Capital Press | Capital Press Sun, 4 Dec 2016 00:12:30 -0500 en Capital Press | Rancher embraces buffaloes’ beauty, but not horns Thu, 1 Dec 2016 09:56:20 -0500 JOHN ENGERMinnesota Public Radio WARROAD, Minn. (AP) — Mike Marvin was 20 when he bought his first buffalo. He didn’t have any experience. He just thought the animals were cool. He liked their big woolly heads and their horns, and their connection to the American west. That was 44 years ago.

“Back then, buffalo ranchers were fools or dreamers,” he told Minnesota Public Radio. “There wasn’t really a business plan.”

He found a buffalo rancher in South Dakota who would sell him a bull and some breeding stock. Mike’s cousins own the Marvin Windows company, one of the area’s largest employers. He’s not involved in the window business, but his cousins agreed to ship his first few buffalo back to Warroad, on Minnesota’s northernmost border, in a window delivery truck.

“I was young and I didn’t have any commitments,” he said. “It just sort of went from there.”

Marvin still runs one of the northernmost buffalo ranches in the lower 48. Most of the time, his herd of 57 buffalo roam nearly 300 acres of pasture just outside Warroad.

Marvin makes his money selling calves to a feedlot in southern Minnesota. He said there were some bad years in the early 2000s, but the buffalo market is getting better. But that’s not really why people raise buffalo.

Marvin drove around the pasture, surveying the herd from his Chevy Silverado.

“It’s called safety,” he said as the herd jogged out of the way of the truck.

“I’ve only been hurt once, thank goodness,” he said. “I had some animals in a corral. They ran at me. My leg came out of my hip socket. They hit me pretty good.”

Marvin edged up to a massive one-ton bull. It’s head is the size of small refrigerator. A woolly beard hangs down to its knees and horns curl to sharp points. It’s a wild and romantic creature, Marvin said. That’s why he got into the business, but it’s also why he’ll get out one day.

Buffalo are not domesticated, like beef cattle. It takes special heavy duty fencing to keep them in. Over the last 44 years, Marvin has carried thousands of railroad ties and strung miles and miles of barbed wire. It’s hard work, especially with a dislocated hip.

Even the best fence doesn’t always work.

“If you make a mistake on your fence, or you don’t close the gate, you have a problem,” he said. “The problem is, they’re out. It’s kind of the worst phone call you can get.”

Marvin got that phone call twice in his long career. Once, when he was new to buffalo ranching he forgot a gate open. A state trooper called him just before midnight. His buffalo were walking around on the highway.

Twelve years ago they escaped again — this time running eight miles into the nearby state forest, where they evaded capture for a full week. Finally, one of Marvin’s childhood friends tracked them down with a high-powered rifle. They set up floodlights and butchered into the night.

“It was very exciting for everyone but the rancher who owned them,” Marvin said. “A few more phone calls like that and I’m done.”

Some days, Marvin feels like he’ll keep ranching for many years. He enjoys his easy access to buffalo roasts. On other days, his body hurts from moving all those railroad ties, and from getting trampled. On those days, he says, he thinks hard about retirement.


Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News,

Battle lines drawn in Washington over new wells Fri, 2 Dec 2016 17:34:38 -0500 Don Jenkins OLYMPIA — The Washington Supreme Court’s ruling in Whatcom County vs. Hirst could shut down rural homebuilding statewide, a lobbyist for farm groups and other water users said Thursday at a House hearing.

“The more I listen to people discuss the Hirst case, the more convinced I am that there will be no growth in the rural area unless we solve the problem,” said Kathleen Collins of the Washington Water Policy Alliance, whose members include irrigators, businesses and cities.

The House Agriculture and Local Government committees held a joint hearing to learn more about the October decision, in which the court ruled that new domestic wells can’t impair existing water rights, including river flows.

Previously, domestic wells, which account for 1 percent of water use, were exempt from such review.

Many bills related to the ruling are likely to be introduced during the 2017 session.

Some groups, including the Washington Farm Bureau, hope lawmakers will blunt the decision. Although the ruling does not threaten to curtail irrigation water rights, the Farm Bureau condemned the decision for effectively prohibiting new homes for farm families.

Environmental groups signaled Wednesday they will defend the thrust of the ruling. The groups are influential in the House, where Democrats hold a majority of seats.

“Obviously, we have to get agreement with the environmental side. I hope that’s possible,” Collins said after the hearing.

In the Hirst case, the environmental group Futurewise and others challenged Whatcom County and the state Department of Ecology. Both agencies said new wells in the county would not harm water resources.

The court, however, ruled that small withdrawals of groundwater add up and deprive rivers of water for fish, wildlife and scenery.

The ruling means prospective homeowners may have to finance expensive studies to prove their wells won’t harm existing water rights. In some watersheds, water rights include minimum river flows set in previous decades by Ecology. Critics say the flow standards are too high and create an artificial scarcity of water.

Proving a new well won’t intercept or draw water from a river may be hard to impossible. Hydrologists say that groundwater and surface waters are connected.

“Water withdrawn from groundwater does impact surface water and therefore senior water rights,” U.S. Geological Service hydrologist Matt Bachmann told House members.

“That impact is commonly too small to measure for a small domestic well, but it is not too small to measure cumulatively if you look at all domestic wells in a basin,” he said.

Environmental lobbyist Bruce Wishart said new wells could still be drilled in places where unused water rights could be purchased.

“If nothing else, there’s a final option. You can avoid impacts altogether by using a cistern, with rainwater collection or trucked-in water,” he said.

Rep. Derek Stanford, D-Bothell, said the Supreme Court ruling safeguards existing water users. “We’re trying to protect the senior rights holders, as we have done consistently,” he said.

Collins, however, faulted the Supreme Court for placing stream flows above other uses for water.

“They have lost that sense of balance. They are not looking at out-of-stream needs and how you accommodate those,” she said.

She said that not everybody wants to or can live in a city. “There is an economic force out there that requires people to live in rural areas,” she said.

Industry seeks better malting barley varieties Fri, 2 Dec 2016 17:10:34 -0500 Matw Weaver The malting barley industry wants to bolster acres by offering farmers better varieties with consistent quality.

“We’re always trying to improve the selection rate, the percentage of the barley that will make malting quality in a given year,” said Scott Heisel, vice president of the American Malting Barley Association.

Barley acres have declined over the last two decades, down to roughly 3.5 million acres total each year. Roughly 75 percent of that is malting barley, Heisel said.

That number is the minimum number required to supply end users, Heisel said.

“I’m not sure we need to increase it a lot from where we are, especially if we’re successful in increasing that selection rate,” he said.

The majority of malting barley is grown under contract. Heisel recommends a grower have a contract in place, particularly in areas outside the major malting barley-growing regions.

“Growers are going to be more likely to sign that contract if they have varieties that are more likely to make malting quality,” he said. ”We’re trying to reduce that risk of not making malting quality.”

The malting barley association is broadening its member base to include distillers and food companies alongside traditional brewing and malting members.

Companies have begun producing all-malt beers.

“That’s going to require more barley to be used per barrel of beer,” Heisel said. “We need to have a whole portfolio of varieties for the different styles of beer being brewed.”

The association spends $500,000 per year for research on varieties with lower protein and larger and more uniform kernel plumpness, Heisel said.

It takes about 10-12 years for a new variety to be released.

“We’re not just looking out for the industry, we also want varieties that will fit into growers’ rotation,” Heisel said. “We need input on what a grower wants out of a new variety, whether that be a few days earlier maturity. We’re looking to make barley a more attractive crop for the grower as well.”

The association plans to release its annual list of recommended malting barley varieties in late December or early January.


In farming, sustainability means loving it, sticking with it and passing it along Fri, 2 Dec 2016 16:59:47 -0500 Eric Mortenson PORTLAND — Beginning farmers attending the Women in Sustainable Agriculture conference here Nov. 30-Dec. 2 got an earful from a panel of “trailblazers” who learned the hard way: Collaborate, don’t quit, share what you’ve learned and keep falling in love with what you do.

Idaho organic produce grower Diane Green, Oregon wool producer Jeanne Carver and Southern Oregon cut flower grower Joan Ewer Thorndike shared their advice on the second day of the conference, which was attended by about 400 women from across the country.

