Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Domestic Wheat Prices Drop

Prices of all classes of wheat dropped in the month of May. Hard Red Spring (HRS) plunged $24/ton to $238. The beginning of the harvest is pressuring Hard Red Winter (HRW) price, which declined $13/ton to $179. HRW also fell below Soft Red Winter (SRW), an unusual event. SRW declined $16/ton to $182. Technical market factors continue to keep SRW prices uncompetitive in world markets. Soft White wheat (SWW) declined $10/ton to $175, just slightly below HRW.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

USDA, NASS Seeks Public Input On Future Energy Program

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) is seeking stakeholder input as it develops an annual program to collect and publish data about agriculture’s production and use of renewable energy.

“With growing national interest in energy efficiency and alternative energy sources, there is a need for solid data about how the agriculture sector is generating and using renewable energy,” said Vince Matthews, Director of the NASS Idaho Field Office. “In response to this need, we’re expanding our data collection efforts and are hoping that farmers, farm and energy organizations, and other stakeholders will weigh in and tell us exactly what information they want and need.”

In the 2007 Census of Agriculture, NASS for the first time included a question about on-farm energy production. Based on the information gathered from the census, NASS is currently conducting USDA’s first On-Farm Renewable Energy Production Survey, focusing on farms and ranches that produced renewable energy via solar panels, wind turbines and methane digesters in 2009.

“This initial survey will provide important baseline data, and our plan is to expand our efforts into a broader, annual survey program beginning in 2012,” Matthews said. “We’re open to looking at all aspects of renewable energy production and use, including issues such as the costs and benefits, the motivators and obstacles, and the handling and use of energy co-products.”

Additional information, including an online comment form, is available at

Monday, June 28, 2010

Idaho Wheat Update

Warmer weather accelerated the growth of most crops for the week ending June 27. Winter wheat headed jumped to 70 percent complete, up from 29 percent the previous week. This is still behind the five year average. Most of the crops’ conditions improved from the previous week.

Friday, June 25, 2010

U.S. risks losing export market to Colombia reports that while the U.S. sits on the sidelines, competition for market share in Colombia heats up as U.S. competitors negotiate free trade agreements (FTA), the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) said recently. Canada recently ratified an FTA with Colombia and the E.U. is expected to complete an agreement this summer. According to the USGC, the continued delay in ratifying the U.S-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (CTPA) is having a profound impact on U.S. agriculture.

"Despite the fact that Colombia has been the largest market for U.S. agriculture exports in South America and the third-largest market in the Western hemisphere, behind only Canada and Mexico, we have lost significant market share in just a short period," said USGC Chairman Rick Fruth.

U.S. exports of agricultural commodities declined sharply from $1.6 billion in 2008 to $907 million in 2009, a 46% decline.

"This lack of an agreement cost the U.S. corn sector alone $314 million in 2009. The U.S. market share of Colombia’s feed grain imports dropped from 96 percent in 2007 to 38 percent in 2009," said Fruth, who farms corn just outside of Holgate, Ohio, U.S.

U.S. agricultural products continue to face a 15% import tariff and Colombia’s price band system which imposes a variable charge on top of the regular import duty. Meanwhile, Argentina and Brazil continue to enjoy the advantages from the MERCOSUR agreement with Colombia, facing only a 6.9% tariff.

"The tariff for MERCOSUR countries will be completely phased out by 2018. This will result in the United States being only a residual supplier to Colombia, at best. Ratification of the CTPA will eliminate both the import tariff and price band system, allowing a level playing field," said Floyd Gaibler, USGC director of trade policy.

According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, a ratification of CTPA would result in U.S. agricultural export gains of more than $815 million per year at full implementation.

"The ability of the U.S. agricultural sector to remain competitive in the long-term will rely on our collective ability to supply the global markets with growing demand for feed and food products," Gaibler said. "That can only happen if the United States endorses the trade agreements we successfully negotiate and fully reengage in negotiating bilateral, regional and multi-lateral trade agreements around the world."

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Wheat Stem Sawfly Spreading its Wings in Idaho

Wheat stem sawfly (Cephus cinctus Norton) is widely distributed across the northern Great Plains. There are no insecticides registered for sawfly control and no cost effective insecticides have been identified in research trials.

Production losses total $100’s of millions in the Northern Plains states. Losses in Montana alone are estimated at $75 million in each of the last two years, making it the most destructive agricultural pest in the state. As shown on the map, the Sawfly threat continues to spread causing production losses in other areas, including SE Idaho. Increasing awareness of this pest is important in control.

“I’ve dealt with sawfly for about ten years now,” says Gordon Gallup, wheat grower in Swan Valley. “Some years are worse than others. So far it hasn’t caused a significant crop disaster like in other states, but the potential is always there.”

