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Return Roundup Ready Alfalfa Seed

Alfalfa growers who bought Roundup Ready seed but can't plant it need to contact their seed dealers about replacing it with conventional varieties or getting refunds, says a Monsanto spokesman. It seems likely that full refunds will be offered to growers who don't want to switch to conventional alfalfa, but Andrew Burchett, Monsanto public relations representative, can only confirm that Monsanto's technology fee will be returned. Most of the major alfalfa seed companies sell Roundup Ready varieties, and each has its own return policy, says Burchett. Supplies of conventional seed likely will vary among companies, too, he adds.

Planting Roundup Ready alfalfa will be illegal after this Friday as per a March 12 preliminary injunction in the U.S. District Court for the District of Northern California. The injunction came in response to a lawsuit claiming USDA acted illegally when it deregulated Roundup Ready alfalfa in 2005 without first preparing an environmental impact statement. The court order prohibits the sale and planting of the transgenic alfalfa, but states that growers who bought seed before March 12 can plant it provided it's in the ground by March 30.

The judge in the case is scheduled to hear oral arguments April 27 on whether to make the injunction permanent. If he lifts the injunction, Roundup Ready alfalfa could be available in time for late summer and fall seedings. If he makes it permanent, the seed will be off limits for at least two years while USDA does an environmental impact study.

Don't keep Roundup Ready seed betting that the injunction will be lifted, Burchett advises growers. "We're not recommending that anyone hang on to the seed," he says. "We want to show everyone involved that we can do a good job of accounting for the seed that is out there. So there is an effort by the seed companies to secure seed that isn't planted by March 30."

"We're going to do everything we think is appropriate to defend growers' right to choose this technology," says Burchett. "Our goal is to restore that choice for farmers."

Montana Organic Produces Forge New Co-op

Twenty-two organic livestock producers have joined together to form the Montana Organic Producers Co-op to help achieve fair, stable pricing for their output based on cost-of-production plus a fair profit.

Organic producers face challenges to get fair prices on their products, says Clay McAlpine, MOPC chairperson. These problems include cheap offshore meats marketed to consumers without country of origin labeling, a lack of certified organic processing facilities, limited transportation for markets, and a lack of information on cost of production and grading to help producers improve their herds and manage pricing proactively.

"MOPC's purpose is to help organic producers market their products at a fair price regardless of the hurdles particular to organic production," says McAlpine. "We want to represent our members in those arenas which can affect infrastructure and legislation to benefit not only organic producers, but our agricultural community as a whole."

While the co-op aim is promotion of Montana certified organic products, "we have attracted members from … several adjoining states," McAlpine adds. Current membership includes producers in South Dakota, Nebraska and Idaho, as well as in Montana.

Focusing on beef at the time, the co-op plans to expand to include lamb, goats, pork and perhaps bison as sufficient numbers of these animals become available. Organic grain marketing may also be added to the co-op market menu.

For more information, contact Karalee Bancroft at (406) 225-4280, or e-mail her at

Bush Backs Beef at NCBA Spring Conference

President Bush spoke at the National Cattlemen's Beef Association's Annual Spring Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. Wednesday, saying that Congress must reauthorize his Trade Promotion Authority and pass several pending trade deals to help livestock producers reach global markets.

"Every time we break down a barrier to trade, someone who's raising a cow will have an opportunity to sell that cow into a better market," Bush told the cattle producers. "My attitude on trade is 'you treat us the way we treat you – and then let's compete.'"

NCBA President John Queen echoed some of Bush's sentiments, saying the President "has fostered an aggressive trade agenda aimed at opening markets worldwide for our products."

Bush focused on his trade agenda and its impact on agriculture, especially pending deals with Peru, Panama and Colombia, and the ongoing U.S.-South Korea free trade negotiations. The South Korea deal needs to be completed by week's end so that Congress can give it and up or down vote before Bush's TPA expires on June 30, 2007.

Farm Groups Tell Legislators to Just Say "No" to Governor's Tax Proposal

Several hundred members of the ag community, including Illinois Farm Bureau leaders and members from 60 other farm organizations, descended on the Capitol Building in Springfield Wednesday to lobby legislators to just say "no" to Governor Rod Blagojevich's tax proposal.

The 37th Illinois Agricultural Legislative Day on March 28 drew an unusually large attendance, due in part to the agricultural community's concerns over the governor's proposal to create a gross receipts tax that would take effect next January 1, raising an estimated $6 billion annually.

At a round table briefing on Wednesday morning, Illinois Farm Bureau President Phil Nelson outlined the devastating impact that the proposed new tax on goods and services would have on Illinois agriculture. He called the GRT "a pyramid tax" in which "every person that touches a product will pay some sort of tax."

