Congress urged Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to “consult with and take into account the interests of the companies that make food products and beverages using sugar.”

The lawmakers asked the secretary to avoid setting any reference prices higher than prices included in the original suspension agreement and advised “bilateral negotiations should not be an excuse for the U.S. sugar lobby to extract yet more benefits from its customers through market manipulation that flies in the face of open and fair competition.”

Change in Idaho’s fugitive dust law protects ag Mon, 22 May 2017 10:46:53 -0400 Sean Ellis BOISE — Since the Idaho Legislature approved a change to Idaho’s fugitive dust law in 2015, no one has been fined for creating dust while engaged in agriculture-related activities.

In the three years before the rule change, six people were fined by the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality for creating dust while working on farms or ranches. Those fines ranged from $1,200 to $4,300. The law allows for penalties of up to $10,000.

No enforcement actions have been taken against people for creating dust while conducting agricultural activities since the new rule was approved in 2015, said Tiffany Floyd, who manages DEQ’s air quality division.

“The added clarification under the ‘rules for control of fugitive dust for agricultural activities’ appears to have addressed the concerns of the ag industry,” she said. “The clarity has proven to be beneficial to them and to DEQ.”

Idaho farm groups got involved in the issue in 2013 after learning that a southwestern Idaho farmer was fined for creating dust on his property.

Before that, they weren’t aware of the state’s 1972 fugitive dust law, which requires that all reasonable precautions be taken to prevent particulate matter from becoming airborne.

The law states that if a farmer or rancher operates in accordance with generally recognized agricultural practices, that constitutes reasonable control of fugitive dust.

But farm groups and DEQ differed somewhat over what generally accepted farm practices were.

For example, the southwestern Idaho farmer who brought the issue to light was fined for creating dust while grinding grain on a feedlot, a common practice.

DEQ and farm groups agreed to define common agricultural practices. The definitions were largely taken from Idaho’s Right to Farm Act.

The list includes preparing land for agricultural production, applying or handling pesticides, herbicides or other chemicals, planting, irrigating, growing, fertilizing, harvesting or producing agricultural, horticultural, floricultural and viticultural 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 rule allows the Idaho State Department of Agriculture, if there is uncertainty, to determine whether an activity is a generally recognized agricultural practice.

Ag groups involved in the negotiations that led to the dust rule change told Capital Press they haven’t heard of any of their members being fined or bothered for creating dust since.

“I haven’t had anybody from industry say they have had any issues with DEQ,” said Roger Batt, executive director of the Idaho Heartland Coalition, which includes several farming groups. “We came to a real good agreement on that. I think it’s resolved the issue.”

Russ Hendricks, director of governmental affairs for Idaho Farm Bureau Federation, said his organization isn’t aware of any of its members being bothered for creating dust since 2015.

“It appears to be working well and we are appreciative of DEQ for making the necessary adjustments,” he said.

Evacuations lifted as crews advance on fire near San Diego Mon, 22 May 2017 10:14:02 -0400

JAMUL, Calif. (AP) — A criminal investigation has been launched into the origin of a brush fire that forced hundreds of people to evacuate over the weekend southeast of San Diego, authorities said.

All evacuation orders were lifted early Monday and the blaze was 75 percent contained after scorching more than 3 square miles of dry brush near Jamul (HAH-mul), the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.

A video posted to social media appeared to show the start of the fire in an area of Bureau of Land Management property, Capt. Issac Sanchez told the Union-Tribune Sunday. He wouldn’t say whether investigators suspected the fire sparked Saturday was intentionally set.

The video showed two people standing next to a patch of smoking brush, and two others running toward it. Soon after, the smoldering vegetation caught fire, and the four were seen walking away, the newspaper reported.

Another portion of the video showed a fire truck arriving. A nearby hillside was already blackened.

Occupants of rural homes and the Pio Pico RV Resort and Campground were ordered to leave as flames spread rapidly amid dry, hot conditions.

A rise in humidity allowed firefighters to advance on the blaze on Sunday.

No injuries were reported.

