Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Twitter ate our blog

This poor blog is so neglected. I accept full responsibility. I've been consumed with the relaunch of the Capital Press website and refinements we've been making to it since the Aug. 1 debut.

I've also been putting at least some of the time I used to devote to blog posts into tweets on Twitter. It's so much quicker and easier to hammer out a tweet than it is to compose a whole blog post.

There so much interesting stuff happening online right now with agriculture. It's a cool time to be an aggie online with things like Tuesday's #agchat sessions on Twitter.

I had the great fortune to participate in Nick Weber's #onthefarm interview recently on Twitter. Nick posted the full transcript today. Nick, Susan Crowell and I talked about ag media via Twitter.

Thanks to everyone who offered questions during the interview and has offered feedback since. And thanks too to Nick and Susan for making the interview so interesting an so much fun.

But especially thanks to those of you who still check in here. I'm sorry we haven't had anything new in this part of the blog in a while.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Cattlemen hail NAIS funding cut

From the U.S. Cattlemen's Association:

USCA Hails Conference Committee Report Slashing NAIS Funding

USCA (October 6, 2009) - The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) said
today that the Agricultural Appropriations conference committee report
cutting funding by more than 60 percent for the National Animal
Identification System (NAIS) is welcome news. The conference agreement
allocates just $5.3 million for NAIS, a reduction of nearly two-thirds
from the $14.6 million requested by the U.S. Department of

"This dramatic reduction in funding signals that Congress is listening
to producer concerns with, and objections to, NAIS," commented Jon
Wooster, USCA President. "The conference report notes that after an
investment of $142 million since FY2004, the agency has only
registered about 37 percent of all premises, far below the program’s
goals. Conferees wisely recognized that investing heavily in the
program is irresponsible, given the lack of producer support."

A bipartisan amendment, introduced in the U.S. Senate earlier this
year by Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Mike Enzi (R-WY), proposed
cutting in half the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s request for $14.6
million for FY2010. The amendment passed unanimously out of the Senate
Agriculture Appropriations Committee and subsequently passed in the
full Senate by a vote of 80:17. In comments following the vote,
Senator Enzi said the funds left intact for the program provided
reasonable funding for an animal identification program based on
voluntary participation.

"We are extremely pleased and encouraged with the conference report,"
continued Wooster. "USCA has contended all along that NAIS should be
voluntary in nature and we’ve successfully expended countless
resources to prevent the program from being implemented as mandatory.
We extend our gratitude to the conferees and to Senators Tester and
Enzi who led the charge to de-fund such a highly unpopular program."

"We would like to thank the many cattlemen and women who traveled to
Washington, DC with USCA to help Congress understand that while the
vast majority of the industry appreciates the use of current,
established programs for animal disease trace back they do not support
a mandatory animal identification program."

Established in March 2007, USCA is committed to concentrating its
efforts in Washington, DC to enhance and expand the cattle industry’s
voice on Capitol Hill. USCA has a full-time presence in Washington,
giving cattle producers across the country a strong influence on
policy development. For more information go to

Thursday, October 01, 2009

SPI announces huge carbon sequestration effort

From Sierra Pacific Industries:

Los Angeles, CACalifornia’s largest private landowner – Sierra Pacific Industries, and Equator, LLC, a natural resources asset management firm, announced today that they have entered into the nation’s single largest pre-compliance forest carbon transaction to date. The transaction will consist of a series of projects focused on developing compliance-ready carbon offsets registered under the recently approved Climate Action Reserve (CAR) forestry protocol Version 3.0. These offsets would be used to comply with emissions reduction goals under California’s landmark legislation, Assembly Bill 32.

The transaction will sequester an additional 1,500,000 tons of carbon dioxide over the next five years in excess of what would have otherwise occurred. The investment in the projects will be made through the Eco Products Fund, LP (EPF) – a private equity vehicle co-managed by Equator and New Forests, Inc.

Sierra Pacific’s Chief Financial Officer Mark Emmerson stated that SPI is pleased to be able to participate in California’s carbon market with Equator. “This project demonstrates the utility of California’s new forestry protocol, and recognizes the value of working forests in meeting the state’s climate change goals and ecosystem sustainability.” Emmerson added “We are pleased to be able to work with a global leader like Equator in this effort”.

“We are very excited to partner with SPI on this landmark transaction, and to utilize the new forest protocol approved by the Climate Action Reserve and endorsed by the California Air Resources Board,” said Gerrity Lansing, Chief Executive Officer of Equator. “These projects will not only address climate change, but will also protect critical wildlife habitat, improve biodiversity, and enhance water quality,” added Lansing.

