Thursday, May 16, 2013

Yreka students go on 'cattle drive'

Today I went to Yreka to cover the 20th annual ag awareness day for elementary school children, sponsored by the Siskiyou County CattleWomen and other farm and ranch groups.

In the photos, 4-H leaders tell children from Jackson Street Elementary School what their "jobs" are in a mock cattle drive and explain the many uses of bandanas to cowboys in the Old West.

For the story, check soon.

LaMalfa, panel approve farm bill

The north state's Rep. Doug LaMalfa was among members of the House of Representatives' agriculture committee who voted late last night to approve the 2013 farm bill.

From LaMalfa:
The bill, H.R. 1947 eliminates direct subsidy payments, modernizes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, institutes new fraud prevention measures and reduces spending by $40 billion. The measure is expected to be debated on the house floor in June.

“I’m proud that the committee worked together and produced a bipartisan bill that achieves many of the goals I set out when appointed to this committee. The legislation eliminates direct subsidy payments, updates our food stamp program and saves nearly $40 billion dollars,” LaMalfa said. “This bill moves our agricultural economy into the 21st century and has a positive impact on farmers, consumers and the federal budget.”

LaMalfa also passed an amendment to the federal Farm Bill which requires electronic fraud prevention measures and eliminates bonus pay for signing up new recipients.

“The success of the food stamp program should be measured by how many Americans become self-sufficient, not how many are added to the rolls. Every dollar spent on bonuses is a dollar that doesn’t reach the families who need our help,” LaMalfa said. “Modernizing the program to ensure that assistance goes only to those who need it means that we can spend less while continuing to help our friends and neighbors.”
The bill's progress pleases the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, which issued this release today:
After a lengthy discussion, the House Agriculture Committee cleared its version of the 2013 Farm Bill during a markup session which ended late Wednesday night. The House markup follows the Senate Agriculture Committee’s much briefer markup of its farm bill Tuesday.

For the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), portions of the House farm bill included priorities important to cattlemen and women such as permanent disaster programs along with the elimination of the livestock title, maintaining of conservation programs and a strong research title.

NCBA President Scott George, a Cody, Wyo. cattle and dairy producer, lauded the House Agriculture Committee for including disaster assistance in the legislation, stating that it would provide certainty to cattlemen and women who are affected by disastrous weather events and continue to contribute to the nation's strong agriculture industry.

“Farmers and ranchers endure extreme weather conditions - from drought to flood to freezes to the extreme heat – and still work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year to provide the country and the world with food and fiber,” said George. “Including disaster assistance programs in the House farm bill is a positive step toward providing a strong safety net for our producers. We appreciate the work of Chairman Lucas and his committee on this important issue.”

Also included in the House version of the farm bill is an amendment introduced by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) that would prohibit states from setting production standards for foods brought in from other states. The amendment would render federal production mandates such as the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) / United Egg Producers (UEP) proposal, untenable.

“We are encouraged by the amendment introduced by Rep. King, which would keep decisions regarding how to raise livestock and poultry in the hands of farmers and ranchers, where they belong,” said George. “NCBA is supportive of the House version of the farm bill and we hope that both the full House and Senate take up their respective bills soon and continue to move forward with passing a 2013 Farm Bill which is positive for cattle producers and gives rural America much needed certainty.”
Meanwhile, the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance gives the House version mixed reviews. From their release today:
The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance, a national coalition of more than 120 organizations representing growers of fruits, vegetables, dried fruit, tree nuts, nursery plants and other products, commends House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, Ranking Member Collin Peterson and committee members for passing their version of the Farm Bill on Wednesday.

The committee’s approval of the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 by a bipartisan 36-10 vote is the second positive step for specialty crops this week, coming after the Senate Agriculture Committee passed its version of the Farm Bill on Tuesday. The full House is expected to take up the bill in June.

The Alliance welcomes the Committee’s continued commitment to policies that enhance the competitiveness and sustainability of specialty crop agriculture. The investments made in the bill reinforce many of the policies that were included in the Senate-passed legislation.