Concrete egg winemaking hits Washington Mon, 22 May 2017 10:13:19 -0400

WALLA WALLA, Wash. (AP) — Wineries in Washington have been picking up on the industry’s latest fad of using a concrete egg to make wine.

The Union-Bulletin reported Sunday that despite the egg costing around $27,000, more wineries in the area are going the concrete route.

Juan Munoz Oco, head winemaker for Columbia Crest, says he currently uses 16 concrete eggs for his reserve wine program.

One advantage of the eggs is desirable solids in the wine are kept naturally suspended in the juice during fermentation and aging, creating different layers of flavor complexity and mouth feel. Concrete also holds temperatures well, although it isn’t as flexible as stainless steel.

Food stamps, Medicaid on chopping block in Trump’s budget Mon, 22 May 2017 10:05:43 -0400 ANDREW TAYLOR WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump will unveil a proposed budget this week that would drive millions of people off food stamps and cut Medicaid, targeting the social safety-net programs for the poor in a new wave of spending cuts.

Trump’s blueprint for the 2018 budget year comes out Tuesday. It includes reductions to benefit programs such as Medicaid, the government insurance program for the poorest and many disabled Americans; federal employee pensions, welfare benefits and farm subsidies. Even before its release, it was widely panned by Republicans and Democrats.

All told, according to people familiar with the plan, Trump’s budget includes $1.7 trillion over 10 years in cuts from such so-called mandatory programs. That includes cuts to pensions for federal workers and higher contributions toward those pension benefits, as well as cuts to refundable tax credits paid to the working poor. People familiar with the plan were not authorized to discuss it by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Cuts include a whopping $193 billion from food stamps over the coming decade — a cut of more than 25 percent — implemented by cutting back eligibility and imposing additional work requirements, according to talking points circulated by the White House. The program presently serves about 42 million people.

The food stamp cuts are several times larger than those attempted by House Republicans a few years back and comprise the bulk of a 10-year, $274 billion proposal that’s labeled as welfare reform.

The fleshed-out proposal follows up on an unpopular partial release in March that targeted the budgets of domestic agencies and foreign aid for cuts averaging 10 percent — and made lawmakers in both parties recoil.

The new cuts are unpopular as well.

“We think it’s wrongheaded,” said Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, when asked about looming cuts to farm programs. “Production agriculture is in the worst slump since the depression — 50 percent drop in the net income for producers. They need this safety net.”

Trump’s budget plan promises to balance the federal ledger by the end of a 10-year window, even while exempting Social Security and Medicare retirement benefits from cuts. To achieve balance, the plan by White House budget director Mick Mulvaney relies on optimistic estimates of economic growth, and the surge in revenues that would result, while abandoning Trump’s promise of a “massive tax cut.”

Instead, the Trump tax plan promises an overhaul that would cut tax rates but rely on erasing tax breaks and economic growth to end up as “revenue neutral.” It would create three tax brackets — 10 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent — instead of the current seven.

Trump is also targeting the Medicaid health program that provides care to the poor and disabled, and nursing home care to millions of older people who could not otherwise afford it.

The House had a bitter debate on health care before a razor-thin 217-213 passage in early May of a GOP health bill that included more than $800 billion in Medicaid cuts over the coming decade. Key Republicans are not interested in another round of cuts to the program.

“I would think that the health care bill is our best policy statement on Medicaid going forward,” said Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over the program.

A full budget submission by the administration to Congress is months overdue and follows the release two months ago of an outline for the discretionary portion of the budget, covering defense, education, foreign aid, housing and environmental programs, among others. Their budgets pass each year through annual appropriations bills.

An earlier blueprint from Trump proposed a $54 billion, 10 percent increase for the military above an existing cap on Pentagon spending, financed by an equal cut to nondefense programs. Those cuts rang alarm bells for many Republicans, who were particularly upset about proposals to eliminate community development block grants, slash medical research and eviscerate foreign aid.

Trump’s GOP allies rejected such cuts when wrapping up long-overdue legislation for the current budget year, which ends Sept. 30. There’s little sign they will have a change of heart now, especially with Trump’s administration in turmoil and his poll ratings at historic lows.