Elements of this transaction are unique to California; the first project in the series of activities will be designed to protect the genetic diversity and integrity of Giant Sequoia trees in the Sierra helping to expand its range as an adaptation strategy in the face of climate change. Noted for their enormous potential to sequester carbon dioxide, over 20,000 Giant Sequoias in this first project area will be conserved in perpetuity. As a further demonstration of the co-benefits associated with these projects, the rare Pacific Fisher will be reintroduced on part of the project lands in cooperation with the California Department of Fish and Game.

William Libby, Emeritus Professor of Forestry and Genetics at the University of California Berkeley, noted that the agreement will provide broad ecosystem benefits. “I am encouraged to see that these firms have joined together in partnership to proactively conserve Giant Sequoias and enhance habitat for wildlife,” Libby said. “This is truly a landmark agreement for California,” he added.

Climate Action Reserve president Gary Gero offered that the agreement between SPI and Equator so soon after the approval of the new forest protocol is a “validation that the hard work of the Climate Action Reserve Forest Project Protocol work group, members of the public, and staff resulted in an approach that has real world practicality. The protocol was designed so that it could be integrated into business practices while still supporting effective activities to mitigate climate change. We are honored that the largest forest project to date will use the Reserve’s protocol,” said Gero.

“The endorsement of the CAR Forest protocols by ARB provides some clarity to investors who want to help develop carbon offset supply from forests,” said David Brand, Managing Director of New Forests, Inc., “This should stimulate the development of forest-based carbon projects in advance of the implementation of a California or US carbon trading market.”

Overall, some 60,000 acres of SPI’s private timberland in California will be dedicated to this transaction. The projects will be submitted to the Climate Action Reserve for registration in the Reserve’s registry of carbon offset credits consistent with CAR’s recently approved forest protocol; Version 3.0. The Climate Action Reserve is a national offsets program working to ensure integrity, transparency and financial value in the U.S. carbon market. The protocol was approved by the Climate Action Reserve on September 1, and endorsed by the California Air Resources Board on September 24, 2009.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Newspaper association wants tax relief, not a bailout

President Obama says he's "happy to look at" a bailout plan for the newspaper industry, which some believe would amount to a virtual government takeover. But the Newspaper Association of America isn't interested, according to Advertising Age.

Proposals such as the Newspaper Revitalization Act, introduced by Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., would have "limited application" in the industry, The NAA's Paul Boyle tells the ad industry publication.

Instead, how does the NAA suggest helping struggling newspapers?

So the Newspaper Association of America is pursuing efforts that would benefit all kinds of for-profit businesses -- including newspapers. One big goal, for example, is legislation that would let big businesses apply their net operating losses to their taxable income going back five years instead of the current two years. Businesses with revenue under $15 million got that break in the economic stimulus package, but the newspaper association and many others want the provision extended and expanded to larger businesses.

Another big issue, particularly next year, is pension relief. The stock market's decline means companies may need to use cash reserves to meet federal funding minimums for their pension funds, the association said, instead of protecting jobs or investing in business activities.

Wow, what a concept. When their own ox is being gored, newspaper industry bigwigs discover the virtues of tax and regulatory relief for big business. Interesting.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Bucking the trend?

The Old Farmers Almanac is when it comes to its long-range weather prediction for northern and central California. From the California Farm Bureau Federation:

Northern California can expect above average precipitation this winter, according to the Old Farmers Almanac. However, it says Southern California will be drier than average. The book predicts that snow will be plentiful in the north with storms in November, December and January, and that precipitation will be above average throughout the state in April and May. The almanac uses sunspot activity and earthbound weather to develop its forecasts. It claims an 80 percent accuracy rating overall, but says last year its rating was 88 percent.

That's about the opposite of what just about everyone else in the know has told me about the developing El Nino pattern -- namely, that the best chance for above-average rainfall is in Southern California, not in the north. I'll be flushing that out in the upcoming issue of Capital Press.

Of course, I'm sure many of you are hoping the Old Farmers Almanac is right and the people I talked to are wrong.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Water in the capitol: thick with discontent

The conference reports are out, and with tomorrow's deadline looming, discontent is clouding water policy in the capitol.

In Sacramento, the water conference committee has finished its conference report, reworking five delta-related bills for approval in both houses by tomorrow, the last day of this year's regular session.

