Capital Press | Nation/World Capital Press Tue, 28 Mar 2017 22:32:58 -0400 en Capital Press | Nation/World Trump puts anti-global warming projects on chopping block Tue, 28 Mar 2017 09:47:10 -0400 MATTHEW DALYand JILL COLVIN WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order Tuesday aimed at moving forward on his campaign pledge to unravel former President Barack Obama’s plan to curb global warming.

The order seeks to suspend, rescind or flag for review more than a half-dozen measures in an effort to boost domestic energy production in the form of fossil fuels.

As part of the roll-back, Trump will initiate a review of the Clean Power Plan, which restricts greenhouse gas emissions at coal-fired power plants. The regulation, which was the former president’s signature effort to curb carbon emissions, has been the subject of long-running legal challenges by Republican-led states and those who profit from burning oil, coal and gas.

Just as former President Barack Obama’s climate efforts were often stymied by legal challenges, environmental groups are promising to fight Trump’s pro-fossil fuel agenda in court.

Trump, who has called global warming a “hoax” invented by the Chinese, has repeatedly criticized the power-plant rule and others as an attack on American workers and the struggling U.S. coal industry. The contents of the order were outlined to reporters in a sometimes tense briefing with a senior White House official, whom aides insisted speak without attribution despite President Trump’s criticism of the use of unnamed sources in the news media.

The official at one point appeared to break with mainstream climate science, denying familiarity with widely publicized concerns about the potential adverse economic impacts of climate change, such as rising sea levels and more extreme weather.

In addition to pulling back from the Clean Power Plan, the administration will also lift a 14-month-old moratorium on new coal leases on federal lands.

The Obama administration had imposed a three-year moratorium on new federal coal leases in January 2016, arguing that the $1 billion-a-year program must be modernized to ensure a fair financial return to taxpayers and address climate change.

Trump accused his predecessor of waging a “war on coal” and boasted in a speech to Congress that he has made “a historic effort to massively reduce job-crushing regulations,” including some that threaten “the future and livelihoods of our great coal miners.”

The order will also chip away at other regulations, including scrapping language on the “social cost” of greenhouse gases. It will initiate a review of efforts to reduce the emission of methane in oil and natural gas production as well as a Bureau of Land Management hydraulic fracturing rule, to determine whether those reflect the president’s policy priorities.

It will also rescind Obama-era executive orders and memoranda, including one that addressed climate change and national security and one that sought to prepare the country for the impacts of climate change.

The administration is still in discussion about whether it intends to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Trump’s order could make it more difficult, though not impossible, for the U.S. to achieve its carbon reduction goals. The president’s promises to boost coal jobs run counter to market forces, such as U.S. utilities converting coal-fired power plants to cheaper, cleaner-burning natural gas.

Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency chief, Scott Pruitt, alarmed environmental groups and scientists earlier this month when he said he does not believe carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming. The statement is at odds with mainstream scientific consensus and Pruitt’s own agency.

The overwhelming majority of peer-reviewed studies and climate scientists agree the planet is warming, mostly due to man-made sources, including carbon dioxide, methane, halocarbons and nitrogen oxide.

The power-plant rule Trump is set to address in his order has been on hold since last year as a federal appeals court considers a challenge by coal-friendly states and corporations who call the plan an unconstitutional power grab.

Opponents say the plan will kill coal-mining jobs and drive up electricity costs. The Obama administration, some Democratic-led states and environmental groups countered that it would spur thousands of clean-energy jobs and help the U.S. meet ambitious goals to reduce carbon pollution set by the international agreement signed in Paris.

Trump’s order on coal-fired power plants follows an executive order he signed last month mandating a review of an Obama-era rule aimed at protecting small streams and wetlands from development and pollution. The order instructs the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to review a rule that redefined “waters of the United States” protected under the Clean Water Act to include smaller creeks and wetlands.

While Republicans have blamed Obama-era environmental regulations for the loss of coal jobs, federal data shows that U.S. mines have been shedding jobs for decades under presidents from both parties as a result of increasing automation and competition from natural gas, which has become more abundant through hydraulic fracturing. Another factor is the plummeting cost of solar panels and wind turbines, which now can produce emissions-free electricity cheaper than burning coal.

According to an Energy Department analysis released in January, coal mining now accounts for fewer than 75,000 U.S. jobs. By contrast, renewable energy — including wind, solar and biofuels — now accounts for more than 650,000 U.S. jobs.

The Trump administration’s plans drew praise from business groups and condemnation from environmental groups.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas J. Donohue praised the president for taking “bold steps to make regulatory relief and energy security a top priority.”

“These executive actions are a welcome departure from the previous administration’s strategy of making energy more expensive through costly, job-killing regulations that choked our economy,” he said.

Former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy accused the Trump administration of wanting “us to travel back to when smokestacks damaged our health and polluted our air, instead of taking every opportunity to support clean jobs of the future.”

“This is not just dangerous; it’s embarrassing to us and our businesses on a global scale to be dismissing opportunities for new technologies, economic growth, and U.S. leadership,” she said in a statement.

Coke, Pepsi look to make water rain money Tue, 28 Mar 2017 09:41:57 -0400 CANDICE CHOIAP Food Industry Writer NEW YORK (AP) — Bottled water is starting to seem more like soda, and sometimes taste like it, too.

As bottled water surges in popularity, Coke, Pepsi and other companies are using celebrity endorsements, stylish packaging and fancy filtration processes like “reverse osmosis” to sell people on expanding variations of what comes out of the tap. They’re also adding flourishes like bubbles, flavors or sweeteners that can blur the lines between what is water and what is soda.

For this year’s Super Bowl, PepsiCo even ran an ad for its new Lifewtr, promoting the drink in a spotlight typically reserved for sodas. Also running their first Super Bowl ads were Fiji and Bai Brands, which sell “enhanced waters” made with fruit juice and stevia sweetener.

Michael Simon, Bai’s chief marketing officer, says its drinks “give people that healthy profile they’re looking for, but now they no longer have to sacrifice on taste with the neutrality of water.”

Bottled water has been gaining ground for years, and overtook soda as the No. 1 drink in the U.S. by sales volume last year, industry tracker Beverage Marketing Corp. said. Some of the fizzy, sweetened drinks are considered water by the companies and industry trackers, as the distinctions between them lose meaning. Companies aren’t as interested in the big, economy packs of plain bottled water that have been fueling the growth, says Ali Dibaj, a Bernstein analyst who covers the industry, since those are less profitable than sodas and are a “horrible business to be in.”

So Coke and Pepsi are focusing on pricier options that compete with brands like Evian and Perrier. And they’re introducing fizzy and fruity varieties to get a better foothold in increasingly crowded marketplace where options like LaCroix and others are gaining popularity. Showing just how blurry the lines are getting, PepsiCo launched a drink last week that it describes as “sorta juice, sorta soda, sorta sparkling water.” Such options can capture people looking to cut back on sodas or juices, and may get people who might buy lower-priced waters to upgrade.

“You can get up the ladder in terms of water and get out of the categories that don’t drive a lot of value,” Coca-Cola’s incoming CEO James Quincey said in September.

Quincey cites Smartwater, which has enjoyed sales growth in North America, as a way for Coke to profitably expand its water business. The brand is billed as “vapor distilled” and features actress Jennifer Aniston in its ads.

He also said that in the crowded Chinese market, Coke is upgrading people to a water brand it markets as “socially responsible” with a different blend of minerals, which costs twice as much.

Exactly what makes water seem like it’s worth the extra money varies, but image is key.

PepsiCo had toyed with names like “Qua” and “Om” before settling on Lifewtr. The company points to the artwork featured on its bottles, and the “reverse osmosis” filtration the water undergoes, with electrolytes added for taste. “This is where consumers are heading,” said Todd Kaplan, vice president of marketing at PepsiCo, about lower-calorie drinks like Lifewtr.

Both Lifewtr and Smartwater, which account for a small portion of the overall packaged water market, are made with municipal water and were selling for $2.79 for a 1-liter bottle at a 7-Eleven in New York City. The convenience store chain’s private label brand was selling for $1.50 for the same size bottle.

The challenge for Coke and Pepsi is people like Andrew Allen. The New York City resident said he is trying to drink more water, but isn’t loyal to a particular brand and buys whatever he can get a deal on.

“I just wanted to stop drinking soda — just give it up,” Allen said.

Julie McKnight, who also lives in New York City, said the distinctions made by some bottled waters are not worth the extra price. “It doesn’t seem any different,” she said. Mostly, McKnight said uses reusable bottles that she fills with filtered tap water.

To help address people’s concerns about the environment as well as paying for a variation of what they could get from the faucet, companies like Nestle have been “light weighting” the packaging to use less plastic and keep prices down.

In addition to the still, unflavored versions, Coke’s Dasani and Pepsi’s Aquafina have been rolling out sparkling and flavored extensions. Such options are making it trickier to define drinks that may be fizzy and sweet, yet marketed as water. Beverage Digest, another industry tracker, counts flavored sparkling varieties in its water category, as well as Sparkling Ice, which is made with artificial sweeteners.

“Someone could argue with a straight face that maybe those belong with (sodas),” executive editor Duane Stanford noted. But, he said, people drink Sparkling Ice with the “mindset” that it is water.

Worst humanitarian crisis hits as Trump slashes foreign aid Tue, 28 Mar 2017 09:39:03 -0400 JUSTIN LYNCH NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — The world’s largest humanitarian crisis in 70 years has been declared in three African countries on the brink of famine, just as President Donald Trump’s proposed foreign aid cuts threaten to pull the United States from its historic role as the world’s top emergency donor.

If the deep cuts are approved by Congress and the U.S. does not contribute to Africa’s current crisis, experts warn that the continent’s growing drought and famine could have far-ranging effects, including a new wave of migrants heading to Europe and possibly more support for Islamic extremist groups.

The conflict-fueled hunger crises in Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan have culminated in a trio of potential famines hitting almost simultaneously. Nearly 16 million people in the three countries are at risk of dying within months.

Famine already has been declared in two counties of South Sudan and 1 million people there are on the brink of dying from a lack of food, U.N. officials have said. Somalia has declared a state of emergency over drought and 2.9 million of its people face a food crisis that could become a famine, according to the U.N. And in northeastern Nigeria, severe malnutrition is widespread in areas affected by violence from Boko Haram extremists.

“We are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the United Nations,” Stephen O’Brien, the U.N. humanitarian chief, told the U.N. Security Council after a visit this month to Somalia and South Sudan.

At least $4.4 billion is needed by the end of March to avert a hunger “catastrophe” in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in late February.

But according to U.N. data, only 10 percent of the necessary funds have been received so far.

