Capital Press | Winter Services and Supplies Capital Press Wed, 23 Sep 2015 11:03:33 -0400 en Capital Press | Winter Services and Supplies High tunnels help extend growing season Thu, 2 Oct 2014 09:17:57 -0400 LACEY JARRELL First-time produce growers should start out with a basic structure and worry about adding stuff later, according to Ivan Schuening, owner of Oregon Valley Greenhouses in Aurora, Ore.

According to Schuening, high tunnels made out of a steel frame, high-strength polyfilm and wirelock to secure the film to the frame, are the most efficient outdoor grow structures. He said builders on a budget can even build their own frame ends out of wood.

“I’d say 99 percent of the farms and people put their own up,” he said, adding that most growers have their tunnels up early enough to get a fall crop in.

According to Schuening, high tunnels are in high demand because they increase the growing season by about a month and a half, and according to Oregon law, any winter protection or high tunnel with just a polyfilm cover is exempt from building codes if a property is zoned as a farm.

Schuening pointed out that some counties overrule state law, however, and he emphasized the importance of calling the county to find out what a property is zoned and what the required setbacks from roads and property lines are.

Canan Garner, a sales associate at Samurai Greenhouse in Albany, Ore., said if regulations restrict the size of what can be built, growers may be able to scale down or break their concept into smaller greenhouses that add up to the same square footage. He said there isn’t necessarily one type of house that works better than others, but it’s important ensure there is enough air space for temperature control.

“If you end up with not enough height in your (grow) house, your plants might overgrow the space and it gets really, really hot in the summer,” Garner said.

High tunnels are primarily used for lengthening growing seasons, keeping the rain off and warming the soil earlier in the spring, Schuening said. High tunnels are usually not heated or cooled, and converting one into a 12-month growing house with heaters and circulation fans makes it a permanent structure subject to code regulations.

Garner said many tunnels are temperature regulated with roll-up sides and shade cloths will cut down on light transmission and help reduce heat inside a tunnel, as well.

“Doors and roll-up sides are pretty much the standard way to go if you want to stay away from using any sort of electricity,” Garner said.

Schuening said he recommends at least 4-foot sidewalls on high tunnels to maximize grow space and to ensure even heating throughout.

“If you do a hoophouse and no sidewall, you’re wasting 8 feet. So on a 30-foot wide, you’re losing 2 to 4 feet on each side that you can’t grow in, so you’re really down to about 22 feet of growing,” Schuening said.

Schuening said main factor in determining what kind steel frame a tunnel should have is the climate it’s being built in, such as a heavy snow or wind area. He suggested finding out the record snow level to determine what diameter of tubing and wall thickness a high tunnel needs.

How to find the right tractor for your operation Thu, 2 Oct 2014 09:17:55 -0400 LACEY JARRELL When it comes to tractors, bigger isn’t always better.

“You don’t go by big, you go by horsepower,” said J.O. Anderson, a sales representative at Kubota Tractor in Aurora, Ore.

According to Anderson, farmers in the market for a new tractor should think about how many acres they have and the type farming they want to do. He said most small scale farms only need a 20- to 50-horsepower tractor, while large-scale farms — about 100 to 500 acres — will likely require an 80- to 130-horsepower tractor, depending on the crop.

“When harvest conditions are not good, 100 horsepower doesn’t hurt you one bit. When the ground gets soft and muddy, it takes more power,” he said.

Anderson said potential buyers should have a good idea of what they want to do with the tractor, as well as the topography it will be driven on. For steep hillsides farmers will want a wide profile tractor; in orchards, tractors should be low profile to get under tree branches, he said.

John Purkerson, a turf sales representative for Pape, said buyers should also consider whether they want a hydrostatic drive or a gear drive. According to Purkerson, hydrostatic drive tractors can be more efficient for getting around stalls because they are powered by one pedal for forward and one for reverse.

“A hydrostatic drive is like an automatic, so anybody can get pretty familiar with that tractor real quick. A gear drive tractor is going to take a little more knowledge to operate,” Purkerson said.

Although all tractors will run just about any implement, farmers should also consider which attachments they want to use before purchasing, Purkerson said. If there isn’t any farming to do, at the minimum, a rotary mower is needed to keep the grass cut. Most people will have a front-end loader on the tractor just to lift and move things on their acreage, he added.

