Capital Press | Nation/World Capital Press Sun, 24 May 2015 14:33:59 -0400 en Capital Press | Nation/World Senate clears White House-backed trade bill Fri, 22 May 2015 21:25:47 -0400 DAVID ESPOand CHARLES BABINGTON WASHINGTON (AP) — In a victory for President Barack Obama, the Senate passed bipartisan legislation Friday night to strengthen the administration’s hand in global trade talks, clearing the way for a highly unpredictable summer showdown in the House.

The vote was 62-37 to give Obama authority to complete trade deals that Congress could approve or reject, but not change. A total of 48 Republicans supported the measure, but only 14 of the Senate’s 44 Democrats backed a president of their own party on legislation near the top of his second-term agenda.

Obama hailed the vote in a statement that said trade deals “done right” are important to “expanding opportunities for the middle class, leveling the playing field for American workers and establishing rules for the global economy that help our businesses grow and hire.”

Senate passage of the trade bill capped two weeks of tense votes and near-death experiences for legislation the administration hopes will help complete an agreement with Japan and 10 other countries in the Pacific region.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who was Obama’s indispensable ally in passing the bill, said it would create “new opportunities for bigger paychecks, better jobs and a stronger economy.”

“The tools it contains will allow us to knock down unfair foreign trade barriers that discriminate against American workers and products stamped ‘Made in the USA,’” he said.

A fierce fight is likely in the House.

Speaker John Boehner supports the measure, and said in a written statement that Republicans will do their part to pass it.

But in a challenge to Obama, the Ohio Republican added that “ultimately success will require Democrats putting politics aside and doing what’s best for the country.”

Dozens of majority Republicans currently oppose the legislation, either out of ideological reasons or because they are loath to enhance Obama’s authority, especially at their own expense.

And Obama’s fellow Democrats show little inclination to support legislation that much of organized labor opposes.

In the run-up to a final Senate vote, Democratic supporters of the legislation were at pains to lay to rest concerns that the legislation, like previous trade bills, could be blamed for a steady loss of jobs.

“The Senate now has the opportunity to throw the 1990s NAFTA playbook into the dust bin of history,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. He referred to the North American Free Trade Agreement, passed two decades ago, and a symbol to this day, fairly or not, of the loss of unemployment to a country with lax worker safety laws and low wages.

Like Obama, Wyden and others said this law had far stronger protections built into it.

One final attempt to add another one failed narrowly, 51-48, a few hours before the bill cleared.

It came on a proposal, by Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who supported the trade bill, and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., who opposed it. They sought to made allegations of currency manipulation subject to the same “dispute settlement procedures” as other obligations under any trade deal.

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew warned earlier that its approval could cause Obama to veto the legislation.

Portman, who was U.S. trade representative under former President George W. Bush, scoffed at the threat. “I don’t think so,” he said. “I think he (Obama) understands the importance” of his ability to conclude trade deals without congressional changes.

The bill also included $1.8 billion in retraining funds for American workers who lose their jobs as a result of exports. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said the program duplicated other federal efforts, but his attempt to strip out the funds was defeated, 53-35.

West Coast dockworkers union ratifies 5-year contract Fri, 22 May 2015 16:15:28 -0400 JUSTIN PRITCHARD LOS ANGELES (AP) — The labor dispute that hobbled international trade through West Coast seaports earlier this year officially ended Friday when the union representing dockworkers announced its members had ratified a five-year contract.

Members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union voted 82 percent in favor of the deal, according to spokesman Craig Merrilees. Union leaders had reached a tentative deal in February with the companies that own massive oceangoing ships that bring cargo to and from ports and operate the terminals where that cargo is loaded and unloaded.

About 13,000 union members were eligible to vote.

Earlier this week, the Pacific Maritime Association of shipping lines and port terminal operators said its members passed the contract. That made the union’s approval the last step.

Ports from San Diego to Seattle were all but shut down several months ago as the two sides haggled over the contract. Companies that accused workers of coordinated slowdowns decided to cut their shifts, shuttering ports on nights and weekends.

The tit-for-tat led to long lines of ships queuing outside harbors, waiting for space at the docks. By the time the U.S. secretary of labor had helped broker a tentative deal in February, several dozen ships were anchored outside the twin ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles — the nation’s largest. They held everything from Easter goods to patio furniture.

Meanwhile, U.S. exporters complained that their goods — including agricultural perishables — were stuck on the docks as foreign competitors filled orders that should be theirs.

Cargo is again flowing smoothly through 29 ports that handle about $1 trillion in imports or exports annually.

Now the two sides must work to restore confidence that West Coast ports remain a reliable gateway for international commerce. Importers and exporters will soon have another option in the expanded Panama Canal, which would allow larger ships to ply the route between the East and Gulf coasts and Asia. Ports on the Pacific coast of Mexico and Canada also are vying for U.S. business.


Contact Justin Pritchard at .

Campbell Soup says 3Q profit and soup sales declined Fri, 22 May 2015 11:21:23 -0400 CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) — Campbell Soup said Friday that its net income and revenue fell in the fiscal third quarter, with U.S. soup sales declining.

Its earnings topped Wall Street expectations, however, and the company reaffirmed its full-year profit guidance, and suggested it could skew toward the high end of that range. Its shares rose almost 2 percent in afternoon trading Friday.

The maker of canned soup, Pepperidge Farm cookies and V8 juice said the stronger dollar hurt its sales overseas, and sales of soup slumped in the U.S. Campbell’s said domestic soup sales fell 10 percent, with broths and ready-to-serve soups taking larger declines than its condensed soups.

Campbell Soup Co. said its net income slipped 1 percent to $182 million, or 58 cents per share. The Camden, New Jersey-based company said it earned 62 cents per share if one-time costs are excluded. Its revenue fell 3 percent to $1.9 billion over the three months that ended on May 3.

Analysts expected adjusted earnings of 51 cents per share and $1.94 billion in revenue, according to Zacks Investment Research.

Campbell Soup maintained its full-year profit forecast of $2.32 to $2.38 per share and said it thinks it will finish toward the high end of that range. Analysts surveyed by FactSet expect earnings of $2.35 per share.

Shares of Campbell Soup rose 91 cents, or 1.9 percent, to $47.84 in afternoon trading. The stock is up nearly 7 percent in 2015, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 index has risen 3.5 percent.

Hispanic ranchers cite discrimination in grazing suit Fri, 22 May 2015 10:53:38 -0400 SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — It’s up to a federal judge to decide whether to let a case move forward in which a group of Hispanic ranchers is suing the U.S. Forest Service over a decision to limit grazing on historic land grant areas in northern New Mexico.

The ranchers claim the agency is discriminating by trying to push them from land that has been worked by their families for centuries.

U.S. District Judge James Browning heard arguments Thursday on a motion by the Forest Service to dismiss the case. He’s expected to make a decision by September.

At stake, ranchers say, is a piece of Hispanic culture and the economic viability of several northern New Mexico communities that depend on access to surrounding lands for everything from grazing to firewood.

Simeon Herskovits, an attorney for the ranchers, argued that the Forest Service was using the motion to short-circuit a full-fledged discussion of the issues raised by the case. He also suggested that the agency failed to understand the intrinsic cultural connection the ranchers have to the land.

“There’s a very special relationship, history and heritage that exists in parts of northern New Mexico. This must be considered carefully,” he said.

The lawsuit centers on a 2010 decision to cut grazing by 18 percent on the Jarita Mesa and Alamosa grazing allotments, which are part of an area recognized by the federal government for special treatment aimed at benefiting land grant heirs.

The Forest Service has argued that management practices by the ranchers contributed to overuse of meadows in the two allotments and that fences were either poorly maintained or in disrepair.

The ranchers disputed those claims, pointing to what they called the agency’s failure to manage wild horses and elk grazing in the area. They said the decision to curb livestock grazing was retribution for them speaking out about Forest Service management practices.

Defense attorney Andrew Smith raised questions about whether some of the ranchers could sue the agency in the first place. He said some didn’t hold grazing permits and others didn’t file administrative appeals when the district ranger first issued her decision to limit grazing.

