Capital press. (Salem, OR) 19??-current, June 23, 2017, Page 8, Image 8

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June 23, 2017
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Rain damages much
of Eastern Idaho’s
first alfalfa cutting
Capital Press
Doug Finicle recently cut
what he considered to be
a beautiful alfalfa crop —
at least before a couple of
heavy rainstorms arrived.
“It was weed free and cut
early, and it was dairy qual-
ity,” Finicle said. “I’d be
really surprised if it’s dairy
quality now.”
He’s one of several East-
ern Idaho farmers whose
hopes of a high-testing
first cutting of alfalfa were
quashed by storms.
Finicle, of Pingree, said
his hay is nearly dry and
ready to bale, but the quality
is compromised. He said the
hay market has picked up
compared to last year, but it
remains to be seen how the
recent rain will affect re-
gional hay prices.
“Before it rained, dairy
quality was maybe $150
per ton. Nobody is saying
anything now,” Finicle said.
“Maybe dairy quality went
up and feeder went down
because the supply of feeder
hay just increased.”
Dubois farmer Chad
Larsen said he started cut-
ting hay on June 5 and man-
aged to cut and bale two
pivots before he was forced
to stop on June 10, because
of rain.
He said about 95 percent
of his hay crop remains to be
harvested, and though yields
will likely be strong, the de-
layed harvest will likely ren-
der his crop feeder quality.
“I’m going to start back up
with the swathers tomorrow,”
Larsen said.
Larsen said there’s “quite
a bit of hay down” between
Idaho Falls and Dubois that
got wet.
Kelli Morrison arranges
transportation to haul hay
over a broad region, working
for a Boise satellite office of
Creswell, Ore.-based Cross-
wind Logistics.
Morrison said hay farmers
sustained heavy rain damage
to their first cuttings through-
out Eastern Idaho and in the
Weiser area, and there have
been fewer loads of good, dry
hay to ship recently.
“I’m usually shipping
about 100 loads per month,”
Morrison said. “This month,
I’ve moved nine. All of the
rain we’ve had has killed me.”
Reed Findlay, University
of Idaho Extension educator
for Bingham and Bannock
counties, said he recently as-
sessed rain-damaged alfalfa
in the Tyhee area near Po-
catello, which is still usable
but won’t make dairy quality.
Findlay believes quite a bit
of Eastern Idaho’s first cutting
of alfalfa was baled and out
of the field before the storms
arrived. Findlay added that
weather conditions were ide-
al for hay growth before the
“We’ve had way worse
rain storms that have ruined
a lot more hay than this past
rain storm,” Findlay said.
John O’Connell/Capital Press
Former farmland in Power County, Idaho, houses a new solar farm. Solar power is undergoing tremendous growth in Idaho.
Groundwater users leery
of solar power development
Capital Press
An organization representing
Idaho groundwater irrigators
is concerned about electricity
rates being driven up by the
rapid recent growth in solar
energy throughout the state.
Ground Water Appropriators
Inc. serve on three different
Idaho Power advisory com-
mittees to encourage the com-
pany to provide “reliable pow-
er at a fair price.” Electricity
is a major expense for farmers
who pump water from Idaho
wells, and are responsible for
25 to 30 percent of the power
company’s summer demand.
Rather than making cost-
ly upgrades to its coal-power
plants to meet federal clean
air requirements, Idaho Power
plans to phase out two of its
projects early — beginning in
2019, with a unit at the Valmy
plant it co-owns with Nevada
Energy. But the power com-
pany is forced by federal law
to buy qualifying clean energy
from projects that supply solar
or wind power.
The company’s annual re-
port for 2016 estimated the
cost of clean power it was re-
quired to purchase under the
federal Public Utility Regu-
latory Policies Act at $66.41
per megawatt-hour, compared
with $42.04 for other pur-
chased power.
For a select few farmers
who sell or lease their land for
wind or solar development, al-
ternative energy can provide a
financial boon. The remainder
are simply stuck with higher
power bills, Lynn Tominaga,
IGWA executive director, said.
“We are concerned about
the solar growth trend,” Tomi-
naga said. “The more solar you
put on, the more cost is pushed
onto the other rate payers.”
According to a report by
the Solar Energy Industries
Association, solar power rep-
resents 1.4 percent of the na-
tion’s power portfolio and is
expected to grow to 4 percent
by 2020, before the federal
Solar Investment Tax Credit
is reduced from 30 percent to
10 percent in 2021. The report
shows Idaho’s solar growth, at
132 new megawatts, ranked
fifth among states in the first
quarter of 2017 and represent-
ed a 60 percent increase in the
state’s solar capacity. Since the
start of 2016, Idaho passed 22
states to become the 17th larg-
est solar production state.
Tess Park, Idaho Power’s
vice president of power sup-
ply, explained a challenge with
solar and wind power is that
it isn’t reliable when the sun
isn’t shining or the wind isn’t
blowing, and the company
must have backup generation
capacity in place. To help ad-
dress that challenge the com-
pany plans to join with several
Western power companies to
pool resources through the En-
ergy Imbalance Market. The
market, run by California In-
dependent System Operators,
allows participants to purchase
the lowest-cost power on their
combined systems and dis-
patch it where it’s needed ev-
ery hour. Idaho Power plans to
go live on the market in April
2018. PacifiCorp is also a par-
“We may have a gas plant
that’s not fully dispatched,”
Park explained. “With this
market we may not have to
have that plant dispatched be-
cause we could get (power)
from the market, if it was less
New Treasure Valley water group takes on raft of issues Barley growers expect a good
nel maintenance to attempt to crop but not a record in 2017
Capital Press
BOISE — The Treasure
Valley Water Users Association
has taken on several important
issues since forming two years
ago this month.
