Capital Press | Nation/World Capital Press Sat, 4 Jul 2015 13:50:41 -0400 en Capital Press | Nation/World Takeover opportunity leads to creamery’s revival Thu, 2 Jul 2015 09:45:16 -0400 Mateusz Perkowski CENTRAL POINT, Ore. — David Gremmels and Cary Bryant got more than they intended when trying to buy some cheese from Rogue Creamery.

In 2002, they were launching a wine-and-cheese bar and asked the creamery’s owner, Ig Vella, to become a supplier.

Vella’s response was surprising, remembers Gremmels: “Fellas, if you want my cheese you’re going to have to make it yourselves.”

Then in his early 70s, Vella was exhausted from splitting his time between Rogue Creamery in Central Point, Ore., and Vella Cheese in Sonoma, Calif. It was becoming apparent that he needed to focus on one business, so Vella decided to sell or close his operation in Oregon.

Though the proposal was a significant departure from their original plans, Gremmels and Bryant leapt at the opportunity and agreed to buy the company that same day.

They spent the next year learning the cheese-making craft from Vella and traveling to Europe to compare different techniques.

Meanwhile, the company was on shaky financial footing, so the wine-and-cheese bar was put on hold while they devoted capital and time to buttressing the creamery.

“We had to make a profit. I couldn’t sell things at a loss,” said Gremmels. “We worked hard and we worked day and night.”

While new to cheese-making, they brought modern skills to the creamery, which was founded in 1933.

Gremmels had spent his career building the brands of clothing and home furnishing companies before he was recruited to a marketing position at the Harry & David fruit basket company, which brought him to Oregon’s Rogue Valley.

Bryant, on the other hand, was able to put his training as a microbiologist to use.

“Cary brought the strict science with the recipes, the testing and the fine-tuning,” said Gremmels.

The change in ownership also brought some new flair to the company’s products.

Rogue Creamery’s blue cheeses are still made with the same strain of mold that Tom Vella, Ig’s father, imported from France, where it’s used to make Roquefort from sheep’s milk.

Gremmels and Bryant adjusted the recipe for the Rogue River Blue by wrapping it in Syrah wine grape leaves and soaking it in artisanal brandy.

Their innovation brought outstanding results — the variety won the title of Best Blue Cheese at the World Cheese Awards in London in 2003.

The award put Rogue Creamery on the global map of fine cheese-makers, helping the company to achieve profitability and 20 percent annual sales growth since Gremmels and Bryant took over.

The company attained another milestone in 2007, when it crossed food safety hurdles to become the first U.S. creamery to export raw milk cheese to the European Union.

Whole Foods, a high-end grocery store chain, is now Rogue Creamery’s largest customer, carrying its cheeses in more than 400 stores.

Over the past 13 years, the creamery has gone from “negligible sales” to a “multi-million-dollar company,” said Gremmels.

It’s also taken steps to become vertically integrated with the 2012 purchase of its own organic-certified 70-acre dairy farm, which currently supplies more than half the creamery’s milk with 120 cows.

The goal is to double the herd’s size over the next year and become completely self-sufficient.

By controlling its source of milk, the creamery gains certainty about quality and production practices at a time when many dairy farmers in the region have retired from the industry, said Gremmels.

The dairy can also serve as a “sustainable model” for other operations with its organic practices and robotic milking system that reduces labor and cow stress, he said. “We hope to inspire other dairy people to come online and join us in producing milk in Southern Oregon.”

Aside from securing Rogue Creamery’s milk supply, the farm provides a new way to communicate with the public, said Francis Plowman, the company’s “cheese narrator.”

“We think that will be a very big tourist attraction,” he said.

The operation’s agritourism appeal will coincide nicely with the company’s upcoming line of ice cream, which will be made with honey and other “pure and simple ingredients,” Plowman said.

Ice cream is part of the company’s venture into fresh — rather than aged — dairy products, such as mozzarella, he said.

Because they don’t have to sit in inventory for an extended time before sale, fresh products improve cash flow.

Rogue Creamery has also recently found a profitable use for blue cheese that doesn’t meet the company’s “top tier” quality requirements: it’s turned into a shelf-stable powder.

The powder has proven popular as a stand-alone condiment as well as a bulk ingredient that’s sold to food manufacturers, Plowman said. “It really has the taste profile of our blue cheeses.”

Rogue Creamery

Owners: David Gremmels and Cary Bryant

Founded: 1933

Employees: 43

Location: Central Point, Ore.

Products: 30 cheese varieties, shelf-stable blue cheese powder, upcoming ice cream line

Vertical integration: Company owns cheese-making plant, retail shop, cold storage and packaging facility, 70-acre dairy farm

‘Pizza farms’ invite public for a slice of rural life Thu, 2 Jul 2015 11:43:52 -0400 STEVE KARNOWSKI MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — As the farm-to-table movement connects more consumers with local farmers, some farms have shortened the distance between the plow and the plate. They’re inviting customers over for pizza.

On Wednesday nights when the weather is nice, Pat and Tammy Winter serve well over 200 pizzas to guests at their Red Barn Farm near Northfield, about an hour south of Minneapolis. Customers make a picnic out of it, setting up chairs and tables outside the 101-year-old barn and packing in soda, beer and wine. Children chase the chickens and pet the horses while their families wait for pizzas to emerge from wood-fired ovens.

While pizza farms have sprouted across the country as agritourism grows, they’re particularly popular in Minnesota and Wisconsin, where they provide small farms with extra income and city dwellers with opportunities to get in touch with their food sources. Farmers and diners alike appreciate that the pizza toppings often were grown or produced onsite.

Most farms keep things simple by requiring guests to bring their own napkins, plates and utensils, and to take their garbage home. They may offer limited, if any, beverages. But this isn’t about fine dining; it’s about a dining experience, and one that often boasts an unbeatable pastoral setting.

“It’s fun to get people back out to the country,” Pat Winter said.

For small farmers with an entrepreneurial spirit, diversification is a useful strategy for growing their businesses, said Greg Schweser, an expert on sustainable local food systems with the University of Minnesota Extension. Diversification can mean agritourism, such as selling pizza or hosting visitors for overnight farm stays, he said. Farm wineries already do a lot of those sorts of things, he noted. And farms that have to add commercial kitchens to comply with regulations also can use them to produce products — such as jams and baked goods — they can sell in the offseason, he said.

“Direct sales to consumers, that’s the best way to capture the most value for the dollar,” he said. “There’s no middleman. There’s no wholesalers. That’s how small farmers are making it.”

Terra Carey and Kara Denney of Minneapolis recently dined at Red Barn Farm. They had eaten at other pizza farms and knew the drill. They spread a blanket next to the vegetable garden, opened a bottle of rose wine, and spent time relaxing before savoring their pizzas — one with olives, tomato and fresh basil, another with locally-made sausage and the Winters’ own sauerkraut.

“It tastes like a hot dog in pizza form,” Carey said.

The Winters said they weren’t looking to get into the pizza business when they bought the 10-acre farm about seven years ago. It found them. He had worked in real estate until the market tanked. She was a baker, and they thought it would be fun to build a brick oven and make pizza. At first they served only family and friends, but it took off. They also turned their barn into a venue for weddings and receptions, events which they cater and have become their main business. Their little general store sells their salsas and breads, as well as eggs from their 60 hens.

Running a pizza farm isn’t all idyllic. It takes a lot of hard work and the tenacity to overcome regulatory headaches. While the Winters were able to make the necessary investments, regulations led Dave and Mary Falk of LoveTree Farmstead Cheese near Grantsburg, Wisconsin, to scale back Pizza by the Pond.

The Falks use a sourdough fermented for three days, topped with artisanal cheeses from their sheep and cows, and seasonal Northwoods delicacies such as fiddleheads and wild ramps. But Mary Falk said they’re able to open to the public this summer for only three weekend days plus three holidays because of tangles with inspectors. Otherwise they’re limited to private parties. To get in, it helps to get accepted into their private Facebook group.