It’s that potential that keeps Juliet Marshall-Windes, U of I Cereals Agronomist and Pathologist watchful. “Sawfly outbreaks can be devastating,” says Marshall-Windes. “They leave many calling cards such as reduced yield, stunted heads with fewer kernels and lower kernel weight, reduced protein content and lodging. When you see lodged grain in the fall, you will also see clean cut stems and stem stubs with darkened plugs often in multiple stems per plants.”

Spring wheat used to be its main target however it now infests winter wheat as well. That is because sawflies are emerging nearly a month earlier than previously. Now they are present when the winter wheat is susceptible. Late planted spring wheat fields frequently avoid attack.

Marshall-Windes suggests keeping an eye out for sawflies while checking fields for other pests. The adults emerge from May to July and will usually be found resting on wheat stems with their head directed downward.

Integrated Pest Management
If a crop rotation includes non-host crops, such as canola, and there are no wheat or barley fields nearby, crop rotation helps to reduce infestations. Tillage usually has little effect on sawfly populations because adults can dig through the soil. Even moldboard plowing did not reduce the number of adults in experimental trials. Swathing does not kill sawflies. Most larvae are in the lower stems, or stubs, when the wheat is dry enough to swath. The adoption of conservation tillage practices that leave stubble containing sawfly larvae intact may also favor increased sawfly populations.

Resistance of wheat to this pest has been limited to physical traits like solid stems and or stronger stem tissues. A problem often associated with solid stem wheat is that plant resources that would otherwise be allocated to kernel production are used in stem growth, resulting in an overall smaller yield compared with hollow stemmed wheat varieties.

“The solid stem trait is only partially effective,” says Marshall-Windes. “Sawflies can survive and reproduce in solid stemmed wheat, although not nearly as well as in hollow stemmed wheat. “Choteau, is a hard red spring wheat that has a solid-stem and does well in the SE area, but improving genetic resistance is critical for control in the long run.”

Reducing the Threat
Field level studies across Wyoming, North Dakota, Montana and Idaho are ongoing.
Juan Manuel Alvarez and Juliet Marshall-Windes are participating in an investigation of IPM practices influencing the interaction of wheat stem sawfly, Fusarium crown rot, and grassy weed impacts in wheat. Recommendations will be developed from three years of research on the integrated management of these dryland production pests. Information on crop variety, stand density and herbicide management will be combined to manage some of the most important pests of the Northern Great Plains.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Advocacy groups are trying to pass legislation that wouldn't allow children to work on farms.

HR 3564, or the Children's Act for Responsible Employment, also called CARE, currently before Congress, would eliminate the Fair Labor Standards Act exemption that currently allows kids 12-17 to work on farms as long as conditions are safe and parents give their consent. Minors would only be allowed to work on their parents farms under the direct supervision of one of the parents or other legal guardians. There are no exceptions allowed for non farm youth for things like 4-H and other educational programs.

Ron Gaskill is the Immigration and Labor Specialist for the American Farm Bureau Federation. Gaskill believes most folks in agriculture currently aren't even aware this bill is out there and he says that it is moving very quietly and he thinks that's on purpose.

"It predominately comes from youth advocates and labor advocates, human rights advocates who are determined that there are certain parts of the farm lifestyle that aren't healthy or safe for kids," Gaskill said. "They are really focusing more on a lifestyle; that is the migrant farm family lifestyle and those type of issues, but they are automatically suggesting that the solution to those problems are basically to prevent youth from working on farms."

Gaskill says this bill simply goes way too far in trying to protect immigrant children from working on farms. He says it's another example of non-ag groups trying to influence ag policy, and it's frustrating.

"They have no appreciation for what really happens and what really goes on," Gaskill said. "They have this perception, this picture that's painted by advocates that clearly have an agenda and of course in this particular case Human Rights Watch is one of those organizations that has an agenda. The agenda may be laudable in certain parts of society, but I think it is misguided in this particular case."

Gaskill encourages people in agriculture to call their representatives as soon as possible and urge them to vote against this measure.

Friday, June 18, 2010

High-yield agriculture slows pace of global warming, say Stanford researchers

A recent study by Stanford shows high-yielding agriculture slows the pace of global warming.

Advances in high-yield agriculture achieved during the so-called Green Revolution have not only helped feed the planet, but also have helped slow the pace of global warming by cutting the amount of biomass burned – and the resulting greenhouse gas emissions – when forests or grasslands are cleared for farming. Stanford researchers estimate those emissions have been trimmed by over half a trillion tons of carbon dioxide.

