Capital press. (Salem, OR) 19??-current, March 27, 2015, Page 13, Image 13

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    March 27, 2015
PCN-affected spud growers plead case to lawmakers
Capital Press
BOISE — Spud growers
who have spent nine years
dealing with federal regula-
tions designed to eradicate
potato pale cyst nematode
from a small area in East Idaho
traveled to the state’s Capitol
March 16 to plead for help.
They asked for more man-
ageable regulations and less
strict testing requirements that
they said are far tougher than
world standards.
Steve France, who has
farmed for 50 years, said the reg-
ulations are difficult to live with.
“The last two years have
really hammered us financial-
ly wise,” he told members of
the House Agricultural Affairs
Committee. “It’s about more
than we can take.”
PCN, a parasite that can sig-
nificantly reduce potato yields,
was first detected in Idaho in
a small area around Shelley in
2006. Eighteen growers in that
area are in a federal PCN mon-
itoring program, which regu-
lates 7,734 acres, including 26
infested fields encompassing
2,897 acres.
Shelley farmer Bryan Searle
said those growers have faced
stiff and unnecessary regula-
tions and they have been asked
to bite the bullet for the entire
Idaho potato industry by helping
ensure the parasite is not spread.
“If we’re going to carry one
for the team, we need help to
continue,” he said. “We feel
it’s time we received ... some
financial help.”
Searle and France were
among 16 growers who came
to Boise to educate lawmak-
ers about the PCN regula-
tions and the financial diffi-
culties they are facing.
Mark Mickelsen of Rigby
said the regulations have cost
his farm $700,000 in the past
six months alone.
Kirt Oler said they cost him
about $40,000 this past year
and he has decided to no longer
grow potatoes.
“I’m much too small to afford
something like that,” he said.
A bill supported by the
growers that would have al-
lowed them to ask the Idaho
Potato Commission for a refund
of the state’s potato assessment
was rejected by the House ag
National wheat yield contest planned
Capital Press
The National Wheat Foun-
dation plans to revive a nation-
wide wheat yield competition,
hoping it will drive grower in-
novation and lead to improved
production methods.
The industry last hosted a
yield competition in 1993, said
National Wheat Foundation
Chairman Dusty Tallman.
Tallman said the foundation
— a sister organization of the
National Association of Wheat
Growers tasked with wheat pro-
motion and education — hopes
to iron out rules in April and
have the contest ready for win-
ter wheat planted this fall. Com-
panies including John Deere,
BASF and Monsanto have al-
ready agreed to be partners.
The foundation met in Jan-
uary in Washington, D.C., for
its first contest organizational
Tallman said U.S. corn and
soybean growers have learned
from top growers in their own
yield competitions, which have
spurred the implementation of
cutting-edge production meth-
ods into more fields.
John O’Connell/Capital Press
The 2015 spring wheat crop is planted in southeast Idaho. The
National Wheat Foundation is reviving a U.S. yield competition to
drive innovation in the industry.
“The reason we want to do
this is to help drive innovation
in the industry,” Tallman said.
“We look at what corn has done
with increases in their yields.
Wheat yields have continued to
grow, but it’s a fraction of corn.”
The National Corn Growers
Association awards trophies to
the top three growers in each of
six classes — based on soil type,
irrigation or dryland and tillage
— for each corn state. Rachel
Jungermann-Orf, manager of
the corn yield competition, said
415 growers were recognized as
winners in 2014, and seed and
equipment companies offered
special prizes to winning pro-
ducers who used their products.
The association requires
minimum 10-acre plots, and
many growers later expand
practices used in their contest
plots to their other commercial
plots, she said. In 2014, she said
six corn contest growers topped
400 bushels per acre.
“It’s a good trial and error
for them,” Jungermann-Orf
said, adding the contest also
highlights hybrid advances
made by seed companies.
Tallman said the wheat com-
petition will likely be divided by
region, with subcategories for
irrigated or dryland, winter or
spring planting and the six dif-
ferent wheat classes. He hopes
land-grant universities will get
involved and share their latest
research with growers seeking to
push yields.
Travis Jones, executive
director of Idaho Grain Pro-
ducers Association, said Idaho
should be competitive, both on
dryland farms in the Northern
Panhandle and irrigated farms
in the south and east. Jones said
Idaho’s wheat industry has ad-
vocated for quality as a contest
Wheat Foundation board
member Wayne Hurst, of Burley,
Idaho, said U.S. wheat grow-
ers averaged in the mid-30s for
bushels per acre when he was in
high school, and today, that aver-
age remains in the low-40s.
In 2008, Hurst said the foun-
dation set a goal of improving
wheat yields by 20 percent over
the course of a decade, and the
competition is part of the effort to
“send a clear signal to private re-
searchers throughout the country
that wheat growers are finally se-
rious about improving yields.”
committee earlier in the session.
Stephanie Mickelsen, Mark
Mickelsen’s wife, said grow-
ers in the PCN monitoring area
have their soil tested at a rate
of up to 40 pounds per acre,
while the world standard is 1.3
pounds per acre.
