Capital Press | Nation/World Capital Press Tue, 31 Mar 2015 21:39:25 -0400 en Capital Press | Nation/World Newhouse leads letter for guestworker reform Tue, 31 Mar 2015 12:29:44 -0400 Dan Wheat Any bills to stem the flow of illegal immigration must be accompanied by reforms that give farmers access to a legal, reliable and stable workforce, 61 members of Congress say in a letter to the House leadership.

Freshman Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., whose district has a lot of labor-dependent agriculture, initiated the March 30 letter to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va. The letter is signed by 55 Republicans and six Democrats in agricultural districts across the nation.

That’s a “fairly impressive start” and shows a movement to bring balance to House immigration reform, said Mike Gempler, executive director of Washington Growers League in Yakima, Wash., in Newhouse’s district. Enforcement-only bills are unlikely to make it through the Senate, he said.

The letter notes the committee has begun consideration of immigration enforcement legislation such as E-verify, a computer-based means of checking the employment eligibility of new hires. While supportive of E-verify, the members wrote that enforcement of it without strong reforms to assure adequate farm labor will cause serious problems.

“Our farmers and ranchers must have access to a legal and reliable workforce in order to provide the world with a safe and abundant supply of food,” the letter states.

“It is imperative that any effort to implement E-verify be coupled with a solution to agriculture’s unique labor needs. Failure to couple these reforms together would create an unworkable situation for American agriculture,” the letter states.

They feared that E-verify enacted alone would eliminate what government, industry and labor unions have estimated as about 70 percent of the nation’s agricultural workforce that is in the country illegally.

The current H-2A foreign guestworker visa program for agricultural workers is unworkable and supplies only 10 percent of agricultural workers and doesn’t provide for dairy at all, the letter states.

Solutions range from amending the H-2A program to replacing it with a new program.

Signers of the letter include California Democrats Jim Costa and John Garamendi and California Republicans David Valadao, Devin Nunes, Doug LaMalfa, Jeff Denham and Ken Calvert.

Signers include Oregon Democrats Suzanne Bonamici and Kurt Schrader.

There’s also Idaho Republican Mike Simpson and Washington Republicans Newhouse, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Dave Reichert and Jaime Herrera Beutler.

Others signers are from New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Tennesee, Louisiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Arkansas, Colorado and Nevada.

There were no signers from Texas or Arizona. Gempler said he’s disappointed and surprised by that. A well-designed guestworker program will help control illegal immigration, he said.

Amid bird flu outbreak, Minnesota turkey farmers increase security Tue, 31 Mar 2015 09:28:33 -0400 STEVE KARNOWSKI MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Poultry producers in the nation’s top turkey state are taking extra steps to protect their flocks after a devastating strain of bird flu was confirmed at two Minnesota farms in as many days last week, a disease that had already slammed the doors shut on some key export markets.

Most producers in the state’s $750 million industry were already strict about day-to-day biosecurity to try to ensure that no bird flu enters or leaves their barns, but they’re redoubling their efforts. The confirmation Saturday of the highly pathogenic H5N2 strain of avian influenza at a turkey farm in Stearns County, the third outbreak at a Minnesota farm this month, raised the stakes because it’s one of the top poultry producing counties in the state. The first two farms were relatively isolated.

Poultry farms are now scrubbing down truck tires with disinfectant on their way on and off farms, and some operators are using dedicated employees and equipment for each individual barn on their property to cut the chances of spreading the flu from building to building, said Steve Olson, executive director of both the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association and the Chicken and Egg Association of Minnesota. If a barn needs service such as electrical work, he said, owners may wait until things settle down.

“Pins and needles,” is how Olson described farmers’ moods Monday. Saturday’s announcement followed Friday’s confirmation at a farm in Lac qui Parle County near the western border. The three outbreaks together killed tens of thousands of turkeys directly, and forced the farm owners to kill tens of thousands more to prevent any spread.

Nobody has figured out yet how the virus got into any of the affected barns, said Dr. Carol Cardona, a bird flu expert at the University of Minnesota.

Most U.S. turkeys and chickens spend their entire lives indoors to keep them away from waterfowl and other wild birds that could introduce diseases. Migratory ducks and geese don’t normally become sick from bird flu, but they’re a natural reservoir and can spread the viruses via their droppings. That’s why commercial farms typically require everyone entering barns to don protective coveralls and even make them shower on their way in and out.

Cardona said biosecurity doesn’t always work because it depends on everyone doing everything right all the time.

“Biosecurity is very dependent on human behavior. It’s not a perfect science,” Cardona said.

H5N2 also has been found this month in commercial and backyard flocks in Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas. Highly pathogenic strains also have turned up in several western states since late last year. While officials continue to stress that there have been no human cases of these strains in the U.S. and there’s no food safety danger to consumers, more than 40 countries including Mexico have restricted poultry imports. Some bans are limited to the affected states or counties, while China cut off all poultry shipments from the U.S.

Minnesota produces around 46 million turkeys each year worth about $750 million, and exported about 8 percent of its production, or $92 million worth, in 2013.

Mexico is by far the largest importer of U.S. turkey, said James Sumner, president of the Georgia-based USA Poultry and Egg Export Council. Mexico and some other major trading partners are starting to realize that there’s no danger from imported U.S. products because all infected flocks are immediately destroyed, he said. So Mexico is moving toward a regional approach to import restrictions and recently agreed to take raw chicken and turkey from affected states provided it’s destined for further processing, he said.

U.S. consumers likely will benefit from lower prices eventually because poultry that would have been exported will have to be sold instead on the domestic market, where excess supply puts downward pressure on prices, said Glynn Tonsor, an agricultural economist at Kansas State University. Chicken prices were already poised to fall because the broiler industry is ramping up production, he said.

US files appeal of judge’s hold on immigration action Tue, 31 Mar 2015 09:25:57 -0400 WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department urged a federal appeals court Monday to reverse a hold a judge placed on President Barack Obama’s immigration executive action.

The 69-page brief was filed with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ahead of arguments scheduled for next month.

Lawyers for the federal government are challenging a preliminary injunction issued in February by a federal judge in Brownsville, Texas. That decision placed on hold an executive action that could spare from deportation as many as 5 million people who are in the U.S. illegally.

Justice Department lawyers say in the new court filing that the federal government has unique authority to enforce the nation’s immigration laws and to use its limited resources to exercise discretion during the deportation process, including by deferring removal of certain groups of immigrants, such as those who do not pose a public safety threat.

The executive action was challenged by a coalition of 26 states, led by Texas, who argued that the move was unconstitutional. The states have said they will suffer irreversible economic harm if the injunction is lifted. But the Justice Department says the states have failed to show exactly how they would be negatively affected by the executive action.

A court hearing has been set for April 17.

The other states seeking to block Obama’s orders are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Endangered bighorn sheep moved to Yosemite, Sequoia parks Tue, 31 Mar 2015 09:24:01 -0400 SCOTT SMITH FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — For the first time in a century, endangered Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep are back on their ancestral range and headed toward recovery, wildlife officials said Monday.

During an ongoing relocation effort, dozens of bighorns have been captured with nets dropped from helicopters then moved to Yosemite and Sequoia national parks.

“We’ve got the sheep where we want them on a broad geographic basis, which is a huge milestone,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Tom Stephenson said. “We’ve still got to get their numbers up a bit.”

Thousands of the sheep once roamed the Sierra Nevada but overhunting and disease spread by domesticated sheep herds caused near-extinction.

Between 1914 and 1986, no bighorn roamed Yosemite, and statewide their numbers hit a low of about 100. The animals were placed on the federal endangered species list in 1999.

Today, about 600 exist statewide in areas critical to their survival, Stephenson said.