Advances in high-yield agriculture over the latter part of the 20th century have prevented massive amounts of greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere – the equivalent of 590 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide – according to a new study led by two Stanford Earth scientists.

The yield improvements reduced the need to convert forests to farmland, a process that typically involves burning of trees and other plants, which generates carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

The researchers estimate that if not for increased yields, additional greenhouse gas emissions from clearing land for farming would have been equal to as much as a third of the world's total output of greenhouse gases since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution in 1850.

The researchers also calculated that for every dollar spent on agricultural research and development since 1961, emissions of the three principal greenhouse gases – methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide – were reduced by the equivalent of about a quarter of a ton of carbon dioxide – a high rate of financial return compared to other approaches to reducing the gases.

"Our results dispel the notion that modern intensive agriculture is inherently worse for the environment than a more 'old-fashioned' way of doing things," said Jennifer Burney, lead author of a paper describing the study that will be published online by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Adding up the impact
The researchers calculated emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, converting the amounts of the latter two gases into the quantities of carbon dioxide that would have an equivalent impact on the atmosphere, to facilitate comparison of total greenhouse gas outputs.

Burney, a postdoctoral researcher with the Program on Food Security and the Environment at Stanford, said agriculture currently accounts for about 12 percent of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. Although greenhouse gas emissions from the production and use of fertilizer have increased with agricultural intensification, those emissions are far outstripped by the emissions that would have been generated in converting additional forest and grassland to farmland.

"Every time forest or shrub land is cleared for farming, the carbon that was tied up in the biomass is released and rapidly makes its way into the atmosphere – usually by being burned," she said. "Yield intensification has lessened the pressure to clear land and reduced emissions by up to 13 billion tons of carbon dioxide a year."

"When we look at the costs of the research and development that went into these improvements, we find that funding agricultural research ranks among the cheapest ways to prevent greenhouse gas emissions," said Steven Davis, a co-author of the paper and a postdoctoral researcher at the Carnegie Institution at Stanford.

To evaluate the impact of yield intensification on climate change, the researchers compared actual agricultural production between 1961 and 2005 with hypothetical scenarios in which the world's increasing food needs were met by expanding the amount of farmland rather than by the boost in yields produced by the Green Revolution.

"Even without higher yields, population and food demand would likely have climbed to levels close to what they are today," said David Lobell, also a coauthor and assistant professor of environmental Earth system science at Stanford.

"Lower yields per acre would likely have meant more starvation and death, but the population would still have increased because of much higher birth rates," he said. "People tend to have more children when survival of those children is less certain."

Avoiding the need for more farmland
The researchers found that without the advances in high-yield agriculture, several billion additional acres of cropland would have been needed.

Comparing emissions in the theoretical scenarios with real-world emissions from 1961 to 2005, the researchers estimated that the actual improvements in crop yields probably kept greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to at least 317 billion tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, and perhaps as much as 590 billion tons.

Without the emission reductions from yield improvements, the total amount of greenhouse gas pumped into the atmosphere over the preceding 155 years would have been between 18 and 34 percent greater than it has been, they said.

To calculate how much money was spent on research for each ton of avoided emissions, the researchers calculated the total amount of agricultural research funding related to yield improvements since 1961 through 2005. That produced a price between approximately $4 and $7.50 for each ton of carbon dioxide that was not emitted.

"The size and cost-effectiveness of this carbon reduction is striking when compared with proposed mitigation options in other sectors," said Lobell. "For example, strategies proposed to reduce emissions related to construction would cut emissions by a little less than half the amount that we estimate has been achieved by yield improvements and would cost close to $20 per ton."

The authors also note that raising yields alone won't guarantee lower emissions from land use change.

"It has been shown in several contexts that yield gains alone do not necessarily stop expansion of cropland," Lobell said. "That suggests that intensification must be coupled with conservation and development efforts.

"In certain cases, when yields go up in an area, it increases the profitability of farming there and gives people more incentive to expand their farm. But in general, high yields keep prices low, which reduces the incentive to expand."

The researchers concluded that improvement of crop yields should be prominent among a portfolio of strategies to reduce global greenhouse gases emissions.

"The striking thing is that all of these climate benefits were not the explicit intention of historical investments in agriculture. This was simply a side benefit of efforts to feed the world," Burney noted. "If climate policy intentionally rewarded these kinds of efforts, that could make an even bigger difference. The question going forward is how climate policy might be designed to achieve that."

David Lobell is a Center Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and at the Woods Institute for the Environment. The Program on Food Security and the Environment is a joint project of the Woods Institute and the Freeman Spogli Institute. The Program on Food Security and the Environment provided funding for Jennifer Burney's research on agriculture and energy.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Additional Funding to Fight Expected Grasshopper Outbreaks

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the availability of emergency funding to conduct suppression treatments that will protect up to four million acres of rangeland in some western states potentially impacted by expected grasshopper outbreaks this year.

