Capital Press | Capital Press Sun, 24 Jul 2016 05:50:46 -0400 en Capital Press | Wyden: Obama administration well aware of local opposition to national monument Fri, 22 Jul 2016 16:30:34 -0400 Sean Ellis ONTARIO, Ore. — The Obama administration is well aware of the strong local opposition to a proposed national monument in Malheur County, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden told Eastern Oregon residents on July 21.

Malheur County residents who asked Wyden during an annual town hall meeting whether he supports the proposed national monument said they didn’t receive a definite answer.

But Wyden did say several times that the president is well aware of the local opposition to a proposed national monument on 2.5 million acres in a part of the county known as the Owyhee Canyonlands.

“I have told the Obama administration repeatedly ... that there is very vigorous opposition at the local level to the monument,” the Oregon Democrat said. “They would have had no confusion about what I’m telling them.”

Supporters want Obama to use the Antiquities Act to declare a national monument in Malheur County.

Ranchers and others who asked Wyden whether he supports the national monument proposal being pushed by the Oregon Natural Desert Association told Capital Press later they didn’t receive a clear answer.

Malheur County Farm Bureau President Jeana Hall asked Wyden for a commitment to “stand up for the people of Oregon, not just here in Malheur, and say that there should not be a monument designation.”

Julie Mackenzie, a Jordan Valley rancher, asked Wyden, “Are you for the monument?”

Wyden said it’s his duty to respect how Oregon residents vote on issues. Malheur County residents voted 9-1 against the monument in a special election in March. He also said that while Malheur County residents have voted on the issue, the rest of Oregon has not.

“I didn’t hear an answer,” Hall told Capital Press later. “I think I heard a ‘maybe’ somewhere in there.”

Mackenzie said she asked the senator “a yes or no question and he didn’t answer it. It was just kind of a going around in circles type of thing.”

Wyden Press Secretary Hank Stern said he would let the senator’s words during the meeting speak for themselves but added, “I thought he expressed himself pretty clearly.”

The U.S. House of Representatives passed an Interior Department funding bill July 14 that includes a provision preventing funds from being used to create a national monument in Malheur County.

Jordan Valley rancher Elias Eiguren asked Wyden whether he would support a similar proposal in the Senate.

Eiguren said he and other ranchers came to the meeting hoping to get Wyden to commit to opposing a monument designation and supporting a proposal in the Senate similar to the one passed by the House.

Eiguren told Capital Press that didn’t happen.

“We would really hope Sen. Wyden will do what is good for the land and help us stop this monument,” he said.

Extra-large steer named Buford stars at auction Fri, 22 Jul 2016 16:15:45 -0400 Janae Sargent LEBANON, Ore. — Coy Cowart and three friends joked about how many hamburgers his giant steer Buford would make.

They decided the steer would produce 3,600 quarter-pounder hamburgers.

Buford is not your average steer. Weighing in at 2,175 pounds, he brought 83 cents per pound at Cowart’s Lebanon Auction Yard on July 21. When Cowart stood next to Buford in the auction ring, the steer towered over him.

Buford was nearly twice as heavy as the average steer, which typically weighs approximately 1,200 pounds.

Cowart called Buford his pet steer, having raised him for four years.

“He was always the most gentle guy,” Cowart said. “When I would call him in he would lead all of the other cattle in with him.

Cowart said he would have liked to keep Buford longer to see how much bigger he would get but that he became too big to manage with the other cattle.

Cowart is co-owner of Lebanon Auction Yard with his wife, Helen, son Terry and daughter-in-law Lezlie. He started the auction yard in 1987 after he retired from a career in construction.

“I never thought I would own a business before I retired,” Cowart said. “At 54 years old I spent a lifetime making money for other people and thought, Why not do it for myself?”

When Cowart started the auction yard there were 18 other auction yards in Oregon — now there are eight. Three are left in the Willamette Valley.

Diversification has been a big contributor to Cowart’s success. He said he realized early on that auctioning dairy cows wouldn’t be enough to sustain his family so he began investing in other areas.

The auction yard now sells farm equipment and animals and provides trucking services, contracts cattle and transports hay and feed.

Cowart expanded the auction yard last year with the addition of a 100-by-240-foot barn and expects to put in another, bigger barn later this year.

Cowart said family is a huge part of Lebanon Auction Yard and his life. He has 12 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren that help out at the auction yard and in his garden at home.

“I believe in God, family and the nation,” Cowart said, quoting Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Cowart said he encourages all of his children and grandchildren to own their own businesses.

He spoke proudly of his grandson, Matt Cowart, who in 2015 opened a brewery in Lebanon, Ore. Cowart said he takes out-of-town business associates and friends to Conversion Brewing whenever they are visiting.

He said everyone at Lebanon Auction Yard is like family, whether they are related or not.

In selling Buford, Cowart said most people don’t want to eat pets once they’ve named them but that he won’t have that problem.

“I’ll have no problem eating Buford,” Cowart said. “He’s going to make some good steaks.”

Potato researcher warns of new disease threat Fri, 22 Jul 2016 15:43:44 -0400 John O’Connell PARK CITY, Utah — A plant pathologist has advised the potato industry to prioritize research and testing to combat a new threat to U.S. spud production — the bacterial pathogen dickeya dianthicola.

University of Wisconsin associate professor Amy Charkowski, who also directs Wisconsin’s seed potato certification program, told growers at the National Potato Council’s summer meeting dickeya caused heavy damage to spud fields throughout the East Coast in 2015 and has been troublesome again this season.

Charkowski said the pathogen has posed a major challenge to European potato production since the 1950s, but it didn’t surface in the U.S. until the fall of 2014, when a sample from the Northeast tested positive. It’s since been confirmed in most of the major potato states, including Idaho, North Dakota, Texas, New Mexico, Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Maine and Florida. It’s also been found in Canada in New Brunswick and Ontario.

“If it gets too entrenched in the seed system, it could be a real problem,” Charkowski said. “I’m really worried about seed testing right now. We don’t have the capacity to test in our system.”

Charkowski said the bacteria can survive in irrigation water and thrives in warm, humid environments and poorly ventilated potato cellars. She said dickeya is easily confused with its close relative, pectobacterium, which is common in states including Idaho and causes similar “black leg” symptoms, including curling and wilting leaves, low emergence and stem-base rot.

Charkowski said dickeya symptoms may remain latent, and it takes fewer dickeya bacteria to infect a plant. Both pathogens need an open wound to infect tissue.

No resistant commercial varieties have been developed. Fortunately, European researchers say the pathogen doesn’t tend to survive longer than nine months in soil, and it can be effectively controlled by good sanitation practices, Charkowski said.

Charkowski said a researcher from Scotland has been working with Maine growers to understand dickeya, and she and several colleagues applied for a grant to work with him as a consultant. She’d also like funding to research environmental conditions that favor dickeya and how to keep dickeya from spreading on seed cutters, believing seed is the primary way the disease spreads. She would also like to see seed certification programs single out black leg in test results.

University of Idaho Extension potato storage specialist Nora Olsen spotted symptoms of dickeya at the Kimberly Research and Extension Center in 2015, after learning of them during a meeting with Maine growers. The center’s samples tested positive, along with about six other samples subsequently submitted that season by commercial growers, she said. Charkowski said her lab tested a positive sample from an Idaho commercial potato farm this season.

Idaho Potato Commissioner Ritchey Toevs, of Aberdeen, advocates dickeya testing of nuclear and first-generation seed as part of his state’s seed certification program, using samples growers must already submit for ring rot testing. Though Toevs acknowledges Idaho’s conditions appear to be unfavorable for widespread dickeya, he noted, “We see problems come up so quickly, and you don’t know which ones are big threats and which ones you can live with.”

Washington Potato Commission Executive Director Chris Voigt said dickeya is on his state’s radar, though it hasn’t been confirmed in Washington, and he sees no need to commit resources toward it, yet.

“It hasn’t been a concern,” Voigt said.