Trump’s proposed budget would “absolutely” cut programs that help some of the most vulnerable people on Earth, Mick Mulvaney, the president’s budget director, told reporters last week. The budget would “spend less money on people overseas and more money on people back home,” he said.

The United States traditionally has been the largest donor to the U.N. and gives more foreign aid to Africa than any other continent. In 2016 it gave more than $2 billion to the U.N.’s World Food Program, or almost a quarter of its total budget. That is expected to be reduced under Trump’s proposed budget, according to former and current U.S. government officials.

“I’ve never seen this kind of threat to what otherwise has been a bipartisan consensus that food aid and humanitarian assistance programs are morally essential and critical to our security,” Steven Feldstein, a former deputy assistant secretary of state in the Obama administration, told The Associated Press.

In an interview last week with the AP in Washington, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rejected the proposed cuts to foreign aid. “America being a force is a lot more than building up the Defense Department,” he said. “Diplomacy is important, extremely important, and I don’t think these reductions at the State Department are appropriate because many times diplomacy is a lot more effective — and certainly cheaper — than military engagement.”

The hunger crises in Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan are all the more painful because they are man-made, experts said, though climate change has had some impact on Somalia and Nigeria’s situations, said J. Peter Pham, the head of the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council.

South Sudan has been entrenched in civil war since late 2013 that has killed tens of thousands and prevented widespread cultivation of food. In Nigeria and Somalia, extremist groups Boko Haram and al-Shabab have proven stubborn to defeat, and both Islamic organizations still hold territory that complicates aid efforts.

If Trump’s foreign aid cuts are approved, the humanitarian funding burden for the crises would shift to other large donors like Britain. But the U.S.’s influential role in rallying global support will slip.

“Without significant contributions from the U.S. government, it is less able to catalyze contributions from other donors and meet even minimal life-saving needs,” Nancy Lindborg, president of the United States Institute of Peace, said in prepared remarks to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, neighboring African countries will feel the immediate consequences of famine, experts said. On Thursday, the U.N. refugee chief said Uganda was at a “breaking point” after more than 570,000 South Sudanese refugees had arrived since July alone.

Others fleeing hunger could aim for Europe instead.

“We are going to see pressure on neighboring countries, in some cases people joining traditional migration routes both from the Sahel into Europe, or south into various destinations in Africa,” Joseph Siegle, director of research at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, told the AP.

“You have 19 countries facing some degree of food stress in Africa, and three of them are facing famine conditions. All three of them are facing conflict, and the vast majority of the countries facing more serious crises are non-democratic governments,” Siegle said.

He described a series of possible consequences. Most likely there will be increased flows of people migrating from Somalia and the vast Sahel region north into Libya, where trafficking routes are a valuable source of finance for the Islamic State, he said.

Closer to home, people from South Sudan and Somalia seeking food likely will strain the resources of neighboring countries where political will and goodwill to refugees can be fleeting, said Mohammed Abdiker, director of operations and emergencies with the International Organization for Migration.

The regional consequences will depend on how the international community responds, Abdiker said.

Alex De Waal, executive director of the World Peace Foundation, summed up the situation: “Famine can be prevented if we want.”

Portland daily grain report Tue, 28 Mar 2017 09:36:12 -0400 Portland, Ore., Tuesday, March 28, 2017

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 May wheat futures trended 2.25 to three cents per bushel higher compared to Monday’s closes.

Bids for US 1 Soft White Wheat delivered to Portland in unit trains and barges for March delivery for ordinary protein were not well tested in early trading, but were indicated as higher compared to Monday’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 early trading, but were indicated as steady to higher compared to Monday’s bids for the same delivery period. Some exporters were not issuing bids for nearby delivery.

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

Bids for 14 percent protein US 1 Dark Northern Spring Wheat for March delivery were not well tested in early trading, but were indicated as higher 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 during March were not well tested in early trading, but bids were indicated as higher compared to Monday’s noon bids for the same delivery period. Some exporters were not issuing bids for nearby delivery.

Bids for US 1 Yellow Soybeans delivered full coast in 110 car shuttle trains during March were not available in early trading as most exporters were not issuing bids for nearby delivery.

All wheat bids in dollars per bushel

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

Ordinary protein

Mar 4.4350-4.6850

Apr 4.4350-4.8000

May 4.4350-4.8000

Jun 4.4675-4.8000

Aug NC 4.5225-4.7200

Guaranteed maximum 10.5 pct protein

Mar 4.4350-4.7500

Apr 4.4350-4.7500

May 4.4350-4.7500

Jun NA

Aug NC 4.5225-4.7000

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

Ordinary protein

Mar 4.4350-4.7850

Guaranteed maximum 10.5 pct protein

Mar 4.5350-4.8350

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


Ordinary protein 4.1425-4.3925

11 pct protein 4.7425-4.9925

11.5 pct protein

Mar 5.0425-5.2925

Apr 5.0425-5.2425

May 5.0425-5.1925

Jun 5.1250-5.2250

Aug NC 5.1200-5.2700

12 pct protein 5.1925-5.4425

13 pct protein 5.4925-5.7425

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 5.7925-6.1025

14 pct protein

Mar 6.3525-6.7025

Apr 6.3525-6.7025

May 6.3525-6.7025

Jun 6.4175-6.6675

Aug NC 6.6425-6.6925

15 pct protein 6.6725-7.1025

16 pct protein 6.9925-7.5025

US 2 Yellow Corn

Shuttle trains-Delivered full coast Pacific Northwest-BN

Mar 4.3500-4.3700

Apr 4.3700-4.3900

May 4.3700-4.3900

Jun 4.3675-4.3975

Jul 4.3675-4.3775

Aug NA

US 1 Yellow Soybeans

Shuttle trains-Delivered full coast Pacific Northwest-BN

Mar NA

Apr 10.2775-10.3275

May 10.2775-10.3275

Oct 10.5275-10.5775

Nov 10.5475

US 2 Heavy White Oats 3.2650

Not well tested.

Exporter Bids Portland Rail/Barge Feb 2017

Averages in Dollars per bushel

US 1 Soft White by Unit Trains and Barges 4.7400

US 1 Hard Red Winter (Ordinary protein) 4.5800

US 1 Hard Red Winter (11.5% protein) 5.4800

US 1 Dark Northern Spring (14% protein) 6.8100

Source: USDA Market News Service, Portland, OR

Bird flu found in Georgia chicken flock Mon, 27 Mar 2017 15:49:28 -0400 SUMMERVILLE, Ga. (AP) — About 18,000 chickens were destroyed at a northwest Georgia poultry farm after tests confirmed avian influenza in the flock, the first time the disease has been detected in commercial birds in the state, authorities said Monday.

The infected chickens were flagged by routine screening at a poultry breeder in Georgia’s Chattooga County, said Julie McPeake, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

Surveillance monitoring of all other commercial operations within a 6-mile radius found no further infections. State officials also planned to check all backyard breeders within 2 miles.

Poultry is the No. 1 agricultural sector in Georgia, with breeders and processing plants having an estimated annual $25.9 billion impact statewide.

“We have never had avian influenza in a commercial flock in Georgia,” McPeake said. “This is the first one.”

Chattooga County, about 90 miles (145 kilometers) northwest of Atlanta, is on the Georgia-Alabama state line and not far from Tennessee. Both neighboring states, along with Kentucky, also have reported bird flu in poultry flocks in recent weeks.

Officials in Georgia and the other states say no infected birds have entered the nation’s poultry supply, and the U.S. food chain isn’t at risk. While the disease can devastate bird populations, it rarely jumps to humans.

None of the infected birds in Georgia showed any symptoms, McPeake said, leading officials to believe they had a low-pathogenic form of the disease like those in Alabama and Kentucky.

High-pathogenic bird flu, a deadlier form of the illness, was detected this month in Tennessee, where 145,000 birds were destroyed.

Overall, more than 225,000 birds have been euthanized because of the disease in the four Southern states. In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said earlier this month a flock of 84,000 turkeys had been confirmed with a low-pathogenic bird flu virus in Wisconsin.

The viruses in the current outbreaks are different from the high-pathogenic virus that resulted in the loss of nearly 50 million birds in the Midwest chicken egg and turkey industry in 2015.

National wool review and sheep summary Mon, 27 Mar 2017 11:19:08 -0400 Wool prices in cents per pound and foreign currency per kilogram, sheep prices in dollars per hundredweight (cwt.) except some replacement animals on per head basis as indicated.


(USDA Market News)

Greeley, Colo.

March 24

Domestic wool trading on a clean basis was active this week. There were 197,000 pounds of confirmed trades reported. Domestic wool trading on a greasy basis was at a standstill this week. There were no confirmed trades reported.

Domestic wool tags

No. 1 $.60-.70

No. 2 $.50-.60

No. 3 $.40-.50


(USDA Market News)

San Angelo, Texas

March 24

Compared to March 17: Slaughter lambs were steady to $20 lower, except at Sioux Falls, S.D., $4-6 higher. Slaughter ewes were steady to $10 lower, except at Sioux Falls steady to $5 higher. Feeder lambs were not well tested. At San Angelo, Texas, 5,905 head sold.

No sales in Equity Electronic Auction. In direct trading slaughter ewes and feeder lambs were not tested. 3,200 head of negotiated sales of slaughter lambs were steady. 6,089 lamb carcasses sold with 45 lbs. and down $8.81 higher; 45-65 lbs. no trend due to confidentiality; 65-75 lbs. $2.53 higher and 75 lbs. and up $5.16-5.63 higher.

SLAUGHTER LAMBS Choice and Prime 2-3:

San Angelo: shorn and wooled 110-165 lbs. $130-148, few $152-160.

SLAUGHTER LAMBS Choice and Prime 1:

San Angelo: 40-60 lbs. $225-240, few 242-248; 60-70 lbs. $220-238, few $244; 70-80 lbs. $212-230, few $234-238; 80-90 lbs. $205-228; 90-110 lbs. $184-202, few $212-216.

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

3,200 Slaughter Lambs shorn and wooled 127-185 lbs. $136.25-164 (wtd avg $145.56).


San Angelo: Good 2-3 (fleshy) $72-75; Utility and Good 1-3 (medium flesh) $82-92; Utility 1-2 (thin) $70-80; Cull and Utility 1-2 (very thin) $58-66; Cull 1 (extremely thin) $40-55.

FEEDER LAMBS Medium and Large 1-2:

San Angelo: 70-80 lbs. $208-224.

REPLACEMENT EWES Medium and Large 1-2:

San Angelo: hair ewe lambs 65-75 lbs. $246-260 cwt, 80-100 lbs. $190-198 per head; baby tooth hair ewes $165-200 per head; mixed age hair ewes 90-140 lbs. $100-150 cwt.