“The budget’s a starting point. We’ll go to work from there,” said Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Republicans controlling Congress have delayed action on their companion budget measure, waiting for Trump to go first. This year’s budget debate, Republicans hope, would grease the way for a major overhaul of the loophole-cluttered tax system. But House conservatives also want to embark on a round of cuts to benefit programs and are open to Trump’s suggestions for cuts to mandatory programs such as federal employee pensions.

Presidential budgets are mere suggestions, and the White House has discretion to assume higher economic growth rates of up to 3 percent or so under Trump’s agenda of tax changes, loosened regulations and infrastructure spending.

National wool and sheep report Mon, 22 May 2017 09:12:30 -0400 Wool prices in cents per pound and foreign currency per kilogram, sheep prices in dollars per hundredweight (cwt.) except some replacement animals on per head basis as indicated.


(USDA Market News)

Greeley, Colo.

May 19

Domestic wool trading on a clean basis was at a standstill this week. There were no confirmed trades reported. Domestic wool trading on a greasy basis was at a standstill this week. There were no confirmed trades reported.

Domestic wool tags

No. 1 $.60-.70

No. 2 $.50-.60

No. 3 $.40-.50


(USDA Market News)

San Angelo, Texas

May 19

Compared to last week: Slaughter lambs were steady to $20 lower. Slaughter ewes were steady to $6 higher. Feeder lambs were steady to sharply lower. At San Angelo, Texas, 6,349 head sold. No sales in Equity Electronic Auction. In direct trading slaughter ewes and feeder lambs were not tested. 2,900 head of negotiated sales of slaughter lambs were steady to $1 higher. 1,854 lamb carcasses sold with 45 $and down $9.89 higher, all other weights no trend due to confidentiality.

SLAUGHTER LAMBS Choice and Prime 2-3:

San Angelo: Shorn and wooled 105-180 lbs. $154-174.

SLAUGHTER LAMBS Choice and Prime 1:

San Angelo: 40-60 lbs. $206-222; 60-70 lbs. $190-216; 70-80 lbs. $185-202; 80-90 lbs. $186-198; 90-110 lbs. $180-198, few $202.

DIRECT TRADING (Lambs with 3-4 percent shrink or equivalent):

2,900 Slaughter Lambs shorn and wooled 133-232 lbs. $152- 177.50 (wtd avg $160.94).


San Angelo: Good 2-3 (fleshy) $69-76; Utility and Good 1-3 (medium flesh) $74-88; Utility 1-2 (thin) $65- 76; Cull and Utility 1-2 (very thin) $55-65; Cull 1 (extremely thin) $38-54.

FEEDER LAMBS Medium and Large 1-2:

San Angelo: New crop 50-90 lbs. $216-233; 91 lbs. $228; 100-105 lbs. $204-208.

REPLACEMENT EWES Medium and Large 1-2:

San Angelo: Hair ewe lambs 55-60 lbs. $232-246 cwt, 70-80 lbs. $210-217 cwt; mixed age hair ewes 80-140 lbs. $90-135 cwt.


Weight Wtd. avg.

45 lbs. and down $543.10

45-55 lbs. Price not reported

due to confidentiality

55-65 lbs. Price not reported

due to confidentiality

65-75 lbs. Price not reported

due to confidentiality

75-85 lbs. Price not reported

due to confidentiality

85 lbs. and up Price not reported

due to confidentiality

Sheep and lamb slaughter under federal inspection for the week to date totaled 34,000 compared with 34,000 last week and 39,000 last year.

Western hay price report Mon, 22 May 2017 08:28:20 -0400 Hay prices are dollars per ton or dollars per bale when sold to retail outlets. Basis is current delivery FOB barn or stack, or delivered customer as indicated. Grade guidelines used in this report have the following relationship to Relative Feed Value (RFV), Acid Detergent Fiber (ADF), TDN (Total Digestible Nutrients), or Crude Protein (CP) test numbers:


Supreme 185+ <27 55.9+ 22+

Premium 170-185 27-29 54.5-55.9 20-22

Good 150-170 29-32 52.5-54.5 18-20

Fair 130-150 32-35 50.5-52.5 16-18

Utility <130 36+ <50.5 <16


(Columbia Basin)

(USDA Market News)

Moses Lake, Wash.