“We’re putting the Idaho
potato industry at a huge disad-
vantage if we continue to test at
such high rates in Idaho and they
aren’t going to have the same
testing in other places,” she said.
Searle said he believes
if other states and countries
tested for PCN at the same
rate growers in Idaho’s PCN
area are tested at, the parasite
would be discovered in a lot
of other places.
“These testing rates are way
beyond what the rest of the
world is doing,” said Jared Wat-
tenbarger, president of the new-
ly formed “Idaho PCN Group.”
Rep. Ken Andrus, a Re-
publican rancher from East
Idaho and chairman of the
House ag committee, said he
invited the growers to Boise
so lawmakers could better
understand the situation they
are facing.
U.S. attorney settles wildfire
lawsuit with Idaho rancher
Capital Press
The U.S. Attorney’s of-
fice in Boise has settled a
lawsuit for fire suppression
costs against Gooding, Idaho,
sheep producer John Faulk-
ner and Faulkner Land and
Livestock Co.
$88,000 of the approximate-
ly $124,000 in suppression
costs in the case that involved
two fires, the Faulkner fire in
September 2008 and the Cas-
tlerock fire in September 2010.
Both fires started when pre-
scribed burns on Faulkner’s
private land near Gooding
escaped to federal land on a
windy afternoon, said Assis-
tant U.S. Attorney Amy Howe.
Faulkner did have a burn
permit, she said.
Both fires occurred on
Forest Service land, threat-
ening additional federal land,
and required both ground and
air attacks, Howe said.
The Faulkner fire burned
21 acres of federal land in the
area of Little Canyon Creek
and Bennett Mountain Road.
It began around 3 p.m. on
Sept. 19, 2008, and was con-
trolled shortly before mid-
night, she said.
The Castlerock fire burned
82 acres of federal land in the
area of U.S. Highway 20 and
Pine Featherville Road. It be-
gan about 3:30 p.m. on Sept.
15 and was suppressed in the
early evening of Sept. 17, she
Faulkner had insurance to
cover the suppression costs,
she said.
The money collected will
reimburse the U.S. Forest
Service and Bureau of Land
Management for funds ex-
The settlement is not an
admission that the U.S. At-
torney’s office had a weak
case, nor is it an admission
of liability by Faulkner,
Howe said.
Idaho burn permits re-
quire permit-holders to pro-
vide adequate containment
equipment and personnel to
contain private burns. The
permits also require citizens
to refrain from burning in
windy conditions.
Ag-backed trail bill passes Idaho Legislature
Capital Press
bill barring the use of eminent
domain to build recreational
paths is headed to Gov. Butch
Otter for his signature.
It is supported by the Idaho
Farm Bureau Federation and
other agricultural organizations.
In February, the Senate vot-
ed 20-13 to pass S1044, and
the House approved it with a
54-15-1 vote on March 16. The
bill’s author, Sen. Jim Guthrie,
R-McCammon, said Otter plans
to sign it, though a spokesman
for the governor could not be
reached for comment.
Guthrie, a farmer and ranch-
er, said he became aware of the
need for the legislation a few
years ago, when he was a Ban-
nock County commissioner.
Property owners told him of
the City of Pocatello’s threats
to condemn their land to con-
nect segments of a paved path
following the Portneuf River,
called the Portneuf Greenway.
Guthrie said farmers and
ranchers far beyond the city lim-
its were concerned by the Port-
neuf Greenway Foundation’s
goals at the time of continuing
the trail for up to 30 miles into
the county.
“People tend to want those
greenways along the rivers,
and they go right through farm
land,” Guthrie said. “That was a
big concern of some in the agri-
cultural community.”
In 2011, as a member of
Idaho’s House of Representa-
tives, Guthrie introduced the
first version of the bill. It passed
the House but died without a
hearing in a Senate committee.
Following his election to the
Senate, Guthrie reintroduced the
bill in 2013, but it again failed
to pass out of committee. He
decided to give the legislation a
final try this session.
Guthrie believes building
trails will still be possible, but
negotiations with property own-
ers will have to take place in
good faith. Guthrie believes the
bill will be important for prop-
erty owners throughout the state,
based on the dozens of emails
he’s received from Idaho city
leaders opposing it.
In the case of the Portneuf
Greenway, foundation board
president Rory Erchul believes
the bill was unnecessary. He
said the board has long since
abandoned plans to use eminent
domain and has instead moved
on to building other sections of
trail, following a master plan
calling for a triangle of trails
around Pocatello and Chub-
But Erchul also contends
greenway trails serve the pub-
lic good, providing nonmotor-
ized transportation routes and
enticing businesses to locate in
communities. The choice of us-
ing eminent domain to complete
them should be a local issue, he
Erchul noted the Portneuf
Greenway’s former intention
was to use eminent domain on
public rights-of-way through
private property, on river levees
built and maintained with tax-
payer funding.
Idaho Farm Bureau spokes-
man John Thompson disagrees
that the public good served by
trail building warrants encroach-
ing on private property.