Weight Wtd. avg.

45 lbs. and down $497.65

45-55 lbs. Price not reported

due to confidentiality

55-65 lbs. $336.60

65-75 lbs. $286.78

75-85 lbs. $271.30

85 lbs. and up $264.88

Sheep and lamb slaughter under federal inspection for the week to date totaled 40,000 compared with 40,000 last week and 40,000 last year.

West Coast grain price report Mon, 27 Mar 2017 11:09:15 -0400 Grains are stated in dollars per bushel or hundredweight (cwt.) except feed grains traded in dollars per ton. National grain report bids are for rail delivery unless truck indicated.


(USDA Market News)


March 24


Cash wheat bids for March delivery ended the reporting week on Thursday, March 23, were lower, compared to March 17 noon bids for March delivery.

May wheat futures ended the reporting week on Thursday, March 23, lower as follows compared to March 17 closes: Chicago wheat futures were 15 cents lower at $4.21, Kansas City wheat futures were 22 cents lower at $4.28 and Minneapolis wheat futures trended 7.25 cents lower at $5.4075.

Chicago May corn futures trended 9.25 cents lower at $3.5675 and May soybean futures closed 10.50 cents lower at $9.91.

Bids for U.S. 1 Soft White Wheat delivered to Portland in unit trains or barges during March for ordinary protein trended five to 15 cents per bushel lower compared to March 17 prices for the same delivery period at $4.41-4.66. Some exporters were not issuing bids for nearby delivery.

White club wheat premiums were zero to 15 cents per bushel over soft white wheat bids this week and last week.

One year ago bids for U.S. 1 Soft White Wheat any protein for March delivery by unit trains and barges to Portland were not available and bids for White Club Wheat were also not available.

Forward month bids for soft white wheat ordinary protein were as follows: April and May $4.41-4.88, June $4.46-4.84 and August New Crop $4.51-4.73.

One year ago, forward month bids for soft white wheat for any protein were as follows: April through August New Crop not available.

Bids for U.S. 1 Soft White Wheat guaranteed maximum 10.5 percent protein during March trended steady to 15 cents per bushel lower compared to week ago price for the same delivery period at $4.41-4.80. Some exporters were not issuing bids for nearby delivery.

White club wheat premiums for guaranteed maximum 10.5 percent protein soft white wheat this week were zero to 10 cents per bushel over soft white wheat bids this week and last week.

One year ago bids for U.S. 1 Soft White Wheat guaranteed maximum 10.5 percent protein for March delivery by unit trains and barges to Portland were $5.33-5.38 and bids for White Club Wheat were $5.33-5.93. Forward month bids for soft white wheat guaranteed 10.5 percent proteins were as follows: April and May $4.41-4.80 and August New Crop $4.51-4.80.

One year ago, forward month bids for soft white wheat for any protein were as follows: April $5.33-5.50, May $5.33-5.53, June $5.3075-5.55 and August New Crop $4.98-5.30.

Bids for 11.5 percent protein U.S. 1 Hard Red Winter Wheat for March delivery were 22 cents per bushel lower compared to March 17 noon bids for the same delivery period. Some exporters were not issuing bids for nearby delivery. Bids were as follows: March $5.08-5.33, April $5.08-5.28, May $5.08-5.23, June $5.1575- 5.2575 and August New Crop $5.1550-5.3050.

Bids for non-guaranteed 14.0 percent protein U.S. 1 Dark Northern Spring Wheat for Portland delivery during March were 7.25 cents per bushel lower than March 17 noon bids for the same delivery period. Some exporters were not issuing bids for nearby delivery. Bids for non-guaranteed 14 percent protein were as follows: March, April and May $6.4075-6.7575, June $6.47-6.72 and August New Crop $6.6850-6.7350.


Bids for U.S. 2 Yellow Corn delivered full coast Pacific Northwest - BNSF shuttle trains for March delivery trended 6.25 to 9.25 cents lower from $4.2975-4.3675. Some exporters were not issuing bids for nearby delivery. Forward month corn bids were as follows: April $4.3575-4.3775, May $4.3175-4.3675, June $4.3650-4.3750 and July $4.3450-4.3650. Bids for U.S. 1 Yellow Soybeans delivered full coast Pacific Northwest - BN shuttle trains for March delivery trended 10.50 cents lower from $10.46 to $10.51. Some exporters were not issuing bids for nearby delivery. Forward month soybean bids were as follows: April and May $10.51-10.56, October $10.7625-10.8125 and November $10.7325-10.7525. Bids for U.S. 2 Heavy White Oats for March delivery trended steady at $3.2650 per bushel.


There were 37 grain vessels in Columbia River ports on Thursday, March 23, with six docked compared to 35 last week with five docked. There were no new confirmed export sales this week from the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) of the USDA.


(USDA Market News)


March 23

Prices in dollars per cwt., bulk Inc.= including; Nom.= nominal; Ltd.= limited; Ind.= indicated; NYE=Not fully estimated.


Mode Destination Price per cwt.

BARLEY – U.S. No. 2 (46-lbs. per bushel)

FOB Kern County NA

Rail Los Angeles NA

Stockton-Modesto-Oakdale-Turlock NA

Kings-Tulare-Fresno Counties NA

Truck Petaluma-Santa Rosa NA

Stockton-Modesto-Oakdale-Turlock NA

Kings-Tulare-Fresno Counties $8.00

Colusa County NA

CORN-U.S. No. 2 Yellow

FOB Turlock-Tulare $8.19

Modesto-Oakdale-Turlock NA

Kings-Tulare-Fresno $7.40

Rail Single Car Units via BNSF

Chino Valley-Los Angeles $8.46

Truck Petaluma-Santa Rosa NA

Stockton-Modesto-Oakdale-Turlock $8.50

Los Angeles-Chino Valley NA

Kings-Tulare-Fresno Counties $8.50

Kern County NA

SORGHUM-U.S. No. 2 Yellow

Rail Los Angeles-Chino Valley

via BNSF Single $8.10

OATS-U.S. No. 2 White

Truck Petaluma NA

Stockton-Modesto-Oakdale-Turlock NA

WHEAT-U.S. No. 2 or better-Hard Red Winter

(Domestic Values for Flour Milling)

Los Angeles 12 percent Protein NA

Los Angeles 13 percent Protein NA

Los Angeles 14 percent Protein NA

Truck/Rail Los Angeles 11-12 percent Protein

Los Angeles 12 percent Protein NA

Los Angeles 13 percent Protein NA

Los Angeles 14 percent Protein NA

WHEAT-U.S. Durum Wheat

Truck Kern County NA

Kings-Tulare-Fresno Counties NA

WHEAT-Any Class for Feed

FOB Tulare NA

Kings-Tulare-Fresno Counties $8.75

Kern County NA

Truck/Rail Los Angeles-Chino Valley NA

Truck Petaluma-Santa Rosa NA

Stockton-Modesto-Oakdale-Turlock NA

King-Tulare-Fresno Counties NA

Fresno NA

Merced County NA

Colusa County NA

Kern County NA

Prices paid to California farmers, seven-day reporting period ending March 3:

No confirmed sales.

California shell egg price report Mon, 27 Mar 2017 10:50:00 -0400 Shell egg marketer’s benchmark price for negotiated egg sales of USDA Grade AA and Grade AA in cartons, cents per dozen. This price does not reflect discounts or other contract terms.


(USDA Market News)

Des Moines, Iowa

March 24

Benchmark prices are steady. Asking prices for next week are unchanged for Jumbo and 4 cents higher on all other sizes. The undertone is steady. Offerings are moderate to available. Demand is moderate to fairly good, best into current ads. Warehouse buying interest is slow. Market activity is slow to moderate. Small benchmark price 95 cents.

Size Range Size Range

Jumbo 140 Extra large 140

Large 132 Medium 115


Prices to retailers, sales to volume buyers, USDA Grade AA and Grade AA, white eggs in cartons, delivered store door.

Size Range Size Range

Jumbo 131-143 Extra large 131-135

Large 117-126 Medium 96-107

Western fluid milk and cream review Mon, 27 Mar 2017 10:47:09 -0400 FLUID MILK AND CREAM REVIEW – WEST

(USDA Market News)

Madison, Wis.

March 23

California milk production is up this week. The weather is currently warmer, and some dairy handlers are still recovering from the preceding rainy days. Class 1 demand is steady. Processors are managing to meet their contract needs and have enough supplies for processing needs. Alfalfa is growing well as a result of the warmer weather.

Pacific Northwest milk production is stable. Bottling demand is seasonally steady and there is plenty of milk available to keep manufacturing facilities operating near capacity. Water held in Washington reservoirs are below normal for this time of year. Water levels have been purposely kept low in preparation of expected above normal spring and summer runoffs. Industry contacts expect adequate supplies of water for irrigation this spring.

Milk production in the mountain states of Idaho, Utah and Colorado is coming back after a tough winter. Industry contacts in Northern Utah and Idaho say conditions are improving and milk intakes are growing.

However, they add that some cows are still feeling some stress from the unusually harsh winter and it may be the next lactation before milk production recovers fully. Rivers are full, but crop ground is in good shape. With reservoirs at or above average capacity, farmers expect plenty of water for irrigation and a good start to the growing season. Condensed skim sales are flat. Some contacts report having offers at $0.65/lb. in California.

Availability of cream in the West is abundant. Some producers are making more butter to keep up with excess cream. Demands are steadily lower in California and cream premiums are from 0 to 5 cents.

According to the DMN National Retail Report-Dairy for the week of March 17-23, the national weighted average advertised price for one gallon of milk is $2.59, up 8 cents from last week and 41 cents higher from a year ago. The weighted average regional price in the Southwest is $2.57, with a price range of $1.99-2.99. No ads were reported in the Northwest.

The NASS Milk Production report noted February 2017 milk production in the 23 selected states was 15.7 billion pounds, 1.0 percent below the unadjusted production of a year ago. Milk cows in the 23 selected states totaled 8.69 million head, 66,000 head more than a year ago. The following table shows western states included in the report and the monthly milk production changes compared to a year ago: February 2017 Milk Production, (USDA-NASS).

(Million Lb.) % Change From

1 Year Ago

California 3,122 -5.4

Colorado 313 +3.3

Idaho 1,095 -2.7

Oregon 196 -5.8

Washington 502 -5.6

National feeder and stocker cattle report Mon, 27 Mar 2017 10:41:33 -0400 Cattle prices in dollars per hundredweight (cwt.) except some replacement animals per pair Oregon head as indicated.


(Federal-State Market News)

St. Joseph, Mo.

March 24

This week Last week Last year

409,500 334,600 262,300

Compared to March 17: Steers and heifers were steady to $7 higher, with the early week sales being steady to $4 higher and later week auctions $3 to $7 higher.