Included in the House version are provisions funding key specialty crop priorities such as:

· Specialty Crop Block Grants funded at $72.5 million in fiscal 2014-2017 and $85 million in FY2018

· Specialty Crop Research Initiative funded at $50 million in FY2014-15; $55 million in FY 2016-2017; and $65 million in FY2018

· Coordinated Plant Management Program funded at $62.5 million in FY2014-2017 and $75 million in FY2018

· Market Access Program and Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops fully funded at 2008 Farm Bill levels

· Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program fully funded at 2008 Farm Bill levels

· Section 32 specialty crop purchases at 2008 levels

· DoD Fresh program fully funded at $50 million per year consistent with 2008 Farm Bill levels

These funding commitments underscore recognition by the House of these programs’ value and their tremendous importance to the specialty crop industry.

However, members of the Alliance are disappointed over language in the House bill that signals a significant policy change to the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, a landmark program that provides healthful fresh produce to up to 3 million school children. It is critically important that the integrity of the program’s mission of promoting good eating habits in children be preserved. The Alliance will continue to work with industry allies in Congress to ensure the program’s original mission of promoting fresh fruits and vegetables is sustained as the Farm Bill works its way through Congress and to the president’s desk.

“Most of the goals and critical priorities that the specialty crop community has been fighting for over the years have been strengthened or maintained by the House Committee bill, and we thank the Committee for its work,” said Western Growers’ President and CEO Tom Nassif, a co-chair of the Alliance. “We would be remiss, however, in not mentioning that we hope the full House strengthens provisions around crop insurance for our industry as well as the fresh fruit and vegetable program.”

The co-chairs also urged Congress to continue working toward Farm Bill passage.

“The strong, bipartisan vote out of the House Agriculture Committee sends a clear message for the need to enact a Farm Bill without further delay. We look forward to working with the chairman, ranking member and House leadership to schedule floor time for this vital bill so that specialty crop producers can get back to what they do best: growing high-quality fruits and vegetables for America and the world,” said John Keeling, National Potato Council executive vice president and CEO.

Mike Stuart, president of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, added, “The important work this week by the House and Senate agriculture committees puts us that much closer to achieving a Farm Bill this year that will help specialty crop agriculture stay strong and competitive. The investments these bills make will allow American farmers to continue growing fresh produce that promotes health and reduces the risk of chronic obesity-related diseases.”
For the very latest in the farm bill's progress, keep checking

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Kings to stay in Sacramento

The NBA's Board of Governors met today to decide the fate of the Sacramento Kings, and they voted moments ago to deny the request to relocate the team to Seattle.

The Seattle Times has the details.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

May revise keeps CDFA whole

The May budget revision that Gov. Jerry Brown unveiled today maintains a status quo for the California Department of Food and Agriculture, whose nearly $61.9 million proposed general fund contribution would be the same as the current fiscal year. The proposal is unchanged from Brown's initial budget in January.

Brown also proposes maintaining a $500 million increase to the University of California and California State University systems with additional increases in each of the next four years. I'm checking on what this will mean for ag education.

Here's how the north state's Sen. Jim Nielsen reacted:
“The Governor has revenue estimates that are lower than anyone expected, largely due to the increased federal payroll tax suppressing the economy.

“That’s why it is imperative that the Legislature stop all job-killer bills. The economy can only improve if oppressive and duplicative regulations are abolished.

“Having been through many budget committee hearings, I must caution the Governor and my Democrat colleagues to keep in mind that California government is still increasing spending by some 24 percent over the next four years. The state has a structural deficit.

“The near automatic increases persist in the state budget. There is a need for a Constitutional budget requirement and a hard spending cap if the state's finances are to be balanced. Reforms are needed and are long overdue.

“The Governor’s rhetorical prudence has got to be translated into action by the Legislature.”
For my story on the impact on ag, check soon.

Students tour fire salvage area

Today I covered the Sierra Cascade Logging Conference's annual spring field day in the woods for area schoolchildren. About 600 kids are expected to attend the field trip today and tomorrow, and this year, students are getting to see the salvage logging operation from the Ponderosa Fire.

In the photos, from the top: Loren German of Creekside Logging in Redding explains to fifth-graders from West Cottonwood Elementary School how a hot saw works; firefighters from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection talk to kids from Evergreen School about fire behavior; and logs are salvaged for harvest.

Organizers would appreciate what a group of Anderson High School seniors told me today -- that they weren't aware of all the work that happens after a fire and that they appreciated the operation's emphasis on environmental stewardship. "It's like they're recycling," AHS senior Christina Swaggerty said.

For what it's worth, despite the photo opportunities that you'd think would be too good to pass up, I saw no other media there other than the Anderson Valley Post. Go figure.

Look for my story at soon.