But the prevailing atmosphere seems to bolster the cynics' oft-heard doubts of the legislature's ability to approve a historic delta solution this year. Republicans have already referred to the conference committee's proceedings as a "dog and pony show," and Sen. Dave Cogdill (R-Modesto), who sits on the committee, yesterday dismissed the bill package as a failure:

"The conference report is an unbalanced package of bills that ignores the need for a reliable water supply and only caters to the interests of extreme environmentalists. These bills will guarantee that we never improve the failing condition of California's water system. We had hoped that the Democrats had listened to the numerous hours of public testimony before drafting their conference report but it appears they haven't heard the cries of farmers, farm workers, businesses and residents throughout the state. As Republicans, we wholeheartedly agree that we must fix the fragile Delta while at the same time bolstering our economy. This package of bills disregards the co-equal nature of these goals and will do nothing to create jobs and keep water flowing in this state."

None of the committee's Republican members signed the final conference report.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), the committee's co-chair, acknowledged the package's lack of a bond to pay for water-system improvements (including new storage) that Republicans have pushed for and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has demanded, and that Democrats have lately come to support. Republican and Democratic bond proposals are currently on the table.

Steinberg's statement:

“I am proud that the conference committee process has produced legislation that will enhance the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and ensures California will have clean, reliable drinking water for years to come. This package represents crucial advancements in resource infrastructure for the state, but it is incomplete with out a financing plan to go with it. I will continue to work with members and the stakeholders in the coming days to make sure California can pay for the important improvements that this water package offers the Delta ecosystem and California’s water delivery system.”

And in today's Sacramento Bee, Steinberg expands a bit on why the conference report is an imperfect compromise.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Hanging in suspense

A deadline for producing legislation has come and gone, and water stakeholders continue hanging in suspense.

The conference committee that has spent the past week hashing out a package of water legislation focusing on the future of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta faced a Tuesday deadline for finalizing its conference report, which would then go to the floors of the Senate and Assembly for approval by Friday, the last day of this year's session.

But the committee never met yesterday, its 14 members preoccupied by long floor sessions. The committee is again scheduled to meet today, whenever the chairs —Sen. President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker Karen Bass — call it.

Some terse words have been offered by Republicans on the effectiveness of the conference committee, saying Republican input hasn't been heeded.

Steinberg's response:

“Over the past three weeks the Legislature has held six lengthy public hearings with full Republican input. ... I have assured Republican members that the policy pieces will not be debated on our floors until they are joined with a comprehensive finance proposal. I urge my Republican colleagues to hold their judgment until that work is completed, which will be no later than Friday.”

The circumstances seem to bolster the pessimistic comments one often hears regarding lawmakers' chances of passing historic water legislation on such a tight deadline, after years of failure on the issue.

Even so, the progress has been measurable, with Democrats and Republicans narrowing the gap on an infrastructure bond — Republicans having adopted the environmental projects that Democrats want, and Democrats overcoming their own aversion to storage infrastructure.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Farm news is portable, tractor ready

Apparently you can read the Capital Press while on the tractor, especially if it's a GPS-guided machine. This photo shows the Aug. 28 edition of Capital Press from the driver's seat of a John Deere 8230 rototilling bluegrass on the Stacy Kniveton farm near Ralston, Wash.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Again, Arnold rejects card-check unionizing

For the third time, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed a farmworker-unionizing bill. On Wednesday, the governor rejected SB 789 by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento).

The bill would have allowed "card-check" balloting for union representation as an alternative to the secret-ballot process. It was opposed by farm interests.

From the governor's veto message:

This process fundamentally alters an employee's right to a secret ballot election that allows the employee to choose, in the privacy of the voting booth without coercion or manipulation, whether or not to be represented. While I support the right of agricultural employees to voluntarily seek and choose representation if they wish, and ensuring that existing labor laws are enforced is a top priority for my administration, I cannot support this alteration of the secret ballot process.

Employers argue that card-check voting exposes workers to coercion by the union; United Farm Workers says the secret-ballot process exposes them to coercion by employers. 

From UFW:

Farm workers are subjected to sexual harassment, heat illness, abuses and intimidation at the work place. Yet, the governor, again and again, has failed to protect farm workers and continues to support employers who are responsible for at least 95 percent of the reported violations during union election campaigns.

Capitol Weekly links the veto to a $1 million donation to a UFW political action committee focused on opposing new water bonds. A water bond to accompany developing water legislation is among Schwarzenegger's top priorities.

Schwarzenegger to Obama: lift delta fish rules

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger yesterday released a letter he sent this week to the Obama administration pleading for intervention in the state's water crisis — specifically, a repeal of the salmon and delta smelt biological opinions contributing to this year's reduced water pumping from the delta.