Green, who has grown and sold greens and other vegetables for nearly 30 years, said having a mentor would have saved her a lot of time and money. “Sustainability” can mean taking care of yourself in addition to taking care of the land, she said. Early in her career, Green said she ran around trying to do everything. She’s since realized that slow and steady is a better course.

“As I’ve aged I’ve become one with the turtle,” Green quipped.

In a separate interview, Green said she learned by trial and error, and later wrote a grower’s guide to selling to restaurants.

Green, who said she turns 65 soon, said she’s cheered by the sight of so many relatively young women entering farming.

“I think it’s fantastic,” she said. “To me it’s the future of the food system.”

She said small acreage farms, often established or revived by women, are providing food “closer to home.”

“It’s the young women who are going back and saving the family farm,” she said. “It’s really something to see the face of agriculture turning to such rosy cheeks.”

Carver, whose rustic ranch has become the darling of clothing designers — wool from her sheep was used by Ralph Lauren to make the uniforms U.S. athletes wore during the opening ceremony of the 2012 Winter Olympics in Russia — said producers should look for partners everywhere.

Everyone from the local yarn store to regulatory agencies can provide a connection that leads to business success, Carver said.

“We would not be partners with Ralph Lauren without USDA,” she said. “That’s how you do it, you make everybody a partner.

“My greatest characteristic is that I’m damn stubborn, I just refuse to quit,” she said.

Thorndike, who began growing and selling flowers 25 years ago, said she ignored the doubts of family members and others who didn’t think the business would succeed. But she said she fell in love with growing flowers and enjoys that romance to this day.

To her, sustainability means “sticking with it” and continuing to love what she does. “For all of you, that’s what I hope — that you will stick to it,” she said during the panel session.

She said her daughter recently decided to work with her in flowers.

“If you can teach someone to do what you love, and they run with it, that’s also sustainability,” she said.

The panelists had other thoughts on the various partnerships that are necessary for success.

Thorndike said mentorship is “tricky.” You learn by teaching, she said, but people seeking out experienced farmers for advice “shouldn’t expect them to give away trade secrets.”

Green said she enjoys working with Extension researchers, but they often expect farmers to volunteer their time. She suggested grant writers should include compensation for farmers who provide land and time for research projects.

Advice was available elsewhere at the conference as well.

Julia Shanks, of Cambridge, Mass., was at a booth selling her books: “The Farmers Market Cookbook,” in which she describes how to cook fresh produce, and a business primer titled, “The Farmer’s Office.”

Shanks, who said she has an MBA and previously worked as a chef and as an accountant, said beginning farmers “with stars in their eyes” often need guidance on paying attention to cash, taking loans, tracking expenses and staying a step ahead of seasonal cycles.

“All the good intentions of sustainable food — feeding the community, nurturing the soil — is meaningless if you’re not running a financially sustainable business,” Shanks said.

Hershner Hunter, LLP welcomes Michael Gelardi Fri, 2 Dec 2016 16:06:46 -0500 Hershner Hunter, LLP welcomes Michael Gelardi to our Eugene-based legal team.  Michael’s practice focuses on agribusiness, land use and natural resources law.  Michael previously spent eight years at Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, where he handled complex land and water management projects, and was part of a nationally-recognized food and beverage law team.  Michael grew up in the Willamette Valley, where his family grows wine grapes, hazelnuts and industrial hemp. 

Northern California’s wet pattern to continue in December Fri, 2 Dec 2016 15:56:57 -0500 Tim Hearden SACRAMENTO — The fast start to the rainy season in Northern and Central California has a good chance of continuing in December, long-range forecasters say.

The federal Climate Prediction Center foresees chances of wetter-than-average conditions in much of the Golden State through at least the middle of the month, and the whole month could produce above-average rainfall in far Northern California and the Pacific Northwest.

“The long-range outlooks are starting to advise that we could see a pattern change and go into a more stormy pattern,” said National Weather Service warning coordinator Michelle Mead, adding that a series of storms could begin around Dec. 8.

What happens after New Year’s Day, however, is more difficult to predict, she said. The climate center’s three-month outlook sees equal chances of wetter- and drier-than-normal conditions for Northern California and the Pacific Northwest, while central and southern California could remain dry.

The outlook follows generous amounts of rain in Northern California over the last two months, pushing many areas above their normal precipitation totals for the water year.

Since Oct. 1, Redding has sopped up 12.7 inches of rain, well above its average of 6.76 inches, and Sacramento’s 5.84 inches of rain exceeded its normal 3.12 inches for the period, according to the National Weather Service.

The rain has helped with pasture regrowth in the foothills without interfering too much with table grape and other harvests, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Sheep have been grazing on alfalfa and inactive farmland while many ranchers are still providing supplemental feed to cattle, NASS reports.

However, the state’s snowpack is still rather meager, at 59 percent of its normal snow water equivalent statewide and 82 percent of normal in the northern Sierra Nevada, reports the state Department of Water Resources.

Reservoirs are a mixed bag. Shasta Lake, the centerpiece of the federal Central Valley Project, is at 64 percent of its capacity — above normal for this time of year.

But Lake Oroville, the State Water Project’s main reservoir, has only 69 percent of its normal water for this time of year and is only 42 percent full, the DWR reports.

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor shows improving conditions in Northern California but still extreme to exceptional drought across the southwest part of the state.

“We’ve already lucked out and had two of the five to seven atmospheric rivers we normally get in a year, but they were across Northern California,” Mead said. “We still need these storm systems to shift a little south so we can spread the wealth. We definitely don’t want to have too much up here and have minor flooding when we’ve still got drought in the south.”

Among the 34 past winters with neutral or weak La Nina atmospheric conditions, the majority were drier than normal throughout California, Mead and other officials warn.

November rainfall

Here are the November and seasonal rainfall totals and comparisons to normal for selected California cities, according to the National Weather Service:

Redding: Month 4.92 inches (normal 4.48 inches), season to date 12.7 inches (normal 6.58 inches)

Eureka: Month 6.98 inches (normal 5.61 inches), season to date 17.9 inches (normal 7.85 inches)

Sacramento: Month 1.12 inches (normal 2.08 inches), season to date 5.84 inches (normal 3.03 inches)

Modesto: Month 0.94 inches (normal 1.36 inches), season to date 2.99 inches (normal 2.04 inches)

Salinas: Month 0.95 inches (normal 1.4 inches), season to date 2.56 inches (normal 1.98 inches)

Fresno: Month 1.38 inches (normal 1.07 inches), season to date 2.05 inches (normal 1.7 inches)

Analyst: Export market key to growth of Oregon microbreweries Fri, 2 Dec 2016 13:14:57 -0500 Eric Mortenson PORTLAND – Van Havig, co-owner of Gigantic Brewing Co. on the city’s hipster-heavy east side, has an app on his phone that provides instantly updated currency exchange rates. The company, formed by Havig and Ben Love five years ago, sells 5 to 7 percent of its beer outside the country, primarily to Canada but a bit to Japan, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. The strong U.S. dollar makes Gigantic something of an expensive choice overseas.

Nonetheless, Gigantic is exactly the size of craft brewery — producing 4,000 to 5,000 barrels a year — that a state economic analyst says ought to be pushing hard on the export market to assure continued growth.

In remarks at the Oregon Brewers Guild’s annual meeting in Portland Nov. 30, analyst Josh Lehner said Oregon’s craft beer industry is slowing down after a decade in which the number of Oregon breweries grew from 76 in 2006 to 218 in 2016.

The beer market outlook has implications up and down the economic chain, from hops and barley farmers and malt producers to stainless steel fermentation tank manufacturers, tourism and dining.

Prospects remain good for neighborhood microbreweries, said Lehner, who works for the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis.

“For these smaller breweries, I think the outlook is bright,” Lehner told brewery guild members. “The brewpub model works.”

He said demand is strong and there are still many parts of the state and country that are “under supplied” when it comes to neighborhood brewpubs. Maybe not on Portland’s east side, he added, but certainly in the suburbs.

Slightly bigger producers, however, are in fierce competition for a limited number of in-state tap handles and shelf space.