The number is about three-quarters the size called for in the state recovery plan that indicates the importance of the animals to the survival of mountain lions, bobcats and coyotes.

Bighorn sheep thrive on cliffs and rocky outcropping, where they watch for predators. Standing over three-feet tall at the shoulder, rams have coiled horns that they use to butt other males during breeding season to compete for ewes.

“Bighorn sheep are a true symbol of wilderness and represent the need to protect wild lands,” said Frank Dean, president of the Yosemite Conservancy, which has donated $630,000 in the past two decades to support Yosemite’s bighorn sheep.

State biologists moved sheep from thriving herds in Inyo National Forest, in the southern end of the mountain range. Each was examined and fitted with a GPS tracking collar.

Last year, 14 sheep were relocated into Sequoia National Park, and another seven ewes and four rams are being relocated in the Laurel Creek area of the park. Another nine ewes — eight of them pregnant — and three rams were trapped and released into Yosemite.

Yosemite wildlife biologist Sarah Stock said only the most intrepid park visitors will ever see the sheep that roam high in the backcountry at elevations above 7,500 feet. She says helping them recover rights a wrong.

“I think it says a lot about humans,” Stock said. “We’re capable of correcting mistakes of the past by returning this charismatic Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep back to its native habitat.”

Big rigs often go faster than tires can handle Tue, 31 Mar 2015 09:22:02 -0400 TOM KRISHERAP Auto Writer DETROIT (AP) — Many tractor-trailers on the nation’s roads are driven faster than the 75 mph their tires are designed to handle, a practice that has been linked to wrecks and blowouts but has largely escaped the attention of highway officials.

Nearly all truck tires have been built for a maximum sustained speed of 75 mph since the middle of last decade, when drivers across the vast majority of the U.S. were allowed to go no faster than 65 or 70 mph.

But 14 states, mainly west of the Mississippi River, now have speed limits of 75, 80, even 85 mph in part of Texas. Some of those states acted without consulting the tire industry.

Safety advocates and tire experts say that habitually driving faster than a tire’s rated speed can generate excessive heat that damages the rubber, with potentially catastrophic results.

“It’s a recipe for disaster,” said James Perham, president of Extreme Transportation Corp., an automobile-hauling company near San Diego that filed a complaint with regulators about Michelin tires after seven blowouts caused an estimated $20,000 to $30,000 in damage to its rigs.

The disconnect between highway speed limits and safety standards was discovered by The Associated Press in a government document that detailed an investigation into truck tire failures.

Last month, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration closed the investigation into blowouts involving certain Michelin tires after determining that truck operators, not the tires, were at fault. An investigator wrote that exceeding the 75 mph rating was the most likely cause in all 16 complaints examined. The blowouts resulted in three crashes but no injuries.

State officials and the tire and trucking industries point the finger at each other for causing the problem. Highway officials in three states that allow trucks to go 80 mph or more either disregarded tire safety ratings, wouldn’t answer questions about them or told the AP they were unaware of them.

From 2009 through 2013, there were just over 14,000 fatal crashes in the U.S. involving heavy trucks and buses, killing almost 16,000 people, according to NHTSA. Tires were a factor in 198 of those crashes and 223 deaths.

Forty people died in truck tire-related crashes in 2009, and that rose to 52 in 2013, the latest year for which statistics are available.

It’s hard to pinpoint the cause of most blowouts. Road debris can be a factor. Underinflation, heavy loads and high speeds can also damage tires over time.

States set their own speed limits, having been given sole authority to do so by Congress in the mid-1990s, while the federal government, through NHTSA, has authority to raise tire standards.

For now, NHTSA contends the most effective way to attack the problem is a regulation to require devices that would prevent trucks from going over 75 mph. But the proposed measure has been stalled for years in a morass of cost analyses and government reviews.

Another possible solution would be for manufacturers to make tires that can handle higher speeds. Some companies already produce a small number safety-rated at 81 mph that cost about the same as those built for 75 mph.

But manufacturers are hesitant to make more, fearing sales won’t be big enough to justify the cost of redesigning and retooling, said Dan Zielinski, spokesman for the Rubber Manufacturers Association.

He said many trucking companies would not be interested in higher-rated tires because they already equip their 18-wheelers with speed governors that prevent them from going over 75 mph.

Michelin sells more truck tires than any other manufacturer, followed by Bridgestone, Goodyear, Yokohama and Firestone, according to Modern Tire Dealer magazine.

The problem does not extend to ordinary car tires. Ever since Firestone tires started failing on Ford Explorers in the 1990s, the government has required car and light truck tires to be designed for well above highway speed limits. Even the most basic car tires can safely go up to 112 mph.

The American Trucking Associations, an industry group, says it opposes speed limits over 65 mph, and it has petitioned the government to require speed-limiting devices on trucks.

ATA spokesman Sean McNally provided a 2007 survey done by the group showing that 69 percent of trucking companies already had such devices on at least some of their rigs, with an average limit of 69 mph.

Still, it took federal regulators five years to propose a regulation, and it is still being reviewed by government agencies. It could take months, if not years, to go into effect.

For now, truck drivers keep driving at high speeds — legally and illegally.

NHTSA began investigating the Michelin tires last October after getting complaints about tire failures, mainly from auto-hauling companies. In one case, a truck going more than the 75 mph speed limit on Interstate 10 in Deming, New Mexico, blew a tire and rolled onto its side.

Of the states that now let trucks travel 75 mph or more, three allow 80 or higher — Texas, Utah and Wyoming. South Dakota is about to raise its truck speed limit to 80, and three more states — Missouri, Nevada and Washington — may go to 75 or higher.

In Utah, the Transportation Department said it didn’t know about the truck tire speed ratings until told by a reporter. In Texas, a spokeswoman refused to answer repeated questions about whether the state knew about the tire standards before raising speed limits. The sponsor of the law that allowed the Transportation Department to set an 85 mph limit along a new toll road was also unaware of the tire limitations.

“We don’t have any knowledge of this,” said Chris Steinbach, chief of staff for then-Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, now a state senator.

In Wyoming, which raised speeds on some rural highways to 80 mph last July, “it doesn’t look like necessarily there was any consideration of truck tire speed ratings,” said Bruce Burrows, a spokesman for the state Transportation Department. Wyoming hasn’t seen a spike in tire failures, he said.

Burrows also noted that the speed limit doesn’t require truckers to go 80 mph, and said they should be aware of how fast their equipment can safely travel — a common refrain among state officials.

Tire and trucking industry groups blame the states for allowing unsafe speeds, though they say drivers should be aware of tire limitations.

Along Texas Highway 130, which has an 85 mph speed limit for big rigs, driver David Ortiz said he didn’t know about the 75 mph rating for most truck tires, or how fast his tires were designed to go. He said his company has limited the top speed of his truck to 65 mph, and he normally goes 63.

But Ortiz conceded that a speed limit higher than the tires can handle is a safety problem for truckers who drive faster. “Somebody needs to think about it,” he said.

Although many truck operators maintain their vehicles well, NHTSA found a number with problems.

As part of the Michelin investigation, the agency tested trucks and surveyed over a dozen drivers in Pennsylvania, finding that more than half had overburdened tires because of heavy loads or low air pressure. Sixty percent of drivers didn’t know the proper inflation pressure for the trucks they were driving.

To make sure drivers know their tires’ limits, NHTSA is considering a requirement that maximum speeds be listed on the sidewalls of all truck tires.

Truck tires are generally reliable and are responsible for a relatively low number of accidents, said the rubber association’s Zielinski. But he added: “An 18-wheeler is not a Porsche, and shouldn’t be driven like one.”