Schwarzenegger's office gives figures of 35,000 jobs and $710 million in farm revenue lost to this year's water shortages. State and federal water managers have attributed nearly a quarter of this year's pumping reductions to the biological opinions. 

From Arnold's letter:

It is clear that we are trapped in an outdated and rigid bureaucratic process that dictates fish protection actions one species at a time rather than evaluating the entire ecosystem and addressing its many stressors. State and federal water pumps clearly impact the Delta, but regulating as though they are the only influences ignores the complexity of the situation and creates new problems while failing to solve others. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Schwarzenegger wrangles with feds on drought relief

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is asking the Obama administration to reconsider its denial of a federal disaster declaration for drought-stricken California.

Schwarzenegger requested the declaration in mid-June. The feds denied it last month, saying the state could handle its own drought-induced social impacts. The governor argues that California's budget-balancing cuts, combined with ongoing wildfire response, have the state strapped.

From Arnold's public statement:

"The ongoing drought in California’s Central Valley is truly an emergency. We are doing all we can to find a long-term solution to the state’s water needs, but the impacts of the current drought will not wait for the legislature to act. Sadly, people are going without basic necessities right now. The federal government needs to step up and show it can still work for the people when they need it most."

Monday, August 24, 2009

Water, water everywhere ...

Discussion of water and delta issues is escalating this week at the Capitol. In two more joint hearings — following one last week — the Senate and Assembly water committees will continue mulling a five-bill water planned pushed by Democrats.

The committees meet Tuesday to discuss three bills dealing with management and governance of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and again Thursday for two bills addressing water rights and efficiency. 

On Wednesday, the Select Committee on Delta Stewardship and Sustainability will hold an informational hearing on water-infrastructure financing. 

The Democrats have left infrastructure funding out of the current package. They've focused instead on governance, saying a restructuring of the chaotic system by which the delta is currently managed must come first.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has vowed to veto any package that lacks a funding proposal, saying he wants a bond of about $10 billion. Various bond bills in that range have been proposed this year by Republicans and Democrats. But Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) now says that level of funding is too much for the state's weak fiscal condition.

The bills are slated for consideration by a conference committee before the legislature adjourns in mid-September.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Carry the Capital Press with you

The Capital Press now has web pages designed for mobile devices.

You can now access agriculture news on the road from your cell phone or other mobile device. You can get the latest headlines in your pickup, tractor, or coffee shop online at or at

Friday, August 21, 2009

Jon Voight: "Obama creating a civil war"

Jennifer Harper writes in the Washington Times' Inside the Beltway that actor Jon Voight has had some choice words for the Obama administration.

"We are witnessing a slow, steady takeover of our true freedoms. We are becoming a socialist nation, and whoever can't see this is probably hoping it isn't true. If we permit Mr. Obama to take over all our industries, if we permit him to raise our taxes to support unconstitutional causes, then we will be in default. This great America will become a paralyzed nation."

There's more.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

PLF calls for 'God Squad'

The Pacific Legal Foundation has thrust the idea of a "God Squad" back into circulation. PLF sent a petition to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger this week urging him to ask the Obama administration to lift Endangered Species Act protections from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Under federal law, the president could accomplish this by convening an Endangered Species Committee, better known as a God Squad. It's a panel of cabinet-level officials who can override the ESA if circumstances appear to warrant it.

PLF, and the 12,000 people who signed the petition, say circumstances more than warrant it, with thousands of jobs lost and acres fallowed because of drought. 

Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), who introduced one of the five water bills now under consideration in the Capitol, has taken a leadership role on delta management. At a committee hearing on Tuesday, he offered this perspective:

"For those in the water-export community who believe that the world would be a better place if we just eliminated the Endangered Species Act and returned to the good old days of unimpeded pumping, I want to promise you that that will never happen. The federal courts are in control of our pumps. They will not loosen that hold until we come to grips with the fact that our existing water-delivery system is a killing machine that has to be unplugged."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Some clarity on health care reform

The Washington Times provides it this morning.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

TANC: Gone, but not forgotten

The TANC transmission project may be dead, but former Capital Press freelance writer Dylan Darling has a story this morning analyzing the map of another line envisioned to run from Oregon to Tracy, Calif.

The transmission system, which could be partly owned by PG&E, is still barely in the pencil-on-paper stages. But it appears that it would run through the Northern California community of Round Mountain, which was a hotbed of opposition to the TANC project.