"USDA is closely monitoring the grasshopper situation, and is ready with both mitigation efforts and loss assistance programs to help communities impacted by this year's potential outbreak," said Vilsack. "The funding announced today will help us act quickly in states with economically significant outbreak levels and enhance our coordinated efforts with other federal agencies, state departments of agriculture, county and local agencies and private landowners to protect western rangeland."

The nearly $11 million in funding is being made available through USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Grasshopper and Mormon Cricket Suppression Program, and will be used primarily for the application of aerial and ground insecticide treatments in response to requests for assistance in outbreak areas. APHIS will use the funds in areas identified by ongoing APHIS surveys as facing economically significant outbreaks. Although the Grasshopper and Mormon Cricket Suppression Program covers rangeland and not cropland, some treatments conducted on federal rangeland help to protect both rangeland forage and cropland adjacent to the treated areas. The goal of the program is to suppress grasshopper and/or Mormon cricket populations during outbreak years, not to eradicate grasshoppers, which are native species and an important part of the rangeland ecosystem.

As part of this effort, APHIS will continue working very closely with other federal agencies; state, county and local governments; private ranchers and the public in responding to grasshopper outbreaks of economic significance on rangeland. In addition to the Grasshopper and Mormon Cricket Suppression Program, APHIS is continuing to conduct surveys in 17 western states, and is providing technical assistance, and conducting education and outreach to cooperators at all levels.

Additionally, USDA is prepared to provide assistance to farmers and ranchers who might be impacted by grasshopper outbreaks this year. The Farm Service Agency has programs that offer assistance to farmers suffering an eligible and documented loss due to grasshopper infestations: the Non-insurable Crop Assistance Program and the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program. Finally, the Federal Crop Insurance Program, administered by the Risk Management Agency, provides insurance products that address loss due to grasshoppers.

Surveys conducted by APHIS at the end of summer 2009 revealed very high numbers of adult grasshoppers in many western states, indicating that a large number of eggs may have been laid. As a result, APHIS is expecting potentially heavy grasshopper outbreaks this year in a number of western states beginning in early June and lasting throughout the summer. If the spring is relatively warm with little rainfall, conditions could be favorable for egg hatching and grasshopper survival. However, relatively cool and wet weather could limit the potential for outbreaks. The states that could see the heaviest outbreaks are Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. States with less severe outbreaks could include Idaho, Nevada and Utah.

More information about the 2010 grasshopper forecast, APHIS' response plans, and the Grasshopper and Mormon Cricket Suppression Program is available online at

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Challenges Facing USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program

Reductions in maximum Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres mandated by the 2008 Farm Act, along with relatively high agricultural commodity prices, could lead to reduced overall environmental benefits and higher CRP costs.

ERS is analyzing alternative enrollment policies and practices that could increase environmental benefits per enrolled acre and lower program costs.

ERS research conservatively estimates CRP benefits of $1.3 billion per year, excluding carbon sequestration, ecosystem protection, and other less easily quantified benefits.

The effectiveness of changes will depend on improved data and models to more accurately estimate the environmental benefits provided by competing offers to enroll land in the CRP.

After a period of relative stability, the CRP faces a number of changes. The 2008 Farm Act reduced the CRP’s maximum enrollment to 32 million acres—4.6 million acres less than the program’s peak acreage in 2007. Moreover, increases in agricultural commodity prices since 2006 not only increase CRP costs, but may decrease landowner interest in the CRP if further increases are expected in the future. And, if program goals evolve in response to emerging environmental concerns, such as climate change, the location and types of practices installed on CRP lands may change, possibly affecting wildlife habitat and other environmental services provided by the program.

These factors create additional incentives for USDA to pursue efforts focusing on improved targeting, encouraging the use of better conservation practices, and heightening competition among bidders—steps that hold promise for increasing the environmental benefits and lowering the cost of the CRP. Such efforts would benefit from better—even if still imperfect—scientific information.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Spring Wheat Emergence Nearing Completion

Spring wheat has emerged across the State with 92% rated between good to excellent. Idaho’s winter wheat crop is also rated at 92% good to excellent.

Idaho’s 2010 winter wheat production is forecast at 62.9 million bushels, unchanged from last month’s forecast, and 11 percent above last year’s crop, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

The yield is forecasted to be 85 bushels per acre. Acres to be harvested at 740,000, represent a 40,000 acre increase from 2009.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Soft White Wheat Moves to Colombia

In October 2009, USW Marketing Specialist Osvaldo Seco, Santiago, Chile, traveled to Colombia with USW Regional Technical Director Peter Lloyd to conduct milling tests of a 40 MT U.S. soft white (SW) sample donated by the Washington Grain Commission to Harinera del Valle (HDV), Colombia’s largest wheat importer.