“We’re pretty bizarre. We warn them — Ma and Pa Kettle revisited,” she said. “We’re not manicured. It’s pretty rustic.”

A pioneering pizza farm is AtoZ Produce and Bakery near Stockholm, Wisconsin, where Robbin Bannen and Ted Fisher open only Tuesdays and spend the rest of the week farming. They’ve been making pizza for 17 years. Bannen said they never intended it to become such a phenomenon. She worries they’re already exposed enough. She wants to protect the experience for existing customers, and keep their workload manageable.

“We do this because we love it,” she said. “We don’t do this because we want to get rich and we don’t do this because we have grandiose ideas of what a farm is.”

Pizza nights on a farm offer a fun, festive atmosphere that can help consumers put a face on their food and generate customer loyalty for a farm’s other products, said Andrew Bernhardt, a community food systems specialist with University of Wisconsin Extension.

“They’re selling an experience by letting people come to their farm, and I think there are a lot of people out there hungry for this experience,” he said.

European barley variety shows promise for craft beers Thu, 2 Jul 2015 14:47:22 -0400 John O’Connell Limagrain Cereal Seeds officials say a high-yielding irrigated barley variety developed in Europe has performed well in Pacific Northwest trials and should fill a critical need for the growing U.S. craft brewing industry.

Bred by Limagrain U.K., Genie — as in genie in a beer bottle — has the attributes craft brewers desire but have trouble finding, given that most U.S. malts were developed for the American lagers that dominate the market.

Mass-produced American lagers typically use sugar from secondary sources, such as corn or rice, called adjunct brewing, requiring different malt specifications.

Limagrain Chief Operating Officer Frank Curtis said a few hundred acres of Genie are being raised in Idaho and Washington, both for seed and commercial malting, and 120 acres were planted in Colorado. Curtis said a small malting company in Fort Collins, Colo., has contracted for some Genie, and Great Western Malting Co. has also been evaluating Genie.

“We are hoping to go to several thousand acres of malt production next year,” Curtis said.

Most large, U.S. brewing companies require malt high in free amino nitrogen, providing the energy to ferment supplemental corn or rice sugars.

In all-grain craft brewing, however, residual FAN contributes to undesirable flavors. In addition to having lower FAN, Genie has high extract, yielding more beer per pound of malt, and low beta glucan levels and viscosity, enabling hot water to filter through grain at the ideal timing.

Curtis said the predominate craft variety now available is CDC Copeland, which is best suited for dryland growers and doesn’t yield well. But Genie has shown good disease resistance and has ranked among the top yielders in University of Idaho trials.

Limagrain chose Genie after evaluating 50 advanced European malting lines and entered the variety in American Malting Barley Association trials in 2012 and 2013. Great Western saw promise in Genie and malted a large batch of 2014 crop for further evaluation.

If there’s commercial interest, Curtis said additional Limagrain craft lines in development — LCS Overture, LCS Odyssey and LCS Pilot — could be two years from entering the market. Another 70 lines are a year behind them.

“We are intending to provide the industry with a steady product flow,” Curtis said.

Curtis said 14 breweries from Washington state to Kansas made special beers with Genie, serving them at a June 9 event in Fort Collins. He plans to repeat the demonstration next year in Idaho. He’s also scheduled to serve a beer made with Genie and UI Stone wheat at a July 15 field day at University of Idaho’s Aberdeen Research & Extension Center.

CHS Primeland in Lewiston, Idaho, is the sole distributor of this year’s Genie seed and will offer additional seed to partnering cooperatives next season, said Kevin Whittaker, the company’s seed plant manager.

“We’re thinking it’s going to be a big boomer for us that the maltsters will be after, especially Great Western,” Whittaker said. “Not only is it a good barley, but it out yields some of the good feed barleys out here. It’s going to be good for our growers.”

Planning, new markets top Washington potato leader’s priorities Thu, 2 Jul 2015 09:31:34 -0400 Matw Weaver The Washington State Potato Commission will concentrate on long-range planning this year, its new chairman says.

The commission recently named Mike Dodds as its new chairman. Dodds is raw material and environmental manager for Basic American Foods in Moses Lake, Wash. He previously chaired the commission’s research committee. He succeeds Nelson Cox, a potato farmer from Warden, Wash.

Dodds said the commission will use this year to develop its long-range planning and review how well it adhered to the plan developed in 2010.

“We’ll get together with the growers of the state and hopefully come up with a prioritized list of things they’d like us to work on,” he said.

The commission typically develops a long-range plan every five years, Dodds said.

Priorities include developing new markets, a constant need, he said. Domestic potato consumption is declining per capita, and growth opportunities seem to be in Asian markets.

“We need to capitalize on that,” Dodds said.

The potato industry felt the effects of a labor dispute between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and West Coast port district container terminal operators, which included a labor slowdown in the fall of 2014, creating a backlog of potato and potato product shipments.

“It left nobody unscathed,” Dodds said. “It impacted every facet of the potato industry, whether it was fresh, dehydrated or french fries. The concern is, we certainly don’t want to have to go through this again in another four or five years. But without legislation, we could be up against the same thing.”

Dodds said advocating for growers’ needs is the commission’s job. He hopes to see potato farmers continue to participate and communicate with the agency.

Other members on the commission’s executive committee include first vice chairman Rex Calloway of Quincy, second vice chairman Stacy Kniveton of Pasco, secretary Roger Hawley of Burlington, treasurer Mike Madsen of Plymouth and Cox as past chair.

According to a commission press release, Bob Halverson of Toppenish, Frank Martinez of Warden and Nick Johnson of Connell are stepping down from their board positions. Halverson served on the commission for 15 years, Martinez for 12 years and Johnson for six years. Martinez was the first Hispanic chairman of the commission.

Portland daily grain report Thu, 2 Jul 2015 09:50:21 -0400 Portland, Ore., Thursday, July 2, 2015

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 July wheat futures trended mixed, from 3.50 cents lower to 2.50 cents per bushel higher compared to Wednesday’s closes, with the

greatest decline in Minneapolis and the advance in Kansas City. September wheat futures trended 0.25 of a cent to 2.75 cents per bushel lower in early trading.

Bids for US 1 Soft White Wheat delivered to Portland in unit trains and barges for July delivery were not available for ordinary protein.

Bids for guaranteed maximum 10.5 protein were not well tested in early trading but were indicated as steady to lower compared to Wednesday’s noon bids. Some exporters were not issuing bids for nearby delivery.

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 lower compared to Wednesday’s noon bids.

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 lower compared to Wednesday’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 trended higher compared to Wednesday’s noon bids.

Bids for US 1 Yellow Soybeans delivered full coast in 110 car shuttle trains were not available in early trading.

All wheat bids in dollars per bushel

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

Ordinary protein

Jul NA

Aug NC 6.4500-6.8225

Sep 6.4500-6.8225

Oct 6.4500-6.8575

Nov 6.4500-6.8575

Guaranteed maximum 10.5 pct protein

Jul 7.0225-7.2700

Aug NC 7.0725-7.4225

Sep 7.0725-7.4225

Oct 7.1075-7.5075

Nov 7.1075-7.5075

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

Ordinary protein

Jul NA

Guaranteed maximum 10.5 pct protein

Jul 7.0225-7.2700

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


Ordinary protein 6.3525-6.5225

11 pct protein 6.4325-6.6225

11.5 pct protein

Jul 6.4725-6.6725

Aug NC 6.4725-6.6725

Sep 6.5725-6.6725

Oct 6.8100-6.8600

Nov 6.8300-6.8600

12 pct protein 6.4725-6.7225

13 pct protein 6.4725-6.8225

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 6.4525-6.5925

14 pct protein

Jul 7.4525-7.5925

Aug NC 7.4925-7.5925

Sep 7.4925-7.5925

15 pct protein 8.0525-8.1925

16 pct protein 8.6525-8.7925

US 2 Yellow Corn

Shuttle trains-Delivered full coast Pacific Northwest-BN

Jul 5.0550-5.1250

Aug/Sep 5.0550-5.1250

Oct 5.1775-5.1975

Nov 5.1975-5.2075

Dec 5.1975-5.2075

US 1 Yellow Soybeans

Shuttle trains-Delivered full coast Pacific Northwest-BN

Sep NA

Oct 11.0350-11.2350

Nov 11.1350-11.2650

Dec 11.1875-11.2875

Jan 11.2075-11.2875

US 2 Heavy White Oats 3.8475

Not well tested.