Computer scientist develops smart app for growers Fri, 22 Jul 2016 13:19:03 -0400 Tim Hearden Chandra Krintz has always had an admiration for agriculture, having grown up on a farm in Indiana. But her first love has always been computers.

When she was 8, her father, a junior high school teacher and principal, brought a computer home from the school for the summer so it wouldn’t be stolen, she said.

“I just dove in,” Krintz said. “I wrote my first computer program at age 8 and it changed my life. … I loved designing systems and solving problems. It’s been my life ever since.”

Now a computer science professor and researcher at University of California-Santa Barbara, Krintz has come “full circle,” she said. She’s developing a digital program called SmartFarm, which seeks to help growers identify real-time conditions in their fields and run their operations more efficiently.

“It’s for ag,” she said. “Amazon was the first example of a smart shop. … We want to do something analogous to that with SmartFarm.

Using tiny fence-like sensors that Krintz says are “super-cheap,” SmartFarm will virtually monitor the conditions of each plant and the soil around it and compile it with other data such as weather forecasts to show a grower specifically where the needs are.

The program, which will work as a phone or tablet app, will also enable growers to more efficiently tackle such tasks as irrigation scheduling and soil health management.

“It will make predictions of the future, like when a frost is likely to occur, so when you take actions to prevent frost damage you can do that more accurately,” Krintz said. “We work with pistachio growers, and they turn on their water when it’s 9 degrees above a hard freeze. We believe that by taking very precise measurements at the plant level, we’ll collect individual information … that will help a farmer make better decisions than what is possible today.

“Right now a farmer looks at statewide weather information and sees that it might freeze,” she said. “We can tell you, ‘These are the trees that are going to have a hard frost.’”

Krintz and fellow UCSB researcher Rich Wolski, a former chief technology officer at Eucalyptus Systems, are testing their system on a 20-acre experimental farm in a natural reserve north of Santa Barbara. They’re also collaborating through the UC Cooperative Extension with about 20 growers throughout California, Krintz said.

“We’re kind of taking it from the tech angle,” she said. “We are not farmers or ranchers, but we feel like agriculture today is underserved by technology given the boom (in digital data use).”

For Krintz, spending time on farms is all too familiar. Her family raised corn, soybeans and alfalfa on 8 acres in rural Indiana, where her father — who was also raised on a farm — passed on to her a love for the earth and soil, she said.

She moved to Southern California in the early ’90s to work in the computer industry, later earning a bachelor’s degree from California State University-Northridge and a master’s degree and doctorate in computer science from UC-San Diego. She joined the UCSB faculty in 2001.

Krintz said the SmartFarm technology will be provided free to growers, who will own the data they load into the system. The hardware will be inexpensive, and because farmers and ranchers are busy, the researchers are trying to make the system as easy as possible to use, she said.

“It has to make sense for growers,” she said.

The system will come online by the end of this year and the software will be available online for people to try, Krintz said. She said the researchers hope the technology is someday commonly used by farmers around the world.

“I’m super excited,” she said. “I think the future looks tremendously bright. Even though growers and ranchers are facing many, many challenges, there’s been such a boom on the consumer side with data analytics. Everything that’s done by Amazon, Google and Facebook can be applied to problems farmers have, and because these big, huge companies have done it for millions of people, we can do it for individuals as well.

“We have no other choice” but to make better use of technology in agriculture, Krintz said. “We have to produce enough food to feed 9 billion people by 2050, and 7 billion people today. We think automation and computing can really simplify what farmers do today. I really believe that.”

Chandra Krintz

Occupation: Professor of computer science, University of California-Santa Barbara

Residence: Santa Barbara, Calif.


WDFW: Bald eagles soar, can come off state list Fri, 22 Jul 2016 11:01:00 -0400 Don Jenkins The bald eagle has made an “incredible recovery,” according to a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife report, which recommends removing the national bird from the list of state-protected species.

“It’s really exciting to be able to celebrate a conservation success because they are sometimes few and far between,” said Hannah Anderson, WDFW’s listing and recovery section manager.

A change in state status wouldn’t lift federal restrictions on activities near nests. The species would still be protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Act.

The change in state status, however, would highlight the recovery in Washington of an American icon.

WDFW’s report credits the banning of some chemicals, including DDT in 1972, for the bird’s rebound. As apex predators, bald eagles ingest toxins absorbed by their prey.

“The bald eagle population both in Washington and throughout most of its range has clearly recovered,” states the report, released this month. “The Washington population is robust and all indications are that the species will continue to be an important and thriving part of our state’s natural diversity for the foreseeable future.”

WDFW is taking public comment on the status of the bald eagle and four other species.

WDFW officials also are recommending that peregrine falcons be removed from the state-protected list and that American white pelicans be upgraded to threatened from endangered. Both species are protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Also, WDFW officials are recommending the statuses of the marbled murrelet and the lynx be changed to endangered from threatened. Both species already are protected by the federal Endangered Species Act.

The bald eagle was listed under the ESA in 1978 and delisted in 2007. It’s still illegal to disturb bald eagles expect under circumstances approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

As of 2015, bald eagles were known to have occupied 1,334 sites in Washington, according to WDFW. It’s unknown how many of those sites have been recently occupied.

DDT also was blamed for a dramatic decline in the population of peregrine falcons nationally. The falcons were federally listed in 1970 and delisted in 1999.

Washington’s population of peregrine falcons has been rising since 1990, according to WDFW. In 2009, WDFW found peregrine falcons occupying 108 sites, up from 91 in 2006.

Washington’s only colony of American white pelicans nest on Badger Island in the Columbia River, near the Snake River junction.

The population has increased substantially in the last 30 years, according to WDFW. Some 3,267 breeding adults were counted in 2015.

Marbled murrelets were federally listed in 1992 and listed by the state in 1993. Nevertheless, Washington’s population has declined by about 44 percent over the past 15 years, according to WDFW.

The report cites the loss of forest habitat, decline in fish prey and the bird’s low reproductive rate for the decline.

WDFW estimates 54 lynx are in western Okanogan County, the only area in the state with a lynx population. The cat’s population has not improved since it was listed as a state-protected species in 1993 or federally in 2000, according to WDFW.

Changing the status of lynx to endangered from threatened could focus more attention on conservation efforts, according to WDFW.

WDFW will take comments on the proposed changes until Oct. 10. Comments may be submitted by email to or by mail to Hannah Anderson, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501-1091.

The Fish and Wildlife Commission is tentatively scheduled to discuss the recommendations in November.

Washington lists 45 species of fish and wildlife as sensitive, threatened or endangered.

“We care about maintaining these populations within our state,” Anderson said.

Proposed organic rule fuels disease concerns Fri, 22 Jul 2016 11:00:07 -0400 Carol Ryan Dumas Animal agriculture groups are voicing many concerns over USDA’s proposed rule to expand the National Organic Program to include animal-handling practices.

Not only is the rule outside the statutory scope of the NOP, they say, but it is not based on science, has doubtful benefit and comes with a high cost to producers.

One key concern to poultry and pork producers is the risk to animal and public health.

The proposed standards focus on increased outdoor access, which the National Chicken Council and Pork Producers Council contend conflict with best management practices and will increase the likelihood and magnitude of disease outbreaks.

The proposed rule is based on years of public comment and recommendations by the National Organic Standards Board to clarify the requirement for access to outdoors, primarily in the poultry sector, said Nate Lewis, farm policy director for the Organic Trade Association.

The issue has caused an unlevel playing field within the industry, where producers are allowed to use both pasture and enclosed porches. The majority of consumers and organic producers support outdoor access with sky overhead, he said.

The rule would require access outside a building or shelter where there are no solid walls or solid roof attached to an indoor living space and consist of at least 50 percent soil.

The new definition would exclude porches — areas enclosed with fencing material and a solid or screened roof — frequently used in organic poultry production to provide outdoor access while protecting birds from excess exposure to disease and predators, according to the National Chicken Council.

“Requiring that porches be eliminated and replaced with soil access introduces potential bird-health and food-safety risks and imposes significant costs on organic producers with unclear benefit to the product category,” said Ashley Peterson, NCC senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs, in the organization’s comments on the proposal.