Seco, Lloyd and HDV monitored the entire SW sample milling process and a preliminary baking test of SW flour blended with flour milled from other wheat classes. USW baking consultant Didier Rosada returned to HDV’s Palmira, Colombia, mill and laboratory in December 2009 to complete the baking tests on the SW flour blend.

As USW implemented the activity with HDV, it also worked with Galletas Noel to identify a fit for SW in cookie (biscuit) and cracker production for this leading Colombian processor. Both manufacturers found good performance and value. The results was the first U.S. SW sales to Colombia in many years, including 4,400 MT to Harinera del Valle to be used as a blend for baking flour and 7,000 MT to Galletas Noel to produce flour blends for snack products.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Local Quest for Resistance to Fusarium Head Blight

Fusarium Head Blight (FHB) or Scab is a new fungal disease of wheat in Idaho. Epidemics occurred in sprinkler-irrigated wheat and barley fields in south central and eastern Idaho in 1982 and 1984, resulting in estimated yield losses as high as 50%. FHB epidemics in spring wheat occurred in sprinkler-irrigated wheat and barley fields in Montana in 2006 and 07 and resulted in estimated yield losses over 50% while infection was high (10 to 50%) in some adapted cultivars in wheat fields in Aberdeen in 2009.

Fusarium species reduce yields and produce mycotoxins like deoxynivalenol (DON) that in elevated amounts pose significant public health hazards to animals and humans.
Traditionally, environmental conditions in Idaho allow for the production of high quality, toxin free wheat grain that meets the needs of many end-users. With the increase in corn production, conservation tillage, and increasing temperatures in the PNW, there is a risk of increased FHB. Incorporation of resistance into existing germplasm may prevent or reduce future losses.

On-going Evaluation
Evaluation of FHB resistance can be difficult using phenotypic evaluation as the disease nursery cannot be set up in the field in Aberdeen.
Jianli Chen, wheat breeder at University of Idaho, initiated a project in 2008 and evaluated over two hundred lines grown in Idaho and the Pacific Northwest using marker-assisted selection (MAS) in collaboration with the Western USDA genotyping center in Pullman, Washington.

Based on the preliminary evaluation, quite a few lines have some resistance to FHB. To determine if those lines have a functional gene against FHB infection and colonization, Chen initiated multi-state collaborations and conducted evaluations for spring wheat genotypes in the disease nurseries at the University of Minnesota in 2008 and in Bozeman at Montana State University in 2009. Winter wheat was tested at Virginia Tech in 2009 and 2010.

In most cases, field resistance of those lines inoculated by F. graminearum aligned well with their marker evaluations. Supported by Idaho wheat grower funds, a greenhouse screening system has been established.

In the next few years, Dr. Chen is going to use an integrated system combining marker-assisted selection with greenhouse and field screening to identify and develop adapted spring and winter wheat cultivars for Idaho and PNW growers that are resistant to FHB.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Converting Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land to cropland

Thousands of CRP contracted acres will be expiring soon. Idaho growers will have to decide on the best course of action to take before converting CRP acres back into production. Conservationists with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provide the following options for growers to consider.
Primary issues when converting CRP land to cropland are how to effectively kill existing cover, conserve soil moisture, and maintain soil quality. Proper planning is essential and should consider:

• Maintain grass cover in critical erosion areas
• Continue with CRP buffer practices
• Remove existing cover effectively
• Crop rotation
• Tillage and planting systems
• Soil conditions limiting crop growth
• Nutrient management
• Conservation Compliance requirements on Highly Erodible Land
• Environmental quality impacts

Cropping Considerations
To kill existing cover use a systemic herbicide, such as glyphosate along with other herbicides like Dicamba or 2-4-D. Maximize herbicide uptake by timing application to coincide with carbohydrate transfer to the root system. Haying, grazing or shredding to stimulate new shoot growth prior to applying the herbicide will improve effectiveness.

Consider soil moisture conditions when choosing to plant a fall or spring crop and when applying herbicides. Drought stressed plants will not absorb or translocate the herbicide effectively.

When deciding what crop to plant on converted CRP land, consider profitability, protecting or enhancing soil quality, controlling soil erosion, managing pests and effectively using available soil water.