Exporter Bids Portland Rail/Barge May 2015

Averages in Dollars per bushel

US 1 Soft White by Unit Trains and Barges 5.9400

US 1 Hard Red Winter (Ordinary protein) 6.0300

US 1 Hard Red Winter (11.5% protein) 6.1600

US 1 Dark Northern Spring (14% protein) 7.4500

Source: USDA Market News Service, Portland, OR

Northern New England states fight invasive bugs Thu, 2 Jul 2015 09:14:51 -0400 RIK STEVENS CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Ever vigilant, researchers in Northern New England have added more tools to help them track the spread of an invasive beetle that has destroyed millions of ash trees.

Dangling this year from tree branches all over New Hampshire and Vermont are horizontal chains of bright green funnels designed to attract and catch the emerald ash borer. The traps join the now-familiar boxy, purple traps that have been hung for the past few years as the beetle has spread relentlessly eastward.

Forest stewards throughout Northern New England are taking other steps to track and reduce the spread of the beetle, including a ban on moving firewood from state to state and, in some cases, more than a few miles within the same state. The July Fourth weekend is a busy time for campers so forest rangers and campgrounds will be reminding visitors to buy local firewood.

The emerald ash borer is a native of China that likely hitchhiked to the U.S. hidden in wood packing materials. It has destroyed millions of trees since being discovered in Michigan in 2002 and is now known to be in 25 states, including New Hampshire.

Out-of-state firewood has been banned in New Hampshire since 2011 unless it’s been heat-treated or is accompanied by a compliance agreement from counties in Vermont or Maine that are allowed to move firewood into New Hampshire.

Jeremy Sprince, executive director of the New Hampshire Campground Owner’s Association, said his 144-member campgrounds group provides informational pamphlets and remind visitors to burn only local wood.

“I think our members are well aware of the issues,” he said. “All of them are using local firewood, nothing from the outside.”

Maine hasn’t seen an emerald ash borer yet, but the state is working to control other potentially devastating invasive insects and keeping a close watch to see if others enter the state. Charlene Donahue, forest entomologist for the state, said Maine is on the lookout for the emerald ash borer and Asian longhorned beetle, a bug of particular concern because its favorite host is the maple, which it can kill.

The Maine Forest Service was sending staff to key visitor centers on Thursday and Friday to check for — and confiscate — illegally imported firewood and educate people about the state’s ban.

Vermont has proposed a ban on untreated out-of-state firewood. The state is most concerned about the Asian longhorned beetle, said Barbara Schultz, the state’s Forest Health Program manager. She said there’s a chance the state will never see that beetle but expects to get the emerald ash borer because it’s surrounded by states and provinces that are infested.

Vermont is monitoring a particular wasp that preys on beetles like the emerald ash borer, and more than 140 volunteers have been trained to be forest pest detectors.

Stephen Lavallee, acting state plant health director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in White River Junction, Vermont, said scientists found the emerald ash borers were as attracted to bright green as they were purple so after a pilot program last year, they added the new traps to try to capture more bugs.

When an area shows evidence of the beetles, Lavallee said, the monitoring scales back. Once the bugs are in place, scientists know they can’t wipe them out, only work to limit the spread.


Associated Press writers Lisa Rathke in Montpelier, Vermont, and Patrick Whittle in Portland, Maine, contributed to this report.

Four Arizona counties investigated are free of avian flu so far Thu, 2 Jul 2015 08:34:56 -0400 CASA GRANDE, Ariz. (AP) — Four Arizona counties have been found to have no signs of Avian influenza even after possibly receiving contaminated birds or eggs.

The Casa Grande Dispatch reports the Arizona Department of Agriculture launched an investigation June 11 into Pinal, Mohave, Santa Cruz and Yavapai counties for possible contamination. Arizona Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Laura Oxley said Monday that there were still no detections of Avian influenza in the state.

The investigation into the sites began after they received 13 quail and chickens and 40 quail and partridge eggs from an Iowa facility, where birds later tested positive.

Investigators seized eggs and destroyed them, and all of the live birds tested negative.

Oxley said live birds will continue to be tested for at least a couple more weeks.

Nebraska governor criticizes new federal water rule Thu, 2 Jul 2015 08:33:05 -0400 GRANT SCHULTE LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts blasted a new Obama administration rule on Wednesday that gives federal authorities the power to regulate more streams, tributaries and wetlands.

Ricketts called the rule “terrible” during a news conference at the Capitol with a farm industry leader, water regulators and a representative for the state’s golf courses. Nebraska is one of 13 states challenging the law in federal court.

“We know it’s important to make sure we have the water resources to be able to grow our state,” Ricketts said. “We take that very seriously. We don’t need the EPA looking over the shoulders of our farmers, ranchers and our companies.”

The waters affected would be only those with a “direct and significant” connection to larger bodies of water downstream that are already protected, the EPA has said, and that the aim is to protect the waters from pollution and development and to safeguard drinking water. The rule goes into effect on Aug. 28.

Opponents have formed a coalition, Common Sense Nebraska, which includes 30 groups representing agriculture, business and local governments. The groups say the rule weakens local control of water and could impose costly and time-consuming permitting requirements on land owners.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers announced the rule in May in response to calls from the U.S. Supreme Court and Congress to clarify which waterways are protected under the federal Clean Water Act.

A spokesman for the EPA’s regional office in Lenexa, Kansas, declined to comment on the lawsuit but issued a statement saying the rule was grounded in law and the latest science.

“About 117 million Americans — one in three people — get drinking water from streams that lacked clear protection before the rule,” the statement said. “The rule will ensure that these waters are more precisely defined and predictably determined, making permitting less costly, easier, and faster for businesses and industry, including agriculture.”

Republicans in Congress, including Nebraska Sens. Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse and Rep. Adrian Smith, have endorsed legislation to block the rules. Democratic U.S. Rep. Brad Ashford of Omaha criticized the rules as a “one size fits all” approach to federal water policy.

Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson said his group suggested changes to the agency throughout the federal rule-making process, but his concerns weren’t addressed in the final version. His group is worried the rule would impose costly permitting requirements on farmers and would create delays that prevent them from planting crops in a timely manner.

“The expense is extraordinary, and it would fall on that individual,” Nelson said.

Dean Edson, executive director of the Nebraska Association of Resources Districts, said some permits in the past have cost as much as $100,000 and taken 18 months to process. Edson’s group represents Nebraska’s natural resources districts, which regulate water usage in specific regions of the state.

Edson said farmers who want to repair their property after a flood or dig holes for new fence posts could fall under the permitting requirements.

“This rule is not about water quality,” he said. “This is about federal control over waters of states.”

Increased institutional food buying could bolster local farms Thu, 2 Jul 2015 08:30:42 -0400 Eric Mortenson PORTLAND — At Oregon Health & Science University recently, the lunch offerings included sandwiches made with organic chicken breast — locally sourced — on focaccia bread, baked locally and delivered daily. Plus salad made from local greens. Not a pre-packaged, mass-produced item in sight.

This is hospital food?

Providing minimally-processed, nutritious food at a hospital, where the clientele includes patients, doctors and nurses, medical students and visitors, seems like a solid idea. And OHSU, the teaching hospital that employs 13,700 people and has one of Oregon’s biggest economic footprints, was an early adopter of the practice.