Smith also argued there was no evidence to show that limiting the business of one rancher would affect the community.

David Sanchez of the Northern New Mexico Stockmen’s Association said half of the grazing fees collected by the federal government come back to the county to fund schools and other projects.

Sanchez said the area is rural and traditional industries such as ranching and woodcutting are the only source of income for some families.

“What’s left for these people? If the government wants them all on food stamps, then take away their grazing permits,” he said. “The government is attacking poor people. It’s like David and Goliath.”

The ranchers’ lawsuit chronicles a history in which they say the property rights of Hispanics have been ignored and an institutional bias has been allowed to continue despite the Forest Service’s obligation to accommodate their dependency on the land.

Herskovits mentioned during Thursday’s hearing a 1972 policy that emerged following the raid of the Tierra Amarilla Courthouse in 1967 over unresolved land grant issues. That policy noted the relationship Hispanic residents of northern New Mexico had with the land and declared their culture a resource that must be recognized when setting agency objectives and policies.

Deere boosts guidance as construction offsets ag swoon Fri, 22 May 2015 10:41:31 -0400 MOLINE, Ill. (AP) — Solid sales of its construction equipment offset a global agricultural slowdown for Deere, the company said Friday. It also raised its outlook for the year and its shares rose nearly 4 percent Friday.

Deere’s most profitable business is making and selling its green tractors and other farming equipment, but with less demand for large farm equipment, Deere is relying more on its backhoes, excavators and other construction equipment to grow sales. A surge in home construction in the U.S. is likely helping. In April, builders broke ground on homes at the fastest pace in more than seven years, according to the Commerce Department.

Deere said sales of farming equipment fell 25 percent from a year ago to $5.77 billion in the second quarter, due to lower shipment of farm machines and the effects of the stronger U.S. dollar. For the full year, Deere expects farming equipment sales to fall 24 percent from the year before. Meanwhile, sales of construction and forestry equipment rose 2 percent to $1.63 billion and it expects them to also rise about 2 percent for the year. Deere’s financing unit, which gives loans to customers to buy equipment, also improved, with revenue rising 14 percent to $653 million.

The company said its second-quarter earnings fell 30 percent to $690.5 million, compared with $981 million last year, but it was still better than Wall Street had expected.

The Moline, Illinois, company posted net income of $2.03 per share, which easily beat the per-share earnings of $1.57 that analysts were looking for, according to a survey by Zacks Investment Research.

Revenue fell 18 percent to $8.2 billion in the period, beating analyst expectations for revenue of $7.6 billion, according to Zacks .

Profit for 2015 is now expected to be around $1.9 billion, the company said, up slightly from the $1.8 billion it had projected earlier this year.

“John Deere expects to be solidly profitable in 2015, with the year ranking among our stronger ones in sales and earnings despite the pullback in the farm sector,” said Chairman and CEO Samuel Allen in a printed statement.

Shares of Deere & Co. rose $3.49, or 3.9 percent, to $92.95 in midmorning trading Friday. Its shares are up 3.7 percent over the past year.

Wal-Mart presses meat suppliers on antibiotics, treatment Fri, 22 May 2015 10:39:06 -0400 ANNE D’INNOCENZIOAP Retail Writer NEW YORK (AP) — Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest food retailer, is urging its thousands of U.S. suppliers to curb the use of antibiotics in farm animals and improve treatment of them.

That means asking meat producers, eggs suppliers and others to use antibiotics only for disease prevention or treatment, not to fatten their animals, a common industry practice. Experts say Wal-Mart is the first major retailer to take a stance to limit the use of the antibiotics.

The guidelines also aim to get suppliers to stop using sow gestation crates and other housing that doesn’t give animals enough space. They’re also being asked to avoid painful procedures like de-horning or castration without proper pain management.

The push is part of an industry trend responding to shoppers who want to know more about where their food comes from and who are choosing foods they see as more healthy or natural. It comes after activists have reported animal abuse at farms supplying Wal-Mart and other major companies.

Wal-Mart wants its suppliers to produce annual reports on antibiotic use and their progress on animal welfare and post the reports on their own websites. It’s also pressuring suppliers to report animal abuse to authorities and take disciplinary action.

Kathleen McLaughlin, senior vice president of Wal-Mart’s sustainability division, told The Associated Press in a phone interview Thursday that the retailer is not putting deadlines on suppliers and the steps aren’t mandatory.

Still, Wal-Mart’s size gives it outsized influence on its suppliers’ practices, and changes it pushes can affect products at all stores. For example, when Wal-Mart asked its suppliers to reduce packaging about a decade ago, it spurred innovations in the consumer products industry. For example, Procter & Gamble introduced tubes of Crest toothpaste that could be featured upright on shelves without boxes.

“We think what’s needed is a fresh look at how we can look at producing food. This is an industrywide change. It won’t happen overnight,” she said. “It’s about transparency.” For example, she noted that with antibiotics, “We don’t know a lot about who was using what for what reason.”

Wal-Mart’s moves won praise from various groups.

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, called it “game-changing progress and signals to agribusiness that the era of confining farm animals is ending.”

“Battery cages, gestation crates and veal crates—along with other long-standing practices that immobilize animals—have a short shelf life in our food system,” he said.

Dr. Gail Hansen, a former practicing veterinarian and a senior officer of Pew Charitable Trusts’s antibiotic resistance project, called Wal-Mart’s move to curb the use of antibiotics a “big deal.”

She noted the Food and Drug Administration keeps data on how much antibiotics are used in farm animals, but there’s no record of how they are being used. Concerns are growing that misuse can lead to antibiotic resistance in bacteria, making human and animal disease more difficult to treat.

“This will help us understand how antibiotics are being used in the food production,” she said.

The guidelines, which apply not only to suppliers to Wal-Mart stores but also to Sam’s Club, are part of the company’s pledge to make its food system more eco-friendly and improve food safety.

Wal-Mart said its own research showed 77 percent of its shoppers said they will increase their trust and 66 percent will increase their likelihood to shop at a retailer that improves the treatment of livestock.

Wal-Mart is facing pressure from critics like Mercy for Animals, a national animal rights group that has conducted six investigations over the past few years on farms that supply pork to Wal-Mart. It found many instances of pigs being hit and punched with metal cans, according to Ari Solomon, a spokesman for the group.

The group leaked a video of mistreatment at an Oklahoma hog farm in 2013. In that video, pigs were seen being pummeled with sheets of wood, and pregnant sows were caged in such small spaces they could barely move. After that, Tyson Foods and Wal-Mart terminated the contract with the supplier.

Solomon said that Wal-Mart has been one of the last remaining major retailers to take a stance against “gestation” crates. “This is quickly going out of vogue,” he said.

In July 2014, Wal-Mart announced it was requiring its fresh pork suppliers to have video monitoring for sow farms and would be subject to unannounced animal welfare video audits by a third party.

Wal-Mart spokesman Kevin Gardner said that requirement wasn’t in reaction to the video, but to “address the industry topic in general.”

Gary Mickelson, a spokesman at Tyson Foods Inc., based in Springdale, Arkansas, told The Associated Press that it was making “significant progress” in the areas of antibiotic use and animal well-being.

Among Tyson’s steps: It announced its plans to eliminate the use of human antibiotics in its U.S. broiler chicken flocks by the end of September 2017. It’s also encouraging hog farmers who supply to Tyson to focus on the quality and quantity of the space for sows when they remodel or build new barns, though it hasn’t set a timeframe.

Counties try local approach to resolving water runoff fight Fri, 22 May 2015 10:32:58 -0400 FERGUS FALLS, Minn. (AP) — As Minnesota moves toward tougher enforcement of buffer strips intended to keep farm runoff from fouling streams and lakes, Otter Tail and other counties are showing how a less confrontational approach can work.

When Gov. Mark Dayton recently pushed for tougher state enforcement, Minnesota Public Radio reports that farm groups pushed back, calling his plan unworkable.

But in Otter Tail County, officials are taking an analytical approach and reaching out to landowners with customized guidance on how to meet the local ordinance, which also calls for the buffer strips.