Tillage System Selection
When converting grassland to cropland, no-till systems maintain the soil quality improvements gained from years in CRP. Along with diverse crop rotation and minimal fallow periods, no-till systems effectively improve or maintain soil organic matter, aggregate stability, soil infiltration and available water holding capacity creating soil that is in better condition to grow plants over the long-term. Conventional tillage systems can destroy soil quality improvements gained under CRP in just the first year.

Soils in long-term CRP cover can be different than regularly cropped soils. Complete soil tests to determine fertility before returning fields to production, allowing time to schedule and apply fertilizer. If soil test phosphorus levels are low, apply starter fertilizer at planting. With heavy residue, soil micro-organisms may temporarily tie up nitrogen; increase nitrogen by 10% over recommended rates to compensate. Think about a legume cover or forage crop to improve the transition to the first cash crop. Legumes fix atmospheric nitrogen and have a low C:N ratio which helps decompose remaining sod residue and provides nitrogen, creating an easier transition to the following crop.

Soil Erosion and Highly Erodible Land
Depending on the cropping system, soil erosion rates can increase significantly when Highly Erodible Land (HEL) is cropped compared to land maintained in sod. The Conservation Compliance (HEL) provisions of the Food Security Act require USDA program participants who produce annual agricultural commodities on HEL fields to apply an approved conservation system on those fields. The conservation system applied must control wind, water and gully erosion and prevent off-site damages to be considered acceptable. Contact your local NRCS office for erosion estimates and alternatives for different cropping/tillage systems.

Impacts on Environmental Quality
Land enrolled in CRP benefits soil erosion, soil quality, water quality, air quality and wildlife habitat through establishing grasses, legumes, trees and shrubs. Consider the impacts to these resources as you decide whether and how to transition CRP acres back to crop production.
For additional information contact: Marlon Winger, State Agronomist for NRCS Idaho, 208-378-5730
Deb Nace, District Conservationist, Idaho Falls, 208-522-6250, ext. 108

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

IFIC study indicates acceptance of biotech wheat

Grain-based foods baked with bioengineered flour would be embraced by consumers if they understand the technology’s sustainability benefits, according to a new study from the International Food Information Council (IFIC).

The 14th IFIC Food Technology Consumer Survey found support from consumers for biotechnology when "they consider its potential benefits for reducing the impact of food and food production on the environment and for improving sustainability."
This year’s survey focused on consumer attitudes toward various aspects of plant and animal biotechnology as well as sustainability and new and emerging technologies such as nanotechnology.

The most positive responses from consumers related to biotechnology and sustainability. More than three quarters (77%) of consumers said they would be likely to purchase food produced through biotechnology for "their ability to reduce pesticide use (consistent with 2008)."

Positive responses moved higher, to 80%, when it came to the likelihood of consumers purchasing bread, crackers, cookies, cereal or pasta products made with ingredients milled from bioengineered wheat "if they were produced using sustainable practices to feed more people using fewer resources such as land and pesticides (new question in 2010)," IFIC said. Only 5% said not at all likely, in response to the question.
The group continued, "While products containing wheat grown using biotechnology are still up to a decade away from being commercially available, these data indicate a receptive audience to such products if they are produced through sustainable practices."

Marianne Smith Edge, who is interim vice-president of nutrition and food safety for IFIC, said the results affirm the importance to consumers of food production as it relates to sustainability and the environment.

"Over the last several years, we’ve seen the overall awareness of sustainability and environmental issues continue to grow."

IFIC said awareness of sustainability was growing with 50% having heard or read "at least a little" about the concept with regard to food production. The figure was up from 41% in 2008 and 30% in 2007.

Drilling deeper into various aspects of sustainability, protecting land, reducing pesticide use and conserving water ranked highest in importance among respondents. Ranked in order of importance, the top three aspects of sustainability were:
•"Growing more food on less land so valuable land like rain forests is not destroyed/used as growing space for increased food production." (69%)
•"Reducing the amount of pesticides needed to produce food." (65 %)
•"Plants that use water more efficiently, thereby conserving fresh water to help cope with predicted droughts and water shortages." (62%)
Less popular choices were less waste, recyclable packaging, smaller carbon footprint and fewer food miles.

Overall, the majority of consumers are somewhat or very likely to purchase a variety of produce, such as tomatoes or potatoes, modified by biotechnology to provide more healthful fats such as omega-3 (76%), to avoid trans fatty acids (74%) or to make the product taste better/fresher (67%).

Holding a favorable or somewhat favorable impression of plant biotechnology were 32% of respondents, a figure that slips to 29% for animal biotechnology. The somewhat or very unfavorable impression figures were 29% and 27%, respectively.

"Interestingly, the majority of consumers who are either unfavorable or neutral in their views toward animal biotechnology cited ‘I don’t have enough information’ about animal biotechnology (55%) and/or ‘I don’t understand the benefits of using biotechnology with animals’ (39%) as their reason(s) for being unfavorable or neutral," IFIC said.