Portland daily grain report Tue, 31 Mar 2015 09:18:45 -0400 Portland, Ore., Tuesday, March 31, 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 0.75 to 3.25 cents per bushel lower than Monday’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 mixed 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 generally lower in response to the lower Kansas City May wheat futures.

Some exporters are no issuing bids for nearby delivery.

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 Monday’s noon bids in reaction to the lower Minneapolis May spring wheat futures. Some exporters are no issuing bids for nearby delivery.

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

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


Guaranteed maximum 10.5 pct protein

Mar mostly 7.1325, ranging 6.9700-7.2500

Apr 6.9700-7.2500

May 6.9700-7.2700

Jun 6.9325-7.3900

Aug NC 6.3800-6.5200

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

Ordinary protein

Mar NA

Guaranteed maximum 10.5 pct protein

Mar mostly 9.4000, ranging 8.9700-9.6500

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


Ordinary protein 6.7050-6.8350

10 pct protein 6.7050-6.8350

11 pct protein 6.8050-6.9150

11.5 pct protein

Mar 6.8550-6.9550

Apr 6.9050-7.0050

May 6.9050-7.0050

Jun 6.8950-6.9450

Aug NC 6.7550-6.8050

12 pct protein 6.9050-6.9550

13 pct protein 6.9550-7.0050

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 7.7425-8.3425

14 pct protein

Mar 8.9425-9.1425

Apr 8.8925-9.1425

May 8.7925-9.1425

Jun 8.1850-9.2350

Aug NC 7.3075-7.5075

15 pct protein 9.7425

16 pct protein 10.3425-10.5425

US 2 Yellow Corn

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

Mar 4.8725-4.9425

Apr 4.8725-4.9025

May 4.8625-4.8825

Jun/Jul 4.8625-4.9125

Oct 5.0150-5.1050

Nov 5.0150-5.1050

US 1 Yellow Soybeans

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

Mar 10.5850

Apr 10.4850-10.5350

May 10.4850

Sep 10.4650-10.4750

Oct 10.4650-10.5050

Nov 10.4650-10.4950

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.

US offer for climate treaty: Up to 28 percent emissions cut Tue, 31 Mar 2015 08:24:47 -0400 JOSH LEDERMAN WASHINGTON (AP) — In a highly anticipated announcement, the United States will offer a roughly 28 percent emissions cut as its contribution to a major global climate treaty nearing the final stages of negotiation, according to people briefed on the White House’s plans.

The U.S. plans to announce its commitment Tuesday, the informal deadline for nations to submit their contributions to the United Nations. Although the goal of 26 percent to 28 percent by 2025 isn’t new — President Barack Obama first unveiled it last year during a trip to Beijing — the U.S. proposal has drawn intense interest from the vast majority of countries that have yet to announce how deeply they’ll pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions as part of the treaty.

Obama’s pledge constitutes the opening offer by the U.S. as world leaders strive to reach a climate deal powerful and ambitious enough to prevent the worst effects of climate change. In the works for years, the treaty is set to be finalized in Paris in December. If it’s successful, it will mark the first time all nations — not just wealthier ones like the U.S. — will have agreed to do something about climate change.

As part of its proposal, known to climate negotiators as an Intended Nationally Determined Contribution, the U.S. will also assert that its contribution is both ambitious and fair, said the individuals briefed on the U.S. proposal, who requested anonymity because the proposal hasn’t been announced.

What metrics the U.S. will use to back up that claim is not yet clear. The European Union, one of the first parties to submit its contribution, pointed to per capita reductions in emissions to show how it is cutting its carbon footprint. But emissions per capita are far higher in the U.S., making it an inconvenient measure for the U.S. to use to show progress.

Instead, the U.S. is expected to focus on the fact that the Obama administration has ramped up the rate of emissions reductions nearly twofold. Early in his presidency, Obama committed to cut U.S. emissions 17 percent by 2020; his subsequent goal for 2025 pushes it to 28 percent.

The White House declined to comment.

The U.S. and other developed countries have been aggressively pressing developing nations to step up on climate change — especially those like China and India that are heavily reliant on dirtier sources of energy. Obama has described his strategy as “leading by example” and has sought to use the steps he’s already taken to cut emissions to ramp up pressure on other countries to do the same.

But poorer countries have traditionally balked, arguing their more modest means make reductions more of an imposition and pointing out that historically, they’re responsible for just a small fraction of the heat-trapping gases that industrialized countries have been pumping into the atmosphere for decades. So when Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping both committed to curbing emissions in a joint announcement in November, environmentalists hailed it as a sign that reluctant nations like China were finally getting on board.

“People know that domestically, we’re moving forward,” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy said Monday at a luncheon hosted by Politico. She pointed to the U.S.-China pact as Exhibit A. “If the two biggest polluters and the two biggest greenhouse gas polluters can get together, and two biggest economies, then we’re going to be OK moving into Paris, and we should have momentum behind our backs.”

Although all nations were asked to submit their climate targets by the end-of-March target date, only a handful of countries are expected to meet it. In addition to the U.S., the EU and Switzerland, Mexico unveiled a pledge last week to cut greenhouse gases and short-lived climate pollutants 25 percent by 2030, drawing praise from the White House and from environmental advocates.

How will the U.S. meet its goal? The Obama administration has avoided putting hard numbers on the size of emissions reductions it expects from specific steps the U.S. is taking. In its submission, the EU listed specific economic sectors — such as transportation, energy and manufacturing — where it expects major reductions, and named the specific greenhouse gases it plans to cut.

In contrast, the U.S. is expected to point broadly to the steps it is taking under the climate action plan Obama announced in 2013, such as new rules requiring sweeping cuts from new and existing power plants, stricter emissions limits for cars and trucks, and initiatives targeting specific greenhouse gases like methane and hydrofluorocarbons.

Many of those steps ordered by Obama face major legal challenges and intense political opposition, raising the risk that they could be undermined or even discarded once Obama leaves office in 2017. Contrast that with the EU, where lawmakers have approved a cap-and-trade emissions scheme that U.S. lawmakers have declined to enact.

“Just like every other country, this is a goal — it’s aspirational,” said Alden Meyer, policy director for the Union of Concerned Scientists. “It’s a fairly ambitious objective, especially if you assume that they’re not going to get any help from Congress.”


Associated Press writers Matthew Daly and Seth Borenstein contributed to this report.


Reach Josh Lederman on Twitter at

Michigan agriculture officials issue bird flu warning Tue, 31 Mar 2015 08:05:52 -0400 LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has asked domestic bird owners to step up their biosecurity efforts and work to protect their birds from avian influenza.

Over the past several months, the department says the U.S. has seen an increase in cases of the highly pathogenic H5N2 strain of avian influenza, also known as bird flu, affecting poultry in multiple states.

State Veterinarian Dr. James Averill says bird flu has recently been detected in commercial flocks across Arkansas, Missouri and Minnesota. He says this is cause for concern because wild waterfowl migrating north could bring the viral disease to Michigan.

The department says no human infections with the virus have been reported, and the Centers for Disease Control considers the risk to people to be low.

Potato Board provides spud price tool Mon, 30 Mar 2015 12:01:04 -0400 John O’Connell DENVER — A new tool developed for the U.S. Potato Board analyzes how the price fluctuations of fresh potato products affect demand.

The price elasticity tool is available to USPB members by accessing the “resource center” link from

Sarah Reece, USPB global retail marketing manager, said shippers may use the tool to work with customers on pricing decisions. Reece said USPB has also posted links to webinars demonstrating how to use the tool. Tool users must enter their region, the time of year and the fresh potato product.

USPB has a contract with Nielsen Perishables Group, which developed the tool in conjunction with a price elasticity study, based on 5 1/2 years of retail data involving more than 800,000 sales records.