“Even though it’s an existing ordinance, most landowners don’t realize it’s out there,” said Brad Mergens, the conservation district’s manager who must carry out the buffer enforcement effort approved by the county board last year. “Our goal is to be flexible. We’ll go on site with every landowner and work with them.”

The county set up specific guidelines for identifying areas that need buffers. After an area is identified, technicians meet with landowners, measure the area and provide information about government programs that pay landowners to install the buffer strips.

Landowners who don’t respond to a first letter will get a second and then a third. The county will ask for legal action only if landowners don’t respond by the end of the five-year compliance effort.

In three Otter Tail townships reviewed by Mergens’ team so far, 40 percent of landowners have responded to the county’s letters telling them their shoreland needs buffers.

Tim Koehler, a senior programs adviser for the state Board of Water and Soil Resources, said actions taken in Blue Earth, Dakota, Dodge, Grant, Olmsted, and Otter Tail counties are good examples of how voluntary approaches get results without legal action.

“Once you have local people working with local producers and providing them the information and providing them the incentives, we’re getting nearly 100 percent compliance,” Koehler said.

Wildlife habitat conservation program reaches million acres Fri, 22 May 2015 10:15:05 -0400 BLAKE NICHOLSON BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A Conservation Reserve Program offshoot that’s aimed at boosting wildlife habitat has surpassed 1 million acres, thanks to a recent signup of land in North Dakota.

The amount of land in the State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement program is double what the federal government envisioned when it launched the effort seven years ago. The program has given a boost to wildlife in three dozen states — from pheasants in the Upper Midwest to sparrows on the East Coast to mule deer and elk in the Pacific Northwest.

The SAFE program pays landowners to idle land for 10-15 years and offers financial help with creating or improving wildlife habitat.

“As it enhances the flora and fauna of the countryside, it can also create recreational opportunities for the sportsman, which is an investment in the rural economy as well,” federal Farm Service Agency Administrator Val Dolcini said in a statement.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said in January 2008 its goal was to restore or enhance 500,000 acres of wildlife habitat through the program. The recent enrollment of about 300 acres of land in southeastern North Dakota’s LaMoure County put the program over the 1 million-acre mark. One acre is about the size of a football field without the end zones.

Harry Schlenker of rural Jud, who enrolled the millionth acre, said the combined benefits to himself as a farmer and rancher and to hunters including his sons helped draw him to the program.

“It keeps the soil from eroding, and we’ll also have pasture and hay if a drought happens to strike, and it almost did this spring,” said Schlenker, 82. “And it benefits wildlife — there’s ducks and geese, and wild animals like fox and coyotes.”

The SAFE program is proving more popular than expected because landowners can enroll smaller chunks of land for more targeted purposes and they like the added benefit to wildlife, especially if they happen to also be hunters, said Aaron Krauter, the Farm Service Agency’s state director in North Dakota. The general Conservation Reserve Program, which pays landowners to idle environmentally fragile land, has seen waning interest in recent years, particularly as commodity prices have risen and farmers have turned more land back into crop production.

“People are getting more specific in the contracts that they want to sign,” Krauter said. “It’s a program that has just fine-tuned itself.”

For example, he said, in North Dakota, land can be enrolled in one of four geographic areas, to benefit waterfowl such as ducks and geese, grouse, prairie chickens or pheasants.

The general CRP also has been criticized for taking cropland out of production and for paying farmers not to farm. The benefits to wildlife through the SAFE program “dampen that criticism a little,” Krauter said. “You’re not seeing large tracts of productive land being put in. You’re finding those more specific areas.”


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Bird flu crisis slows in Minnesota, focus now on recovery Fri, 22 May 2015 10:03:08 -0400 STEVE KARNOWSKI MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota notched six straight days without a new case of bird flu on Thursday, and though state officials aren’t ready to say the outbreak is over, they’re beginning to stand down.

The first case of H5N2 in the Midwest was confirmed in early March at a Minnesota turkey farm, and the virus then spread to 88 farms in the country’s top turkey producing state, affecting nearly 8 million birds, mostly turkeys. But new cases have fallen off sharply and the focus is turning toward getting poultry farms back into production.

“I wouldn’t go out on a limb to say that we’re done for the season, but I would say it’s been six days now since we’ve had a presumptive case and we are very optimistic that this trend will continue,” Minnesota Board of Animal Health spokeswoman Bethany Hahn said.

To be sure, the disease remains a threat. Iowa, the chief egg producer in the U.S., has reported 11 new probable outbreaks this week alone, raising its total cases to 63 and toll to over 25.5 million birds, mostly chickens. But no other Midwest states had reported new cases as of Thursday. Across the Midwest, the U.S. Department of Agriculture puts the loss at nearly 39 million birds.

Things have settled down enough that Minnesota’s Board of Animal Health stopped issuing daily updates unless it has new cases or other news. The state’s emergency operations center, which helped mobilize agencies to respond to new cases, is just partially activated now. While an incident manager remains on duty, the center is “certainly not as busy as it was,” said Bruce Gordon, spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety.

And federal personnel assigned to the state’s crisis have fallen. Many came from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, which had 139 responders in Minnesota last month; that was down to 40 by Wednesday, spokeswoman Joelle Hayden said.

Hahn said the first Minnesota farm that was affected, in Pope County, could resume production in a few weeks, with others following a few weeks later. The barns must get a thorough cleaning and disinfection and if all tests are negative, the barns go into 21 days of downtime as a precaution. Officials will then work with producers to determine when it’s safe to restock, Hayden said.

The slowdown hasn’t lightened the workload for Dr. Robert Porter and others at the University of Minnesota’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. They’ve conducted thousands of influenza tests and remain in emergency mode.

Porter said they tested about 250 samples from birds daily in mid-April, and still do about 220. Test numbers have dropped “only slightly” because producers within the control zones around infected farms still need their birds to test negative to get permission to send their birds and eggs to market, he said.

“These negatives are as important as the reported positive cases,” he explained.

Obama’s Senate allies hope to endorse his trade bill Friday Fri, 22 May 2015 10:00:38 -0400 CHARLES BABINGTON WASHINGTON (AP) — Supporters of President Barack Obama’s trade agenda hope to fend off hostile Senate amendments Friday and send a major trade bill to the House, where another fierce debate awaits.

Senators also plan to address the government’s soon-to-expire authority to collect bulk data on Americans’ phone records.

Many senators will press leaders and colleagues to wrap things up in time to start the weeklong Memorial Day recess on Saturday. As he opened Friday’s Senate session, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said that was possible. But objections by any senator could slow the process.

Pro-trade senators survived a Democratic-led effort Thursday to block Obama’s agenda, with two votes to spare. Now they hope several hours of votes on amendments will clear the way for Senate endorsement of “fast track” negotiating authority for Obama.

The authority would allow Obama, like earlier presidents, to propose trade agreements that Congress could reject or ratify, but not change. He says it’s crucial to advancing a long-negotiated trade pact with 11 other Pacific Rim nations. Other accords could follow.

Obama’s allies secured crucial Democratic support on trade Thursday by agreeing to allow a Senate vote next month on reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank. The bank guarantees loans for U.S. exports, and many House conservatives want to end it.

Obama called Thursday’s Senate action “a big step forward.” He predicted new trade deals will “open up access to markets that too often are closed.” The president had telephoned wavering senators late Wednesday night.

Labor unions and key liberal groups oppose free-trade deals, saying they send U.S. jobs to nations with low wages, lax environmental laws and poor safety standards. The political dynamics force Obama to rely heavily on Republicans, who oppose him on most other issues.

The trade measure is one of three major bills facing senators as they anticipate the scheduled weeklong break.

Legislation to renew the Patriot Act is on the calendar, as is a bill to renew authority to commit federal funds for highway and bridge construction. Both face a June 1 deadline.

McConnell is intent on keeping the anti-terrorism Patriot Act from lapsing while Republicans control the House and Senate.

The House has passed Obama-backed legislation that would significantly change the government’s bulk collection of records of who calls who in America. A Senate vote on that measure is expected once the trade bill is completed. But it is unclear if there are 60 votes, in the 100-member Senate, that are needed to send it to Obama for his signature.

