Capital Press | Nation/World Capital Press Fri, 30 Jan 2015 15:24:54 -0500 en Capital Press | Nation/World Simplot GMO potatoes kept in ‘closed loop’ Fri, 30 Jan 2015 14:33:06 -0500 Matw Weaver KENNEWICK, Wash. — The J.R. Simplot Co. plans to keep its GMO potato in a “closed-loop” system while it builds industry acceptance, a company representative says.

The system will ensure the potatoes don’t go outside controlled farms or anywhere else by accident, said Kerwin Bradley, director of commercialization for Simplot. Seed grown by Simplot on controlled farms will go only to licensed growers. The potatoes then will go to isolated packing sheds, which will not provide them to non-GMO market channels.

Bradley spoke about the company’s plan to release its GMO potatoes, called Innate, during the Washington-Oregon Potato Conference in Kennewick, Wash.

Simplot received USDA approval for the first generation of Innate potatoes in November, and is going through the voluntary Food and Drug Administration process, Bradley said. The company expects to receive approval from Japan and Canada this year.

The company believes it is “absolutely critical” for the potato industry to embrace the innovation and apply it to potatoes in a meaningful way, Bradley said.

Innate potatoes use DNA from wild or cultivated potatoes to improve the Russet Burbank, Ranger Russet, Atlantic and Snowden varieties. The first release of Innate potatoes do not brown when cut, have reduced black spot bruising and have a 50-70 percent reduction in acrylamide, a compound created when potatoes are fried and that has been possibly linked to cancer. Simplot is committed to the Innate technology for the long haul, he said. It also committed to releasing it in a way that it will not disrupt the non-GMO segment of the industry, Bradley said.

“A significant concern is what happens when a potato that’s GMO that’s been approved for use in the U.S. gets into a country where it’s not approved,” Bradley said. “In order to ensure that you don’t get those kinds of disruptions, you go into those other countries and get approvals for your potatoes to be sold there, too.”

Simplot hopes to get approvals in 80 to 90 percent of its export market.

About 400 acres of Innate potatoes were planted in 2014. That will increase to 2,000 to 3,000 acres in 2015, Bradley said.

The second generation of Innate potatoes, with late blight resistance and low sugar traits, is being considered by USDA for approval. The third generation will have potato virus Y resistance and more late blight resistance.

Progress seen in port negotiations Fri, 30 Jan 2015 14:50:44 -0500 Mateusz Perkowski A key point of contention has been resolved between the longshoremen’s union and West Coast container terminal operators, leading to speculation that a new overall labor contract is imminent.

Despite the progress in negotiations, agricultural exporters remain nervous about instability at West Coast ports, which has delayed shipments of many farm goods and threatened to ruin the overseas reputation of U.S. suppliers.

“We need a good contract, not just any contract,” said Peter Friedmann, executive director of the Agriculture Transportation Coalition. “Of course, we’re apprehensive.”

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union’s previous contract expired last summer. In recent months terminal operators have blamed the union for slowing down shipping as a negotiating tactic.

The Pacific Maritime Association, which represents terminal operators in talks with ILWU, said it has struck a tentative deal over the management of truck chassis, which are wheeled platforms used to move cargo containers.

A dispute over chassis erupted when the terminals sold the equipment to other firms, which then performed maintenance and repair work traditionally done by longshoremen.

A settlement in the chassis controversy has been reached but details have not been publicly disclosed, said Steve Getzug, a spokesman for PMA.

“There was quite a bit of discussion about that for a long period of time,” he said.

Craig Merrilees, communications director for ILWU, said the parties remain at the table and are working hard to reach a final agreement.

The chassis announcement has spurred hearsay that PMA and ILWU are considering deals on other contract provisions, such as prohibitions against strikes and lockouts, said Jim Tessier, a labor consultant and former PMA employee who is closely tracking the negotiations.

The recent momentum seems like a positive step toward ending the lengthy standoff, he said. “I think they will have something pretty shortly.”

Friedmann, of the Agriculture Transportation Coalition, said it’s too early to conclude the negotiations are in their final phase.

“I have no idea if those rumors are valid,” he said. “We have heard these before.”

Expectations were similarly high when the ILWU called a caucus of its top leaders in December, but no agreement was announced after the meeting.

Even if the parties are close to a comprehensive deal, agricultural exporters still have reasons to remain nervous, Friedmann said.

The contract may only cover three years instead of the usual six, he said.

Since the provisions would apply retroactively to July 2014, when the previous deal expired, the parties could be “two and a half years from doing this again,” he said.

Apart from concerns about the contract duration, agricultural shippers hope the deal will increase efficiency and save costs at West Coast ports to regain the confidence of foreign importers and exporters, Friedmann said.

“They don’t want to deal with West Coast ports and West Coast labor any more,” he said.

For example, the undisclosed deal over chassis management is only good news if it allows containers to move more smoothly through ports, rather than impeding their flow, said Friedmann.

“It can go either way, and it’s not just a subtle detail,” he said.

WIC win based on nutrition, potato council CEO says Fri, 30 Jan 2015 11:57:23 -0500 Matw Weaver KENNEWICK, Wash. — If critics now want to drop white potatoes from the USDA’s Women, Infants and Children program, they’ll have to consider the nutritional value of all other vegetables, too, the director of the National Potato Council says.

Potatoes had been excluded from the WIC program for eight years, but last year Congress included a provision that allowed voucher recipients to buy them. Congress also called for a study of all fruits and vegetables in the program, with inclusion in WIC based on nutrition, council CEO John Keeling said during the Washington-Oregon Potato Conference in Kennewick, Wash.

“It’s not that we couldn’t ever get tossed out of the WIC program again, but if they do it, it will have to be based on some clear understanding of why from a nutritional point of view (potatoes) are not adequate,” Keeling said. “If they do, it will be pretty clear to me that we won’t be the only product.”

Critics argued that people eat too many potatoes already, despite potatoes having the nutrition that program participants need, Keeling said. The council’s research with the Alliance for Potato Research and Education indicates that WIC mothers consume fewer fresh potatoes than their non-WIC counterparts.

There was strong opposition from the White House to including potatoes in the program, Keeling said.

”It’s striking to me that in the world we live in, the White House would have the time to weigh in on an issue like this, but they certainly did,” he said.

Keeling also spoke about other issues the potato industry faces in 2015:

• Republican control of both the U.S. Senate and House puts funding for potato breeding research at risk, since legislators could view it as an earmark, Keeling said. For more than 20 years, the industry has received $1.1 million to $1.8 million annually from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, divided by state breeding programs. The council will work with states to maintain the funding, and even increase it to $2 million, Keeling said.

• The White House is likely to take a direct action on pollinator health and neonicotinoids, a class of insecticides used on crops and landscape ornamentals, he said.

“We fear the worst in terms of reaction we think could happen there,” Keeling said. “We think there could be restrictions on these chemicals that’s not justified relative to the risk they might propose to bees.”

• The council hopes to see truck weight limits raised to 97,000 pounds and a fifth axle added on federal highways, up from the current 80,000 pounds. Doing so would allow the trucks to brake better and reduce truck miles driven by 10 to 15 percent, increasing safety and reducing wear and tear on highways, Keeling said.

“This is tremendously important for a group that’s delivering a relatively heavy commodity long distances to customers,” Keeling said.

A proposal would include a tax on truckers that chose the option. The proceeds would go directly to rebuilding bridges.

Keeling expects strong opposition to the bill from railroads.

• GMO labeling should be voluntary, uniform and consistent and from a federal level, Keeling said.

City sees carbon credits as forest revenue source Fri, 30 Jan 2015 10:11:26 -0500 Derrick DePledgeEO Media Group ASTORIA, Ore. — In an innovative trade-off, Astoria has agreed not to aggressively harvest timber in the Bear Creek watershed over the next decade in return for carbon credits that could help industrial polluters offset carbon-dioxide emissions that contribute to climate change.

The city is partnering with The Climate Trust, a Portland nonprofit that would purchase the carbon credits. Utilities with fossil-fuel driven power plants pay the trust to find projects that offset pollution and meet the requirements of Oregon’s landmark emission standards law.

By committing to a less aggressive timber harvest at Bear Creek, Astoria could receive about $358,750 in carbon credits after expenses this year and about $130,000 annually for the next nine years. The first year has the most significant potential value because it is based on the city’s existing inventory of timber, while the value for the following years is tied to growth.

“We commit to harvest less than what we could and we then can monetize that,” said Michael Barnes, the city’s consulting forester.

Carbon-dioxide emissions are the most prevalent greenhouse gas from human activity and are tied to global warming. The ocean, soil, atmosphere and forests act as carbon “sinks” that absorb more carbon than is released, so preserving forests can help store carbon and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.

