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Key Ag issues slipping away from Congress

September 30, 2010 --

Congressional Clock is Ticking on Priority Ag Issues
America Farm Bureau Federation

Looking ahead to midterm elections in early November, even with a post-election lame duck session, congressional lawmakers ultimately have only a few weeks before the end of the year to wrap up their unfinished business. Farmers and ranchers are hopeful estate tax reform and an extension of a number of expiring tax provisions, among other issues, will be addressed before the clock runs out.

One of agriculture’s top concerns is estate taxes. If Congress doesn’t act, on Jan. 1, 2011, the top estate tax rate will jump from non-existent this year to 55 percent, with only a $1 million exemption.

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Oregon Farm Bureau joins lawsuit on grazing fees

September 29, 2010 --

OFB joins lawsuit on grazing fees
By Oregon Farm Bureau

Oregon Farm Bureau and 11 other state Farm Bureaus in AFBF’s Western Region have petitioned the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to intervene in defending two agencies against a lawsuit over grazing fees on federal land. Two environmental groups, the Western Watersheds Project and the Center for Biological Diversity, are the named plaintiffs in the suit.

The case, filed against the BLM and Forest Service seeks a court order to require agencies to reconsider how grazing fees are calculated and to perform environmental impact analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act prior to issuing grazing permits each year. The effort seeks to increase the cost of permits and also slow down the approval process for all 200,000 permit holders in one fell swoop.

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Walden on Fox News over food safety

Historic Lumber Slump: Look at 2009 Totals

September 27, 2010 --

Historic Downturn In Lumber Markets Shows In Final Totals For 2009
By Western Wood Products Association

PORTLAND – The Western lumber industry in 2009 posted its worst year for production in modern history, according to final statistics compiled by Western Wood Products Association.

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Capital mania over Colbert immigration testimony

September 26, 2010 --

By Cindy
National Corn Growers Association

Comedian Stephen Colbert, host of “The Colbert Report,” is “testifying” Friday morning before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International law at the hearing entitled “Protecting America’s Harvest.” The witness list for the hearing features Colbert batting clean up after testimony from United Farm Workers President Arturo S. Rodriguez, Virginia apple grower Phil Glaize and Vanderbilt University professor Carol Swain.

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Irrigation energy efficiency grant awards

September 25, 2010 --

Ag hopes to save more energy from every drop of water
— ODA announces irrigation energy efficiency grant awards
By Oregon Department of Ag.
As a whole, Oregon agriculture does a pretty good job getting the most out of every drop of water it needs. Oregon farmers and ranchers hope to get the most out of every bit of energy used to apply that water now that nearly $1 million in federal funds has been awarded to five in-state recipients of irrigation efficiency block grants.

“Many of our growers are already using highly efficient systems, and many more are interested in making efficiency improvements,” says Stephanie Page, renewable energy specialist and project manager with the Oregon Department of Agriculture. “This program offers a great way for irrigators to get cost-share for irrigation efficiency improvements that benefit the grower, the utility, and the environment.”

Water is the lifeblood of agriculture. In Oregon, irrigation is a necessity as rainfall is relatively scarce during much of the growing season throughout the state. Irrigation is used on about half of Oregon’s total crop land- about 1.7 million acres. Nearly 45 percent of Oregon’s growers rely on irrigation. However, that irrigated land produces 77 percent of the value of all the state’s harvested crops.

The focus of the block grant program is to save energy, but there are additional benefits.

“There will definitely be water savings from some of these projects,” says Page. “There could even be fertilizer savings because growers will be able to manage water applications more efficiently.”

Oregon’s irrigation systems often use state-of-the-art technology. Advancements include low-pressure systems and sprinklers, soil moisture testing linked to weather data, and computer controlled irrigation. Irrigation has truly moved into the 21st century, but there is always room to improve energy efficiency connected to the water use. That’s where the grants come in. Money has been made available from State Energy Program funds awarded to the Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE) through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus funds (ARRA), and the US Department of Energy.

“We’re excited about our partnership with ODA,” says Paul Egbert, acting manager of ODOE’s ARRA team. “This is a unique opportunity to impact energy and water savings, and to help Oregon growers operate more efficiently.”

Five grants have been awarded to applicants representing growers east of the Cascades. Some projects are looking at similar ways to spend the money, others are unique. Two of the more common expenditures will be on scientific irrigation schedule and variable speed drives.

“Scientific irrigation scheduling looks at a variety of factors- such as the crops being grown, the soil type, what kind of irrigation water application system the grower has- and a plan is developed that determines the appropriate amount of water for the crop during the season,” says Page. “It also involves installing soil moisture monitoring equipment and using weather information to help make decisions about when to irrigate. Variable speed drives allow the grower to use just the amount of energy they need to pump the water. Without one, a pump motor operates at full speed all the time, even if it isn’t necessary.”

All the funded projects offer an energy savings benefit for growers. Some save both energy and water.