A short-term extension of the current domestic surveillance program is also possible.

The House has also cleared a two-month extension of highway funding. The Senate appears likely to accept it, and work on a longer-term bill this summer.

As for the trade bill, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, supports the business-backed legislation, and Republicans hold 245 of the House’s 435 seats. But dozens of rank-and-file Republicans oppose the trade measure either on ideological grounds or because they don’t want to enhance Obama’s power on a high-profile issue.

Democratic support is weak, given the opposition of organized labor. But Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democrats’ House leader, has yet to announce her position and has said she hopes somehow to facilitate a trade bill’s passage.

One proposed Senate amendment for Friday would seek sanctions against countries that keep their currency artificially low. Such below-market values make a country’s exports more affordable to foreigners.

Another amendment would keep inspections of imported catfish in the Food and Drug Administration, rather than transferring them to the Department of Agriculture. But opponents will ask the Senate parliamentarian to quash the amendment by ruling it non-germane to the trade bill. The Agriculture Department’s inspection role could make it harder to import catfish from Vietnam and other countries.

Portland daily grain report Fri, 22 May 2015 09:55:01 -0400 Portland, Ore., Friday, May 22, 2015

USDA Market News

All Bids in dollars per bushel. Bids are limited and not fully established in early trading.

Bids for grains delivered to Portland, Oregon in dollars per bushel.

In early trading July wheat futures trended 9.50 to 10.25 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 May delivery were not available for ordinary protein.

Bids for guaranteed maximum 10.5 protein were not available, as most exporters were not issuing bids for nearby delivery.

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

Bids for 14 percent protein US 1 Dark Northern Spring Wheat for May delivery were indicated as lower in early trading. Several exporters are not issuing bids for nearby delivery.

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

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

All wheat bids in dollars per bushel

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

Ordinary protein

May NA

Jun NA

Jul NA

Aug NC 5.8500-6.2000

Sep 5.8500-6.2000

Guaranteed maximum 10.5 pct protein

May NA

Jun 6.1950-6.3300

Jul 6.3250-6.3300

Aug NC 6.3400-6.3500

Sep 6.3400-6.3500

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

Ordinary protein

May NA

Guaranteed maximum 10.5 pct protein

May NA

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


Ordinary protein 6.2050-6.2750

11 pct protein 6.2850-6.3750

11.5 pct protein

May 6.3250-6.4250

Jun 6.3250-6.5250

Jul 6.3250-6.3750

Aug NC 6.3275-6.4775

12 pct protein 6.3250-6.4750

13 pct protein 6.3250-6.5750

US 1 Dark Northern Spring Wheat (with a minimum of 300 falling numbers, a maximum

of 0.5 part per million vomitoxin, and a maximum of one percent total damage)

13 pct protein 6.4375-6.8875

14 pct protein

May 7.4375-7.8875

Jun 7.4375-7.8875

Jul 7.0875-7.5875

Aug NC 6.9000-7.3000

Sep 6.8000-7.1000

15 pct protein 8.0375-8.4875

16 pct protein 8.6375-9.0875

US 2 Yellow Corn

Shuttle trains-Delivered full coast Pacific Northwest-BN

May 4.5125-4.5225

Jun 4.5125-4.5325

Jul 4.5125-4.5225

Aug/Sep 4.5350-4.5450

Oct 4.6450-4.6550

Nov 4.6450-4.6650

US 1 Yellow Soybeans

Shuttle trains-Delivered full coast Pacific Northwest-BN

May 10.1275-10.2475

Jun 10.1275-10.2475

Oct 10.3000-10.3200

Nov 10.3200

Dec 10.3150-10.3550

US 2 Heavy White Oats 3.8475

Not well tested.

Exporter Bids Portland Rail/Barge Apr 2015

Averages in Dollars per bushel

US 1 Soft White by Unit Trains and Barges 6.2300

US 1 Hard Red Winter (Ordinary protein) 6.2500

US 1 Hard Red Winter (11.5% protein) 6.3700

US 1 Dark Northern Spring (14% protein) 8.1700

Source: USDA Market News Service, Portland, Ore.

Moisture needed for Washington wheat crop, grain commission says Thu, 21 May 2015 10:53:23 -0400 Matw Weaver SPOKANE — Moisture will be critical for Washington’s wheat crop in the weeks leading up to harvest, say members of the Washington Grain Commission.

Commissioners spoke of varying crop conditions across the state’s wheat fields during their crop reports May 20 at the board meeting in Spokane. They painted a picture of a spring and winter wheat crop that’s showing signs of stress due to dry conditions.

An inch or so of rain the week of May 11 in the Tri-Cities and Eastern Oregon area was “a real game changer,” said industry representative Damon Filan, manager and merchandiser of Tri-Cities Grain in Pasco, Wash.

“Recent rains helped a lot, but we need to continue to see timely rains at the end of May and early June in order to salvage what yield potential there is,” said Ty Jessup, industry representative and marketing manager of Central Washington Grain Growers in Waterville, Wash.

Regions needed to replant spring wheat to replace winter wheat in varying degrees — some, “quite a bit,” he said, and others had good looking stands coming out of winter.

Soft white wheat traded on the Portland market at $5.85 to $6.20 per bushel for August and September delivery for ordinary protein, according to the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service. Soft white wheat with a guaranteed maximum of 10.5 percent protein traded at $6.22 to $6.53 per bushel. Most exporters are not issuing bids for nearby delivery, according to the service.

Prices will likely stick within a 50-cent range, Filan said, noting prices recently rallied 50 to 60 cents over the last week and a half.

“There seems to be plenty of wheat around the world, the corn crop looks good and the soybeans are in,” he said. “The world will have ample amounts of grain unless there’s some type of disaster we don’t see right now.”

Filan recommended farmers keep selling during 30-cent and 40-cent price rallies, marketing 10 to 15 percent of their crop each time, especially if prices are break-even or above the cost of production.

The new crop is roughly 10 percent sold, down from recent years, when it would be as high as 30 to 35 percent sold at this time of year because prices were so good, Filan said.

White House bee report resembles state findings Thu, 21 May 2015 10:17:36 -0400 Don Jenkins A new Obama administration strategy to strengthen honeybees resembles recommendations last year by a Washington state study group.

The White House report, like the state study, calls on government to take a leading role in creating pollinator-friendly landscapes.

Dayton beekeeper Paul Hosticka, who served on the state group, said he hoped the federal plan will prod state officials into action.

“Our state report, I hate to say, fell on death ears, legislatively,” he said.

The White House’s task force set a goal of reducing wintertime honeybee losses to 15 percent in 10 years. Current losses are estimated at around 30 percent.

The task force, co-chaired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, cited forage loss and parasitic Varroa mites as among the main reasons for beehive losses. The state report, released in December, came to the same conclusion.

The federal and state reports both reserved judgment on neonicotinoid pesticides. The European Union restricted neonicotinoids in 2013 for their purported ill effects on honeybees. The state group concluded the evidence was insufficient. The federal report proposes more research over the next three to five years by the EPA.

Washington State Beekeepers Association President Mark Emrich, a small-scale beekeeper in Thurston County, said he wished the White House had shown more urgency in determining whether neonicotinoids are harming bees.

“I hope to hell we can hang on that long,” he said.

Bee researcher Tim Lawrence, Washington State University’s Island County director, said Varroa mites and lack of bee forage are “by far the two biggest things.”

“Neonicotinoids are an unnecessary distraction, in my opinion,” said Lawrence, who also served on the state study group.

The White House proposes increasing federal spending to help pollinators, especially honeybees and monarch butterflies, from $34 million this year to $82 million next year.

Much of the money would be spent toward meeting the goal of restoring or enhancing 7 million acres for pollinators over the next five years. Half of the land would be federally owned, while the rest would be private lands or owned by state and local governments. Federal agencies would be instructed to plant bee forage on their property whenever possible.