The Climate Trust was created to help achieve Oregon’s landmark 1997 law that set standards for carbon-dioxide emissions at power plants. The trust’s projects have led to an estimated 2 million tons of emission reductions, the equivalent of the annual greenhouse gas emissions from 421,000 passenger vehicles.

“One of the things that’s appealing about this project is it’s providing a financial incentive to decrease the harvest in an area that’s really providing clean drinking water to the city of Astoria,” said Mik McKee, The Climate Trust’s senior project analyst for forestry.

McKee said there would be “greater attention paid toward conservation, and clean water, and forest health. And that’s a really appealing thing on a local scale, because that’s going to translate for the citizens of Astoria and the people in the community.

“On a larger scale, this is a harder concept to explain … but trees sequester carbon. So these trees that aren’t being cut are going to pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere that, theoretically — at the most simple level — (is) being emitted by the Oregon utilities that are essentially paying through The Climate Trust to have these carbon offsets retired.”

The Astoria City Council approved the project with The Climate Trust in December.

The city already harvests less timber than it could from the 3,700-acre Bear Creek watershed to help protect the drinking water supply.

Based on a 3 percent annual growth rate, Barnes said the city could harvest about 3 million board feet a year and not deplete an inventory of about 100 million board feet of standing mature timber.

But the city harvests about 750,000 board feet of timber a year. Last year, the harvest was larger — just under 850,000 board feet — and the city netted about $350,000 for the capital improvement fund.

Revenue from the carbon credits would also go into the capital improvement fund.

“The harvest level that we’re able to do annually under this program is no different than what we’ve been doing,” said Ken Cook, Astoria Public Works director. “So this is not crimping our style necessarily. The level we’ve been harvesting ensures that the water quality is not harmed.”

Study launched on restoring salmon runs to upper Columbia Fri, 30 Jan 2015 09:53:14 -0500 NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Indian tribes from Washington and Idaho who live near the upper Columbia River are beginning a study of whether salmon runs can be restored above Grand Coulee Dam, which blocked those runs more than 70 years ago.

The tribes want to study what it would take to restore salmon runs to the 100 river miles between the dam, the nation’s greatest producer of hydropower, and the U.S.-Canadian border.

The study proposal was released this week by the Upper Columbia United Tribes, which represents the Colville, Spokane, Coeur d’Alene, Kalispel and Kootenai tribes of Idaho and Washington.

“Grand Coulee Dam should have been built with fish passage,” said John Osborn of Spokane, a leader of the local Sierra Club chapter who supports the return of the salmon. “Justice and stewardship compel us to return salmon to these rivers.”

D.R. Michel, executive director for the Upper Columbia United Tribes, said the return of salmon would restore tribal cultural and religious experiences, plus provide new revenues for the tribes.

“Since time immemorial, the creator gave all the Columbia River Basin tribes the responsibility to protect the water, fish and wildlife within their geographic areas,” the study proposal said.

The loss of salmon runs damaged the tribes’ “spiritual connection and identity,” the proposal said. “The removal of an iconic species from the ecosystem greatly impacted forest growth, water quality, Native American culture and the entire food chain.”

Salmon runs on the upper Columbia and its tributaries were blocked first by Grand Coulee Dam, which was built in the 1930s, and later by Chief Joseph Dam, which was built downstream in the 1950s. Both dams were built without fish ladders, and killed a 10,000-year-old Native American fishery.

The tribes have sent the study proposal to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council in Portland. The tribes will collect comments over the next 30 days before deciding how to proceed.

Major questions include whether salmon could survive in the greatly changed habitat above the dams. Tom Karier of the power and conservation council said researchers would have to confirm that salmon could survive before any restoration effort could begin.

While many dams on the lower Columbia and Snake rivers have fish passage facilities, engineers could not include them when the 550-foot-tall Grand Coulee Dam was designed.

In addition to generating electricity, Grand Coulee Dam provides irrigation water for hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland in the region.

The study proposal is for only the U.S. side of the border. But some of the adult fish would likely swim into Canadian waters, and that could become an issue as the two countries renegotiate the 1964 Columbia River Treaty, which governs hydropower and flood control on the river.

Oregon snowpack at record lows Fri, 30 Jan 2015 09:50:00 -0500 JEFF BARNARD GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — Oregon’s mountain snowpack, vital for farms, fish and ski resorts, is posting record low depths despite normal precipitation.

The reason is persistent warm weather this winter.

Natural Resources Conservation Service hydrologist Julie Koeberle says there is time for things to improve, but expectations are low. Long-range forecasts call for warm weather, with no clear indication whether it will be wetter or drier than normal. Meanwhile, some snow measurement sites are their lowest since the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

“It really depends on what happens in February,” Koeberle said. “Come March, the writing will be on the wall for sure.”

The U.S. Drought Monitor shows drought spreading and intensifying across Oregon, except for the coast and the Willamette Valley. With rains not heavy enough to overcome persistent dry conditions, 2015 is likely to be the third straight year of drought in southern parts of the state, she said.

High temperatures in the western half of the state have left current snowpack measurements low: 16 percent of normal for the Willamette Valley, 28 percent for central Oregon, 18 percent for the Rogue-Umpqua region, and 17 percent for the Klamath Basin. Things are better in eastern Oregon, where temperatures have been lower. Snowpacks ranged from 47 percent in the Umatilla, Walla Walla, and Willow basins, to 79 percent in the Harney and Owyhee basins.

Precipitation throughout Oregon has been normal or near normal since the Oct. 1 start of the water year, despite a dry January, according to the service.

The reservoirs behind major dams operated by the Army Corps of Engineers in the Willamette Basin generally do not start filling until the beginning of February, said corps spokesman Scott Clemans. Overall, they are 5 percent full. In the Rogue Basin, reservoirs are 44 percent full. Lost Creek Dam reservoir is filling, but Applegate is not.

Clemans said in recent years, heavy rains have arrived in late spring in time to fill reservoirs.

Snow that builds up in the mountains serves as a natural reservoir, feeding streams and replenishing groundwater as it melts.

“We are really kind of staring climate change right in the eye right now,” said Kathie Dello, associated director of the Oregon Climate Change Institute at Oregon State University.

While there will still be plentiful snowpacks in some years, overall the trend is for them to decline as average temperatures continue to rise, she said.

“Last year we had a bad fire season, and that is in part due to the lack of snow,” which left the ground bare, and prone to dry out, she added.

Portland daily grain report Fri, 30 Jan 2015 09:31:27 -0500 Portland, Ore., Friday, Jan. 30

USDA Market News

Bids for grains delivered to Portland, Oregon during January by unit trains and barges, in dollars per bushel, except oats and corn, in dollars per cwt. Bids for soft white wheat are for delivery periods as specified. Hard red winter wheat and dark northern spring wheat bids are for full January delivery. Bids for corn are for 30 day delivery.

In early trading March wheat futures trended 4.25 to 7.50 cents per bushel lower compared to Thursday’s closes.

Bids for US 1 Soft White Wheat delivered to Portland in unit trains and barges for January delivery were not available for ordinary protein. Bids for guaranteed maximum 10.5 protein were not well tested, but were indicated as lower compared to Thursday’s noon bids for January delivery in a limited test.

Bids for 11.5 percent protein US 1 Hard Red Winter Wheat for January delivery were not well tested in early trading, but were indicated as lower than Thursday’s noon bids, due to the lower Kansas City March wheat futures. Several exporters are not issuing bids for January delivery due to adequate nearby supplies in the pipelines.

Bids for 14 percent protein US 1 Dark Northern Spring Wheat for January delivery were also not well tested in early trading, but bids were indicated as lower compared to Thursday’s noon bids, due to the lower Minneapolis March wheat futures. Several exporters are not issuing bids for January delivery due to moderate supplies in the pipelines to meet nearby exporter demand.

Bids for US 2 Yellow Corn delivered to Portland and the Yakima Valley were not available.

All wheat bids in dollars per bushel

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

Ordinary protein

Jan NA

Feb 6.3800-6.7500

Mar 6.4500-6.8000

Apr 6.4800-6.9000


Guaranteed maximum 10.5 pct protein

Jan mostly 7.2225, ranging 7.0025-7.4000

Feb 7.0025-7.4000

Mar 7.0025-7.4000

Apr 7.0475-7.4000

Aug NC 5.5200-6.1000

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

Ordinary protein

Jan NA

Guaranteed maximum 10.5 pct protein

Jan mostly 9.4825, ranging 9.0025-10.2000

Not fully established and limited.

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


Ordinary protein 6.0775-6.4075

10 pct protein 6.0775-6.4075

11 pct protein 6.1575-6.4875

11.5 pct protein

Jan 6.1975-6.5275

Feb 6.2475-6.6475

Mar 6.2475-6.6475

Apr 6.3925-6.6925

Aug NC 6.3525-6.5025

12 pct protein 6.1975-6.5275

13 pct protein 6.1975-6.5275

Not fully established and limited.