Reece said the study marks USPB’s first analysis of price elasticity, which gauges how price impacts the demand for certain products. USPB analyzed 24 different potato products, with different varieties and sizes of bags, finding wide variability in how price changes impacted demand.

Specialty potato products in smaller packages were the most price sensitive. Furthermore, the study found East Coast consumers were the most sensitive to price changes.

For example, a 10 percent increase in the price of a 3-pound bag of colored fingerlings drove a 43 percent decrease in sales in the New England area, compared with a 26 percent decrease in demand in the Mountain region of the West.

Large bags of Russets, which offer the most food per dollar, were the least price sensitive.

“The study helps us to know we should promote some of those specialty varieties versus Russet varieties or the larger package varieties that consumers are less price sensitive with,” Reece said.

Juliette King, associate client manager with Nielsen Perishables Group, said the study was her company’s first look into the price elasticity of potatoes. King said Nielsen has done similar work with private companies involved in other crops, though USPB is one of the first commodity groups to request an elasticity study.

“(Potatoes) are not a one-size-fits-all category,” King said. “You really do need to look at each product individually and see how people react to changing prices within that product.”

King was also interested to find potatoes had relatively little cross-elasticity — meaning purchases of one potato category, such as Russets, didn’t necessarily correlate with reductions in purchases of other categories, such as reds.

Chris Wada, marketing director for Wada Farms in Idaho Falls, Idaho, and co-chairman of the USPB’s domestic marketing committee, said his company has been analyzing price elasticity of potatoes from its own information source and sharing findings with customers since 2008, among other data. He anticipates the USPB tool will be heavily utilized by the industry.

“We see value in it,” Wada said. “We’ve been doing it and will continue to, and will incorporate the Potato Board’s elasticity pricing model as well.”

Tulip festival wins the weather game Mon, 30 Mar 2015 11:59:18 -0400 Jan Jackson

Under House plan, tax breaks for processors face expiration Mon, 30 Mar 2015 11:02:49 -0400 Don Jenkins OLYMPIA — A House budget proposal does not renew tax exemptions that Washington food processors have received for a decade, potentially raising taxes on fruit, vegetable, seafood and dairy handlers by a total of $12.2 million over the next two years.

House Finance Committee Chairman Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, held open the possibility that he would eventually support renewing the tax breaks. But he said he wants the Senate to propose ways to make up for the lost revenue.

“We are open to those discussions,” he said.

The Democratic-controlled House on Friday rolled out a two-year, $38.8 billion spending proposal, which would take effect July 1. The budget relies on an improving economy and nearly $1.5 billion in tax increases to raise spending by about $5 billion over the current budget.

The tax exemptions for some 242 food processors are due to expire June 30. Gov. Jay Inslee has proposed renewing the exemptions for 10 years. Renewal of the exemptions will also likely have strong support in the Republican-controlled Senate, which has yet to release a budget proposal.

Carlyle, however, argues that Washington’s tax code has too many exemptions — more than 600.

“Our tax system is unfair. It’s full of more exceptions to the rule than rules itself,” he said.

He proposes to repeal several tax exemptions, including sales tax-free shopping in Washington by Oregonians. Under Carlyle’s proposal, Oregonians would have to pay sales tax on purchases under $25.

In the case of the food processors’ tax breaks, the House plan would simply let them lapse. Come July 1, food processors would pay the same tax on revenue from out-of-state sales as other agricultural producers.

The governor’s office Thursday reaffirmed its support for renewing the exemptions at a Senate budget hearing. “This is an important bill to our agricultural community in providing jobs, most often in our rural communities,” said John Lane of the Office of Financial Management.

The Northwest Food Processors Association argues the tax exemptions are important for retaining jobs. “This program has done wonders to make Washington food processors more competitive against food processors in other states where there is no (business and occupation) tax,” association lobbyist Dan Coyne said.

The House’s biggest tax proposal is a 5 percent capital gains tax on investment income above $25,000 for an individual and $50,000 for a married couple. The tax would not apply to the sale of a farm or home.

Budget officials estimate 32,000 Washington residents will pay the tax annually. The tax would raise $570 million during the 2015-17 biennium, according to a House estimate.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Ross Hunter, D-Medina, said the budget proposal would increase spending on K-12 by $3.2 billion, a 21 percent increase.

National wool and sheep report Mon, 30 Mar 2015 10:14:40 -0400 Wool prices in cents per pound and foreign currency per kilogram, sheep prices in dollars per hundredweight (cwt.) except some replacement animals on per head basis as indicated.


(USDA Market News)

Greeley, Colo.

March 27

Domestic wool trading on a clean basis was at a standstill this week and there were no confirmed trades. Shearing has become widespread, especially across the Western states. Storms in the early part of the month caused a lot of shearing to be put on hold while they passed through. The recent warmer weather has now allowed shearing to begin again. Shearing will continue to be heavy over the next several weeks, but a majority of the producers say they are at least a week to two weeks behind their normal schedule. Domestic wool trading on a greasy basis was at a standstill this week and there were no confirmed trades.

Domestic wool tags

No. 1 $.60-.70

No. 2 $.50-.60

No. 3 $.40-.50


(USDA Market News)

San Angelo, Texas

March 5

Compared to March 20: Light slaughter lambs were $10-50 lower; heavy slaughter lambs were steady to $5 lower. Slaughter ewes were uneven, mostly steady to $5 lower. Feeder lambs were $5-20 lower. At San Angelo, Texas, 2,546 head sold in a weather shortened sale. Equity Electronic Auction sold 375 slaughter lambs in Oregon. In direct trading slaughter ewes and feeder lambs were not tested. 5,100 head of negotiated sales of slaughter lambs were steady to $3 lower. 11,600 head of formula sales under 65 lbs. were not well tested; 65-75 lbs. were $10 to $12 lower; 75-85 lbs. were $5 to $8 higher; 85-95 lbs. were steady to $1 lower; over 95 lbs. were $5 to $7 lower. 6,711 lamb carcasses sold with 45 lbs. and down $28.32 lower; 45-65 lbs. $3.61 to $4.85 higher; 65-75 lbs. $.23 higher; and 75 lbs. and heavier $.23 to $.63 lower.

SLAUGHTER LAMBS Choice and Prime 2-3:

San Angelo: shorn and wooled 110-145 lbs. $130-139; 150-185 lbs. $122-129.

SLAUGHTER LAMBS Choice and Prime 1:

San Angelo: 30-40 lbs. $220-232; 40-60 lbs. $216-226; 60-70 lbs. $200-214; 70-80 lbs. $195-206; 80-90 lbs. $190-200; 90-105 lbs. $160-190.

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

5100: Slaughter Lambs shorn and wooled 128-166 lbs. $127.39-163.10 (wtd avg $141.99).


San Angelo: Good 2-3 (fleshy) 83-85; Utility and Good 1-3 (medium flesh) $88-100, few $106-110; Utility 1-2 (thin) $80-87; Cull and Utility 1-2 (very thin) $70-72; Cull 1 (extremely thin) no test.

FEEDER LAMBS Medium and Large 1-2:

San Angelo: new crop 45-65 lbs. $191-202; 70-80 lbs. $184-193; 80-85 lbs. $174-180; 93 lbs. $175. old crop 79 lbs. $170; 88 lbs. $161.

REPLACEMENT EWES Medium and Large 1-2:

San Angelo: no test.


Weight Wtd. avg.

45 lbs. down $520.77

45-55 lbs. $408.83

55-65 lbs. $348.97

65-75 lbs. $323.04

75-85 lbs. $308.41

85 lbs. and up $295.11

Sheep and lamb slaughter under federal inspection for the week to date totaled 46,000 compared with 42,000 last week and 43,000 last year.