Washington beekeepers lobbied state legislators this year to make state agencies more pollinator conscious. They also wanted the State Noxious Weed Control Board to test planting pollen-rich plants where weeds had been eradicated. Many weeds targeted by the board nourish bees. Legislation failed as lawmakers from agricultural districts questioned whether the tests might inadvertently introduce new problem plants.

The Obama administration also proposes to expedite review of chemicals to control Varroa mites. The blood-sucking parasites appeared in 1987 and have bedeviled U.S. beekeepers ever since. The EPA recently approved using oxalic acid, an organic compound, to control the pests.

Ephrata commercial beekeeper Tim Hiatt said the industry has “limped along” with organic treatments, but has had to resort to harsher chemicals at times. “We’re using pretty much everything we can find,” he said.

Hiatt said he routinely loses one-third of his hives each winter. Losses were once 5 percent, he said.

Hiatt’s bees spend crucial summer months in North Dakota, making honey and girding themselves for the winter by feeding on ample forage.

In addition to the Varroa mite, chemicals in the environment may be robbing bees of their vitality, he said.

Hiatt called the goal of cutting hive loses in half “noble,” but said it will hard to attain. “I’d say it’s a great goal, and that’s all that it is,” he said.

Numerous federal agencies are crafting pollinator protection programs. The Washington State Department of Agriculture is working on a plan to promote bee health, but no details have been set, agency spokesman Hector Castro said.

Hormel overcomes bird flu in 2Q, but drag seen in 2nd half Thu, 21 May 2015 08:40:36 -0400 STEVE KARNOWSKI MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Hormel reported a record second-quarter profit of $180.2 million Wednesday despite a bird flu scourge that has killed more than 8 million birds in Minnesota.

It warned, however, that the ensuing supply shortage would drag on sales for the remainder of the year.

Hormel’s Jennie-O Turkey business is the country’s No. 2 turkey processor.

The company’s quarterly per-share profit of 67 cents was a nickel better than Wall Street had expected, according to poll by Zacks Investment Research.

Investors shrugged off concerns about bird flu, sending shares up more than 4 percent in midday trading.

The maker of Spam and Dinty Moore stew had revenue of $2.28 billion, which fell short of analyst projections for $2.41 billion.

CEO Jeffrey Ettinger said during a conference call that operating profits at Jennie-O rose 41 percent on a 15 percent increase in sales even as bird flu outbreaks afflict about 55 farms in Minnesota and Wisconsin that supply it with turkeys. Robust sales of turkey coupled with lower grain and fuel prices helped offset the flu’s impact, he said.

However, supply disruptions will cut Jennie-O’s second-half sales by 15 percent and force it to buy turkey from outside suppliers at higher costs, Ettinger said.

“This sizable estimated loss of volume is not only due to bird loses over the past month but also takes into account the fact that many of our barns remain empty under quarantine,” Ettinger said.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, confirmed outbreaks of H5N2 avian influenza have cost turkey and chicken egg producers around 38 million birds in 15 states since early March, mostly in Minnesota, the country’s top turkey producing state, and Iowa, the top U.S. egg producer. The actual toll is significantly higher because the USDA’s count doesn’t include several recently discovered farms with presumptive positive test results.

Ettinger affirmed Hormel’s previous full-year earnings estimate of $2.50 to $2.60 per share. But he said profits probably will be near the lower end of that range. The company would have likely revised its estimate upward if not for bird flu, he said.

“Our balanced business provides Hormel Foods the ability to navigate challenges such as this year’s unprecedented turkey supply shortage and continue to deliver consistent growth over the long term,” Ettinger said.

Shares of Hormel Foods Corp., based in Austin, Minnesota, rose $2.42 to $58.21.

Obama’s trade agenda clears key Senate hurdle Thu, 21 May 2015 08:12:24 -0400 CHARLES BABINGTON WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama’s trade agenda has cleared a key Senate hurdle to move toward a final vote.

The Senate has topped the 60 votes needed to begin substantive action on Obama’s bid for “fast track” negotiating authority. The vote was 62-38.

Obama says fast track authority will improve prospects for a trade treaty with 11 other Pacific-rim nations.

Labor unions and other groups vital to Democrats strongly oppose Obama’s trade agenda. They say free-trade deals cost U.S. jobs.

Obama says U.S. producers need broader access to foreign markets.

Report calls for investment in ‘Ag of the Middle’ Wed, 20 May 2015 11:07:15 -0400 Eric Mortenson Oregon’s medium-sized ag producers churn out high-quality meat, grain and greens, but gaps in the aggregation, processing and distribution infrastructure make it difficult to put on consumers’ plates at an affordable price.

A new report from Ecotrust, a Portland nonprofit, calls for investment in “Ag of the Middle” producers and the network that can sustain a strong regional food economy.

The report, “Oregon Food Infrastructure Gap Analysis,” defines “Ag of the Middle” producers as too big to survive by selling only at farmers’ markets or to CSAs, but too small compete in commodity markets.

“It’s absolutely the most painful place to be as a producer,” said Amanda Oborne, one of the report’s authors and Ecotrust’s food and farms vice president.

The 250-page study describes a haphazard system in which growers and other food producers spend too much time on the supply chain instead of developing their product. They must cobble together outlets, pick, pack and store things themselves and deliver small amounts to multiple buyers.

Neighborhood grocery stores in Portland, especially those catering to consumers willing to pay more for local, organic or sustainably produced food, are besieged by clusters of delivery vehicles. Some of them amount to a cooler in the trunk of a grower’s car. In Portland’s increasingly busy streets, getting from store to store isn’t easy.

The founder of Portland’s Bowery Bagels, which uses Northwest grains, told the report writers he delivers to 114 outlets on weekdays. “I can make more bagels,” CEO Michael Madigan is quoted as saying, “but I can’t deliver any more.”

The report says Ag of the Middle producers often lack branding or marketing strategy and do without communications and strategic planning.

The result is a system that is “highly fragmented, lacking consistent data and information, and dependent on personal relationships,” according to the study.

Ecotrust is investing in the solution. The organization is retrofitting a former ironworks building in Portland’s eastside industrial area to be a food development, storage and distribution hub.

The building on Southeast Salmon Street — called “The Redd” after the egg nests salmon make in streams — will have 16,000 square feet of development, incubator or processing space for meat, grain and greens. A mezzanine will contain 8,000 square feet of offices and educational space.

A building next door will have cold storage and warehousing space, and a delivery company that uses electric cargo bicycles capable of hauling up to 800 pounds of product to restaurants or other customers.

Portland has a reputation as a “foodie” city, but Oborne said Ecotrust and its partners are intent on developing a “food system, not a food scene.”

Former anti-GMO crusader speaks about his conversion Wed, 20 May 2015 10:42:26 -0400 Sean Ellis BOISE — British environmentalist Mark Lynas explained to several hundred people in Boise May 19 how he switched from being a pie-throwing, anti-GMO activist to a supporter of genetically engineered crops.

Lynas showed video clips of him helping fan the flames of the anti-GMO movement in Europe during the mid-1990s.

That included him throwing a pie in the face of a GMO supporter, as well as helping dozens of other people destroy genetically engineered crop trials.

The presentation was hosted by Food Producers of Idaho and titled, “GMOs are green. How an environmentalist changed his mind about biotechnology.”

“Our aim was to chop down ... all the GM crop trials we could (in) England,” Lynas said. “This was an activity that consumed my life for several years. I was involved in all aspects of the movement.”

Lynas even orchestrated the first invasion by anti-GMO activists of Monsanto offices in the United Kingdom, which resulted in them occupying the building, trashing the company’s files and hanging banners from its windows.

Lynas then showed a video clip of him apologizing for his involvement in the anti-GMO movement during the 2013 Oxford Farming Conference.

During that conference, he said he was “very sorry I helped start the anti-GM movement in the 1990s. I now regret it completely.”

Lynas offered several examples of how genetically engineered crops can help farmers in Africa and India but have been banned in large part because of the anti-GMO movement.

“The humanitarian aspect of this ... whole issue is really lost from the debate,” he said.

He said 88 percent of scientists believe genetically modified foods are safe because that’s what the evidence says and the opposition to genetically engineered crops is based mostly on fear and emotion.