Those risks include salmonella enteritidis and avian influenza — such as the avian flu outbreak last year, which caused $3.3 billion in economic harm including significant lost international trade opportunities, she said.

National Pork Producers Council points to an increased risk of pseudo-rabies from exposure to feral pigs, which harbor the virus, and trichinellosis from allowing pigs to forage and root in soil — the major route of introduction for the trichinae parasite to pigs.

The ramifications of critical animal and public health concerns are not limited to the organic sector, said NPPC President John Weber in his organization’s comments.

USDA “does not appear to have fully considered or addressed these animal and public health consequences in proposing this rule; this is a very troubling oversight,” he said.

The Chicken Council doesn’t perceive it as an oversight but a troubling and apparently cavalier approach to bird health, since NOP assumes the proposed rule would increase the mortality rate for laying hens and broilers from 5 percent to 8 percent due to “increased predation, disease and parasites from greater outdoor access,” Peterson said.

“It is troubling that NOP acknowledges these consequences yet chooses to propose the changes to outdoor access … specifically removing porches and requiring a minimum soil cover,” she said.

In light of the recent avian flu outbreak, the Chicken Council is particularly concerned that the proposed rule now requires a “documented occurrence of a disease in the region or relevant migratory pathway must be present” before outdoor access can be restricted, with no clear definition of “documented occurrence” or “region.”

Lewis, of the Organic Trade Association, said the proposed rule reinforces the existing provision that animals can be temporarily confined if there is a risk to animal health.

A lot of the opposition is not grounded in fact and doesn’t acknowledge the allowance for temporary confinement, he said.

And “there’s no evidence to support the concern that outdoor access increases disease outbreak,” he said.

Rain, temperatures increase falling number concerns Fri, 22 Jul 2016 10:37:37 -0400 Matw Weaver Rain and temperature fluctuations are worrying some in the Pacific Northwest wheat industry about sprout damage that could reduce the price farmers receive for their crop.

If the weather clears up without additional storms, “then maybe it’s not going to be that big a disaster,” said Camille Steber, USDA ARS research plant molecular geneticist in Pullman, Wash.

The concern is greater for winter wheat than the spring crop.

Grain elevators use the Hagberg-Perten falling number test to measure starch damage due to sprouting, according to Washington State University. A low falling number indicates a high level of alpha amylase, an enzyme that degrades starch and diminishes the quality of wheat products. Grain with a falling number below 300 typically receives a discount in the Pacific Northwest.

“If the wheat is green, the rain won’t cause a low falling number problem,” Steber said. “If it’s turned completely yellow, then you have to start worrying about it. The longer it’s been since it turned from green to yellow, the more likely it is that you’re going to have a problem.”

Susceptible wheat varieties include Bruehl, Jasper, AP Legacy and Xerpha. Resistant varieties include Puma, Skiles, Coda and Bobtail.

Rain when temperatures are in the 80s won’t likely cause sprouting. But rain during cooler periods are concerning to Steber.

Other areas have had a wide temperature fluctuations that can induce late-maturity alpha amylase.

“There may be some farmers whose wheat didn’t even get rained on who will be coming to us and telling us they had falling numbers below 300,” Steber said.

Blaine Jacobson, executive director of the Idaho Wheat Commission, said low falling numbers are a concern in the Lewiston, Idaho, region. Stripe rust is also impacting lower elevations of Nezperce County, according to the commission.

As harvest moved into higher elevations, falling number scores improved, Jacobson said.

“We’re optimistic that as the harvest progresses and the footprint expands, that problem will take care of itself,” he said. “But it is something we’re watching carefully.”

Steber isn’t certain how widespread the problem could be.

“I’m hoping it’s a limited problem this year,” she said.

Steber recommends farmers harvest as quickly as they can, the better to avoid any rains coming through.

Growers are likely to make more money if they avoid mixing wheat likely to have a falling number problem with wheat that probably won’t, she said.

“If you had separate fields where one was totally yellow and one was kind of green when most of the rain came through, keep them separate when you harvest them and take them to the elevator separate,” she said. “The enzyme that causes the falling number problem is actually pretty powerful. If you mixed equal amounts of wheat with falling number 400 with falling number 200, you’re not going to land at 300, you’re going to land lower than that.”

Grain that’s mildly sprouted, in the 200 to 300 range, could be stored for several months to see if the falling number goes up, Steber said. Wheat that’s badly sprouted won’t change because it’s already damaged.

Jacobson recommends farmers who receive a low falling number ask for another test at the elevator.

“There’s a lot of variability,” he said.


Tax breaks for mint processors, tractor buyers under scrutiny Fri, 22 Jul 2016 10:26:42 -0400 Don Jenkins Washington state lawmakers should end a tax break for mint oil processors and review a longstanding law that lowers the sales tax on some farm equipment purchases, according legislative auditors.

The recommendations are in an annual report on tax preferences presented Wednesday to a joint House and Senate committee.

Auditors said a sales tax exemption for propane used to power spearmint and peppermint oil distilleries was not justified because the savings were not enough to encourage processors to replace diesel-powered stills.

Meanwhile, a trade-in deduction, used mostly by car buyers but applicable to virtually all goods, including tractors, has failed to increase tax revenue by stimulating sales, as promised by its proponents three decades ago, according to auditors.

The Legislature began requiring yearly studies a decade ago to scrutinize the public benefit of tax exemptions.

Over the 10 years, auditors have analyzed 235 tax exemptions. Lawmakers have terminated two.

This year’s report included a look at a tax break lawmakers passed in 2013 to help mint processors meet clean-air standards.

Since then, six more of the state’s 28 mint oil distilleries have converted from diesel to propane or natural gas, Washington State Mint Commission Executive Director Shane Johnson said Thursday.

The state has six diesel-fueled stills left. Converting to cleaner-burning fuels can cost up to a quarter-million dollars, Johnson said.

“I would say (the tax incentive) has been successful,” he said. “Any bit helps. It isn’t a cheap conversion.”

The tax exemption will expire July 1, 2017, unless renewed by the Legislature.

Auditors estimate that the exemption saves 12 processors who use propane a total of about $100,000 a year.

Processors who use natural gas don’t see any saves because they pay a public utility tax, not a sales tax.

Diesel used on farms also is exempt from sales taxes and costs less than propane, according to auditors.

Auditors suggested that lawmakers consider finding another way to encourage processors to convert the six remaining diesel-powered stills.

Johnson said he welcomed discussing other incentives, but said he hoped growers and processors who have converted to cleaner-burning fuels won’t lose the tax exemption.

“It would be great to encourage the stills that have not converted to do so, but my concern is how it would affect the growers who already have made the conversion,” he said.

Washington is the leading producer of spearmint oil and second in peppermint oil production behind Oregon.

Washington mint oil had a farm gate value of about $68 million in 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In 1984, voters approved an initiative that allows consumers to deduct the value of trade-ins when calculating the sales tax on new purchases. Car buyers received more than 80 percent of the savings in fiscal year 2015, while buyers of farm equipment pocketed about 2 percent, or nearly $5 million, according to auditors.

Supporters in the 1984 voters guide stated that the trade-in deduction would stimulate sales of consumer goods and actually increase tax revenues.

Auditors concluded that has failed to happen. They estimate the deduction costs state and local governments $182 million a year. Auditors recommended lawmakers review the law and clarify the reason for it.

Rep. Drew Macewen, R-Union, rejected the idea that the state was being deprived of money.

“A tax structure that has been on the books for 32 years — kind of hard to say that we are losing revenue,” he said.

Busch touts SmartBarley program Fri, 22 Jul 2016 09:50:58 -0400 John O’Connell IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — Roughly 400 Idaho barley farmers can compare their production practices and results with growers from as far away as China under an Anheuser-Busch program that’s in its third season.

Launched in 2014, the SmartBarley program encourages more than 3,200 malt barley growers globally to electronically submit data on more than 40 agronomic practices, such as seeding rate, water use and applications of chemicals or fertilizer. Growers enter a password to access the site and submit their data anonymously.

