Archive for February, 2011

Battle Over Beets Continues

Environmental groups failed to show that seed plants for Roundup Ready Sugar Beets would cause irreparable harm, a federal appeals court said Friday. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a  previous injunction that called for the destruction of the plants.

“We conclude the district court abused its discretion in granting a preliminary injunction requiring destruction of the steckling plants,” the court wrote. “Plaintiffs have not demonstrated that the … plants present a possibility, much less a likelihood, of genetic contamination or other irreparable harm. The undisputed evidence indicates that the stecklings pose a negligible risk of genetic contamination, as the juvenile plants are biologically incapable of flowering or cross-pollinating before February 28, 2011, when the permits expire.”

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State Legislative Update

Referred to the Voters!!! Victory for SCR – 001 (Ballot Measure Initiative Reform) successfully passed the full Senate and House this week with greater than 2/3rds support from both chambers in order to become a referred measure on the 2012 Ballot. Troy Bredenkamp, Exec. VP for CFB, testified as the voice for agriculture and rural Colorado on this measure in the House State Affairs Committee on Wednesday. Farm Bureau would like to thank all those legislators that supported this measure which will help to strengthen the voice for rural Colorado in the initiative process.

Also successfully passing the House chambers this past week and being referred to the Senate were the following measures:

HB 1004 – Rep. Baumgardner’s Farm Truck Registration bill

HB 1083 – Rep. Swerdferger’s Hydroelectricity and Pumped Hyrdo bill

HB 1084 – Rep. Baumgardner’s Modify Late Vehicle Registration Fee bill 

HB 1093 – Rep. Bradford’s Special Mobile Machinery Ownership bill

HB 1111 – Rep. Sonnenberg’s CDA Livestock Confidential Data bill

HB 1192 – Rep. Coram’s bill to give CDOT authority to authorize state highways for travel with longer vehicle combinations

DEFEATED:   HB 1165 (Align County Treasurer Water Dist. Fees) was successfully killed this week (2/23) in the House Local Government Committee. CFB was working in opposition to this bill which would have allowed the county treasurer’s office to dramatically increase fees for their services to collect irrigation and drainage district assessments. There was testimony for willingness of a more appropriate increase in this fee; however, this bill would have caused an unreasonable fee increase for some of our irrigation districts across that state that would have seen their fees go from $100 to greater than $12,000.

The Weekly Links

Panel rules against homeowner who said fracking fouled well
The Denver Post

The controversial oil-industry technique known as fracking went on trial at the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission on Tuesday — and fracking won.

Colorado Humane Lobby Day 2011
HumaneWatch.org
Does the First Baptist Church of Denver know it hosted a lobbying event for HSUS?

National FFA gets boost from Monsanto
Brownfield
A $1 million dollar investment by St. Louis based Monsanto Company will be used to help support 14 National FFA Programs in 2011.

Experts Bullish on Ag Industry at Governor’s Forum

In an upbeat and optimistic Governor’s Forum on Colorado Agriculture, speakers weighed in on what Colorado agriculture producers can expect from their industry in the future. This year’s theme was “Today’s Vision for Tomorrow’s Food System.”

In his remarks to the gathering, Gov. Hickenlooper said that he has learned much about the importance of agriculture and rural Colorado over the course of his campaign.

“I realized that rural areas are what gives Colorado its identity,” he said. “It’s the rural areas that make Denver, Denver.”

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Microbes Help Farm Kids Have Lower Asthma Rates

New research reveals that farm kids have lower asthma rates than city kids because they are exposed to a wide range of microbes. School-aged children in the studies who lived on farms were about 30 percent to 50 percent less likely to have asthma than non-farm children who lived nearby.

Farm kids were also exposed to more bacteria and fungi than the other children, according to the study appearing in the Feb. 24 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The research shows that exposure to bacteria and fungi from environmental sources like dirt and animal hair early in life protects against asthma and allergies by helping the immune system develop normally.

Farm Program Cuts Not Part of Continuing Resolution

Congressmen walk down the steps of the Capitol on Saturday morning, capping an all-night session.