Western hay prices Mon, 30 Mar 2015 10:10:02 -0400 Hay prices are dollars per ton or dollars per bale when sold to retail outlets. Basis is current delivery FOB barn or stack, or delivered custo

West Coast grain prices Mon, 30 Mar 2015 10:05:14 -0400 Grains are stated in dollars per bushel or hundredweight (cwt.) except feed grains traded in dollars per ton. National grain report bids are fo

California shell egg report Mon, 30 Mar 2015 10:00:29 -0400

National slaughter, feeder and stocker cattle report Mon, 30 Mar 2015 09:57:43 -0400 Cattle prices in dollars per hundredweight (cwt.) except some replacement animals per pair or head as indicated.


(Federal-State Market News)

Oklahoma City-Des Moines

March 27

Compared to March 20: No direct cattle traded at time of report. Boxed beef prices March 27 noon averaged $248.53 that is $4.63 higher than March 20. The Choice/Select spread is $3.81. Slaughter cattle on a national basis for negotiated cash trades through March 27 at noon totaled about 1,100 head. The previous week’s total head count was 79,631 head.

Slaughter Cows and Bulls (Average Yielding Prices): Slaughter cows and bulls sold mostly steady to $1 higher. USDA’s Cutter cow carcass cut-out value March 27 at noon was $231.81 up $.70 from March 20.


(Federal-State Market News)

St. Joseph, Mo.

March 27

This week Last week Last year

270,800 323,400 330,100

Compared to March 20: Yearling feeder cattle traded firm to $5 higher with instances $6-8 higher. Direct sales were active this week and posted the full advance on feeder cattle. Steer and heifer calves sold mostly steady to $5 higher. Buyers flexed their muscle in pursuing all classes of feeder cattle this week. The Southern Plains received rain and warm weather to help improve wheat crop conditions, and boost summer grazing interest on very good buyer demand. With “grass fever” in full swing following the higher temperatures, market signals from late last week started finding confidence as most major sale barns noticed higher prices as farmer feeders and local backgrounders entered the mix.

Cattle feeding can be frustrating at times with expensive overhead, fluctuations in feed prices and volatile market prices but grazing cattle on grass can be just as satisfying and rewarding. Inexpensive growth and gains are what backgrounders receive on pasture and what motivates cattlemen and farmer feeders to assemble their stockers each year.

At the St. Joseph Stockyards on March 25 sold a string of 105 head of fancy black steers weighing 828 lbs. settled on a bid of $234 with a part load of lighter steer mates in thin condition weighing 710 lbs. dropping the gavel at $266. Demand continues to remain very good for popular weight steer calves weighing 400-650 lbs., with many areas selling 500-550 lb. steer calves selling near or above the $3/lb. level.

Cattle futures busted out of the gate on March 21 with sharp triple-digit gains after the fat cattle market closed $2-3 higher March 20 with most live prices trading from $163-165. Open interest for Live and Feeder cattle contracts has increased with this rally. Live and feeder cattle markets are starting to see prices that many analysts thought we might not see for a while or so soon.

Cattle feeders are finding confidence with tight supplies and seeing some bullish momentum on the board as boxed beef prices received a shot in the arm at midweek with sharp gains as Choice product closed above $250. This week’s reported auction volume included 56 percent over 600 lbs. and 41 percent heifers.


This week Last week Last year

215,800 265,700 224,300

WASHINGTON 1,900. 57 pct over 600 lbs. 47 pct heifers. Steers: Medium and Large 1-2 600-650 lbs. $234.56; 750-800 lbs. $211.07. Heifers: Medium and Large 1-2 550-600 lbs. $252.75; half load 620 lbs. $244; 650-700 lbs. $239.96.


This week Last week Last year

52,600 32,100 70,600

SOUTHWEST (Arizona-California-Nevada) 6,700. 9 pct over 600 lbs. No heifers. Holsteins: Large 3 275 lbs. $295 July Del; 300 lbs. $2650-270 July Del; 325 lbs. $283 current Del; 325 lbs. $282-286.50 April Del; 700 lbs. $163 April Del.

NORTHWEST (Washington-Oregon-Idaho) 4000. 98 pct over 600 lbs. 35 pct heifers. Steers: Medium and Large 1-2 Current FOB Price 700 lbs. $226 Idaho; 850-900 lbs. $190-193 Washington-Oregon. Current Delivered Price 800-900 lbs. $197-206 Idaho; 900-950 lbs. $190 Idaho; 900 lbs. $206 value added Idaho. Future FOB Price 600-700 lbs. $220-240 calves for November-December Idaho. Heifers: Current FOB Price 650-700 lbs. $210-211 Washington-Oregon; 800 lbs. $190-191 Washington-Oregon. Current Delivered Price 800-850 lbs. $186-196 Idaho. Future FOB Price 550-600 lbs. $240 for November Idaho.


(USDA Market News)

Moses Lake, Wash.

March 27

This week Last week Last year

4,000 3,100 4,750

Compared to March 20: Feeder feeder cattle $1-6 higher. Trade remains slow to moderate with good demand. The feeder supply included 65 percent steers and 35 percent heifers. Near 98 percent of the supply weighed over 600 lbs. Prices are FOB weighing point with a 1-4 percent shrink or equivalent and with a 5-10 cent slide on calves and a 3-8 cent slide on yearlings. Delivered prices include freight, commissions and other expenses. Current sales are up to 14 days delivery.

Steers: Medium and Large 1-2: Current FOB Price: 700 lbs. $226 Idaho; 850-900 lbs. $190-193 Washington-Oregon. Current Delivered Price: 800-900 lbs. $197-206 Idaho; 900-950 lbs. $190 Idaho; 900 lbs. $206 value added Idaho. Future FOB Price: 600-700 lbs. $220-240 calves for November-December Idaho.

Heifers: Current FOB Price: 650-700 lbs. $210-211 Washington-Oregon; 800 lbs. $190-191 Washington-Oregon; Current Delivered Price: 800-850 lbs. $186-196 Idaho. Future FOB Price: 550-600 lbs. $240 for November Idaho.

Replacement Heifers (Per Head): Medium and Large 1-2: Current FOB: 700 lbs. $1800 Idaho.

Bred Heifers (Per Head): Future Delivery FOB Price: 1050 lbs. $2250 for October Idaho 1-3 mos. bred.

Selected Western livestock auctions Mon, 30 Mar 2015 09:50:28 -0400 Cattle prices in dollars per hundredweight (cwt.) except some replacement animals per pair or head as indicated.CaliforniaSHASTA

Portland daily grain report Mon, 30 Mar 2015 09:24:11 -0400 Portland, Ore., Monday, March 30, 2015

USDA Market News

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

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

In early trading May wheat futures trended 13.25 to 19.50 cents per bushel higher than Friday’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 higher compared to Friday’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 higher. Some exporters are no issuing bids for nearby delivery.

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 Friday’s noon bids.