By comparing their yields and practices with those of others, the brewing company hopes growers will identify opportunities to improve efficiency without sacrificing production, explained John Drake, director of western malting operations with Anheuser-Busch.

Drake touted the “bench-marking” program during the company’s recent Grower Days event in Idaho Falls, during which local farmers learned about the company’s new programs, data from its area research plots and priorities for the future. Idaho is the nation’s top barley-producing state.

“If I’m a grower and I’m seeding at a much higher rate, and in the end I get the same yield as someone seeding at a lower rate, that’s a great advantage to know because then I don’t have to buy as much seed to get the same benefit,” Drake said.

SmartBarley — like a similar program offered for Eastern Idaho wheat growers by Thresher Artisan Wheat — is aimed at helping Anheuser-Busch build an increasingly sustainable supply chain. Drake said the company’s agronomists work closely with growers, and the vast majority see a clear benefit to participating.

Drake said SmartBarley is one of a few programs the company is offering to meet a broader goal of reducing water consumption in barley growing regions. The company has worked with some of its Eastern Idaho growers on trials involving Low Elevation Spray Application, which seeks to conserve water by dangling hoses from pivots beneath the canopy, spraying water from low-pressure nozzles. LESA data will be shared on the SmartBarley platform.

Through its AgriMet program, Anheuser-Busch also installed six new agricultural meteorological stations in Eastern Idaho growing areas in the spring of 2014. Drake said the stations provide free, real-time data on precipitation and other localized weather events to aid in irrigation management.

Furthermore, Drake said breeding new varieties that use water efficiently has been a top goal of Anheuser-Busch’s Colorado-based barley breeding program.

Drake said growers in Idaho have begun to harvest their winter barley, and crops thus far appear to be of excellent quality.

Washington slaughterhouse recalls hogs Fri, 22 Jul 2016 09:36:49 -0400 Don Jenkins A Western Washington slaughterhouse has recalled 11,658 pounds of whole roaster hogs that may be contaminated with salmonella, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Thursday.

Kapowsin Meats of Graham, Wash., produced the hogs between June 13 and July 15 and shipped them to individuals, retail stores and institutions in Washington, according to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

It’s highly probable that pork from Kapowsin has sickened at least three people, whose illnesses were reported between July 5 and July 7, according to the USDA notice.

The slaughterhouse’s owner, John Anderson, was not immediately available for comment Friday.

Kapowsin recalled 523,380 pounds of whole hogs in August 2015 after the meat was linked to at least 32 cases of salmonella poisoning.

Earlier in the same month, the slaughterhouse recalled 116,000 pounds of pork products.

The Seattle Times reported that Kapowsin reopened June 13 after the USDA determined the slaughterhouse had improved its sanitary procedures. Efforts to reach a USDA spokeswoman about the slaughterhouse’s status were unsuccessful.

In a USDA notice, the department advised consumers who purchased the hogs to throw the pork away or return it to where it was purchased. The recalled products are marked with “EST. 1628M” inside the USDA stamp of inspection.

The USDA warned that roasting a pig is a complex undertaking with numerous foot-handling risks.

Portland daily grain report Fri, 22 Jul 2016 09:33:59 -0400 Portland, Ore., Friday, July 22, 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 September futures trended 6.75 to 7.25 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 July delivery for ordinary protein were not well tested early trading, but bids were indicated as steady to higher 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 bids were indicated as higher compared to Thursday’s noon bids for the same delivery period. Some exporters were not issuing bids for nearby.

Bids for 11.5 percent protein US 1 Hard Red Winter Wheat for July 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 July 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 July trended lower compared to Thursday’s noon bids.

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

All wheat bids in dollars per bushel

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

Ordinary protein

Jul 5.0450-5.1800

Aug NC 5.0450-5.1800

Sep 5.0450-5.2400

Oct NA

Nov NA

Guaranteed maximum 10.5 pct protein

Jul 5.0450-5.2000

Aug NC 5.0450-5.2450

Sep 5.0450-5.2450

Oct NA

Nov NA

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

Ordinary protein

Jul 5.0450-5.2800

Guaranteed maximum 10.5 pct protein

Jul 5.0450-5.2950

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


Ordinary protein 4.6975-4.8075

11 pct protein 4.8975-4.9975

11.5 pct protein

Jul 4.9975-5.0975

Aug NC 4.9975-5.1475

Sep 4.9975-5.1475

Oct 5.2050-5.4550

Nov 5.2050-5.4550

12 pct protein 5.0475-5.1475

13 pct protein 5.1475-5.2475

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 5.4150-5.6350

14 pct protein

Jul 5.7350-5.8850

Aug NC 5.7350-5.9850

Sep 5.7350-5.9850

Oct 6.1900

Nov 6.1900

15 pct protein 5.8950-6.0850

16 pct protein 5.9950-6.2850

US 2 Yellow Corn

Shuttle trains-Delivered full coast Pacific Northwest-BN

Jul 4.4200-4.4800

Aug 4.4500-4.4800

Sep 4.4600-4.4700

Oct 4.3850-4.4350

Nov 4.4050-4.4350

Dec 4.4050-4.4350

US 1 Yellow Soybeans

Shuttle trains-Delivered full coast Pacific Northwest-BN

Jul 11.0150

Aug 11.0150

Sep 11.0175

Oct 10.9975-11.0075

Nov 10.9975-11.0075

Dec 10.9650-10.9750

US 2 Heavy White Oats 3.1925

Not well tested.

Exporter Bids Portland Rail/Barge Jun 2016

Averages in Dollars per bushel

US 1 Soft White by Unit Trains and Barges 5.4600

US 1 Hard Red Winter (Ordinary protein) 5.1700

US 1 Hard Red Winter (11.5% protein) 5.3900

US 1 Dark Northern Spring (14% protein) 6.3500

Source: USDA Market News Service, Portland, OR

Utah militia leader vows to ‘strike back’ in video Fri, 22 Jul 2016 09:09:04 -0400 BRADY McCOMBS SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah militia group leader accused of trying to blow up a federally owned cabin in Arizona talked about his plans to go on the offensive and strike back by damaging government buildings and vehicles in a secretly recorded video played in court Thursday.

The video, taken in March by undercover FBI agents who infiltrated the group, was presented by federal prosecutors during a hearing in Salt Lake City in which William Keebler’s latest request to be let out of jail pending trial was rejected.

“They’re going to know we’ve had enough,” says Keebler in the video, standing in an RV in a remote part of Utah during a field training mission. “Some of our strikes are going to be loud and dangerous and damaging.”

During the clips played, Keebler said that he didn’t want to hurt anybody, but he told his group members he wanted to “put the fear of God” in government officials. He advised them to be prepared for a possible gunfight, said he had a hit list of government informants and added: “We’re going to start (expletive) people up.”

Keebler, 57, is accused of scouting a mosque, a U.S. Bureau of Land Management office and U.S. military facilities as possible targets before choosing the rural Arizona cabin. He was angry about public land policies he saw as federal overreach and had participated in the 2014 armed standoff with federal officials at Cliven Bundy’s Nevada ranch over unpaid grazing fees, prosecutors say.

Keebler is facing one count of attempting to damage federal property and one count of carrying a firearm during a crime of violence.

Keebler has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

He was arrested after a June 21 incident in the northern Arizona area of Mt. Trumbull when Keebler triggered a remote device he believed set off an explosive device at the door of the Bureau of Land Management cabin. The device didn’t do any damage because it was inert, built by undercover FBI agents who had infiltrated his small group that otherwise amounted to about four people.

Defense attorney Lynn Donaldson said Keebler is a tough talker but not dangerous as prosecutors are portraying. He said much of what Keebler says should be discounted. He played secretly taped audio from the FBI that shows Keebler insisted he crew stake out the Arizona cabin to make sure nobody was inside. The FBI pushed Keebler into going forward with the plan by providing transportation to Arizona, making the explosive device and insisting the night before that Keebler should be the one to set it off.

