Capital Press | Capital Press Sun, 14 Feb 2016 11:06:24 -0500 en Capital Press | Study: Washington potatoes net state $7.42B annually Fri, 12 Feb 2016 17:07:54 -0500 Matw Weaver The Washington potato industry contributes $7.42 billion to the state’s economy, a recent study from the Washington State Potato Commission finds.

The study, conducted for the commission by Washington State University’s IMPACT Center, also reports:

• The industry creates 35,860 jobs throughout the state.

• Every job directly created supports an additional 5.1 jobs in the state’s economy.

• The industry contributes $1.83 billion of labor income.

• For every dollar of raw potato production and processing, $2.40 is generated in the local economy.

The study examined the economic output from the state’s potato farming, frozen potato processing, fresh packed potatoes, dehydrated potato products and potato chip manufacturing sectors.

“I knew potatoes were a big thing in Washington State — we grow them big and they have a big economic impact,” said Chris Voigt, executive director of the commission.

But Voigt said the figures were higher than he expected.

“It really emphasizes the point that all of agriculture in Washington is big, a lot bigger than I think people normally think of,” he said.

Voigt attributed the high numbers to potato processing and export markets. Roughly 90 percent of the state crop is processed, and roughly 50 to 60 percent is exported, he said.

The study used figures from 2014, said Matt Harris, director of government affairs for the commission. The data collected occurred prior to the port slowdown. The commission estimates a loss of more than $50 million in frozen products from the four months.

A forthcoming study examines the total economic loss to the state as a result of the port labor issues, Harris said. He expects a figure of roughly $750 million.

“It’s shocking what that four-month period cost Washington state,” Harris said. “That’s something that has to be talked about.”

The number of jobs impacted by the potato industry grew from roughly 25,000 in the last study, conducted in roughly 2008, Harris said.

“There is a significant amount of revenue being earned on an annual basis from people directly and indirectly touching a potato,” Harris said.

Having the study will help when speaking with decision makers and legislators, Harris said.

“People like to see the positive impact that an ag group has in its local community,” he said. “We want to make sure people understand that we have to have the right business atmosphere for our farms to keep this economic model growing.”

Voigt said the commission used a draft of the figures during a recent visit to legislators in Olympia, and will take the study to a meeting in Washington, D.C.

“These numbers really reinforce that agriculture is important to the state, and we really have to be good stewards of agriculture, make sure it’s a good business environment for our farmers to operate,” he said. “Once we start turning the tide against farmers, we potentially could lose a lot of economic opportunities for the state.”

Potatoes are the fourth-largest crop in the state, behind apples, wheat and dairy. Roughly 300 potato growers plant more than 160,000 acres annually, harvesting 30 tons per acre on average. The state produces 20 percent of all U.S. potatoes, according to the commission.

Washington drains water funding, replenishment uncertain Fri, 12 Feb 2016 16:35:13 -0500 Don Jenkins LACEY, Wash. — The $200 million the Legislature dedicated a decade ago to develop new water supplies for Eastern Washington has been nearly exhausted, leaving the state with no long-term plan to complete projects that have been years in the planning, a Department of Ecology official told an advisory group Thursday.

“We have come to a moment where we have to figure out where we go from here,” Office of Columbia River Director Tom Tebb said. “We’re at a key point in the program’s life.”

The office opened in 2006 with the broad mandate to “aggressively pursue” new water supplies. The office has spent all but $7 million of the original appropriation.

Although little water has actually reached farmers, storage and conservation projects are on the cusp of delivering, Tebb said. “We want to see it through,” he said.

Irrigators will have to pay much of the cost for new pipelines and pumps, and the federal government may help fund some projects, particularly in the Yakima River Basin.

DOE, however, has identified hundreds of millions of dollars worth of water projects dependent on additional state funding.

Unless lawmakers commit to another major funding package, the projects will be funded piecemeal in biennial budgets.

The current budget, approved last year, included $30 million for water projects in the Yakima River Basin. DOE estimates the projects will cost $900 million over the next 10 years and $3.8 billion over 30 years.

Several members of DOE’s Columbia River Policy Advisory Group, which represents federal and state agencies, counties, tribes and irrigators, said they preferred Washington’s water policy to be guided by big-picture objectives backed by long-term financing.

Kittitas County Commissioner Paul Jewell said relying on annual budget appropriations will pit water projects against other capital projects.

“We end up competing every single year with pet projects that legislators have in their districts,” he said.

Two Republican senators, Jim Honeyford of Sunnyside and John Braun of Centralia, last year proposed funding major water projects with a statewide property tax increase.

In presenting the measure, advocates focused on agriculture in the Yakima River Basin, flood prevention in the Chehalis River Basin and pollution control in the Puget Sound. Despite the broad alliance, the plan had too little support to justify a statewide tax increase.

The House subsequently set up a task force to look at funding options. Staff members compiled a long list of taxes that could be raised or implemented to raise $3 billion in 10 years. The task force didn’t make any recommendation before disbanding.

“A comprehensive package is a good idea. The challenge is funding it. Who wants to provide the revenue?” Washington Farm Bureau Chief Executive Officer John Stuhlmiller said.

Tebb said he’s seen no revival of interest during the current legislative session. “There’s been no real momentum for a bill,” he said.

The DOE and irrigation districts hope Congress will provide up to half the money for the Yakima River plan, though congressional support is uncertain. Conservation groups and homeowners associations oppose the plan, characterizing it as a costly and environmentally damaging hedge against droughts.

So far, 2,000 acres in the Odessa Subarea in Adams, Grant, Franklin and Lincoln counties have been switched from groundwater to the Columbia River, a main goal of the 2006 legislation that set up the Office of Columbia River.

Several thousand more acres may be converted for the upcoming growing season. Eventually, as many as 87,000 acres are to be taken off the stressed Odessa aquifer. Individual farmers now on groundwater must decide whether it’s worth paying to build and maintain pipelines and pumps to tap into water stored in Banks Lake.

Seed testing finds more tuber-damaging PVY, ring rot Fri, 12 Feb 2016 15:26:31 -0500 John O’Connell IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — Potato virus Y infections in Idaho seed lots have increased slightly from last season, according to results of Idaho’s 2016 winter grow-out in Hawaii.

However, testing has confirmed a more significant rise in the percentage of infections by PVY strains that cause tuber damage.

Furthermore, new testing protocols enacted in February 2014 by Idaho’s seed potato industry have identified bacterial ring rot in some tuber samples.

Alan Westra, southeast Idaho area manager with Idaho Crop Improvement Association, said 28 percent of seed lots that were tested in the winter grow-out had some level of PVY infection but were still eligible to be replanted to produce more seed, which was down 1 percent from last season’s grow-out.

Another 27 percent of lots were ineligible for replanting as seed for having at least 2 percent PVY infection, up 6 percent. Forty-five percent of seed lots tested clean, down by 5 percent.

“I don’t really consider the changes to be significant,” Westra said. “The amount of quality seed out there isn’t going to change because of our winter readings.”

In 2013, Westra said 55 percent of Idaho seed lots tested clean and just 18 percent were ineligible to replant for seed. He believes Idaho imported some of its PVY in seed from Montana, where disease pressure was high a couple of years ago.

Westra said plant growth in this winter’s grow-out stand was exceptional. His program also conducted its first trapping of aphids, which spread PVY, concluding the pressure was so light there was virtually no risk of PVY spreading throughout the Hawaii plots and skewing test results.

University of Idaho Extension virologist Alexander Karasev, who conducted additional testing to determine the strains of PVY from grow-out samples, said the percentage of infections caused PVY NTN, a recombinant strain known to cause tuber damage, rose to 20 percent, after dropping to just 10 percent during the prior season.

“We would like to keep this NTN strain down as much as possible,” Karasev said.

He said last year’s most common type, a recombinant strain that doesn’t typically cause tuber damage called PVY N Wilga, continued a growth trend, reaching 66 percent of all positives. Karasev said no potato varieties with resistance to N Wilga have been developed yet, and that should be a priority for the industry.

He said the strain that caused the majority of infections just five years ago, PVY O, which also causes no tuber defects, is now virtually extinct, representing just 3 percent of infections in the recent testing.

