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Senators debut Hydropower Improvement Act

March 22, 2011 --

Bipartisan Bill Introduced to Boost U.S. Hydropower Production, Jobs
— Hydropower Improvement Act would Expand Safe, Reliable, Clean Baseload Power
National Hydropower Association

Washington, D.C. (March 17, 2011) – As the nation looks for new sources of reliable clean energy, Energy and Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) today introduced bipartisan legislation to accelerate the deployment of hydropower projects across the country. The Hydropower Improvement Act has nine original cosponsors, including Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Washington Senator Maria Cantwell (D), making hydropower a major area of consensus on energy in the 112th Congress.

“It is now all too clear that America needs a consensus policy on energy that can help keep prices low, create jobs and ensure a safe supply of power,” Senator Murkowski said. “Clean, safe and domestic hydropower can help us reach our shared clean energy goals. Our bill achieves common sense regulatory reform, spurs economic growth and takes advantage of hydropower’s position as the country’s leading source of clean, renewable energy.”

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Congressional extension and Ag funds impact

March 21, 2011 --

Sixth CR Cuts $6 Billion and Extends Federal Funding to April 8
Wheat Growers-National

The federal government will be funded until April 8 under a new continuing resolution finalized this week.The House passed the bill Tuesday by a 271-158 vote; the Senate approved the measure Thursday by an 87-13 vote. The agreed upon amount of cuts to avoid a government shutdown for three weeks was $6 billion, which tracks with House Republican goals of reducing spending by a total of $100 billion from the Obama Administration’s FY2011 budget proposal. Cuts, which were largely pre-negotiated and announced last Friday evening with CR bill text, eliminated $2.6 billion in earmark account funding renewed in a continuing resolution passed in December.

Of that total, $358 million came from agricultural research funds, including $122 million from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s research and education mission; $115 from the Agricultural Research Service; $24 million from Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) salaries; $37 million from conservation programs; and $11 million from extension services.

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Imnaha wolf’s death unknown

March 20, 2011 --

Cause of Imnaha wolf’s death unclear
By Dept of Fish and Wildlife,

LA GRANDE, Ore.—The exact cause of death for the Imnaha wolf found dead in early March is unclear. Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory ran several tests on the carcass looking for injuries, disease and toxins but test results did not point to a specific cause of death. The only abnormal finding was some internal hemorrhage in the wolf’s chest cavity. Forensic analysis did not point to a clear cause of the hemorrhage but biologists believe the hemorrhage may have contributed to the wolf’s death.

While the cause of the wolf’s death is unclear, wildlife managers acknowledge that capture-related deaths of wildlife can happen.

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Small-woodland owners gain committee seat

March 19, 2011 --

Small-acreage forest owners in Oregon will have an additional voice in forest policy following a decision made by the Oregon Board of Forestry.
By Oregon Department of Forestry

The Board of Forestry, at its March 9, 2011 meeting, adopted an Oregon Department of Forestry recommendation to add a non-voting seat on the Committee for Family Forestlands designated for the Oregon Small Woodlands Association (OSWA), a membership association representing Oregon landowners with between one acre and 5000 acres of forest ownership in the state.

The Committee for Family Forestlands advises the Oregon Board of Forestry and the State Forester on ways to improve the vitality of Oregon’s family forestlands, evaluate the impact of forest policy and regulatory changes on family forest owners, and expand opportunities for landowners to manage and market their timber, forest product and other economic resources.

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Farm Bureau wins over EPA on livestock law

March 18, 2011 --

Farmers Prevail in Court Decision on EPA Livestock Rules
By American Farm Bureau Federation

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 16, 2011 – In a major court victory for the American Farm Bureau Federation and other farm organizations, a unanimous federal court of appeals has ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency cannot require livestock farmers to apply for Clean Water Act permits unless their farms actually discharge manure into U.S. waters. The ruling was welcomed by the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Pork Producers Council and several other agriculture groups that filed suit against EPA in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

“For the second time, a U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled that EPA’s authority is limited by the Clean Water Act to jurisdiction over only actual discharges to navigable waters, not potential discharges,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “We are pleased that the federal courts have again reined in EPA’s unlawful regulation of livestock operations under the Clean Water Act. The court has affirmed that EPA, like other federal agencies, can only regulate where it has been authorized by Congress to do so.”

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Idaho Legislature Considering Moratorium on Wind Development

March 17, 2011 --

Idaho Legislature Considering Moratorium on Wind Development

Stoel Rives LLP

By Teresa Hill

Two bills were introduced in the Idaho legislature last week, both of which could significantly impact the wind industry in Idaho. The first, H250, extends a sales or use tax rebate available to purchasers of qualifying machinery and equipment used in generating electricity from renewable resources. The rebate is currently set to expire as of July 1, 2011. Under the proposed legislation, the rebate would be extended for such purchases but only if the purchaser achieves commercial operation by December 31, 2014.