“Flagship” Oregon beers such as Deschutes’ Black Butte Porter, Widmer’s Hefeweisen and Ninkasi’s Total Domination can be found in bars and restaurants all over the state, Lehner said. The state’s five largest breweries now sell only 20 percent of their beer in Oregon, he said.

For medium- to large-size Oregon breweries, sales outside the state are a must, Lehner said. That’s complicated by the fact that the Pacific Northwest no longer has the market cornered on tasty, locally-sourced and locally-made microbrews. Good local beer can now be found all over the country, and consumers often prefer to support local businesses rather than out-of-state breweries.

International exports are a relatively untapped market, Lehner said.

“The path forward is really about reversing the Oregon Trail,” he said. “There is just too much competition and market saturation to be able to reach large production numbers by relying solely on Oregon consumers.”

Lehner said Pacific Rim nations are a good target market for Oregon beer, as they are for many other crops and food products.

About half of Oregon beer exports now go to Canada, 17 percent to Japan and about 5 percent each to China and South Korea, Lehner said. He acknowledged the strong U.S. dollar hurts sales: A $10 six-pack here costs $13 overseas. But Lehner said currency exchange rates often fluctuate, and a devalued dollar may serve as a market “tailwind” of Oregon beer.

Love, the Gigantic Brewing co-owner, agreed that targeting exports is a potentially good business model. Canada used to buy more when the exchange rate made Gigantic’s beer less expensive, he said.

In other remarks to the brewers’ guild, Lehner said job gains in the state’s alcohol cluster — beer, wine, hard cider and spirits — have outperformed the software sector, although the latter gets more media attention.

He said the Oregon brewing industry is important because it is value-added processing with good growth potential, money invested in it returns to state, and it is geographically more spread out than other industries.

Lehner said the Oregon Legislature increased the state lodging tax, and there will be $10 million more available annually for tourism and related activites. He said brewers should tap some of that to market their business.

He said “chatter” about the decline of national chain casual-dining restaurants doesn’t apply to brewpubs.

“I think it just means people don’t want to overpay for mediocre chain food,” he said. “I can get much better food at a lower price point from my neighborhood brewery.

“And of course you can’t even compare the tap lists,” he added.

Weed, predator funding on chopping block at ODA Fri, 2 Dec 2016 10:58:05 -0500 Mateusz Perkowski Funding for weed biocontrol and predator control is on the chopping block at the Oregon Department of Agriculture as the state prepares for a budget shortfall.

The agency plans to eliminate state funding for USDA’s Wildlife Services program, which kills coyotes and other predators that prey on livestock. The move would save more than $460,000.

The Wildlife Services program would still be administered by USDA in Oregon, but counties and landowners would need to pay more to maintain the current service level, said Lauren Henderson, assistant director at ODA.

A biocontrol staff position aimed at finding insects that consume invasive weeds would also be eliminated under ODA’s 2017-2019 biennial budget recently recommended by Gov. Kate Brown.

That position was vacated when the ODA’s previous biocontrol expert retired several months ago, so leaving it unfilled would save more than $250,000, said Henderson.

“We left that vacant in anticipation this might happen,” he said.

Dairies and other “confined animal feeding operations” would also face higher fees to compensate for a $250,000 cut to ODA’s CAFO inspection program.

The ODA and other state agencies are planning for program cuts because Oregon government is facing a budget deficit of more than $1.8 billion due to increasing pension and healthcare costs for state employees.

The changes were discussed at the Oregon Board of Agriculture’s Dec. 1 meeting in Wilsonville, Ore.

Under Brown’s recommendation, ODA’s total biennial budget would increase from about $111 million to $117 million.

However, the portion of ODA’s budget that comes from the general fund, which pays for specific programs, would drop about 5 percent, to $23.4 million.

Because the agency would need $25.8 million to maintain its current service level — due to increases in wages, pensions and healthcare costs — that leaves the ODA $2.4 million short of what’s needed to pay for the general fund programs.

While several agency programs are facing cuts, ODA expects to pay for others — including food safety and pesticide response programs — from fees it collects for services, rather than from the general fund.

The agency also plans to shift some programs from general fund dollars to money it receives from the federal government, though this scenario assumes the new presidential administration will provide the support, Henderson said.

ODA’s recommended budget is also contingent on lawmakers approving several new revenue sources proposed by Brown, he said.

Realistically, the recommended 2017-2019 budget is really a starting point for negotiations with lawmakers during the upcoming legislative session, said Lisa Hanson, ODA’s interim director.

“There’s a long road ahead,” she said.

BLM issues controversial new land-planning rule Fri, 2 Dec 2016 10:26:03 -0500 John O’Connell WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Bureau of Land Management issued a final rule Dec. 1 updating its planning process, touting the changes as improving efficiency, public access and agency responsiveness to changing conditions on public lands.

Rural county leaders throughout the West and public lands grazing advocates, however, say they’ll fight for the repeal of the final Planning 2.0 rule, which they believe threatens multiple uses of public lands and reduces the influence of local governments.

The final rule is available at

BLM, which manages 10 percent of the nation’s land and 30 percent of its minerals, is required to develop land-use plans to balance competing interests for public lands.

“Under the current system, it takes an average of eight years for the BLM to develop a land-use plan,” BLM Director Neil Kornze said in a press release. “Too often, by the time we’ve completed a plan, community priorities have evolved and conditions on the ground have changed, as well.”

Kornze said in the press release the update should increase collaboration and transparency of planning.

Several Western counties submitted public comments on the draft version of the rule criticizing the removal of language requiring an assessment of policy impacts on local economies, and removing requirements for BLM to make land-use decisions with “meaningful involvement” from state and local governments.

Officials with the Public Lands Council, which represents ranchers with public lands grazing permits, oppose stated revisions of BLM’s goals away from managing for “multiple use and sustained yield” in favor of prioritizing impacts on “resource, environmental, ecological, social and environmental conditions.”

The council also opposes shortened public comment periods included in the final rule, noting BLM plans take years to prepare, and the public should have more than 45 to 60 days to respond.

Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, believes the rule was hastily developed.

“Congressman Simpson is still reviewing the final rule, specifically how BLM addressed the concerns pertaining to local input,” said Simpson’s spokeswoman, Nikki Wallace. “However, the concern remains that many Westerns at state and local levels were left out of the process on a rule that has far-reaching implications.”

Walden chosen to chair House Energy and Commerce Committee Fri, 2 Dec 2016 09:21:27 -0500 PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Republican U.S. Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon has been elected to serve as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee in Washington, D.C.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reports the appointment will give Walden oversight of federal departments in charge of consumer protections, food and drug safety, public health, environmental quality and energy policy, among others.

The post also means Walden will be a key player in the debate over the fate of the Affordable Care Act, which President-elect Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans have said will be repealed and replaced in the next Congressional session.

Walden said in a statement he’ll “focus on what’s best for consumers, on creating better paying jobs and providing patient-centered health care” in his new role.

Walden represents Oregon’s expansive 2nd Congressional District, which includes much of the electorate east of the Cascades as well as much of Southern Oregon.

California treasurer to study legal marijuana and banking Fri, 2 Dec 2016 10:16:20 -0500 LOS ANGELES (AP) — California Treasurer John Chiang has formed a group to study banking issues he says could hamper implementation of the voter-approved ballot measure that legalizes recreational use of marijuana in the state.

Chiang planned to discuss the Cannabis Banking Working Group in a conference call with reporters Friday morning.

The treasurer’s office says the primary concern is that the federal government still lists marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act and financial institutions typically won’t serve cannabis-related businesses.

California’s approval of Proposition 64 on Nov. 8 represents the national legalization movement’s biggest victory to date.

In general, the state will treat cannabis like alcohol. Taking effect in 2018, the law allows people 21 and older to legally possess up to an ounce of pot and grow six marijuana plants at home.

Kroger digs in with food prices tumbling Fri, 2 Dec 2016 10:14:31 -0500 CINCINNATI (AP) — Kroger lowered its profit expectations for the year as it fights with other grocers for more of the customers’ dollar even as food prices fall.

The nation’s largest grocery chain has historically had leverage in the industry with suppliers because of its size, but now it’s competing with companies like Wal-Mart and Target as well.

And even some of the largest retailers in the world are unable to lure more customers given the trend in food prices.