Westra said in 2014, the first year of mandatory ring rot testing for seed certification, no samples of the 576,000 tubers tested were positive for the devastating crop disease. This year, field inspections confirmed three seed lots contained ring rot. Under the new program, additional traceback testing of lots originating from a common seed source, or in which equipment or facilities were shared in common with infected lots, confirmed more ring rot. In all, Westra said about 2,400 tuber samples were positive for ring rot, and 500 to 600 acres of seed production were rejected.

“The silver lining of this cloud, if there is one, is our testing program now appears to be working, and we’re keeping ring rot as best as we can from getting into the commercial industry,” Westra said, adding infections weren’t the fault of the growers.

Mid-Valley Winter Ag Fest debuts Feb. 27-28 Fri, 12 Feb 2016 14:49:05 -0500 Geoff Parks RICKREALL, Ore. — The first Mid-Valley Winter Ag Fest is the product of a labor of love for its organizers, who see agriculture as an integral part of the Willamette Valley’s past — and its future.

Deb Thomas has coordinated the Polk County Home and Garden Show — held each year at the end of February — since 2000. Last year, she started thinking about a larger event that would build on “this exciting time in agriculture with the resurgence of the family farm and Saturday markets.”

“The interest in the proposal for a February Ag Fest has been overwhelmingly positive,” Thomas said. The event will be held in the Main Building of the Polk County Fairgrounds, with agricultural seminars taking place at the adjacent Polk County Museum.

“The local 4-H Horse Club will bring horses and show tack and do riding demonstrations,” Thomas said.

Proceeds will benefit local 4-H and FFA chapters.

Some of the events featured over the two days:

• The 9th Annual Home and Garden Show will be held concurrently in another area of the Main Building and feature a Farmers’ Bounty Market.

• The 4-H will host a petting zoo from noon to 4 p.m. each day in the fairgrounds’ swine barn, along with a Favorite Foods contest.

• Artisan vendors will be in the Main Building.

• Antique Powerland volunteers will display old-time tractors and implements.

• An agricultural drone will be on display.

• An authentic covered wagon will be displayed by the Yamhill Historical Society.

• Representatives from the Chemeketa Community College Viticulture Center will talk about winemaking.

• Representatives from Two Towns hard cider and Rogue Brewery will be on hand.

• Eola Hills Winery will host an ag-themed brunch on Feb. 28.

A full slate of seminars will also be offered at the two-day Ag Fest:

Museum seminars

10:30 a.m.: John Burt, Farmers Ending Hunger, “Farm to Food Bank to Solve Things.”

11 a.m.: Sherri Noxel, Oregon State University’s Austin Family Business Program, “Planning for a Productive Family Farm Transfer.”

Noon: Stephanie Wood, “Native American Natural Harvesting.”

2 p.m.: Tiah Edmundson-Morton, OSU Hops and Beer History Archive, and Makaela Kroin, University of Oregon Folk Life Network, “History and Hop Lore in the Mid-Willamette Valley.”

3 p.m.: Amy Garrett, OSU Extension Small Farms Program, “Farming without Irrigation.”

Main Building Seminars

11 a.m.: Gretchen Anderson, “Secrets of the Lazy Urban Chicken Keeper.”

1 p.m. Dr. Ryan Scholz, district veterinarian for Western Oregon, “Avian Influenza.”

2 p.m.: Domenica Protheroe of MI Chicken Revolution, “Tips for the Winter Chicken Coop.”

Museum Seminars

11 a.m. Local authors forum.

2 p.m.: Robert Faust of Bio-Ag, “Restoring Soil Health.”

Main Building Seminars

1 p.m. Gretchen Anderson, “Other Tips on Raising a Flock from Chick to Hen.”


What: Mid-Valley Winter Ag Fest

Where: Polk County Fairgrounds, Rickreall, Ore.

When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 28.

Admission: $5 for adults and free for those under the age of 18.

Parking: Free at the fairgrounds.



UC Davis Extension Announces Upcoming Courses in Brewing Fri, 12 Feb 2016 14:21:05 -0500 DAVIS, Calif.- As one of the world's most respected providers of brewing
programs, UC Davis Extension offers comprehensive brewing education courses
for novice and experienced brewers and brewing industry professionals. All
classes are held in Davis, Calif.

Introduction to Practical Brewing
Learn from one of the world's foremost brewing experts in this in-depth
course for advanced homebrewers and early career professional brewers, using
the amazing resources of the 1.5 barrel pilot brewery in the
state-of-the-art brewing facility on the UC Davis campus. Charles Bamforth,
Ph.D., D.Sc., lead professor of brewing science at UC Davis, and Joseph
Williams, an award-winning brewing and master's student in the Bamforth
laboratory at UC Davis, teach this course.
You must be 21 years of age or older to enroll and attend.
. April 11-15: Mon.-Thurs., 9 a.m.-4 p.m. & Fri., 9 a.m.-noon. $1,400.
Enroll in section 154BRW731.

Intensive Brewing Science for Practical Brewing Receive an intensive
introduction to the sciences of brewing, drawing a direct connection between
brewing science and brewing practice, and build your understanding of the
technological and biochemical aspects of the brewing process. In addition to
formal lectures, the course includes a tour of a famous craft brewery and
beer tasting with a professional sensory scientist. Michael Lewis, Ph.D.,
professor emeritus of brewing science at UC Davis, Charles Bamforth, Ph.D.,
D.Sc., lead professor of brewing science at UC Davis, and Sue Langstaff,
principal of Applied Sensory, LLC, teach this course.
You must be 21 years of age or older to enroll and attend.
. June 13-17: Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-4 p.m. $1,400. Enroll in section

Brewing Microbiology Workshop
Explore the microbial world of brewing. Receive microscope training and
practical exercises for identifying beer microorganisms. Learn about the use
of sterile techniques, plating of cultures, isolation of microorganisms, use
of counting chambers and biofilm assays. James Brown, Ph.D., director of
fermentation science at UC Davis Extension, Lucy Joseph, M.S., curator of
the UC Davis Wine Microbe Collection, and Michael Ramsey, teaching
laboratory manager for the Department of Viticulture and Enology, UC Davis,
teach this course.
Choose from two sections:
. Aug. 15-17: Mon.-Tues., 9 a.m.-4 p.m. and Wed., 9 a.m.-3 p.m. $565.
Enroll in section 161BRW740.
. Aug. 19-21: Fri.-Sat., 9 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sun., 9 a.m.-3 p.m. $565.
Enroll in section 161BRW741.

For more information or to enroll, call (800) 752-0881, email or visit our website.

UC Davis Extension, the continuing and professional education division of UC
Davis, has been an internationally recognized leader in educational outreach
for individuals, organizations and communities for more than 50 years. With
62,000 annual enrollments in classroom and online university-level courses,
UC Davis Extension serves lifelong learners in the growing Sacramento
region, all 50 states and more than 115 countries.

* * * * *

Obama moves to protect 1.8 million acres of California desert Fri, 12 Feb 2016 10:55:39 -0500 JOHN ROGERS LOS ANGELES (AP) — President Barack Obama granted national monument status Friday to nearly 1.8 million acres of scenic Southern California desert, a move the White House says will maintain in perpetuity the region’s fragile ecosystem and natural resources, as well as provide recreational opportunities for hikers, campers, hunters and others.

Obama, in California this week for a fundraising swing, signed proclamations establishing three regions as national monuments — Mojave Trails, Castle Mountains (both in the Mojave Desert) and Sand to Snow in the Sonoran Desert.

The White House says the designations will nearly double the amount of public land that Obama has designated as national monument status since taking office.

“In addition to permanently protecting incredible natural resources, wildlife habitat and unique historic and cultural sites, and providing recreational opportunities for a burgeoning region, the monuments will support climate resiliency in the region ...,” the White House said in a statement.

The designations will also connect those regions to other protected government land, including Joshua Tree National Park, the Mojave National Preserve and 15 other federal wilderness areas.

Mojave Trails National Monument, at 1.6 million acres, is by far the largest of the three new ones.

Sprawling across the vast Mojave Desert, it contains ancient lava flows, spectacular sand dunes, ancient Native American trading routes and World War II-era training camps. It also contains the largest remaining undeveloped stretch of America’s Mother Road, historic Route 66.

Castle Mountains National Monument, also in the Mojave Desert, links two mountain ranges as it covers nearly 21,000 acres that hold numerous important Native American archaeological sites. The area is also home to golden eagles, bighorn sheep, mountain lions and other wildlife.