Keebler’s friend, Pete Olson, said outside court that Keebler isn’t the menace prosecution portrays. Olson said Keebler is a nice guy who is a hunter and self-survivalist.

But federal prosecutor Andrew Choate argued Keebler has a deep hatred of the federal government and is a danger to the community, especially Bureau of Land Management employees.

“He’s not just a talker,” Choate said. “He was willing to detonate a bomb. That’s as serious as it gets. ... It wasn’t a moment of a passion. It took a lot of planning.”

U.S. District Judge David Sam sided with the prosecution, saying there is overwhelming evidence that Keebler committed a crime of violence and should not be released.

FBI agent Steve Daniels, who led the two-year investigation of Keebler, said during the hearing that Keebler created his own militia group to prepare for the next armed confrontation with federal agents after he came back from the a 2014 armed standoff with federal officials at Cliven Bundy’s Nevada ranch over unpaid grazing fees.

The federal agency’s investigation of Keebler began after the standoff, where Keebler served in a high-ranking command post, Daniels said.

Keebler held regular meetings and field training sessions, and he had scouted “bugout” locations in rural Utah, he said. Keebler also had an AR-15-style gun and a handgun, Daniels said.

Keebler told undercover FBI agents posing as members of the group he would “slit their throats” if he found out they were government informants, Daniels said. Keebler also talked about killing Muslims and refugees and going to the U.S.-Mexico border to kill drug smugglers.

Backyard poultry to blame for 14 Montana salmonella cases Fri, 22 Jul 2016 09:06:16 -0400 BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A newly released federal report shows that Montana accounts for 14 salmonella cases in a nationwide outbreak linked to backyard poultry flocks that has sickened hundreds of people this year.

The Billings Gazette reports the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study says the cases are part of eight outbreaks that have infected 611 people in 45 states. The cases have been linked to contact with flocks of live backyard poultry, including chickens, ducks and geese.

Dana Fejes with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services says the 14 cases in the state have not been contained to one certain area.

She says they represent an increase from the state’s average yearly number of confirmed backyard poultry-related salmonella cases, which is about five or six.

Central Idaho wildfire grows to 2 square miles Fri, 22 Jul 2016 08:44:36 -0400 IDAHO CITY, Idaho (AP) — A central Idaho wildfire burning in brush and timber doubled in size Friday to 2 square miles and a national incident team has been called in to manage the blaze.

Officials say the fire burning in steep and rocky terrain is about 5 miles north of Idaho City, and that no structures are in imminent danger.

About 300 firefighters supported by five helicopters are fighting the fire that is 20 percent contained.

The cause of the blaze hasn’t been determined.

Chipotle pulls out the stops to win back customers Fri, 22 Jul 2016 08:43:38 -0400 CANDICE CHOIAP Food Industry Writer NEW YORK (AP) — Chipotle saw a smaller drop in sales as it tries to win back customers, but the company says it doesn’t know how long it will take to fully recover after an E. coli outbreak and norovirus cases last fall.

“There’s never been a case like this,” Chief Financial Officer Jack Hartung said Thursday during a conference call with analysts.

For the April-to-June period, the company said sales fell 24 percent at established locations, less than the 30 percent drop stores saw in the first three months of the year when Chipotle posted its first quarterly loss as a public company.

So far in July, Chipotle said, sales are improving further after the launch of its first loyalty program that rewards people for frequent visits. The program reflects a change from better days, when Chipotle said it didn’t need such giveaways to get people to buy its bowls and burritos.

The “Chiptopia” program, which runs through the summer, reflects how the company has been forced to act out of character to win back customers. Chipotle is also spending more marketing than ever before and expanding its famously simple menu to add chorizo. In restaurants where it has been made available, Chipotle said that the topping accounts for 6 percent to 7 percent of entree orders.

Chipotle said it expects to have another program after the summer to keep drawing in customers, but hasn’t yet worked out what that will be.

During the conference call, Chipotle’s co-CEO Steve Ells also addressed another recent setback: The company’s top marketing executive was slapped with cocaine-possession charges. Mark Crumpacker was placed on leave after he was named in an indictment by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. Chipotle said other managers have taken over Crumpacker’s responsibilities.

For the quarter ended June 30, Chipotle’s profit sank to $25.6 million, or 87 cents per share. Wall Street expected a profit of 91 cents per share, according to FactSet. A year ago, the company earned $140.2 million, or $4.45 per share.

Total revenue, which factors in new store openings, declined to $998.4 million. Analysts expected $1.05 billion.

Morgan Stanley said last week that it believes a full sales recovery back to Chipotle’s peak volumes could take years, based on a consumer survey it conducted. The survey showed about a quarter of Chipotle customers have either stopped going or reduced how often they eat at the chain, six months after the last reported food safety incident.

In the meantime, Chipotle has been distributing millions of coupons for free entrees, or “buy one, get one free” offers.

Even if they’re not paying full price, Chipotle wants to get people in the door to overcome any hesitations they might have about returning. Appearances are important, too: Filling up stores with customers is key to convincing even more people that everything is back to normal.

The company says its measures are getting its loyal customers to come back.

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc.’s shares have declined 13 percent since the beginning of the year, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 index has increased almost 6 percent. Its shares fell about 1.4 percent to $412.25 in after-hours trading.

California court denies push for payment during tunnel tests Fri, 22 Jul 2016 08:40:48 -0400 SUDHIN THANAWALA SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — California officials don’t have to pay property owners to access their land to conduct preliminary testing before deciding whether to move forward with a $15.7 billion plan to build two giant water tunnels to supply drinking water for cities and irrigation for farmers, the California Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The landowners in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta had demanded payment for thousands of acres sought by the state for testing. The payments would have added millions of dollars to the cost of the tunnels project.

State officials said being forced to rent the land for testing would have also set a dangerous, expensive precedent regarding other public works projects.

The state Supreme Court ruled 7-0 in the state’s favor, giving Gov. Jerry Brown a major victory in his fight to build the tunnels.

Rental fees for the land were not necessary because the state is seeking temporary access, and land owners would be able to recover money for any damage or interference the testing caused, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye wrote.

Ted Thomas, a spokesman for the state Department of Water Resources, said the ruling validated the procedures being used by the agency.

“We will continue moving forward with our important work to modernize California’s water infrastructure to better protect the delta ecosystem and water supplies,” he said in a statement.

Property owners said the tests will be lengthy and invasive and constitute an occupation of their property.

Norman Matteoni, an attorney for one of the landowners, said the landowners will consider whether to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Tom Keeling, another attorney for landowners, predicted the ruling would make landowners “more vulnerable to aggressive tactics” by the state.

The tunnels project would run twin, four-story pipes underground for 35 miles and eventually pull thousands of gallons of water a second from a stretch of the Sacramento River to send to cities and farms to the south.

Supporters say the project would ensure a more reliable water supply and protect fish species. Opponents contend it would jeopardize delta farming and destroy vital wildlife habitat.

Officials promoting the tunnels will present plans to state water regulators in hearings starting Tuesday. The State Water Resources Control Board will decide whether tunnel backers have a right to take water from the river near Sacramento — a major hurdle for the project to move forward.

The testing at issue in Thursday’s ruling involves access to about 150 properties covering tens of thousands of acres in San Joaquin, Contra Costa, Solano, Sacramento and Yolo counties.

The environmental testing includes trapping wild animals and taking soil samples. For geological testing, experts would bore holes up to 8 inches in diameter and 205 feet into the ground. The holes would be filled after the testing is completed.

Attorneys for landowner Property Reserve Inc. said in court documents that the preliminary project work would destroy crops and disrupt fertilizer and pesticide use.

An appeals court in a 2-1 ruling two years ago sided with property owners, saying the testing constituted “taking” of private property. That court said that under California’s state constitution, the property owners were entitled to a determination of the market value of the property rights the state was acquiring for the project.

Beef, dairy groups question proposed organic rule Thu, 21 Jul 2016 11:47:03 -0400 Carol Ryan Dumas A new rule proposed by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service to amend organic livestock and poultry practices is raising concerns among conventional animal agriculture groups.