“The science is quite clear. There isn’t much room for dispute about the safety issue,” he said.

To believe genetically engineered foods are unsafe is to disagree with the scientific evidence and believe in a conspiracy theory, he said.

“You have to believe all of those thousands of scientists are in league with ... Monsanto,” he said.

Lynas later told the Capital Press his conversion began when he realized his claims about GMO technology were all based on what other activists were saying and not on scientific evidence.

“I just realized I didn’t have any scientific foundation or validity for what I was saying,” he said.

The crowd included people who oppose the use of genetically engineered crops and many of them lined up to ask questions following the presentation.

FPI Chairman Travis Jones thanked skeptics of GMO technology for taking the time to step out of their comfort zone and learn more about the issue.

“We appreciate your courage for being here among people you may not normally be accustomed to being with,” he said.

Jones later said FPI held the event in downtown Boise rather than in rural Idaho “because we need to engage with an audience that may not think just like us.”

China’s impact looms large as U.S. debates its own trade deals Wed, 20 May 2015 09:19:40 -0400 JIM KUHNHENN WASHINGTON (AP) — If the U.S. doesn’t write the rules of international trade, President Barack Obama warns, China will. In fact, China is already helping write those rules, and in some ways has jumped ahead of the game.

There’s intense competition between the U.S. and China for economic influence in the world. As Obama seeks to persuade lawmakers to back his trade agenda, he has cast that competition as an economic threat.

“They’ll write those rules in a way that gives Chinese workers and Chinese businesses the upper hand, and locks American-made goods out,” the president said in Oregon this month.

As a result, China’s impact, both current and potential, is partly shaping the U.S. debate over whether Congress should grant Obama greater trade-negotiation authority. Under such authority, lawmakers could still set parameters for trade deals, but once an agreement was negotiated they could only approve or reject it, not change it.

Obama is seeking the “fast-track” authority to complete a Trans-Pacific trade deal with 11 other countries along the Pacific rim, many of whom are also negotiating separate trade pacts with China.

Some U.S. concerns:



The U.S. is the largest economy seeking to conclude the Trans-Pacific trade deal. China is the largest economy negotiating the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, 16 countries that include the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as well as Australia, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.

There is significant overlap. Countries involved in both negotiations include Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

China, under President Xi Jinping, is also starting an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and has enlisted 57 countries to sign up. Such a venture is designed to broaden China’s practice of using its state-owned companies and its workers on foreign capital projects.

The U.S. and Japan, leading shareholders of the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, have expressed concern over the new bank’s governance standards and the types of projects it might finance. “They may be very good for the leaders of some countries and contractors but may not be good for the actual people who live there,” Obama said last month.

Still, Britain, France and Germany have broken with Washington and are seeking membership.

As a result, the Trans-Pacific trade deal Obama seeks would do less to thwart China than to help the U.S. “rebalance” toward Asia and gain a foothold in a major world market.

“The U.S. has to be in the game itself,” Evan A. Feigenbaum, a former deputy assistant secretary of state for South Asia, said at a recent conference on U.S.-China economic relations. “In the full sweep and scope of Asia institutions, agreements, functional areas, clearly the United States, if it’s going to adapt and compete, has to compete with something.”



When Obama says the U.S. needs to “write the rules for trade” he is addressing a difference between the trade deals that China is negotiating and those that the U.S. is hoping to complete. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership is much like a traditional free trade agreement that simply seeks to lower tariffs and increase access to markets.

The Trans-Pacific agreement, however, also aims to set labor and environmental standards for its participants. Presumably, that would enhance U.S. competitiveness in its exports.

The debate in the United States centers on how enforceable those standards would be. The North American Free Trade Agreement negotiated by President Bill Clinton had side agreements on labor and the environment that were not enforceable. More recent deals, many with Latin American countries, have built enforcement into the agreements.

Results have been mixed.

A Government Accountability Office report last year found that while some countries have taken steps to strengthen labor rights, enforcement has been limited and U.S. agencies have been inconsistent in monitoring. It found that of five labor complaints submitted to the Department of Labor since 2008, only one had been closed.

“The history of these agreements betrays a harsh truth: that the actual enforcement of labor provisions of past U.S. FTAs lags far behind the promises,” concluded a report this week by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., a vocal critic of Obama’s trade efforts.

Administration officials concede past problems in addressing claims. They say some delays are due to a lack of resources and others are the result of labor standards that are unclear or too weak to make a strong case. They say the Trans-Pacific deal would reflect those lessons.



U.S. administrations have long complained that China subsidizes its exports by keeping its currency values artificially low. And while China is not a participant in the Trans-Pacific agreement, critics and even some supporters of the deal believe it should include measures that would crack down on nations that manipulate currency.

“Past administrations have had a number of tools at their disposal, but they’ve sat in a drawer gathering dust,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat who succeeded in placing currency valuation restrictions in related trade legislation, said last week.

But administration officials say any provision that would punish countries deemed to be purposefully undervaluing their currency to gain a trade advantage would prompt retaliation and lead to a trade war. The administration on Tuesday said that if the currency manipulation restrictions are placed directly in the “fast track” legislation, Obama will veto it.

“There was a time when China was pretty egregious about this,” Obama said during a trade pitch at Nike headquarters in Oregon last month. “And we pushed back hard, and China moved. ... That’s not an argument against this trade agreement.”

Still, Jared Bernstein, who served as an economist for Vice President Joe Biden, believes the trade agreement should contain currency enforcement provisions.

He said in an email: “One reason for our persistent trade deficits is that some of our trading partners have managed their currency to subsidize their exports to us and tax ours to them.”

Portland daily grain report Wed, 20 May 2015 09:17:29 -0400 Portland, Ore., Wednesday, May 20, 2015

USDA Market News

All Bids in dollars per bushel. Bids are limited and not fully established in early trading.

Bids for grains delivered to Portland, Oregon in dollars per bushel.

In early trading July wheat futures trended mixed, from 0.50 cents lower to 4.50 cents per bushel higher compared to Tuesday’s closes.

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

Bids for guaranteed maximum 10.5 protein were not available, as most exporters were not issuing bids for nearby delivery.

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

Bids for 14 percent protein US 1 Dark Northern Spring Wheat for May delivery were indicated as higher in early trading. Several exporters are not issuing bids for nearby delivery.

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

Bids for US 1 Yellow Soybeans delivered full coast in 110 car shuttle trains trended mixed compared to Tuesday’s noon bids.

All wheat bids in dollars per bushel

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

Ordinary protein

May NA

Jun NA

Jul NA

Aug NC 5.8500-6.1650

Sep 5.8500-6.1650

Guaranteed maximum 10.5 pct protein

May NA

Jun 6.1900-6.4975

Jul 6.1900-6.2275

Aug NC 6.2150-6.2200

Sep 6.2150-6.2200

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

Ordinary protein

May NA

Guaranteed maximum 10.5 pct protein

May NA

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


Ordinary protein 6.2250-6.2450

11 pct protein 6.3050-6.3450

11.5 pct protein

May 6.3450-6.3950

Jun 6.3450-6.4450

Jul 6.2950-6.3450

Aug NC 6.2975-6.4475

12 pct protein 6.3450-6.4450

13 pct protein 6.3450-6.5450

US 1 Dark Northern Spring Wheat (with a minimum of 300 falling numbers, a maximum

of 0.5 part per million vomitoxin, and a maximum of one percent total damage)

13 pct protein 6.4150-6.8650

14 pct protein

May 7.4150-7.8650

Jun 7.4150-7.8650

Jul 7.0650-7.5650

Aug NC 6.8750-7.2750

Sep 6.7750-7.0750

15 pct protein 8.0150-8.4650

16 pct protein 8.6150-9.0650

US 2 Yellow Corn

Shuttle trains-Delivered full coast Pacific Northwest-BN

May 4.4075-4.5375

Jun 4.4075-4.5375

Jul 4.4075-4.4775

Aug/Sep 4.5025-4.5225

Oct 4.5900-4.6500

Nov 4.5900-4.6500

US 1 Yellow Soybeans

Shuttle trains-Delivered full coast Pacific Northwest-BN

May 10.1875-10.3275

Jun 10.1875-10.3075

Oct 10.3200-10.3400

Nov 10.3200-10.3400

Dec 10.3300-10.3600

US 2 Heavy White Oats 3.8475

Not well tested.

