Capital Press | Nation/World http://www.capitalpress.com Capital Press Thu, 5 Mar 2015 20:02:46 -0500 en http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcsi.dll/staticimage/images/rss-logo.jpg Capital Press | Nation/World http://www.capitalpress.com Sakuma reaches outside family to replace retiring CEO http://www.capitalpress.com/Business/20150305/sakuma-reaches-outside-family-to-replace-retiring-ceo http://www.capitalpress.com/Business/20150305/sakuma-reaches-outside-family-to-replace-retiring-ceo#Comments Thu, 5 Mar 2015 09:58:35 -0500 Don Jenkins http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150309911 The leadership of Sakuma Brothers Farms examined itself and decided to hire someone from outside the family to guide the berry grower and processor through challenging times, the company’s fourth-generation leader, Steve Sakuma, said Wednesday.

“We looked at where we are and where we want to go,” he said. “We said, ‘We can’t fix this internally.’”

Danny Weeden, former general manager and chief financial officer of Oregon Cherry Growers, took over from Sakuma as CEO on Feb. 23.

He’s the first person from outside the Sakuma family to head the business, which traces its roots back to before World War I on Bainbridge Island. The family has been farming in the Skagit Valley since 1935, though during World War II family members were either interned with other Japanese-Americans or serving in the U.S. military.

The change comes as the business continues to be embroiled in sometimes-bitter labor battles waged on several fronts. The state Supreme Court will hear oral arguments March 17 on whether the company’s piece-rate workers should be paid separately for rest breaks. Farms groups and labor organizations hope for different outcomes but agree a ruling will have broad implications for the agricultural industry.

Sakuma said the labor strife didn’t influence his decision to retire. At age 67, he said he looks forward to spending more time with his family and, in a way, making up for lost time.

He will remain chairman of the board. “I don’t know if you ever retire from a family business,” he said.

He said he won’t interfere with Weeden. “I will make sure I won’t cross those lines,” he said.

He said he expects a family member to someday lead the company. “That is our long-term vision. That’s why we made this short-term decision,” he said.

His son Ryan is president of farm operations, but there is no plan of succession, Steve Sakuma said. “He has the right name. He needs to get the level of experience, and he has to perform. It is a business.”

Sakuma said the company searched hard for a CEO before settling on Weeden, who has decades of experience in Northwest agriculture. Weeden spent more than a decade with the cherry growers’ co-op.

“He has the family values we felt were very important,” Sakuma said. “He understands who we are and who we are trying to be.”

One issue facing Weeden will be finding enough workers. The company has encountered opposition to hiring foreign seasonal workers on H-2A visas.

Sakuma said the company will not bring in foreign workers this year, partly because of the opposition and partly because wages mandated by the H-2A program drive up labor costs.

Last year, without H-2A workers, the farm was short of pickers, he said.

The company hopes it can raise a workforce of about 350 domestic workers through aggressive recruiting, Sakuma said. “That’s our No. 1 priority.”

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Beaver problem in Beaverton in beaver state http://www.capitalpress.com/Oregon/20150305/beaver-problem-in-beaverton-in-beaver-state http://www.capitalpress.com/Oregon/20150305/beaver-problem-in-beaverton-in-beaver-state#Comments Thu, 5 Mar 2015 09:00:31 -0500 http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150309915 BEAVERTON, Ore. (AP) — Beaver dams are causing a problem in Beaverton, Oregon, the beaver state.

Busy beavers built a dam over the winter that is flooding Greenway Park.

KGW reports beavers have always lived in the park, but the newest dam floods a park trail.

The Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District knows better than to dismantle the dam, because the animals would just build it right back up again.

The district will take public advice at a meeting next month on options that include building a new trail around the floodwater, building a bridge over it, or just making it a wildlife viewing area.

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This El Nino is weak, weird and late, scientists say http://www.capitalpress.com/California/20150305/this-el-nino-is-weak-weird-and-late-scientists-say http://www.capitalpress.com/California/20150305/this-el-nino-is-weak-weird-and-late-scientists-say#Comments Thu, 5 Mar 2015 08:15:50 -0500 SETH BORENSTEINAP Science Writer http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150309925 WASHINGTON (AP) — A long anticipated El Nino has finally arrived. But for drought-struck California, it’s too little, too late, meteorologists say.

The National Weather Service on Thursday proclaimed the phenomenon is now in place. It’s a warming of a certain patch of the central Pacific Ocean that changes weather patterns worldwide, associated with flooding in some places, droughts elsewhere, a generally warmer globe, and fewer Atlantic hurricanes. El Ninos are usually so important that economists even track them because of how they affect commodities.

But this is a weak, weird and late version of El Nino, so don’t expect too many places to feel its effects, said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the weather service’s Climate Prediction Center. He said there may be a slight decrease in the number of Atlantic hurricanes this summer if the condition persists, but he also points out that 1992’s devastating Hurricane Andrew occurred during an El Nino summer, so coastal residents shouldn’t let their guard down.

There’s about a 50 to 60 percent chance the El Nino will continue through the summer, NOAA predicts.

Ever since March 2014, the weather service has been saying an El Nino was just around the corner. But it didn’t quite show up until now. Meteorologists said the key patch of the Pacific was warming but they didn’t see the second technical part of its definition — certain changes in the atmosphere. Halpert said he didn’t know why this El Nino didn’t form as forecast, saying “something just didn’t click this year.”

“What we’ve learned from this event is that our definition is very confusing and we need to work on it,” Halpert said.

Last year, some experts were hoping that El Nino would help the southwestern droughts because moderate-to-strong events bring more winter rain and snow to California — even flooding and mudslides during 1998’s strong El Nino. But this El Nino arrives at the end of California’s rainy season and is quite weak, Halpert said.

“This is not the answer for California,” Halpert said.

The U.S. Southeast may see some above average rainfall, which is typical for an El Nino, Halpert said.

This is the first El Nino since spring of 2010.

Allan Clarke, a physical oceanography professor at Florida State University, said as far he’s concerned, El Nino has been around awhile and the weather service didn’t acknowledge it. But he agrees that this doesn’t look like a strong one.

That fits with the pattern the last 10 years, when El Nino’s flip side, a cooling of the central Pacific called La Nina, has been more common. From 2005 to 2014, there have been twice as many months with a La Nina than with El Nino, weather records show. More than half of the time, the world has been in neither.

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Oregon’s wine industry emerges as an outsized ag force http://www.capitalpress.com/Oregon/20150305/oregons-wine-industry-emerges-as-an-outsized-ag-force http://www.capitalpress.com/Oregon/20150305/oregons-wine-industry-emerges-as-an-outsized-ag-force#Comments Thu, 5 Mar 2015 08:33:40 -0500 Eric Mortenson http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150309924 THE DALLES, Ore. — This is a good place to start talking about the rippling impact of Oregon’s “alcohol cluster,” as a state economist calls it. Right here, on the welding shop floor of AAA Metal Fabrication with foreman Antonio Morales, where a half-dozen stainless steel fermentation tanks stand in various stages of production.

The Pacific Northwest’s booming wineries, joined now by breweries, distilleries and hard cider makers, are clamoring for tanks, and AAA Metal Fab is one of the few places that make them.

“We are not able to meet the demand,” company President Chris Parks says. “It’s a nice problem to have, let’s put it that way. We see enough coming into production that there’s going to be years worth of tanks needing to be built.”