The rule, which adds provisions for animal welfare practices and living conditions, is based on recommendations by the National Organic Standards Board. It is meant to ensure consistent application of USDA organic regulations and maintain consumer confidence in organically labeled products, according to AMS.

But the rule would do much more than that, according to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. USDA is attempting to add an entirely new and unauthorized category to the National Organic Program, exceeding its statutory jurisdiction and congressional intent, said Colin Woodall, NCBA vice president of government affairs.

The most important point of NCBA’s opposition is that the organic program is a marketing program. It isn’t about animal health, welfare or even food safety, and USDA shouldn’t be inserting animal welfare standards into a voluntary marketing program, he said.

The Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 doesn’t include welfare practices or living conditions. The clear intent of Congress in setting organic standards was to ensure that feed is organic and animals are raised without the use of synthetic chemicals, and that’s where USDA should spend its time, he said.

The Organic Trade Association disagrees.

“Organic is much more than input substitution,” said Nate Lewis, OTA farm policy director.

It is written into the organic law that USDA has the authority to promulgate rules regarding the care of livestock and poultry, he said.

The proposed rule is the result of 12 years of public comment and work by the organic standards board to clarify the organic requirement for access to outdoors, and the vast majority of organic producers and consumers support the rule, Lewis said.

National Milk Producers Federation also questions USDA’s statutory authority, especially since some of the proposed practices lack an explanation of the well-being benefits, said Jamie Jonker, NMPF vice president of sustainability and scientific affairs, in his comments to USDA.

“A fundamental problem with the proposed rule is that it appears more driven by economics and consumer perception rather than animal science and welfare,” he said.

Economic considerations are important and should be part of the rule-making process, but so-called “consumer confusion” about the meaning of organic should not drive rule-making associated with animal well-being, he said.

Consumer confusion was one of the reasons USDA proposed the new rule, but the agency should have invested in consumer education rather than adding more categories to the organic program, making it even more confusing, Woodall said.

USDA cites reports by the board as authority to support some of the proposed rule changes. However, those reports mostly contain basic information and do not cite scientific literature or provide scientific bases to support the provisions, Jonker said.

Instead, the reports are largely based on public meetings. In some cases, the proposed standards are based on public perception of what is good animal welfare and reflect no consensus among experts in animal welfare and handling, he said.

“Although public meetings serve a useful purpose … they do not absolve the USDA-AMS-NOP from developing regulatory requirements, particularly on topics such as animal welfare, based on the scientific literature,” he said.

The proposed rule contains a lot of unjustified and unsubstantiated provisions that go beyond standard, approved, safe procedures, Woodall said.

The rule is based on agenda and perception more than anything else and vilifies conventional livestock, giving the false perception that only organic livestock is being treated well, he said.

“It’s obvious animal activists had a hand in crafting the rule, and that’s concerning to people who are actually engaged in the production of food,” he said.

While the standards only apply to organic production, they would set a precedence that could be used by activists to push restrictions on all animal agriculture. There’s no guarantee that they will be confined to organic production, he said.

Instead of attempting to address continuously changing animal-care and handling practices in the proposed rule, NCBA recommends USDA suggest organic cattle producers become certified through the Beef Quality Assurance program.

NMPF points out that 95 percent of organic milk production in the U.S. is already enrolled in the National Dairy FARM Program: Farmers Assuring Responsible Management.

Both programs are focused on high standards in animal care and well-being.

The comment period on the new rule has ended.


Wheat industry expect average protein levels in this year’s crop Thu, 21 Jul 2016 15:21:43 -0400 Matw Weaver PROSSER, Wash. — Father and son Mike and Cody Nichols started their wheat harvest earlier than ever this year.

The Prosser, Wash., farmers typically begin around July 4, but started June 15 due to earlier spring conditions.

“Everything started to mature quicker,” Cody Nichols said.

The Nicholses plan to harvest 10,000 dryland acres. On a recent Tuesday, they were cutting a field of dark northern spring wheat, which looked pretty good, they said, but they were a little concerned about their fields of soft white wheat.

“We’re not anticipating the protein being high, but we don’t know until we get there,” Mike Nichols said.

“We are worried about getting high-protein, low-test weight, because there’s a lot of that sitting around,” said Cody Nichols. “Our elevator’s even gone and said, ‘If you bring some of that, it might even go as feed wheat this year.’”

Protein levels in soft white wheat have been higher in recent years because of drier conditions. Many overseas customers have a 10.5 percent maximum protein limit when buying soft white wheat. Some grain elevators are reducing prices for higher-protein soft white wheat.

Washington Grain Commission CEO Glen Squires said protein is down from recent years, by about 2 to 3 percent.

“We’re hearing protein is kind of all over the board,” Squires said. “Obviously the drier parts of the state are being harvested first.”

Squires said samples from this year’s harvest are averaging 10.2 percent protein so far, with club wheat — a subclass of soft white spring wheat often blended with soft white wheat to make “Western white” wheat sold to customers in Japan and Taiwan — averaging a little higher than the soft white wheat.

Club wheat has been higher in recent years because it’s mostly grown in drier areas, Squires said. The higher protein in club is not a concern. Western white is typically a blend of 80 percent soft white and 20 percent club because the club provides an added dimension of weaker gluten for sponge cake volume.

Ty Jessup, grain industry representative for the commission and marketing manager with Central Washington Grain Growers in Waterville, Wash., said it’s still early in the harvest, but he expects a normal-protein crop.

“I would anticipate maybe we see more along the lines of average, which would be quite a bit lower than what we were last year and the year before that,” Jessup said.

Blaine Jacobson, executive director of the Idaho Wheat Commission, said the growing season is consistent with average protein levels.

“We’re optimistic this year that our protein is going to be pretty much normal,” he said.

Blake Rowe, Oregon Wheat CEO, expects average yields and proteins overall.

“Last year we saw premiums for low protein, but it is a matter of perspective if you see it as a premium for low or a penalty for high,” Rowe said.

The picture will be clearer as harvest progresses, Rowe said.

Mike Nichols estimates his cost of production to be a little under $5 per bushel. The Nicholses took advantage of higher prices earlier and sold wheat above their break-even price.

Soft white wheat ranged from $4.93 to $5.32 per bushel on the Portland market, according to the USDA.

The Nicholses usually average 23 bushels per acre, and are averaging 20 bushels per acre this year.

“Which isn’t bad, because we’re coming out of a four-year drought,” Cody Nichols said. “We’re not elated and we’re not devastated either.”

No progress made on Idaho field burning changes Thu, 21 Jul 2016 10:38:29 -0400 Sean Ellis BOISE — An EPA official’s proposal to solve a disagreement between Idaho farm and environmental groups over proposed changes to the state’s field burning program was not accepted during a negotiated rulemaking meeting July 20.

The two sides left the meeting far apart on proposed program changes that Idaho Department of Environmental Quality officials say are necessary to avoid a large reduction in the number of allowable field burning days for Idaho farmers.

Patti Gora-McRavin, who represents clean air advocates in the negotiations, said the lack of progress made during the meeting and the failure to agree on the EPA official’s idea was a huge disappointment.

“I’m frankly stunned at the way the meeting ended up,” she said. “I’m super disappointed about what didn’t happen today.”

DEQ can only approve a burn request when ozone and small particulate matter levels aren’t expected to exceed 75 percent of the national standard for those air pollutants in a 24-hour period.

EPA tightened the federal ozone standard in October, which would result in the number of allowable burn days for Idaho farmers being reduced by a third to half, according to DEQ estimates.

To prevent that, DEQ has proposed loosening Idaho’s ozone standard to 90 percent of the federal standard. Environmental and public health groups want an equal tightening of the small particulate matter, or PM 2.5, standard, to maintain current public health protections.

That would mean tightening Idaho’s PM 2.5 standard to 60 percent of the federal standard, something farm groups are opposed to and something DEQ’s proposal does not do.