There were instances when trends this week were called up to $9 higher as the CME cattle complex was sharply higher mid-week and didn’t give up the ghost as the week moved on.

News of fed cattle trade on Wednesday spurred the markets higher when some cattle were reported on the FCE at $136.50 in Nebraska which would be $4 to 5 higher than last week’s sales.

Dressed sales were turned in on Thursday at $215, $5 higher than last week. Support flowed over to the Feeder Cattle contracts when they were from $3 to almost $4.50 higher for the week, with the most gain coming in the further out months.

With all the support around the circuit, spring has sprung and cattle buyers were bidding readily and aggressively for all offerings on hand at auctions nationwide. On March 22 in Kearney, Neb., at Huss-Platte Valley Livestock Auction a package of 707 lb. steers with all the bells and whistles sold at $155 and a load of 542 lb. thin fleshed steers rang the bell at $186.50.

Additionally, on March 22 in St Joseph, Mo., a load plus of 877 lb. steers sold for $138 and a short load of 806 lb. steers sold at $144.75.

On March 23 in Valentine, Neb., a load of 757 lb. steers went for $152 and a string of 718 lb. replacement heifers sold of $1335 per head which would equate to around $186/cwt.

Feedyards are optimistic and are getting in a much better position as the bottom lines are much better now than they were at the first of the year.

Boxed beef has rallied since the beginning of February, the implied packer margins are back in the black and packers have been more than willing to pay up for live cattle. Since Feb. 10, Choice Boxed Beef has gained around $35 and this is going through the month of March, which is not known for its spectacular demand. Some of the boxed beef sales may now be going the way of exports as a number of importing countries that utilize beef from Brazil announced that they are either suspending, curtailing or enhancing inspections of meat from that country. Brazil has surpassed the U.S. in exports and in recent years has become the largest global supplier of red meat and poultry products.

Analysts are looking at how many dollars of product that could be affected by suspension of those products and with approximately $5.5 billion worth exported from Brazil in calendar year 2016, it could be a boon for other countries that step up production and fill the void.

The Cold Storage Report showed total red meat supplies in freezers were up 1 percent from the previous month but down 6 percent from last year. Total pounds of beef in freezers were down 7 percent from the previous month and down 1 percent from last year. The outgoing pace of frozen beef supplies in February is supportive to the cattle industry and it appears that participants have been drawing on those freezer stocks that were purchased last fall at lower prices.

Cattle on Feed report came in within analyst expectations as the On Feed number is at 100 percent; placements at 99 percent and Marketings at 104 percent. Auction volume this week included 58 percent weighing over 600 lbs. and 43 percent heifers.


This week Last week Last year

253,700 228,600 225,300

WASHINGTON 2,100. 73 pct over 600 lbs. 38 pct heifers. Steers: Medium and Large 1-2 500-550 lbs. $155.86; 600-650 lbs. $140.20; 650-700 lbs. $128.48; 700-750 lbs. $130.30; 750-800 lbs. $128.38; 850-900 lbs. $118.28. Heifers: Medium and Large 1-2 500-550 lbs. $143.56; 650-700 lbs. $125.86; 700-750 lbs. $117.52; pkg 775 lbs. $119.50; 850-900 lbs. $115.85.


This week Last week Last year

153,400 80,100 25,900

SOUTHWEST (Arizona-California-Nevada) 300. No cattle over 600 lbs. No heifers. Holsteins: Large 3 300 lbs. $115 April Del.

NORTHWEST (Washington-Oregon-Idaho) 2,200. 91 pct over 600 lbs. 26 pct heifers. Steers: Medium and Large 1 Current Delivered Price 700-800 lbs. $127-135 Idaho; 800-850 lbs. $124-126 Idaho. Future Delivery FOB Price 600-650 lbs. $138-145 calves for October-November Oregon. Large 1 Future Delivery Delivered Price 900 lbs. $126 for May-June Idaho. Heifers: Medium and Large 1 Current Delivered Price 750-800 lbs. $118.50 Idaho. Future Delivery FOB Price 550-600 lbs. $128-131 for October-November Oregon; 600-650 lbs. $135 calves for October-November Oregon. Large 1 950-1000 lbs. $110 for October-November Oregon.


(USDA Market News)

Oklahoma City, Okla.

March 17

Slaughter cattle only lightly traded this week. No trades as of the time of this report for Texas. Limited sales in Kansas were $2 lower. Slaughter cattle in Nebraska though lightly tested were $3-$4 higher live and $5 higher dressed.

Boxed Beef prices as of March 24 averaged $218.58 down $.37 from March 17. The Choice/Select spread is $6.07. Slaughter cattle on a national basis for negotiated cash trades through March 24 totaled about 38,700 head. The previous week’s total head count was 123,872 head.

Midwest Direct Markets: Live Basis: Steers and Heifers: few $134.50. Dressed Basis: Steers and Heifers few $215.

South Plains Direct Markets: Live Basis: Steers and Heifers few $126.

Slaughter Cows and Bulls (Average Yielding Prices): Slaughter cows and bulls steady to $2 higher. Cutter Cow Carcass Cut-Out Value March 24 was $169.66 up $1.16 from March 17.


(USDA Market News)

Moses Lake, Wash.

March 24

This week Last week Last year

2,150 2,950 3,450

Compared to March 17: Feeder cattle steady to $2 higher on fall contracted calves. Trade slow as most interests are waiting for the cattle on feed report due to be released. Demand remains good. The feeder supply included 74 percent steers and 26 percent heifers. Near 91 percent of the supply weighed over 600 lbs. Prices are FOB weighing point with a 1-4 percent shrink or equivalent and with a 5-12 cent slide on calves and a 3-8 cent slide on yearlings. Delivered prices include freight, commissions and other expenses. Current sales are up to 14 days delivery.

Feeder Steers: Medium and Large 1: Current Delivered Price: 700-800 lbs. $127-135 Idaho; 800-850 lbs. $124-126 Idaho. Future Delivery FOB Price: 600-650 lbs. $138-145 calves for October-November Oregon. Large 1: Future Delivery Delivered Price: 900 lbs. $126 for May-June Idaho.

Feeder Heifers Medium and Large 1: Current Delivered Price: 750-800 lbs. $118.50 Idaho. Future Delivery FOB Price: 550-600 lbs. $128-131 for October-November Oregon; 600-650 lbs. $135 calves for October-November Oregon. Large 1: 950-1000 lbs. $110 for October-November Oregon.

Selected Western livestock auctions Mon, 27 Mar 2017 10:33:49 -0400 Cattle prices in dollars per hundredweight (cwt.) except some replacement animals per pair or head as indicated.



(Shasta Livestock Auction)

Cottonwood, Calif.

March 24

Current week Last week

1,121 514

Compared to March 3: Slaughter cows $5-8 higher due to low supply and high demand. Steers and heifers mostly $3-10 higher due to a good week in futures and good fed cattle market.

Slaughter cows: High yielding $66-74; Med yielding $55-65; Low yielding NA.

Bulls 1 and 2: $65-87.

Feeder steers: 600-650 lbs. $135-160; 700-750 lbs. $125-135; 750-800 lbs. $125-128.50; 800-900 lbs. $118-129.

Feeder heifers: 300-400 lbs. $145-164; 400-450 lbs. $150-160; 450-500 lbs. $140-155; 500-550 lbs. $145-161; 600-650 lbs. $120-138; 650-700 lbs. $120-127; 700-750 lbs. $115-119; 750-800 lbs. $115-120.50; 800-900 lbs. $115-119.

Calvy cows: Too few to test.

Pairs: Three loads of heifers pairs $1,950-2,000; Full Mouth $1,375-1,975; Broken Mouth $1,000-1,375


(Turlock Livestock Auction Yard)

Turlock, Calif.

March 24

Total receipts: 1041 head.

Compared to March 10: Good supply of dairy replacements.

with a steady market. Weigh Cows and Bull market steady with a week ago.

Springers: No. 1 Holstein springer $1700-1900; No. 2 Holstein springer $1300-1675; No. 1 Jersey springer $1450-1750 No. 2 Jersey cross springer $1400-1800.

Weigh beef cows: High yielding no test; Med yielding $47-64; Low yielding $40-46.

Weigh dairy cows: High yielding $64-73; Med yielding $54-63; Low yielding $35-53.

Weigh bulls: High yielding $80-86.50; Med yielding $70-79; Low yielding $50-69.

Holstein Barren Heifers; $62-80.


(Toppenish Livestock Auction)

(USDA Market News)

Moses Lake, Wash.

March 24

This week Last week Last year

1,270 2,400 1,560

Compared to March 17: Stocker cattle $7-8 higher as spring fever is in full swing. Feeder cattle weak in a light test. Trade active with good demand and good buyer attendance. Slaughter cows steady. Slaughter bulls $3-4 higher. Trade active with good demand. Slaughter cows 71 percent, slaughter bulls 5 percent, and feeders 24 percent of the supply. The feeder supply included 47 percent steers and 53 percent heifers. Near 53 percent of the run weighed over 600 lbs.

Feeder Steers: Medium and Large 1-2: 400-500 lbs. $195; 500-600 lbs. $169.50-177.50; 600-700 lbs. $149-149.50; 700-800 lbs. $118.50-121; 700-800 lbs. $112, Full; 800-900 lbs. $117.50-119. Medium and Large 2-3: 500-600 lbs. $154. Small and Medium 1-2: 300-400 lbs. $185. Small and Medium 2-3: 400-500 lbs. $112.50.

Feeder Heifers: Medium and Large 1-2: 300-400 lbs. $165-172; 500-600 lbs. $141.50-145; 600-700 lbs. $130-137; 700-800 lbs. $112.50-118.50; 800-900 lbs. $111-114.50.

Slaughter Holstein Steers: Few Select 2-3 1300-1400 lbs. $68-70.50.

Slaughter Cows: Boners 80-85 percent lean 1500-2100 lbs. $64-69; Lean 85-90 percent lean 1200-1900 lbs. $63-69; Lean Light 90 percent lean 900-1350 lbs. $53-58.

Slaughter Bulls: Yield Grade 1-2 few 1600-2200 lbs. $78-84.

Bred Cows (Per Head): Medium and Large 1-2: Few Mid-Aged 1248 lbs. 1-3 mos. bred $800.

Cow/Calf Pairs (Per Pair): Medium and Large 1-2: Few Broken Mouth 1400 lbs. with 100-150 lbs. calves.



(Treasure Valley Livestock)

March 17

Steers (wt.): 300-400 lbs. $93; 400-500 lbs. $79.50; 500-600 lbs. $82; 600-700 lbs. $77; 700-800 lbs. $87.25; 800 lbs and up $83.