TANC opponents and California Farm Bureau Federation representatives said they didn't think TANC's demise would signal the end of all such power line proposals, and it looks like they were right.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The definition of political correctness

From Michael Ledeen at NRO's The Corner:

A friend e-mails to say that Texas A & M has an annual contest for the best definition of a contemporary expression. This year it was "political correctness." And here's the winner:

Political correctness is a doctrine, fostered by a delusional, illogical minority, and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a turd by the clean end.

Gotta love it.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

FB hero to do FB convention

From the American Farm Bureau Federation:

Gridiron Great Terry Bradshaw to Address Farm Bureau

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 7, 2009 – Terry Bradshaw, four-time Super Bowl champion quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, two-time Super Bowl “Most Valuable Player” and Pro Football Hall of Fame member, will deliver the keynote address at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 91st annual meeting on Jan. 11, 2010, in Seattle, Wash.

More than 5,000 Farm Bureau members from across the nation will gather in Seattle Jan. 10-13 to not only hear a great speaker, but also learn more about the forces shaping agriculture today and participate in a grassroots policy setting process that will guide the American Farm Bureau through 2010.

A truly “larger-than-life” personality known for his energy, zeal and enthusiasm, Bradshaw is renowned for his professional accomplishments in NFL football and sports broadcasting, in addition to achieving acclaim as an inspirational speaker, actor, author and gospel/country singer. Bradshaw also owns an 800-acre ranch in Texas where he raises cattle and breeds horses.

“Terry Bradshaw is an All-American icon, recognized for his accomplishments both on and off the field,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman, a Columbus, Texas, rice and cattle producer. “But his road to success was not always easy. Along the way, he battled and overcame significant obstacles that many people from all walks of life – including farmers and ranchers – can relate to, including disappointment, adversity, and relentless competition.”

In his presentations, Bradshaw takes a close look at what makes people successful and encourages audiences to think in new ways about sacrifice, pain, competition, and hardship. He also shares with audiences his strategies for maintaining success through persistent self-improvement, in addition to providing specific examples of how to focus the power of dreaming, thinking, and strategizing to reach goals.

The only NFL player with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the 6’3” Bradshaw was the first player chosen in the 1970 draft and became one of the most prolific quarterbacks in history. He was the first quarterback to win four Super Bowl championships (1975, 1976, 1979 and 1980), a feat that has been duplicated only once, 10 years later, by Joe Montana. Bradshaw holds the Super Bowl passing records for average gain per attempt in career (11.10 yards) and average gain in a game (14.71 yards in Super Bowl XIV). He was also a four-time All-Pro. He retired from the NFL prior to the 1984 season.

A native of Shreveport, La., Bradshaw attended college at Louisiana Tech, where he still holds the single-season passing and total offense records. He was a first-team Associated Press All-America as a senior in 1970 and later that year received a bachelor’s in physical education from Louisiana Tech. He currently resides in Texas.

The meeting begins Sunday morning, Jan. 10 with the opening presidential address by Stallman. The annual Young Farmer and Rancher competitions, scheduled for Jan. 10 and Monday, Jan. 11, are just one of the highlights on the agenda. Another important feature on Sunday is the annual Farm Bureau Women’s luncheon and business session, which is open to all women attendees but advance purchase tickets are required to attend.

Farm Bureau members can register for the 91st AFBF convention through their state Farm Bureaus.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Another poll casts doubt on global warming

Reporter Jennifer Robison of the Las Vegas Review-Journal has found that the political environment is getting less friendly for proposed policies aimed at curbing so-called global warming.

As evidence, she points to a series of Gallup surveys.

Here's what Gallup found: The number of Americans who say the media have exaggerated global warming jumped to a record 41 percent in 2009, up from 35 percent a year ago. The most marked increase came among political independents, whose ranks of doubters swelled from 33 percent to 44 percent. Republican doubters grew from 59 percent to 66 percent, while Democratic skeptics stayed at around 20 percent.

What's more, fewer Americans believe the effects of global warming have started to occur: 53 percent see signs of a hotter planet, down from 61 percent in 2008. Global warming placed last among eight environmental concerns Gallup asked respondents to rank, with water pollution landing the top spot.

Another recent Gallup study found that, for the first time in 25 years of polling, more Americans care about economic growth than the environment. Just 42 percent of people surveyed said the environment takes precedence over growth, while 51 percent asserted expansion carries more weight. That reverses results from 2008, when 49 percent of respondents said the environment was paramount and 42 percent said economic growth came first. In 1985, the poll's first year, 61 percent placed a bigger priority on the environment, while 28 percent ranked economic growth highest.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Legislative counsel: Arnold's vetoes illegal

At the request of Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles), California's Legislative Counsel Bureau on Wednesday released an opinion that says Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's budget vetoes are largely illegal.