Sand to Snow National Monument rises from the floor of the Sonoran Desert to the 11,503-foot peak of Mount San Gorgonio, Southern California’s tallest alpine peak.

Its diverse landscape includes the headwaters of the state’s Santa Ana and Whitewater rivers and is home to 240 species of birds and 12 endangered or threatened species of wildlife. It also contains an estimated 1,700 Native American petroglyphs and 30 miles of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail.

The federal Antiquities Act, adopted in 1906, grants the president the authority to protect landmarks, structures, and objects of historic or scientific interest by designating them as National Monuments.

Portland daily grain report Fri, 12 Feb 2016 10:44:18 -0500 Portland, Ore., Friday, Feb. 12, 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 March wheat futures trended 0.25 of a cent to 2.75 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 February delivery for ordinary protein were not available. Bids for guaranteed maximum 10.5 protein were not well tested in early trading but were indicated as steady to higher compared to Thursday’s noon bids.

Bids for 11.5 percent protein US 1 Hard Red Winter Wheat for February delivery were not well tested in early trading, but were indicated as

higher compared to Thursday’s noon bids. Some exporters are not issuing bids for nearby delivery.

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

Bids for US 1 Yellow Soybeans delivered full coast in 110 car shuttle trains during February were mixed in early trading.

All wheat bids in dollars per bushel

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

Ordinary protein

Feb NA

Mar NA

Apr NA

May NA


Guaranteed maximum 10.5 pct protein

Feb 5.9875-6.1400

Mar 5.9500-6.2400

Apr 5.9500-6.2400

May 6.0375-6.2400

Aug NC 5.3850-5.5000

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

Ordinary protein

Feb NA

Guaranteed maximum 10.5 pct protein

Feb 6.9875-7.4900

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


Ordinary protein 5.1675-5.4175

11 pct protein 5.3675-5.5175

11.5 pct protein

Feb 5.4175-5.5675

Mar 5.3175-5.4675

Apr 5.4600-5.5100

May 5.4600-5.5100

12 pct protein 5.4975-5.6075

13 pct protein 5.5575-5.6875

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 5.6950-5.8450

14 pct protein

Feb 6.0150-6.1650

Mar 5.9650-6.1650

Apr 6.0975-6.1975

May 6.0975-6.1975

15 pct protein 6.1750-6.3250

16 pct protein 6.3050-6.5150

US 2 Yellow Corn

Shuttle trains-Delivered full coast Pacific Northwest-BN

Feb 4.4225-4.4525

Mar 4.4225-4.4425

Apr 4.4300-4.4700

May 4.4300-4.4700

Jun 4.4375-4.4575

Jul 4.4375-4.4575

US 1 Yellow Soybeans

Shuttle trains-Delivered full coast Pacific Northwest-BN

Feb 9.7325-9.7825

Mar 9.5825-9.6825

Apr 9.4725

Oct/Nov 9.6225-9.6725

US 2 Heavy White Oats 3.9200

Not well tested.

Exporter Bids Portland Rail/Barge Jan 2015

Averages in Dollars per bushel

US 1 Soft White by Unit Trains and Barges 5.3100

US 1 Hard Red Winter (Ordinary protein) 5.4200

US 1 Hard Red Winter (11.5% protein) 5.6100

US 1 Dark Northern Spring (14% protein) 6.1500

Source: USDA Market News Service, Portland, OR

Lawmakers float 3 bills amending Idaho’s animal cruelty law Fri, 12 Feb 2016 10:36:16 -0500 Sean Ellis BOISE — Three separate proposals that would amend Idaho’s animal cruelty law are floating around the Idaho Legislature and the controversial issue is simmering again.

Two have been printed and one is being re-drafted with input from representatives of the state’s main agricultural groups.

A proposed bill by Rep. Ken Andrus, chairman of the House Agricultural Affairs Committee, was pulled from that committee’s agenda Feb. 10 because of opposition from farm groups, Andrus said.

Idaho lawmakers in 2012 passed a bill that makes a third offense for animal cruelty a felony. It addresses companion animals and exempts production agriculture.

Some national and Idaho animal rights groups have said they might push a ballot initiative if the state doesn’t strengthen the law itself.

Andrus, a Republican rancher from Lava Hot Springs, introduced legislation in 2013 that would have amended Idaho’s animal cruelty law to include a second-offense felony provision and define torture.

It died because the former chairman of the Senate Agricultural Affairs Committee, a retired farmer, refused to introduce it in the Senate because he believed it was the first step in a plan by animal activist groups to keep chipping away at the law until it hampers production agriculture.

Andrus was ready to introduce a similar bill this week but pulled it to see if he can work with opponents to alter it into a version they can support.

“We’re going to see if we can work something in the bill so we can get more support, especially from the production agriculture people,” he said.

The current chairman of the Senate ag committee, Sen. Jim Rice, R-Caldwell, told the Capital Press he also won’t allow a bill similar to the one Andrus introduced in 2013 to be heard in that committee.

Rice instead introduced his own bill Feb. 11 that would allow a judge to order a pre-sentencing psychological evaluation for people convicted of animal cruelty. His bill would also allow prosecutors to request an evaluation.

He said people who commit heinous acts of animal abuse are almost always mentally ill and without appropriate treatment, they will come out of prison the same or worse.

“You have to address the mental health issue and you don’t deal with that without psychological evaluations,” he said. “This allows us to actually address the root problem.”

A bill printed last week by Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, would make it a felony to be convicted of a second animal cruelty offense and it defines torture and includes a first-offense felony if the offense is committed in the presence of a minor.

Her bill faces opposition from some Idaho farm groups and Rubel said she is miffed at that since her bill specifically exempts production agriculture.

“I love animal agriculture (and) went to great efforts ... to make sure that it didn’t touch any animal involved in agriculture,” she said. “I still hope there is an opportunity for us all to work together on this issue....”

USDA agencies improve web record access Fri, 12 Feb 2016 10:29:31 -0500 John O’Connell BOISE — USDA’s Farm Service Agency and Natural Resources Conservation Service have both introduced new Internet features to meet a 2014 Farm Bill mandate that they improve electronic record access for their customers.

FSA Farm Plus launched in January, offering producers web-based reports on their base acres, planting histories, ownership and rental records, fields in the Conservation Reserve Program and maps of “common land units,” which encompass all agricultural lands eligible for Farm Bill programs.

“We have a huge database — probably the most extensive database of agricultural ground in the U.S.,” said Mark Samson, executive director for Idaho FSA.

Samson said just 30 Idaho producers have enrolled thus far, but his county offices will promote the service as growers visit prior to the August registration deadline for Farm Bill programs.

Growers who wish to participate may obtain security clearance from their local FSA offices. Samson anticipates the records will also be useful to growers who wish to share their digital records with management groups they’ve hired to help with farm operations.

Samson intends to schedule demonstrations to educate growers on using the tool.

NRCS unveiled its Client Gateway website last fall and is starting a campaign to promote it to customers. Thus far, fewer than 10 Idaho farmers or ranchers have accessed services from the website,, said Curtis Elke, NRCS state conservationist.

“It’s a communicator basically between (customers) and us,” Elke said. “It’s ready for use. The biggest work right now is making people aware that they have the opportunity to access this website.”

From Client Gateway, producers can access and amend NRCS conservation plans governing their operations. They can also track their NRCS payments, apply for NRCS cost-sharing programs and pose questions and request technical assistance regarding NRCS programs and procedures.

Elke said the website should be especially useful for absentee land owners, who will be able to remotely sign documents electronically.

Elke said producers must visit their local NRCS offices to be verified to access their private documents and granted authorization to use the website.

Elke said NRCS will be sending postcards to customers soon informing them about Client Gateway.

Greek farmers clash with riot police in pensions protest Fri, 12 Feb 2016 08:18:50 -0500 ELENA BECATOROS ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek farmers wielding shepherd’s staffs and throwing rocks clashed Friday with riot police in central Athens as thousands headed to the capital for a two-day protest against government plans to impose new tax hikes and overhaul the pension system.

Separate clashes broke out on the highways leading into the Greek capital. On its western highway, riot police fired tear gas to disperse farmers demanding to be allowed into the city with agricultural vehicles despite a government ban.