Steers (hd.): 100-200 lbs. $145; 300-400 lbs. $195; 400-500 lbs. $370; 500-600 lbs. $360.; Heifers (wt.): 400-500 lbs. $63; 500-600 lbs. $61; 700-800 lbs. $107.25; 800-900 lbs. $72; 900-1000 lbs. $70.50; 1000-1100 lbs. $70.75; 1100-1200 lbs. $76.50; 1200 lbs and up $88.

Heifers (hd.): 200-300 lbs. $100; 300-400 lbs. $175; 400-500 lbs. $285.

Bull Calf (wt.): 400-500 lbs. $66; 500-600 lbs. $65.

Bull Calf (hd.): 300-400 lbs. $325; 500-600 lbs. $290.

Cows (wt.): 1300-1400 lbs. $52; 1400-1500 lbs. $56; 1500-1600 lbs. $57.50; 1600-1700 lbs. $57.

Holstein Bulls (wt.): 1300-1400 lbs. $74.



(Lebanon Auction Yard)

March 23

Total Receipts: 286.

Top conventional cow $70, Top 10 avg. $66.98, avg. all $55.03.

Top conventional bull: $84.

Top organic cow: $93; Top 10 avg. $86.18, avg all $69.21.

Cow/calf pairs: $750-1140 per pair.

Breed cows: $570-985 per head.

Beef day olds: $570-985 per head.

Goats: $25-150 per head.


(Producers Livestock Market)

March 22

Total receipts: 772 head.

Comments: All weights and classes of feed cattle. $4-8 higher. Cows and bulls a little softer, but not much for high yielding cows.

Steer calves: 300-400 lbs. NA; 400-500 lbs. $150-176; 500-600 lbs. $140-164.

Heifer calves: 300-400 lbs. $139-165; 400-500 lbs. $131-160; 500-600 lbs. $124-143.

Yearling steers: 600-700 lbs. $130-148; 700-800 lbs. $119-134; 800-900 lbs. $120-127; 900-1000 lbs. $112-120.

Yearling heifers: 600-700 lbs. $118-130; 700-800 lbs. $115-122; 800-900 lbs. $105-117; 1000 lbs. And up $90-106.

Light Holstein steers, 600 lbs. and under: NA. Light Holstein steers, 700 lbs. and over: NA.

Stock cows: $750-1000

Pairs, young: $1100-1525.

Butcher cows: $55-65.

Thin shelly cows: $46-57.

Younger heiferettes: $87-105.

Butcher bulls: $55-70.


(Woodburn Livestock Auction)

Woodburn, Ore.

March 21

Total receipts: 563.

Top 10 slaughter cows $61.48; top 50 slaughter cows $57.75; top 100 slaughter cows $55.01.

Top certified organic cattle: $85. All certified organic cattle average price: $52.

All slaughter bulls: $70-75.

Top beef steers: 300-400 lbs. $130-150; 400-500 lbs. $140-160; 500-600 lbs. $130-146; 600-700 lbs. $125-137.

Top beef heifers: 300-400 lbs. $120-140; 400-500 lbs. $125-139; 500-600 lbs. $120-134.50; 600-700 lbs. $115-121.

Cow/calf pairs: $890-1520. Bred cows: $700-825. Day-old beef cross calves: $220-260 per head. Day-old dairy calves: $5-40 per head.

Hogs: Block hogs $83-101; feeder pigs $65-80 per head; sows $10-32.

Sheep: Lambs 40-70 lbs. $185-203, 75-150 lbs. $160-180; thin ewes $65-95; fleshy ewes $50-65; ewe/lamb pairs $60-65 head.

Goats: 10-40 lbs. $20-75; 40-70 lbs. $50-140; 70-150 lbs. $160-237.50 head.

Canada expected to legalize marijuana by July 2018 Mon, 27 Mar 2017 10:11:57 -0400 ROB GILLIES TORONTO (AP) — Canadians are expected to be able to smoke marijuana legally by July 1, 2018.

A senior government official says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government will introduce legislation to legalize recreational marijuana the week of April 10 and officials expect it to be law by July next year.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity due to lack of authorization to discuss the upcoming legislation.

Trudeau has long promised to legalize recreational pot use and sales. Canada would be the largest developed country to end a nationwide prohibition of recreational marijuana. In the U.S, voters in California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada voted last year to approve the use of recreational marijuana, joining Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska.

Uruguay in South America is the only nation to legalize recreational pot.

Nebraska wheat plantings drop Thu, 23 Mar 2017 08:49:08 -0400 NICK BERGINLincoln Journal Star POTTER, Neb. (AP) — A lush carpet of short green sprouts covers Rick Larson’s wheat fields in the Nebraska Panhandle near Potter.

The plants look good, Larson said, although the mild winter caused it to break dormancy early this year putting it in danger of being damaged by a hard early spring frost.

Wheat farmers’ financial books, however, don’t look quite so good.

“We’re not breaking even at all,” the third-generation wheat farmer said.

That dismal financial outlook has accelerated the decline of wheat acres being planted in Nebraska, where it has long been a staple of dryland rotations.

The state’s farmers will grow fewer acres this year than ever before, the Lincoln Journal Star reported. They planted 1.09 million acres of hard red winter wheat last fall to harvest in 2017, 20 percent less than the year prior and about half what got planted a decade ago for harvest in 2007, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

“Right now, the cost of wheat production is higher than the price per bushel,” Caroline Brauer of the Nebraska Wheat Board said in a recent interview.

Farmers in some areas of Nebraska, Brauer added, would lose a dollar a bushel if they planted wheat this year.

“From a business standpoint, it’s just not sustainable to plant that. It’s not a viable option,” she said. “Farmers had to make a decision in some instances that led to saying it’s not economically viable to plant a wheat crop on some acres this year.”

In the Nebraska Panhandle, the going price for a bushel of wheat and corn is about the same, around $3.50, Larson said. While corn produces bigger yields, it’s not as reliable a crop on dryland that sees only 15 inches of precipitation on average a year, he said.

About half the wheat grown in the United States gets exported. World supplies of the grain, which saw a bin-busting harvest last year, are abundant and a strong U.S. dollar has made wheat grown here more expensive on the world market. U.S. wheat stocks were 2.07 billion bushels as of Dec. 1, up 19 percent from the year prior, according to the USDA.

Farmers have been sowing fewer wheat seeds nationally as well. The USDA estimated 36.6 million acres of winter wheat got planted last fall, down 7 percent from the year prior.

The decrease in wheat planted in Nebraska has been happening for much longer than can be blamed on current financial woes.

Corn and soybeans, generally the better yield-price combination, have been encroaching on wheat acres for decades; current finances simply hastened the process.

Advances in science, genetics and breeding have made corn and soybean suited to growing in a wide range of regions, made them more pest resistant and led to explosive growth of yields, which means more kernels or beans per acre.

“Areas that used to be only wheat now can support newer varieties of dryland corn or soybean and yield where they wouldn’t have before,” Brauer said.

Wheat research hasn’t kept pace. While wheat yields have trended up, they have not increased anywhere near as dramatically as corn yields. Nebraska wheat fields yielded an average of 42 bushels an acre in 1971 and 54 bushels in 2016, an exceptionally good year. Meanwhile, dryland corn fields went from an average of 60.6 bushels an acre in 1971 to 147.2 bushels in 2016.

Mark Knobel, who works fields north of Fairbury, is one of the farmers still working wheat into his crop rotation.

“You analyze your situation every year, but I don’t want to mess up my rotation. Wheat does positive things overall for your ground from a conservation standpoint, and soil tilth and soil health. I have some highly erodible ground and it fits my rotation quite nicely,” Knobel said.

Wheat typically ripens by the end of June, ahead of hot, dry conditions; and gets used as ground cover to prevent runoff from gully-washers, as well as helps control pests and plant diseases when used in rotation.

Knobel, who grows wheat to sell for seed, said he generally plants a rotation of corn and soybeans followed by wheat and sunflowers in a single year, made possible by the early wheat harvest.

“The double cropping makes it a little more palatable,” he said. “You have to maintain profitability to stay in business.”

Despite its benefits, wheat’s unlikely to see resurgence in Nebraska without a major turnaround in price or the development with better yields, said Paul Hay, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln extension educator based in Beatrice.

“We really need these crops to stand on their own merit. If we’re going to raise wheat, we either need to find a way to produce more per acre or get the price up to where we it can be competitive against other crops,” he said.

Often, he said, the decision of whether to plant wheat hinged on whether the producer owned land outright or had to pay loans or rent, which adds more red ink in the costs column of the ledger.

Kansas farmers face debts and drought Thu, 23 Mar 2017 08:45:40 -0400 DAN VOORHISThe Wichita Eagle INMAN, Kan. (AP) — The 1980s are still seared in the minds of farmers: crushing debts, foreclosure auctions and the loss of generations-old family farms.

Now, those bad old days may be staging a comeback in Kansas farm country.

It’s not just that wildfires scorched more than 700,000 acres and killed thousands of cattle in southwest and central Kansas, amid the return of drought in much of the state. It’s that most farmers in Kansas and nationwide haven’t been able to make much, if any, money farming for more than two years.

It’s not at crisis stage — yet. The vast majority of farmers are managing.

They’ve put off purchases, rolled over loans, sold off land and equipment and, in the worst cases, auctioned off the farm and retired.

But the threat is gathering momentum, and a crash would reach beyond the small farm towns to impact the whole state.

The Wichita Eagle reports that agriculture in Kansas generated $5.1 billion in economic activity in 2015, the most recent year for which figures are available, which is just 3.4 percent of the overall $150 billion Kansas economy.

But farming underlays vastly more economic activity, such as the beef plants, ethanol refineries, farm machinery makers or even just the town cafe, which are not included in that number. Basically, what would the western 80 percent of Kansas look like without farming?

The cause of the problem is pretty straightforward: Following several terrifically profitable years, prices for every grain and animal grown in Kansas dropped to near decade-long lows and stayed down, even as production costs have recently started to fall.

Profit margins are either razor thin or negative.

Most used the good years to pay off loans and buy seed and fertilizer with cash, but many also invested in more land or a new combine on credit. Some aging farmers took the opportunity to sell out to their children, which loaded them up with debt.

Farmers are accustomed to navigating the ups and downs of their livelihood. Still, the violence of the price drop starting in 2014 caught many by surprise.

“It went from being so good to being so bad so quickly that they aren’t able to make the payments on their equipment,” said Landon Frank, a loan officer at First National Bank of Scott City and a part-time farmer.

Last year, farmers caught a break with timely rains and a record harvest. But farmers say 2017 is critical.

If prices for most farm commodities don’t turn around, many will have to sell off land and equipment. Foreclosures are still low, but will increase.