According to U.S. statistics released two weeks ago, prices for the food that Americans take home fell 2.3 percent over the past 12 months, the largest decline since 2009 when the nation was staggering through the worst economic downturn in decades.

Given the economic recovery, food should cost more, but tumbling commodity and energy prices are pushing most grocery prices lower.

The consumer price index for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs declined for the 14th consecutive month in October, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

On Thursday, Kroger lowered its 2016 per-share profit expectations by a nickel on the high and low end, to between $2.10 and $2.15.

That figure excludes a 7 cent charge related to pensions.

Its profit during the third quarter was $391 million, down almost 9 percent compared with $428 million last year.

On a per-share basis, the Cincinnati’s profit was 41 cents, matching Wall Street expectations, according to a survey of industry analysts by FactSet. A smaller survey by Zacks Investment Research had an average estimate of 42 cents per share.

Kroger, however, beat expectations on revenue, which rose nearly 6 percent, to $26.56 billion.

Shares of Kroger Co. rose less than 1 percent in morning trading, but have fallen 22 percent since the beginning of the year and about 15 percent in the last 12 months.

Kroger has nearly 2,800 grocery stores around the country, including its namesake Kroger as well as Ralphs and Dillons.

Keywords: Kroger, Earnings Report

Idaho officials sell commercial properties for $17.3 million Fri, 2 Dec 2016 10:12:36 -0500 KEITH RIDLER BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho officials have sold seven commercial properties for $17.3 million as part of a plan to get rid of politically contentious commercial real estate and use the money to buy timberland and agricultural land.

The Idaho Department of Lands sold the properties on Thursday in an auction that officials say brought in $4.5 million more than the appraised value of the properties.

Six of the commercial properties are in Boise and one is in Idaho Falls. Two more properties in Idaho Falls didn’t sell.

The Idaho Land Board that includes Gov. Butch Otter and four other statewide elected officials previously approved the sale.

The commercial properties in the 2014 election became a political liability for some board members when challengers contended state-owned commercial property unfairly competes with private businesses.

Portland daily grain report Fri, 2 Dec 2016 10:10:19 -0500 Portland, Ore., Friday, Dec. 02, 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 December futures trended 2.50 to 3.75 cents per bushel higher compared to Thursday’s closes. March futures trended mixed, 1.00 cent lower to 5.25 cents per bushel higher compared to Thursday’s closes.

Bids for US 1 Soft White Wheat delivered to Portland in unit trains and barges for December delivery for ordinary protein were not well tested in early trading, but were indicated as mixed compared to Thursday’s noon bids for the same delivery period. Some exporters were not issuing bids for nearby delivery. Bids for guaranteed maximum 10.5 percent protein were not well tested in early trading, but were indicated as mixed compared to Thursday’s noon bids for the same delivery period. Some exporters were not issuing bids for nearby delivery.

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

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

Bids for US 1 Yellow Soybeans delivered full coast in 110 car shuttle trains during December were not well tested in early trading, but bids were indicated as higher compared to Thursday’s noon bids for the same delivery period. Some exporters were not issuing bids for nearby delivery.

All wheat bids in dollars per bushel

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

Ordinary protein

Dec 4.4575-4.5075

Jan 4.4575-4.5575

Feb 4.4575-4.6075

Mar 4.5075

Apr 4.4800-4.5500

Guaranteed maximum 10.5 pct protein

Dec 4.5075-4.5500

Jan 4.5075-4.5575

Feb 4.5075-4.6075

Mar 4.5075-4.5500

Apr 4.4800-4.5500

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

Ordinary protein

Dec 4.5000-4.7075

Guaranteed maximum 10.5 pct protein

Dec 4.5500-4.7575

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


Ordinary protein 4.0125-4.0625

11 pct protein 4.6125-4.6625

11.5 pct protein

Dec 4.9125-4.9625

Jan 4.9125-4.9625

Feb 4.9125-4.9625

Mar 4.9125-4.9625

Apr NA

12 pct protein 5.0625-5.1125

13 pct protein 5.3625-5.4125

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 5.7250-6.0550

14 pct protein

Dec 6.3750-6.5250

Jan 6.3750-6.5250

Feb 6.3750-6.5250

Mar 6.3750-6.5550

Apr NA

15 pct protein 6.5750-6.9250

16 pct protein 6.7750-7.3250

US 2 Yellow Corn

Shuttle trains-Delivered full coast Pacific Northwest-BN

Dec 4.1300-4.2100

Jan 4.1800-4.2200

Feb 4.2100-4.2300

Mar 4.2000-4.2200

Apr 4.2225

May 4.2225

US 1 Yellow Soybeans

Shuttle trains-Delivered full coast Pacific Northwest-BN

Dec 10.9825-11.0425

Jan 10.9825-11.0625

Feb 11.0475-11.0675

Mar 11.0075

Apr NA

May NA

US 2 Heavy White Oats 3.2650

Not well tested.

Exporter Bids Portland Rail/Barge Oct 2016

Averages in Dollars per bushel

US 1 Soft White by Unit Trains and Barges 4.6600

US 1 Hard Red Winter (Ordinary protein) 4.1900

US 1 Hard Red Winter (11.5% protein) 5.0400

US 1 Dark Northern Spring (14% protein) 6.3400

Source: USDA Market News Service, Portland, OR

2 Montana reservoirs with invasive mussels closed to boats Fri, 2 Dec 2016 10:07:36 -0500 HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana officials working to identify and contain invasive mussel populations have implemented boating closures on the Tiber and Canyon Ferry reservoirs.

Thursday’s closure prohibits the launch or removal of any boat, dock or other structure from either reservoir that could potentially transport mussels, said Mark Wolcott, the incident commander of the rapid response team created to address the issue.

The restrictions are needed to prevent the spread of aquatic mussels to other uncontaminated water bodies, Wolcott said. They will remain in effect until the reservoirs ice up.

Invasive mussels rapidly multiply and can damage beaches, clog boat motors and dams, harm fish and wildlife and cause costly damage to infrastructure.

The boating restrictions were approved late Thursday by the directors of the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation and the state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the Independent Record reports.

The closure announcement came a day after Gov. Steve Bullock declared a natural resources emergency over the presence of the larvae of invasive aquatic mussels in the Tiber Reservoir. Further analysis is being done after suspected positive tests were obtained at Canyon Ferry Reservoir, the Milk River below Nelson Reservoir and the Missouri River near Toston.

Bullock’s declaration freed up $750,000 in state special funding to address the issue.

No adult mussels have been found so far. However, response team member Bryce Christiaens said officials are operating under the assumption that adults are present.

The team is contacting experts in other states to determine if lowering reservoir levels could help control the spread of the mussels. Doing so would also would make it easier to search for adult mussels that might be left dry by receding water, officials said.

California’s new water conservation plan focuses on cities Fri, 2 Dec 2016 09:29:53 -0500 ELLEN KNICKMEYERand SCOTT SMITH FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — California officials crafting a new conservation plan for the state’s dry future drew criticism from environmentalists on Thursday for failing to require more cutbacks of farmers, who use 80 percent of the water consumed by people.

Gov. Jerry Brown ordered up the state plans for improving long-term conservation in May, when he lifted a statewide mandate put in place at the height of California’s drought for 25-percent water conservation by cities and towns.

Ben Chou, a water-policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council, criticized state planners for not mandating any new water-savings by farm water districts.

“There’s been a huge difference all along in what urban water districts have been required to do and what ag water districts are required to do” regarding conservation, Chou said.

Under the governor’s order, state agencies this week released the plan for a long-term water diet for California. They anticipate climate change to cause the Sierra Nevada snowpack — one of California’s largest sources of water — to decline by half by the end of the century.

The plan includes creating customized water-use limits for urban water districts, so that arid Palm Springs, for example, would have a different amount of water budgeted than foggy San Francisco. City water districts would have until 2025 to fully set and meet the budgets, and risk state enforcement if they fell short.

Other changes for urban water districts in this week’s proposal include a new focus on fixing leaks that drain away upward of 10 percent of processed water. And cities and towns would be required to draft contingency plans for droughts up to five years, up from the current requirement for a three-year supply of water.