The argument: The vetoes do not strike new spending, instead making additional cuts to programs that the governor had already enacted when he signed the state budget early this year. Schwarzenegger's constitutional veto power allows striking new spending provisions from legislation, not revisions to expenditures already approved.

In a departure from the norm, this year's budget was both extremely late (it missed its deadline of July 2008) and extremely early (it was a two-year budget, thus it preceded this year's July deadline). So instead of revising the governor's proposed budget — as would be the case in a normal year — this year's spring-revise process made adjustments to a budget that had already been enacted.

For that reason, legislators say, the vetoes are illegal. The opinion is non-binding, and lawmakers won't file suit to repeal the vetoes, says Assemblyman John Perez (D-Los Angeles). But interest groups may well do so.

Legislators could still override the vetoes, although Assemblyman Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) has said he would continue working with the governor's office on a compromise.

Stay tuned on how this may affect the veto of greatest concern to ag interests: the governor's suspension of Williamson Act funding.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Estate tax "a sad song" for family farms

Iowa manufacturer Eugene Sukup writes for McClatchy-Tribune Information Services (via the California Farm Bureau Federation's Ag Alert):

The recent deaths of Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, Billy Mays and Ed McMahon have many Americans thinking about mortality. If you're a business owner of a certain age, as I am, it's something you think about daily.

Unlike television personalities and performing artists, most business owners labor in relative obscurity. Our legacy, when we pass, is what we've built and perhaps invented—in my case, agricultural equipment most Americans have never heard of—and the hundreds and perhaps thousands of people who depend on us for jobs.

We're unlike television personalities and recording artists in another important respect as well: When we die, the government may lay claim to half or more of our business.

Not directly, but through tax policy.

He continues:

My sons are both active in the business. But they know that when my wife, Mary, and I pass, the estate tax will be so severe—estimated at $15 million to $20 million at today's tax rate—the business may have to be sold. [ ... ]

If Sukup Manufacturing is fortunate enough to survive our deaths, the government will claim an additional 45 percent when our sons die (more, if Congress raises the tax rate, or allows it to increase automatically to 55 percent, as it will in 2011 under current law).

And when their children die it will take another bite until the business finally collapses or some future generation says, "We've had enough."

And all for nothing. According to a recent study by economist Stephen Entin for the American Family Business Foundation, of which I am a member, the economic damage the estate tax does to businesses such as ours—and to the economy as a whole—reduces total tax revenues by more than the estate tax brings in to the Treasury.

The music of Michael Jackson will live on, like Elvis' before him. But our business may not survive our deaths.

Read the entire commentary here.

Beef industry update

From the California Cattlemen's Association:

Cattle Fax Weekly Market Highlight

July 31, 2009

The fed cattle market was basically $1 lower this week. In the South, sales were primarily at $82, while the cattle in the North fetched $131 to $132 dressed. Boxed beef prices were steady to modestly lower as the prospect of larger slaughters kept a lid on buyer interest. Sales volumes on that side were moderate at best. Feeder cattle prices were $1 to $2.00 lower, while calves were $1 to $3.00 higher. More yearlings are being offered off grass, slowing demand in many cases for heavier weight cattle. Slaughter cows were mostly $1 to $2.00 higher. Corn prices traded in a volatile fashion on the week, as traders were torn between the prospects of a large crop and at the same time increased financial market strength and demand for grains going to export markets.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Is your bookmark up to date?

If you stumbled on this post because you were trying to find the Capital Press website and thought it had disappeared, fear not. The Capital Press website is alive and well, but it may not be where you thought it was.

The main website address, or URL, for the Capital Press is We have it printed in the paper, on bumper stickers, on the sides and/or backs of company vehicles. It's a well-traveled domain name. However, it appears there may be lots of people out there who have a different address — — bookmarked. We've also seen numerous websites that also link to pages with that root URL.

That's completely understandable, albeit disappointing given the effort we've made to publicize the .com address. The address was the original website address for the Capital Press website. We changed it, or tried to change it, a few years back. But if people held on to the old domain it was no big deal because the dot-info address still worked. It just redirected folks to, or mirrored, the .com website. One site, two addresses.

But, after the launch of the new Capital Press website over the weekend, we had a situation for a while where the dot-info address was pointed to the old website, which was no longer being updated, instead of the new, revamped website. So, we got that stopped and the old website is no longer live, but we have not yet got the old dot-info address pointed to the new, correct and updated site.