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

Bids for US 1 Yellow Soybeans delivered full coast in 110 car shuttle trains trended higher compared to Friday’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


Guaranteed maximum 10.5 pct protein

Mar mostly 7.1075, ranging 7.0300-7.1575

Apr 7.0300-7.2075

May 7.0800-7.2575

Jun 7.1900-7.3325

Aug NC 6.3000-6.3700

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

Ordinary protein

Mar NA

Guaranteed maximum 10.5 pct protein

Mar mostly 9.3775, ranging 9.1575-9.5300

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


Ordinary protein 6.6750-6.8050

10 pct protein 6.6750-6.8050

11 pct protein 6.7750-6.8850

11.5 pct protein

Mar 6.8250-6.9250

Apr 6.8750-6.9750

May 6.8750-6.9750

Jun 6.8625-6.9125

Aug NC 6.7100-6.9100

12 pct protein 6.8750-6.9250

13 pct protein 6.8750-6.9750

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 7.7325-8.3325

14 pct protein

Mar 8.9325-9.1325

Apr 8.8825-9.1325

May 8.8825-9.1325

Jun 8.1825-9.2325

Aug NC 7.3025-7.5025

15 pct protein 9.7325

16 pct protein 10.3325-10.5325

US 2 Yellow Corn

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

Mar 4.8725-4.9125

Apr 4.8625-4.8825

May 4.8325-4.8725

Jun/Jul 4.8325-4.8725

Oct 4.9900-5.0800

Nov 4.9900-5.0800

US 1 Yellow Soybeans

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

Mar 10.6425-10.6925

Apr 10.5425-10.5925

May 10.5425

Sep NA

Oct 10.4900-10.5400

Nov 10.5000-10.5300

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

Coal country turns to vines as way to attract visitors Mon, 30 Mar 2015 09:20:12 -0400 JONATHAN DREWand ALLEN G. BREED SECO, Ky. (AP) — Mines built this company town. Could vines — the wine grapes growing on a former strip mine in the hills above — help to draw visitors here?

Jack and Sandra Looney sure hope so.

Their Highland Winery — housed in the lovingly restored, mustard-yellow “company store” — pays tribute to coal-mining’s history here, as do their signature wines: Blood, Sweat and Tears.

“The Coal Miner’s Blood sells more than any of them,” Jack Looney says of the sweet red.

He and his wife have converted the store’s second and third floors into a bed and breakfast. They’ve also bought and restored a couple dozen of the old coal company houses as rentals, and rooms fill up during their annual spring Miner’s Memorial Festival.

Seco, like so many Central Appalachian communities, owes its existence to coal — its very name an acronym for South East Coal Company. But as mining wanes, officials across the region are looking for something to replace the traditional jobs and revenues.

In some of the poorest, most remote counties, about the only alternative people can come up with is tourism — eco-, adventure, or, as with the Looneys, historical and cultural. There are mining museums, festivals, wilderness adventures. Sub-regions have been rechristened with alluring names like the Hatfield-McCoy Mountains or the PA Wilds.

Will it work? Proponents point to the region’s assets, its natural beauty, its distinctive mountain character — and characters (like the feuding Hatfields and McCoys). But others note the paradoxes: Environmental degradation alongside unspoiled areas, a history of poor education that for decades didn’t preclude high-paying jobs, an away-from-it-all feel partly caused by a lack of good roads and other infrastructure.

There’s a gap between desires and infrastructure in many areas hoping to develop tourism, says University of Tennessee researcher Tim Ezzell. “We have community colleges that will teach you to be an X-ray tech, but they don’t have culinary arts,” he said.

For all but a lucky few places with both assets and access, recent studies and spending data suggest, tourism may be a dubious savior.

“It’s kind of really odd that economic practitioners push tourism to be a propulsive industry when it has such low wages,” says Suzanne Gallaway, an adjunct professor at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro.

“It’s not a panacea,” adds tourism consultant Carole Morris. “It’s not going to be that cure-all.”

Appalachia covers 205,000 square miles, encompassing 420 counties in 13 states, from northeast Mississippi to southwest New York, according to the official definition offered by the Appalachian Regional Commission. West Virginia is the only state wholly included.

The region includes many cities and has a range of industries. But many areas in Central Appalachia are at an economic crossroads, as mining and logging give way to services jobs.

Sociologist Rebecca Scott, author of a book on mountaintop removal in her native West Virginia, says, “It’s important to really point out the situation of the state being caught between the condition of being an extraction economy, a sacrifice zone, and yet having most of its sort of long-term successes in tourism being around nature-based tourism. I think that it’s a really big contradiction.”

Gallaway, who did her doctoral thesis on tourism development in the region, found that while tourism and hospitality accounted for 16 percent of all jobs in the region, those sectors produced just 7 percent of the wages.

“I think tourism can always be part of a diverse economy,” says Gallaway, who teaches at UNCG’s Bryan School for Sustainable Tourism and Hospitality. “But I wouldn’t put all of my eggs in that basket, no matter who you are.”

A look at some tourism initiatives around the region shows challenges as well as successes.


A 2012 report compiled for the Mountain State’s Division of Tourism found that spending and hospitality employment have been slow to grow in many counties.

A glaring exception was Harrison County, where direct tourism spending has more than doubled since 2004 — to $142 million — and hospitality employment has increased by more than 50 percent. But those numbers can be deceiving.

Many rooms in the area’s hotels are being occupied by workers drilling in the nearby Marcellus shale formation, as coal has been replaced by hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas, says county commission president Ron Watson.

According to the economic report, tourism-related jobs in the Hatfield-McCoy Mountains — the marketing label for a cluster of coal-producing counties — actually dropped from 1,400 to 1,300 from 2004 to 2012.

Another area that includes the New River Gorge and the Greenbrier resort shed 700 tourism-related jobs during the period, the report shows.


Morris, who was head of cultural tourism for the state of Kentucky before opening her own consultancy, says there’s a fine line between squashing initiative and encouraging pipe dreams.

“I have rarely been in a place where tourism was impossible,” says Morris. “There’s always something interesting, something in the history of a community that brings people.”

Still, in places where tourism seemed less viable, she saw her job as “managing those expectations.”

A few years ago, Morris shared a $100,000 Appalachian Regional Commission grant to consult with several “distressed” counties. One of her clients was Forest County, Pennsylvania.

For generations, the county, dominated by the Allegheny National Forest, was a popular vacation destination for blue-collar workers, earning it the nickname “Pittsburgh’s playground.” But as manufacturing waned and tastes changed, Morris found, locals were left with a “tired product.”

Working with the consultants, a local planning group suggested a rebranding: Forest County would become a “gateway” to the Lumber Heritage Region and the PA Wilds. The trick, Morris and team wrote in their action plan, was for the county to stay “true to its heritage of ‘the place to get away from it all,’ and respect its rural roots while moving into the new marketplace for tourism.” The latter meant things as simple as adding Wi-Fi and non-smoking rooms, and encouraging more businesses to take credit and debit cards.

“People do want to get away from it all,” the team wrote, “but visitors want to stay connected if necessary.”


As environmentalists fight to protect areas not disturbed by mining, some longtime residents are trying to make the most of what the coal industry has left behind.

In its day, Lynch was the largest coal company town in the world, built by industrialist J.P. Morgan to provide coking coal for his U.S. Steel Corp. At its height in the 1940s, more than 10,000 people lived in the neat company houses that lined Kentucky 160 and snaked up the surrounding hillsides.

Today, Lynch’s population hovers around 730. But Portal 31, the mine that helped fuel America’s postwar industrial renaissance, has been given new life.

Passing through a concrete archway topped by the words “SAFETY THE FIRST CONSIDERATION,” visitors ride a miniature train several hundred feet into the hillside as a guide and animated exhibits illustrate mining’s history here. Several original company buildings have been restored. The ticket office is located in Lamp House No. 2, where miners gathered to fill and light their carbide headlamps before beginning their shift. In 2010, the regional commission awarded a $240,000 grant to restore the old Lynch firehouse.

Down the road in Benham, built to service International Harvester’s coal mines, the former company store now houses the Kentucky Coal Mining Museum, including items from the personal collection of “Coal Miner’s Daughter” Loretta Lynn. The 1926 brick school across the road is an inn that doubles as a training ground for a community college’s hospitality management program.