Mike McGown, EPA’s regional smoke management coordinator and a member of the advisory committee, last week floated the idea of leaving the current 75 percent standard in place for all pollutants, unless ozone levels are expected to exceed that level. In that case, DEQ would reconsider the burn decision based on the criteria of the ozone standard being 90 percent of the federal standard and the PM 2.5 standard being 60 percent.

But farm group representatives oppose lowering the PM 2.5 standard that much and said McGown’s idea doesn’t address the main issue, the percentage changes. They are also concerned that EPA, which is reviewing the federal PM standard, will soon tighten that standard as well.

With the likelihood of EPA tightening the PM 2.5 standard, “There’s a level of unease taking that drastic of a cut,” Idaho Grain Producers Association Executive Director Stacey Katseanes-Satterlee said about public health groups’ desire to lower the PM standard to 60 percent.

DEQ will submit a revised draft proposal early next week and the sides will meet a final time July 27 before the department issues a final proposal.

Gora-McRavin said her side is clear that “we’re willing to live with a loosening of the ozone protections if the PM standard is tightened appropriately.”

She is the former executive director of Safe Air For Everyone, which filed a lawsuit in 2007 that resulted in a temporary halt to field burning in Idaho and resulted in negotiations that led to the current crop residue burning program.

If the state’s ozone standard is loosened without a corresponding tightening of the PM standard, “We’d absolutely have to challenge it,” Gora-McRavin said. “We are not going to give up the health protections that were so hard won.”

Incoming Portland mayor offers hope for rural Oregon Thu, 21 Jul 2016 11:53:47 -0400 Portland Mayor-elect Ted Wheeler could be one of agriculture’s best friends in a city that has over-sized influence on Oregon’s vast rural expanses.

We’ve written often on the divide between urban and rural America. The divide between Portland and rural Oregon is a chasm.

Farmers and ranchers may not fully appreciate Portland’s importance as a market and a hub of vital services. But there’s no mistaking Portland’s willingness to push its agenda on farming practices, labor, economic development and the environment on its rural neighbors.

It’s a problem.

“What can agriculture do,” the Oregon Farm Bureau’s Dave Dillon asks, “to better connect with city government and thought leaders who seem to have insularity and sometimes utopian vision of food production that does not match the marketplace and the demands of a growing world population?”

In Wheeler rural Oregon may have a partner in Portland. His family made its money in the timber industry. He appreciates the urban-rural divide and urban-rural interdependence.

“You can’t talk about success in the agricultural industry without talking about the role urban areas play,” he said. “Urban communities in America are increasingly clueless about the challenges facing rural communities.”

And though Wheeler is sincere and earnest on the subject of the urban-rural divide, it’s not the biggest problem he faces. Not by a long shot.

The police bureau is in turmoil — chronically understaffed, mistrusted by many residents, plagued by poor morale. There are miles of city streets that are still unpaved, and many more miles of paved streets that need repair.

As people flock to Portland in costume and in character to become part of the city’s quirky, offbeat fabric, they find rents are sky high and vacant housing hard to come by. Any development not nixed outright by strict land-use policies will almost certainly be opposed by vocal activists.

Then there are the homeless — 4,000 largely substance-addled or mentally ill souls who have overwhelmed both the services available to help them and the patience of a town that prides itself on tolerance. Their situation is desperate and tragic.

Portland’s situation is made more difficult because solutions to these and a host of lesser problems must be crafted, spun, bent and twisted — perhaps beyond recognition — with care so as not to offend the sensibilities of a wide variety of progressive interests that will take to the streets at the drop of a hat.

Wheeler’s plate is full. If he could get more of Portland’s activist class to focus on the city’s problems instead of exporting their agenda to rural Oregon everyone would be better off.

From our distant vantage, Wheeler seems the best choice Portland has made in recent years. He’s a smart guy, a sensible choice for voters who often prefer the unconventional.

Though we won’t know for sure until he takes office in January, Wheeler seems like someone agriculture can work with to advance both rural and urban interests.

The rest of the story of a county’s threat to farmland Thu, 21 Jul 2016 15:19:27 -0400 Ben Williams As a long-time subscriber, I say “kudos” to the Capital Press for publishing Eric Mortenson’s article on farmland development in Clackamas County (Conservation district fights farmland development, July 8).

One county within Metro Portland, Ore., is a small part of the Capital Press’ publishing coverage, but this a story that merits consideration. Eric captured the essence of the matter: A local Soil & Water Conservation District is asking, “What is going on?” And their concern is loss of irreplaceable farmland.

The devil is in the detail, or as Paul Harvey used to say, in “the rest of the story!” This story has four or more chapters, and the first has to do with campaign contributions — but let’s skip the gory details for now.

The second has to do with the reference to “an economic study by a consulting firm, Johnson Economics and Mackenzie, that said the county is short between 329 and 934 acres of industrial land and up to 246 acres of commercial land, and there is an overall shortage of up to 1,180 acres over the next 20 years.”

Guess who hired the consulting firm and engaged them to do the study? The Clackamas County commissioners! They got the results they were looking for, and then they used the results of the study to issue a new county strategic plan in late 2014 which defined the need for employment lands and other development, but never involved any of the cities in the county or any of the Community Planning Organizations within the county in the process or in the roll out of the new strategic plan! Hire a consulting firm, get a study, issue a new strategic plan. Very efficient, right?

As if that wasn’t enough, one year later, after publicly and privately playing a game of chicken with Metro (metro Portland’s tri-county planning body) by holding up the finalization of the Urban/Rural Reserves designations, they appropriated almost half a million dollars to “re-study” the Rural Reserves.

This was presumably a settled matter, but their argument was that the county was short of “employment lands,” and the basis for the assertion? The study they had commissioned a year earlier.

To add insult to injury, on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before the Fourth of July holiday weekend they held open houses on the question of employment lands and re-studying the Rural Reserves to “seek public input.”

The shocker was that none of the three cities within the county in which the meetings were held — Canby, Wilsonville and Estacada — were given the courtesy of being notified of the meetings, nor was there any normal public notice. Only the property owners immediately adjacent to the areas of study received a notice.

The mayor of Canby attended the Wilsonville meeting on Tuesday evening because he didn’t find out until Tuesday morning about the meeting in Canby on Monday evening!

What’s the fuss? If ag land is rezoned for development and the local cities have to provide the infrastructure like water, sewer and roads, what’s the big deal?

The fact is that Metro and others have put the “facts” on the table. There is more than enough “employment lands” within Metro and within Clackamas County to meet the development requirements of Oregon’s land use laws (a 50-year supply).

The problem is that those employment lands aren’t where Chair Ludlow and Commissioner Smith want them. And, those employment lands aren’t owned by their major campaign contributors. So, this is crony capitalism at its best, compounded by a blatant attempt to avoid public involvement!

So then, the Soil and Water Conservation District’s concern is first and foremost one about what’s missing: transparency and public accountability! The consequence of that, in this case, is the loss of irreplaceable farmland. And, these kinds of shenanigans probably aren’t just going on in one Metro County in Oregon!

Ben Williams of Aurora, Ore., is president of Friends of French Prairie, a land use advocacy group in the north Willamette Valley that works to preserve farmland and promote local farming.

State of Oregon owes counties Thu, 21 Jul 2016 15:19:03 -0400 Across the West, rural counties, school districts and local governments that once depended on natural resources such as timber have been slowly sinking into a sea of red ink.

The problem: State and federal land managers have unilaterally changed the rules of how natural resources are managed. The result has been less economic activity such as logging, leading to ever-tighter local budgets. Those local governments and school districts once shared the revenue from timber cut on public lands. Now they receive only a small fraction of what they previously received.

Those who defend the change in resource management say those counties and school districts should just pass special tax levies to cover the shortfalls. Such statements reflect their ignorance about the economy of the rural West. If logging is the primary economic activity and it is curtailed, then a tax levy will not cover the shortfall. People collecting unemployment insurance cannot afford higher tax bills.

This argument is playing out in a courtroom in Albany, Ore., where Linn County officials are suing the state for $1.4 billion they and 14 other counties have been shorted since 1998.