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 7.0500-7.3500

14 pct protein

Jan 8.1500-8.2500

Feb 8.2500-8.3000

Mar 7.8500-8.3500

Apr 8.0125-8.5125

Aug NC 7.0275-7.2775

15 pct protein 8.7000-9.0500

16 pct protein 9.3000-9.8500

Not fully established and limited.

US 2 Yellow Corn in dollars per CWT

Domestic-single rail cars

Delivered full coast-BN NA

Delivered to Portland NA

Rail and Truck del to Willamette Vly NA

Rail del to Yakima Valley NA

Truck del to Yakima Valley NA

US 2 Heavy White Oats in dollars per CWT 13.2500

Not well tested.

Exporter Bids Portland Rail/Barge Dec 2014

Averages in Dollars per bushel

US 1 Soft White by Unit Trains and Barges 7.1900

US 1 Hard Red Winter (Ordinary protein) 7.3800

US 1 Hard Red Winter (11.5% protein) 7.5200

US 1 Dark Northern Spring (14% protein) 9.4000

Source: USDA Market News Service, Portland, Ore.

S. Dakota Senate passes raw milk bill to make regulating easier Fri, 30 Jan 2015 08:34:43 -0500 PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — The state Senate has passed a bill that would put raw milk in its own category under state law, which would allow it to be more easily regulated by the state.

The legislation is a result of a workgroup set up by the Department of Agriculture following a stalemate in last year’s legislative session. The bill doesn’t legalize retail sales of raw milk.

The bill puts raw milk in the same regulatory category as Grade A milk and manufacturing-grade milk.

Stacy Revels is a policy adviser for the Department of Agriculture. She says raw milk needs to be in its own category so that the department can better create regulations, like what bacterial testing is necessary.

The bill also says that raw milk can no longer be sold at farmers’ markets.

Potato leaders address port slowdown impacts Thu, 29 Jan 2015 09:38:10 -0500 Matw Weaver KENNEWICK, Wash. — The best thing potato farmers can do about the labor slowdown at West Coast ports is provide numbers about the impacts on their industry, says the head of Oregon’s Department of Agriculture.

“Use real examples — how are you being directly impacted or how is your industry being directly impacted?” department Director Katy Coba said during the Washington-Oregon Potato Conference in Kennewick, Wash. “That makes a difference.”

Coba urged growers to share their concerns with federal congressional representatives as well as state representatives.

Mediations appeared to be moving forward with resolution of a contentious issue, Coba said, but she received a text Jan. 27 that no International Longshore and Warehouse Union workers reported to duty.

“It’s going to take years to overcome what’s going on right now,” said Bill Brewer, Oregon Potato Commission executive director.

Brewer said the commission was 20 percent ahead of collections of assessments in November, compared to the same time period the year before. In December, it was back to even. As of Jan. 15, the commission is 20 percent behind, he said.

“That is directly related to the amount of potatoes being processed that should be exported,” Brewer said. “The processors can’t process them, they don’t have any more storage or freezer space available. Their customers are wanting product, we cannot get it to them.”

John Toaspern, chief marketing officer for the U.S. Potato Board, said the port slowdown is one of three issues impacting potato exports, alongside a large European potato crop and the strength of the U.S. dollar compared to the euro, Japanese yen and other currency.

Before the slowdown, U.S. frozen potato exports from July to October of the present marketing year were off 8 percent, Toaspern said. With the slowdown, frozen exports are off 38 percent. Ports are running at 50 percent capacity at best, Toaspern said.

“We are going to see some tough numbers this year, but hopefully those three factors can be corrected moving forward,” he said. “The long-term prospects for exports are still outstanding. Demand for potatoes and products worldwide continues to grow.”

Also during the conference:

• Washington Potato Commission executive director Chris Voigt urged farmers to ask seed growers for plant health certificates, in effort to better control viruses. The industry is beginning to see more strains of Potato Virus Y producing necrotic symptoms in tubers.

“We have an opportunity to solve that problem now, but it’s really important you know the quality of the seed you have,” Voigt said.

• Coba expects more legislation in Oregon related to pesticides, particularly aerial applications, citing public concerns about human health and drinking water impacts.

“We had a couple of very high-profile misuse, and unfortunately, that makes it difficult for those of us that are using our tools properly,” she said, advising the industry to speak with legislators directly.

Portland daily grain report Thu, 29 Jan 2015 09:28:29 -0500 Portland, Ore., Thursday, Jan. 29

USDA Market News

Bids for grains delivered to Portland, Oregon during January by unit trains and barges, in dollars per bushel, except oats and corn, in dollars per cwt. Bids for soft white wheat are for delivery periods as specified. Hard red winter wheat and dark northern spring wheat bids are for full January delivery. Bids for corn are for 30 day delivery.

In early trading March wheat futures trended 3.25 to eight cents per bushel higher compared to Wednesday’s closes.

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

Bids for guaranteed maximum 10.5 protein were not well tested, but were indicated as steady to higher compared to Wednesday’s noon bids for January delivery in a limited test.

Bids for 11.5 percent protein US 1 Hard Red Winter Wheat for January delivery were not well tested in early trading, but were indicated as higher than Wednesday’s noon bids, due to the higher Kansas City March wheat futures. Several exporters are not issuing bids for January delivery due to adequate nearby supplies in the pipelines.

Bids for 14 percent protein US 1 Dark Northern Spring Wheat for January delivery were also not well tested in early trading, but bids were indicated as higher compared to Wednesday’s noon bids, due to the higher Minneapolis March wheat futures. Several exporters are not issuing bids for January delivery due to moderate supplies in the pipelines to meet nearby exporter demand.

Bids for US 2 Yellow Corn delivered to Portland and the Yakima Valley were not available.

All wheat bids in dollars per bushel

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

Ordinary protein

Jan NA

Feb 6.3800-6.7500

Mar 6.4500-6.8000

Apr 6.4800-6.9000


Guaranteed maximum 10.5 pct protein

Jan mostly 7.2950, ranging 7.0850-7.4500

Feb 7.0850-7.4500

Mar 7.0850-7.4500

Apr 7.1325-7.4500

Aug NC 5.6200-6.1700

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

Ordinary protein

Jan NA

Guaranteed maximum 10.5 pct protein

Jan mostly 9.5750, ranging 9.0850-10.3000

Not fully established and limited.

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


Ordinary protein 6.1175-6.4475

10 pct protein 6.1175-6.4475

11 pct protein 6.1975-6.5275

11.5 pct protein

Jan 6.2375-6.5675

Feb 6.2875-6.5875

Mar 6.2875-6.6375

Apr 6.4375-6.6875

Aug NC 6.4025-6.5525

12 pct protein 6.2375-6.5675

13 pct protein 6.2375-6.5675

Not fully established and limited.

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 7.1075-7.4075

14 pct protein

Jan 8.2075-8.3075

Feb 8.3075-8.3575

Mar 7.9075-8.4075

Apr 8.0775-8.5775

Aug NC 7.0575-7.3075

15 pct protein 8.7575-9.1075

16 pct protein 9.3575-9.9075

Not fully established and limited.

US 2 Yellow Corn in dollars per CWT

Domestic-single rail cars

Delivered full coast-BN NA

Delivered to Portland NA

Rail and Truck del to Willamette Vly NA

Rail del to Yakima Valley NA

Truck del to Yakima Valley NA

US 2 Heavy White Oats in dollars per CWT 13.2500

Not well tested.

Exporter Bids Portland Rail/Barge Dec 2014

Averages in Dollars per bushel

US 1 Soft White by Unit Trains and Barges 7.1900

US 1 Hard Red Winter (Ordinary protein) 7.3800

US 1 Hard Red Winter (11.5% protein) 7.5200

US 1 Dark Northern Spring (14% protein) 9.4000

Source: USDA Market News Service, Portland, OR

Farmworker safety training classes fill up Thu, 29 Jan 2015 09:21:26 -0500 ROSS COURTNEYYakima Herald-Republic YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) — Surrounded by brushes, respirators and yellow plastic coveralls, Flor Servin held up a white baby onesie and told a room full of farm workers, in Spanish, they must scrub chemical residue from their protective equipment after work, for the health of their families as well as their own.

The lesson from Servin, a state pesticide safety education specialist, was just one highlighted earlier this month at the Yakima Convention Center, where instructors taught roughly 190 farm employees how to choose correct respirator cartridges, decontaminate gear and read pesticide labels.

“When we first got into this about four years ago, the average course size was anywhere from 20 to 40 people. Now we train close to 1,000 people a year in the months of January and February,” said Aaron Avila, a grower services representative for G.S. Long, a chemical, supply and consulting company that sponsored the class.

Demand for such classes is high because of changing expectations on the part of retailers who buy from growers. Many retailers rely on private auditors to visit processors, packers and farms throughout the world to verify quality, good environmental stewardship, animal welfare and worker protections.