As of this writing, if you type in the address (or use a bookmark with that address or follow a link that uses that address) you are likely getting an error that says: "Bad Request (Invalid Host Name)".

We are working on redirecting the dot-info address to the new server. As soon as is humanly and technically possible, we will get that switched over. But if you want to do yourself, and us, a favor, just point your browser to That will get you to the new website now.

Sorry about the glitch folks. It was one of the many unintended pitfalls we've encountered in our website update, but it may be one of the biggest roadblocks to longtime, loyal website readers finding us. We have seen website traffic drop by about one-third or more since the conversion. The misdirected domain name and broken dot-info links seem the most likely cause. However, we are also likely missing out on some visitors because our RSS feed has changed too and as a result our headlines aren't feeding into our Twitter account via Twitterfeed right now either. There some sort of coding glitch that keeps Twitterfeed from telling there are new headlines in the RSS feed we are trying to make it munch on. And if you have an RSS feed reading into Google or Newsgator or some other RSS aggregator that link has been severed too.

If you do use an RSS aggregator or widget of some sort, I have some good news for you. We have multiple RSS feeds now, so you can get even more focused feeds. We have not yet put together a fill list of our RSS feeds because we may still want to add more of them. But you can find several links to the new RSS feeds on some of the popular sections of our website, like our Oregon/Washington, California, Idaho and Livestock section. You can also find the link to RSS for the part of our site that always includes our most recently posted stories. Even our Calendar is RSS enabled.

We are still online. We are still here. Here just may not be where you though it was, or where it once was, or will be once again when we get all the right servers and routers talking to one another.

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Clown Senator's opening act

He's only been on the Hill for a few weeks, and what's the first thing comedian-turned-Minnesota Sen. Al Franken does to get himself noticed?

Forge a compromise on health care legislation? Nope. Propose an amendment to cap and trade? Nuh-uh. Propose a bill to, say, give stimulus money to Midwestern farmers? Try again.

If you guessed he'd berate T. Boone Pickens for bankrolling television ads criticizing John Kerry during the presidential campaign five years ago, you'd be right on the mark.

Apparently Mr. Franken thinks he's still on the talk radio circuit.

It's sort of like what people have long said about California's two senators -- If you want to get something done, you call Sen. Feinstein; if you want to organize a protest, you call Sen. Boxer.

Oh well, what the heck. Sen. Boxer could use the company in the realm of blustery but inconsequential senators.

Agencies coordinate attacks on food pathogens

The Obama administration is rolling out food-safety measures described as a shift toward handling food-pathogen challenges proactively.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service is issuing guidance for routine inspections of bench trim — steak cuttings used in ground beef — for E. coli bacteria.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, meanwhile, published a proposal for produce-handling guidelines in the Federal Register today, starting a 90-day public comment period.

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg says the guidelines will be followed in two years by enforceable standards. They represent a strategy shift at FDA, says Hamburg, "from a food safety system that often has been reactive to one that is based on preventing foodborne hazards," according to a USDA statement announcing the dual-agency actions.

The Delaware-based Produce Marketing Association says FDA's proposed standards are less strict than California's Leafy Green Products Handler Marketing Agreement or Florida's standards for tomato handling, says The Packer.

No surprise: budget-vote initiative appears

It was only a matter of time. With approval from the Secretary of State's office, signatures are being collected for a ballot initiative to reduce the vote tally required for passing California's budget.

An attorney from Berkeley is leading the effort. His initiative would lower the required two-thirds supermajority of legislators to three-fifths.

There are garbage polls, and then there's reality

RedState blogger E Pluribus Unum poses a question:

Everybody is aware of political polls. Most conservatives view most polls as suspect at best, a propaganda tool of the American left. Demonstrating the foundation of that suspicion is not required to make my point, so I won’t bother, but a typical conservative will dismiss out of hand any poll not from Zogby or Rasmussen.

While both the majority media and the political left have their purposes for fudging their public polls to accomplish political ends, it’s also true that the political left wants to know the true numbers. Even crooked businesses will show one set of books to the IRS, yet keep another set that shows the true state of the business. They are, after all, in the business of making a profit.

So I ask you this: do you really think that if the Democrats really believed Obama’s approval-disapproval rating was 58-30 (CBS News/NYT, yesterday), and the Democrats led 50-44 (Gallup, 2 weeks ago) in a generic congressional ballot, the House Blue Dogs would have given the finger this week to Pelosi, Emanuel, and Obama, and the leadership would have allowed such impudence?