In an early Saturday morning vote, the House approved H.R.1, the continuing resolution to fund the federal government for the rest of this fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, that includes $60 billion in spending cuts and a number of amendments designed to impede President Barack Obama from carrying out his policies

Final passage came on a 235-189 vote just before dawn, after an all night-session and a week of debate where almost 500 amendments were considered. Amendments to put caps on farm program payments were defeated on direction from House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), who said discussion on farm subsidy cuts should wait until the 2012 farm bill debate.

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Committee to Hold Oversight Hearing on Interior Department

Today I received the following notice, located below, from the House Natural Resources Committee. This issue is one of great inportance to CFB members because this order basically decalres Congress null and void when determining what is wilderness.

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Notes From the House Ag Committee Hearing

HB 1150 – Rep. Becker’s Concerning additional revenues for water storage projects bill was PI’d (LOST) in Committee on Monday. Rep. Becker had worked out an agreement with DNR and been in communication with Rep. Sonnenberg to see this deal through, that if Rep. Becker pulled the bill DNR would require that DOW designate funds in their five year master plan to be specifically for water projects. They are to designate ~$6 Million over the next five years. With much heated opposition on this measure, this was believed to be the best option. Farm Bureau is proud of the work Rep. Becker has done to work to make water storage projects a priority.

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The Federal Budget, the CR, and You

Potential Government Shutdown Could Affect Producers

It is strongly advised that if you need to do business with an FSA office, BLM office or any other federal government office, do it before March 4.

As you no doubt have heard the House of Representatives spent the majority of last week debating what is known as a Continuing Resolution.  Continuing Resolutions, or CR’s as they are known in Washington, DC speak, are short term budget measures used to fund the federal government while Congress debates a budget.  Shortly before the end to the 111th Congress passed CR until March 4th.

If by 11:59pm on March 4th Congress has not passed and the president has not signed either a budget or a CR then the federal government will shut down.  While no one wants this to happen, but it looks like there is a real possibility of it happening.  The last government shutdown occurred in 1995.

Some of you will be saying that a shutdown of the government is not such a bad thing.  But,  if the government shuts down, that will mean the FSA offices, BLM offices and any other federal office will not be able to do business.

Hopefully we will not see a government shutdown, but the best advice I can give is to plan as if it is going to happen.

State Legislative Update

Here is a highlight of some of the major happenings from the Colorado State House and Senate this week:

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The Weekly Links

Rural Post Offices Put on Notice
USA Today
The U.S. Postal Service plans to close 2,000 post offices.

Food Chain: Do Spiking Food Prices Warn of Generalized Inflation?
Schwab.com
Recently, it’s the shocking spike in food and, to a lesser degree, energy prices that has elevated the worries again that “core” (excluding food and energy) inflation will follow.

Interior to give oil shale a ‘fresh look’
Salt Lake Tribune
The Interior Department announced it will review and revise regulations for commercial-scale development of oil shale resources in Utah, Wyoming and Colorado.

Bill to create Neb. horse inspection agency advances
Journal Star
A controversial bill that would establish a state meat inspection program as a first step to opening horse slaughter and processing plants in Nebraska advanced from the Legislature’s Agriculture Committee on Tuesday afternoon.

Mont. governor: State will ignore U.S. protections and kill gray wolves
USA Today
Montana’s Democratic governor told the Obama administration today that his state would now ignore federal protections for the gray wolf and begin removing whole packs that prey on cattle and elk.

Amendment Debate on H.R. 1 Continues in House

After three days of debate on H.R. 1, the continuing resolution to fund the government for the remainder of this fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, the House has considered more than 80 of 583 amendments, either by voting on them, declaring them out of order or having them withdrawn.

A unanimous consent agreement has been reached that limits the number of amendments that are in order. Voting on the amendments continues today. Farm Bureau has a position on three of the amendments that are still being considered.

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Washington Recap

The House of Representatives:

House Floor:

The House spent the majority of the week considering amendments to H.R. 1, the Continuing Resolutions Act of 2011.  This measure would fund the United States government until later in 2011 when the FY2012 federal budget is considered.  At the time of writing this, a final vote had not been taken.  The amendment process saw over 500 amendments for the House to work through.  I hope to have the status of amendments of interest to Colorado Farm Bureau members sorted out and if they passed or failed soon.