But critics say the plan does little to address California’s $47 billion agricultural industry, which leads the nation, growing nearly half of the fruits, nuts and vegetables produced in the United States.

Diana Brooks, head of water efficiency at the Department of Water Resources, which oversees farm water use, said the proposal would require agricultural water district managers to keep better track of how their water is being used, and better think through possible steps for saving water.

“The idea that agriculture is standing still is absolutely false,” said Mike Wade, executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition. “We know there’s a shared responsibility that we all have to do our part.”

Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the state Water Resources Control Board, one of the agencies involved in the planning, said that rather than dealing with each drought when the crisis hits, California is becoming more efficient at a reasonable pace.

“We’re just trying to be smart for the future ... and do it in the fairest way,” Marcus said. “It is a big change in thinking.”

After taking public comment, officials expect to adopt the plan in January.

The current drought encompassed the driest four-year spell in state history, devastating some rural communities and many native species. A rainy fall this year has lifted the north of the state out of drought, but not the agriculture-heavy center and populous south.

New regulations and laws would be required to carry out some of the plan. The proposal leaves many of the details of carrying out conservation proposals to be worked out.

Some water and conservation experts, however, praised the state’s effort to make water conservation a way of life in California, given a changing climate.

Lester Snow, a former top state water regulator who has weathered droughts from the 1970s on, said each drought boosts the state’s water efficiency in some way. A house built today, for example, uses half as much water as a house built in the 1980s.

“This policy change is fundamentally different,” he said. “It’s really recognizing that climate change is upon us.”

Workers: Sexual harassment also rampant at Forest Service Fri, 2 Dec 2016 09:26:08 -0500 MATTHEW DALY WASHINGTON (AP) — Two months after uncovering rampant sexual harassment, bullying and other misconduct at the National Park Service, a House oversight panel says similar problems plague the Forest Service.

A longtime employee at California’s Eldorado National Forest said Thursday that the Forest Service “is rigged against women for reporting sexual harassment or assault,” adding that male supervisors who harass or assault women are rarely disciplined.

Denice Rice, a fire prevention technician, told the House Oversight Committee that a supervisor who harassed and assaulted her was allowed to retire with full benefits, then was rehired as a contractor and even selected to give a motivational speech to an elite firefighting group.

“Rehiring this predator was a message to me and other employees that the agency did not feel he did anything wrong,” Rice said. “I felt devalued and as if I didn’t matter.”

Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, called the agency’s treatment of Rice “offensive” and said it echoed widespread problems uncovered at the Park Service, especially among firefighters.

The oversight panel heard testimony in September about frequent sexual harassment, bullying and other misconduct at national parks across the country, including at iconic sites such as Yosemite, Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon. At Yosemite, at least 18 employees complained about harassment so severe that a recent report labeled working conditions at the park “toxic.”

Park Superintendent Don Neubacher retired weeks after the hearing amid allegations of mismanagement, as did his wife, Patty, a deputy regional director for the Pacific West Region, which covers 56 national parks in six states.

Following the Sept. 22 hearing, lawmakers were deluged with “stories of harassment, discrimination and retaliation,” Chaffetz said, not only at the park service, but also at the Forest Service, Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies.

“The number of examples and despicable acts were quite horrifying,” Chaffetz said. “Some of these women had even been raped by co-workers but refused to testify due to the threat of retaliation and having their careers destroyed.”

Chaffetz called the behavior “an immediate crisis” that needs urgent action.

“While many changes are still needed, the Park Service has begun the process to deal with their cultural problems and removed some bad managers from their positions of leadership,” Chaffetz said. By contrast, the Forest Service has “a deep-seated cultural problem that has not necessarily been addressed,” he said.

Lesa Donnelly, a former Forest Service worker who now works with agency employees on workplace issues, said she has reported “egregious incidents of sexual harassment, work place violence, discrimination and reprisal” to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack since 2009 to no avail. The Agriculture Department oversees the Forest Service.

Forest Service investigations “invariably are turned against the employee reporting incidents,” Donnelly said. “Reprisal is swift and severe.”

A spokeswoman for Vilsack denied that and said “USDA has taken unprecedented actions” in recent years to combat harassment and bullying.

“USDA, including the U.S. Forest Service, has a zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment in the workforce,” said spokeswoman Catherine Cochran. “We take all complaints seriously and take assertive measures ... up to terminating employees when wrongdoing is confirmed.”

Over the past three years, 67 Forest Service employees have been cited for sexual misconduct, including 21 who were fired and 28 who were suspended, Cochran said, citing statistics provided by the Forest Service. Eighteen employees received discipline ranging from a letter of reprimand to reassignment, demotion or resignation, she said.

While women comprise about 35 percent of the agency’s 40,000 workers, the number of female firefighters remains significantly below that, said Lenise Lago, deputy chief of business operations for the Forest Service.

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., said sexual harassment and assault of female workers is commonplace at the Forest Service.

“Paraphrasing from William Shakespeare, there’s something rotten in USDA and the Forest Service, and it’s been going on for 40 years,” Speier said.

Washington farmer wins national wheat yield contest Fri, 2 Dec 2016 08:19:52 -0500 Matw Weaver Capital Press

Phillip Gross knew he had a pretty good yield this year.

But he wasn’t expecting to win the National Association of Wheat Growers yield contest.

“I definitely thought there would be some other growers knocking on the door of 200 bushels,” Gross said.

Gross topped the award with 192.85 bushels per acre for irrigated wheat, 216 percent above the county average, according to NAWG.

Gross planted WestBred Keldin, a hard red winter wheat variety he’s raised for several years. Gross said that’s an unusual yield size. He credited a significant boost provided by cooler flowering weather than normal.

“This is the biggest yield we’ve had on record,” he said.

One entire field averaged 192 bushels. Gross suspects some parts of that field had even higher yields, but didn’t have it staked out or tested for yields.

Gross farms with the Warden Hutterian Brethren Farms near Warden, Wash. The community raises about 9,000 acres of irrigated wheat and 2,000 acres of dryland wheat.

“A lot of our yields are dependent upon water availability,” he said.

When the weather is warm, wheat takes a backseat to such as potatoes, peas or corn, Gross said.

“Wheat is a lot more flexible in that way— it allows you to use water elsewhere, and when you have some available later on, move it back again,” he said.

The majority of the farm’s acres are irrigated by the Odessa Subarea aquifer, which is declining. The farm is currently to install a pumping station south of its home base to replace aquifer water with water from the Columbia River.

“It definitely needs to happen,” Gross said. “It’s unsustainable, pulling the amount of water from the aquifer and expecting it to be there year after year.”

With river water, Gross expects to be able to draw bigger yields with better water that’s not so high in sodium,

Falling number affected some of the soft white wheat varieties the community grew, falling down to roughly 230 in the falling number test. Farmers are docked at elevators for wheat below 300. Some hard red winter wheat escaped unscathed, Gross said.

Stripe rust also affected some “gold standard” varieties that never had the problem before, Gross said.

“So the rust strains are mutating,” he said.

The price received varied throughout the farm, Gross said.

“This is another reason we’ve got to push our yields, to get above the break-even point,” he said.

NAWG will hold the yield contest again in 2017, the organization announced. Registration for fall wheat ends May 1 and spring wheat ends Aug. 1.

U.S. wheat yields averaged 52.6 bushels per acre, according to the USDA.

According to NAWG, the 14 national winners — in winter wheat dryland and irrigated and spring wheat dryland and irrigated categories — averaged a yield of 135 bushels per acre.

Gross plans to enter the yield contest again and push the threshold of all crops the community raises.

“First and foremost, you have to have a fundamental understanding of the crops you’re producing,” he said. “How the plant responds to different inputs and how to go about addressing issues on an as-needed basis as soon as you catch them.”

Falling number problems perplex Northwest wheat industry Thu, 1 Dec 2016 09:08:17 -0500 Matw Weaver PALOUSE, Wash. — For Jake Cloninger, the numbers didn’t add up.

At one grain elevator, his soft white wheat showed a falling number of 315, well above the industry standard of 300 for test results.

At another elevator, his wheat tested at 240, meaning he would receive a lower price per bushel because it was damaged by sprouting.

The grain samples came out of the same 278-acre wheat field, he said.