The measures, called third-party verification programs, technically are voluntary, but many large retailers, including Costco, insist on them and won’t stock food from producers who don’t play ball. Global G.A.P., a German-based network of food producers and retailers, is the most noted example. G.A.P.’s purpose is to create private sector incentives for agricultural producers worldwide to adopt safe and sustainable practices, according to its website.

“Third-party food safety verification programs have really shined a light on these type of training events,” Avila said.

One way growers in Washington can prove they are responsible operators is to send their employees to classes that teach safe handling of pesticides. But the classes are at capacity.

“We’re just stretching ourselves so thin,” said Ofelio Borges, supervisor of the state’s Department of Agriculture farm worker education program.

Even with bigger classes to reach more people, instructors still often have to put people on a waiting list, Borges said.

Federal standards mandate the pesticide training once every five years, but most employers send their workers every year, both out of concern for safety and because more retailers expect a record of good workplace conditions.

“It refreshes my memory of things every year,” said Oscar Celis, a five-year employee of Pride Packing, a Wapato fruit company, through a translator. He attends every year.

The Washington Growers League, a Yakima industry association that focuses on labor issues, has requested about $500,000 in additional training funds from the Legislature to double the capacity of the state’s Agriculture Department’s farm worker education program.

“This is something that benefits everybody,” said Mike Gempler, executive director of the Growers League.

He knows it will be a tough sell in a year that lawmakers are under pressure to drastically increase education spending, mandated by the state Supreme Court’s McCleary ruling.

The state’s farm worker education program includes a variety of courses that deal with the safe handling of pesticides.

Some are free, while some involve fees. Most are in Spanish and are held in Eastern Washington, particularly in the Yakima Valley, Tri-Cities and Wenatchee areas.

One of the most popular is the “hands-on” training course that officials once taught in blocks of a few dozen people at a time. In 2010, 462 people completed the hands-on handler training, according to the Agriculture Department. That jumped to 1,311 last year.

To keep up with demand, trainers have teamed with companies like G.S. Long and organizations such as the Washington Farm Bureau to stage symposium-style trainings with an emphasis on visual aids. They call the classes “interactive” instead of “hands-on.”

The companies or organizations pay for the facilities and the trainers, while the Agriculture Department’s experts teach the courses. G.S. Long has scheduled four such trainings this year.

Some of the lessons, such as scrubbing residue off coveralls, seem like common sense, but a lot can go wrong with safety equipment, Borges said.

“The first time I got on a tractor, my respirator fell down and I ran over it with the tractor,” said Borges, a former seasonal migrant laborer. “That was because I didn’t put it on right.”

Joe Ayala believes in the trainings.

The 51-year-old foreman for Pride Packing had not attended a course for several years and came Jan. 21 for a refresher.

“It’s really important because it’s protecting our lives, our body,” he said.

McDonald’s CEO steps down as sales decline Thu, 29 Jan 2015 08:54:01 -0500 CANDICE CHOIAP Food Industry Writer NEW YORK (AP) — McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson is stepping down as the world’s biggest hamburger chain fights to hold onto customers and transform its image.

The company said Thompson, who has been CEO for two-and-a-half years, will be replaced by Steve Easterbrook, a company veteran who rejoined McDonald’s as its chief brand officer in 2013.

McDonald’s Corp., which has more than 36,000 locations around the world, is struggling amid intensifying competition and changing attitudes about food. Customer traffic at established locations in the U.S. fell 4.1 percent last year, following a 1.6 percent decline in 2013. It’s also trying to recover after a supplier scandal in China that damaged its reputation.

On Wednesday, McDonald’s said Thompson will retire March 1 after nearly 25 years with the company. Thompson, 51, was the first African-American to head the company since it was founded in 1955.

“It’s tough to say goodbye to the McFamily, but there is a time and season for everything,” he said in a statement.

A representative for McDonald’s said an unspecified number of employees at the company’s headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois and elsewhere were also notified of layoffs on Wednesday. In after-hours trading, shares of McDonald’s jumped 3 percent to $91.79. The stock has declined about 6 percent in the past year while broader markets are up in the double digits.

With Easterbrook’s promotion, McDonald’s is continuing its tradition of promoting from within, noted Darren Tristano, a restaurant industry analyst with Technomic. That could be a drawback for a company that is struggling to keep up with a rapidly changing industry.

“Sometimes, you need fresh perspective,” Tristano said, adding that the competition has been “evolving faster than McDonald’s products have been.”

Despite the pressures McDonald’s is facing, the timing of Thompson’s departure was a bit of a surprise considering the numerous revitalization efforts the company recently announced, said Richard Adams, a consultant for McDonald’s franchisees. And he noted the CEO change leaves open the question of whether McDonald’s will shift course on those initiatives.

“Is everything going to change, or are Don’s plans going forward?” Adams said.

Here’s a look at the challenges Easterbrook, 48, will inherit as McDonald’s new CEO, and the changes that are already under way.



McDonald’s is trying to shake perceptions that fast-food is cheap, greasy and made with mysterious ingredients.

To dispel myths about its food, the company recently launched a campaign inviting people to ask frank, sometimes squeamish questions about its menu offerings, such as “Does McDonald’s beef contain worms?” and “Do McDonald’s buns contain the same chemicals used to make yoga mats?”

Part of the problem for McDonald’s and other traditional fast-food chains is that people are gravitating toward food they feel is more wholesome or made with higher quality ingredients. And newer places like Chipotle and Panera are positioning their food as just that.

Mike Andres, president of McDonald’s USA, said last month that the company is looking at shrinking the number of ingredients it uses and employing different cooking procedures to enhance the appeal of its food.

“Why do we need to have preservatives in our food?” Andres asked. “We probably don’t.”



McDonald’s has conceded its menu in the U.S. has gotten bloated. In just the past decade, the company has said it added 100 items to its menu. That slows down service because it takes customers longer to figure out what they want, while also complicating kitchen operations.

It also increases the chances that orders will be wrong.

As such, McDonald’s has said it’s looking at a simplified menu that reduces the number of Value Meals, and trims items that may be repetitive, such as variations of the Quarter Pounder with different toppings.



The ability to customize orders is gaining popularity. At Chipotle, for instance, people like that they can walk down a line and dictate exactly what goes into their bowls and burritos.

In hopes of giving customers more flexibility in adjusting their burgers, McDonald’s rolled out new prep tables that can hold more condiments and toppings. It also has more dramatic plans in the works.

McDonald’s says it will roll out an option that lets people build their own burgers at 2,000 of its more than 14,000 U.S. locations later this year. The food takes a bit longer to prepare, but the company is hoping customers will think it’s worth the wait.



A major attraction of McDonald’s is that the food is supposed to be affordable. But prices have gotten a bit high for some people.

The popular Dollar Menu is one reason for the skewed prices. To offset the deals on that menu, McDonald’s has admitted that other parts of the menu got too expensive.

In turn, the company has said that prompted people to “trade down” to the Dollar Menu. And that left many customers associating the McDonald’s brand with its cheapest items.

Affordable food is also more widely available elsewhere, with convenience stores and supermarkets expanding their prepared food and coffee offerings.

Hershey dips into meat market with Krave Jerky Thu, 29 Jan 2015 08:38:59 -0500 CANDICE CHOIAP Food Industry Writer NEW YORK (AP) — Hershey has a sudden hankering for protein, with plans to add jerky to its lineup.

The maker of sugar-high inducing treats like Reese’s, Kit Kat and Twizzlers says it’s buying Krave Jerky for an undisclosed sum. Krave, based in Sonoma, California, positions itself as a premium jerky with no artificial ingredients and comes in flavors like black cherry barbecue, basil citrus and lemon garlic.

Michele Buck, president of Hershey North America, said in a phone interview with The Associated Press that the company plans to continue expanding its offerings across the “snacking continuum” through acquisitions and in-house development. While The Hershey Co. is already strong player in sweet treats, the Krave deal is intended to give it a foothold in snacks people see as healthy fuel.

The push to expand beyond impulsive sweets comes as Americans’ addiction to snacking grows. Rather than sticking to three meals a day, people are increasingly grazing on smaller bites around the clock. The trend has prompted Dunkin’ Donuts to position its fried-chicken sandwiches as snacks, and Taco Bell to introduce a “Happier Hour” for people looking for a late afternoon pick-me-up.

In the packaged food universe, the nation’s snacking habit is blurring the lines between what qualifies as an indulgence versus nourishing fuel, prompting food makers to market snacks with nutritional benefits like fiber. Protein in particular has become a desirable ingredient, which in turn has helped boost jerky sales.

“We know consumers have an interest in portable and protein-based nutrition,” Buck said.

Last year, jerky sales in the U.S. totaled $1.41 billion, according IRI, a Chicago-based market researcher. That’s up 13 percent from 2013 and 22 percent from 2012. Meanwhile, Hershey on Thursday reported fourth-quarter sales and profit that missed Wall Street expectations and lowered its earnings and revenue outlook for the year.