The impetus for the group’s
formation was to fight the
state’s plan to count flood con-
trol releases from Boise River
system reservoirs against reser-
voir water storage rights.
“We’ve really been needing
something like this here for 30
years and ... this was the issue
that brought (water users) to-
gether in the Treasure Valley,”
said TVWUA Executive Direc-
tor Roger Batt.
That fight is headed to the
Idaho Supreme Court but in
the meantime the TVWUA has
delved into other issues import-
ant to water users in southwest-
ern Idaho.
“We seem to have our plate
full,” said TVWUA President
Clinton Pline, who represents
the Nampa and Meridian Irri-
gation District. “There are al-
ways plenty of things to work
on when it comes to water.”
Sean Ellis/Capital Press
The Boise River flows through Garden City in April. Formed in June
2015, the Treasure Valley Water Users Association now represents
320,000 of the 350,000 irrigated acres in southwestern Idaho. The
group is involved in many water-related issues, including the push
for more storage capacity on the Boise River system.
The association is involved
in an effort to obtain state fund-
ing to help farmers and ranch-
ers in the area implement best
management practices to im-
prove water quality. The group
helped convince lawmakers
this year to approve $500,000
in ongoing funding toward that
The association also holds
periodic “water colleges” for
local elected officials as well
as other decision makers and
media, is pushing for more
water storage capacity on the
Boise River system and wants
to update flow gages so water
managers have instant access to
complete river flow data.
The group is working with
the local flood district on chan-
get the Boise River flowing
Improving water quality
in drainage ditches is another
project the group hopes to get
involved in, and the TVWUA
wants to help irrigation districts
obtain funding to fully auto-
mate their head works, Pline
According to Batt, the group
now represents about 320,000
of the 350,000 irrigated acres
in Water District 63, which
stretches from Boise to Parma.
The group’s membership in-
cludes virtually every irrigation
district and canal company in
the region.
Those entities manage a
water delivery system of 1,500
miles of canals and laterals
that deliver water to farms and
ranches as well as golf courses,
subdivisions, parks and munic-
TVWUA has a wide range
of affiliate members, including
local Farm Bureaus, agribusi-
nesses, individual farms and
ranches and law firms.
Because the TVWUA’s area
includes the state’s three largest
cities and 14 of the state’s 42
legislative districts, the group
also has the potential to wield
significant political clout, Batt
“They are an effective
group. They have done some
good work so far and I expect
they will continue to do good
work,” said Sen. Steve Rice,
R-Caldwell, chairman of the
Senate Agricultural Affairs
Capital Press
BOISE — Idaho’s 2017
barley crop was planted as
much as three weeks later than
normal in some parts of the
state so there likely won’t be
a repeat of last year’s record
But growers, researchers
and industry leaders say there
have been no major problems
so far with the 2017 barley crop
and it should be a good one giv-
en a decent summer.
“Our barley crop won’t be
the exceptional crop we saw
last year but it’s still shaping up
to be a very decent crop,” said
Idaho Barley Commission Ad-
ministrator Kelly Olson.
During a conference call
with IBC board members,
University of Idaho grain re-
searchers Chris Rogers and Ju-
liet Marshall said barley plant-
ing was erratic in many areas
because of wet conditions.
Planting “was definitely
not as early as we’ve seen the
last few years,” Rogers said.
Planting in the Kimberly area
was 2-4 weeks behind in most
areas, he said.
Marshall said her winter
barley trials are about half the
size they’ve been this time the
past couple of years. But, she
added, “Pretty much every-
thing looks OK so far.”
Timothy Pella, who rep-
resents industry on the com-
mission, told Capital Press the
2017 crop is progressing well.
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Sean Ellis/Capital Press File
Barley grows in a Southwest-
ern Idaho field last July. Many
farmers report that wet weather
delayed planting this year, so
barley yields are likely to be
less than last year’s.
“I don’t see any major is-
sues at this time,” said Pella,
program manager at the An-
heuser-Busch elevator in Ida-
ho Falls.
Growers in North Idaho
had a difficult time getting bar-
ley planted this year due to a
wet spring, said Bonners Ferry
grower Wes Hubbard, an IBC
“There was a lot of flood-
ing and we ended up having to
go around a lot of wet spots,”
he said. “Considering how late
it was, it looks better than I
expected. I’m pretty surprised
how good it does look and how
much I was able to get plant-
Picabo farmer and IBC
commissioner Pat Purdy said
there was no significant delay
in planting in his area.
“We were about on time,”
he said. “I think the crop looks
good and we’re heading for a
good year.”
Olson said barley acres in
Idaho, which totaled 600,000
in 2016, will be down 15-20
percent this year but they will
be down much more in Mon-
tana and North Dakota. She an-
ticipates Idaho will again lead
the nation in barley production
this year.
“We grew 31 percent of the
overall U.S. barley crop last
year and we’ll easily top that
number this year,” she said.
The late start to planting in
2017 means last year’s record
barley yields in Idaho won’t be
matched this year, Olson said.
“If you lost 7 days to two
weeks growing time, that’s cer-
tainly not going to allow you to
have record yields,” she said.
“We’re expecting a good year,
just not a record year.”