Cloninger retrieved his sample and had it tested again. The test result was 50 points higher.

“And it was out of the same 1-gallon bag,” Cloninger said.

Overall, the lowest score Cloninger received from that single field was 204, and the highest score was 315.

“And it was everything in between, in the same field,” he said.

Cloninger, 38, is in his fifth year of farming. This was his first time dealing with the vagaries of low falling number tests that are used by the industry to find sprout damage that robs wheat of its starch.

“‘How’s it going to affect my bottom line?’ is what goes through my head,” he said. “Frustration, especially this year, when you get the test results back and the test weight’s great, the protein’s great. It’s great quality, except for the falling number.”

Cloninger is not alone in his frustrations this year. Many wheat farmers were caught off guard by falling number tests when they harvested what appeared to be a bin-busting, high-quality crop.

But 42 percent of the samples tested by the Washington Department of Agriculture had low falling numbers. Low test numbers were also found in about 25 percent of the Northern Idaho wheat crop and a small percentage of the Oregon crop.

Low falling number test results come right off farmers’ bottom lines.

Instead of the market price of more than $4 a bushel, some farmers received as low as $2 per bushel, Washington Association of Wheat Growers executive director Michelle Hennings said in September.

Some elevators dock 1 cent for every point below 300, so 299 would be a 1 cent per bushel discount.

Other elevators discount by the quarter, so wheat with a falling number of 299 would be docked 25 cents per bushel, the same as wheat with a falling number of 276, according to the Washington Grain Commission.

The total financial impact of the falling number problem is unclear, said commission CEO Glen Squires. This year’s wheat crop is still being marketed, with 60 percent of the marketing year remaining.

“Beyond that would just be speculation,” Squires said.

Randy Fortenbery, a Washington State University economics professor, said because the discounts vary, assigning a value to the problem is not possible.

The Washington Department of Agriculture grain inspection program does not routinely collect data on falling number tests, so the percentage of the crop impacted in the last 10 to 15 years is not known, spokesman Hector Castro said.

Cloninger was docked 25 cents a bushel on roughly 20 percent of his total wheat crop. He estimates he lost $35,000 to $40,000 because of the falling number test results.

Record yields helped put him at or near his cost of production, but that meant yield-based crop insurance wouldn’t provide him with any relief.

“The crappy thing is, last year was a horrible year,” he said. “It was a drought. With the yields, (this year’s crop) would have made up for last year, but with the falling number, it didn’t.”

The impact can be a financial body blow to a farmer.

Andrew Ross, a professor of crop and soil science and food science at Oregon State University, has been working on falling number-related issues since 1984.

“It’s a financially devastating problem when it happens to growers,” Ross said. “I’ve watched grown men weep in the cabs of their trucks.”

Researchers are working to identify the cause of the sprout damage and how to avoid it in the future.

Wheat is susceptible to damage during grain maturation, about 26 to 30 days after shedding pollen. Cool, rainy conditions start pre-harvest sprouting, causing the enzyme alpha amylase to form. Large swings in temperatures can also cause it to form.

This year, rain that fell July 9-12 around the Davenport, Wash., area was probably a big source of the region’s falling number problem, said Arron Carter, Washington State University winter wheat breeder. Not all wheat was impacted because the crops were at different stages of maturity, Carter said.

“There were lots of rain events this year across the state, and lots of temperature fluctuations, so it is hard to point to one event and say this was the cause of everything,” he said. “In the same region, some were affected by rain, and others by temperatures. This is part of what is making understanding the phenomenon so difficult.”

Sprouting produces large amounts of alpha amylase, damaging the starch and destroying the wheat’s baking and pasta quality. About 75 percent of flour is starch.

Noodles, pasta, breads and cakes made from wheat flour with a low falling number will be poor quality. For export customers such as Japan and South Korea, quality is crucial.

To perform the falling number test, a technician makes “gravy” out of a flour sample and uses a falling paddle to test how thick it is, measuring the number of seconds it takes for the paddle to fall through the gelatinized starch.

When the falling number is below 300 seconds, the alpha amylase enzyme is active and has damaged the starch.

A single sprouted kernel of wheat can lower the test score for an entire sample, said Ross, the OSU professor. But the variability doesn’t end there. Each seed in a sample could be a little sprouted, Ross said, or a few seeds could be badly sprouted in a sample of mostly good grain, and both samples could have the same falling number test result.

How sprouted grain is distributed in a field, truckload or silo adds more uncertainty, he said.

When farmers say they’re having their grain re-tested, they’re actually having another test run on a different sample of the crop, since the original grain that was tested was destroyed in the process, he said.

“It would be lovely if we had a non-destructive test,” Ross said. “Maybe that’s what needs to happen.”

Ross was on a 1984 team whose goal was to replace the falling number test machine. But even with new instruments and a more precise viscometer with low variability, the amount of uncertainty was reduced by only 1 percent, he said.

“You may not be able to get more precise than that,” he said. “That’s the ugly reality of it.”

Cathy Wilson, the director of research collaboration at the Idaho Wheat Commission, believes new tests are needed.

The old test, developed in the 1960s, doesn’t measure the amount of alpha amylase, she said. A small amount of the enzyme is needed in the grain.

Nor does it consider new knowledge about molecular interactions and chemistries within the wheat kernel.

Sending wheat to feed animals because of damaged starch when in fact the starch isn’t damaged loses value for everyone, Wilson said.

The test is too simple for the things the industry is asking it to do, and is being used in ways it was never intended to be used, she said.

For example, she said, the test was originally designed to confirm sprouting problems after rain during harvest, but in the 2000s overseas customers began using it as a risk management tool.

At least two other tests are needed — to find damaged starch and to find genetic markers to distinguish between the amount of alpha amylase that is beneficial and the amount that is harmful, Wilson said.

She estimates it will be 10 years before new tests are ready.

“We don’t have the science to get a good test,” she said. “But we can get the science.”

But developing a new test is a tall order, some others said.

“People have been working on it for a long time,” Ross said. “If it were an easy problem to solve, then it would have been solved.”

The USDA Agricultural Research Service needs to “elevate this issue to the highest research priority they can give it, so funds can be made available to address this problem the way it needs to be addressed,” Dana Herron, a member of the Washington Grain Commission, said.

Washington’s wheat grower association and the state grain commission will meet with USDA ARS representatives this month, he said.

The best thing wheat commissions can do for growers right now is provide a tool to help elevators quickly segregate wheat with low falling number from the good wheat to minimize losses, Herron said.

“(They) need a tool that in five minutes or less they can determine whether there’s a falling number problem or not,” he said. “Then they can put the good wheat in the good bin, the bad wheat in the bad bin.”

Private sector research companies tell Herron that such a solution is not far off. He’s been told the technology will be available in 24 months, he said.

Carter, the WSU winter wheat breeder, said it’s hard to offer farmers advice on varieties because falling number problems are caused in part by environmental conditions.

“I can give you a variety that appears to be resilient and tolerant, but if it rains at harvest for three days, I don’t know that it mattered for any variety you have growing in the field,” he said.

Farmer Jake Cloninger said falling number susceptibility is now roughly 30 percent of his decision when it comes to choosing which wheat varieties to plant. This fall he planted a mixture of varieties, hoping to reduce his chances for problems.

After two bad years in a row, 2017’s crop needs to produce above-average yields with prices above $5 per bushel, Cloninger said.

What happens if he has another bad year?

“I don’t know,” Cloninger said. “It’s kind of unknown.”

Wheat growers oppose dam breaching during public scoping meeting Thu, 1 Dec 2016 13:53:25 -0500 Sean Ellis BOISE — Breaching four dams on the lower Snake River would cause significant harm to the Pacific Northwest agricultural industry, Idaho wheat industry leaders said Nov. 29 during a public meeting.

The meeting is one of 15 being held around the region by federal agencies to get input on the operation of the hydropower dams on the Columbia-Snake River system, a process initiated by a federal judge handling a lawsuit brought by dam removal supporters.

It’s critical that agriculture, especially the wheat industry, makes its concerns known during the public comment period, said Idaho Wheat Commission Executive Director Blaine Jacobson.

“The dams are absolutely crucial to the health of the Idaho wheat industry,” he said. “Wheat is a global market and it’s a very competitive market and if we have to rail it to Portland, it would make a number of the growers uncompetitive on the world market.”