To the east, farmers used tractors to circumvent a police roadblock and block the main highway to Athens’ international airport. That left many travelers with planes to catch walking along the road, wheeling their suitcases behind them. The airport road re-opened after about 30 minutes.

In the city center, about 800 farmers from the island of Crete who arrived by overnight ferry rallied outside the agriculture ministry, throwing tomatoes. Tension escalated when police prevented them from accessing the building. Clashes soon broke out, with riot police using tear gas to repel the protesters, who were throwing rocks and setting dumpsters on fire.

At one point, an outnumbered riot police unit was forced to flee up a street, with farmers wielding staffs and pieces of wood in pursuit.

Many of the agriculture ministry’s windows were broken and rubble from rocks and broken paving stones lay strewn outside the building. Police said the farmers also threatened to spray them with a pesticide used for olive trees if the police used tear gas. At least four farmers were detained.

“These scenes were aimed at blackening the struggle of the farmers,” said Agriculture Minister Vangelis Apostolou. “For us, there is one path — that of dialogue to solve the problems of farmers. “

Farming associations have been blockading highways with tractors for more than two weeks, forcing traffic into lengthy diversions to protest a planned overhaul of the country’s troubled pension system. So far, farmers have refused talks with the government, insisting the pension reform plan must be repealed.

Bailout lenders are demanding that Greece scrap tax breaks for farmers and impose pension reforms that will lead to higher monthly contributions from the self-employed and salaried employees.

The protests against the pension changes have united a disparate group of professions, including lawyers, artists, accountants, engineers, doctors, dentists, seamen and casino workers.

Other farmers in buses, pickup trucks and cars from north and south were heading to Athens for the main rally, set for Friday afternoon in the city’s main Syntagma Square outside Parliament. Protesters have vowed an all-night sit-in and rally Saturday.

Local biotech authority proposal replaced with fish labeling requirement Thu, 11 Feb 2016 19:42:21 -0500 Mateusz Perkowski SALEM — A proposal to give local governments in Oregon the power to regulate biotech crops has been scrapped in favor of a labeling requirement for genetically engineered fish.

Lawmakers recently considered overturning the state’s prohibition against local restrictions on genetically modified crops, which was passed in 2013.

Biotech critics claim that local ordinances are necessary to prevent cross-pollination between transgenic, conventional and organic crops because the state and federal governments have failed to act on the issue.

Opponents of the proposal, House Bill 4122, argued that it would complicate farming across county lines, reduce crop options and put a strain on local governments that would have to enforce such ordinances.

The House Committee on Consumer Protection and Government Effectiveness heard extensive testimony from both sides during a Feb. 9 hearing but ultimately decided to “gut and stuff” the bill with language that requires labeling for genetically engineered fish sold at retail.

On Feb. 11, the amended bill was approved 5-3 and is headed to the House floor with a “do pass” recommendation.

Prior to the amendment’s approval, Rep. Mike Nearman, R-Dallas, said it would be unfortunate if the current system of voluntary cooperation among farmers were replaced with a “bureaucratic solution” for cross-pollination concerns.

“They try to solve their problems by talking with each other and working with each other,” Nearman said.

Rep. Susan McLain, D-Hillsboro, said she agreed that an ideal solution would allow all types of farmers to co-exist.

“Let’s not pre-empt that possible pathway,” she said.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Paul Holvey, D-Eugene, said he also wishes such problems could be worked out amicably, but farmers who fear cross-pollination from biotech crops don’t currently have a system to prevent economic losses.

After the legislature pre-empted local regulation of seeds — including biotech crops — in 2013, their concern hasn’t been addressed, he said.

“I think they have a legitimate issue that needs to be solved,” Holvey said. “I hope the Department of Agriculture solves it or the legislature does in the future.”

Committee Chair Shemia Fagan, D-Clackamas, said she hopes the recent discussions in the legislature will pressure the Oregon Department of Agriculture to come up with a solution.

Fagan noted that heirloom crop varieties cannot be replaced once they’re lost, so she hopes to give farmers some method to protect such cultivars.

“There is some urgency to this issue,” she said.

A similar bill that would have more broadly reversed Oregon’s seed pre-emption law, House Bill 4041, recently failed to clear the committee.

As for labeling of genetically engineered fish, Holvey said the proposal will likely be subject to further revisions in the Senate if it’s approved in the House.

Transgenic salmon received regulatory approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last year but its sale is on hold until the agency devises possible labeling rules.

If the FDA does require such labeling, those regulations would likely pre-empt any rules enacted in Oregon, Holvey said.

U.S. horticulture sales blossom, survey shows Thu, 11 Feb 2016 11:45:14 -0500 Carol Ryan Dumas The sale of horticulture specialties such as nursery stock, sod and flowering plants jumped 18 percent during the five-year period ending in 2014, a USDA census shows.

Total sales from all horticulture operations tallied $13.8 billion from 23,221 operations, which represented an 8 percent increase during the five-year period, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Production was concentrated in 10 states, which accounted for 65 percent of all U.S. horticulture sales.

The census reflects the growing diversity in horticulture production with the addition of 60 new items — such as lavender, rudbeckia, cacti and succulents — added to the survey, NASS reported.

Sales also reflect that diversity, with nursery stock leading sales at $4.27 billion, up 11 percent since the last census. The top seller was followed by annual bedding/garden plants at $2.57 billion, up 11 percent; sod, sprigs and plugs at $1.14 billion, up 30 percent; and potted flowering plants at $1.08 billion, up 24 percent.

Potted herbaceous perennials at $945 million, up 12 percent, and food crops grown under protection at $797 million, up 44 percent, rounded out the top-selling commodities, NASS reported.

“Food crops grown under cover gained in prominence as the number of operations engaged in this practice increased 71 percent to 2,521,” NASS stated.

California led the way in horticulture sales with $2.88 billion, up 26 percent and garnering 21 percent of all U.S. horticultural sales. The state’s operations grew 6 percent in number to 1,710.

California’s top-selling commodities were nursery stock at $959 million, up 42 percent from 2009; cut flowers at $336 million, up 23 percent; and potted flowering plants at $302 million, up 38 percent.

Oregon was third in the nation, increasing sales 12 percent to $932 million on 1,177 operations, up 8 percent. The state ranked first in the U.S. in cut Christmas tree sales and second in vegetable seed sales. It also ranked third in sales of cut flowers, nursery stock, flower seed and cut cultivated greens.

Washington posted $366 million in sales, up 31 percent, and ranked second in the U.S. in sales of cut flowers, rhizomes and tubers. The state’s operations numbered 621, up 14 percent.

Next door, Idaho ranked third in vegetable and seed sales but showed an 11 percent decline in total sales to $67.4 million. Those decreased sales were from increased operations, up 6 percent to 257.

In other key findings, NASS reported that while family- or individually owned operations made up the largest number of operations at 53 percent, corporate-owned operations accounted for 76 percent of sales at $10.5 billion.

Nationwide, total industry expenses were up 16 percent with labor being the largest expense, accounting for 37 percent of total expenses, the agency reported.

Last Oregon occupiers surrender, ending 41-day ordeal Thu, 11 Feb 2016 20:04:57 -0500 REBECCA BOONEand MARTHA BELLISLE BURNS, Ore. (AP) — With the FBI tightening its ring around them, the last four holdouts in the armed takeover of a national wildlife refuge in Oregon surrendered Thursday, ending a 41-day standoff that left one man dead and exposed simmering anger over the government’s control of vast expanses of Western land.

Federal authorities in six states also arrested seven other people accused of being involved in the occupation and brought charges against a leader of the movement who organized a 2014 standoff. Two more suspects remained at large.

The last occupiers at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge gave up without incident a day after federal agents surrounded the site.

Nearby residents were relieved.

“I just posted hallelujah on my Facebook,” said Julie Weikel, who lives next to the nature preserve. “And I think that says it all. I am so glad this is over.”

At least 25 people have now been indicted on federal charges of conspiracy to impede employees at the wildlife refuge from performing their duties.

Meanwhile, Cliven Bundy, who was at the center of the 2014 standoff at his ranch in Nevada, was arrested late Wednesday in Portland after encouraging the occupiers not to give up. Bundy is the father of Ammon Bundy, the jailed leader of the Oregon occupation.

The elder Bundy appeared in federal court Thursday in Portland to hear the charges against him, all of which stem from the 2014 confrontation with federal authorities in Nevada.