It sort of reminds me of a few years ago, when we kept hearing from poll after poll and pundit after pundit about how unpopular the Iraq war was, yet the politicians kept voting to fund it. And those pesky voters kept re-electing the most staunch supporters of the military effort.

I've often thought it was best, when trying to gauge true trends in public opinion, to watch what the politicians do, not listen to what the pollsters say.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Give that gas-pumper a shower!

Blogger Bruce Ross shares this "Quote of the Day":

Attributed to our very own Rep. Wally Herger: a criticism of the president's $4 billion initiative to improve the hygiene of gas-station attendants.

"Nobody disputes that America's gas station attendants need a shower, but where does it stop?" said Rep. Wally Herger (R-CA). "What about that nasty clerk behind the counter at the 7-Eleven? Or that sweaty fat kid serving up your burger at In-N-Out? Where's the money to hose them down?"

OK, I'm pretty sure this piece is satire. After all, when was the last time anyone in California even saw a gas station attendant? [ ... ]

In Oregon, on the other hand, ...

California's farm crisis receives more national attention

Nationally syndicated radio talk show host and blogger Hugh Hewitt, who's devoted some attention here and there in the past few months to what he calls California's "man-made" drought, weighs in today with a plea for readers to check out this story in London's Globe and Mail.

In the story, reporter Sonia Verma reports what she saw during her visit to the Central Valley.

The lineup at the makeshift food bank by the old rodeo grounds is almost a kilometre long.

Tent cities for the homeless have sprung up on H Street in Fresno.

The last bank, Westamerica, in the nearby town of Mendota has a new sign in the window saying it will close for good.

In California, authorities have begun to issue IOUs instead of cash.

Unemployment stands at 11.6 per cent and 180 cities are set to sue the state over a budget that proposes to close a $26.3-billion shortfall by taking $4.7-billion from their coffers.

In all of this, Fresno County, where Mr. Allen was born and raised, has the unenviable distinction of being the hardest-hit county in the state.

Its jobless rate reaches 40 per cent in some towns. America's housing crisis was its most pronounced here, with prices almost triple a home's value. Nearly half of all sales these days involve foreclosure.

On paper, the numbers are staggering. For the rest of California, Fresno County stands as a cautionary tale of consequences to come.

Water funds flowing to California

Federal agencies today announced allocations totalling $58 million to help California weather its water woes.

The federal Bureau of Reclamation funneled $40 million in federal stimulus funds into drought-relief projects around the state, roughly $30 million of it to the San Joaquin Valley.

USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, meanwhile, awarded $18 million in grants for local water projects in California. The funding comes through NRCS's Agricultural Water Enhancement Program. The agency announced today its awarding of $58 million for 63 projects in 21 states. California's share is the largest.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Cattlemen quickly react

The president of the California Cattlemen's Association reacted quickly to the news that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger line-item vetoed funding for the Williamson Act, which provides property tax rates for farmers who agree to keep their land in agriculture. (See Wes' post below.)

From the CCA:

SACRAMENTO – July 28, 2009 – After weeks of budget talks at the State Capitol and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s signing of the 2009-2010 Budget today, CCA President Tom Talbot, DVM, a Bishop, Calif., beef producer, made the following statement regarding the Governor’s last minute line item veto of Williamson Act Subvention Funding.

“The California Cattlemen’s Association is extremely disappointed in the Governor’s unilateral decision to cut Williamson Act Subvention Funding, which is vital to farmers, ranchers and rural communities throughout the state. Retention of the Williamson Act was supported by legislators of both parties in the Senate and Assembly and it is unfortunate that the Governor’s decision today will put family ranches and farms in jeopardy.

In this difficult budget year, CCA and other agriculture organizations have worked hard to maintain Williamson Act Subvention Funding both for those who produce food in this state and for California’s public, who enjoys open space and natural resources provided by rangeland. The Williamson Act is the state’s most broadly-supported conservation program, protecting millions of acres of open space at a bargain rate to state government. Additionally, during these tough economic times, the Williamson Act is a critical component of helping sustain California’s number one economic driver – agriculture.”

In the most recent issue of Capital Press, I wrote about a Farm Bureau expert who said the Williamson Act will be a political football for as long as legislative Democrats and the governor need Republican votes to pass the state budget.

I can think of one way the Farm Bureau and CCA can (theoretically) make that stop. Put an initiative on the ballot.

I say theoretically, because that's what cities and counties thought, too.

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