May 19

This week FOB Last week Last year

700 2,310 19,100

Compared to May 12: Export and domestic Alfalfa steady in a light test. Trade slow with good demand as most interests waiting for new crop. Some areas have started cutting new crop. Most activity will occur next week. Rain showers were reported across most of the trade area at the end of the week. Retail/Feedstore not tested.

Tons Price

Alfalfa Mid Square Premium 300 $110

100 $130

Good 100 $100

Wheat Straw Mid Square Good 200 $55


(USDA Market News)

Portland, Ore.

May 19

This week FOB Last week Last year

1,334 797 238

Compared to May 12: Prices trended generally steady in a limited test compared to week ago prices. Most demand lays with the retail/stable hay. According to some producers, horse owners prefer lower sugar, higher protein hay. Many producers are sold out for the year, and are busy out in the fields preparing for new crop.

Tons Price


Alfalfa Small Square Premium 45 $210-220

Alfalfa/Orchard Mix Small Square Premium 5 $245

Orchard Grass Small Square Premium 34 $235-240


Alfalfa/Orchard Mix Large Square Premium 700 $130


Alfalfa/Orchard Mix Small Square Premium 100 $170

125 $160

Barley Straw Small Square Fair 24 $75


Alfalfa Large Square Supreme 114 $160-180


Alfalfa Large Square Supreme 106 $180

Premium 26 $170

Small Square Premium 30 $160

Meadow Grass Small Square Premium 25 $190


(USDA Market News)

Moses Lake, Wash.

May 19

This week FOB Last week Last year

8,050 600 3,000

Compared to May 12: Domestic Alfalfa steady. Trade moderate with good demand for new crop. Some new crop hay was reported with growers paying for the tarping.

Tons Price

Alfalfa Mid Square Supreme 50 $135

Prem./Sup. 8000 $150


(USDA Market News)

Moses Lake, Wash.

May 19

This week FOB Last week Last year

7,725 5,525 16,050

Compared to May 12: All classes traded steady with moderate demand. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, significant precipitation, including high-elevation snow, will continue into May 18 across the Rockies and environs, but dry weather will prevail from southern California into the Desert Southwest. A period of very cool weather will trail the storminess, but warmth will return to the Pacific Coast by May 19 and expand eastward during the weekend. All hay is reported FOB the stack or barn unless otherwise noted.

Tons Price


Includes the counties of Siskiyou, Modoc, Shasta, Lassen, and Plumas.

No new sales confirmed.


Includes the counties of Tehama, Glenn, Butte, Colusa, Sutter, Yuba, Sierra, Nevada, Placer, Yolo, El Dorado, Solano, Sacramento.

Alfalfa Premium 75 $220

Good 125 $150

200 $150

Fair/Good 200 $140

Fair 200 $130

300 $150

Alfalfa/Orchard Mix Premium 50 $200

25 $280

Orchard Grass Premium 125 $200

Oat Good 200 $100

125 $110-115

Rice Straw Good 200 $62.50


Includes the counties of San Joaquin, Calaveras, Stanislaus, Tuolumne, Mono, Merced and Mariposa.

Alfalfa Supreme 450 $235-245

Premium 50 $210

175 $230-240

50 $250

Fair 25 $175

Forage Mix-Three Way Good 25 $120


Includes the counties of Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare, and Inyo.

Alfalfa Supreme 125 $240


Includes the counties of Kern, Northeast Los Angeles, and Western San Bernardino.

Alfalfa Supreme 200 $220

Prem./Sup. 1000 $210

Good/Prem. 650 $195


Includes the counties of Eastern San Bernardino, Riverside, and Imperial.

Alfalfa Premium 450 $170

300 $175-185

50 $140-150

Good/Prem. 50 $180

Good 1700 $155-165

500 $170

Fair/Good 100 $160