Consumers will bear the brunt of the tax along with farmers because they are price takers and can't pass along the extra costs, according to Nelson.

"This is a business climate issue" that will place Illinois farmers at a competitive disadvantage and send a message that the state doesn't want business growth, says Nelson. "This is a regressive tax," added Nelson, noting that farmers and agribusinesses will pay the tax even in years they don't make money.

While the governor proposes to exempt businesses with less than $1 million in sales, all Illinois farmers would see a significant increase in production costs because of taxes on inputs like feed, seed, fertilizer, chemicals and machinery.

Under the governor's proposal, the IFB estimates that pork producer profit margins will be reduced by 25%, beef producer profit margins by 15%, and corn and soybean profit margins by at least 14%.

The GRT tax could cost an Illinois ethanol plant an extra $1 million a year, said Nelson, noting that the governor's proposal could send many plants to other states to avoid the tax.

Pike County Farm Bureau Manager Blake Roderick said a GRT tax could drive local farmers in his area across the state line to Missouri to buy, fertilizer chemicals and seed.

As a representative of the governor, Illinois Ag Director Chuck Hartke told the ag group he was in a "tough" position. Illinois' future depends on finding money to provide and pay for good health care, education, roads and other infrastructure. "I know it's going to be expensive," he said. "I ask you to search your souls."

Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn said he doesn't agree with the governor's proposed GRT tax. "There are other ways to invest in education and health care."

"But I want to commend the governor for identifying corporations in Illinois that don't pay any tax. That's not right," said Quinn. "We all need to pay our fair share."

Nelson added that Illinois ag "wants to be at the table to help develop solutions to plug some of these gaping holes" in the state's budget.

Tiger Power Offers PTO-driven Kilowatts

Whether it's winter ice, spring thunderstorms or autumn hurricanes, standby electrical power can be a life saver in rural areas.

Tiger Power's PTO-driven generators provide single-phase, brushless synchronous power from small tractors with 540 rpm PTOs. All 10-, 15- and 20-kilowatt models (PTO10, PTO15, PTO20R) feature a voltage and frequency meter, voltage variation of less than 4%, copper windings, circuit breakers and a solid-state capacitor regulator. Each model has a 120 V duplex outlet along with the 240 V full power outlet with individual circuit breakers for each. Power requirements are 20-, 30-, and 40 hp, for the 10-, 15- and 20-kw models, respectively.

Prices are: PTO10, $2,225; PTO15, $3,025; PTO20R, $3,575.

For more information call (800) 779-8809, ext. 216. Or, visit

Take the "Guesswork" Out of Welding

Miller Electric Mfg. Co., has introduced what it calls "the simplest wire welder in the industry" with the new Millermatic 140 with Auto-Set.

The new machine requires the operator to set only the wire diameter and material thickness...the Auto-Set technology handles wire feed speed and voltage.

Auto-Set works with C25 gas (75% argon, 25% CO2) and either .024 or .030 solid wire. A keychain material thickness guide is included with the welder to help the user determine the thickness of the material they are welding.

The new Millermatic 140 replaces the company's popular 135 115VAC wire welder with new technology that

allows the user to set only wire diameter and material thickness for proper welding setup. The Auto-Set technology automatically sets the machine's voltage and wire feed speed.

The Millermatic 140 is available with and without Auto-Set and replaces the Millermatic 135 as the company's basic 115 VAC wirewelder for metals as thick as 3/16-inch.

The 140 with Auto-Set provides an easy-to-use chart and a manual mode which allows the operator to manually set wire feed speed and voltage for broader applications.

Miller officials say the new technology was developed after customer research noted one of the basic issues among most welders was lack of confidence in setting welding parameters.

No-till Gaining Popularity for Corn

No-till's popularity has grown, and it is now the most common form of conservation tillage in U.S. corn, according to the Conservation Tillage Information Center.

In CTIC's 2006 Crop Residue Management Survey, no-till corn makes up about 20% of the surveyed area, including 46% of corn acres surveyed in Nebraska.

"Yields (from no-till) have been steady with conventional till and are increasing with better hybrids and methods of weed control," says Bill Chase, chairman of the National Corn Growers Association Production and Stewardship Action Team. "Of course, there are many conservation benefits, including erosion control, moisture and fuel and time savings. No-till also helps build a good soil profile."

In NCGA's National Corn Yield Contest, more than one-third of the contest's 3,154 entries were in the no-till/strip-till categories. Three out of the five highest yields in the 2006 contest were from no-till/strip-till fields.

California water needs highlighted by Delta pump decision

Four days after an Alameda County, Calif., judge ordered the shut-down of pumps that send drinking water to 25 million Californians and irrigate 775,000 acres of farmland, Gov. Arnold Schwarznegger was in Fresno once again, drumming up support to build a new dam on the San Joaquin River.