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Proposed Rule Would Let Forest Service ‘Go Local’

The Obama Administration last week proposed a new rule that would give local national forest directors more control over their natural resources. The proposed rule overturns a decades-old policy that leaves forest management decisions to officials in Washington.

The planning rule would allow forest managers additional control over the development of Forest Service land management plans. The proposed change is made with an eye to increasing forest and watershed restoration and resilience, habitat protection, sustainable recreation, and management for multiple uses of the National Forest System, including timber.

“The proposed rule will provide the tools to the Forest Service to make our forests more resilient to many threats, including pests, catastrophic fire and climate change. Healthy forests and economically strong rural communities form a solid foundation as we work to win the future for the next generation,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

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Amendment Seeks to Kill Funding for Wild Horse Managment

Debate continues today on the Continuing Resolution in the U.S. The bill would fund the government for the rest of the current fiscal year. Many amendments have been proposed and AFBF has taken a position on 22 of them.

Today an amendment was approved that would cut $2 million from the Bureau of Land Management’s budget in protest over the agency’s wild horse roundups. Indiana Republican Dan Burton says his amendment is intended to send a signal to BLM officials that most Americans want the mustangs treated more humanely on public lands. Virginia Democrat Jim Moran says Congress passed a law 40 years ago to protect the horses on the range, but that today there are more than 40,000 in holding pens and only 30,000 in the wild.

Wyoming Republican Cynthia Lummis was among those opposed. She says the well-meaning horse advocates are “loving the creatures to death” by fueling overpopulation of herds that damage the rangeland they depend upon.

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Analysts Don’t Expect Big Crop Shifts This Year

The overall mix of crop production across the country this year is likely to be the same as last year, according to the Wall Street Journal. Prices of all commodities are soaring, and there shouldn’t be a big shift from one crop to another.

Analysts expect next month’s planting intentions report by the Agriculture Department will show only minor changes, which could help the price rally for farm commodities.

It will also prove difficult to put more cropland into production. Gerald Bange, chairman of USDA’s World Agricultural Outlook Board, signaled at AFBF’s annual meeting in Atlanta in January that 10.7 million acres could move into production this year, but some analysts believe this land won’t move into use because it is often less productive.

Moffat County Farm Bureau Gets Active at Local Level

Heeding President Shawcroft’s call to increase Farm Bureau activity at the local level, members of the Moffat County Farm Bureau are lobbying their county commissioners for a measure they say would help to improve the ag economy in the county.

Moffat County Farm Bureau Board Member Brent Brighton requested that Commissioners consider implementing a county agricultural sales tax exemption. Brighton asked the county waive the 2-percent county sales tax on agricultural equipment purchased by qualified farmers and ranchers.

The measure would have to go before voters.

The strength of Farm Bureau is vibrant county farm bureaus that expand their influence at the local level. Moffat County Farm Bureau has made a superb first effort. Please contact your regional manager for assistance in developing a local affairs program.

 

Farmland Values Climb in Midwest

Rising crop prices are helping farmland values climb in the Midwest, according to a report released Tuesday by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. The value of irrigated cropland jumped 14.8 percent, while the value of non-irrigated cropland moved up 12.9 percent, compared to last year.

The bank’s quarterly survey of the 10th District region, which covers western Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Colorado and northern New Mexico, revealed that farmland prices rose for the fifth consecutive quarter since a drop in the third quarter of 2009, when the livestock sector was contracting due to the recession.

There is concern that farmland values may be climbing too high. “Bankers in the survey were starting to raise questions about the sustainability of farmland values and are paying closer attention to their loan-to-value ratios,” said Brian Briggeman, an economist at the Omaha branch of the Kansas City Fed.

2011 CFB Womens Leadership Conference

Its that time again! Celebrate spring with the CFB Women’s Leadership Committee’s 2011 Women’s Leadership Conference in Glenwood Springs.

There will be speakers on becoming better ‘ag-vocates’ for agriculture, workshops to help you in your business and personal life and “funshops”, – learning and sharing with other women in agriculture. Plan a family vacation to historic Glenwood and the Hot Springs! An optional tour on Saturday, April 2nd includes a ride on the gondola, followed by lunch and a tour of Glenwood Caverns. Family welcome!