In a note to investors, J.P. Morgan analyst Ken Goldman wrote that the Krave deal “perhaps indicates that Hershey is less enamored of candy’s growth potential than it previously was.” He noted that indulgent snacks like chocolates and cookies generally underperformed categories like trail mixes, nuts and meat snacks.

Jon Sebastiani, who founded Krave in 2009, sees even more growth potential for the jerky market by improving the category’s image. As such, Krave notes that its products do not contain nitrates or artificial flavors, and that they’re lower in salt and cholesterol than competing jerkies.

“It’s very inviting to a female consumer,” Sebastiani said.

Sebastiani, who will continue to lead the unit and report to Buck, said sales for Krave Jerky have been growing at triple digit rates. Last year, he said sales totaled $36 million. The company’s offerings are expanding, too.

Capitalizing on the desire for protein, Sebastiani said Krave plans to launch a “meat bar” later this year to compete with granola bars found near supermarket checkout aisles.

As for any potential pairings between Krave and Hershey products, Buck said there are no plans but didn’t rule out the possibility.

“Who knows what will come down the pike?” she said.

Women in Ag conference to target marketing Thu, 29 Jan 2015 08:38:49 -0500 Carol Ryan Dumas TWIN FALLS, Idaho — Women in agriculture will meet Feb. 21 in Twin Falls for the fourth annual Women in Agriculture conference, which will also take place via the Internet in 28 locations throughout Idaho, Washington and Oregon.

“Put Your Best Foot Forward” is the theme of this year’s conference, which promises to be engaging and interactive, according to conference organizers.

Featured speakers will focus on the importance of social connection for promoting the farm positively and passionately, no matter the farm’s size or what it grows.

It’s all about telling the farm’s story to promote agriculture. Conference attendees will learn how to identify their audience, what that audience wants to know and the best tools to successfully promote the operation and its products.

Inspiration, knowledge and networking are the cornerstone of the Women in Ag conferences, organizers say.

The event will feature keynote farmer Emily Asmus of Welcome Table Farms, Walla Walla, Wash., and Erica Mills of Claxon Marketing, Seattle.

Asmus will showcase how her farm keeps its “brand” fresh to build interest and loyalty and share the tools and techniques critical to the farm’s marketing plan.

Mills will stress the importance of having a consistently compelling way to describe the farm business and will guide farmers of all shapes and sizes to tackle that challenge. Using proven tools that have been tested by thousands of users, Mills will share a simple three-step marketing method to create a marketing action plan that gets results and sets the basis for a farm’s five-year plan.

The event will begin at 9:30 a.m. with a continental breakfast and networking, followed by a welcome, introduction and Asmus’ presentation. Mills will then present the first of her three-part presentation on marketing success, followed by lunch.

The afternoon will continue with Mills’ presentations on engaging customers and creating a marketing plan, followed by a conference wrap-up with take-away messages and discussion of future workshops.

The event will be at the Twin Falls Research and Extension Center offices in the Evergreen Building on the College of Southern Idaho Campus.

Registration is $30, with an early-bird special of $25 by Feb. 13.The conference registration fee includes the workshop, light breakfast, lunch and conference materials.

To register or for more information, visit: or contact Donna Rolen at or 509-745-8531.

Environmental groups pose billion-dollar challenge to ag Thu, 29 Jan 2015 08:29:19 -0500 Environmental groups oppose many aspects of farming, ranching, timber

By Don Jenkins

Capital Press

The 10 largest environmental organizations operating in the West collectively raise almost $1 billion each year to fund their activities, including filing lawsuits targeting farmers, ranchers, timber companies and the federal government.

The lawsuits often attack farming and ranching activities, but most focus on how the government enforces the federal Endangered Species Act, a law Congress passed in 1973 to protect some plants and animals. They include salmon, sage grouse, wolves and hundreds of other species either listed or under consideration for protection.

Environmental groups have pushed government managers — often through lawsuits — to protect the populations. In California alone, 321 species are protected under the ESA, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In Oregon, the number is 62, in Washington it’s 57, and in Idaho 22 species are listed. Those listings are accompanied by reams of regulations to protect the species and their habitats.

Though government agencies and agricultural groups attempt to negotiate with the environmentalists, doing that is often difficult, industry representatives say.

Dairy farmer Jay Gordon, director of governmental affairs for the Washington State Dairy Federation, says negotiating compromises to agriculture-environmental conflicts is a painstaking, at times painful, process.

“It’s democracy. It means you’ve got to put a huge amount of time into basic understanding,” he said. “Sadly, some of the environmental groups choosing to sue us are shutting that down.

“It’s really hard to hold hands and sing ‘Kumbaya’ and roast marshmallows over the fire when you’re in the middle of depositions,” Gordon said. “I don’t mind criticism, but let’s have a conversation, not just hold a gun to my head.”

Litigation is big business for the environmental organizations, which often use the deadlines in the ESA as leverage to get their way with the government.

Last year alone, they filed 526 environmental lawsuits in federal courts, according to a search of public records. The year before, the number was 1,421.

One of the most litigious groups is Earthjustice, a nonprofit law firm formerly called the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund. The group promotes itself with the catchphrase, “We exist because the Earth needs a good lawyer.”

San Francisco-based group, which boasts 94 lawyers in 10 regional and one international office, entered 2015 involved in 370 active court cases. Over the last two years, Earthjustice has collected $6.4 million in court-awarded attorney fees.

Besides attorney fees awarded by courts, the nonprofit organizations also solicit donations from their supporters.

Another group, the Center for Biological Diversity, has collected $2 million in attorney fees during the same time.

The proliferation of lawsuits draws fire from critics, who say the environmental groups abuse the courts and force federal agencies to change or adopt new policies by bowing to what they call “sue-and-settle” tactics. Those tactics involve flooding the courts with lawsuits against an agency such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, forcing it negotiate a settlement.

“One of the big challenges has been litigation activity,” Washington Cattlemen’s Association Executive Vice President Jack Field said.

“There are groups that litigate, litigate, litigate,” he said. “It’s been a perpetual funding machine.”

The U.S. House last summer passed legislation to cap the attorney fees plaintiffs can collect from the federal government in ESA lawsuits.

“That would be a huge, critical first step,” Field said.

The White House has threatened to veto the legislation if it ever reaches the president. At the request of House Republicans, the Government Accountability Office investigated the litigation’s influence on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The GAO reported last month that the EPA issued 32 major air-pollution rules between 2008 and 2013 and nine stemmed from lawsuit settlements.

The Center for Biological Diversity in its 2013 annual report takes credit for securing “new protection of 55 animals and plants.”

“We do have some pretty terrific environmental protection laws,” center spokeswoman Amaroq Weiss said.

The GAO estimated in 2012 that over a decade federal agencies paid $21.1 million in attorney fees and legal costs to plaintiffs in 238 lawsuits based on the Endangered Species Act.

The stakes are large for the environmental groups, but they are enormous for agriculture in the West. In California and the Pacific Northwest alone, 175,366 farms produce crops and livestock worth $64.4 billion a year, according to the 2012 USDA Census of Agriculture. And most of the those farms and ranches have been impacted by ESA-related regulations such as those governing water use and quality, forest management and grazing on public and private land.

Seattle resident Don Stuart, who wrote a book on conflicts between environmentalists and farmers, said lawsuits shut down communication, the best remedy for resolving differences.

“When you’re litigating something, you almost can’t really talk to anyone,” he said.

Weiss said her group talks, calls and writes agriculture producers before resorting to lawsuits. The center, however, won’t compromise on what it sees as sound science, she said.

In an interview, Weiss was particularly critical of meat production, calling some practices “inhumane for the animal and devastating for the environment.” Eating less meat “would be a great start” toward a healthier planet, she said.

“People need to eat, and there has to be food production. At the same time, we’re very concerned about agricultural practices that continue to focus on animal agriculture,” she said.

Americans have been privileged to have access to a variety of foods. But, she added, “the environmental consequences of that are never taken into account economically.”

“Our concern is that the way agriculture is practiced is not sustainable for the planet,” she said. “I don’t think it’s elitist to ask people to be thoughtful about their food choices.”

Hardly any aspect of agriculture escapes criticism, or a lawsuit.

“No one else in this country faces a more poisonous, unregulated workplace than the agricultural worker,” an Earthjustice blog says.

“Livestock grazing spreads invasive species, increases the fire risk and degrades rivers and streams,” the Center for Biological Diversity says.

Dominant agricultural practices are a “dead end,” the Union of Concerned Scientists says.

Environmentalists would be wiser to try to understand, not vilify, farmers, said Stuart, whose book is titled “Barnyards and Birkenstocks: Why Farmers and Environmentalists Need Each Other.”