The greater impact, however, could be to what a recent study referred to as “Ag of the Middle.” That is, the farmers, ranchers and processors who are too big to make a living selling solely at farmers’ markets and CSAs, but too small to compete at the commodity level.

The study by Ecotrust, a Portland non-profit, identified institutions as a prime market opportunity for middle-sized producers.

Ecotrust estimated Oregon’s hospitals, schools, prisons, assisted living facilities and other institutions serve 40 million meals a year.

Institutional food service departments have immense buying power and purchase large quantities, the report pointed out. Even a relatively small tweak toward buying more Oregon grown and processed products would have a “significant ripple effect across the domestic food system,” the Ecotrust report said.

It paid off for a pair of Northeast Oregon cattle ranches. Carman Ranch in Wallowa, in partnership with McClaren Ranch, sells about 1,000 pounds of beef and bones a week to OHSU. The ranches take about five cows a week to a processor in Brownsville, 90 miles south of Portland, and sell the hospital 500 pounds of ground beef, 200 pounds of rounds, 100 pounds of steaks and 200 pounds of bones for soup and broth.

Cory Carman, a fourth generation cattle rancher, said the relationship has been “phenomenal.” OHSU accounts for 20 to 25 percent of the ranch’s annual sales and is by far the ranch’s biggest account, she said. The business would be “much smaller” without OHSU’s consistent demand for quality and quantity.

She said producers pursuing such relationships must understand they require patience, collaboration and flexibility on both ends.

“The biggest lesson is having that anchor customer,” Carman said.

Carman said OHSU approached her out of the blue when it was looking for grass-fed beef to serve the thousands who are at “Pill Hill,” as the campus overlooking Portland is known, every day.

Fernando Divina, OHSU’s executive chef, said the complex counts about 10,000 food transactions a day at nine outlets within the facility, including cafe and snack kiosk sales and 1,200 meals delivered to patients’ rooms. OHSU’s annual budget for food and beverages is about $5 million, and the hospital made a conscious decision to walk its health talk by seeking out local producers, preferably organic.

“We want to buy everything regionally, if possible,” Divina said. “That’s our goal.”

It isn’t a simple process.

Scott Cochrane, OHSU’s food purchasing agent, said large institutions such as schools often have tight budgets. It’s often cheaper for them to buy the volume they need from large distributors. To purchase in bulk locally at a competitive price point, institutions may have to ask multiple growers to aggregate their production.

“I know they all want to, but there’s a point where they can’t cut their own throat,” Cochrane said. “There’s a lot of willing participants on the outside of the circle who can’t get in.”

Eecole Copen, OHSU’s sustainable foods program coordinator, acknowledged it takes more work to buy food from smaller producers.

“You have to commit to being OK with dealing with multiple vendors,” she said. “The whole system is based on willingness.”

She and others refer to this type of purchasing as a larger version of Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA. It’s ISA in this case: Institutional Supported Agriculture.

Copen said the payoff is a strengthened regional food system.

“We need more farmers,” she said. “That’s about food security, growing the local economy, jobs, income.”

OHSU’s first foray into the local food scene was establishing a farmers’ market on campus. It’s now in its ninth year and serves as an incubator for growers who eventually reach the point where they can sell wholesale to OHSU’s food services department.

The idea isn’t just a Portland foodie thing. Good Shepherd Medical Center in Hermiston, about 180 miles east of Portland, buys vegetables from Finley’s Fresh Produce, berries from another local grower, and pork and chicken from suppliers across the border in Washington. All of the beef purchased by the hospital is raised within 50 miles.

Nancy Gummer, Good Shepherd’s nutrition services and diabetes education director, said she began buying locally about 10 years ago.

Gummer said she wanted to quit buying meat from animals treated with antibiotics or raised in confined feeding operations. It took 10 years to find chicken she felt comfortable feeding hospital patients, staff and visitors.

In addition to buying local, Gummer avoids purchasing products that contain artificial colors, flavors or other additives. Her food budget is about $500,000 annually.

“We feel what you eat has the biggest impact on your health,” she said. “Food that’s really healthy for humans is going to be grown in healthier soil, and handled and processed in a way that has less impact on the environment.”

Gummer said.

Increased institutional buying of locally grown and processed food can reshape the food system, said Amanda Oborne, vice president of food and farms for Ecotrust and the lead author of the “Ag of the Middle” report.

Producer and buyer have to make some adjustments, however, Oborne said.

Institutions have to be flexible enough to partner with farmers and “take what they’ve got when they’ve got it” and pay promptly, she said.

They also should increase their frozen storage space so they can buy in bulk when things are in season and use them over time.

Farmers “have to be able to think like a bigger operation,” she said. They need proper insurance coverage and must comply with food safety regulations.

“Those are barriers for institutional buyers,” Oborne said. “That liability related stuff has to be in order.”

Institutions can’t afford to have employees standing around chopping, slicing and dicing vegetables, she added, and producers should look for creative ways to provide some of that minimal processing.

To fill big institutional orders, farmers can coordinate crop planning and combine production with neighbors, she said.

“This is a partnership and we problem solve together,” she said. “That’s the mindset to bring to it.”

Bangladesh-based poverty group founder wins World Food Prize Thu, 2 Jul 2015 08:29:40 -0400 DAVID PITT DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A man who created a nonprofit organization credited with helping more than 150 million people out of poverty was named the winner of the 2015 World Food Prize on Wednesday.

Fazle Hasan Abed, of Bangladesh, created BRAC, the organization originally known as Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, as a temporary relief organization to help the country recover from the 1970 typhoon that killed about 500,000 people and the subsequent war fought in 1971 to win independence from Pakistan. Bangladesh was once listed as the second poorest country in the world.

BRAC has grown into one of the world’s largest nongovernmental organizations focused on alleviating poverty — estimated to have helped more than 150 million people out of poverty in Africa and Asia and is expanding efforts to 10 additional countries.

“Poverty is a multidimensional thing. It’s not just lack of income or lack of employment, it’s also lack of opportunity, lack of education, lack of opportunity for health care and so on,” Abed, 79, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from Bangladesh.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the prize on Wednesday at the State Department in Washington.

The World Food Prize was created by Nobel laureate Norman Borlaug in 1986 to recognize scientists and others who have improved the quality and availability of food. The foundation that awards the $250,000 prize is based in Des Moines, Iowa.

World Food Prize President Kenneth Quinn said the ability of Abed, who was knighted in London in February 2010, to successfully transition BRAC it into a global relief organization was the key to his win.

“What distinguishes him is the incredibly difficult environment in which he has built now the largest, and some would say, the most effective and far reaching nonprofit organization anywhere in the world with more than 100,000 employees,” Quinn said. “It’s his emphasis on reaching to the very poor those who have great food insecurity and who face the most difficult path out of poverty.”

The initial focus of BRAC, Abed told the AP, was on alleviating high child and infant mortality rates by providing social services including health care. He also saw the need to empower women and get them to see they could also contribute to the national economy, so he helped teach them to farm efficiently and grow surplus crops to sell.

“Sir Fazle’s and his organization’s recognition that engaging women in STEAM fields — science, technology, engineering, agriculture, and math — benefits our local and global communities is a vision that we share at USDA,” Vilsack said.

BRAC estimates more than a billion people live at a poverty level of less than $1.25 a day but hundreds of millions of others live on less than half that amount and are considered in extreme poverty.

The organization also has created a pilot program that helps those in extreme poverty work their way out; it’ll be used in eight other countries to see if results can be replicated. Participants in receive a weekly stipend so they have enough money to eliminate the need to beg or work at menial labor to survive. A savings account and financial literacy training helps teach them to manage money, and a one-time grant provides a productive asset — such as a cow, goats or chickens — as a means to work toward self-sufficiency.

“In many countries, poor people are not seen as a solution to the problem but the problem. Poor people can be organized and become the solution to the poverty themselves,” he said. “All we need to do is provide them opportunities and conditions and give them the tools.