Other topics addressed in the confidence in the food supply, labeling, and perceptions of biotechnology. Describing themselves as somewhat or very confident in the safety of the U.S. food supply were 69% of respondents.

Asked whether they could think of additional information they would like to see on food labels, 82% of consumers answered in the negative.

"More than 60% of consumers (63%) agree with the Food and Drug Administration’s food labeling policy, which requires food products to be labeled when use of biotechnology substantially changes the food’s nutritional content (such as vitamins or fat) or its composition, or when a potential food safety issue is identified," IFIC said. "Only 12% oppose, and 24% neither support nor oppose the policy."
Respondents were considerably less familiar with nanotechnology than biotechnology, with only 35% of Americans having read or heard "at least a little" about the subject, a science that involves the design and application of structures, devices and systems on an extremely small scale, called the nanoscale (i.e., billionths of a meter, or about 1-million the size of a pinhead).

"However, when consumers were given examples of potential benefits of food application of nanotechnology such as food packaging and processing to improve food safety and quality and better nutrient and ingredient profiles to improve health, half of consumers (49%) were favorable toward the technology," IFIC said.
To conduct the survey, IFIC commissioned Cogent Research of Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S. Cogent contacted individuals April 5-26. The study had a sample size of 750, and the data were weighted on marital status and education to be nationally representative.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Japanese Trade Team to Visit North Idaho

Representatives from the Pacific Northwest’s (PNW) largest Soft White importing country will be hosted by the Idaho Wheat Commission in Lewiston, Idaho June 8-10. The five team members are from the Japanese Milling Association.

Japan currently buys approximately five million tons of imported wheat mainly from the U.S., Canada and Australia. Last year the US supplied about 65% of this volume, approximately 28 million bushels of that was Soft White wheat from the PNW.

The team’s goal while in Idaho includes gathering information about the Soft White Wheat and Club wheat breeding programs; learning about the barging system; and understanding how farmers and elevators market wheat.

While in Idaho, the team will visit the University of Idaho and the ARS Lab in Pullman, WA to meet with researchers. The IWC will provide an outlook on the 2010 Soft White Wheat crop and provide supply and demand information, while researchers will discuss goals of the variety development program and wheat quality research.

The team will also tour Lewis and Clark Terminal where they will learn about bulk grain transportation and the impact of the river closure next year. PNW Farmer’s Coop will provide an overview of how a local elevator operates.

The Idaho Wheat Commission and U.S. Wheat Associates work to maintain and improve export market opportunities for Idaho wheat producers with support from the farmers themselves through a two-cent per bushel check-off.

Monday, June 7, 2010


The June Water Supply Outlook Report issued by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) shows spring precipitation made a positive change in Idaho's water supplies. This winter's lack of snow was predicted to cause water supply deficits across parts of Idaho, however the cool wet spring helped to overcome most shortfalls.

"The El Nino weather pattern snapped the last week of March and storms since then have brought average or better precipitation" said Ron Abramovich, NRCS Water Supply Specialist. "These weather changes resulted in an incredible turn-around; we now expect adequate water supplies for most of Idaho's numerous users."

May precipitation ranged from 115-150% of average across the state. Higher elevations even accumulated some snow. Higher elevation areas in central Idaho and the Upper Snake continued accumulating in snow and have a good snowpack that will provide additional late season melt. "Smiley Mountain, Meadow Lake and Grand Targhee SNOTEL sites, all above 9,000 feet, just reached their peak snow water content the last few days of May," Abramovich said.

Reservoirs across the state also benefitted from increased precipitation. Reservoir storage was the bright spot in this year's water supply outlook, but the wet spring reduced irrigation demand and improved the outlook by stretching this year's limited water supplies.

The added spring moisture will benefit reservoir users from irrigators to hydro-power generators and from boaters and river runners to fish and wildlife.

Despite all the precipitation, streamflows in May were below average. "The melt water isn't there to feed the streams yet because the cool weather is limiting snowmelt," Abramovich added.

Spring rainfall can significantly influence peak streamflows, specifically the rain intensity and consecutive days with rain. For the most current information seed the NRCS's Peak Streamflow Resources page:

For the complete June Idaho Water Supply Outlook Report, visit
and click on the 'Water Supply' link.

Friday, June 4, 2010

World Wheat Production Update

China expects its winter wheat harvest to be slightly higher than last year.

Ukraine’s wheat exports have taken a major drop in the month of May. Exporters have slowed sales due to tight stocks. Ukraine’s wheat production is expected to drop 18.0 MMT this year.