The U.S. district court judge earlier this year ordered the federal agencies that operate the Columbia-Snake River hydropower system to review all reasonable options for operating it in order to minimize the impact on endangered salmon.

That decision came in response to a lawsuit by conservation groups in favor of breaching the dams to improve salmon runs. They challenged the biological opinion for operating the system and the judge required the agencies to update the environmental impact statement on how the system is operated.

The agencies are holding scoping meetings around the Pacific Northwest to gather public comment and a draft environmental impact statement on the system’s operation is expected to be published for public comment in 2020.

Breaching those dams would make the rivers unnavigable for barges that move wheat and other products to port for export.

According to the Port of Lewiston and Northwest River Partners, about 10 percent of all U.S. wheat exports move through the lower Snake River dams and more than 50 percent of Idaho’s wheat is exported through the Columbia-Snake River system.

In addition, more than 42 million tons of commercial cargo valued at more than $20 billion moves through the system each year and 60 percent of the energy produced in Idaho, Oregon, Montana and Washington is generated by the rivers’ dams.

Jacobson said it’s almost inconceivable that the dams would be removed but a vocal minority that supports that is making their voices heard and it’s important the agricultural industry also weigh in on the issue.

“I think the facts are on the side of keeping the (system) the way it is,” he said. “But if the silent majority doesn’t turn out and lets the vocal minority rule the day, then it will be bad for the entire PNW.”

North Idaho farmer Eric Hasselstrom said that without the ability to use the river system to transport wheat to port, his transportation costs would likely double.

“If we lost the dams, I don’t think we’d be competitive and in business any more,” he said. “We have to have our voices heard because there are going to be a lot of comments against (the dams).”

Comments must be received by Jan. 17 and can be submitted by email to:

Farm Bureau leaders: Election results show power of rural America Thu, 1 Dec 2016 13:42:34 -0500 Sean Ellis BOISE — The results of the recent national election demonstrated the power of rural America when it flexes its collective muscle, Idaho Farm Bureau Federation leaders told members during the group’s annual meeting.

They pointed to both the presidential and state election results to make their point and motivate IFBF members to get involved and have their voices heard.

IFBF CEO Rick Keller said it was rural Americans that carried President-elect Donald Trump to victory. He used a national map showing how counties voted to make his point.

With few exceptions, rural counties voted red (Republican) while coastal cities and main population centers voted blue (Democrat).

“It was rural America ... that made him win,” Keller said. “When rural America gets together, we can do it right. They forgot rural America. We must always make sure our voices are heard.”

On the state level, farmers and ranchers ensured passage of a constitutional amendment that guarantees the Idaho Legislature’s ability to reject rules proposed by state agencies, said IFBF President Bryan Searle.

That same amendment was narrowly defeated two years ago but IFBF pushed hard for its passage this year and Farm Bureau members were directly responsible for its passage, said Searle, a Shelley farmer.

“It’s because of your efforts ... that it passed,” he said.

More than 13,000 farmers and ranchers in Idaho are members of IFBF and several hundred of them attended IFBF’s annual meeting Nov. 29-Dec. 1.

Searle encouraged members to become familiar with the group’s policy manual and be willing to speak up on issues important to agriculture and rural Idaho and rally their neighbors.

“Are you willing to go to the statehouse and testify?” he said. “Because we need real people to go to our state legislature and talk about real issues.”

During the 2016 legislative session, IFBF took a position for or against 77 bills or resolutions and was on the winning side of 68 of them, which is a 88 percent success rate, Searle said.

Farm Bureau’s political action committee gave money to 83 candidates who ran in the recent election and 95 percent of them won.

“All of that happens because of what you do and your efforts,” Searle said. “It takes a team. We have to work together.”

Keller said Trump was promising regulatory reform and farmers, ranchers and other rural Americans tired of being over-regulated decided the presidential election.

“It was regulatory reform ... that drove the farmers and ranchers to vote for Trump,” he said. “It was obvious (that over-regulation) was going to continue on and on, so rural America voted for a change.”

Keller said its up to rural Americans to ensure Trump keeps his promise to reform regulations.

“We’re going to hold him to that,” he said. “We’re encouraged by the rhetoric and we hope it happens but we know a lot of work remains. We can’t rest on our laurels.”

California strawberry production poised for record despite slow start Thu, 1 Dec 2016 13:27:19 -0500 Tim Hearden WATSONVILLE, Calif. — After starting way behind because of last winter’s rains, California strawberry production in 2016 is poised to set its first record in volume in three years.

As of Nov. 26, the state’s strawberry pickers had filled just over 194 million flats, which assures them of surpassing the full-year totals in 2015 (190 million) and 2014 (192 million), according to the California Strawberry Commission.

Production is now likely to vault over the nearly 194.8 million flats produced in 2013, when growers enjoyed their seventh record-breaking season in the previous eight years.

“Basically, the production numbers are determined by the weather, the acreage planted, and the increase in acreage planted in higher volume-producing varieties,” commission spokeswoman Carolyn O’Donnell said.

Winter rains early in 2016 put production well behind the previous two years, when a lack of rainfall led to fast starts. As of April 4, strawberry fields in California had produced just 2.6 million flats, well below last year’s total to date of nearly 45.4 million. Each flat weighs about 12 pounds.

But this year’s production had caught up by early October and kept booming, even as many areas of coastal California received above-average rainfall. Since Oct. 1, Salinas has recorded 2.56 inches of rain, above its average 1.98 inches, and Santa Maria has seen 2.58 inches this water year compared to its normal 1.93 inches, according to the National Weather Service.

Partly driving the late surge has been an increase in summer plantings for fall production, from 3,719 acres in 2012 to 6,721 acres this year, the commission reported. Big consumer demand late in the year prompted more growers to plant in the summer, O’Donnell said.

And while overall acreage has dropped to 36,039 this year from 40,816 in 2013, new higher-yielding varieties have enabled growers to keep pace, she said. Among those new varieties is the University of California-Davis created Monterey, whose acreage has ballooned from 1,110 to 7,761 in the last five years, according to the commission.

Whether — and by how much — production sets a record will depend on December growing conditions. The Oxnard area, where much of the winter production occurs, is expecting temperatures in the 60s and only a couple days of rain in December, according to AccuWeather’s long-range forecast.

Strawberries are a year-round fruit in California as harvests essentially follow the sun, beginning in Southern California and moving north as the year progresses. The peak season is in the spring and early summer, when all three of California’s most prominent growing regions — around Watsonville, Santa Maria and Oxnard — are shipping berries.

California produces 85 percent of the nation’s strawberries.

U.S. farm income continues to shrink Thu, 1 Dec 2016 13:17:31 -0500 Carol Ryan Dumas This year’s net income for U.S. farms is expected to be down 17.2 percent compared to 2015, driven by a sizable decline in cash receipts for livestock and animal products.

It’s shaping up to be the third straight year of decline in the value of the ag sector, said USDA economist James Williamson during a webinar on the latest farm financial forecast on Wednesday.

At $66.9 billion, net farm income is expected to fall to its lowest level since 2009, he said.

While cash crop receipts are up marginally, due largely to an increase in soybean receipts, livestock overall is down 12 percent, he said.

“All the major livestock categories are seeing declines, led by cattle and calves,” he said.

Livestock receipts are expected to fall $23.4 billion, with cattle and calf receipts declining $11.6 billion — almost 15 percent compared to last year and down more than 18 percent from 2014.

Dairy receipts are forecast to be down $1.8 billion, a 3.6 percent decline from last year and a decline of more than 31 percent from 2014.

Production expenses are forecast to be down $9.2 billion, or 2.6 percent, following an 8.1 percent decline in 2015, partly offsetting the decline in cash receipts.

The reduction in 2016 is the second largest year-over-year decline since 2009, behind the $31.7 billion reduction in 2015.

It’s fairly rare to see a decline in production expenses year over year, and this will be the second year in a row, Williamson said. In real terms, however, those expenses — nearly $350 billion — are still relatively high compared with the 1970s and 1980s.

Livestock purchases are down but feed costs are up a little, reflective of more animals on farms, he said.