“2016 ended up being better than we expected, so that was a big help,” said Mykel Taylor, an agricultural economist at Kansas State University. “But we see 2017 as possibly the worst year because if we have a normal yield and low prices, that will not be sufficient to cover the cost of production, let alone the debt of the last year.”

Derek Sawyer visits his cattle every day at this time of year.

Right now, it’s calving season among the 80 cows on the pasture next to his house and farm between McPherson and Inman.

At feeding time, he watches as cows jostle for space in front of their food. Dozens of new black calves skitter around, curious but wary, not moving far from their mothers. They’re too young to eat hay, still relying on milk.

This is where Sawyer makes his living. He’ll raise these calves, now the size of large dogs, until they reach 850 pounds. They’ll gain two and a half pounds a day on hay and a special diet he supplies. When they go off to feedlots, their weight gain speeds up. He gets paid when he sells them to the beef packers.

Sawyer, a fourth-generation farmer in McPherson County, has run his family’s farm for 11 years.

He farms 2,500 acres of wheat, corn, soybeans and grain sorghum, and owns 700 cattle, so his operation is bigger than average for that part of the state and diversified. Even so, he’s feeling the pain.

Last year, he sold 250,000 bushels of grain and hundreds of cattle, and still took a loss. The bank rolled the unpaid part of last year’s annual operating note into this year’s annual operating note.

He hasn’t bought a piece of equipment or made a major purchase on the farm in a couple of years.

The good news is that his wife, Katie Sawyer, works full time. She was just named district director for U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall. They have two young boys.

Together, the family’s income is down, but not out.

“Having a spouse off the farm is vital,” Derek Sawyer said. “I don’t know how we could do it any other way. I don’t know how I could pay for health insurance or take care of a lot of that stuff without her income.”

With the birth of their second son, he got evicted from his home office. Plans to build a garage/office are on hold. Now he works at the kitchen table.

“We won’t be taking a vacation this year,” Katie Sawyer said. “That sounds frivolous, but we’re not giving up necessities, yet. But we aren’t spending money that doesn’t have to be spent.”

Derek Sawyer said prices and weather are beyond their control. He is focusing on avoiding costly mistakes on the things he can control.

“We’ll get through it, but we need a good crop,” he said. “Without a good crop — and the prospects are dwindling every day because it’s staying dry — things will be pretty hard.”

When area farmers don’t spend, Inman feels it.

Inman lies about 10 miles down the road from Sawyer’s farm. It’s a heavily Mennonite town of 1,300 people.

Mayor Jim Toews said the farm downturn has hurt those businesses that deal with farmers, such as equipment dealers and repair shops. But so far it’s had only a mild impact on the rest of the town’s businesses.

McPherson is a county with a diversified economy, including manufacturing plants and a large oil refinery just up the road.

But one of those feeling the difference is the Inman Harvest Cafe on Main Street, busy on a recent day with customers dining on the Mexican lunch buffet.

At a back table, a group of regulars sat eating and visiting with owner Loren Thiessen. After things slowed down for the meal, he and his daughter, Katy Reinecker, talked about the challenges they face.

Reinecker, who runs the place, noticed the farm downturn in her business a couple of years ago. Mondays had been so slow, they started closing.

“I used to have my regular farmers that came in every day,” she said. “And they’d bring in three, four, five people with them.

“In the last couple years, they’ve backed down to maybe twice a month.”

It’s more than this latest downturn, Thiessen said. It’s the slow decline in rural population. He sold a machine shop in Inman in 2008 because he just didn’t have enough work anymore.

But a few years ago Reinecker discovered a secret to survival: People love her made-from-scratch fried chicken and will drive 50 miles or more to get it. When she serves it on Fridays, she said, she has sold as much as 150 pounds of it.

“Fried chicken literally saved us,” she said.

Since its peak in 2013, Kansas farm income has fallen more than 40 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Income for the farmer, as the owner of the business, has dropped 66 percent.

It has meant a recession in parts of rural Kansas, a plunge accentuated by the collapse in gas and oil drilling over the last two years.

Retail sales in 39 Kansas counties in the second half of 2016 fell below those of the same six months of 2015, according to sales tax collections.

That’s an indication of how widespread the pain is being felt, but it’s only noticeable in rural areas, said Gov. Sam Brownback.

“That’s not eating a meal out or buying something at the local store,” he said. “It’s just stark.

“Sedgwick County is fine, Johnson County is fine, Douglas County, Shawnee, but when you get over to Barber County, it’s stark.”

The recession has also been a dead weight on job creation momentum for the state. In January, the most recent month available, Kansas had 2,400 fewer jobs than in January 2016.

And this year, a couple of other things that proved a bonanza for farmers in the good years are coming back to haunt them.

Farmers had their state income taxes eliminated in Brownback’s 2012 tax restructuring. Because of the budget shortfalls since then, the Legislature appears ready to reinstate those taxes this year.

Farmers are also seeing an unwelcome hike in their property taxes. Agricultural land is taxed on an eight-year moving average with a two-year delay. In the good times, as their incomes were rising, their property taxes were actually falling.

But now, the formula captures the high farmland prices between 2008 and 2015.

Recent testimony to Congress by Nathan Kauffman, economist with the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank, said a 1980s-type crisis doesn’t appear “imminent” because farmers continue to own land, and banks continue to lend against it.

But the value of that farmland in Kansas has fallen 20 percent from its peak, according to Kauffman’s testimony. That means that 20 percent of the equity used to secure loans has vaporized. Banks have to ask for more collateral, shrinking farmers’ ability to borrow.

And experts say that expectations for any substantial long-term increases in crop and cattle prices depend on getting export agreements figured out and the dollar falling in value, big sources of agricultural anxiety right now with the Trump administration in power.

The clock is ticking and conditions are eroding. Kauffman warned that if farm incomes stay low, land values continue to fall and debt keeps rising, the 1980s could return in a few years.

Others put the crisis point sooner.

“They can last another year, maybe two, but it will be tough,” said Frank, the Scott City banker. “We might lose — and I’m just pulling a number out the air — 10 percent, if things don’t change after a year.

“Those are the people who are flat broke. Another 50 percent will be struggling.”

Trump adviser: No more EPA-funded attacks on farmers Fri, 24 Mar 2017 17:15:11 -0400 Don Jenkins President Trump’s top agricultural adviser says the new administration won’t tolerate federal support for advocacy campaigns like What’s Upstream.

Ray Starling, special assistant to the president for agriculture, trade and food assistance, outlined the White House’s farm policy priorities in a speech March 21 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

“This administration will not allow the EPA to give taxpayer dollars to activist groups who then turn around and put up billboards that attack our farmers and ranchers,” said Starling, a former general counsel for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture.

The promise cheered Gerald Baron, director of Save Family Farming, which was formed last year to respond to claims by What’s Upstream that farmers are unregulated polluters who let cows wade in rivers.

“This indication from Ray Starling is important. It gives us optimism some of these things will be dealt with,” Baron said.

Between 2011 and 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency financially supported What’s Upstream, which was organized by the Swinomish Indian Tribe and several environmental groups. They hoped to influence Washington state lawmakers to vote for stricter limits on farming near waterways.

The campaign included a website, radio ads and a letter-writing campaign, but billboards in Olympia and Bellingham attracted the attention of federal lawmakers. The EPA withdrew its support soon after Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., called the billboards “disturbing” and “malicious.”

The tribe, funded by an EPA grant passed through the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, had a budget of some $655,000 for the campaign. The EPA’s inspector general has yet to release a congressionally requested audit into how the money was used.

Some federal lawmakers accused the EPA of breaking a federal law prohibiting the grant from being used to lobby policymakers. The Washington Public Disclosure Commission recently ruled What’s Upstream didn’t need to report its political activities. Although the campaign advocated mandatory 100-foot buffers, it did not cite a specific bill and did not need to register as a lobbying effort, according to the PDC.

The PDC was responding to a complaint from Save Family Farming that named a tribe official, Seattle lobbying firm Strategies 360 and then-EPA Northwest Administrator Dennis McLerran. The Trump administration has not yet appointed a new region administrator.

Baron said Save Family Farming will ask McLerran’s successor to get back federal money spent on What’s Upstream and ensure the tribe doesn’t resume the campaign.

“Given the severe disappointment with the state taking this issue seriously, it’s gratifying the federal government with the new administration is considering this a pretty serious issue,” Baron said.

Starling said the White House supports trade. Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which many farm groups supported. “The president is committed to negotiating agreements that secure open and equitable access to foreign markets,” Starling said.

Starling did not talk about immigration policy, but said farm labor will be another top priority.

“We are getting to a point of push comes to shove when it comes to access to a reliable workforce. That is something we definitely have to work on for agriculture,” he said.

Starling said farmers and ranchers have been the victims of “one regulatory proposal after another.”

“We have to halt the regulatory onslaught,” he said. “The administration will never lose sight of the fact that the number one farm preservation tool we have is farm profitability, not buzzwords, not catch phrases, or a federal grant program.”

Tech company gearing up for harvest interest Fri, 24 Mar 2017 11:31:22 -0400 Matw Weaver SPOKANE — Agriculture tech company 2nd Sight Bioscience has sold 50 of its automated harvest weighing stations for the coming season.

The Spokane business will build 50 more units next month, some of which are included in that sale, said Monika Cetnarowski, director of business development.

Growers have tested the company’s FairPick system in recent seasons. The product is designed to improve labor efficiency, paying pickers by weight and recording the data electronically.

After testing it last year, Mike Omeg, owner of Omeg Family Orchards in The Dalles, Ore., plans to add the equipment to his cherry operation. He previously paid harvesters by the bucket, but challenges arose when monitoring staff would ask for fuller buckets and pickers would say the bucket was full.

“If we move to pay by the pound, it takes all of the tension out of the equation, it keeps the harvest staff doing the picking honest, and it keeps me, doing the paying, honest,” Omeg said. “I really like that concept. It’s better for everyone involved in the harvest process.”

The system records each employee’s work in real time, which helps protect Omeg against possible wage complaints. As the technology is proven in various fruit operations, he expects it to be widely adopted.

Omeg is a member of the Capital Press board of directors.

John Raap, chief financial officer for Olsen Brothers Ranches Inc. in Prosser, Wash., will also use 2nd Sight Biosciences Systems for more efficient, quicker and accurate payroll data.

“There’s going to be more technology and efforts toward automating and becoming more efficient,” Raap said. “This is certainly a way to do that, bringing technology out to the farm, out in the fields. For payroll, it’s a beautiful thing.”

2nd Sight offers a labor tracking application, FairTrak, which comes on a “ruggedized” hand-held device.