He’s accused of leading supporters who pointed military-style weapons at federal agents trying to enforce a court order to round up Bundy cattle from federal rangeland. The charges include conspiracy, assault on a federal officer, obstruction of justice and weapons charges.

Federal authorities have not said why they chose to arrest the 69-year-old now. They may have feared Bundy’s presence would draw sympathizers to defend the holdouts.

At the court hearing, the elder Bundy asked for a court-appointed attorney. U.S. Magistrate Judge Janice Stewart said she wanted to see financial documents first. She set a detention hearing for next Tuesday, and Bundy will stay in jail until then.

Bomb squads planned to go through the refuge’s buildings to make sure no explosives were left behind, said Greg Bretzing, the agent in charge of the FBI’s Portland division.

The refuge will remain closed for weeks as specialists collect evidence and try to determine whether the occupiers damaged any tribal artifacts and burial grounds sacred to the Burns Paiute Tribe, he said.

Videos posted online showed members of the armed group exploring buildings at the site and criticizing the way tribal artifacts were stored there.

The last four occupiers had been living in a rough encampment on refuge grounds. The videos sometimes showed group members living in tents or gathered around a campfire, driving vehicles and setting up barricades. They erected a canopy next to a pickup truck and an old car and put camping chairs and coolers around it. The area appeared strewn with plastic water bottles, cardboard boxes, clothes, packages of bullets and beer cans.

The last four occupiers were scheduled to be arraigned Friday in Portland. They are 27-year-old David Fry of Blanchester, Ohio; Jeff Banta, 46, of Elko, Nevada; and married couple Sean Anderson, 48, and Sandy Anderson, 47, of Riggins, Idaho.

The FBI began moving in Wednesday evening, surrounding their encampment with armored vehicles. Over the next several hours, the occupiers’ panic and their negotiation with FBI agents could be heard live on the Internet, broadcast by a sympathizer of the occupiers who established phone contact with them.

The Andersons and Banta surrendered first on Thursday. Fry initially refused to join them.

“I’m making sure I’m not coming out of here alive,” he said at one point Thursday, threatening to kill himself. “Liberty or death, I take that stance.”

After ranting for a while, he too gave up.

Federal authorities were criticized during the occupation for not acting sooner to end it. But some experts said the FBI’s strategy of letting tensions die down before moving in ensured there would be no bloodshed.

“This was beautifully executed,” said Brian Levin, a criminal justice professor at California State University-San Bernardino. “This siege and the way it was handled will go down in law enforcement textbooks.”

The standoff began when Ammon Bundy and his followers took over the refuge south of Burns, demanding that the government turn over the land to locals and release two ranchers imprisoned for setting fires.

Federal agents, Oregon state troopers and sheriff’s deputies monitored the occupation to avoid a confrontation. As the weeks passed, there were growing calls for the FBI to act, including from Oregon’s governor.

They did, on Jan. 26. On that day, Ammon Bundy and other occupation leaders were heading for the town of John Day to give a talk on federal overreach. FBI agents and Oregon state troopers stopped the group’s two-vehicle convoy. Robert “LaVoy” Finicum was shot dead in that confrontation. The FBI said he was reaching for a pistol inside his jacket pocket.

A total of 12 people were arrested that week, including Ammon Bundy. Most of the occupiers fled the refuge after hearing they would not be arrested if they left quickly. Four stayed behind, saying they feared they would be arrested if they left.

Oregon elected officials rejoiced at the end of the long occupation but said it will take a while for the rural area to recover. Gov. Kate Brown called the episode “very traumatic.”

“The level of harassment and intimidation by folks who were staying in the Burns community was horrific,” she said. “And the healing will take a long time.”


Bellisle reported from Seattle. Associated Press writers Terrence Petty in Portland, Oregon, and Ken Ritter in Las Vegas and AP videographer Manuel Valdes in Burns contributed to this report.

Last holdout in Oregon wildlife refuge standoff arrested Thu, 11 Feb 2016 10:13:38 -0500 REBECCA BOONEand MARTHA BELLISLE BURNS, Ore. (AP) — The last holdout at a national wildlife refuge in Oregon surrendered and was arrested Thursday morning, bringing to a close the occupation that began Jan. 2.

Three other holdouts at the wildlife refuge surrendered earlier Thursday morning.

The holdouts were the last remnants of the group that seized the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, demanding the government turn over the land to locals and release two ranchers imprisoned for setting fires.

The surrender played out over a phone call on an open line streamed live on the Internet by an acquaintance of occupier David Fry, who delayed leaving the refuge after he said the other three walked out.

Fry, an Ohio resident, said he declared “war against the federal government” and shouted on the call with his acquaintance and a Nevada legislator who drove to the site to help negotiate their exit.

“Liberty or death, I take that stance,” he said. The holdouts and 12 others connected with the occupation have been charged with conspiracy to interfere with federal workers.

He later said he was pointing a gun at his head.

A day earlier, officers went in to barricade the Oregon wildlife refuge. The situation Wednesday had reached a point where it “became necessary to take action” to ensure the safety of all involved, said Greg Bretzing, special agent in charge of the FBI in Oregon.

The four previously refused to leave even after group leader Ammon Bundy and others were arrested on a remote road outside the refuge on Jan. 26 in a traffic stop that also led police to shoot and kill an Arizona rancher, who the FBI says was reaching for a gun. Most of the occupiers fled the refuge after that.

Bundy’s father, Cliven, joined his son behind bars Wednesday after arriving in Portland from Las Vegas. The elder Bundy led an armed standoff with federal officials over grazing rights two years ago in Nevada.

He was not charged in connection with the 2014 standoff near his ranch until Thursday.

A criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas charged Cliven Bundy, 69, with conspiracy, assault on a federal officer, obstruction, weapons charges and other crimes.

It accuses him of leading supporters who pointed military-style weapons at federal agents trying to enforce a court order to round up Bundy cattle from federal rangeland. It wasn’t immediately clear if he had a lawyer to represent him ahead of a court appearance in federal court in Portland.

Federal authorities say the family has not made payments toward a $1.1 million grazing fee and penalty bill.

Cliven Bundy encouraged supporters to flock to Oregon to support the final four occupiers. Besides Ohio resident Fry, they were: Jeff Banta, 46, of Elko, Nevada; and married couple Sean Anderson, 48, and Sandy Anderson, 47, of Riggins, Idaho.

They all face a federal felony charge of conspiracy to keep federal workers from doing their duties through force or intimidation. The four will appear before a judge in Portland on Friday.

A Nevada legislator, Michele Fiore, revived her efforts to get Fry to calm down and give himself up. The Republican member of the Nevada Assembly had been in Portland to support the jailed Bundy.

The FBI moved in after one of the occupiers rode an ATV outside “the barricades established by the militia” at the refuge, Bretzing said in a statement. When FBI agents tried to approach the driver, Fry said he returned to the camp at a “high rate of speed.”

The FBI placed agents at barricades around the occupiers’ camp, Bretzing said.

“It has never been the FBI’s desire to engage these armed occupiers in any way other than through dialogue, and to that end, the FBI has negotiated with patience and restraint in an effort to resolve the situation peacefully,” he said.

Federal authorities likely decided to move in over concerns about dealing with a larger group, an expert said.

“The FBI looks at the concept of group dynamics, and they don’t have the upper hand with a big and ungainly crowd,” said Brian Levin, a criminal justice professor at California State University, San Bernardino. “When you’ve got many armed people taking positions, it’s not going to end well.”


Martha Bellisle contributed to this report from Seattle. Associated Press Writer Terrence Petty contributed from Portland, Oregon.

New maritime rule may jeopardize container trade, coalition says Thu, 11 Feb 2016 16:37:54 -0500 Dan Wheat A new maritime rule on container weight documentation that goes into effect July 1 could create “major turmoil at marine terminals” and “significantly impede” U.S. exports, the Agriculture Transportation Coalition warns.

The coalition, based in Washington, D.C., is calling for a congressional inquiry into how the London-based International Maritime Organization adopted the rule without U.S. exporter or importer notice or advice or consideration of the impact it would have on the U.S. economy.

The rule, an amendment to IMO’s Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) will require all shippers, importers and exporters, to certify and submit the Verified Gross Mass (VGM) to steamship lines and terminal operators before containers are loaded onto vessels, the coalition says.