According to Linn County’s lawyers, that’s the year the state changed the way it manages Forest Trust Lands. The counties gave those timber lands to the state to manage on their behalf.

Under the change, instead of managing the timber to produce revenue, the state decided to manage it for other objectives — without the counties’ consent.

During a hearing last week, the state’s lawyers essentially tried to duck the question of whether the state owes the counties any money. They talked about “greatest permanent value” — whatever that means — and that the statute doesn’t require “revenue maximization.”

What they didn’t argue is whether the state has a moral and ethical obligation to manage those lands in a way that doesn’t leave the counties and school districts broke.

It should be noted that across the West, the federal government has also done its best to squeeze natural resource companies out of business. In many rural areas, where once a thriving timber industry existed, there remains only abandoned mills or a mill operating at a fraction of its capacity. The only mills that remain profitable are those that own timber and don’t depend entirely on government timber sales.

This is a direct result of federal managers — Uncle Sam owns most of the land in the West — deciding to shut down or vastly reduce logging in many areas.

With the state of Oregon managing timber land for “greatest permanent value” and the federal managers tightening the timber supply, rural counties and school districts have suffered financially.

Instead of ducking this lawsuit, we’d like to see the state’s lawyers argue in open court that precious few bigwigs in state government care one bit about rural communities. We want them to argue that the trees — a renewable resource — are more precious than rural economies. We want them to tell the judge that it’s more important to the state of Oregon to protect as many trees as its managers see fit, no matter the impact on rural Oregonians.

Of course, they won’t say that outright, but that’s what they mean.

Verner backed for public lands commissioner Thu, 21 Jul 2016 15:16:37 -0400 Commissioner of public lands elections typically receive little attention. Yet the actions of the commissioner of public lands dramatically impacts our lives every summer during fire season.

Mary Verner is the former mayor of Spokane. She is the only candidate for commissioner of public lands with executive branch experience.

Furthermore, Mary has served as deputy for wildfire and administration with the Department of Natural Resources for the last three years. She will not need two or three years of on-the-job training. Mary would be ready to hit the ground running the day she is sworn in.

Washington has suffered back-to-back record fire seasons due to exceptionally hot and dry summers. Mary Verner has worked tirelessly with fire chiefs and other officials to address the daunting challenges faced by the fire service and those affected by wildfire.

She has earned the respect of fire service professionals around Washington. She has solid roots in rural Washington. Mary Verner is the only candidate with experience who understands our needs first-hand.

Please join me and fire service professionals around Washington, and vote for Mary Verner, commissioner of public lands.

Thomas R. McGarry


Spokane County Fire

Protection District No. 9

Spokane, Wash.

14 Meridian FFA members attend Washington Leadership Conference Thu, 21 Jul 2016 14:52:56 -0400 Loretta LacyMeridian FFA Reporter Fourteen Meridian FFA members got the chance to attend the Washington Leadership Conference from June 27 until July 3.

They were Loretta Lacy, Mollie Hiscox, Lauren Barker, Kyle Schmit, Cameron King, Ashton Shaul, Delaney Vatcher, Kaitlin Muniz, Rachel Mansfield, Ellie Higgins, Kiara Wetzel, Lauren Jackson, and Kate Johnson and were accompanied by two advisors, Miss Kya Vines and Mrs. Trish Stokes.

The Washington Leadership Conference is a conference that FFA members from all 50 states can attend. It is held in Washington, D.C. This conference lasts a week, and eight weeks are offered each summer. All attendees stayed in the Omni Shoreham Hotel, where the conference sessions were held this year.

During our week of WLC, 348 FFA members from around the nation attended the conference. Members can only attend this conference once. Most attendees are going into their junior or senior year in high school.

Within the 348 members, we were split into Community Groups consisting of an average of 26 members. WLC puts an emphasis on leadership and serving your community. This conference focused on having each member create a “Living to Serve Plan” to help our community at home. We spent most of our community group meetings creating, organizing and planning.

In our large group meeting, consisting of all the attendees, we did lots of fun, but thought-provoking activities. We talked a lot about hunger in our communities and what we can do to help. On the last day of the conference, we made 6,200 macaroni-and-cheese bags for food shelters around the D.C. area through an organization called Meals for Hope.

Half of the conference consisted of sessions. For the other half, we spent it touring D.C. WLC attendees were privileged to visit the following:

• Holocaust Museum.

• Jefferson Memorial.

• JFK Memorial.

• Korean War Memorial.

• Lincoln Memorial.

• Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.

• National Archives, where we saw the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

• National Zoo.

• Natural History Museum.

• Washington Monument.

• White House.

• World War II Memorial.

• U.S. Capitol, where we visited Senator James Risch’s office.

Members from our chapter that attended this trip owe a great deal of gratitude to the Meridian FFA Alumni, Ada County Farm Bureau, Meridian Dairy Board, Meridian FFA Chapter and Dave and Angie Daniels for their financial donations to reduce the cost of our trip..

With their help, the price of the trip per student was lowered from $1,460 to $650. All 14 of us are extremely thankful to have attended this great program at less than half the original cost.

New commissioner specializes in growing food barley Thu, 21 Jul 2016 11:11:53 -0400 John O’Connell BOISE — The newest member of the Idaho Barley Commission specializes in a small but growing market segment he believes has enabled barley to remain a viable option in Northern Idaho.

Wes Hubbard, of Bonner’s Ferry, started his three-year term on the commission July 1, replacing Tim Dillin. Hubbard, along with his brother Mike, raises 500 acres of food barley, bred to be high in a heart-healthy soluble fiber, beta glucan.

Hubbard said meeting malt barley specifications is tough in his region, where there’s more natural precipitation to complicate irrigation management. Though feed barley was once common in the region, Hubbard said it’s not economical at the current price. He explained barley for the human food market grows well in his area, commands a decent return and has benefited from strengthening demand — especially in Japan. Furthermore, food barley isn’t prone to tipping, or lodging, in fields, and the short stubble facilitates direct-seeding of fall grains.

“We can have options for growing barley that are profitable for us,” Hubbard said.

Hubbard, in his third of raising food barley, said the crop’s yields are relatively low, but he hopes production will rise as he gains more experience.

Dan McKay, CEO of McKay Seed, bought food barley from five growers in the Kootenai River Valley this season. His company and Highland Specialty Grains bought the WestBred barley program about three years after Monsanto acquired the company. Hubbard raises the Highland food barley variety BG 012, which McKay explained is hull-less and has 7-8 percent beta glucan content. The Japanese pearl the barley and blend in about 20 to 30 percent with rice, giving a boost to a popular Asian commodity with little nutritional value of its own.

“(Food barley) has become more popular as the Japanese have become more health conscious,” McKay said.

McKay has seen rapid growth in food barley demand since the Japanese enacted an official food barley health claim, followed by the airing of a Japanese television program extolling the health benefits of food barley. But contracting was nearly complete when the Japanese sought to increase food barley purchases, and Boundary County growers had already bought canola seed to plant. So McKay turned to growers serving his Rosalia, Wash., facility to fill the extra demand.

For the domestic market, Ardent Mills produces a high-fiber food additive called Sustagrain from Highland food barley varieties bred with 17 to 18 percent beta glucan. Another variety with 10 to 12 percent beta glucan, BG 203, will soon be used by an undisclosed customer for making breakfast cereal, McKay said.

Hubbard, who will continue a term on the Idaho Oilseed Commission through 2018, also raises wheat, canola and 750 acres of timber on his 1,750-acre farm. He’s been Boundary County Director of the Idaho Grain Producers Association for the past 11 years. He and his wife, Jolene, have two sons, Ethan and Dalin.

Hubbard credits the Barley Commission with laying the groundwork to build the food barley market and believes opening new markets for all classes of barley will be one of his primary duties as a commissioner. He also believes the Commission helped make Idaho the top barley producing state.

“There’s not such a huge market for malt barley in Southern Idaho by accident,” Hubbard said. “I think that’s been as a result of some hard work by a lot of people, including our Commission and (administrator) Kelly Olson.”