“You can beat it up a little bit,” Cetnarowski said. “We’ve pushed to have it on a rugged piece of equipment, just because we know in farming environments, you have direct sunlight, heat, moisture, you’re going to drop this thing, it’s going to be beaten up.”

Growers can use the app to track their labor all year, with data going to the same account, Cetnarowski said.

2nd Sight also offers an electronic calipering device for counting and measuring nursery stock, and is working on yield tracking with mechanical harvesters.

The company is working with a California tomato grower to design an electronic application to meet that specific harvest process.

Also in the pipeline, 2nd Sight CEO Kevin Oldenburg has discussed a backpack-style blueberry harvester that picks berries gently enough for them to be sold fresh, Cetnarowski said.

The company is working to adapt its calipering device for rootstock growers.

The company has customers in Washington, Oregon, British Columbia, Ontario, Georgia and Florida.

“We’re kind of finding these pockets of growers that are interested and then of course the word spreads from there,” Cetnarowski said.


Dakota ranchers help wildfire-stricken colleagues Fri, 24 Mar 2017 09:14:26 -0400 BLAKE NICHOLSON BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Ranchers in the Dakotas are helping colleagues in the Southern Plains who are dealing with the aftermath of devastating wildfires.

The North Dakota Stockmen’s Association and its Stockmen’s Foundation each have pledged $15,000 to help affected ranchers in Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado, and the groups are encouraging others to donate.

“We want them to know that they are not alone,” said North Dakota Stockmen’s President Warren Zenker. “The cattle-ranching community is here for them.”

The South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association is paying oversize load permit fees for anyone hauling donated hay through the state to the fire-ravaged areas. The group is contributing up to $1,000, which will fund 40 trips, according to state Public Safety spokesman Tony Mangan.

Cattlemen’s Association Executive Director Jodie Anderson said South Dakota ranchers received aid from other producers after a large wildfire last summer and a devastating October 2013 blizzard, and this is a way for them to give back.

“It always seems to be the case. When disaster strikes the farming and ranching community, so many people leap to the rescue,” she said.

Ranchers in the southern states lost thousands of animals and suffered tens of millions of dollars’ worth of damage in the wildfires that blackened thousands of square miles this month. Dry conditions, low humidity and strong winds are blamed. The U.S. Department of Agriculture this week announced more than $6 million in aid to help with such things as restoring scorched land and rebuilding fencing.

The North Dakota rancher group and its foundation also have established the “Rising from the Ashes” Wildfire Disaster Relief Program, to which anyone can donate. All of the money raised will go to disaster victims, officials said.

“We cannot undo what has happened to them, but what we can hopefully do is rekindle their hope and help them recover from this disaster,” Foundation President Steve Brooks said.

China boosts apple exports to U.S. Thu, 23 Mar 2017 10:17:38 -0400 Dan Wheat Two years ago, after decades of sparring through negotiations, the U.S. and China fully opened their doors to each other’s apples.

What has happened since then was expected in terms of Washington’s apple shipments to China, but the rapid growth of China’s shipments to the U.S. has surprised some in the industry even though it still represents only a sliver of the market.

For Washington apple companies, the trade deal has had the desired effect. They have shipped about 1.3 million, 40-pound boxes of apples to China in each of the past two years.

That’s worth about $26 million a year, and though the Chinese economy has slowed, Washington apple shippers still hope the most populous nation in the world will one day grow into a 10 million-box, $200 million market. China has a large and growing middle class that likes high-quality Washington apples.

At the same time, however, Chinese apple exports to the U.S. increased by more than 30 fold, from 6,149, 40-pound boxes in the 2014-2015 sales season to 192,258 boxes in 2015-2016, according to the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service.

That’s still less than 2 percent of U.S. apple imports and about one-quarter of 1 percent of overall Chinese apple exports in 2016, says Desmond O’Rourke, an apple market analyst and retired Washington State University agricultural economist who studies China.

But is it reason for alarm? Could China flood the U.S. with its cheap Fuji apples, as U.S. apple producers feared years ago?

The answer appears to be no, but O’Rourke says it’s well worth watching because of China’s ability to rapidly ramp up its exports. China could “easily double” its apple exports to the U.S. this year because it is such a tiny portion of its total exports, he said.

“Being able to sell in high-quality markets like Europe, Canada and the U.S. is a matter of pride for them,” O’Rourke said.

“They have a lot of apples. They doubled exports to Southeast Asia in one year. Their quality has been improving. We don’t know how much quality they have or will want to ship a long distance and take more risk with,” he said.

He points to several possible reasons Chinese apple exports to the U.S. increased so much in one year.

One reason might be that it took China time to meet U.S. phytosanitary requirements. Another is that China is trying to offset its slowing economy.

Years ago, China pushed exports of numerous goods but then backed off after Europe, Japan and the U.S. objected to their markets being flooded, O’Rourke said.

China concentrated on building its domestic market and put less focus on exports for awhile, but with its economy slowing it has in the past year begun pushing exports again, he said.

The export effort involves manufactured and other goods. With fruit, China is selling heavily into Asia, Russia and the Middle East, O’Rourke said.

China is exempt from the Russian embargo that bans Western produce, and Southeast Asia and India are close to home. China is also improving the quality of its export Fuji and is selling in the same price range in the U.S. as domestic apples, he said.

China grows 43.8 million metric tons — the equivalent of 24.1 billion 40-pound boxes — of apples annually, most of which are consumed domestically. That’s half the world’s apple production.

By comparison, the U.S. produces 4.6 million metric tons of apples — the equivalent of 253 million 40-pound boxes — leaving it a distant second place in world production.

In 2016, China exported 114,620 metric tons of apples to Russia, up from 85,660 metric tons in 2015, O’Rourke said.

In Southeast Asia, Chinese apple sales increased from 393,999 to 615,392 metric tons, and in India and Bangladesh sales increased from 202,953 to 406,801 metric tons.

“It’s the markets nearer to them. Their cheaper apples are going into those places. Their better apples go to Canada and the U.S.,” O’Rourke said.

China leap-frogged from total apple exports of 800,000 metric tons in 2015 to 1.5 million metric tons in 2106, said Todd Fryhover, president of the Washington Apple Commission.

“They are pushing everywhere,” he said.

“I’m surprised at the volume (of U.S. uptick), that there’s demand for them. None of our (Washington) shippers are bringing them in that I’ve heard of,” said Tom Riggan, general manager of Chelan Fresh Marketing.

“None of our customers have asked if we have Chinese product. I’ve seen more and more Ya pears come in from China in Los Angeles markets, but not Chinese Fuji,” he said.

Riggan said he’s eaten Chinese Fuji in China, India and Germany and that it doesn’t have the sugar level and dessert quality of Washington-grown Fuji.

Steve Yeoh, export director and co-owner of Agri-Pacific International Trading Corp. in Arcadia, Calif., has been importing and exporting fruit in Southern California for 25 years. He mostly exports citrus fruit, apples and table grapes.

Importers who buy Chinese Fuji sell them to Asian markets in Chinatowns in major cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago and New York, said Yeoh, who is Chinese.

Premium Chinese Fuji look better than U.S. Fuji because they are grown in bags to give them better color and clean skin with no scratches or blemishes, he said.

But he’s never thought they would become big in the U.S. because they lack consistent quality and China doesn’t have the facilities to pack and grade apples like U.S. packers do, he said.

“Chinese Fuji target Chinatowns. I don’t think it will grow a lot more. Fuji is becoming a lesser variety because Americans are going for newer club varieties like Envy and Pacific Rose,” Yeoh said.

Price is key, he said.

Chinese Fuji sell into the U.S. at an average of $26 per 40-pound box, which is similar to U.S. apple domestic prices, “so they are not undercutting us,” O’Rourke said.

Price undercutting was a fear that for years caused the U.S. apple industry to oppose Chinese imports.

In 1998, China caused severe damage to the U.S. apple juice industry by flooding the world market with cheap, government-subsidized apple juice.

After that, apple producers in Washington, New York and Michigan feared boatloads of Chinese Fuji apples arriving on U.S. shores and taking a big bite out of the fresh apple market.

The U.S. industry used pest and disease protocols as roadblocks to China’s request, also in 1998, for its fresh apples to be allowed in.

But in the late 1990s and early 2000s, with the Washington apple industry hurting from low prices and not enough varietal diversification, the appeal of China’s large population as a potential market began to grow.

Red and Golden Delicious apples from Washington, Oregon and Idaho were allowed into China in 1993 but were banned from August 2012 to November 2014, after disease was found in some shipments. When shipments resumed they were immediately hindered by work slowdowns at West Coast ports.

In the meantime, Washington producers increasingly wanted access to China for all apple varieties and, as a tradeoff, began thinking of ending their opposition to Chinese apples coming into the U.S.

The Washington Apple Commission hired O’Rourke to evaluate the potential impact of Chinese apples coming into the U.S. O’Rourke concluded that the perceived threat of Chinese apples flooding U.S. markets was overblown. China only grew Fuji, which was less than 10 percent of the U.S. market, and the quality was inferior, he said.

“We looked at Canada, where China made a big surge (in 2003 and 2004) that fizzled, and the same in Europe. China’s natural export markets are in those big Asia markets closer to home,” O’Rourke said.

O’Rourke remembers some big shippers muttering their disagreement when he presented his study to the Apple Commission.

Two large shippers were opposed but most of the opposition came from East Coast growers hit hard by the juice competition, Fryhover said.

It took several years to get the industry unified to end its opposition to Chinese imports and more time for U.S.-Chinese negotiations, in which the Northwest Horticultural Council in Yakima played a big role, Fryhover said.

The Apple Commission passed a motion Dec. 5, 2012, recommending Chinese apple access to the U.S. in exchange for full varietal U.S. access to China. Pest and disease concerns were addressed.

The two governments reached an agreement in early 2015 and later that year all apple varieties were allowed to flow both directions for the first time.

In the 2014-2015 sales season, Washington shipped 1.35 million boxes of apples to China. That dropped to 1.27 million in 2015-2016.

The drop was caused by a variety of factors, according to an assessment by the Apple Commission released at its March 14 meeting. They included overproduction and a drop in prices in China, more shipments into China from Chile and New Zealand, a slowdown of China’s economy, a strong U.S. dollar and high Washington prices due to a smaller 2015 crop,

China’s middle and upper class population increased from 30 million in 2011 to 109 million in 2015 and is expected to grow 25 to 30 percent in each of the next five years, the assessment states.

That middle-income population growth, its increasing online purchasing, its concern for food safety and Washington’s high quality all bode well for future exports to China, the commission said in the assessment.

When the Chinese economy rebounds, the commission concluded, that growing middle-income class will be “willing to try new varieties and with the increased number of new apples that Washington apple growers continue to offer, we can expect an increase in demand of Washington apples as a whole.”