“If they just have some pasture grass that they want to mow, then we know they can probably be in a smaller tractor,” Purkerson said. “It might take you a while longer to get the job done with a smaller tractor, but it’s still going to do the same work.”

Anderson said used tractors are a good option for farmers who don’t want to buy new, and if tractors are taken care of, they hold their value well. He noted that one common mistake buyers make when shopping for a used tractor is emphasizing what year it was made. That’s not important, according to Anderson. He said that rather than the year, hour meters are a better gauge of how much a tractor has been worked. He said low-use tractor hours range from 200 to 300 hours and medium-use tractor hours are up to 2,000 hours. Tractors with more than 2,000 hours can still be a good buy depending on how they’ve been cared for.

“If you see a good used one, grab it,” he said.

These tips will help increase tire life Thu, 2 Oct 2014 09:17:51 -0400 LACEY JARRELL More tractor tires are being built to last, but basic care can extend their use even further.

Superior Tire commercial sales representative Skyler Marti said he regularly sees tires outlive the equipment they are on. He said modern tires are getting taller, and they can carry more weight, but tires naturally dry out over time and being constantly exposed to the elements speeds up the process.

“If you can store that tractor indoors, you’re doing that tractor a huge service. A lot of times the tire will rot off before it will wear out,” Marti said.

Mack DeYoung, senior purchasing agent for Les Schwab Tire Centers, said air pressure is another crucial factor — especially in winter when equipment can sit for long periods of time — for ensuring tire longevity.

“You don’t want them going flat or sitting flat, which can cause cracks in the tire,” DeYoung said. “That’s for any kind of tire — even a wheelbarrow.”

Whether the equipment is in use, DeYoung said, it’s important to maintain tire inflation based on the manufacturer’s specifications. When it comes to ag operation in the winter versus operation in the summer, equipment owners still need to follow the right air pressure based on the load being carried on each axle and the vehicle’s average speeds.

The faster the tractor drives, the less weight a tire will carry, he added.

Marti said if power hopping — when a tractor has too much horsepower the tires slip and grab quickly — is an issue, tires can be weighted with liquid ballast for traction.

“It’s a safety hazard for the operator. By putting weight on the tractor, you’re decreasing the horsepower and making it safer,” Marti said.

According to Marti, a new biodegradable liquid ballast is replacing a corrosive calcium chloride ballast that was used in the past. The biodegradable liquid is non-corrosive and won’t harm crops if it leaks onto the ground, he said.

“Typically you do it when it’s rainy and you need to put some extra weight to the ground. A lot of the time, you leave it in there year-round,” he said.

To help further preserve ag tires, DeYoung said equipment owners and operators should try to avoid on-road driving as much as possible.

“Eliminate any hard surfaces; it doesn’t just have to be asphalt. It could be concrete; it could be hard-packed dirt,” he said.

DeYoung said the easiest way to extend the life of rubber tractor tracks, aside from proper alignment, is to avoid making heavy, sharp turns at the end of a field.

“It can bind that track up. It can twist it,” he said. “It can roll up the edges and it can detrack it if there’s enough lateral pressure.

“If you can make as wide and easy of a turn as possible, that will definitely help the longevity of a rubber track.”

First stop for equipment purchases should be accountant Thu, 2 Oct 2014 09:17:46 -0400 LACEY JARRELL Farmers and ranchers who want to upgrade their equipment should begin looking before the year-end, dealer representatives say.

“If you wait until the last two weeks of the year, it’s going to be hard to find what you are looking for,” said Jason Koning, store manager at Ag West Supply in Woodburn, Ore.

Cory Carroll, general manager at the Pape dealership in Albany, Ore., pointed out that the higher limits for the Section 179 deduction that had been available expired last January.

“It allowed customers to take that depreciation up front and it’s a huge tax incentive for them,” Carroll said.

According to Melissa Carlgren, a senior tax manager at Geffen Mesher in Portland, Ore., buyers should consider taxes when making purchases, but that shouldn’t be the only factor. She said Section 179, which applies to basically any equipment, has been generous in the past. This year, the deduction has been restored to its original limits.

“For 179, it’s limited to a $25,000 deduction and that’s only if your purchases are less than $225,000,” Carlgren said. “For most farmers it’s pretty easy to exceed that limit.”

Carlgren added that the $25,000 is an income-based flat deduction that requires purchasers make at least $25,000 per year. Right now, she said, no one knows if the limits will remain reduced or be increased to 2013 levels.