The second bill, H265, would impose a moratorium on the construction of new wind projects in Idaho for two years and directs the Interim Energy Committee to meet during that time and report on various wind related issues, including the impact of wind on power rates and the ability of utilities to integrate wind into their systems. The relevant moratorium language is excerpted below. Although initial reports of the bill stated that it would not apply to wind projects that are already under construction or have permits, that is not how the legislation is written. As proposed, it prohibits municipalities, counties and state agencies from “granting approval or issuing any new licenses or permits for the construction or operation of wind turbines that exceed one hundred (100) feet in height and have a nameplate capacity that exceeds one hundred (100) kilowatts.” A plain reading of this language means that a fully developed and “almost” fully permitted project with wind turbines already delivered on-site could be subject to the moratorium because of the inability to obtain building or other ministerial permits, which some Idaho counties require as each individual turbine is constructed.

We’ll continue to monitor closely as the future of Idaho’s wind industry is debated by the legislature.

61-1802. MORATORIUM ON CONSTRUCTION OF CERTAIN INDUSTRIAL WIND FARMS AND WIND TURBINES FOR A TIME CERTAIN. (1) From the effective date of this act until July 1, 2013, municipalities, counties and state agencies are prohibited from granting approval or issuing any new licenses or permits for the construction or operation of wind turbines that exceed one hundred (100) feet in height and have a nameplate capacity that exceeds one hundred (100) kilowatts. Projects that have been approved and for which the statute of limitations for legal proceedings of the state of Idaho against the project expire without any legal action against the project shall be allowed to be constructed. Projects for which legal proceedings are pending shall not be allowed to be constructed until the legal proceedings are complete and a court of competent jurisdiction finds that construction may proceed.

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Soaring gas prices forcing farmers to adapt

March 16, 2011 --

Spiking gas prices forcing farmers to adapt
By Ching Lee
California Farm Bureau Federation,

Yuba County rice grower Paul Baggett says he is feeling the sting of rising diesel prices. Baggett farms 2,000 acres and his operation consumes about 80,000 gallons of fuel annually.

As oil prices have soared in recent weeks due to rising tensions in the Middle East and fears of major supply disruptions, California farmers are bracing for a more difficult year with higher production costs that will erode farm income.

With fuel prices climbing even before the current spike, Yolo County farmer Gary Merwin said he decided to “drastically reduce” his irrigated crops because of the cost of diesel fuel to pump water.

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HB 3591: Water permit bill gets bipartisan support

March 15, 2011 --

Bipartisan Water Permitting Bill Out
– Helps cities and businesses deal with big fiscal impacts of having nation’s most stringent standards.
By John Ledger
Associated Oregon Industries

A bipartisan bill directing the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to minimize negative economic impacts when issuing variances in some water discharge permits has been introduced into the legislative hopper. Scores of Oregon industrial and municipal wastewater dischargers will need to obtain variances from the DEQ as the only way to meet Oregon’s proposed water quality standards, the toughest in the nation, and continue operation.

The proposed standards are the result of lawsuits and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requirements. They are so stringent as to be un-meetable without a DEQ variance for literally dozens of pollutants.

The variance process is expected to begin late this year or early next after the DEQ formally adopts, and the EPA approves, the new standards. Currently, details are unclear as to what new requirements will be inserted into variances. In some cases, the costs of expected additional conditions are estimated to run into the tens of millions of dollars.

Read the full article and discuss it »

Farmers call out burrito blunder

March 14, 2011 --

By National Corn Growers Association

Chipotle’s newest campaign to make a buck once again serves up an attack on farmers with a phony newspaper filled with self-promotion and at least one glaring error. At the risk of repeating a negative, they significantly downplay the role of family farms in an attempt to perpetuate a make-believe distinction between “family farms” and so-called “factory farms.” Their non-sourced stat provides a much lower number than reality; according to the USDA, family farms of different sizes account for 98 percent of farms and 82 percent of production.

And it really is nice they offer a column called “Ask Chipotle” but they really should provide contact information so we can send in questions.

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Three Imnaha Wolves Collared in Wallowa County

March 13, 2011 --

Three Imnaha Wolves Collared
BY Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife

ENTERPRISE, Ore.—Three additional wolves from the Imnaha Pack were collared by ODFW and its partners last weekend in Wallowa County. On Feb. 25 a gray yearling male was captured and collared with a GPS collar, a device that will automatically record its location and send the information to ODFW. Also on Feb. 25, a gray yearling female was captured and fitted with a radio collar, a device that requires biologists to search for it with a radio. The following day (Feb. 26), a gray 2-year-old male was fitted with a GPS collar.

All of the wolves collared were in good body condition according to Russ Morgan, ODFW wolf coordinator. Further, all three wolves’ collars were located following the capture, indicating the animals had moved from the capture site.

Read the full article and discuss it »
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