VGM is the combined weight of cargo and container. Currently, the shipper is responsible for accurately reporting the weight of cargo. The shipper does not own, control or maintain containers which are owned or leased by carriers.

The amendment was created in response to claims of incidents of damage due to overweight containers although the IMO SOLAS committee did not reference any instance where a ship was damaged or sank exclusively due to overweight underreported containers, the coalition states in a Feb. 9 position paper.

Peter Friedmann, executive director, could not be reached for comment.

There has been no congressional or federal review or approval of the rule and no input from the shipping community, the paper states.

Shippers, steamship lines, terminal operators and governments are scrambling to create best practices and guidelines for the new rule, according to the coalition.

Weights printed on containers are typically not accurate, the rule imposes liability on the shipper to certify equipment it does not own, it will disrupt flow of cargo through ports and no means exist to facilitate VGM data, the coalition’s paper states.

The rule will result in new costs on all participants in the U.S. export supply chain, the paper states.

The coalition calls on the Federal Maritime Commission and Coast Guard to convene a working group of stakeholders. Exporters should only be responsible for certifying the weight of cargo and steamship lines should be responsible for reporting weight of containers, the paper states.

The coalition makes several other recommendations including that the U.S. should not implement the rule until the top 15 trading partners, as measured by ocean container volumes, have implemented it.

Chelan FFA Alumni Benefit Auction set for Feb. 26 Thu, 11 Feb 2016 16:13:11 -0500 Mark your calendars for the 5th Annual Chelan FFA Alumni Benefit Auction on Friday, Feb. 26, at 7 p.m. in the Chelan High School Commons.

This event will be held along with other National FFA Week activities of the Chelan FFA. If FFA is something that you want to see continue to grow and prosper at Chelan High School, please consider attending the auction and supporting the FFA Alumni.

The auction with feature many quality items in both a live and silent auction, raffle ticket items, FFA members and a good time. You don’t have buy anything to attend but do ask that you promise be the second place bidder at least one time.

Preceding the auction at 5:30 p.m. we will be hosting a Community Appreciation Dinner to say thank you from the Chelan FFA members and Alumni members for the years of support from the Chelan Valley that has allowed the Chelan Chapter to be successful for the past 86 years.

There is no charge for either of these National FFA Weeks events.

The Chelan FFA Alumni Affiliate was founded in 1981 by a group of parents and then Chelan FFA adviser, Walt Pierson.

The strong tradition of support has been kept alive by 1981-82 Chelan FFA president and now Chelan FFA Adviser, Rod Cool.

The Chelan FFA Alumni awards a $500 scholarship to the individual winner of the District VII Apple Judging Career Development Event, a $500 academic scholarship to a graduating member of the Chelan FFA for post-secondary education in an agricultural major, and last year awarded over $17,000 in grants to Chelan FFA members to attend state and national leadership training, conventions, and agricultural education opportunities.

The alumni raise money through the sale of apple gift boxes through their Novelty Apple Co., sponsoring the Lake Chelan Horticulture Day Trade Show, producing the Lake Chelan PWRA Rodeo, concessions at the Chelan Jr. Rodeo, and catering various private events throughout the year.

This year Chelan FFA membership has grown to 174 members and to maintain the current level of support to the kids, we need to expand our fundraising efforts.

The Chelan FFA Alumni is a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation and a member of the National FFA Alumni Association.

The auction will be called by Best Bid Auctions. The terms will be pay on site by cash, check, or credit card.

For more information about the auction contact Rod Cool, Chelan FFA Adviser at (509) 682-4061 ext 129, to get your questions answered. We look forward to seeing you during this special evening with Chelan FFA and Chelan FFA Alumni.

Brown says she’s talking to feds about land issues Thu, 11 Feb 2016 16:11:07 -0500 Hillary Borrud Bureau SALEM — Gov. Kate Brown said that Oregon will focus on helping the community of Burns to recover, after the remaining four occupiers at a nearby national wildlife refuge surrendered to FBI agents on Thursday.

Brown said she continues to seek federal reimbursement of state and local government costs associated with the occupation, and she is also talking to federal officials about federal land management issues.

“I’ll certainly be having conversations with our Congressional delegation, and will continue the conversations that I’ve started with folks at the federal level, for example the Department of Interior, (Secretary of the Interior) Sally Jewell,” Brown said. “So we’re just beginning those conversations now, but we’ll be working closely with our federal delegation.”

In late January Brown said the federal government should do more to engage with people on how to manage federal lands. On Thursday, Brown declined to provide any specifics on what she hopes to achieve through discussions about federal land management.

Brown said Oregon has work to do, now that the occupation has ended.

“For the Harney County residents, this has been very traumatic,” Brown said. “The level of harassment and intimidation by folks who were staying in the Burns community has been horrific and the healing will take a lot of time. And I think that is our first mission is to support the Harney County community as they heal, and provide them with the resources and the tools they need to recover.”

Brown also noted that the incident affected the Burns Paiute Tribe.

“This entire incident has been extremely devastating to them,” Brown said. “We will be working with them to provide them with the support and assistance they need as well.”

In January, Brown said Oregon’s response to the occupation had cost roughly half a million dollars. On Thursday, the governor did not have an updated cost figure but said she expects the state will pick up the tab in the short term.

“I think in total costs for Harney County, as well as the local sheriff’s association, will run probably higher than that,” Brown said. “But I’m confident there is bipartisan support in the building for reimbursing those costs.”

Brown said her administration is working with the staffs of U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley to seek federal reimbursement for Oregon’s costs.

The Capital Bureau is a collaboration between EO Media Group and Pamplin Media Group. Hillary Borrud can be reached at 503-364-4431 or

Judge rules against environmentalists on Snake River dredging Thu, 11 Feb 2016 15:55:52 -0500 Matw Weaver The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did everything right when dredging sediment to improve navigation on the Lower Snake River in early 2015, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge James L. Robart ruled against a coalition of environmental groups and a tribe in their bid to sue the corps for alleged violations of the National Environmental Policy Act and Clean Water Act. The coalition claimed dredging, which is used to remove accumulated sediment that interferes with commercial navigation, is damaging to the environment.

“Absent from Plaintiff’s declarations are any factual showings of actual harm to salmon or lamprey as a result of the Corps’ 2015 dredging activities,” Robart wrote in his ruling. “Not one of Plaintiff’s declarants specifically tether the generalized harm to fish or the environment they assert to the Corps’ particular 2015 dredging at issue here. Instead, Plaintiffs posit sweeping, generalized assertions that dredging in general is harmful to fish ... The alleged harm must be concrete and particular.”

The 2015 dredging was timed to occur when salmon and lamprey were likely not present, Robart said.

Robart also dismissed the plaintiffs’ argument that the corps’ programmatic sediment management plan (PSMP), which monitors and plans for sediment management, violates NEPA and the Clean Water Act.

Robart concluded his ruling by saying if the plaintiffs believe that dredging is no longer in the public’s best interest, they should petition Congress and not the court.

Kristin Meira, executive director of the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association, which manages the Inland Ports and Navigation Group, called Robart’s ruling a “clear-cut victory” for the corps and for navigation on the Lower Snake River.

“The judge ruled the plaintiffs were not appropriate in bringing this suit,” Meira said. “The Corps was completely in the clear in how they planned for dredging and how to evaluate sediment in the future. This was really fantastic news for folks who care about a balanced approach to the river system, and one that recognizes the value of goods movement as well as the environment.”

Meira doesn’t see room for an appeal from environmentalists who oppose dredging. She didn’t see anything in Robart’s ruling that would be negative for agriculture.

“Obviously, we’re disappointed,” said Kevin Lewis, conservation director with Idaho Rivers United. “There are significant issues with the Lower Snake River, with the hydrosystem, the barging, the river navigation system — we believe it is a failing system, it is costing the taxpayers millions of dollars every year to support that system.”

Lewis declined to comment on Robart’s finding of showing of harm to salmon or lamprey.

Lewis said his organization will look at Robart’s ruling and “move on from there.” Could future dredging projects result in further legal action?

“I don’t know if you’ll see any legal action, but you’ll certainly see continued scrutiny of the operation of the Lower Snake River system,” Lewis said.