A January report by Full Glass Research estimated the Oregon wine industry alone bought $8.4 million worth of stainless steel tanks in 2013 as it scrambled to process increasingly large harvests.

That means jobs — good ones, with plenty of overtime work — for foreman Morales, his brother, his nephew and other relatives among AAA Metal’s 14 to 16 employees. The same Full Glass Research report lists the average annual wage in Oregon’s heavy-gauge steel manufacturing sector, which includes firms much larger than AAA Metal, as $56,669.

Welding stainless steel takes skill, and the shiny tanks have to be finished to food-grade quality to prevent bacteria from growing inside. Surprisingly, none of the company’s welders has had special training; they all learned on the job.

“All of these guys started from the bottom,” Morales says. “Sweeping floors, cleaning up. They learned by being here.”

Continued expansion and investment by wineries, breweries and distillers has AAA Metal and its workers in a “really good position right now,” Morales says.

“We just keep going,” he says. “We just keep making tanks.”

The recent Full Glass Research report estimates the economic impact of Oregon’s wine industry at $3.35 billion, counting crop value and direct and indirect jobs, wages, sales and services. The report is the work of California market analyst Christian Miller, a self-described “data geek” who studies the industry.

The report details an industry that has come of age. Although tiny compared to California and smaller than neighboring Washington, Oregon’s vineyards and wineries have carved out a niche that is economically, aesthetically and socially successful.

In an interview after his “state of the industry” presentation at the recent Oregon Wine Symposium in Portland, Miller said the wine industry has a bigger ripple effect in the economy than other agricultural sectors. Wine-related tourism alone — all those cars streaming to tasting rooms off Highway 99W in Yamhill County — pumps $207 million annually into the Oregon economy and employs 2,623 people, Miller said.

All told, Miller counts more than 17,000 wine-related jobs in Oregon and $527 million in wages. Senior state economist Josh Lehner, in a February report, said the number of jobs in wineries, breweries, distilleries and their distributors and retail outlets increased 46 percent since the start of 2008.

By Miller’s estimate, the 2013 wine grape crop was worth $128 million and became the most valuable of Oregon’s fruit and nut crops, passing hazelnuts, blueberries, pears, cherries and other stalwarts. The National Agricultural Statistics Service had grapes in second that year with $107 million value, behind hazelnuts, but the giant grape harvest of 2014 may have reconciled any differences.

At any rate, the value of Oregon’s wine grape crop has quadrupled since 2004, Miller said. The average price per ton paid for Oregon grapes in 2013 was $2,249, far more than the $713 per ton average paid to California growers and $1,110 paid to Washington growers. Only California’s Napa County had a higher price per ton, $3,683. The discrepancy with California’s average price is due to the large volume of lower-quality grapes grown in the Central Valley, according to the report. Those grapes are used in “low-value uses” such as concentrate, according to the report.

The price is another distinguishing feature of the Oregon wine industry, Miller said: It started by focusing on high-value, high-quality wine, particularly Pinot noir, and has stayed that way.

By all accounts, the industry’s founding fathers and mothers were and are quirky, driven people who collaborated in order to survive. The people who followed them include many who were accomplished in other fields, are highly educated and brought resources with them. Grape growing and wine making is a marriage of science and art, and its practitioners tend to be hard chargers.

It’s fair to say some of Oregon’s traditional, conventional farmers believe the wine industry distances itself from them; vineyard producers are not particularly engaged in the Oregon Farm Bureau, for example.

Other farmers can’t help but notice the attention and money flowing to the wine industry, and frankly worry it will bend legislation its way as well. This past year, a couple vineyard operators loudly complained that spray drift from grass seed or Christmas tree operations was damaging grape vines. Traditional farmers resent the issue being taken public rather than worked out among farmers, as is usually done in Oregon.

The industry’s growing clout has a number of markers:

A law firm, Stoel Rives LLP, has a wine practice group spread among its dozen Western offices. The founding chair is Christopher Hermann, of the Portland office, who flat out says vineyards and wineries have transformed rural communities and been a catalyst of economic development “up and down the Willamette Valley” and throughout the state. He also credits the industry with touching off Oregon’s local food movement, including fine restaurants and branching into craft beer breweries and spirits. “Wineries led the way,” he says.

Silicon Valley Bank has a 30-member “wine division” in its West Coast offices, works with about 350 vineyards and wineries and counts an estimated $1 billion in committed loans to the industry, says Mark Freund, managing director of the bank’s Beaverton, Ore., office.

Oregon State University started its Wine Research Institute in 2009 at the industry’s behest — and with $2 million in industry seed money.

Oregon now has accounting firms and real estate companies that specialize in vineyards and wineries. Other businesses that have sprung up in support of the industry range from custom crush or filtration companies to ones that use falcons to chase pest birds from vineyards.

There’s still room for startups. Pierre Paradis, an Oregon State University student whose family owns a vineyard in Silverton, started a custom hedging, leaf removal and fruit hauling business called Rainbow Valley Enterprises.

In 2013, according to Miller’s Full Glass Research, the industry spent $21.9 million for bottles, $11.5 million for corks, screwtops and other closures, $5 million to $7 million on oak barrels and bought 37 million labels worth an estimated $10.4 million. Of the latter, 84 percent went to Oregon firms.

Carrie Higgins, who founded Crush Creative Packaging of Lake Oswego in 2005, has seen her labeling business grow with the industry. One of her early clients was A to Z Wineworks, which in its infancy wanted 5,000 labels for a modest Pinot noir offering. Now Higgins sells A to Z 4 million to 5 million labels a year, and the winery itself has grown to be one of the state’s largest. In 2006, partnering with San Antonio Spurs Coach Greg Popovich, A to Z bought Rex Hill Vineyard and Winery in Newberg.

“It’s very circular growth, is what I would call it,” Higgins says. “I never thought I’d grow up and sell wine labels. It’s a very niche market.”

At least two Oregon companies, Signature Bottlers and Casteel Custom Bottlers, provide mobile bottling services, going from winery to winery.

Miller says the industry has room to grow. Oregon produces no glass or corks, he says, ticking off some of the opportunities, and there’s only one oak barrel manufacturer in the Pacific Northwest.

Varietal expansion is likely as well, Miller says. While Oregon is best known for Pinot noir wine produced in the Willamette Valley, and Pinot noir grapes make up 67 percent of the total wine grape crop value, the Pinot gris wine coming out of Southern Oregon is under-appreciated, Miller says.

“I don’t see it bumping into a ceiling any time soon,” he says.

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Planted chile acreage drops 10 percent in New Mexico http://www.capitalpress.com/Nation_World/Nation/20150305/planted-chile-acreage-drops-10-percent-in-new-mexico http://www.capitalpress.com/Nation_World/Nation/20150305/planted-chile-acreage-drops-10-percent-in-new-mexico#Comments Thu, 5 Mar 2015 08:08:20 -0500 http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150309926 ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Federal officials say planted chile acreage in New Mexico dropped 10 percent last year.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Wednesday that final production numbers came in at 58,700 tons in 2014 compared to 65,000 the previous year.

The value of New Mexico chile was estimated at $38.7 million, compared to $49.5 million in 2013.

Farmers blame the drop on drought, labor shortages and other market changes.

In addition, the department said there was a decrease for all varieties in acreage harvested from the 2013 crop year. Paprika harvested acreage dropped from 3,400 acres in 2013 to 3,100 harvested acres in 2014.