“The hard work is done by the poor themselves to defeat poverty.”

The United Nations Development Program reports Bangladesh has reduced poverty from 56.7 percent in 1991-1992 to 31.5 percent in 2010, the latest year data is available.

Abed will be awarded the World Food Prize at a ceremony in October in Des Moines.

Drought reduces hydroelectric output Wed, 1 Jul 2015 16:20:21 -0400 ZANE SPARLING A drought doesn’t just mean less water. It also means less power.

On the Columbia and Snake rivers, where infrequent rains and an almost nonexistent snowpack have led to parched waterways and dangerous fire conditions, the amount of hydroelectric energy generated by government dams has dropped by almost one-third.

Last May, 23 dams on the Columbia and its major tributaries produced 8.59 million megawatts of power, according to data from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

This year, during the same timeframe, the dams generated just 5.78 million megawatts.

“Water is our fuel on the hydro system, and there’s just less of it,” Bonneville Power Administration spokesman Joel Scruggs said. “We’re prepared to handle the dry year and we’re hopeful that we’ll see more water. Otherwise we’ll manage accordingly.”

The BPA, a federal agency in charge marketing electricity produced by the dams, provides almost 35 percent of the power in the region.

The system’s portfolio includes major producers such as the Dalles Dam on the Columbia, where the water flow has dropped to roughly 145,000 cubic feet per second, from 235,000 cubic feet this time last year.

That’s primarily due to the lack of snowfall, according to Bill Proctor, chief of hydrologic engineering and power for the northwestern division of the Corps.

It’s not the snow you see on peaks —t hat sort of glacial ice is around all year. Instead, Proctor said, rivers are fed by runoff, usually rain or melted snow. And while precipitation fed the Pacific Northwest river system in the spring, the lack of snowfall at lower elevations has created the second worst runoff situation here in the last 55 years.

So on the Snake, one of Columbia’s major tributaries, streamflow has dropped to an estimated 25,000 cubic feet per second, compared to a normal flow of 54,000. It’s expected to stay that way through the end of the summer.

Both the Corps and the BPA say the drop in power production won’t lead to an immediate rate increase for consumers and businesses.

“The BPA doesn’t change rates every day,” Proctor said. “Their purchase price doesn’t affect your price today. But the rates you’re paying now will affect the rates in the future… when (the BPA) recalculates rates.”

Karl Kanbergs, team leader for the reservoir control center, agreed.

“When resources are scarce, the price goes up. That’s true for anything.”

Scruggs, the BPA spokesperson, said the agency sets rates every two years. He said a prolonged, multiyear drought is a possibility, not a certainty.

“I don’t think we want to play with hypotheticals. We’re concerned with managing the system right now,” he said. “When you’re dependent on the weather, there’s always a lot of uncertainty.”

Barley states respond to Idaho’s invitation to cooperate Wed, 1 Jul 2015 10:34:35 -0400 Sean Ellis BOISE — Major barley producing states are responding favorably to the Idaho Barley Commission’s invitation to work closely on important issues that affect growers in all the states.

“We’ve had some excellent responses,” IBC Administrator Kelly Olson said about a letter the commission sent to other states. “It has yielded a lot of new engagement.”

Idaho is the nation’s top barley producing state.

The letter invited the states to work together on research and market development issues and asked for input “on ideas and strategies that you believe will help our specialty grain industry zero in on untapped opportunities and tackle rising challenges.”

According to the letter, some of the Idaho barley industry’s priorities include “investing in more collaborative research across state lines” and “ensuring a more competitive transportation infrastructure to move barley and malt more competitively to markets across the country and in neighboring markets in Latin America.”

Idaho’s industry also sees an opportunity to cooperate on “diversifying market channels for barley, particularly in the largely untapped domestic human food market.

“We look forward to working with you on these and other opportunities that will help boost barley production in the U.S.,” the letter concludes.

In response, Washington Grain Commission CEO Glen Squires sent the IBC an email that said his group “is encouraged by the opportunities to collaborate, specifically in the area of barley research. We look forward to engaging in a strategy on how we can work together to maximize efficiencies for barley.”

“We look forward to working with the Idaho crew,” stated an email response from Marv Zutz, executive director of the Minnesota Barley Research Promotion Council.

Barley is a relatively small crop and it makes sense to combine efforts on projects that will benefit growers in all the states, said East Idaho farmer Scott Brown, who spearheaded the IBC’s outreach effort.

“We want to take all of our resources, combine them and spend time working together instead of individually,” he said. The states “do work on a lot of the same things. If it’s a problem in Montana and North Dakota, it’s probably a problem in Idaho.”

Olson said the outreach effort is a priority for the IBC and has resulted in particular in a lot of new engagement with Montana, which borders Idaho and shares a lot of the same barley cropping and rotation practices.

Barley is mostly a domestic crop and “to reach more markets and improve the bottom line for all barley farmers, we have to work together,” Collin Watters, executive vice president of the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee, told the Capital Press. “There’s definitely strength in numbers. I’m really looking forward to working together.”

Portland daily grain report Wed, 1 Jul 2015 10:10:07 -0400 Portland, Ore., Wednesday, July 1, 2015

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 July wheat futures trended 12.50 to 29 cents per bushel lower compared to Tuesday’s closes. September wheat futures trended 19 to 28.75 cents per bushel lower in early trading.

Bids for US 1 Soft White Wheat delivered to Portland in unit trains and barges for July delivery were not available for ordinary protein.

Bids for guaranteed maximum 10.5 protein were not well tested in early trading but were indicated as steady to lower compared to Tuesday’s noon bids. Some exporters were not issuing bids for nearby delivery.

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 lower compared to Tuesday’s noon bids.

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 lower compared to Tuesday’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 trended lower compared to Tuesday’s noon bids.

Bids for US 1 Yellow Soybeans delivered full coast in 110 car shuttle trains were not available in early trading.

All wheat bids in dollars per bushel

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

Ordinary protein

Jul NA

Aug NC 6.4500-6.8200

Sep 6.4500-6.8200

Oct 6.4500-6.8575

Nov 6.4500-6.8575

Guaranteed maximum 10.5 pct protein

Jul 7.0200-7.5100

Aug NC 7.0700-7.5100

Sep 7.0700-7.5100

Oct 7.1075-7.5075

Nov 7.1075-7.5075

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

Ordinary protein

Jul NA

Guaranteed maximum 10.5 pct protein

Jul 7.0200-7.5100

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


Ordinary protein 6.3125-6.5125

11 pct protein 6.3925-6.5925

11.5 pct protein

Jul 6.4325-6.6325

Aug NC 6.4325-6.6325

Sep 6.6325

Oct 6.7725-6.8725

Nov 6.8225-6.8925

12 pct protein 6.4325-6.6825

13 pct protein 6.4325-6.7825

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 6.4325-6.5825

14 pct protein

Jul 7.4325-7.5825

Aug NC 7.4825-7.5825

Sep 7.4825-7.5825

15 pct protein 8.0325-8.1825

16 pct protein 8.6325-8.7825

US 2 Yellow Corn

Shuttle trains-Delivered full coast Pacific Northwest-BN

Jul 4.9825-5.0525

Aug/Sep 4.9625-5.0525

Oct 5.1075-5.1475

Nov 5.1275-5.1375

Dec 5.1275-5.1375

US 1 Yellow Soybeans

Shuttle trains-Delivered full coast Pacific Northwest-BN

Sep NA

Oct 11.0050-11.2050

Nov 11.1050-11.2050

Dec 11.1500-11.2500

Jan 11.2000-11.2500

US 2 Heavy White Oats 3.8475

Not well tested.