Idaho Rivers United, Washington Wildlife Federation, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Institute for Fisheries Resources, Sierra Club, Friends of the Clearwater and the Nez Perce Tribe brought the lawsuit against the corps.

The plaintiffs, the corps and the Inland Ports and Navigation Group, intervening on behalf of the corps, all sought summary judgment from the court.

Federal government shouldn’t be shopping for more land Thu, 11 Feb 2016 13:14:36 -0500 Although many readers disagree, we find no Constitutional barriers to the federal government owning real estate in any of the 50 states, 16 territories and the District of Columbia.

Whether it should own as much as it does, and whether some of that land might be more ably managed by state governments are entirely different and open questions.

But because it does already own so much, and its management is in question, we aren’t convinced the federal government should be looking to add to its holdings to the tune of more than half a billion dollars in the current fiscal year.

Though the statistics are now familiar, we repeat them for context.

The federal government owns 640 million acres, more or less, or about 28 percent of all land in the United States. By comparison, billionaire Ted Turner is the largest private landowner in the country, with somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 million acres — no more than a rounding error in the federal inventory.

Four agencies hold most of the government’s land. The Bureau of Land Management has 247 million acres; the U.S. Forestry Service has 193 million acres; the Fish and Wildlife Service has 150 million acres; and the National Park Service has 84 million acres.

Far from being distributed equally, much of that land is in the West and Alaska.

The federal government owns 51 percent of the land in the 11 most western states, and 69 percent of Alaska.

We admit that the government holds national treasurers that should be preserved, from spectacular national parks to hallowed battlefields. Still, does the federal government need even one more acre?

What the government wants, it usually eventually gets. Local buyers are outbid, or are never given the chance. Land goes out of productive use, and off the tax rolls forever. Some good may be served, but at what cost to the local economy and community?

As they add to their holdings, we hear from the agencies that they lack the money to fight fires that endanger these treasures, or maintain the infrastructure, or carry out important conservation projects.

Perhaps now is the time to say enough is enough, and put that half a billion dollars back into improving what we collectively already hold.

It’s best to prepare for environmental inspections Thu, 11 Feb 2016 13:08:45 -0500 There was a time when farms were off the radar of most regulators. A dairy operator or a rancher could work for years without a visit from his friendly local, state or federal environmental official.

Ah, the good old days.

Now, however, the spotlight has turned to agriculture in general and livestock operations in particular. Not only are they on the radar, they are a focus of tough water-quality regulations.

In Idaho, for example, dairies with more than 25 employees are considered public water systems. The state Department of Environmental Quality plans to regulate the dairies with a heightened awareness of that requirement.

First it must be said that the vast majority of farmers and ranchers are good operators. They follow the rules and regulations and would have no problems even if they were inspected every week.

Others, however, need to follow one of two courses of action.

In the first, they can continue to operate the way they’ve always done it and hope for the best. If no inspectors show up, that’s all right, but they don’t know what, if anything, an inspector would find.

They are the wishful thinkers.

In the second, a farmer or rancher can anticipate and prepare for an inspection. What questions will be asked? What will the inspector look for? What should the owners do or say and or ask?

They are the professionals.

That second tactic makes the most sense. Even a farmer who’s doing everything right needs to know what to look for and how best to respond to inspectors’ questions.

In Idaho, dairy farmers are working to be ready for inspections. For example, the Idaho Dairymen’s Association invited representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency to their meeting to talk about how inspections are conducted.

The insight they gained will be invaluable for those farmers and their operations.

System works to help onion growers Thu, 11 Feb 2016 13:07:26 -0500 We have any number of examples where individual federal government agencies have acted with a heavy hand and have not listened to the people they seek to regulate. We have often criticized these instances in this space.

So we think it also deserves mention when an agency does listen and makes common sense changes to proposed rules that make it easier for growers to comply and remain viable.

The Food Safety Modernization Act was passed by Congress late in 2010 with the goal of mandating best safety practices for producers and processors while making it easier for regulators to trace foodborne illnesses back to their source.

The task of writing and enforcing rules fell to the Food and Drug Administration, which initially proposed 1,200 pages of regulations to address food safety controls for the growing, harvesting, packing and holding of produce for human consumption.

They came under immediate fire from many farmers and industry groups that said they weren’t practical and were too costly.

Onion producers in Idaho, Oregon and Washington noted that ag water provisions in the proposed rules established a standard that would have been impossible for growers who irrigate from open ditches to meet. No approved treatment method existed, nor would it be economical if it did exist.

FDA’s initial proposal would have required produce growers whose irrigation water exceeded certain thresholds for bacteria to immediately stop using it. That would have made it impossible for most people in the valley to grow onions, industry leaders have said.

Had those provisions been adopted, the industry would have been doomed.

There was an outcry, and members of Congress got involved. FDA officials took a field trip to Eastern Oregon onion fields.

The FDA relented. Rather than limiting growers to fixing the water, the revised rules allow other mitigation options. The final rule allows growers whose water exceeds the standards to comply if they can show that bacteria dies off at a certain rate in the field.

Oregon State University researchers found that bacteria dies off quickly on onions left in the field to cure, a common practice in the region. So growers have a viable alternative.

This isn’t to say that onion growers are completely satisfied with the rules, but they have options that didn’t exist in the original draft. And that’s because in this instance the system worked as it was meant to work — citizens with a grievance petitioned their government for redress, and their government listened and found a way to meet its goals without putting everyone out of business.

We’re a bit too jaded to believe this will happen every time, but not so to hope that it will.

We must dispel myths surrounding protest Thu, 11 Feb 2016 13:04:26 -0500 Clint Siegner Oregon Gov. Kate Brown sat in her office Jan. 20 and drafted a letter to the U.S. attorney general and the director of the FBI. She wrote that negotiations with the “radicals” occupying the Malheur Wildlife Refuge had failed and insisted on a “swift resolution to this matter.”

Local officials, including Harney County Judge Steve Grasty, made similar demands. On Jan. 26, they got what they asked for.

Authorities, including the FBI, ambushed and arrested Ammon Bundy and others on their way to a meeting in neighboring Grant County. They shot LaVoy Finicum dead. He was not holding a weapon.

Awful. Grasty and Brown knew what might happen should the FBI decide negotiations had failed. Few have forgotten the stand­offs at Waco and Ruby Ridge and that “swift” federal action often means people die — in many cases, indiscriminately.

It’s ironic, but the behavior of the judge and the governor goes a long way to make the refuge protesters’ case for them. Blind devotion to federal authority is terribly dangerous to lives and to liberty.

The protest in Harney County will certainly not be the last over federal overreach. Here is hoping people find reason next time, before demanding dangerous federal intervention.

To that end, it is time to dispel a few myths about what is going on.

Myth 1: The armed people at the refuge were threatening violence. You wouldn’t know it by watching TV news, or reading Brown’s hysteric letter, but the refuge wasn’t an armed compound full of violent people. To find that, you needed to drive by the airport in Burns, Ore., where federal agents staged behind fences and a flood­lit perimeter, with military vehicles, equipment and weapons.

Yes, the occupants at the refuge were armed and reserved the right to defend themselves. The difference between them and any other citizen claiming their Second Amendment right is they did so from inside public, and previously unoccupied, federal buildings.

They got little credit for doing virtually everything possible to minimize threats and interruptions to the community. They could scarcely have chosen a more remote location.

It was more like an open house than a compound. Locals could, and did, visit to see what the stand­off was about. The protesters invited anyone who wanted to have an honest conversation.

For Oregonians, the much larger threat is their high officials writing letters and urging the feds to “swift” action.

Myth 2: Only nutty, right-wing militias from outside would stoop to such tactics. Brown and Grasty must know the protest included state and local residents. Plenty of community people were sympathetic enough to bring food and supplies. The storeroom overflowed, and locally grown beef had to be kept frozen in a snow bank outside for lack of adequate freezer space.

If they had visited, they would have found people there ready to talk calmly, rationally and intelligently about the issues. Tragically they felt there had been too much talking already. Now one of the most calm and rational leaders in the group is dead.

Federal supremacists like to marginalize anyone advocating local control as radical and dangerous. They want you to believe these people are motivated by crazy ideology.

They don’t talk much about history. These issues have been simmering for decades. The Sagebrush Rebellion made headlines in the 1970s and ’80s. There are smart folks stretching back to the nation’s founding who question the legitimacy of federal control over public lands.