Exporter Bids Portland Rail/Barge Apr 2015

Averages in Dollars per bushel

US 1 Soft White by Unit Trains and Barges 6.2300

US 1 Hard Red Winter (Ordinary protein) 6.2500

US 1 Hard Red Winter (11.5% protein) 6.3700

US 1 Dark Northern Spring (14% protein) 8.1700

Source: USDA Market News Service, Portland, OR

L.A. may boost minimum wage to $15 over 5 years Wed, 20 May 2015 08:57:26 -0400 ROBERT JABLON LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles City Council gave initial approval Tuesday to raising minimum pay in the nation’s second-largest city to $15 an hour by 2020, a key step as wages in America have stagnated.

If enacted, Los Angeles would join Seattle and San Francisco as some of the largest cities in the nation with phased-in minimum wage laws that eventually require annual pay of about $31,200.

“Today, help is on the way for the 1 million Angelenos who live in poverty,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said.

The council voted 14-1 after residents made impassioned statements for and against the plan that would progressively bump up the wage from the current $9 an hour, which also is the minimum for California.

The vote sent the measure to the city attorney to prepare a wage ordinance that will go to a council committee and, assuming it passes, to the full council for a final vote and then to Garcetti.

The vote follows months of debate and study at a time when American workers have struggled with flat wages.

Average hourly wages in the nation rose just 3 cents in April to $24.87. Wages have risen only 2.2 percent over the past 12 months, roughly the same sluggish pace of the past six years, according to Labor Department figures.

The 9 million jobs lost during the recession have played a role in keeping wages down around the nation and even the recovery has had limited impact.

Yet pressure to raise the minimum wage has been building around the country and in Los Angeles, which has some of the highest housing costs in the nation.

Councilman Paul Krekorian said his mother raised a family while waiting tables for minimum wage.

“It would be a whole lot harder to raise a family now doing what she did ... because minimum wage has not kept up with the cost of living, with the cost of housing, with the cost of transportation or any of the other costs that we all have to bear,” Krekorian said.

Labor unions have been active in the city calling for increases and in organizing low-paid workers such as hotel cleaners, fast-food clerks and chain-store employees.

Nationwide events last month called on McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and similar companies to pay workers at least $15 an hour. Many fast-food workers currently earn close to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour — about $15,000 a year for full-time work.

The Los Angeles ordinance would raise the minimum wage from $9 to $10.50 in July 2016, followed by annual increases until 2020.

Nonprofits and businesses with 25 or fewer employees would have an additional year to reach the $15 plateau.

In many states, the push to raise local minimum wages is opposed by state officials concerned that such measures could create a confusing patchwork of pay rates.

The lone dissenting vote in Los Angeles came from Councilman Mitchell Englander, who said he felt raising the minimum wage above that of other Southern California communities might lead businesses to cut working hours and jobs and make it impossible for entire industries to do business.

“The very last thing that we should be doing as a city is creating a competitive disadvantage for our businesses with those in neighboring cities and sending the clear message that Los Angeles is closed for business,” he said.

Minimum wages in San Francisco and Oakland recently jumped to $12.25 an hour. A voter-approved measure will raise the wage in San Francisco to $15 in 2018. In April, Seattle began phasing in its new $15 minimum wage law which will take final effect in 2017.

House panel votes to repeal country-of-origin meat labeling law Wed, 20 May 2015 08:40:52 -0400 MARY CLARE JALONICK WASHINGTON (AP) — A House committee has voted to get rid of labels on packages of meat that say where the animals were born, raised and slaughtered.

The House Agriculture Committee voted 38-6 to repeal a “country-of-origin” labeling law for meat on Wednesday — just two days after the World Trade Organization ruled against parts of it. The labels tell consumers what countries the meat is from: for example, “born in Canada, raised and slaughtered in the United States,” or “born, raised and slaughtered in the United States.”

The WTO ruled Monday that the U.S. labels put Canadian and Mexican livestock at a disadvantage, rejecting a U.S. appeal after a similar WTO decision last year.

The Obama administration had already revised the labels once to try to comply with previous WTO rulings. Now that the revised labels have also been struck down, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has called on Congress to change the law to avoid retaliation — such as extra tariffs — from the two neighbor countries.

The law was initially written at the behest of northern U.S. ranchers who compete with the Canadian cattle industry. It also was backed by some consumer advocates who say it helps shoppers know where their food comes from. Those supporters have called on the U.S. government to negotiate with Canada and Mexico to find labels acceptable to all countries.

But many in the U.S. meat industry — including meat processors who buy animals from abroad — have called for a repeal of the law, which they have fought for years.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, has long backed the meat industry’s call for repeal. Along with several of his colleagues, he introduced the legislation to repeal the labeling requirements hours after the WTO decision.

All but six of the committee’s Democrats supported the bill, which Conaway said was a “targeted” response to the WTO decision.

“We cannot sit back and let American businesses be held hostage to the desires of a small minority who refuse to acknowledge that the battle is lost,” Conaway said.

The bill would go beyond just the muscle cuts of red meat that were covered under the WTO case, however, also repealing country-of-origin labeling for poultry, ground beef and ground pork. Conaway said the poultry industry asked to be included after facing “high costs and little if any quantifiable benefits” from the labeling law.

Canada and Mexico have also called on the United States to repeal the labeling rules, saying they will seek authorization from the WTO to take retaliatory measures against U.S. exports. The two countries have opposed the law because it causes their animals to be segregated from those of U.S. origin — a costly process that has forced some U.S. companies to stop buying exports.

Congress required the labels in 2002 and 2008 farm laws, mostly at the behest of the northern U.S. ranchers. The original labels were less specific, saying a product was a “product of U.S.” or “product of U.S. and Canada.” WTO rejected those labels in 2012, and USDA tried again with the more detailed labels a year later. The WTO rejected those revised rules last year, and the United States filed one last appeal, rejected Monday by the WTO.

Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts of Kansas also has said he will move swiftly to respond to the WTO ruling, but has yet to introduce a bill.

Government releases fire plan to protect sage grouse Wed, 20 May 2015 08:36:26 -0400 KEITH RIDLER and MATT VOLZ BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A federal wildfire strategy released Tuesday aims to protect the West’s sagebrush country that is home to a struggling bird species whose potential listing as a threatened or endangered species already has delayed energy projects and oil and gas deals.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell was in Boise to announce the plan making greater sage grouse habitat a priority for fire prevention and response, focusing mainly on the Great Basin region of Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Oregon and California. The new strategy comes as the federal government and Western states scramble to implement plans meant to halt the decline of sage grouse populations and habitat without having to list the species as threatened or endangered. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is under a court order to decide by Sept. 30 whether the sage grouse merits protections from the Endangered Species Act.

A bill passed by Congress in December would prevent the Fish and Wildlife Service from spending any money on protecting the bird, regardless of the agency’s findings.

The report doesn’t directly say whether money and resources would be shifted from other areas to better protect sage grouse habitat. Jewell addressed the issue by saying human lives come first in fire protection, but that homeowners near forested areas must do their part.

“The priority we have is still going to be for human life and property. But I will say this: That homeowners who are in the wildland-urban interface have a personal responsibility to make their houses fire-safe and defensible,” Jewell said.

John Freemuth, a Boise State University professor and public lands expert, said it is important for government officials to show that making sage grouse habitat a priority won’t mean a reduction in fire protection for other areas. “They’ve got to have a way to make it clear to the people on the ground, at least on the fire side of it, there will be less picking and choosing about which fires are important and which crews go where,” he said.

Just the possibility of an Endangered Species Act listing has delayed the development of wind farms and the sale of oil and gas leases in areas occupied by the birds. Experts say the restrictions that would come with protecting the wide-ranging birds could damage the economies of the 11 states where they are found.