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Better Bean Co. gets boost from Whole Foods loan http://www.capitalpress.com/20150304/better-bean-co-gets-boost-from-whole-foods-loan http://www.capitalpress.com/20150304/better-bean-co-gets-boost-from-whole-foods-loan#Comments Wed, 4 Mar 2015 09:47:20 -0500 Eric Mortenson http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150309933 Better Bean Company, a father-daughter startup that found a market with refrigerated bean products and buys from Pacific Northwest growers, has been granted a $75,000 expansion loan from Whole Foods Market.

Better Bean will use the loan to expand its production kitchen in Wilsonville, south of Portland.

The company, founded by Keith and Hannah Kullberg in 2010, makes chili, refried beans and dips using beans that are vegan, gluten-free and certified as non-GMO. Their products, sold in BPA-free plastic tubs that can be resealed, have found a niche in upscale grocery stores such as Whole Foods and New Seasons Markets.

Better Beans’ products spun from Keith Kullberg’s home recipes, and his daughter joined him in production.

The loan, with a fixed low interest rate, comes from Whole Foods’ Local Producer Loan Program, which is intended to back small, local and independent businesses with equipment purchases, convert to organic production or other needs. The program has provided $14 million in loans since it began in 2006, the company said in a news release.

The loan is another example of Portland-area markets directly investing in local producers. Whole Foods and New Seasons in particular have actively worked with small-scale suppliers that they believe will be supported by consumers.

The loan to Better Bean will allow it to increase production, attain greater control over quality standards and meet food safety standards.

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Customers remain committed to Idaho wheat despite 2014 losses http://www.capitalpress.com/Idaho/20150304/customers-remain-committed-to-idaho-wheat-despite-2014-losses http://www.capitalpress.com/Idaho/20150304/customers-remain-committed-to-idaho-wheat-despite-2014-losses#Comments Wed, 4 Mar 2015 11:46:44 -0500 Sean Ellis http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150309930 BOISE — Major Idaho wheat customers remain committed to the state’s growers despite the significant losses in 2014 caused by heavy August rains, Idaho Wheat Commission Executive Director Blaine Jacobson told lawmakers March 2.

Jacobson said the wettest August in parts of Southern and Eastern Idaho since 1953 caused an estimated $210 million in losses to Idaho’s wheat and barley crops, with wheat accounting for about two-thirds of that total.

Idaho produces a consistent crop every year and the state’s wheat customers understand last year’s losses were a rare event, he said.

“These companies come to Idaho because of the consistency of our harvest” and they understand “it’s been 60-some years since we had something like that,” he told members of the House Agricultural Affairs Committee.

IWC commissioner Ned Moon told the Capital Press that millers helped Idaho growers survive the losses by using as much of the damaged wheat as they could while still meeting their quality parameters.

He said the rains were devastating but the industry’s customers “did everything they possibly could in order to make it work.”

Moon said that included using some wheat with lower falling number test scores, which measure wheat quality, than they normally would.

“They didn’t run away from us,” said IWC commissioner Gordon Gallup. “They definitely worked with us.”

Jacobson said buyers did everything they could to use as much of that damaged wheat as possible.

“They wanted to keep the growers healthy so that the industry would bounce back this year,” he said.

Jacobson said the 2014 losses have also impacted the commission’s fiscal year 2015 budget. The approved budget is $3.2 million but the commission will end up spending only about $2.8 million in fiscal 2015 because of reduced revenue from the state’s wheat assessment.

And by the end of this year, the commission’s $3.8 million reserve is expected to decrease to about $3.4 million.

Despite the 2014 losses, wheat remained the state’s second largest crop in terms of revenue with $732 million in cash receipts last year, Jacobson said.

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Expo examines precision farming tools http://www.capitalpress.com/Research/20150304/expo-examines-precision-farming-tools http://www.capitalpress.com/Research/20150304/expo-examines-precision-farming-tools#Comments Wed, 4 Mar 2015 10:24:00 -0500 Mateusz Perkowski http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150309931 Drones offer a revolutionary way for farmers to check on their crops, but the technology has its drawbacks, says entrepreneur Young Kim.

The unmanned aircraft aren’t cheap and require people to operate, said Kim, the CEO of Digital Harvest, an agricultural technology firm.

“That doesn’t scale very well,” he said.

Satellites, on the other hand, can more easily monitor vast swaths of farmland but don’t provide as much detail.

“They both have limitations,” he said.

Working in conjunction, though, drones and satellites will allow farmers to sort through layers of data and zero in on details that are relevant to decision-making, Kim said.

The constraints and possibilities of remote sensing in agriculture will be the focus of Kim’s presentation during the upcoming Precision Farming Expo, which will be held March 17-18 in Salem, Ore.

As low orbit micro-satellites come online, the resolution of images shot from space is expected to improve and add to the spectrum of information available about crops, he said.

However, Kim said the tech industry should be careful to “manage expectations” and not oversell its current capabilities.

His company, Digital Harvest, runs raw data through algorithms to gauge the chemical health and water usage of crops, among other attributes.

“We want to absorb complexity and deliver simplicity to the growers,” he said.

Agriculture is a large, stable industry that’s primed to take advantage of the growing power of mobile computing, robotics and data analysis, said Jeff Lorton, the expo’s organizer.

“Venture capitalists are all tuning in to agritech,” he said.

Aside from technological developments, speakers at the Precision Farming Expo will also discuss the regulatory landscape, he said.

Since last year’s event, the Federal Aviation Administration has proposed rules to clarify the commercial use of drones, which had previously been in a regulatory gray area.

Drones create new economic opportunities but the federal government is concerned about risks to safety and privacy.

An important component of the FAA’s proposal is that drone operators would be required to get certificates ensuring basic aeronautical knowledge but not full pilot’s licenses, which will open the field to an “enormous number of people,” said Lorton.

The expo will feature a panel of experts on unmanned aerial vehicles, including attorney Lisa Ellman, who helped steer the Obama administration’s policy toward the devices during her tenure at the U.S. Department of Justice.

“There’s no denying we’re going to be drone-heavy,” said Lorton.

Precision Farming Expo

Date: March 17-18

Location: Salem Convention Center

Cost: $120

Information: www.precisionfarmingexpo.com

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Portland daily grain report http://www.capitalpress.com/Markets/20150304/portland-daily-grain-report http://www.capitalpress.com/Markets/20150304/portland-daily-grain-report#Comments Wed, 4 Mar 2015 09:29:50 -0500 http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150309935 Portland, Ore., Wednesday, March 4, 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 May wheat futures trended 7.25 to 10.25 cents per bushel lower than Tuesday’s closes.

Bids for US 1 Soft White Wheat delivered to Portland in unit trains and barges for March 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 March delivery in a limited test.

Bids for 11.5 percent protein US 1 Hard Red Winter Wheat for March delivery were not well tested in early trading, but were indicated as generally lower.

Bids for 14 percent protein US 1 Dark Northern Spring Wheat for March delivery were also not well tested in early trading, but bids were indicated as generally lower compared to Tuesday’s noon bids.