Museum Curator Phyllis Sizemore says the exhibition mine saw a record number of visitors in July: 1,033. That’s not a lot, but Sizemore, who grew up in a nearby coal camp, says the value of some things can’t be measured in dollars spent or names in a guest book.

“I don’t look to tourism exactly as a savior,” says Sizemore, 62, the granddaughter, niece, sister and mother of miners. “I look at education as a savior ... We are doing both.”

Doing tourism in an out-of-the-way place, especially one that’s been blasted and carved up, is “an uphill battle,” says Gallaway.

No one knows that better than Jack and Sandra Looney, whose winery lies in Letcher County, once a top coal producer. Since 1988, the county has lost about 80 percent of its mining jobs.

When they bought it, the old company store was little more than a shell. “So we had to rebuild all the inside, put the roof back on it,” says Jack Looney, whose father shopped there before breaking his back in a cave-in.

Then there was another big hurdle for the winery: Letcher County had been “dry” since the 1940s. So the Looneys researched state law, petitioned for a precinct vote and won the right to produce and sell alcohol.

Today, rows of vines line the old strip mine at the head of No. 2 Hollow. French merlot plants have been grafted onto native “possum grape” roots to help them adapt to local soil.

“I have found out they grow great here on these mountaintop removals,” says Looney, who makes his living building gas stations. “It’s real hot and sunny during the daytime, and windy at the evening time.”

The Looneys’ only advertising is a billboard. Most of their trade comes from folks who’d moved away — and some who stop by just to see family names in an old mining company ledger unearthed during renovations.

More than a decade after renovations were completed, the winery and inn still have trouble turning a profit. Looney says his construction business loaned the operation about $30,000 last year.

The couple started the venture as a way to keep their daughter, Jean, who was studying food science at the University of Kentucky, in the mountains. She eventually started her own vineyard with her husband in Lexington.

Jack Looney still hasn’t given up on Jean coming back to run things in Seco. If not, then there are always the grandkids.

“Maybe somebody will before I get too old to quit fooling with it.”

Federal funding in short supply for rural water projects Mon, 30 Mar 2015 09:19:55 -0400 SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A pipeline project intended to bring billions of gallons of water a year to a drought-stricken section of eastern New Mexico represents a lifeline to parched communities that are quickly running out of water.

The lifeline, however, might not reach the region for more than a decade, even though officials say some areas don’t have that long before wells dry up.

The slow pace of construction in what would be the state’s most expensive infrastructure project to date underscores the challenges faced by a number of states eyeing such projects.

During the widespread drought, officials are struggling to finish large-scale water infrastructure projects while populations are growing, drinking water resources are dwindling, and federal dollars are diminishing.

The federal government is responsible for paying about $3 billion to complete several rural water projects around the country. The amount — expected to grow by the time the work is done — represents a fraction of the more than $600 billion needed to address the nation’s water and wastewater needs over the next 20 years.

That has left states and local water authorities scrambling to fill the financial void.

Of the many pipeline proposals in the West, one calls for moving water from four remote valleys in eastern Nevada to Las Vegas to reduce the region’s reliance on the Colorado River. Others call for piping water from Lake Powell to southeastern Utah and for taking water from Wyoming across Colorado’s Front Range and on to Denver.

In New Mexico, officials are desperate to head off the shrinking of the Ogallala aquifer, an underground supply of water that stretches through eight states and is being rapidly depleted along the Texas-New Mexico border.

“People are going to have to understand that in the West, that old saying ‘whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting’ — that’s where we are right now,” said Gayla Brumfield, chairwoman of the Eastern New Mexico Water Utility Authority.

Some studies show pockets of eastern New Mexico might have less than a decade before wells run dry. Others could have 40 years, but all signs point to demand outpacing supply as surface and groundwater sources dwindle across the West.

The pipeline would funnel more than 5.3 billion gallons of water each year from the Ute Reservoir south to Clovis, Portales, Cannon Air Force Base and other small communities.

It includes a $19 million intake system at the reservoir, pump stations and more than 150 miles of pipe that will serve about 70,000 people.

The price for the Ute project has ballooned to more than $550 million, and the federal Bureau of Reclamation acknowledges it could end up costing $750 million.

The lure for communities to pursue these costly infrastructure projects has been the promise of federal funding, said Denise Fort, a water law expert and professor at the University of New Mexico.

“It’s like a shiny red apple and that can be hard to turn down,” she said.

Critics say the Ute project will do little to solve the region’s drinking water woes and has only given way to bigger questions about the benefits and sustainability of high-dollar rural water projects that depend on shrinking rivers, reservoirs and aquifers.

Funding for rural projects managed by the Bureau of Reclamation has been shrinking, forcing Brumfield and others to make regular trips to Washington, D.C., to fight for whatever money is left.

It’s no different for Red Arndt, chairman of the Lewis and Clark Regional Water System. That $570 million project is designed to supply drinking water to 300,000 people in more than a dozen cities in South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa. The states and local water authorities have contributed their share of close to $154 million. Some customers are getting water now, but the pipeline comes to a dead end in a field near the Minnesota border.

Arndt said the Obama administration talks about improving the nation’s infrastructure and boosting economic development but hasn’t followed through with any meaningful investment. If a business comes to the area, local leaders must ask how much water they’re going to use. If it’s too much, Arndt said the businesses are told to move on.

“They want infrastructure and they want economic growth and what’s more important than anything? Water. If you don’t have water, you don’t have growth of anything,” he said.

In January, Vice President Joe Biden announced steps the administration would take to attract private investment. He told reporters: “It’s one of the hardest things to deal with because it costs so much money, and it is not anything that the people can see.”

The federal Bureau of Reclamation has about $36 million for rural water projects for the next fiscal year. In its most recent analysis, the agency estimates the projects could be completed by 2029 with a total federal investment of about $3 billion.

The federal government is obligated to pay for three-quarters of the Ute pipeline.

For the amount of water being moved and the population served, the Natural Resources Defense Council estimates it’s one of the most expensive projects in the West. Critics question whether it’s worth the effort given the cost and the uncertain supply of water.

They cite the situation facing the $390 million San Juan-Chama Project, designed decades ago and completed in 2008 to funnel extra water through the Rio Grande Valley for Albuquerque and Santa Fe to keep from sucking local aquifers dry. Thanks to years of drought, this is the first year the project will see a shortage of water.

Those who live near Ute Reservoir fear a similar situation and see the project as a boondoggle. The town of Logan, for example, lives and dies by the reservoir, and persistent drought has reduced its levels.

“It seems like there is just such tunnel vision in Portales and Clovis,” said Warren Frost, an attorney for the village who also owns property near the lake. “They’re hell-bent to do this project regardless of whether it makes sense and I don’t understand that.”

Missouri organic farmers eligible for reimbursement Mon, 30 Mar 2015 08:27:08 -0400 JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri farmers could get money back for certifying their products as organic.

The Missouri Department of Agriculture this week announced farmers could get as much as $750 back for certification costs.

The department says the state received $127,800 in federal funds, which will pay producers and handlers 75 percent of expenses to certify their products as organic.

Businesses must renew or obtain certification and document costs to participate. Those who certify between October 2014 and Sept. 30 are eligible.

Money is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

New bioengineering lab benefits UMass Dartmouth students Mon, 23 Mar 2015 08:17:13 -0400 AUDITI GUHAThe Standard-Times DARTMOUTH, Mass. (AP) — The future is now at UMass Dartmouth’s bioengineering lab, where students and staff are working on things that were once the stuff of science fiction.

And they’re doing it in a lab that allows them the space and equipment to do cutting-edge research in a field that’s the fastest-growing major at UMass Dartmouth.

“I think it’s changed dramatically,” said Nick Macedo, 21, a senior working on cell cultures in the lab that was inaugurated last September on the second floor of the former textile building.