The 82-page Interior Department plan centers on how to prevent wildfires from consuming broad swaths of sage grouse habitat. The wildlife service’s decision could be affected if there is widespread destruction during the upcoming fire season in a region where drought conditions are worsening.

Nearly 3.8 million acres of greater-sage grouse habitat has burned in the West since 2012, according to the Interior Department.

The strategy includes preventative measures to protect and rebuild sagebrush habitat, such as removing invasive weeds, building areas known as fuel breaks that have fewer flammable materials and replanting sagebrush. It also sets rural communities and landscapes as priorities for responding to fires, and it seeks to target funding and resources to “specific high value rangelands.”

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, who accompanied Jewell at Tuesday’s announcement, said the new strategy would also benefit the cattle ranchers who occupy the Great Basin areas. “There isn’t a rancher that I know of that hasn’t expressed their interest, and not only that, but in many cases mobilized their own resources, in order to improve that habitat,” Otter said.

Disease, oil and gas drilling, livestock grazing and wildfires are among the factors contributing to the sharp drop in greater sage grouse populations in recent decades.

Western states have already taken steps to protect sage-grouse habitat, from restrictions on energy development near the bird’s breeding grounds to suspending hunting seasons.

Regardless of the fish and wildlife service’s findings in September, Jonathan Oppenheimer of the Idaho Conservation League said he believes the efforts to protect sage grouse will continue.

“I think that there is little doubt — whether it is a rancher or land owner or energy developers or the mining industry or others — that they recognize these threats that are posed to sage grouse,” Oppenheimer said.

Governor, farm leaders say trade mission will benefit producers Tue, 19 May 2015 19:54:17 -0400 Sean Ellis BOISE — Gov. Butch Otter and farm industry leaders believe that Idaho farmers and ranchers will benefit from a recently concluded trade mission to Mexico and Peru.

“The trade mission was a great success and I’m confident that even the participating Idaho companies that don’t sign agreements right away opened the door to new business relationships that will benefit them and our economy over time,” Otter told the Capital Press in a statement.

Otter led representatives of several Idaho farm commodities, including potatoes, wheat, dairy, oilseeds and onions, on the May 9-16 trade mission.

Idaho State Department of Agriculture Director Celia Gould called the trip a “tremendous success. In both countries, we made excellent contacts that we are confident will lead to sales.”

Jason Godfrey, president of Mountain States Oilseeds, met with five companies in Peru, a new market for the company, and three in Mexico, an established market.

“We felt we came out of there with some good success,” Godfrey said. “We have some pretty good prospects in both countries.”

He was particularly excited about the chances of MSO, which contracts about 15,000 acres in Idaho, tapping into the Peru market.

“We are very confident that we will be selling oilseed down there in the near future,” he said.

Idaho Farm Bureau Federation Director of Commodities Dennis Brower, who represented the state’s wheat industry on the trip, said a lot of milling companies in Mexico are in the process of merging and the timing was good to meet with them.

One of those mergers will result in the largest conglomerate of flour mills in Mexico, he said, while another will provide the majority of flour for Grupo Bimbo, one of the world’s largest bread makers.

University of Idaho potato researcher Mike Thornton agreed with Idaho Potato Commission representative Seth Pemsler that the highlight of the trip for the state’s potato industry was a meeting with the director of the International Potato Center in Peru.

The potato center has the world’s largest collection of potato germplasm, as well as 4,000 seed varieties, and UI researchers are trying to establish a close research collaboration with IPC scientists.

If Idaho researchers can find potato traits that are resistant to pale cyst nematode or drought, two major issues facing Idaho spud farmers, that could pay big dividends for the state’s potato industry, Pemsler said.

“I think we made some good inroads in terms of collaboration on potato research projects,” Thornton said.

During the Mexico leg of the trip, Otter met with high-level officials from that country’s ministry of agriculture and reminded them of Idaho’s desire to have all of Mexico opened to fresh potatoes from the United States, Pemsler said.

He said Otter’s farming background — the governor is a rancher, has raised a wide variety of crops and sold french fries in dozens of countries for J.R. Simplot Co. — was particularly helpful.

“The governor very diplomatically said that we would really appreciate any assistance you can provide,” said Pemsler, vice president of the potato commission’s international division. “It was a very high-level meeting and it went very well.”

Lewiston meeting addresses reduction in container shipments Tue, 19 May 2015 19:20:15 -0400 Agriculture and transportation officials will discuss the reduction in container shipments through the Port of Portland and its fallout during a public meeting at 2 p.m. May 28 at the Port of Lewiston in Lewiston, Idaho.

The agenda includes the impact on farms, area businesses and the river transportation system and other shipping options, according to the Latah County Farm Bureau and Nez Perce County Farm Bureau.

The meeting will be at the Port of Lewiston’s dockside warehouse next to the blue crane boom west of the elevator.

New Oregon law opens financial doors Tue, 19 May 2015 11:20:49 -0400 Patty Mamula Small-scale Oregon farmers and entrepreneurs are getting a helping hand from a state law that went into effect this year.

The law, which allows Oregon-based businesses to raise up to $250,000 from state residents, became effective in January. Called the Oregon Intrastate Offering Exemption, the law allows individuals to invest up to $2,500 per offering.

Amy Pearl, founder of Hatch Innovation Lab and the person who spearheaded passage of the new law in the legislature, said, “Local investing equals impact investing.” Oregon is the 14th state to establish an “intrastate crowd funding” law.

“We were the only state to launch the law with companies who had filed their material and were legal,” said Pearl. Every company defines their own terms, such as selling shares or offering convertible notes.

The nine companies and details of their investment offerings are available at HatchOregon —

Five of the companies are involved in food and agriculture.

Red Wagon Creamery in Eugene is a handcrafted ice cream company that focuses on using local ingredients, highlighting seasonal fruits and fresh, local hormone-free milk.

Agrarian Farmhouse Ales outside Eugene is a small craft brewery that grows all its own herbs and hops — 15 different varieties — and sources other ingredients such as grains, chile peppers and honey from neighboring farms. It is working toward becoming a true estate brewery.

Both Red Wagon and Agrarian are offering shares of their company.

All Hatch projects are allowed 12 months to raise the funds with an option to extend for another 12 months. They must meet in person with a Local Business Technical Service Provider to review the business plan.

Once the offering materials are complete, including the reason for the raise, the team involved, the risks and benefits and the terms, the company will be listed on the web site within 7 days.

Ton Ton’s Artisan Affections in Talent sells grain-free, gluten-free cookies and fresh, homemade hummus. In its third year of business, owner Michael Antonopoulos, has both a low and high end goal for the public offering. He wants to high-pressure pasteurize the hummus to increase its shelf life and allow for conventional distribution. Depending on funds, this will happen in the shared rental kitchen or in his own production facility that he envisions as an incubator for the region. He is offering convertible notes.

So is Wylie’s Honey Brews in Phoenix. The company makes local artisan honey sodas sweetened with unheated raw honey using herbs and live enzyme cultures.

Gro-volution is a company that’s still in development. Gro-volution is a high-tech farming concept out of Klamath Falls started by Eric Wilson. He’s working on a unit called a PEA Pod that’s a refurbished, recycled and repurposed shipping container.

“We can take the farm and move it anywhere in the planet and have it close to the people who want it,” said Wilson.

The aeroponic growing technique uses an organic fiber recently approved by the FDA. “We’re trying to achieve close to 100 percent nutrient conversion,” said Wilson.

When entrepreneurs create the terms, the deals are more helpful, said Pearl. “That’s a dramatic difference from banks. We call it compatible capital.”

She sees high interest among farmers who are looking to expand, buy land and move into agritourism.

Todd Perlmeter, the general manager at Agrarian Ales, said the company has already raised $65,000. The first goal was $50,000 to help pay for permanent bathrooms and heaters for the tasting room. “We’ve already broken ground,” he said.

The next goal is $90,000 total to help with expansion of the brewery and hop yard. “We’ve decided to stop there because we’re going into our busy summer season when we have more cash flow. The Hatch offering is setting us up for success with more traditional loans and we may not have to offer up more equity to raise additional funds.”