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

Bids for US 1 Yellow Soybeans delivered full coast in 110 car shuttle trains trended lower 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

Mar NA

Apr NA

May NA

Jun NA

Aug NC NA

Guaranteed maximum 10.5 pct protein

Mar mostly 7.2500, ranging 6.9575-7.5400

Apr 7.2500-7.5400

May 7.2500-7.5400

Jun 6.9200-7.5400

Aug NC 5.8675-6.2675

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

Ordinary protein

Mar NA

Guaranteed maximum 10.5 pct protein

Mar mostly 9.4525, ranging 8.9325-9.9400

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

better)

Ordinary protein 6.1600-6.3100

10 pct protein 6.1600-6.3100

11 pct protein 6.2400-6.3900

11.5 pct protein

Mar 6.2800-6.4300

Apr 6.4300

May 6.3300-6.4300

Jun 6.3425-6.4925

Aug NC 6.2250-6.4250

12 pct protein 6.2800-6.4300

13 pct protein 6.2800-6.5300

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 7.6775-8.0775

14 pct protein

Mar 8.5475-8.8775

Apr 8.6275-8.8775

May 8.6275-8.8775

Jun 8.1825-8.9825

Aug NC 7.0600-7.2600

15 pct protein 9.2775-9.6775

16 pct protein 9.8775-10.4775

US 2 Yellow Corn

110 car shuttle trains-Delivered full coast Pacific Northwest-BN

Mar 4.8450-4.8650

Apr 4.8050-4.8150

May 4.8050-4.8150

Jun/Jul 4.8150-4.8350

US 1 Yellow Soybeans

110 car shuttle trains-Delivered full coast Pacific Northwest-BN

Mar 10.8800-11.0300

Apr NA

May NA

Oct 10.7250-10.8050

US 2 Heavy White Oats 3.8475

Not well tested.

Exporter Bids Portland Rail/Barge Feb 2015

Averages in Dollars per bushel

US 1 Soft White by Unit Trains and Barges 6.4900

US 1 Hard Red Winter (Ordinary protein) 6.3900

US 1 Hard Red Winter (11.5% protein) 6.5200

US 1 Dark Northern Spring (14% protein) 8.6000

Source: USDA Market News Service, Portland, OR

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Washington House votes to raise hourly minimum wage to $12 http://www.capitalpress.com/Washington/20150304/washington-house-votes-to-raise-hourly-minimum-wage-to-12 http://www.capitalpress.com/Washington/20150304/washington-house-votes-to-raise-hourly-minimum-wage-to-12#Comments Wed, 4 Mar 2015 09:19:22 -0500 DERRICK NUNNALLY http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150309939 OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The Washington state House voted along party lines Tuesday to raise the state’s minimum wage — already the nation’s highest — to $12 an hour over the next four years.

The 51-46 vote sends to the Senate the bill to add a series of 50-cent increases to the $9.47 state hourly minimum wage. With Gov. Jay Inslee watching from the wings of the House, the bill drew extended debate in the Democratic-controlled chamber, and Democrats rejected a series of Republican amendments before voting to approve the bill.

The bill moves next to the Senate for consideration, where a companion bill did not get a committee hearing this legislative session. A coalition of mostly Republicans controls the Senate, and several have spoken critically of the effects a minimum-wage increase would have on the state.

Rep. Jessyn Farrell, D-Seattle, sponsored the House bill and said most workers who earn minimum wage now are adults and have a difficult time trying to stretch their pay to cover the expenses of maintaining a household. “If you work a hard day’s work, day in and day out, week after week, you should be able to pay your own way,” Farrell said.

She and other Democrats said a minimum-wage increase would boost the state’s economy by giving low-income workers more money to spend in their communities.

“This really is about strengthening the middle class,” said Rep. Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, the House majority leader. “It’s about making our communities stronger.”

Republicans countered that House Bill 1355 would cut profits and lead to higher prices and fewer jobs. Some businesses could be forced out of state or into closure by the increased cost of hiring Washington workers, several Republican critics of the bill said.

Rep. Matt Manweller, R-Ellensburg and the assistant minority floor leader, gave an impassioned criticism of the bill as failing to recognize basic economic principles. If it costs more to pay workers, he said, companies will hire less workers.

“How can we craft laws if some goods and services are subject to the law of demand and others are not?” he said. “Or is it, Mr. Speaker, that labor stands alone as the only good on the planet that is absolutely inelastic, because that’s what I’ve heard today?”

Under Washington’s current law, the minimum wage goes up every January with inflation. The Employment Security Department said this year’s minimum wage hike affected more than 67,000 workers.

By an identical 51-46 party-line vote, the House also approved a bill Tuesday to require Washington companies with more than four employees to offer at least one week a year of paid sick leave.

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McDonald’s to use chicken without human antibiotics http://www.capitalpress.com/Business/20150304/mcdonalds-to-use-chicken-without-human-antibiotics http://www.capitalpress.com/Business/20150304/mcdonalds-to-use-chicken-without-human-antibiotics#Comments Wed, 4 Mar 2015 08:46:31 -0500 http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150309942 NEW YORK (AP) — McDonald’s says it plans to start using chicken raised without antibiotics important to human medicine and milk from cows that are not treated with the artificial growth hormone rBST.

The company says the chicken change will take place within the next two years. It says suppliers will still be able to use a type of antibiotic called ionophores that the company says keep chickens healthy and aren’t used on humans. The milk change will take place later this year.

“Our customers want food that they feel great about eating — all the way from the farm to the restaurant — and these moves take a step toward better delivering on those expectations,” Mike Andres, head of McDonald’s U.S.A, said in a statement.

The announcement comes as the fast-food giant struggles to shake its junk-food image amid intensifying competition from smaller rivals positioning themselves as more wholesome alternatives.

McDonald’s has long battled negative perceptions about its food, but the issue has become a bigger vulnerability as more people shift toward options they feel are made with natural ingredients. The “clean label” movement has prompted companies across the industry including Chipotle, Panera and Subway to purge ingredients with unrecognizable chemical names from their recipes, even while standing by their safety.

After seeing customer visits to U.S. stores decline two years in a row, McDonald’s had also recently hinted ingredient changes could be in store. Andres had said in a presentation to analysts in December it was something the company was looking it.

As McDonald’s fights to hold onto customers, the company has made a number of leadership changes, admissions of shortcomings and declarations that changes are in the works. The pressures reached the C-suite in late January, when the company said CEO Don Thompson would be replaced by Steve Easterbrook, its chief brand officer who also previously led its European division.

The CEO change officially took effect this week, just before U.S. franchisees gathered in Las Vegas for a “Turnaround Summit” — an event intended to rally the people who run the majority of the company’s more than 14,000 U.S. stores. Franchises were told of the recipe change Tuesday night.

Already, the company has been pushing back at critics Last year, it launched a campaign inviting people to ask frank, sometimes squeamish questions about its food, such as whether its beef contained worms (the answer was no). McDonald’s has also been hammering home the fact that it cracks fresh eggs in stores to make its McMuffins in ads and signs in stores.

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Test aims to boost irrigation efficiency http://www.capitalpress.com/Water/20150304/test-aims-to-boost-irrigation-efficiency http://www.capitalpress.com/Water/20150304/test-aims-to-boost-irrigation-efficiency#Comments Wed, 4 Mar 2015 08:40:35 -0500 DAN ELLIOTT http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150309944 DENVER (AP) — A Colorado ranch owner and a university researcher are testing underground crop irrigation, hoping it can make farms more efficient and reduce competition between cities and agriculture for the state’s scarce water.