The grant recipients include:

* Wy’East Resource Conservation & Development Council: This project focuses on scientific irrigation scheduling in the North Unit Irrigation District in the Madras area. Grant funds will help support soil moisture monitoring equipment that help growers decide when to apply irrigation water, and technical assistance to interpret data from the soil moisture monitoring equipment. The project has significant co-benefits in terms of water savings and water quality.
* Wasco County Soil & Water Conservation District: This project will fund irrigation pump upgrades and variable speed drives as well as scientific irrigation scheduling, all within the Fifteenmile Watershed in Wasco County. The project also has significant co-benefits in terms of water savings and water quality.
* Columbia/Blue Mountain Resource Conservation & Development Council: This project will support energy audits and efficiency improvements such as irrigation pump upgrades and variable speed drives. The project area is large – it includes Gilliam, Wheeler, Moro, Grant, and Umatilla counties, with the potential for additional areas.
* Klamath Soil & Water Conservation District: This project will fund pump upgrades and variable speed drives for irrigators in the Klamath Basin.
* Three Sisters Irrigation District: The district plans to use grant funds to upgrade an irrigation pump within the district. This will help the district save energy and reduce energy costs for irrigation water delivery.

With some of the unallocated funds, ODA plans a follow-up request for proposals for the Willamette Valley and Oregon coast- regions that did not submit any applications in the previous round.

Growers located within the five funded projects are encouraged to contact the grant recipients for more specifics about how they can participate. Irrigators not covered by these projects can contact ODA or ODOE to learn about other energy efficiency projects and grants outside the State Energy Program funds.

“We hope these types of programs encourage irrigators to buy more energy efficient equipment so they can save money on their own operations,” says Page.

Saving energy saves money for growers. Funding for the five projects will help growers with the up-front cost of installing more efficient equipment. Hopefully, that investment will pay itself back quickly because of the energy savings it generates.

For more information, contact Stephanie Page at (503) 986-4565.

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Oregon Association of Nurseries debuts new Director

September 24, 2010 --

Oregon Association of Nurseries Announces New Executive Director/CEO
— Jeff Stone to take the helm of the nursery industry advocacy group

[Wilsonville, Ore., Sept. 20, 2010] – Today the Oregon Association of Nurseries announced that Jeff Stone will be the new Executive Director/CEO of the association.

Stone has served as the organization’s Director of Government Relations since 2005. During that time he delivered landmark estate tax reform, metal theft legislation, hoop house tax protection, and land use changes that positively affected the industry. He also created and co-chaired the Coalition for a Working Oregon, a group that brought business representatives together to shape the immigration debate in Oregon and Washington, DC.

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Warning signs hit Oregon wine industry

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Natural Resource News Note:   Two media items highlight the risk facing Oregon’s wineries and vineyards.    The risk is either a great year or a serious set-back according to local wineries.

The Oregonian ran an artcile “Oregon wine-grape growers struggle to salvage a worrisome crop”.  Here is an excerpt:

A cool spring, followed by a summer that saw only sporadic heat spikes, has shoved harvest back anywhere from two weeks to a full month, especially in the northern Willamette Valley. That opens the harvest to potentially drowning rains and botyrtis, a moldy fungus that thrives in damp, humid conditions.

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National Energy Standard Bill Surfaces in DC

September 23, 2010 --

California Legislature Fails to Pass 33% Renewable Portfolio Standard
by Jason A. Johns
Stoel Rives LLP
NW Law Firm

Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Sam Brownback (R-KS), with Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Susan Collins (R-ME), Tom Udall (D-NM), Mark Udall (D-CO) and others joining, announced today that they will introduce a stand-alone Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) bill.  The bill will require sellers of electricity to obtain the following milestones in adding renewable energy resources or energy efficiency:

2012-2013 – 3%
2014-2015 – 6%
2017-2018 – 9%
2019-2020 – 12%
2021 – 2039 -15%

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Wolf Plan, Measure 76, AG meets with Natural Res. groups

September 22, 2010 --

By Jim Welch,
Oregon Cattlemen Association

Wolf Conservation Plan

OCA president Bill Hoyt, OFB president, Barry Boshue and OCA PA, Jim Welsh provided oral testimony during the ODF&W Wolf Plan discussions in Hillsboro on September 2nd. During the meeting it became apparent that ODF&W will not give the opportunity for Wildlife Services to be the lead agency in determining wolf kills. It is furthermore apparent they will not provide producers some of the necessary tools OCA has asked for to reduce wolf/livestock conflicts. The agency staff, responsible for wolf management, is not providing the Commission members a factual accounting of the wolf kills episodes in eastern Oregon, due very possibly to lack of experience or lack of concern. The OCA Wolf Committee is skeptical, at best, with the possible outcome of the next Commission meeting scheduled on September 30th to take further comments and possible action to approve/disapprove or amend the staff recommendations on the Oregon Wolf Conservation Plan, five year review.

Ballot Measure 76

Oregon voters will get a chance to vote on this measure that will continue the 15% lottery revenues for parks, water quality and fish and wildlife habitats that were established in 1999 by BM 66. There were OCA members at the Quarterly meeting in Pendleton that voiced opposition to the measure due to lack of oversight and annual auditing of expenditures. There were also OCA members expressing support for the measure because they have, or a neighbor or friend has, experienced project help from OWEB in the past. Due to the lack of overall support for the measure OCA will remain neutral on BM 76.

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