The 2016 forecast predicts:

• Expenses for feed and livestock purchases combined, down 6.1 percent.

• Fuel and oil expenses, down 12.2 percent.

• Interest expenses, down 3.8 percent.

• Net rent expenses, down 1.6 percent.

Labor costs, however, are forecast to increase 5.4 percent.

Government direct payments also help to offset the decline in cash receipts. Those payments are forecast to be up $2.1 billion to $12.9 billion, making up more than 14 percent of net cash income, Williamson said.

Farm assets are forecast to decline 2.1 percent on a drop in value on real estate, as well as other declines. Debt is forecast to increase 5.1 percent, driven by higher real estate debt, he said.

Farm equity is forecast down nearly $80 billion, or 3.1 percent, from last year. Both the debt-to-asset and debt-to-equity ratios have been ticking up but are relatively low compared to the 1980s, he said.

The bigger picture shows the health of the overall farm economy is strong in the face of challenging markets, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement on the financial report.

Farm income over the last five years reflects the highest five-year average on record, debt-to-asset and debt-to-equity ratios continue to be near all-time lows and 90 percent of farm businesses are not highly leveraged, he said.

Horses mow and bale their own hay Thu, 1 Dec 2016 10:13:02 -0500 Hear Smith Thomas Mike Sardinia has a mobile veterinary service he operates from his farm near Clayton, Wash., 30 miles north of Spokane, but his passion is draft horses.

He and his wife, Teri, have 60 acres and 13 draft horses.

“We breed and raise a few, but also have several retired rescue horses, living out their lives at our place,” said Sardinia.

“We mostly raise Clydesdales but we have an old Shire mare who has been with us since she was a baby,” he said. “We adopted a Clydesdale from the vet school, then we bought this Shire filly, and they made our first team.”

At first glance they seemed mismatched — the huge tall Budweiser Clydesdale and the small Shire mare, but they worked well together.

“The little mare had a very long stride for her size, and the big Clydesdale gelding didn’t. Their way of going was amazingly well-matched; they just didn’t look right,” he said. “But looks aren’t everything when trying to get the work done.”

Sardinia has made videos of working with horses — and a movie.

“We go to the Western Regional Clydesdale Show every year to show our horses, and also show that movie to let people know what farming with horses looks like,” he said. “We enjoy the horses, including the retired ones, but we have to feed them. We raise our own hay and put up about 80 ton per year.”

The farm has 25 acres in hay — enough to feed the horses and sell a little.

“This helps pay for keeping the horses, since we have so many retired horses,” Sardinia said. “The working horses do all the work to produce plenty of hay for themselves and a lot more.”

They use two mowers at the same time.

“Teri and I enjoy the horses and do everything together. With the two of us mowing it goes faster. When we give the horses a break we just sit and talk,” Sardinia said.

“The nice thing about when you stop for a break with the horses, everything is quiet,” he said. “It’s a lot nicer than with tractors.”

He and Teri both grew up farming with tractors.

“We enjoy doing our haying with horses because it’s less noisy,” he said. “You can hear the birds and enjoy peaceful surroundings. It’s almost like going back in time, doing the haying and farming without monster machines with cabs and lights.”

They have two balers, also pulled by the horses. They make 50-pound bales.

“It only takes two horses to pull the motorized baler,” he said. “We put four horses on the wheel-drive baler if we don’t put a wagon behind it. We use five or six horses if we have the wagon behind the baler, and we prefer to do that, so we don’t have to go back and pick up bales off the ground.”

They used to do haying for their neighbors, but they’ve expanded their place to the point that they’ve got their hands full.

“Teri and I both have other jobs,” he said. Teri teaches high school and he has his mobile veterinary service.

He plows with horses and says that if you have a good furrow horse everything goes great.

“If I don’t have a good furrow horse, then it’s up to me, and I’m not as good at going straight,” he said.

Horses are smart, and creatures of habit. If you can get them doing the right thing, they continue doing it, he said.

“We don’t own a tractor, so this saves on fuel costs, machinery repairs, maintenance and frustration when things don’t start,” he said.

And tractors can’t reproduce.

Test your horse IQ with this equine quiz Thu, 1 Dec 2016 10:08:08 -0500 TERRELL WILLIAMS 1. What is equitation?

2. What is a fetlock?

3. What are skid boots?

4. What are a farrier’s clenches?

5. One of the most famous paintings by Charles M. Russell depicts the calamity of a bucking horse and rider smashing through the morning camp. What is the title of this 1908 painting?

6. At what age should the average horse have a full set of permanent teeth?

7. What are gut sounds, and what do they mean?

8. What is a Leopard Appaloosa?

9. When is the Kentucky Derby? (Bonus question: What horse won this year?)

10. In horse racing, what is a “win bet?”

11. What is a rowel?

12. At the National Finals Rodeo starting the first week of December in Las Vegas, what are the seven events? (What might be considered the eighth event on the final night?)

13. What is the meaning of a red ribbon tied to a horse’s tail?

14. What boot company, started in El Paso, Texas, in 1912 by the son of Italian immigrants, now has 780 employees and produces 3,100 pairs of boots a day?

15. What is bolting feed?

16. What are eggbutts, French links and bridoons?

17. Complete this old rhyming adage: “Never a bronc that couldn’t ____, and never a cowboy that couldn’t ____.”

18. What are girth galls?

19. What is the poll?

20. What 1944 movie about a difficult horse turned into a champion starred Elizabeth Taylor and Mickey Rooney?

BONUS QUESTION: What do you call a pony that won’t do anything you ask?


1. Equitation is another word for horsemanship, which is riding skill, especially with regard to form and control.

2. A fetlock is the lower leg joint above the foot.

3. Skid boots (also called sliding boots) are gear that strap around the fetlocks to protect those joints during sliding stops and other reining moves.

4. Clenches are the shoeing nail ends that are cut off, bent over and squeezed down against the hoof wall to secure the shoe.

5. This C.M. Russell painting is titled, “Bronc to Breakfast.” (A similar, later Russell painting is called, “Camp Cook’s Troubles.”)

6. A full set of permanent teeth arrives at 4 1/2 to five years of age.

7. Gut sounds are the gurgling of digestion, heard by listening with a stethoscope or even the naked ear pressed against the horse’s barrel just behind the last rib. These sounds indicate the stomach and intestines are in normal working condition. A horse with no gut sounds may be a horse in trouble with colic or other digestive problems.

8. A Leopard Appaloosa has white body hair covered all over with dark spots.

9. The Kentucky Derby is held on the first Saturday in May, won this year by Nyquist.

10. A win bet is a wager that a horse will finish only in first place.

11. A rowel is the pointed wheel of a spur. The length, shape and number of rowels determine the spur’s severity.

12. The seven NFR events are bareback bronc riding, steer wrestling, tie-down roping, saddle bronc riding, team roping, barrel racing and bull riding. Take a bonus point for knowing the clowns’ bull fighting competition at the end (the 10th night) of the rodeo.

13. Used mostly in trail riding, a red ribbon is a warning sign to keep your distance because this horse will kick when crowded.

14. Tony Lama (1887-1974) founded the legendary Tony Lama boot company. A cobbler by trade, he served in the U.S. Army making boots for soldiers, then earned a reputation throughout the Southwest for making top quality custom boots. Some of his original company employees were his six children.

15. Bolting feed is when a horse eats too fast because of being overly hungry, or anxious about another horse taking the food away, or simply having too much nervous anxiety. When a horse bolts his feed, he doesn’t chew it thoroughly, which may result in intestinal blockage.

16. These are three types of the snaffle bit, which is a milder, non-leverage bit.

17. “Never a bronc that couldn’t be rode, and never a cowboy that couldn’t be throwed.”

18. Girth galls are saddle sores made by dirty or poor fitting cinches, saddle pads and saddles.

19. The poll is the highest portion of a horse’s head, behind its ears.

20. That movie classic was National Velvet.

Bonus answer: A recalcitrant little equine is called a “neigh sayer.”

(Sources: The Horseman’s Illustrated Dictionary, The Horse Lover’s Bible and the internet.)


16 to 20: Top Hand

11 to 15: Seasoned Buckaroo

6 to 10: Weekend Wrangler

5 or less: Tenderfoot