The first crops will be planted this summer on a 165-acre test plot on the 70 Ranch in Weld County. Research will be overseen by Colorado State University professor Ramchand Oad.

Copying a technique used in Israel, tubes buried 10 to 16 inches underground will deliver water to plant roots, avoiding evaporation and other problems associated with surface irrigation.

The project budget is $3.5 million for five years but ranch owner Bob Lembke expects the research will continue longer. The ranch, two water districts and a company called Legacy Waters Inc. will provide initial funding.

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States ask judge not to lift stay in immigration lawsuit http://www.capitalpress.com/Nation_World/Nation/20150304/states-ask-judge-not-to-lift-stay-in-immigration-lawsuit http://www.capitalpress.com/Nation_World/Nation/20150304/states-ask-judge-not-to-lift-stay-in-immigration-lawsuit#Comments Wed, 4 Mar 2015 08:34:35 -0500 JUAN A. LOZANO http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150309946 HOUSTON (AP) — A coalition of states suing to stop President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration asked a federal judge Tuesday not to lift a temporary hold on the directives.

The 26-state coalition, led by Texas, said in a 22-page court filing to U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen in Brownsville, Texas, that “there is no emergency need to institute this sweeping new program.”

“It is not in the public interest to allow (the U.S. government) to effect a breathtaking expansion of executive power, all before the courts have had a full opportunity to consider its legality,” the states said in their motion.

Hanen issued a preliminary injunction on Feb. 16 that halted Obama’s action, which could spare from deportation as many as 5 million people who are in the U.S. illegally. The states sought the injunction, arguing that Obama’s executive action was unconstitutional.

The U.S. government on Feb. 23 asked Hanen to lift his injunction while it appeals his ruling to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

Justice Department attorneys have said a stay of Hanen’s ruling is needed “to ensure that the Department of Homeland Security is able to most effectively protect national security, public safety, and the integrity of the border.”

The states argued the preliminary injunction does not impair Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson’s “ability to marshal his assets or deploy the resources of” his agency.

The states also said lifting the stay would irreversibly harm them as they would spend millions of dollars in government benefits for individuals that they would not recover if they win their lawsuit.

The first of Obama’s orders — to expand a program that protects young immigrants from deportation if they were brought to the U.S. illegally as children — had been set to take effect Feb. 18. The other major part, extending deportation protections to parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have been in the country for some years, was not expected to begin until May 19.

Obama announced the executive action in November, saying a lack of action by Congress forced him to make sweeping changes to immigration rules on his own.

There was no deadline for a decision by Hanen.

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Cuba looks north to U.S. farmers for help with food crisis http://www.capitalpress.com/Nation_World/Nation/20150304/cuba-looks-north-to-us-farmers-for-help-with-food-crisis http://www.capitalpress.com/Nation_World/Nation/20150304/cuba-looks-north-to-us-farmers-for-help-with-food-crisis#Comments Wed, 4 Mar 2015 08:10:04 -0500 MICHAEL WEISSENSTEIN http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150309947 GUIRA DE MELENA, Cuba (AP) — The rust-red fields stretched for miles in the Cuban sun, garlic shoots and beetroot leaves waving gently in the spring breeze.

Pink piglets nosed for scraps under the admiring gaze of former President Ronald Reagan’s first secretary of agriculture and about a dozen other U.S. farmers and trade officials who may represent Cuba’s best hope for ending the half-century-old trade embargo it blames for most of its economic troubles.

On Wednesday, their delegation of about 90 representatives of U.S. agriculture will wrap up three days of meetings with Cuban officials and farmers as part of a lobbying campaign for the elimination of the embargo.

“It’s a matter of time,” former Agriculture Secretary John Block, who is an Illinois hog farmer and Washington lawyer, said as he toured the 247-member cooperative farm outside Havana. “It’ll be lifted and we’ll have normal relations. We should have done it a long time ago.”

President Barack Obama’s loosening of the embargo unleashed a flurry of moves from U.S. companies trying to stake out positions in an untapped market. Significant trade growth appears likely to come fastest in agriculture, the sector of the Cuban economy that has the deepest ties to the United States and has been undergoing market-oriented reforms longer than any other on the island.

A bipartisan group of senators who introduced a bill last month to drop the embargo says farm and business backing is essential.

Cuba spends roughly $2 billion a year to import about 80 percent of its food and a long-standing humanitarian exception to the trade embargo allows U.S. farmers to fill some of that demand. After years of declining sales, mostly Republican states sold nearly $300 million of food to the island last year, primarily frozen chicken and soybean products. American trade officials and farmers are dreaming of dominating a food import market that could grow to $3 billion in coming years if Cuba’s economy improves.

“We’ve been here and we want to stay here,” said Stephanie Robinson, marketing and development director for the Virginia Department of Agriculture.

Obama’s changes appear to allow exports of U.S. farm equipment to hundreds of thousands of Cuban farmers who belong to member-run businesses like the May First Credit and Service Cooperative farm outside Havana.

Imports and advice from the U.S. could help Cuba ramp up production levels that have been slumping for years. The island once exported sugar, tobacco and citrus to the United States and imported lots of U.S. rice and other goods. After more than 50 years of central planning and embargo, the island’s agricultural production has drastically fallen and the resulting high price of food is the primary source of dissatisfaction for many Cubans.

A year after assuming power from his brother Fidel in 2006, President Raul Castro launched a series of reforms to loosen near-total state control of agriculture, giving long-term loans of fallow land to private farmers and allowing them to sell surplus crops on the private market.

Agriculture today is in a state of halfway transformation. Cooperatives like May First sell roughly 30 percent of their crops at urban farm stands at market prices. They must sell the rest to the state for 30 percent to 50 percent below the market price.

Payments from the government are often late and the Ministry of Agriculture controls the sale of supplies like seeds and machinery, which are often in short supply or show up too late. Productivity is low. A cow living at May First produces about one-eighth the milk that a cow in the U.S. turns out a day.

Food prices, particularly for meat, are stunningly high for a country where the average salary is about $20 a month. U.S. and Cuban farmers comparing prices during Tuesday’s stop at the cooperative found that pork and chicken are two to three times pricier in Cuba than in the U.S.

Retired hotel chef Eudelia Gonzalez bought four beets and a pork bone stripped of its meat at the farm stand run by the May First coop in Havana’s Kohly neighborhood on Tuesday afternoon. The stew ingredients cost a dollar, or about a tenth of her monthly pension. Still, she said, “at least there are things to eat.”

“Sometimes there are no onions, but now there are a lot of them around,” she said. “You can also find potatoes for sale.”

Potatoes are state-controlled goods and almost never in stock, with touts selling them outside farmers markets as if they were drugs, beckoning customers with a hissed whisper of “Potatoes!”

Detente has Cuban farmers dreaming of exporting pricey goods like seafood, tobacco and honey to the U.S. and raising productivity with modern seeds, fertilizer and equipment bought on credit. That’s all currently impossible under the embargo.

“If the two countries succeed in drawing closer, it could be really good for both sides,” said Jose Miguel Gonzalez Garcia, president of the May First cooperative. “There’s a lot of optimism that things are really going to change.”

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Two large agriculture co-ops in the Dakotas planning to merge http://www.capitalpress.com/Business/20150304/two-large-agriculture-co-ops-in-the-dakotas-planning-to-merge http://www.capitalpress.com/Business/20150304/two-large-agriculture-co-ops-in-the-dakotas-planning-to-merge#Comments Wed, 4 Mar 2015 08:00:09 -0500 http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150309948 ABERDEEN, S.D. (AP) — Two century-old agriculture cooperatives in the Dakotas with a combined membership of nearly 8,000 plan to merge this summer.