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USDA Forecasts Net Farm Income at $94.7 Billion

USDA expects net farm income to be $94.7 billion in 2011, up $15.7 billion, or 19.8 percent, from the 2010 forecast, despite a $20-billion jump in production expenses.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the report is good news for producers and indicates that economic improvement is underway in much of rural America. “Potential record or near record prices for commodities like corn, wheat, soybeans and cotton reflect the fact that our trading partners continue a strong demand for food and fiber produced by America’s farmers,” Vilsack said.

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Colorado Loses Farms, Ranches

According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service the number of farms and ranches in Colorado shrank by 100 operations in 2009, while the total land in production shrank by a negligible amount. The number of farms and ranches in the entire country remained unchanged from 2009.

The report also said that while the average size farm in Colorado was 864 acres, the average size farm in the United States was 418 acres.

(Image: Awesome Joolie)

Budget Day!

President Obama is set to release his $3.73-trillion, 216-page budget for FY 2012 today at 10:30 a.m. est.

For the current year, the White House projects a $1.6 trillion deficit. Outlays would drop in 2012 and stabilize in the $3.7 trillion range as deficits fall to $1.1 trillion in 2012 and then $768 billion in 2013.

***Update***

President’s Budget Ends Payments to Top-Earning Farmers

In his fiscal 2012 budget plan released today, President Barack Obama proposed eliminating federal farm payments to U.S. farmers with the highest adjusted gross incomes (AGI). President Obama argued that under the current system, payments distort the farm sector and some farmers are paid even when no crops are grown.

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Legislative Briefs…

The Colorado General Assembly has got down to business this week, addressing numerous pieces of legislation. The Senate has been dealing with supplemental bills, trying to refill the hole in this current fiscal year’s general fund budget. Those measures will move to the House next week.

Last week Farm Bureau assisted in killing SB 17, a bill which would have increased Anhydrous Ammonia Incident Reporting Requirements. CFB has agreed to further discussions over the interim with the Department of Ag to understand what exactly needs to be addressed with reporting incidents. The Senate State Affairs Committee killed a number of measures this week including, SB 35 – Prohibit Severance Related Revenue to Gen Fund.

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The Weekly Links

Lawsuit aims to block plans for uranium mill in southwestern Colorado
Denver Post
Colorado residents want a judge to block state health and environmental regulators’ approval for construction of the nation’s first new conventional uranium mill since the Cold War.

Lawmakers Attempt to roll back renewable energy standards
Reuters
Legislators in Montana, Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri are trying to weaken or dismantle renewable energy mandates policies, citing jumps in energy costs.

Arizona sues federal government, cites failure to secure U.S.-Mexico border
Arizona Daily Star
Going on the offensive, the state on Thursday sued the federal government, charging it has failed to meet its legal responsibility to secure the border.

China Lifts Farm Subsidies
Wall Street Journal
Nation encourages more grain output to fight food-price inflation.

 

HughesNet

I signed an agreement this week to offer members discounts with HughesNet internet satellite service.  The program offers Farm Bureau members a 10% discount on Hughesnet service as well as other significant discounts if the member is eligible to receive services through the American Recover and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funded by USDA.

Membership Billings

I got a call from a county president this morning about the new county billing procedures.  They had a county secretary from another county call them with questions.  Their questions were asking if the billing amounts had changed and why the state didn’t absorb more of the cost on the producer members.  If you get these questions I want you to be able to answer them.  First off, billings for membership have not changed since anniversary dues were started.  In fact, billing costs have went down because of billing efficiencies.  The county is billed $1.55 per member, this is to cover the costs for printing, postage and the membership cards.  The cost of the database, database maintenance, design and staff are all absorbed by the state organization.  Secondly, we do not bill the costs of membership differently if it is producer or basic member.  The costs are the same.

Drury Hotels

I met with the Drury this week. They would desperately like our business back and have recently remodeled their rooms.  I told them that we would continue to offer their discounted room rate to our members, however, it is difficult for many to use the discount as they only have three Drury Inns in Colorado.  As a gesture the board will stay at the Drury for the April board meeting. The Drury offers an evening happy hour as well as morning hot breakfast.