Exporter Bids Portland Rail/Barge May 2015

Averages in Dollars per bushel

US 1 Soft White by Unit Trains and Barges 5.9400

US 1 Hard Red Winter (Ordinary protein) 6.0300

US 1 Hard Red Winter (11.5% protein) 6.1600

US 1 Dark Northern Spring (14% protein) 7.4500

Source: USDA Market News Service, Portland, OR

Wheat acres up, corn and soybeans down in South Dakota Wed, 1 Jul 2015 08:30:35 -0400 SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota farmers this year have planted more wheat but less corn and soybeans.

The Agriculture Department says in its annual acreage report that spring wheat, winter wheat and durum wheat acres all are up this year in South Dakota, while soybean acres are down 1 percent and corn acres are down 10 percent.

South Dakota farmers also planted more oil sunflowers, oats, barley and flaxseed than last year. Acres of sorghum, proso millet, dry beans and alfalfa hay were unchanged

A look at wildfire hotspots around the West Wed, 1 Jul 2015 08:59:40 -0400 The People returned to find their homes reduced to rubble following a destructive wildfire in Washington state, while crews battled blazes in California and Nevada.

Here’s a look at hotspots around the West:



Just days after a wildfire near Wenatchee destroyed homes and forced evacuations, a new wild land blaze in Washington state is causing problems and prompting people to flee their homes.

Grant County officials tell Spokane’s Spokesman-Review that the blaze has forced some rural residents near Quincy to evacuate and it burned five structures late Tuesday and early Wednesday.

There was no immediate word on the size of the blaze, the number of evacuated homes, or what types of structures burned.

The blaze near Quincy erupted just days after a wildfire in the Wenatchee area destroyed homes and prompted evacuations.

By Tuesday evening, fire officials reported progress against the Wenatchee fire that has burned more than 4 square miles on the north side of the city, even as they cautioned that more hot, dry weather lies ahead for the July 4 holiday. The fire was 47 percent contained, up from 10 percent Tuesday morning, fire spokeswoman Kay McKellar said.

Vern Smith was among those in Wenatchee searching for something to salvage after a fast-moving wildfire destroyed two dozen houses and several businesses in the central Washington city.

Smith pointed to what had been his garage.

“You can’t tell from here, but that’s a brand new truck,” he said, looking at the burned vehicle.

The fire, which began Sunday, was the worst so far this season as the state struggles with a severe drought. Mountain snowpack is extremely low, and about one-fifth of the state’s rivers and streams are at record low levels.

Elsewhere in central Washington, a wildfire has burned across nearly 5½ square miles of sagebrush and grass south of the small town of Mansfield, about 40 miles northeast of Wenatchee. That fire was reported 50 percent contained by Tuesday night and no longer threatened any homes.

Also in Washington, authorities say multiple small brush fires that slowed southbound traffic on Interstate 5 north of Seattle were likely set by arsonists.



Firefighters made progress against wildfires burning throughout California but weather was becoming a potential problem as a heat wave built in some regions and the threat of thunderstorms, gusty winds and lightning persisted elsewhere.

A 320-acre blaze that erupted outside the Santa Barbara County city of Lompoc on Monday and forced 1,200 people to flee was three-quarters contained and evacuations were lifted, fire Capt. Dave Zaniboni said Tuesday.

The fire broke out behind the Spanish colonial-era La Purisima Mission, but the structures in what is now a state historic park escaped damage. The cause of the fire was under investigation.

In the inland region east of Los Angeles, a 49-square-mile wildfire in the San Bernardino National Forest was 60 percent contained. Firefighters worked on hotspots, and some crews were being inserted into wilderness areas for three- or four-day stays to reduce travel time to and from fire lines.



In northern Nevada, crews battled a lightning-caused wildfire.

The Nevada Division of Forestry said Tuesday that a fire was burning sage and grass in a 7-square-mile area on private land north of Interstate 80, about halfway between Battle Mountain and Elko.

There were no immediate threats to buildings or people.

Kraft shareholders approve sale of company to Heinz Wed, 1 Jul 2015 08:57:36 -0400 NORTHFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Kraft shareholders have approved the sale of the company to ketchup maker H.J. Heinz, creating one of the world’s largest food companies with annual revenue of about $28 billion.

Heinz’s owners, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway and the Brazilian investment firm 3G Capital engineered the deal, first announced in March, and will control 51 percent of the new Kraft Heinz Co.

The combined company will have in its stable brands that, in addition to Kraft and Heinz, include Jell-O, Oscar Mayer, Velveeta and Ore-Ida.

In May Buffett said during an appearance on CNBC that Coca-Cola, Heinz and other companies will respond to a shift in the U.S. to healthier foods, but predicted that the appetite for long-time favorites made by Kraft and Heinz will not fade.

Berkshire Hathaway is the biggest shareholder in Coca-Cola.

Kraft shareholders will receive stock in the combined company and a special cash dividend of approximately $10 billion, or $16.50 per share. Each share of Kraft will be converted into one share of the new The Kraft Heinz Co.

Kraft Foods Group Inc. is based in Northfield, Illinois, and H.J. Heinz Holding Corp. is based in Pittsburgh.

The transaction will close on Thursday.

The new company will be listed under the ticker symbol “KHC” on the Nasdaq.

Missouri Supreme Court upholds farming, gun rights measures Wed, 1 Jul 2015 08:10:31 -0400 JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri’s Supreme Court has upheld two constitutional amendments guaranteeing the right to farm and the right to bear arms.

The judges on Tuesday issued an opinion saying that summaries of the proposals on ballots last year were fair.

Critics complained that the measures misled voters and would have unintended consequences. For example, some said they could be interpreted to allow convicted felons to own weapons or grant more rights to foreign agriculture companies.

The judges also said that ballot language can be challenged even after an election is over, setting precedent in Missouri.

Attorneys representing the state of Missouri had argued that opponents of the measures brought them to court too late.

Voters approved both measures in August.

Federal judge rules Maui County GMO ban invalid Wed, 1 Jul 2015 08:08:52 -0400 AUDREY McAVOY HONOLULU (AP) — A federal judge ruled Tuesday that a Maui County ban on the cultivation of genetically engineered crops is pre-empted by federal and state law and invalid.

The county’s ordinance creating the prohibition exceeded the county’s authority, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Susan Oki Mollway said in her order.

The county, which is a major center for research on genetically engineered crops, will abide by the decision, spokesman Rod Antone said. Monsanto Co. and Dow Chemical Co. unit Agrigenetics Inc. both have research farms in the county.

The judge stressed that her order addresses only the legal question of county authority. “No portion of this ruling says anything about whether GE organisms are good or bad or about whether the court thinks the substance of the ordinance would be beneficial to the county,” she said.

Maui voters passed the ordinance when they approved a ballot initiative last November. The measure imposes a moratorium on the growing of genetically engineered crops until scientific studies are conducted on their safety and benefits. The ordinance would only allow the moratorium to be lifted after a vote by the Maui County Council.

Mark Sheehan, one of five citizens who sponsored the ballot initiative, said his group will appeal the order. He expressed disappointment that Mollway ruled on what he called procedural issues instead of addressing the substance of their argument.

The ordinance was specifically written to address issues not found in state statute, he said. Further, the law requires the county to protect the health of the environment and the public, said Sheehan, who is a member of the group Sustainable Hawaiian Agriculture for the Keiki and the Aina Movement, or SHAKA.

“That was lost on the judge, so we will have to move along and have to find justice for the constitutional rights of the people of Maui at another level,” he said.

Mike Carroll, an attorney for SHAKA, said he believed Mollway’s opinion was overreaching.

Monsanto said in a statement after the ruling that it welcomes “the opportunity to continue to have conversations” with the community.

“We’re listening and we’ve heard the concerns some people have about GMOs and today’s farming practices. Our commitment to ongoing dialogue with our neighbors doesn’t stop today,” said John Purcell, vice president and Monsanto’s lead for business and technology in Hawaii.

Hawaii’s year-round warm weather makes the islands a favorite research spot for companies that use genetic engineering to develop new types of corn and other crops. The weather allows researchers to grow more generations of crops and accelerate their development of new varieties.