The South Dakota Wheat Growers and North Central Farmers Elevator plan to join and create a newly named co-op. Officials will work to finalize details of the deal in the coming weeks before a vote of each co-op’s members, likely in June. If approved, the merger could take effect as early as August.

“Our employees and members have built such a strong foundation. Both cooperatives are healthy, profitable and progressive,” North Central Farmers Elevator General Manager Mike Nickolas said in a statement. “We now have an opportunity to leverage their hard work to create an even stronger, more sustainable business and marketplace footprint.”

The Aberdeen-based Wheat Growers has more than 5,400 members in the eastern Dakotas. Ipswich-based North Central Farmers Elevator serves 2,500 members in north central South Dakota and south central North Dakota. Both have a history dating about 100 years.

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Oregon wine industry honors five at annual awards dinner http://www.capitalpress.com/Orchards/20150303/oregon-wine-industry-honors-five-at-annual-awards-dinner http://www.capitalpress.com/Orchards/20150303/oregon-wine-industry-honors-five-at-annual-awards-dinner#Comments Tue, 3 Mar 2015 14:22:45 -0500 Eric Mortenson http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150309954 Two pioneering Oregon wine couples and a veteran vineyard manager won awards at the Oregon Wine Board’s annual dinner in February in Portland.

Jim and Loie Maresh earned the Founders Award. They founded Maresh Red Hills Vineyard in the Willamette Valley’s Dundee Hills area in 1970, and it is the state’s fifth oldest vineyard. Wine made from the fruit of their vineyard earned early acclaim for Oregon’s signature wine, Pinot noir.

Earl and Hilda Jones, owners of Abacela Winery in Roseburg, in Southern Oregon, won the Lifetime Achievement Award. They were the first to make Tempranillo wine in the Pacific Northwest, planting grapes in 1995 and pursuing their passion for the Spanish-style wine for 20 years. A news release from the Oregon Wine Board credits them with altering the course of Oregon wine history and adding to the state’s “arsenal of acclaimed wines.”

Chad Vargas, vineyard manager of Adelsheim Vineyard in the Willamette Valley, won the Outstanding Industry Service Award. He is described as active in the industry’s relations with federal and state representatives and is chair of Low Input Viticulture and Enology, or LIVE, an organization that pushes industry sustainability. He also served on the technical committee for Oregon State University’s Wine Research Institute.

The awards dinner was held Feb. 24 in conjunction with the annual Oregon Wine Symposium in Portland.

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Lawsuit claims malfunction killed 100,000 chickens http://www.capitalpress.com/Business/20150303/lawsuit-claims-malfunction-killed-100000-chickens http://www.capitalpress.com/Business/20150303/lawsuit-claims-malfunction-killed-100000-chickens#Comments Tue, 3 Mar 2015 14:30:46 -0500 Mateusz Perkowski http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150309953 An Oregon egg producer is seeking $500,000 in damages from a Washington company it accuses of improperly installing equipment that led to the deaths of 100,000 chickens.

Willamette Egg Farms, based in Canby, Ore., has filed a lawsuit claiming that an electrical malfunction halted ventilation at its facility in Moses Lake, Wash., asphyxiating 100,000 hens.

The complaint alleges that Spectrum Communications of Moses Lake is liable for negligence and breach of contract because it installed a control system that failed to set off an alarm when the ventilation system stopped operating.

Capital Press was unable to reach the owner of Spectrum Communications for comment as of press time.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Rice in Spokane, Wash., is presiding over the lawsuit, which was filed in the Eastern District of Washington.

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Japan negotiator: TPP trade deal with U.S. possible by spring http://www.capitalpress.com/Nation_World/Nation/20150303/japan-negotiator-tpp-trade-deal-with-us-possible-by-spring http://www.capitalpress.com/Nation_World/Nation/20150303/japan-negotiator-tpp-trade-deal-with-us-possible-by-spring#Comments Tue, 3 Mar 2015 08:16:36 -0500 ELAINE KURTENBACHAP Business Writer http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150309976 TOKYO (AP) — A deal between Japan and the U.S. needed to move ahead with a Pacific Rim trade pact is possible by this spring, a top Japanese trade negotiator said Tuesday.

Top negotiators for the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership meet in Hawaii next week. Wendy Cutler, acting deputy U.S. trade representative, will visit Japan for talks beginning Thursday on the politically sensitive issue of dismantling protections for Japan’s farm products and for U.S. autos and auto parts.

But Hiroshi Oe, a deputy chief trade negotiator for Japan, said this week’s talks were unlikely to produce a breakthrough that would allow an earlier agreement.

“I am not sure we are really ready to close the negotiations this week,” Oe told reporters. However, he said an agreement was possible by “this spring.”

“We really have to wrap up the negotiations in spring. Now, we are discussing, what is the end of spring? Is the end of May the end of spring? Or early June, which is summer?”

The U.S. and Japan must set a deal before a final agreement among all the countries can be reached.

But deadlines for that have been pushed back so often that suggesting the summer is the deadline would be like “crying wolf,” Oe said.

While supporters of the TPP initiative recently have voiced optimism over reaching a deal soon, a final trade pact still faces many obstacles, including approval by the U.S. Congress of so-called Trade Promotion Authority that would give President Barack Obama the authority to “fast-track” a trade agreement. That would limit Congress to a yes or no vote with no opportunity to amend the deal.

Japan and the other countries face a similar arrangement, and approval by the Japanese parliament is likely, given the ruling coalition’s strong majorities in both the upper and lower houses.

Oe said Japan was not requiring that the U.S. side have trade promotion authority as a condition for an agreement, but strongly prefers it.

As for lowering barriers to imports of rice and other farm products, Japan “cannot give 100 percent satisfaction to the U.S., but we are aiming at a mutually agreeable solution.”

Japan, in turn, is not happy with the degree of market opening for its exports of autos and auto parts, Oe said, noting that they account for a combined 40 percent of Japanese exports to the U.S.

“According to them, the autos are so sensitive,” Oe said of the U.S. side. “So we have very difficult negotiations.”

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Congress sends Homeland bill to Obama without conditions http://www.capitalpress.com/Nation_World/Nation/20150303/congress-sends-homeland-bill-to-obama-without-conditions http://www.capitalpress.com/Nation_World/Nation/20150303/congress-sends-homeland-bill-to-obama-without-conditions#Comments Tue, 3 Mar 2015 12:38:22 -0500 ERICA WERNERand DAVID ESPO http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150309957 WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress is sending President Barack Obama a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security through the end of the budget year, without overturning the president’s immigration policies.

The House on Tuesday voted 257-167 for the measure that Obama is expected to sign. Without action, funding for the department would have expired Friday at midnight.

The outcome was a victory for Obama and Democrats, and a defeat for the GOP strategy of trying to overturn Obama’s executive actions on immigration by linking them to funding for Homeland.

Republicans were unable to overcome united opposition from Senate Democrats to their strategy. They also suffered embarrassing internal divisions that left the country within hours of a partial agency shutdown last week.