Qatar announced plans to increase production on its domestic farmland.

Good rains have aided the crops in Germany and Spain.

A lengthened dry spell has put stress on the crops in France and the United Kingdom.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Farm, ranch profits rising, bank survey shows

Agriculture online's Jeff Caldwell reports that farmers responding to the annual Farm and Ranch Confidence Survey conducted by Rabobank report a general 24% income improvement since last fall. That's not to say incomes are 24% higher than a year ago; last fall, 82% of those responding to the Rabobank survey said their incomes had fallen since the previous spring. In this spring's survey, 58% said the same thing, accounting for the 24% improvement, Rabobank officials say.

"What's happening on U.S. farms and ranches mirrors the global economy -- we're beginning to see improvement," President and Chief Executive Officer for Rabo AgriFinance John Ryan says in a company report. "That improvement translates into some encouraging -- albeit patchy -- signs of recovery."

What's more telling than current income projections is the outlook for future revenues. Rabobank officials say this latest surveys hows the highest degree of confidence for future income potential since the survey was started in 2008.

That increasingly optimistic outlook is manifesting itself in growing interest in farm expansion than a year ago. Ryan says many of the larger farmers responding to the survey said they are "more interested" in expanding land or equipment in the coming months.

"Producers are much clearer in whether they are going to purchase a new or used piece of equipment," Ryan says. "As with any business, there are benefits and challenges at any size and industry -- agriculture is no different. Every farmer or rancher has unique needs and business considerations. The key is finding the right balance for each operation."

The Rabobank survey isn't all sunshine for the ag sector, however. Economic hurdles like input costs remain a concern for many farmers; 20% of those surveyed said their general input costs are higher than they were last fall. And, overall economic stability is still a big concern: 94% surveyed say they're still concerned about the ag economy. Though there's little variation geographically in this section of the survey results, Rabobank officials say there is at least one clear message in the survey results. "The survey results indicate there has been improvement in the ag economy in the South and West, while those in the north-central states are more concerned than they have been in the past," according to a Rabobank report.

Ultimately, though many said they still expect a shaky economy through the next few months, Rabobank's Ryan says as long as balance sheets remain healthy, the ag sector should stay above water.

"U.S. agriculture has always been resilient in the face of many challenges," Ryan says. "Producers are accustomed to the cyclical nature of agriculture and are able to better manage their operations by thinking long term and adapting their operations for the future."

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Idaho Crop Progress Update

USDA reported Idaho’s Winter Wheat crop is rated 93 percent good to excellent and 7 percent of the crop is rated fair.

Temperatures for the week ending May 30 ranged from four degrees below normal to ten degrees below normal for the state. Precipitation was abundant with all regions reporting rainfall.

Cool weather continues to slow crop progress. Frost damage to winter wheat was reported to Franklin County.

More information about Idaho’s Crop Progress and Condition can be found at

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Mutant Wheat Rust Has Scientists Worried

In a release issued ahead of a major conference in Russia this week, scientists from the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative announced the discovery of four new mutations of the Ug99 rust strain. What has wheat pathologists worried is that these mutants have overcome existing forms of genetic resistance.

Leading wheat experts from Australia, Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas are in Russia for a global wheat event organized by the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative.

In a statement, Ravi Singh, senior scientist in plant genetics and pathology with the Mexico-based International Maize and What Improvement Center, notes: "With the new mutations we are seeing, countries cannot afford to wait until rust 'bites' them. The variant of Ug99 identified in Kenya, for example, went from first detection in trace amounts in one year to epidemic proportions the next year."

Most varieties planted in the world's wheat fields are susceptible to the original form of Ug99. Breeders will now work to make sure every new wheat variety released has resistance to the original form and the new races, Singh pointed out.

The reddish-brown, wind-borne fungus known as Ug99 has decimated up to 80 percent of Kenyan farmers' wheat during several cropping seasons, and scientists estimate that 90% of the wheat varieties around the world lack sufficient resistance to the original Ug99. Starting five years ago, in response to evidence of Ug99's virulence, researchers expanded breeding programs and collaborated with each other in a kind of "shuttle breeding diplomacy" to identify wheat varieties that could resist the new strain. But the new mutations - identified last year in South Africa - will make wheat crops more vulnerable as pathogens now will find new wind trajectories for migration.

First discovered in Uganda in 1999, the original Ug99 has also been found in Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Yemen and Iran; a Global Cereal Rust Monitoring System, housed at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), suggests it is on the march toward South Asia and beyond. Its trajectory and evolution are of particular concern to the major wheat-growing areas of Southern and Eastern Africa, the Central Asian Republics, the Caucasus, the Indian subcontinent, South America, Australia and North America.