Judge Frank Roesch gave the state 60 days to figure a way to comply with a law to protect endangered and threatened fish species or shut down the pumps that transport water through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley River Delta.

No one expects the ruling to cut off water to Central and Southern California, but it was a wake-up call to the precarious state of the water supply for 37 million Californians and millions of acres of farmland.

It has been decades since any new water supplies have been developed in the state, and Gov. Schwarzenegger says it’s time to develop new water supplies.

With the Friant Dam and Millerton Lake Reservoir as a backdrop, he detailed once again the “desperate need to have more above-the-ground water storage.

“This is an issue that I promised the people of California, it’s an issue that I have promised the people in the Valley,” he said.

In the next 20 years, California’s population is expected to grow by 30 percent.

Notwithstanding that growth, the governor, flanked by a host of politicians from throughout the Valley, said earthquakes and major storms also make the existing water supply “very vulnerable” by damaging the Delta and threatening the water supply for 25 million Californians.

“Two-thirds of all Californians are threatened to have their water supply cut off it we have a major earthquake or a huge, major storm,” said Schwarzenegger.

He also talked about global warming reducing the annual snow pack and rising sea levels contaminating the Delta with saltwater.

He has proposed $5.95 billion in bonds for water management and $4.5 billion dollars for water storage. Likely dam sites are the west side of the Sacramento Valley and Temperance Flat on the San Joaquin River east of Fresno, which would supply 500,000 acre feet of water.

Back to the court case, Roesch's ruling was in response to a 2006 lawsuit over killing of the fish. The suit was filed by the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance against the California Resources Agency, which oversees the Department of Water Resources and the State Water Project.

The judge’s ruling was a “bell-ringer," said Bill Jennings, the executive director of the Alliance, a confederation of anglers based in Stockton. "We have a real likelihood now that the delta will receive more water.”

Ultimately, the state’s Department of Water Resources could be forced to radically change the way it allocates water via the State Water Project. Changes could mean more water for the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and less for municipalities and Central Valley farms.

Consequences of changing State Water Project operations are massive: State officials say it is directly responsible for a $300 billion portion of the California economy.

At a minimum, complying with the judge's decision will force the state water agency to obtain a permit from the California Department of Fish and Game, allowing the "incidental" killing of delta smelt and chinook salmon at the Harvey O. Banks Pumping Plant near Tracy, as well developing a plan to aid in the recovery of the protected fish.

Jennings said the Water Resources Department ignored the California Endangered Species Act and state fish and game codes in operating its pumps, which have chewed up large numbers of fish.

The state's pumping station can transport 10,300 cubic feet of water a second, while nearby pumps that sustain the federal Central Valley Project are much smaller, with a capacity of about 4,600 cfs. The Central Valley Project is not affected by Roesch's decision.

The Water Resources Department maintained it was given a pass on state laws by virtue of five agreements concluded in the 1990s, including two negotiated by CalFed, the joint state and federal agency created to solve California's water disputes.

Roesch ruled that the agreements did not constitute a permit to kill the salmon and smelt, as the state contended.

The best that can be said of the five agreements, Roesch wrote, "is that (they) accept fish will be killed in the Henry O. Banks Pumping Plant operations and that the parties agree that mitigation measures will be undertaken."

State officials expressed dismay at the decision.

"We obviously strongly disagree with the court's proposed decision and will present additional information to challenge (it)," state Resources Secretary Mike Chrisman said.

Ryan Broddrick, the director of the California Department of Fish and Game, said conservation strategies of the kind Roesch requires are complicated and time-consuming.

Sacramento River


This Hotel California strictly for Black Widows

“Welcome to the Hotel California
Such a lovely place
Plenty of room at the Hotel California
Any time of year”
The Eagles
Hotel California

Proprietor: Kent Daane. Fittingly, Black Widow Spiders are the only guests of this Hotel California...”such a lovely place...such a lovely place.”

No need for a desk register. Desk clerk Daane knows all his guests. He personally reared all 3,000 of them for a stay in this special place that ... “could be heaven or this could be hell.”

California Table Grape Commission is the mortgage holder of this particular lovely place....”You can checkout any time you like. But you can never leave!”

Daane’s real job is University of California Extension specialist, biological control. His charge is to make sure his guests in this vineyard established to study the habits of black widows never reach the upper floor where there are table grape clusters.

One black widow spider in a bunch of table grapes is definitely an unwanted guest. One is one too many, and the California Table Grape Commission is funding an aggressive research effort by University of California entomologists to help growers to turn ones into zeros.

Hotel California for Black Widows is just one element of the research Daane and others are conducting on how to find and control black widow spiders, which have been found in table grape clusters in supermarket produce departments here and overseas.