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Chilled meat exports will take 45 days to normalize http://www.capitalpress.com/Business/20150303/chilled-meat-exports-will-take-45-days-to-normalize http://www.capitalpress.com/Business/20150303/chilled-meat-exports-will-take-45-days-to-normalize#Comments Tue, 3 Mar 2015 13:08:08 -0500 RICHARD SMITH http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150309955 CHIBA, Japan — Normal trade in U.S. chilled meat to Asia, particularly Japan, will resume in about 45 days, U.S. Meat Export Federation president and CEO Phil Seng said.

By then, “there won’t be a need to make any special adjustments” for shipments because of the recent West Coast port slowdown, Seng told Capital Press at FOODEX, a March 3-6 yearly international food expo.

Chilled beef may wait until May for normal trade to resume.

“Japanese importers have made (import) contracts with exporters in Europe” running until then, Seng said.

It is chilled pork, though, that turned out to be most affected by the slowdown.

“Roughly 50 percent of our pork exports are chilled,” Seng said.

“Because this (the dock dispute) is resolved, our expectation is to recover what (market share) was lost,” he said.

Because frozen beef inventory here was greater, that product was not hit as much by the slowdown as were chilled beef and chilled pork, Seng said.

As for frozen pork, the biggest challenge here has not been the dock dispute but the closing of the Russian market, Seng said.

Europeans used to supply about 600,000 tons of frozen pork to Russia. With that market closed, “a huge amount (of that meat) is coming to Asia,” Seng said.

But no way will European chilled pork replace its U.S. competitor.

“Europeans cannot supply chilled pork to Asia because of the distance,” Seng said.

Nor will the U.S. risk losing fresh beef market share to Australia.

“Australia has already announced their beef exports will go down 20 percent because of the paucity of cattle,” Seng said.

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(No heading) http://www.capitalpress.com/article/20150303/ARTICLE/150309956 http://www.capitalpress.com/article/20150303/ARTICLE/150309956#Comments Tue, 3 Mar 2015 12:57:31 -0500 http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150309956 Japan negotiator: TPP trade deal with US do-able by spring

TOKYO (AP) — A senior Japanese trade negotiator says a deal with the U.S. needed to move ahead with a Pacific Rim trade pact is possible by this spring.

Hiroshi Oe, a deputy chief trade negotiator for Japan, said talks with the U.S. toward forging the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, have made progress.
He said he expected the two sides could reach agreement by this spring, but suggested it could be very late spring, or almost summer.
He said a final U.S.-Japan agreement was unlikely before top TPP negotiators meet in Hawaii next week.
There are disagreements over the politically sensitive dismantling of protections for Japan's farm sector and for U.S. autos and auto parts.

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Apple company builds new facilities for future http://www.capitalpress.com/Orchards/20150303/apple-company-builds-new-facilities-for-future http://www.capitalpress.com/Orchards/20150303/apple-company-builds-new-facilities-for-future#Comments Tue, 3 Mar 2015 11:31:54 -0500 Dan Wheat http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150309961 YAKIMA, Wash. — When Washington Fruit & Produce Co. turns 100 years old next year it likely will stand alone as the tree fruit company with the newest packing and corporate office facilities of any in the Northwest.

In September, the company began building a huge, new apple packing plant on the north edge of Yakima, off River Road between the apple packing plant it built in 2010 and the cherry packing plant it built in 2014. A new corporate office building is going up on the same 40-acre site.

The company won’t disclose its total investment, but in 2010 President Rick Plath said the new apple plant built that year cost $30 million. He said this week the newest plant will cost more than that.

When all is done, the three plants, adjoining fruit storage and corporate office will total 840,000 square feet, said Tommy Hanses, operations manager.

The company needs the new apple plant to keep up with its growth in orchards, Plath said. A year ago, his nephew, Dan Plath, orchard manager, said the company had been adding 500 acres of orchard per year for eight to nine years with no plans to stop. He would not disclose total acreage.

The company still has no plans to slow down orchard expansion but maybe should with lower apple prices this year, Rick Plath said.

The company will pack 9 million boxes of apples this year compared to 7 million in 2010, he said.

Mountain States Construction Co., Sunnyside, is the general contractor for the new apple plant. The building should be done by July and then Van Doren Sales of Wenatchee will install a new packing line with the latest high-tech Compac sizer and sorter from New Zealand. The goal is to have the plant operational in December, Hanses said.

The new apple line will be able to run at 100 bins of apples per hour and pack 35,000 boxes per day, the same as the 2010 plant.

“That should do us a long time, but that’s what we thought in 2010,” Rick Plath said.

The greatest benefit, he said, is in improved quality of packed fruit due to the high-tech sorter.

Improved quality is the big benefit, but there’s no way to quantify it, Hanses said.

There’s a 25 percent labor savings because the new line will be running at 90 bins per hour versus 75 at the old plant downtown that was sold to Roche Fruit, Hanses said.

The new plant will still use 110 workers per shift but fewer will be defect-sorting, he said.

Most of the company’s facilities will be less than five years old. It still has storage for 200,000 bins of fruit in Moxee and 120,000 in Union Gap.

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Tight supply boosts premiums for low protein soft white wheat http://www.capitalpress.com/Profit/20150303/low-protein-soft-white-wheat-garners-premiums http://www.capitalpress.com/Profit/20150303/low-protein-soft-white-wheat-garners-premiums#Comments Tue, 3 Mar 2015 11:03:41 -0500 Matw Weaver http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150309962 Tight supplies of low protein soft white wheat have boosted prices well beyond the usual premiums, Pacific Northwest grain traders say.

Most of the soft white wheat from last year’s harvest had higher than average protein due to dry weather, said Dan Steiner, grain merchandiser for Pendleton Grain Growers.

Soft white wheat that’s 11 percent protein sells for about $1.80 per bushel higher than Chicago soft red wheat futures and 10.5 percent wheat sells for 55 cents per bushel higher than that, Steiner said.

Typically, the price of soft white wheat is 45 to 50 cents higher than the soft red wheat price, he said.

Soft white wheat is also trading about 30-35 cents higher than hard red winter wheat, which typically runs 50 cents to a dollar more.

Asian customers want a maximum of 10.5 to 11 percent protein wheat, said Byron Behne, marketing manager for Northwest Grain Growers in Walla Walla, Wash. Some countries have raised their maximum to 11 percent because supplies of lower-protein wheat have been so tight, he said.

The 10.5 percent protein wheat works best in the products Asian customers make, said Ty Jessup, grain merchandiser for Central Washington Grain Growers in Waterville, Wash., and an industry representative on the Washington Grain Commission. In Japan, much of the wheat is milled into flour for pastries, noodles and cakes.

The main value of wheat with less than 10.5 percent protein is for blending with higher protein wheat, Behne said.

Because the market is paying big premiums for low protein wheat, much of the crop carried over into next year is likely to be higher protein, Steiner said. He expects premiums for low protein wheat to continue into this year’s harvest.

Club wheat, a subclass of soft white wheat grown primarily in the Northwest, typically is low in protein and is also in tight supply, leading to a roughly $2.50 a bushel in price premiums over soft white wheat.

At Portland on March 3, 10.5 percent protein soft white wheat sold for $7.01 to $7.54 a bushel, according to the Agricultural Marketing Service. White club wheat with 10.5 percent protein sold for $9.04-$9.94 a bushel.

The current crop looks good, without any major pressing issues at this point, Jessup said.