“If the farmer goes out of business, it’s not an environmental win,” he said. Farms often give way to other less environmentally friendly development.

Stuart’s idea for the book began forming more than a decade ago when he was executive director of the Washington Association for Conservation Districts.

Stuart, who has a background in law and commercial fishing, said he thought the job would be easy and that he would be embraced by farmers and environmentalists. It wasn’t, and he wasn’t.

Farmers were “sort of lukewarm” and more concerned about avoiding regulations, he said. Meanwhile, environmentalists were constantly in a lather over “life and death on the planet.”

“The bottom line is nothing gets done,” he said. “And the environment suffers.”

Stuart, who was later the American Farmland Trust’s Pacific Northwest director, said different perspectives set up clashes between farmers and environmentalists.

Environmentalists find comfort in uniform and permanent rules, while farmers are worried about costs and whether they will survive another year, he said.

“I think the environmental movement by and large is an urban movement. I think that from their viewpoint, they need something certain,” he said. “But if you start passing rules, you end up passing rules that work for a few people, maybe work OK for others and don’t work at all for a bunch more.”

Conservation Northwest founder and director Mitch Friedman agreed much of the conflict between environmentalists and farmers is rooted in culture.

“A lot of environmentalists I know don’t have a lot of base of experience with the agricultural community,” Friedman said.

Friedman founded his group, formerly called Northwest Ecosystem Alliance, in 1989 after spending time as an often-arrested Earth First! tree-sitter.

He also spent a summer as a teen-age ranch hand in Wyoming. Environmentalists should know agriculture is hard and “on a scale, it’s a lot less damaging than a lot of land uses,” he said.

“I have trouble with ideologues that are rooted in distrust, combativeness,” he said. “I find plenty of that on both sides.”

Friedman’s group advocates bringing wolves and grizzly bears back to Washington state. Still, in 2012, he supported the lethal removal of wolves from the Wedge Pack to curb livestock predation.

According to Friedman, moderation has its price.

“It’s a problem,” Friedman said. “Our pragmatism makes us vulnerable.

“Throwing red meat to enthusiastic personalities works. It works for political parties. It works for the Seattle Seahawks. We are a tribal society,” he said. “It leads to fundraising success. It doesn’t lead to solutions on the ground.”

Conservation Northwest reported revenues of almost $2 million in 2013.

Field, the cattlemen’s group executive, said cattle grazing near waterways has been the biggest conflict between ranchers and environmentalists. Field said his “chips are all in” on working with the Washington Department of Ecology to write rules that cattlemen and conservation groups can accept.

The process includes listening to environmentalists, he said.

“It think it’s valuable for agriculture to hear their perspective,” Field said. “It’s not like it’s all been wine and roses for sure, but I think we’re moving in the right direction.”

Gordon, the dairyman, said farmers need to show more people what they’re doing, including providing wildlife habitat. On the other hand, Gordon said he doesn’t blame anyone for being cautious about opening up their operations. “Anyone with an attorney can sue anybody for any reason, and they do,” he said.

Gordon represents the dairy industry in Olympia, moving from meeting to meeting to come up with policies that can be supported by urban and rural legislators. He said he’s optimistic the gulf between environmental and agricultural groups can be narrowed through this slow process.

“I can’t focus on the lawsuits because they give me ulcers.”

U.S. Senate rejects amendment on lesser prairie chicken Thu, 29 Jan 2015 08:21:11 -0500 KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The U.S. Senate rejected an amendment sponsored by Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas that would have removed the lesser prairie chicken from the federal government’s threatened species list.

The vote Wednesday on Moran’s amendment was 54-44, short of the 60 votes necessary to add it to a bill intended to expedite construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, The Kansas City Star reported.

Moran said Wednesday that listing the lesser prairie chicken as threatened jeopardizes the agriculture and energy industries in Kansas and four other states where the bird lives.

“There are ways to conserve the species without hindering economic development in rural communities, and I will continue to push for this straightforward, simple solution,” Moran said.

The lesser prairie chicken, a species of grouse with feathered feet and striped plumage, lives primarily in Kansas but also in Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Colorado. The bird once was plentiful in the Great Plains, but its habitat has shrunk by more than 80 percent since the 1800s.

The bird was designated as threatened last year by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, one step beneath endangered status under the Endangered Species Act. That means federal officials think the bird soon will be in danger of extinction.

In 2013, the lesser prairie chicken’s population hit a record low of 17,616, about half of what it was in 2012, the wildlife service said.

Moran said federal officials underestimated the bird’s population after a historic drought hit its habitat. With drought conditions easing, the lesser prairie chicken’s numbers already have increased by 20 percent, he said.

“Yet a number of industries — farming, ranching, oil and gas development, transportation and wind energy — continue to feel the effects as the federal government attempts to dictate how individuals manage their land and resources,” Moran said.

The senator said he probably will try to add the amendment as a policy rider to an appropriations bill later this year.

USDA revises maple syrup grading with descriptive terms Thu, 29 Jan 2015 08:17:11 -0500 LISA RATHKE MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Grading standards for maple syrup have been revised to match international standards, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Wednesday, and now consumers can have a better understanding of what topping they’re buying.

The revisions to the voluntary standards were released Wednesday.

The move comes in response to a 2010 petition from the International Maple Syrup Institute, which represents maple producers in the U.S. and Canada, saying the different grading systems in different states made it confusing to consumers.

“The hope is that it will help producers, too, because it will make it easier for them to market their syrup ... not only domestically but internationally,” said Charles Parrott, deputy administrator of the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service Fruit and Vegetable Program, of the country’s $400 million industry.

The revisions do away with the Grade B syrup label and allow for some of that product to fall under the Grade A classification.

Some dark syrup with bold flavor had been labeled as Grade B for reprocessing and not intended for retail sale. But, the USDA said there’s more demand for dark syrup for cooking and table use.

The sugar content of the sap drops late in the season, producing darker, stronger flavored syrup.

Grade A will now include four new color and flavor classes for maple syrup: golden color and delicate taste, amber color and rich taste, dark color and robust taste, and very dark and strong taste.

“I think it will be good for the industry as a whole. It puts everybody on the same page, whether it be the consumer, or the producer or the packer,” said Kevin Brannen, of Spring Break Maple and Honey in the northern Maine town of Smyrna who is also the vice president of the Maine Maple Producers Association. “So, I think it’s going to work out well.”

The standards replace the “U.S. Grade B for Reprocessing” classification with a new “Processing Grade” that is not intended to be sold in retail markets and may be used to make other products.

Vermont, the country’s largest maple syrup producer, already revised its unique labeling standards from fancy, Grade A medium amber, dark amber and Grade B, to the universal standards, and some other states are following suit.

“As other states, the USDA, the Canadian provinces, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency all transition to the new grades, we believe the coordination of our entire industry’s grading will prove to be beneficial for business,” said Matthew Gordon, executive director of the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers’ Association.

Since Vermont began adopting the new grading system in 2014, producers have heard supportive comments from customers who like that the new names have a flavor descriptor, he said.

Maine producers who have already changed their labels also are hearing from happy consumers.

USDA cannot restrict GMO pine Wed, 28 Jan 2015 10:18:13 -0500 Mateusz Perkowski A pine tree genetically engineered for greater wood density can be grown without restrictions after the USDA decided it lacks authority to regulate the variety.

The finding has alarmed critics of genetically modified organisms who fear the new cultivar will cross-pollinate with trees in the wild, resulting in unknown consequences for forests.

ArborGen, a tree seedling producer, altered the loblolly pine variety with a “gene gun,” inserting genetic material from the Monterey pine, the American sweetgum tree, mouse ear cress and E. coli bacteria.

None of these organisms are plant pest risks, so the USDA has determined the pine is not a regulated article and can be freely cultivated without undergoing environmental studies, unlike crops that rely on plant pathogens for their transformation.

Higher density in wood is generally associated with strength and durability in lumber as well as higher energy content for biomass uses, said Steven Strauss, a forest biotechnology professor at Oregon State University.

Biotech cultivars that rely on plant pests for gene transfer often undergo lengthy government scrutiny before they’re brought to market, he said.

“The regulatory process is highly political. It’s not just based on science,” Strauss said.

For this reason, companies are seeking alternate ways of commercializing genetically engineered crops, he said. “That’s understandable from the commercial point of view.”

Arborgen, for example, has tried to gain USDA’s approval since 2008 for a freeze-tolerant eucalyptus tree, which was transformed with a soil pathogen and thus must receive the agency’s permission for widespread commercialization.

Environmental groups filed a lawsuit to block the company from field testing the trees, but that request was denied by a federal judge.

Even so, Arborgen was asked to submit additional data about the biotech tree in 2011 and the variety remains regulated while the USDA conducts an in-depth environmental review.

Critics of genetically modified organisms such as the Center for Food Safety worry that Arborgen was able to circumvent field trial permits and other regulatory procedures with its loblolly pine cultivar.

The group claims it’s unprecedented for USDA to allow a genetically engineered tree to be cultivated without any government oversight.

“This is a genetically engineered organism that is going completely unregulated,” said Martha Crouch, biotechnology consultant for the organization.

Strauss, of OSU, said he would like to see more “nimble” regulations governing biotech crops but is nervous about USDA’s lack of authority over GMOs produced without plant pests.

While the USDA may not consider such crops to be regulated articles, other countries may disagree — creating the potential for “chaos in the marketplace,” he said.

The Center for Food Safety is concerned about potential environmental impacts, alleging that changes in wood density could affect decomposition rates and forest species.

Because the USDA decided it lacks regulatory authority over the tree, the agency only considered the method of transformation without assessing any other potential risks that it might pose, said Crouch.

“This is an end run around that,” Crouch said.

Very little information is available to the public in Arborgen’s request letter seeking regulatory clearance or the USDA’s response, she said. “We don’t really know how they did it or how big of a change it is.”

Arborgen was formed in 2000 by combining the biotechnology divisions of three forest products companies.

In 2010, the company filed reports with U.S. financial regulators in preparation for an initial public offering of its stock.

Those records show Arborgen losing nearly $15 million on roughly $22 million in revenues during that fiscal year. The firm later withdrew its plans to sell shares to the public due to poor market conditions.

Forester teaches tree owners management Wed, 28 Jan 2015 16:33:51 -0500 Matw Weaver COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho — When forest owners in the Idaho Panhandle began noticing an increase in the snowshoe hare population, Chris Schnepf went looking for an expert.

When he couldn’t find one, Schnepf put in the time to research the hare compared to other possible causes of damage to young trees and shrubs, grasses and other plants. Schnepf hasn’t gotten a lot of calls about damage yet, but said the hare population goes through a nine- or 10-year cycle.

It’s all in a day’s work for Schnepf, University of Idaho Extension educator for forestry in the Idaho Panhandle. He’s worked for the extension service since 1988.

Schnepf speaks to a broad audience that includes family forest owners, who own roughly 40 percent of the forest land in the panhandle; loggers; and professional foresters.

“My goal is to give them enough forest ecological literacy to make decisions that are going to help them meet their goals in their forest,” he said.

Working in the forest is not the main job for most family forest owners. Schnepf estimated only a few dozen in the region earn the majority of their income from logging. Some are also farmers.

“Most (family forest owners) have very little training on their forests, even simple things like tree identification,” he said. “It’s very different from cereal producers, where you have people who have been growing a crop most of their lives and do a fair amount of management activity every year. A lot of our time is spent giving people a basic literacy on forestry and forest ecology.”

Schnepf works with loggers and forest owners to determine how their needs can influence UI research. Loggers in particular are looking for more efficient and sustainable timber management methods, he said.

Al Kyle in Athol, Idaho, is part of the master forest stewards program, designed by Schnepf so that experienced foresters can advise newcomers.

“He’s a personable person — he’s interested in the people and helping them to really manage what they have better all the time so we can improve the health of the forests all over the state,” Kyle said of Schnepf. “He’s effective. He’s been a real asset to the forest community.”

Janet Benoit in Careywood, Idaho, is also a master forest steward.

“I think he has had quite an impact with those people who actually want to learn something about their property,” Benoit said. “He makes certain he is hitting what they think they need to learn.”

Schnepf enjoys the reactions from people who are “grateful to learn something new about something they were struggling with.”

“I work with so many people who just love to learn about this stuff,” he said. “You get energized by that. It’s a real high satisfaction job.”

Chris Schnepf

Occupation: Area Extension Educator-Forester

Hometown: LeMars, Iowa

Current location: Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

Age: 54

Family: Married, three children


IDFA: Regulations hinder innovation, opportunity Wed, 28 Jan 2015 14:11:56 -0500 Carol Ryan Dumas Food companies will have to be more innovative in meeting the environmental, social, economic and quality demands of more sophisticated and engaged consumers.

That was the opening message delivered by Connie Tipton, president and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association, during the 2015 Dairy Forum this week in Boca Raton, Fla.

“The good news for dairy is that we’ve become a food industry pioneer, an innovator and a leader in many ways,” she said.

But dairies also suffer from inherent impediments, many of which the industry put in place to build consumer trust, she said.

Those include decades-old milk-pricing policy, product identity standards and label restrictions, which are dragging the industry down and keeping it from delivering on the changing consumer proposition, she said.

“They all add up to a straight jacket on innovation and marketing, which we can ill afford in today’s dynamic global marketplace,” she said.

Regulation of commerce, services and transportation increases costs and heaps on inefficiencies, she said.

“On the other hand, deregulation spawns greater competition, innovation and consumer choice,” she said.

Elimination of the Dairy Product Price Support program and a new safety net for dairymen in the form of the Milk Margin Protection Program were steps in the right direction for shifting industry focus more to markets, she said.

“But additional steps need to be taken, and we need to take them in unison,” she said.

To meet growing and changing global demand, the U.S. dairy industry must change its regulated milk-pricing policy and gain greater flexibility in how product identity standards are interpreted, she said.

The domestic pricing system has some “chilling effects” on some sectors of the domestic industry as input costs have soared while consumption has declined, she said.

“That alters market dynamics, with exports driving growth and demand for farm milk while our domestic pricing system uses these higher values for pricing products largely marketed here in the U.S., things like milk, yogurt, ice cream,” she said.

U.S. milk production has grown by 36 billion pounds since 2003, with nearly 70 percent of that going overseas, she said.

“Now is the time to move away from our domestic pricing system and allow milk to flow to its highest value use dictated by the market and not by the government,” she said.

In the area of product identity standards, IDFA is urging the administration and Food and Drug Administration to take another look at how standards are interpreted to allow dairy companies to come up with more creative products that meet consumers’ increasing demands, she said.

The industry needs to convince FDA to allow “better-for-you” product innovations to fit within various dairy standards of identity, she said.

Changes in that area could be a significant breakthrough for milk and other dairy products, allowing products with higher protein and lower sugar, for example, to still be called “milk,” she said.

The industry needs to be proactive in changing policies and regulations to create products for changing markets, she said.

“Whether it’s milk-pricing policy, standards of identity, immigration reform, infrastructure improvements or any other issue, it’s time to push the envelope and it’s time to take advantage of our opportunities,” she said.

Portland daily grain report Wed, 28 Jan 2015 09:18:32 -0500 Portland, Ore., Wednesday, Jan. 28

2015 USDA Market News

Bids for grains delivered to Portland, Oregon during January by unit trains and barges, in dollars per bushel, except oats and corn, in dollars per cwt. Bids for soft white wheat are for delivery periods as specified. Hard red winter wheat and dark northern spring wheat bids are for full January delivery. Bids for corn are for 30 day delivery.

In early trading March wheat futures trended nine to 12 cents per bushel lower compared to Tuesday’s closes.

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

Bids for guaranteed maximum 10.5 protein were not well tested, but were indicated as steady to lower compared to Tuesday’s noon bids for January delivery in a limited test.

Bids for 11.5 percent protein US 1 Hard Red Winter Wheat for January delivery were not well tested in early trading, but were indicated as lower than Tuesday’s noon bids, due to the lower Kansas City March wheat futures. Several exporters are not issuing bids for January delivery due to adequate nearby supplies in the pipelines.

Bids for 14 percent protein US 1 Dark Northern Spring Wheat for January delivery were also not well tested in early trading, but bids were indicated as lower compared to Tuesday’s noon bids, due to the lower Minneapolis March wheat futures. Several exporters are not issuing bids for January delivery due to moderate supplies in the pipelines to meet

nearby exporter demand.

Bids for US 2 Yellow Corn delivered to Portland and the Yakima Valley were not available.

All wheat bids in dollars per bushel

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

Ordinary protein

Jan NA

Feb 6.4500-6.9000

Mar 6.5000-6.9000

Apr 6.5300-7.0500


Guaranteed maximum 10.5 pct protein

Jan 7.0700-7.5500

Feb 7.0700-7.5700

Mar 7.0700-7.6000

Apr 7.1200-7.6000

Aug NC 5.6200-6.2000

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

Ordinary protein

Jan NA

Guaranteed maximum 10.5 pct protein

Jan 9.0700-10.2000

Not fully established and limited.

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


Ordinary protein 6.0725-6.4025

10 pct protein 6.0725-6.4025

11 pct protein 6.1525-6.4825

11.5 pct protein

Jan 6.1925-6.5225

Feb 6.1925-6.5425

Mar 6.1925-6.5925

Apr 6.3550-6.6550

Aug NC 6.3850-6.5350

12 pct protein 6.1925-6.5225

13 pct protein 6.1925-6.5225

Not fully established and limited.

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 7.0750-7.3250

14 pct protein

Jan 8.1250-8.2750

Feb 8.2250-8.3250

Mar 7.8750-8.3250

Apr 7.9525-8.5025

Aug NC 7.0875-7.3375

15 pct protein 8.7250-9.0750

16 pct protein 9.3250-9.8750

Not fully established and limited.

US 2 Yellow Corn in dollars per CWT

Domestic-single rail cars

Delivered full coast-BN NA

Delivered to Portland NA

Rail and Truck del to Willamette Vly NA

Rail del to Yakima Valley NA

Truck del to Yakima Valley NA

US 2 Heavy White Oats in dollars per CWT 13.2500

Not well tested.

Exporter Bids Portland Rail/Barge Dec 2014

Averages in Dollars per bushel

US 1 Soft White by Unit Trains and Barges 7.1900

US 1 Hard Red Winter (Ordinary protein) 7.3800

US 1 Hard Red Winter (11.5% protein) 7.5200

US 1 Dark Northern Spring (14% protein) 9.4000

Source: USDA Market News Service, Portland, OR

Medford Darigold plant to close at end of February Wed, 28 Jan 2015 09:06:20 -0500 Greg StilesThe Mail Tribune MEDFORD, Ore. — Medford’s last milk processing plant will shutter Feb. 28, putting 29 employees out of work.

Seattle-based Darigold is the nation’s fourth-largest dairy cooperative based on milk volume and one of the largest privately held companies in Washington state, with annual revenue of more than $2 billion.

“The need to significantly upgrade the facility to maintain compliance with food safety, employee safety and environmental regulations, and the plant’s distance from its core markets, among other reasons, led to the decision to close the plant,” Darigold said in a news release.

For several years, Darigold has recognized the aging plant, just west of the Rogue Valley Mall, required improvements. In 2013, the company announced plans to upgrade the waste-water system at the plant, installing two 16,500-gallon tanks, as part of a multi-year modernization of its 12 facilities in five states.

“Medford is an old facility and it is becoming more and more of a struggle to keep effective and efficient handling of waste water,” Steve Rowe, senior vice president of corporate affairs, said at the time.

Consolidation has been a part of the industry for decades as distribution and ownership changed.

“The closure of Darigold’s Medford milk processing plant is the next step in that continuing pattern,” the company said. “Newer, more modern facilities can provide customers, dairies and the public a higher degree of reliable food safety, employee safety and protection of the environment. While this decision is not taken lightly, it is necessary to ensure we are meeting the needs of our customers and the broader community that relies on the safe and environmentally sound production of high quality dairy products throughout the region.”

Darigold will continue to operate its 11 other processing sites.

Darigold operates 11 manufacturing and processing plants in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana. Five manufacturing plants — Chehalis, Lynden and Sunnyside, Wash.; Caldwell and Jerome, Idaho — processed 5.3 billion pounds of milk and 845 million pounds of finished products during the most recent fiscal year. Those sites operate in tandem with Issaquah, Wash., Seattle, Spokane, Boise, Bozeman, Mont., Portland, and until now Medford.

Which of the packaging plants will take on the additional work created by the local closure remains unknown.

“Those decisions have not been made yet,” Darigold spokesperson Michelle Carter said.

A half-century ago, local dairy operations were plentiful with dozens in some counties. Today, there are six milk processing plants in the state. What changes, if any, consumers may see won’t immediately be known.

“It’s a little too early to tell,” said Umpqua Dairy President Doug Feldkamp, who oversees the closest production plant to Medford. “Distribution systems have definitely improved over the years. Everybody is reaching out farther. I’m sure Darigold’s distribution to Southern Oregon is not predicated on having a plant there.”

Darigold and Umpqua are the primary dairy suppliers for Southern Oregon, each handling private label contracts as well.

“Any time a milk plant stops production it brings a change in our industry, for sure,” Feldkamp said. “This will idle some workers, which is too bad.”

Darigold’s Medford management and staff were not immediately available for interviews. The company’s website lists 26 job openings, including five in Portland.

Umpqua has a distribution warehouse in Central Point off Hamrick Road.

“Potentially we could have use for some of them,” Feldkamp said. “We’re always looking for good people.”

Interior still plans to decide on protection for sage grouse Wed, 28 Jan 2015 08:57:06 -0500 DENVER (AP) — Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has reiterated the federal government will decide whether the greater sage grouse should get protected status despite legislation attempting to block such a listing.

In a letter to Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead released Tuesday, Jewell said the government is bound by court order to make a decision by Sept. 30.

She says the Interior Department still plans to work with states to develop conservation plans for grouse habitat.

A bill passed by Congress last month and signed into law by President Barack Obama included a provision barring money from being spent on rules to protect the grouse.

Hickenlooper’s spokeswoman says the governor is committed to helping preserve the sage grouse without federal protection.

Mead’s chief of staff says she plans to release a response Wednesday.

Drought forum set for New Mexico Wed, 28 Jan 2015 08:50:50 -0500 SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Gov. Susana Martinez knows firsthand the effects dry conditions can have on agriculture, economic development and even tourism since New Mexico is marching into its fifth straight year of what’s expected to be severe drought.

Martinez is scheduled to give the opening remarks Wednesday at the Western Governors’ Drought Forum in Santa Fe.

The focus of the two-day event will be on how dry conditions have affected recreation and tourism around the West. Experts from New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah and Oregon will be part of the discussion.

In New Mexico, the lack of meaningful snowpack during the winter months and weak spring runoff has left many of the state’s lakes and reservoirs in bad shape. Some boat ramps were forced to close in recent years.

December feedlot placements down 8 percent Tue, 27 Jan 2015 12:19:29 -0500 Carol Ryan Dumas While cattle on feed numbers in large U.S. feedlots on Jan. 1, at 10.7 million, ran slightly above last year’s count, cattle placed in those feedlots in December were 8 percent below December 2013 and fed cattle marketed during December were 5 percent below a year earlier.

USDA’s cattle on feed report, released on Jan. 23 by the National Agricultural Statistics Service, was close to the average industry estimate that the Jan. 1 number would be up 1.4 percent and marketings would be down 4.2 percent. But placements were nearly twice as low as the average industry estimate of 4.3 percent fewer placements.

Analysts are viewing the report as somewhat bullish for cattle markets, but note price declines in cash markets last week.

“Cattle supplies in the market remain tight and this would imply near record prices for much of 2015,” Steve Meyer and Len Steiner commented Monday morning in their Daily Livestock Report.

However, futures markets in recent weeks have reflected weakness in the broader commodity markets, lower exports and the risk of stagnant growth in key markets, they reported.

USDA reported a $3.73 per hundredweight drop in the cash live fed steer price last week from a week earlier to $159.44 and a $6.83 per hundredweight drop in the north-central 600-700 pound feeder steer price to $247.79. Choice beef cutout also fell, $4.66 per hundredweight to $256.85.

Those prices are still well above a year earlier, however, up $11.22 per hundredweight for live fed steers, $57.12 for feeder steers and $18.42 for choice cutout, according to USDA.

The cattle on feed report also showed fewer heifers on feed, indicating more heifers retained for breeding, and fewer feedlot placements at lower weights than a year earlier, indicating tighter fed supplies in the summer and early fall.

Cattle on feed on Jan. 1 was up 100,000 head and 1 percent above a year ago, with increases in Texas, Nebraska, Kansas, Idaho, Washington, and Minnesota, NASS reported.

December placements, at 1.54 million, were down 135,000 head from December 2013 and were the lowest for the month in the past five year, coming in just under the 1.55 million placed in December 2009.

Year-over-year placements were only up in Iowa and Idaho and were notably down 12 percent in Texas, 8 percent in Kansas, 2 percent in Nebraska, and 13 percent in Colorado.

Year-over-year marketings of fed cattle in December were down 81,000 head with an additional marketing day in December 2014. Marketings were notably down 13 percent in Texas, 4 percent in Kansas and 10 percent in Colorado, but up 5 percent in Nebraska.

Heifers and heifer calves on feed in Jan. 1, at 3.67 million head, were down 59,000 head or 2 percent year over year. Steers and steer calves on feed, at 6.94 million, were up 155,000 head or 2 percent year over year.

The number of cattle placed on feed in December weighing less than 600 pounds was down 8.4 percent year over year. Feeder cattle weighing 600 to 700 pounds were down 11.8 percent, and feeders weighing 700 to 800 pounds were down 14 percent, Ron Plain, livestock economist with the University of Missouri reported.

Placements of cattle weighing more than 800 pounds were up 2.6 percent, he said.

The supply of cattle that have been on feed more than 120 days is up 11.7 percent from a year earlier and together with modestly higher placements of heavy steers implies ongoing pressure on nearby fed cattle markets, Meyer and Steiner reported.

USDA’s annual cattle inventory report is scheduled to be released Jan. 30.