Legislative Conference

I broke out the bill for the legislative conference.  Overall the bill was quite a bit higher than previous years.  The main reason for the cost increase was paying for meals of people that did not show up.  The LC portion of the bill was about $1700 higher than last year.

Foundations and Endowment Meeting

Last week Shawn and I participated in a meeting focused on establishing and growing foundations.  I think we both took home some information that could help CFB.  We will be meeting with Troy to go over our observations.

Washington D.C. Recap

This week was a light week in Washington, DC because of CPAC holding their annual meeting.

House of Representatives:

House Floor:

The House met for 2 days this week.  The House began debate on extending expiring provision of the USAPatriot Act.

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USDA Unveils Proposed Forest Planning Rule

The USDA Forest Service unveiled its proposed Forest Planning Rule on Thursday to establish a new national framework to develop land management plans in the National Forest System.The proposed rule includes new provisions to guide forest and watershed restoration and resilience, habitat protection, sustainable recreation and management for multiple uses of the National Forest System, including timber.

Publication of the proposed planning rule in the Federal Register will kick off a 90-day public comment period, ending May 16. The Forest Service will use comments to develop a final rule.

The Pulse will feature a more in depth look at the proposed rule next week.

(Image: paraflyer)

Washington Egg Bills Aim to Short-circuit HSUS Initiative

Egg producers in Washington are working to prempt HSUS and its planned ballot measure to limit the food choice of citizens in the state. Two bills which carry bipartisan support are working their way through the Washington legislature would establish minimum standards for egg laying hen farms.

The bills would codify the United Egg Producer production and housing standards into Washington law. The program addresses such issues as hen space requirements, air quality, handling standards, hen treatment and facility requirements.

Kiasa Kuykendall, of Stiebrs Farms in Yelm, Wash., told the senators the HSUS asked her farm to go 100 percent cage-free. About 5 percent of her farm’s eggs are from cage-free hens.

“The proposed ban (on cages) would go against the customers. We would not survive,” she said.

(Image: Offbeat Photography)

Vilsack Sees Enough Corn for Food, Feed, Fuel and Exports

The Agriculture Department’s dramatic 9 percent cut in the estimate of corn stocks puts the stocks-to-use ratio at the lowest level since the Great Depression, but Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he believes there will be enough corn for food, feed, fuel and exports.

Joe Glauber, USDA’s chief economist, said corn stocks will remain tight until 2012 and it will take time to rebuild. The stocks-to-use ratio for the 2010-2011 marketing year, which runs through Aug. 31, is estimated at 5 percent, the lowest since 1995-1996. In 1936-1937, during the Great Depression, the stocks-to-use ratio was the lowest ever at 4.5 percent. The average ratio is 13 percent.

 

EPA Administrator Jackson Grilled at Subcommittee Hearing

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson faced more than two hours of tough questioning at Wednesday’s hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power. Committee Republicans continually questioned the authority of EPA to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act and raised doubts about the legal, scientific and economic basis of rules proposed by the agency.

The hearing began at 9:30 a.m. and didn’t end until 5:30 p.m. Philip Nelson, president of the Illinois Farm Bureau, testified on behalf of AFBF and didn’t take the microphone until after 4 p.m. Republican members of the panel said EPA regulations will harm the economy and cost jobs.

“The EPA and the Obama administration have decided that they want to put the American economy in a straitjacket, costing us millions of jobs and billions of dollars a year. They couldn’t get it through the legislative process, so they’ve tried to do it by a regulatory approach. It’s not going to work,” said Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) in his opening remarks.

 

EPA GHG Regulations Brings ‘Double Economic Jolt’ to Ag

America’s farmers and ranchers will receive a “double economic jolt” from the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation of greenhouse gases, the American Farm Bureau Federation told a House subcommittee today.

Philip Nelson, president of the Illinois Farm Bureau, testified on behalf of AFBF before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power.

“First, any costs incurred by utilities, refiners, manufacturers and other large emitters to comply with GHG regulatory requirements will be passed on to the consumers of those products, including farmers and ranchers,” Nelson explained. “As a result, our nation’s farmers and ranchers will have higher input costs, namely fuel and energy costs, to grow food, fiber and fuel for our nation and the world.

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