“It’s going to come down to what the springtime weather is like — if it turns hot and drier or if we stay mild and wet, that’ll be a big difference for which way we go,” he said.

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DNA tool helps biologists find elusive species http://www.capitalpress.com/Research/20150303/dna-tool-helps-biologists-find-elusive-species http://www.capitalpress.com/Research/20150303/dna-tool-helps-biologists-find-elusive-species#Comments Tue, 3 Mar 2015 09:36:08 -0500 PHUONG LE http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150309965 BELLEVUE, Wash. (AP) — When salmon, salamanders or other aquatic animals poop or shed skin cells, they leave behind traces of their DNA in the water, like clues left behind at a crime scene.

It’s this evidence that Kit Paulsen is seeking as she wades into an urban creek east of Seattle and fills a 4-liter jug with water. In a few minutes, she has a sample that will reveal whether a tiny destructive New Zealand mudsnail is present in the salmon-bearing stream.

At one-eighth of an inch, the snails are incredibly hard to find. That’s why scientists are turning to environmental DNA, or eDNA, an emerging surveillance tool that detects the presence of an organism by analyzing cellular material such as urine, hair, feathers or skin cells that are left behind in the environment.

Whether it’s Asian carp in Chicago-area waters, salamanders in Kentucky or great crested newts in the United Kingdom, biologists are using the tool to help look for reclusive or rare imperiled species, monitor unwanted creatures or gauge the overall biodiversity of a lake or stream.

“We’re starting to realize its potential,” said Caren Goldberg, an assistant professor at Washington State University who is managing editor of a special issue on environmental DNA in the journal Biological Conservation. Her lab in Pullman, Washington, will analyze samples that Paulsen and her team collects.

Paulsen, the city of Bellevue’s watershed planning supervisor, consulted with Goldberg after hearing about the method, and this spring, the city plans to test samples from 22 urban streams and eight beaches.

Bellevue has invested so much time and millions in salmon habitat and restoration that it can’t afford to let the invasive snails take hold, Paulsen said. The snails multiply rapidly, compete with native fish for food and can’t be eliminated once they infest a stream.

Using eDNA is cheaper and quicker than visual surveys, Paulsen said, though it’s not meant to replace it. At about $50 a test, including equipment and lab costs, the total cost of $12,500 is less than what it would take if employees walked those streams turning over rocks, she said.

Environmental DNA has been used for about a decade to detect microorganisms in soils and sediments. More recently, it’s been used to monitor endangered Chinook salmon in Washington state, secretive amphibians in Idaho, and protected eastern hellbenders in Ohio and Kentucky.

In one study, scientists found that eDNA was more effective than traditional methods, such as visual searches for eggs, in detecting imperiled great crested newts in the United Kingdom. They concluded it could be used effectively for a national citizen-monitoring program.

Environmental DNA, however, won’t tell scientists exactly how many animals are there, only that they’re present, or whether the animal is alive or dead. Material also typically breaks down in the environment in a week or two. And like any test, there’s a possibility for false positives if certain collection or other protocols aren’t followed.

Still, many supporters say it holds huge potential for conservation biology.

In northeastern Washington, the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation had been looking for affordable ways to monitor efforts to reintroduce spring Chinook in the Upper Columbia River.

Spring is a difficult time to detect the fish because of high runoff, and it’s also hard to get out into backcountry areas, said Matthew Laramie, a U.S. Geological Survey ecologist in Boise, Idaho.

He and others tested whether eDNA could be a good tool. They confirmed Chinook salmon in sites where they were known to be, and also picked up evidence of the fish in areas where they had not been seen before but could actually swim to. Separate tests did not pick up signs of the fish in areas where they could not swim to.

Laramie said it likely won’t replace fish counts, “but it’s a way to weed through a large system and prioritize resources.”

Back in Bellevue, Paulsen and another worker collected water samples and brought them back to a lab where they poured them through a filter. Any genetic material is captured on the filter, which is then shipped to Goldberg’s lab.

Based on the results, city officials will decide how aggressive it needs to be in requiring people to decontaminate boots and other gear at construction projects near streams this summer.

“The more tools we have, the better,” Paulsen said. “They’re so small I’m not sure I can detect them at low levels.”

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Portland daily grain report http://www.capitalpress.com/Markets/20150303/portland-daily-grain-report http://www.capitalpress.com/Markets/20150303/portland-daily-grain-report#Comments Tue, 3 Mar 2015 09:22:01 -0500 http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150309966 Portland, Ore., Tuesday, March 3

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 March wheat futures trended mixed 6.75 lower to 3.75 cents per bushel lower compared to Monday’s closes. May wheat futures also trended mixed from 1.75 lower to 3.75 cents higher.

Bids for US 1 Soft White Wheat delivered to Portland in unit trains and barges for March 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 Monday’s noon bids for March delivery in a limited test.

Bids for 11.5 percent protein US 1 Hard Red Winter Wheat for March delivery were not well tested in early trading, but were indicated as mixed. Several exporters have switched to over the Kansas City May wheat futures.

Bids for 14 percent protein US 1 Dark Northern Spring Wheat for March delivery were also not well tested in early trading, but bids were indicated as higher compared to Monday’s noon bids. Several exporters have switched to over the Minneapolis May wheat futures.

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

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

All wheat bids in dollars per bushel

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

Ordinary protein

Mar NA

Apr NA

May NA

Jun NA

Aug NC NA

Guaranteed maximum 10.5 pct protein

Mar mostly 7.2975, ranging 7.0125-7.5400

Apr 7.2825-7.5400

May 7.2825-7.5400

Jun 6.9225-7.5400

Aug NC 5.8550-6.6050

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

Ordinary protein

Mar NA

Guaranteed maximum 10.5 pct protein

Mar mostly 9.5125, ranging 9.0425-9.9400

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

better)

Ordinary protein 6.2200-6.4900

10 pct protein 6.2200-6.4900

11 pct protein 6.3200-6.5700

11.5 pct protein

Mar 6.3700-6.6100

Apr 6.4200-6.6700

May 6.3200-6.6700

Jun 6.3925-6.6925

Aug NC 6.2175-6.4175

12 pct protein 6.4200-6.6100

13 pct protein 6.4200-6.6100

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 7.6400-8.0400

14 pct protein

Mar 8.5000-8.8400

Apr 8.5900-8.8400

May 8.5900-8.8400

Jun 8.3975-8.9475

Aug NC 7.0200-7.2200

15 pct protein 9.2400-9.6400

16 pct protein 9.8400-10.4400

US 2 Yellow Corn

110 car shuttle trains-Delivered full coast Pacific Northwest-BN

Mar 4.7625-4.8425

Apr 4.7625-4.7925

May 4.7625-4.7925

Jun/Jul 4.7600-4.8100

US 1 Yellow Soybeans

110 car shuttle trains-Delivered full coast Pacific Northwest-BN

Mar 11.1275-11.1775

Apr NA

May NA

Oct 10.7850-10.8350

US 2 Heavy White Oats 3.8475

Not well tested.

Exporter Bids Portland Rail/Barge Feb 2015

Averages in Dollars per bushel

US 1 Soft White by Unit Trains and Barges 6.4900

US 1 Hard Red Winter (Ordinary protein) 6.3900

US 1 Hard Red Winter (11.5% protein) 6.5200

US 1 Dark Northern Spring (14% protein) 8.6000

Source: USDA Market News Service, Portland, Ore.

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