Monsanto has two farms in Maui County, on Maui and Molokai islands. Agrigenetics, which does business as Mycogen Seeds, has a farm on Molokai.

There has been little scientific evidence to prove that foods grown from engineered seeds are less safe than their conventional counterparts. But fears persist in Hawaii and elsewhere. In the islands, these concerns are compounded by worries about the companies’ use of pesticides.

Kauai and Hawaii counties last year adopted their own measures regulating GMO crops and pesticides. U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Kurren struck them down, saying they were superseded by state law. Supporters are appealing Kurren’s ruling on Kauai’s law. The Hawaii County Council in December voted to appeal Kurren’s order on their law.

U.S. potato acreage up 1.9 percent, NASS reports Tue, 30 Jun 2015 14:51:57 -0400 John O’Connell IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — Idaho potato industry officials say they aren’t too concerned about recent reports estimating a slight increase in planted acres, both in the state and nationwide.

U.S. potato growers planted 955,300 acres this season, — a 1.9 percent increase from the 936,900 acres they planted in 2014, according to June 30 estimates from USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Idaho’s crop, at 325,000 acres, is up 4,000 acres from last season, according to the report.

USDA estimates Washington state growers planted 170,000 acres, up 5,000 acres from last season. Oregon growers held steady at 39,000 acres and California growers planted 7,500 acres, down 1,000 acres from 2014.

The NASS estimates are in line with numbers also released June 30 by United Potato Growers of Idaho, which sent teams driving 14,000 miles to physically count potato fields. According to UPGI, Idaho growers planted 323,956 acres, up from 321,462 acres last season.

Based on the weakness of the fresh potato market during the past two seasons and its sensitivity to higher yields, University of Idaho Extension economist Paul Patterson anticipated reports would show a slight decrease in Idaho’s planted acres.

“The market is signaling for people to plant fewer potatoes, which typically should be a reduction, not an increase,” Patterson said.

Patterson said other indicators that a decrease was in order include the strength of the dollar hampering exports, recent efforts by Europeans to expand potato markets and the lingering effects of the labor slow-down at West Coast ports.

However, IPGA officials say both their numbers and the NASS estimates show the Idaho increases are coming from southwestern counties, which produce spuds mostly to fill processing contracts, rather than flooding the open market.

According to IPGA’s count, growers in counties associated with fresh production planted 1,717 fewer acres this season, while planting in counties associated with processing was up by 4,402 acres.

Randy Hardy, an Oakley, Idaho, grower who chairs the fresh cooperative Sun Valley Potatoes, explained Ore-Ida moved many of the additional processed acres into Idaho from Oregon to be closer to its plant in Ontario, Ore. Though the other major processing companies reduced their Idaho contracts slightly, based on the port issue, Hardy said they’re “currently running hard now. They’re swamped.”

Hardy believes the acreage report is “as neutral as it could possibly be” and believes Idaho’s current spell of temperatures peaking above 100 degrees will ultimately have a greater impact. In 2007, when hot temperatures also arrived at about the same growth stage, Hardy said plants lost tubers, and yields were down. He said early digs in the Rupert area have confirmed reduced tuber counts, though there’s still ample time for plants to rebound.

Dan Hargraves, executive director with Southern Idaho Potato Cooperative, added, “I just hope we don’t have terrible quality because of the heat.”

Regardless of the crop profile, the Idaho Potato Commission will tailor an appropriate marketing plan, said IPC President and CEO Frank Muir.

“I do believe there will be challenges from the heat with this crop,” Muir said.

PGG announces new marketing agreement to strengthen selling price Tue, 30 Jun 2015 20:58:48 -0400 GEORGE PLAVENEO Media Group When it comes to marketing and selling wheat, Pendleton Grain Growers is banking on greater strength in numbers.

PGG recently announced it will join a growing alliance of Northwest grain cooperatives to improve their overall market access and fetch more competitive bids for members across Eastern Oregon and Washington.

The agreement with McCoy Grain Terminal LLC, a trading company based in Colfax, Wash., lumps PGG’s 10 million to 17 million bushel grain handle under one partnership that will market 50 million to 60 million bushels.

At that volume, wheat can be blended and offered to exporters in larger packages for potentially more money, said Jason Middleton, director of grain operations for PGG.

“By that, we’re able to go out for a better bid,” Middleton said.

A better bid means a better bottom line for the co-op, which gets passed down to members, Middleton said.

McCoy Grain Terminal started as a joint venture in 2012 between Cooperative Agricultural Producers of Rosalia, Washington, and Pacific Northwest Farmers Cooperative of Genesee, Idaho. Together, they built and co-own a $17 million grain handling facility just outside of Rosalia, a small farm town in the Palouse region of Washington.

Last year, McCoy Grain Terminal added Mid-Columbia Producers of Moro as a partner to boost marketing capabilities. Now with PGG in the fold, the company can market grain from more than 70 countryside elevators and eight river terminals — three on the Snake River, and five on the Columbia River.

Bud Riedner, general manager of McCoy Grain Terminal, said the agreement with PGG provides better collaboration during the 2015 harvest season, which is already expected to be a down due to hot, dry weather.

Indeed, Middleton said the partnership should pull together the most complete information about markets and conditions throughout the region, from The Dalles to Pendleton and Eastern Washington and Idaho up to Canada.

“Information is the most valuable thing you can have in the grain business,” Middleton said. “It’s definitely a bonus to have all that information at our disposal so we can see what’s going on.”

PGG will continue to provide marketing services at their grower trading desk in Pendleton. The marketing department can be reached at 541-278-5018.

EPA to propose banning chlorpyrifos insecticide Tue, 30 Jun 2015 17:22:34 -0400 Mateusz Perkowski The federal government said June 30 that it’s planning to ban chlorpyrifos, a common insecticide, but may change its mind based on consultations with the chemical’s manufacturer.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s tentative decision to revoke all “tolerances” for residues of the insecticide on crops came in response to a request from environmental groups.

Pesticide Action Network North America and the Natural Resources Defense Council claim that exposure to the chemical causes farmworkers’ children to experience long-term health problems, among other problems.

The EPA is signaling that it may take action on chlorpyrifos but “there are many opportunities for going astray and failing to protect communities from this chemical,” said Paul Towers, spokesperson for PANNA.

The groups petitioned EPA to prohibit chlorpyrifos based on numerous risks in 2007, but the agency did not take final action on the request, arguing it would take time to study the issue.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently ordered the EPA to make up its mind, which led to the filing of the June 30 report in which the agency said it would propose canceling all chlorpyrifos tolerances by April 2016.

While it was initially inclined to deny the petition in favor of “additional risk mitigation action” to reduce hazards, the EPA is now “less confident” it can achieve that goal without formal regulatory proceedings, the report said.

In some watersheds, potential exposure to the chemical through drinking water and other pathways has prevented the agency from finding “that there is a reasonable certainty of no harm to people who would be drinking such water,” the report said.

The EPA noted that threats to agricultural employees may also justify new restrictions on the chemical.

Before proposing the revocation, though, the agency plans to conduct an in-depth assessment to see which watersheds are most vulnerable to chlorpyrifos contamination.

The EPA also plans to negotiate with the chemical’s manufacturers to potentially revise the pesticide label and avoid hazardous applications of chlorpyrifos rather than have the chemical tolerances revoked.

Towers, of PANNA, said he’s concerned that any changes agreed to by manufacturers will fall short of what’s necessary to protect human health.

“The proof will come months down the road,” he said.

REIT purchases 6,000 acres of Willamette Valley farmland Tue, 30 Jun 2015 14:13:46 -0400 Mateusz Perkowski More organic acreage is expected to become available in Oregon’s Willamette Valley due to a recent real estate transaction involving a 6,000-acre farming operation.