Agriculture nominee seeks to reassure Congress as Trump eyes budget cuts Thu, 23 Mar 2017 08:29:26 -0400 MARY CLARE JALONICK WASHINGTON (AP) — The nominee for agriculture secretary, Sonny Perdue, on Thursday sought to reassure farm-state senators fearful about the impact of President Donald Trump’s proposed deep cuts to farm programs, promising to work with Democrats to create jobs in the struggling industry.

At his confirmation hearing, the former Georgia governor stressed bipartisanship, reaching out to Democrats who have complained about Trump’s lack of experience in agriculture and his proposed 21 percent cut to the farm budget.

“In Georgia, agriculture is one area where Democrats and Republicans consistently reached across the aisle and work together,” Perdue said.

Perdue, 70, is a farmer’s son who would be the first Southerner in the post in more than two decades. Some Democrats have said they will support his nomination, and he is expected to be confirmed easily. But Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, the top Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, expressed frustration with the Trump administration, saying “it’s clear that rural America has been an afterthought.”

She said government dollars are important to rural communities as many of them are still struggling to recover from the Great Recession.

“Especially during these times of low prices for agriculture and uncertainty around budget, trade and immigration, we need the next secretary to be an unapologetic advocate for all of rural America,” she said.

Farm-state Republicans have also criticized the proposed budget cuts and have been wary of the president’s positions against some trade agreements, as trade is a major economic driver in the agricultural industry.

Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said at the hearing that producers need a market for their goods, and “during this critical time, the importance of trade for the agriculture industry cannot be overstated.”

Perdue was the last of Trump’s Cabinet nominees to be chosen, and his nomination was delayed for weeks as the administration prepared his ethics paperwork. Perdue eventually said he would step down from several companies bearing his name to avoid conflicts of interest.

He and Trump’s choice for labor secretary, Alexander Acosta, are two of the final nominees for Trump’s Cabinet still pending in the Senate. Acosta was nominated in February after the withdrawal of the original nominee, Andrew Puzder.

Bird flu confirmed at another Alabama farm Thu, 23 Mar 2017 09:15:10 -0400 CULLMAN, Ala. (AP) — Agriculture officials say bird flu has been confirmed at another commercial chicken farm in Alabama.

The low-pathogenic illness found in birds at a Cullman County farm is similar to the one found in two other commercial operations in the state. The illness also has been detected at three backyard operations.

Officials said Thursday the farm with the latest outbreak is currently quarantined, and plans are being made on how to deal with the illness.

Bird flu has been found in three Southern states this month in what an expert says is the worst U.S. outbreak of the disease since 2015. More than 200,000 birds have been destroyed to stop the spread.

An expert at Auburn University says it’s too early to say whether the outbreak with worsen or fade away.

Judge approves Portland aviation firm’s bankruptcy plan Thu, 23 Mar 2017 08:50:48 -0400 MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) — A struggling Portland aviation company is one step closer to emerging from bankruptcy.

The Mail Tribune reports that a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge in Dallas on Tuesday confirmed Erickson Inc.’s reorganization plan less than five months after the company entered court protection in November.

Erickson president and CEO Jeff Roberts said Wednesday that the company now has a clear path out of bankruptcy.

When Ericson filed for Chapter 11 in November, it listed $561 million in debt. The company went public in 2012 and acquired Evergreen Helicopters and Air Amazonia in 2013, leaving the company with $355 million in debt just as the oil and gas market began to decline.

Expert: Bird flu outbreak nation’s worst since 2015 Thu, 23 Mar 2017 08:41:36 -0400 JAY REEVES BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — A bird flu outbreak that has resulted in the euthanasia of more than 200,000 animals in three Southern states already is the nation’s worst since 2015 and new cases are still popping up, an expert said Wednesday.

Agriculture officials are trying to limit the damage from the disease, but it’s unclear whether quarantines, transportation bans and mass killings will stop the spread, said Joseph Hess, a poultry science professor at Auburn University.

The disease was first confirmed in southern Tennessee earlier this month and has since been detected in northern Alabama and western Kentucky.

“We’re at the point where it’s a little here and a little there. It could fade away, but it could blow up into something bigger,” said Hess, who also works with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

State officials say no infected birds have entered the nation’s poultry supply, and the U.S. food chain isn’t at risk.

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture said Tuesday that it was temporarily banning the transportation of poultry after a low-pathogenic form of the disease was found in a commercial flock of 22,000 hens in western Kentucky. The farm was placed under quarantine and the birds were killed.

The announcement came as the state of Alabama confirmed the presence of low-pathogenic bird flu in two flocks there, where more than 42,000 animals have been euthanized. High-pathogenic bird flu, a deadlier form of the illness, was previously detected in Tennessee, where 145,000 birds were put to death.

Hess said the illness is carried by waterfowl, which don’t get ill but can pass along the disease to poultry.

The current outbreak has affected large commercial poultry houses, where at-risk birds typically are put to death by the thousands with foam that smothers them, and smaller, backyard operations.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said a flock of 84,000 turkeys had been confirmed with a low-pathogenic bird flu virus in Wisconsin.

None of the current outbreaks have been linked to the same high-pathogenic virus that resulted in the loss of millions of birds in the Midwest chicken egg and turkey industry in 2015.

North Dakota tops in honey production for 13th straight year Thu, 23 Mar 2017 08:39:58 -0400 FARGO, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota was tops in the nation in honey production in 2016 for the 13th consecutive year.

The Agriculture Department says North Dakota producers with five or more colonies made 37.8 million pounds of honey last year, up 4 percent from the previous year.

The 485,000 honey-producing colonies in the state were down slightly, but average yield was up 4 pounds to 78 pounds per colony.

Prices for the 2016 crop averaged $1.73 per pound, down from $1.80 in 2015.

Brazil meat exports collapse in wake of inspection scandal Thu, 23 Mar 2017 08:39:07 -0400 SARAH DiLORENZO SAO PAULO (AP) — Brazil’s meat exports effectively collapsed this week, the agricultural minister said Wednesday, as several countries halted imports from the South American country in the wake of a meat inspection scandal.

Brazil is struggling to contain the scandal, in which investigators say that health inspectors were bribed to overlook expired meats and chemicals and that other products were added to meat to improve its appearance and smell. The government has largely tried to downplay the extent of the corruption, while also criticizing the federal police for how they have communicated about it.

The result has been a stampede away from Brazilian exports.

On average in March, Brazil exported more than $60 million worth of meat each day, Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi told a Senate committee Wednesday. That figure was $74,000 on Tuesday, a few days after investigators revealed the probe.

That precipitous fall in exports shows how serious the crisis is and the government should not try to downplay it, said Michael Gordon, CEO of Group Gordon, a corporate and crisis PR firm.

“Even if it is a handful of bad actors, the issue is that those bad actors are tainting the entire culture of meat production in the country,” he said. “That’s why a systemic response is needed.”

The government has suspended exports from the 21 companies under investigation and noted that only a handful of 4,000 plants were involved, but that has not quelled concern abroad.

South Africa was the latest to join the growing list of countries that are instituting partial or total bans on Brazilian meat. The others include the European Union, China, Japan and Mexico.

In a statement Wednesday, its Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said that it would block products from the companies implicated in the probe. Port inspectors will also test every container of meat from Brazil for pathogens such as Salmonella.

Exports of beef, pork and poultry make up 15 percent of Brazil’s total exports, and a collapse in the sector would have serious implications for Brazil’s economy, which is already in deep recession.

Brazil is also trying to address concerns at home, where Sunday BBQs are a weekly rite. The consumer protection lobby Idec is calling for a general recall and more information about which meat might be affected. So far, Brazil has not instituted a recall, but instead is pulling samples of products from shelves and sending them for testing.

Maggi has assured the public that meat is safe — but also said there would be a recall if any problems were found during the testing.

Sniping between the federal police, who are investigating the corruption, and President Michel Temer’s government has not helped matters.

In a joint statement Tuesday, the federal police and the Agricultural Ministry tried to smooth over their differences and reassure the public and importers that the problem was smaller than it appeared.

The investigation has revealed “facts (that) are directly related to errors in the professional conduct of some public servants and do not represent a general malfunctioning of the Brazilian system of hygiene security,” the statement read.

Rusty patched bumblebee added to endangered species list Wed, 22 Mar 2017 08:35:47 -0400 JOHN FLESHERAP Environmental Writer TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — The rusty patched bumblebee on Tuesday became the first officially endangered bee species in the continental U.S., overcoming objections from some business interests and a last-minute delay ordered by the Trump administration.

One of many bee types that have suffered steep population declines, the rusty patched bumblebee has disappeared from about 90 percent of its range in the past 20 years. It previously was common across the East Coast and much of the Midwest, where it played a crucial role as a pollinator of crops and wild plants.

Its listing as an endangered species means the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will devise a plan for returning the imperiled bee to “a healthy and secure condition,” the U.S. Department of Interior said. “We will work with stakeholders to ensure collaborative conservation among landowners, farmers, industry, and developers in the areas where the species is native.”

The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, which filed the petition that triggered the government’s consideration of the matter, said it was “thrilled to see one of North America’s most endangered species receive the protection it needs.”

“Now that the Fish and Wildlife Service has listed the rusty patched bumblebee as endangered, it stands a chance of surviving the many threats it faces,” said Sarina Jepsen, the group’s director of endangered species.

Scientists say disease, pesticide exposure, habitat loss and climate change are among possible reasons for the bee’s decline. Advocates said they hoped the recovery plan would also help other struggling pollinators, including bees and the monarch butterfly.

The bee’s endangered listing, approved by the service shortly before President Barack Obama left office, had been scheduled to take effect Feb. 10. But the Trump administration, which has pledged to pare back federal regulations, said it would postpone the listing until Tuesday. Some environmental groups had feared it would be canceled altogether.

The Natural Resources Defense Council filed a lawsuit over the delay, saying it had been ordered without required public notice and comment. On Tuesday, the group said the administration had “reversed course and listed the rusty patched bumblebee as an endangered species just in the nick of time.”

“Federal protections may be the only thing standing between the bumblebee and extinction,” Rebecca Riley, senior attorney with the group.

Six business organizations petitioned the government earlier this month to push back the effective date to Jan. 11, 2018. The groups, including the American Petroleum Institute and the National Association of Home Builders, said the Obama administration had acted hastily without adequately considering how the designation would affect human activities and with too little information about the bee’s underground nesting and hibernation sites.

“Once the listing decision takes effect, virtually every industry operating within the species’ range — from agriculture and crop production to residential and commercial development, from energy production and distribution to manufacturing, will be profoundly affected,” the petition said.