“We probably won’t know what the limits are going to be until after the mid-term elections in November. They can make (any changes) retroactive to the beginning of 2014,” Carlgren said.

Another incentive farmers have had in the past that is not in effect for 2014 is the bonus depreciation for 50 percent of the cost of a new asset placed in service, Carlgren said.

According to Carroll, ag professionals should sit down with their accountant to decide whether purchasing or leasing is right for them this year.

He said leasing is more flexible: “If you lease it for five years, you’re making a payment or several payments annually into the term — you can buy it then, but you also have the option just to give it back to the manufacturer. Buying it, you’re just setting it up on a contract.”

“The lease is a true expense and you can write 100 percent of it off,” Carroll said.

Bob McKee, sales associate for New Holland dealer S.S. Equipment in Corvallis, Ore., said there are pros and cons to leasing. It usually takes less money to get into a lease than it does to purchase a piece of equipment, but you have to come up with the money for the next go-around with a rental or a lease.

He noted, however, that interest rates are typically lower for purchases than they are for leases.

Energy Trust helps Oregon farmers save Thu, 2 Oct 2014 09:17:36 -0400 LACEY JARRELL Capital Press

Property owners only have to wait four to six weeks for energy-saving rebates from Energy Trust of Oregon.

According to Susan Jowaiszas, a senior marketing manager for Energy Trust, in 2013, the nonprofit paid out more than $1.5 million in irrigation and greenhouse incentives for 341 projects. Energy rebate programs available now will continue into 2015, she said.

Most incentive programs are vendor-driven, meaning an industrial or wholesale supplier helps people get the most out of their energy dollars by determining the parts needed and total project costs for Energy Trust programs.

Doug Heredos, Energy Trust program manager for agriculture, said the most common incentives are rebates for irrigation hardware, such as sprinkler and gasket replacement.

According to Heredos, one online application form applies to all the irrigation rebates. He noted that Energy Trust does not have a maximum monetary rebate, but it does cap the incentive based on project costs. For example, there isn’t a limit on the number of leaky or inefficient sprinklers that can be replaced with new low-pressure sprinklers, but total rebates for entire sprinkler projects will usually be around 30 percent of the market value.

“Nozzles, gaskets, sprinklers — we just add up all the project costs and make sure the incentive does not exceed that,” Heredos said. “If you were replacing a worn sprinkler with a new one, you could get $4 per sprinkler.”

Other incentive programs popular with irrigators offer rebates for updating handlines and mainlines. Heredos said irrigators can receive up to $2.75 for each replaced gasket and $10 for each section of repaired handline. The handline repairs can range from fixing cracked welds to pressing on new ends, he said.

Oregon residents can also receive a 25-cents-per-kilowatt-hour rebate for upgrading to a drip irrigation system, according to Heredos. He said the rebate is available for up to 50 percent of the project cost.

“Drip irrigation is becoming more popular and more affordable, and it uses much less water,” Heredos said. “If you wanted to, you could remove the overhead system entirely and save a lot of water and a lot of energy.”

“We can offer incentives for new construction, but the incentive will be a little less than if they were upgrading,” he added.

Lighting is another logical place ag professionals can look for energy savings, according to Jowaiszas.

“The incentives are available,” she said.

Jowaiszas noted that Energy Trust offers several energy rebates ranging from solar to natural gas and geothermal. She said the solar program covers all of Energy Trust’s programs, so the incentives are the same regardless of the type of business or home it is for.

Adam Bartini, Energy Trust program manager for industrial and agriculture, noted that the lighting industry is rapidly evolving. He said the fast-paced nature of the industry has caused Energy Trust’s list of lighting rebates to be broad and ever-changing.

Bartini said ag professionals looking to incorporate energy upgrades into their operations should review the directory on the Energy Trust website to learn about local vendors who can help with project cost estimates.

ATVs need winter care to keep in top shape Thu, 2 Oct 2014 09:17:23 -0400 LACEY JARRELL Capital Press

Installing a windshield or buying a pair of fleece-lined handlebar mitts can help all-terrain vehicle and side-by-side owners stay comfortable this winter.

The mitts are 90-degree sleeves that encompass handlebars and the driver’s hands while allowing for full steering rotation, according to Skyler Goar, a Polaris parts manager at I-5 Powersports in Albany, Ore.