Given how economically devastating the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service management has been for rural communities around Oregon, Brown and Grasty should be asking questions, too.

Myth 3: Anyone opposed to federal control of lands hates conservation. The philosophy of the national conservation groups is irrational. They insist the best way to protect public lands is to put unelected bureaucrats headquartered thousands of miles away in charge. That position is hard to fathom. Many conservationists see the value in “buying local” when it comes to food and services. Local is great, except when it comes to government?

It is a bit reminiscent of war. The propaganda department dehumanizes the enemy, branding ranchers and loggers as foolish and blinded by greed. And local citizens as if they are too inept to stand up to them and govern responsibly.

The truth is, there are wise people who care for the environment living right in Harney County. Included among them are cattle ranchers and forestry professionals. Many simply believe management decision-making would be better if it was done much closer to home.

Myth 4: Ranchers just want a free ride​. It would be far more accurate to say ranchers want fair, not free. Many Western ranches have a federal grazing allotment attached. Most of the time ranchers acquire the permit when they buy a ranch, though they can also buy and sell them independently. The point is, cattlemen pay big money upfront for a right to the grass.

On top of that, they pay grazing fees annually. Some argue the fees are set way below the market rate to rent private pasture. But they don’t account for ranchers maintaining fences and water systems. These are key differences versus renting private pasture.

In any event, practically no rancher is complaining about the dollars involved.

They object to paying federal agencies who have a long history of treating them like tenant farmers and disrespecting legitimate property rights. Most support the idea of paying fees locally, and getting more accountable range management in return.

Myth 5: The federal government’s prerogative to own and manage the majority of lands in Oregon is beyond question. Now we get to the crux of the matter. Everyone raised in the U.S. is taught federal laws are supreme. What’s more, we learn the U.S. Supreme Court is the ultimate arbiter on whether a law is constitutional. Those arguing for state and local control of lands had their day in court. They lost. Case closed.

Not so fast. What we were all taught is nonsense. In fact, the States (capital S) are sovereign and supreme. They have the power ­— make that the sacred duty — to nullify unconstitutional laws and defend the liberty of citizens.

The kicker is that Brown herself already acknowledged this truth in another context. She signed a bill legalizing recreational marijuana last summer, in complete disregard of federal laws. She didn’t send a letter to Washington begging for federal storm troopers to batter the doors in at pot dispensaries. On the contrary, she determined Oregon’s authority trumps federal dictates and acted accordingly.

What a “radical.” May she and Grasty find that spirit of independence before calling on the FBI to crush the next protest.

Clint Siegner is a director at Money Metals Exchange, a precious metals dealer in Eagle, Idaho. He grew up in a cattle ranching family in Fields, Ore.

Napa winemaker grew up in California vineyards Thu, 11 Feb 2016 12:29:02 -0500 JULIA HOLLISTER NAPA, Calif. — At an early age winemaker Mark Williams discovered a profound respect for those who work in the vineyards.

“My father is a viticulture professor at University of California-Davis and I can remember working in his research block of Thompson Seedless grapes as a high school student,” he said. “It was hot, dirty, and physically demanding, and I only saw the manual labor aspect of viticulture.”

It wasn’t until he started studying enology in college that he learned to appreciate the adage, “Wine is made in the vineyard,” he said.

Before coming to William Hill Estate, Williams gained experience as an enologist working in the Eden Valley in Australia and the Edna Valley in California’s Central Coast.

On the 140-acre estate in the Napa Valley’s Silverado Bench, Cabernet is most widely planted variety and comprises 82 percent of the planted acres. Chardonnay, which he crafts from fruit grown throughout the Napa Valley, is the most popular wine in the tasting room.

In addition to pests, the 4-year drought looms large as a challenge.

“The drought has had an impact on our entire state, from a lack of snowfall in the Sierra and devastating wildfires to water rationing in people’s homes,” he said. “On the vineyard side, the warm, dry spring has made for a very early harvest.”

Williams said the most rewarding part of his job is experiencing the wines as they evolve over time — there are few products in the world that mature quite like wine.

It all begins in the vineyard, tasting the grapes as they transition through the growing season, later determining the amount of extraction appropriate during fermentation, selecting the oak for aging, then tasting the wine with family and friends long after it has bottled.

“I especially like to make intense, age-worthy reds that are complex and well-structured, as well as whites that are expressive and vibrant,” he said. “Generally, I enjoy wines from all over the world and over the years have spent a small fortune fine-tuning my palate trying new and different producers.

The public’s tastes in wine continues to change, he said.

“Consumers’ tastes have changed over the past five years; I know mine have evolved,” he said. “What we’re seeing is that millennials (people born between 1978 and 1998) are willing to try new things and aren’t as afraid of wines as other generations have been.”

“Mark is a tremendous winemaker and his passion for the wines he crafts is unparalleled,” Scott Kozel, vice president of coastal winemaking for E&J Gallo, said. “But I think it is Mark’s intuition that sets him apart from so many of the other winemakers I have worked with. Mark is able to taste a wine, make an assessment of where it sits today and postulate which one of the possible next steps might best benefit a given wine.”

And, Kozel said, “He is almost always right! His intuition is a rare trait that helps ensure all of the wines he crafts are phenomenal.”

Williams said it’s a great time to be in the wine industry.

“Winemaking is absolutely fascinating and reminds me of raising children and watching them grow over the years,” he said.


Relaxed Oregon hemp rules headed for House vote Thu, 11 Feb 2016 11:22:29 -0500 Mateusz Perkowski SALEM — Oregon hemp growers would be free to propagate the crop from cuttings and propagate it from cuttings under a bill that’s headed for a vote in the House.

Under current law, hemp can only be seeded directly outdoors in fields at least 2.5 acres in size, which was intended to facilitate industrial production but proved too inflexible for growers.

At the time Oregon lawmakers originally legalized hemp production in 2009, they enacted these restrictions with the expectation the crop would be used for oilseed and fiber instead of human consumption.

Since then, the Oregon Department of Agriculture found that many hemp producers were more interested in growing the crop for cannabidiol, a compound used for medicinal purposes, than for such traditional products.

To this end, they wanted to use greenhouses, clone desirable plants and produce the crop on a smaller scale.

Under House Bill 4060, which was passed by a key legislative committee, the minimum 2.5 acre field requirement would be scrapped and hemp farmers would be given the same flexibility in production and propagation methods as growers of other crops.

The Oregon Farm Bureau is supporting HB 4060 because it wants hemp treated like other crops.

The bill was approved 8-1 by the House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources on Feb. 11 after a last-minute amendment that clarified hemp would be subject to the same Oregon Department of Agriculture water and pesticide regulations as other crops.

The amended version of the bill, which will soon be subject to a vote on the House floor, also clarifies that growers can cultivate all varieties of hemp and that the crop won’t be considered a food adulterant, among other provisions.

Growers can also send crop samples to accredited laboratories for required testing, which is expected to be cheaper than using ODA staff and facilities.

During the Feb. 11 hearing, the committee also unanimously approved House Bill 4007, which creates a new way to form rangeland protection association, which fight wildfires.

Landowners must currently win approval from the Oregon Board of Forestry to create such associations, but HB 4007 would also allow them to be approved by county governments.

Currently, 20 rangeland protection associations staffed by volunteers protect 4.6 million acres in Eastern Oregon.

New associations organized by counties would still have to submit annual budgets to the Oregon Board of Forestry and enter into cooperative agreements with the Oregon Department of Forestry.

Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy arrested, charged with conspiracy Thu, 11 Feb 2016 05:07:42 -0500 LAS VEGAS (AP) — Federal prosecutors in Las Vegas are charging Cliven Bundy with conspiracy, assault on a federal officer, obstruction, weapon and other crimes.

A criminal complaint filed Thursday stems from Bundy’s role at the center of a tense April 2014 armed standoff with federal officials near his ranch in Nevada.

It involved self-styled Bundy militia supporters pointing military-style weapons at federal agents trying to enforce a court order to round up Bundy cattle from federal rangeland near his ranch.

Bundy was arrested Wednesday night when he arrived at Portland International Airport from Las Vegas.

He’s being held at the Multnomah County Jail pending an appearance in federal court. It wasn’t immediately clear if he had a lawyer to represent him.

He is the father of the jailed leader of a group that occupied an Oregon federal wildlife refuge.