The owned and leased properties of Olsen Agricultural Enterprises, a family-owned company, were recently taken over by a real estate investment trust operated by the Farmland LP investment firm.

Much of that acreage will be converted to organic production and rented to other growers who hope to expand their operations.

“The biggest thing holding them back has been access to organically certified land,” said Craig Wichner, managing partner of Farmland LP.

As part of the overhaul, the firm plans to significantly reduce the amount of property devoted to grass seed — traditionally one of Olsen’s staple crops — to use it for higher-value crops.

USDA certification rules require that land be managed without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers for three years before the crops it yields can be marketed as organic.

During that transition period, Farmland LP plans to grow clover on former grass seed acreage or use the fields for livestock pasture.

The real estate investment trust, or REIT, operated by Farmland LP is not the only one dedicated to agricultural properties.

Farmland Partners Inc. owns 53,000 acres, primarily in the Central and Southern U.S., while Gladstone Land Corp. owns about 11,500 acres, mostly in California and Florida.

While these companies are focused on buying land from farmers and then leasing it back to them, Farmland LP is unique in that it invests in organic certification and infrastructure upgrades to allow for more complex and profitable operations, Wichner said.

“We very much focus on adding value,” he said.

Aside from the former Olsen properties, Farmland LP has 1,500 acres near Corvallis, Ore., and 5,700 acres near San Francisco.

In all, the REIT manages 13,500 acres, roughly 10,000 acres of which it owns, and has roughly $100 million in assets.

Though the investment firm’s main business is leasing property to other growers, it will retain the employees of Olsen Agricultural Enterprises to run a farming subsidiary called Green Spring Farms.

The structure is similar to that of the Corvallis operation, where its Vitality Farms subsidiary uses part of the land for livestock production.

The company aims for diversified livestock, seed and vegetable crops to improve productivity, Wichner said. “We have essentially more complex rotations.”

For Olsen Agricultural Enterprises, the deal with Farmland LP provides a timely way to pay off its creditors while keeping its workers employed, said Roger Olsen, the company’s managing partner.

While the terms of the transaction were not disclosed, Olsen said the sale will allow the company to pay off its $34 million in debt.

“It’s a pretty big success after what happened,” he said.

In 2011, Olsen filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, citing a major investment in its winery business at a time when the grass seed industry experienced a severe downturn.

The reorganized company emerged from bankruptcy the following year with a plan for paying off creditors.

While the firm was able to keep up on payments since then, the sale to Farmland LP provided the most straightforward way to “make everybody whole,” Olsen said.

Portland daily grain report Tue, 30 Jun 2015 09:17:08 -0400 Portland, Ore., Tuesday, June 30, 2015

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 July wheat futures trended mixed from five cents lower to 1.75 cents per bushel higher compared to Monday’s closes. September wheat futures trended 0.50 of a cent to 5.25 cents per bushel lower in early trading.

Bids for US 1 Soft White Wheat delivered to Portland in unit trains and barges for June delivery were not available for ordinary protein.

Bids for guaranteed maximum 10.5 protein were not well tested in early trading but were indicated as steady to lower compared to Monday’s noon bids. Some exporters were not issuing bids for nearby delivery.

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

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

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

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

All wheat bids in dollars per bushel US 1 Soft White Wheat - delivered by Unit Trains and Barges Ordinary protein

Jul NA

Aug NC 6.4500-6.8300

Sep 6.4500-6.8300

Oct 6.4500-6.8550

Nov 6.4500-6.8550

Guaranteed maximum 10.5 pct protein

Jul 6.9800-7.2900

Aug NC 7.0300-7.2900

Sep 7.0300-7.3800

Oct 7.0550-7.4550

Nov 7.0550-7.4550

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

Ordinary protein

Jul NA

Guaranteed maximum 10.5 pct protein

Jul 6.9800-7.2900

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


Ordinary protein 6.3900-6.4900

11 pct protein 6.4700-6.5700

11.5 pct protein

Jul 6.5100-6.6100

Aug NC 6.4600-6.6600

Sep 6.5600-6.6100

Oct 6.6850-6.7850

Nov 6.7350-6.8050

12 pct protein 6.5100-6.6100

13 pct protein 6.5100-6.7100

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 6.3950-6.5350

14 pct protein

Jul 7.3950-7.5350

Aug NC 7.4350-7.5350

Sep 7.4350-7.5350

15 pct protein 7.9950-8.1350

16 pct protein 8.5950-8.7350

US 2 Yellow Corn

Shuttle trains-Delivered full coast Pacific Northwest-BN

Jul 4.7700-4.8200

Aug/Sep 4.7400-4.8100

Oct 4.8900-4.9400

Nov 4.8900-4.9200

Dec 4.8900-4.9200

US 1 Yellow Soybeans

Shuttle trains-Delivered full coast Pacific Northwest-BN

Sep 10.7200

Oct 10.7200-10.9300

Nov 10.7200-10.9300

Dec 10.7750-10.9550

Jan 10.7750-10.9750

US 2 Heavy White Oats 3.8475

Not well tested.

Exporter Bids Portland Rail/Barge May 2015

Averages in Dollars per bushel

US 1 Soft White by Unit Trains and Barges 5.9400

US 1 Hard Red Winter (Ordinary protein) 6.0300

US 1 Hard Red Winter (11.5% protein) 6.1600

US 1 Dark Northern Spring (14% protein) 7.4500

Source: USDA Market News Service, Portland, OR

Golf fans help restock potting soil supply Tue, 30 Jun 2015 09:13:26 -0400 UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. (AP) — Thanks to the thousands of visitors who came to the U.S. Open, Tacoma will be able to replenish its supply of popular potting soil. The secret ingredient? Human waste.

KOMO-TV reports that the city of Tacoma has been making the plant mix, called TAGRO, since 1992. Workers treat human excrement with high temperatures and use bacteria to break it down into organic matter before adding sand, bark and sawdust.

With the warm weather, Pierce County ran out of the soil.

But Tacoma wastewater operations division manager Dan Thompson says the influx of waste from the Open should translate to more product than usual. TAGRO will be back on shelves Monday.

ConAgra to sell store-brand food business Tue, 30 Jun 2015 08:40:22 -0400 NEW YORK (AP) — ConAgra Foods Inc. plans to sell its faltering business that makes store-brand packaged food just two years after spending $5 billion to beef it up by buying the private-label foodmaker Ralcorp.

The company said Tuesday that it wants to concentrate on improving business for its name brands, which include Chef Boyardee, Hebrew National hot dogs, Slim Jim meat sticks and others.

The company’s shares rose $1.37, or 3.2 percent, to $44.80 in premarket trading.

“As I have intensely studied the situation in our private brands operations over the last few months, it has become clear that the time and energy the company is devoting to the Private Brands turnaround represent a suboptimal use of our resources,” CEO Sean Connolly said in a statement.

The company has been under scrutiny by activist investor Jana Partners, which disclosed a 7.2 percent stake in ConAgra earlier this month. It said the company’s results have been disappointing since it bought Ralcorp and threatened a proxy battle for seats on the ConAgra’s board of directors.

At the time of the purchase, ConAgra had said that the Ralcorp acquisition would provide the company with a larger presence in the growing private label food segment. Then-CEO Gary Rodkin called it a “logical and exciting step” for the company in a statement before the acquisition.

On Tuesday, ConAgra also reported fourth-quarter earnings that met Wall Street expectations.

During the fourth quarter, the Omaha, Nebraska-based company reported profit of $209.2 million, or 48 cents per share, marking a swing to a profit compared with a year ago. Earnings adjusted for one-time gains and costs, were 59 cents per share.

The results met Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of seven analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was also for earnings of 59 cents per share.

Revenue 3.7 percent to $4.1 billion in the period, falling short of Street forecasts. Four analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $4.14 billion.

ConAgra shares have increased 20 percent since the beginning of the year, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 index has stayed nearly flat. The stock has increased 43 percent in the last 12 months.