ATV owners can warm things up a little more by installing handlebar and throttle heating elements, Goar added. Handlebar heating elements are virtually invisible because they are placed under the grip, and throttle elements are shrink wrapped over the thumb throttle.

“You would think your thumb is no big deal, but when you’re riding in the wintertime, and it’s cold, it literally feels like your thumb will fall off,” Goar said.

Side-by-sides don’t require all the bells and whistles that ATVs do, but they can be fitted with a windshield, windshield wipers, and defroster kit for winter use.

“You can basically make them like a car,” Goar said.

Also much like cars, ATVs and side-by-sides require maintenance for optimum winter performance or spring start-up after they have been stored, he added.

A basic oil and filter change is a good place to start. The most important factor for winter weather conditions is the right viscosity oil for colder temperatures, he said.

Brian Difani, assistant manager at Tread and Track Sports in Klamath Falls, Ore., said ATV and side-by-side owners need to look for non-friction oils that are labeled with additive packages for those vehicles. He said the specialized oil has to perform three jobs: it has to perform as an engine lubricant, a transmission oil and as an oil for gears inside the transmission.

“Buying it at your local dealership is your best bet; they should know what you need,” he said.

Difani said 10w-40 oil is suitable for climates with a broad range of temperatures, and 20w-50 works well in hotter climates. When ATV owners start seeing temperatures hover around zero, a lower viscosity oil like a 5w-30 or a 0w-30 — needs to be used.

Coolant fluid should be topped off before the weather gets too cold. If the radiator is already full, the coolant should be tested to learn the ratio of coolant to water, according to Goar.

“You want pure coolant in wintertime because any water in the system has a chance to freeze,” he said.

The preferred way to store ATVs is in a heated garage. If it’s outside, at the very least, it should have a outside waterproof, dustproof, cover that encloses the vehicle. In addition, when ATVs and side-by-sides sit for prolonged periods of time, owners should hook up a 2-amp trickle charger to the battery, according to Goar. He noted that because power sports batteries are smaller than automotive batteries, they lose their charge faster.

Electrical connections should also be inspected for cracks and damage.

“If plastic connections are already damaged, the combination of extreme cold with the rain and snow and condensation that comes with that, can sometimes start messing with electrical components,” Goar said.

Interest rates still low, but heading upward Thu, 2 Oct 2014 09:17:09 -0400 LACEY JARRELL As the economy continues to rebuild from the recession, short- and long-term interest rates are still low but could begin inching higher.

According to Mitch Stokes, manager at Northwest Farm Credit Services in Klamath Falls, Ore., short-term rates remain historically low. He said the low rates are primarily a result of the Federal Reserve not allowing them to move based upon market dynamics. Long-term rates have already started increasing as the economy picks up steam.

“Interest rates on the long-term end of the curve are higher than they were a year ago, and they are probably going to go higher as time goes on, but it’s a bit of a rocky increase,” Stokes said.

The increases are the result of an expanding domestic economy, he said.

According to Northwest Farm Credit Services Regional Vice President Bob Boyle, demand for farm real estate is higher today. He said some buyers are established farmers looking to expand operations, and others are investors attracted to profits in agriculture.

He noted that the boom isn’t across the board, and some real estate pockets in the Northwest are not generating a lot of interest.

“I don’t know that I would class it as either a buyer’s or seller’s market. I do know that I would describe this market today as one where I’m seeing significant stronger demand for farm real estate than I’ve seen in recent years,” Boyle said.

Boyle said he believes the demand — largely driven by increased profits — for farm real estate will continue into the foreseeable future.

“When you look at profitability in agriculture, we’re on a tremendous run. We’ve had profits at near-record levels for the last four years,” Boyle said. “We’re seeing those profits begin to dip a bit in 2014.”

Stokes said for the most part, now is a good time to secure a loan or to refinance, depending on when a loan was secured and the interest rate.

“If your loan was made prior to the 2009 recession, you might have a bit of a higher interest rate. There may be some opportunity to get a lower one before rates increase dramatically again,” he said. “I would say before this time next year, it needs to be looked at. We recommend to review at least annually.”

Stokes noted that short-term loans — geared toward ag operating costs — are generally based on a variable rate, and they can change daily. Long-term rates are typically 10 years or more and can be a combination of fixed or variable rates, depending on the needs of the farmer.