Previously, a group of bioengineering students would huddle around a teacher in a small space. Now they have individualized teaching because everyone gets their own spot and instruments, Macedo said. It’s the only place on campus where Macedo said he can work on cell and tissue cultures, a major skill in today’s world that will make him more attractive in the job market or when he applies for graduate school.

The old lab was shared with other majors and did not have the space and equipment the new one has, said Ph.D. scholar Abdulrahman Kehail, 27, whose research is focused on producing bioplastics from bacteria. “It has a lot of windows and that really affects my mood,” he said. Researchers typically spend long hours in the lab and the old one was windowless. “I feel this new space will attract many bioengineering grad students to do their research at UMass Dartmouth.”

Six faculty members, four Ph.D. students and about 129 undergraduates currently use the teaching and research spaces created, said Tracie Ferreira, associate professor of bioengineering, a 4-year-old major at the university.

“It’s much easier for students to get an idea of the work they can do during campus visits and for students to work on their research projects,” she said. “One of the biggest growing fields is tissue engineering and stem cells. No other space in the university allows students to do that kind of work.”

“Bioengineering is a versatile, multidisciplinary field,” said assistant professor Christopher Brigham in an email. “We want to have a multipartite approach to education and research, including but not limited to electronic medical devices, tissue engineering, and biomanufacturing/fermentation.”

Brigham said he studies bacteria that come from the soil or other natural environments that produce compounds. His group works on microbial production of a type of polymers that can be used as raw material for medical implants and sutures, as well as alcohol and lipid-based biofuels.

His work captured the attention of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren during a brief tour of the lab last week.

“You’re the future on this kind of work and I want to see this happen,” Warren said. “You can see the whole agriculture and biotech industry being interested in this.”

Assistant professor Milana Vasudev, who shares a lab with Brigham, said she likes that there is enough bench space for students to set up their own work, as well as a separate cell culture room that researchers share. The lab also provides her students the opportunity to learn techniques such as chemical synthesis, cell culture, and mechanical and electrical characterization.

Students are currently working on genetic engineering techniques, examining drug release and properties of various biomaterials, modeling and 3D printing and cancer cell growth and research. Seniors use the lab space for their senior capstone design projects, which range from medical devices to cell and tissue engineering.

The median annual wage for biomedical engineers was $86,960 in May 2012. Employment of biomedical engineers is projected to grow 27 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than other occupations, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Prairie Reserve seeks to put bison on public allotment Fri, 27 Mar 2015 09:58:21 -0400 MATTHEW BROWN BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The managers of a sprawling wildlife reserve in north-east Montana are seeking federal approval to run wild bison on a second piece of property as the size of their private herd grows.

The American Prairie Reserve has asked the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to allow bison to graze on the Flat Creek Allotment in south Phillips County. That would add 22,000 acres of new habitat for the animals to the 30,000 acres already in use.

A spokeswoman says the group expects to have up to 600 bison by this spring.

BLM officials said the reserve also wants permission to remove interior fencing and to manage their private lands and adjoining public lands as common pasture.

Landowners in the area have said the growth of the reserve threatens agricultural production.

Unprecedented sage grouse protection deal signed in Nevada Fri, 27 Mar 2015 09:56:28 -0400 SCOTT SONNER RENO, Nev. (AP) — An unprecedented attempt to protect sage grouse habitat across parts of more than 900 square miles of privately owned land in Nevada began under a deal Thursday involving the federal government, an environmental group and the world’s largest gold mining company.

The agreement comes as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approaches a fall deadline for a decision on whether to protect the greater sage grouse, a bird roughly the size of a chicken that ranges across the West, under the Endangered Species Act.

Commercial operations, including mining companies and oil and gas producers, are entering into such deals in an effort to keep the bird off the threatened or endangered list because the classification would place new restrictions on their work.

The deal involves Barrick Gold Corp., The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management and Fish and Wildlife Service. It establishes a “conservation bank,” providing the mining firm credit for enhancing critical habitat, in exchange for flexibility in future operations. It aims to preserve and restore more habitat than is lost through development while at the same time providing Barrick with more certainty as it maps out new mining plans.

“This is the kind of creative, voluntary partnership that we need to help conserve the greater sage grouse, while sustaining important economic activities on western rangelands,” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said.

The agreement “strikes the right balance between economic development and conservation,” said Michael Brown, executive director of Barrick’s U.S. operations.

Similar efforts already are underway on a much smaller scale involving ranching operations in Oregon and Wyoming.

Scientists estimate the sage grouse population is less than half what it was in the early 19th century it inhabited an estimated 450,000 square miles of sagebrush across the West.

Growing threats to its nesting grounds include wildfires, invasive plants, livestock grazing, mining and oil and gas exploration. The risks have led land managers to consider new protections.

It’s difficult to estimate what Barrick will spend on the conversation efforts but it “likely will be in the millions,” company lawyer Patrick Malone said. He said much of the bird’s most important range in Nevada is on private land.

“The bird benefits in ways that can only really happen through this public-private partnership,” Malone told The Associated Press.

Michael Cameron, The Nature Conservancy’s associate state director for Nevada, acknowledged the agreement may not be embraced by some conservation groups who argue against development of any lands with habitat critical to the survival of the sage grouse.

“Our overriding objective in this is to achieve lofty conservation results on the ground,” Cameron told the AP. “Certainly, in a case like this where we have the potential to achieve conservation improvements on potentially hundreds of thousands of acres, it is the kind of opportunity, frankly, that we have an obligation to try to approve.”

BLM Nevada Director Amy Leuders likes the advance nature of the agreement. She said, “It’s certainly to the benefit of the sage grouse and its habitat for conservation actions to occur before other impacts from mining operations occur.”

Portland daily grain report Fri, 27 Mar 2015 09:53:36 -0400 Portland, Ore., Friday, March 27, 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 4.75 to 7.50 cents per bushel higher than Thursday’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 higher compared to Thursday’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 higher. Some exporters are no issuing bids for nearby delivery.

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 higher compared to Thursday’s noon bids.

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

Mar NA

Apr NA

May NA

Jun NA


Guaranteed maximum 10.5 pct protein

Mar mostly 7.0475, ranging 6.9450-7.2500

Apr 6.9500-7.2500

May 6.9950-7.3600

Jun 6.8375-7.3900

Aug NC 6.1800-6.4000

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

Ordinary protein

Mar NA

Guaranteed maximum 10.5 pct protein

Mar mostly 9.3150, ranging 8.9450-9.6500

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


Ordinary protein 6.4275-6.5575

10 pct protein 6.4275-6.5575

11 pct protein 6.5275-6.6375

11.5 pct protein

Mar 6.5775-6.6775

Apr 6.6275-6.7275

May 6.6275-6.7775

Jun 6.6275-6.6775

Aug NC 6.4900-6.6900

12 pct protein 6.6275-6.6775

13 pct protein 6.6275-6.7275

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 7.5575-8.1575

14 pct protein

Mar 8.7575-8.9575

Apr 8.7075-8.9575

May 8.6075-8.9575

Jun 8.0200-9.0700

Aug NC 7.1350-7.3350

15 pct protein 9.5575

16 pct protein 10.1575-10.3575

US 2 Yellow Corn

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

Mar 4.8475-4.9575

Apr 4.7975-4.8775

May 4.7975-4.8375

Jun/Jul 4.7975-4.8275

Oct 4.9550-5.0450

Nov 4.9550-5.0450

US 1 Yellow Soybeans

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

Mar 10.5650

Apr 10.4650-10.5650

May 10.4650

Sep 10.4425-10.4525

Oct 10.4325-10.4825

Nov 10.4425-10.4725

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