A definite no-no in this country, but even more so in critical markets overseas. One-third of California table grapes are exported each season and if enough black widows are found in bunches shipped overseas, hard earned markets could be lost. This is especially true in countries where there are no black widow spiders. There these evil doers are considered invasive species to never become established.

Black widows are certainly not invasive in America where Daane estimates one-third of all households have black widows in backyards, basements or other places.

One of the big reasons homeowners and table grape growers alike do not see them is that they are nocturnal.

“The black widow spiders always come out at night in vineyards, typically starting after dusk and remaining until just before sunrise,” Daane told the annual San Joaquin Valley table grape seminar in Visalia recently.

Treat early, late

Daane told 300 growers and PCAs there they could use that little bit of research information to ensure that black widows do not get a one-way ticket out of a vineyard on a table grape bunch. Early morning or late evening may be the best time to treat with insecticides.

Fortunately, said Daane, there is an array of effective insecticides for control of black widows.

In direct contact studies, Danitol, Lorsban and Lannate “provided excellent control of adult black widows with 100 percent mortality one day after treatment.”

However, Applaud, Provado, Agrimek and Omite had little or no impact.

Of the effective material, only Danitol and Lorsban provided “residual control,” said Daane. This is where spiders died after contact with treated bark. Danitol was also “very effective” against immature black widows, while Lorsban had less impact.

Most black widows (40-60 percent) in vineyards with known black widow problems were found near the trunk base with fewer than 8 percent found in the canopy and clusters. Fewer than 1 percent were actually found in clusters, according to Daane.

Black widows like to spin webs in areas between grapestakes and the vine and in irrigation standpipes. They love milk cartons used to protect young vines. Daane suggests removing the protective milk cartons as soon as practical. In one vineyard where the cartons were removed, spider populations quickly declined.

Finding black widow webs is easier than finding spiders. Daane suggests destroying webs around the base and other areas of the vine where they are found before applying an insecticide. Three to five days after treatment return to those sites — he suggests 50 webs -- and see if the webs have been rebuilt. If the black widows are still alive, the webs will be built back in three to five days.

Black widows are active year-round, even in when temperatures are freezing or near freezing. Nighttime applications in the winter when they are slow moving may be the best time to reduce the problem with pesticide applications.

Both mature and immature black widow stages are present year-round. Spiderlings are most common from May through October, typically peaking in May and June. Spiderlings were always found on webs at the base of the vine. Adult female black widows produce egg sacs from April through September.

Found at harvest

“Unfortunately, the largest number of black widows are found during the harvest months of August through November,” Daane noted. Fall is also when 50 percent of the state’s table grapes move to market.

Daane says the late season movement into canopy and clusters could be spiders looking for prey. “This will be especially true in vineyard systems with dense overhead canopies that block growth of plant materials on the vineyard floor, which also reduces the potential prey near the ground and away from the grape clusters,” he said.

As a biological control specialist, Daane is always looking for beneficial insects/predators. The best biological control for black widow spiders is black widow spiders. They eat their young.

Welcome to Hotel California.


Soil salinity survey ongoing in Paso Robles Vineyards

Salinity issues are a wine grape grower’s nightmare. Figuring out if there is a problem, where it is or where it is headed is invaluable.

Mark Battany, San Luis Obispo County UCCE farm advisor has initiated a soil salinity survey in the growing Paso Robles grape growing area.

He has uncovered surprising salinity levels.

“My goal is to assess overall soil salinity status in the area east of Paso Robles, and to track changes over time,” he says.

Battany began the trial last year taking samples from 100 locations. He plans to repeat sampling at the same sites every three years with the help of funding from the American Vineyard Foundation.“As electrical conductivity goes up, vine growth goes down,” Battany says. “It’s a very linear relationship. I chose the Paso Robles area because it is more likely to have salinity problems than other areas within the San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara areas.”

At each site, Battany took 10-15 auger cores, sampling the top foot of soil within the vine row. He sampled at random distances from drip emitters and trunks and marked the location through global positioning satellite (GPS) technology.

“The Paso Robles area is generally considered to have naturally high pH soils,” he says. “However, the native soils are actually acidic. The bicarbonates in our irrigation water are raising the pH of our soils.”

Preliminary results of the survey have shown that sampled sites ranged from 0.7 to 6.6 in terms of electrical conductivity. That’s a huge range, according to Battany, when anything above 2.5 is considered dicey for growing wine grapes.

“I started this survey in 2006 after two very wet preceding years,” he says. “I think if I had started it earlier I would have seen even higher numbers.”

Battany will be publishing his findings in more detail in upcoming UCCE editions of his newsletter, which can be accessed online at: