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Friday, June 27,2008

Domestic energy producers to Congress: 'Let us produce!'

by WLJ
Domestic energy producers to Congress: ‘Let us produce!’ The Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States (IPAMS) warned today that passage of H.R. 6251 would make energy development on federal lands even more difficult and costly for domestic natural gas producers. According to industry experts, passage of H.R. 6251 would limit the ability of domestic producers to meet future energy demands. "We understand the frustration with OPEC and the political motivation to ‘punish’ someone for high oil prices, but Congress needs to be reminded not to strike with blunt force. Vengeful policies may actually be most harmful to the small, independent businesses that produce 82 percent of U.S. natural gas and 68 percent of U.S. oil. These independent producers are a driving force behind our domestic energy supply and should not fall victim to the misdirected wrath of Congress," said Marc Smith, IPAMS Executive Director. "Some in Congress are ignoring important facts about the nature of energy development. Those of us who work in this industry understand that there are regulatory, business, and technological reasons why we must keep an inventory of land under lease, even if those lands are not currently producing. "With the regulatory hurdles that are already in place, most companies are in an all-out sprint to develop the energy on a lease within a 10 year period. If H.R. 6251 were to become law, the resulting burden on domestic energy producers would make it difficult for them to meet our nation’s long term energy needs," said Smith. "Most Americans understand that the current symbolic measures proposed by a few in Congress will do nothing to address the energy challenges we now face. If our leaders in Washington are serious about solving our current energy crisis, they need to begin thinking beyond sound bites and enact policies to encourage development of our vast energy resources, especially those found beneath the public lands of the Intermountain West. Making it more expensive for companies to develop energy will only serve to further constrict supply and drive prices even higher," concluded Smith. — WLJ

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Friday, June 27,2008

High school students to benefit from agricultural class via Internet

by WLJ
High school students to benefit from agricultural class via Internet Thirteen high school students will be getting a head start on earning an agriculture degree from New Mexico State University (NMSU) when school starts in August. Students from San Jon, Roy and Des Moines school districts will participate in a unique partnership between NMSU’s College of Agriculture and Home Economics and Clovis Community College where students will be enrolled in dual credit classes and participate in the college class via interactive television (ITV) from their high school. This will be the first time concurrent classes in agriculture are offered to high school students. "We’ve established this unique partnership to give high schools a broader selection of concurrent classes to encourage them to continue their education after graduation," said Jim Libbin, College of Agriculture and Home Economics’ interim assistant dean of academics. San Jon High School has offered ITV duel credit classes since the 1990s where students earn high school and college credit for select classes. This is the first year college course work has been available in agriculture. "This is a great opportunity for the students," said Stacy Kent, administrative assistant for the school district that has 173 total students from kindergarten through high school, who helped the districts eight students enroll in the class. "We have a strong agriculture program and this makes it even better." The high schools have arranged the students’ classes so they will take Ag Econ 236-agribusiness management principles from NMSU professor Jerry Hawkes. "This class is a basic introduction into agricultural economics. It will give the students an orientation to agricultural supply businesses, farm and ranch production, food markets, food processing and distribution, and food consumption," Hawkes said. "It will be as good as sitting in a Gerald Hall classroom as the students at both ends of the Internet link interact in the class discussion." NMSU is offering the classes through an Internet bridge established by Clovis Community College’s extended learning department that offers duel credit enrollment classes to students in Clayton, Corona, Des Moines, Elida, Ft. Sumner, Grady, House, Logan, Mosquero, Roy, San Jon, Santa Rosa and Vaughn. Jean Morrow, director of the extended learning program, said while six students are needed to make an ITV class, not all have to be from the same school district. Also, "because we informed the school districts of the NMSU class offering during the spring, the schools were able to adjust the school’s schedules so students will attend the NMSU class on Monday and Wednesday and their high school ag class on Tuesday and Thursday," Morrow said. While the students fulfill their high school course requirements, they will also be earning college credit for the course and may apply it to their degree work when they attend NMSU. Spring 2009, students will be able to enroll in an animal science class taught by Tim Ross, NMSU’s animal science interim department head. For more information about the program, students in the school districts served by Clovis Community College’s extended learning department should contact their counselors. — WLJ

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Friday, June 27,2008

Changing climate poses threat to Southwest desert ecosystems

by WLJ
Changing climate poses threat to Southwest desert ecosystems Climate changes will likely make arid desert ecosystems of the Southwest U.S. even drier and could adversely affect the native plants and animals that grow and live there. A transition to a more arid climate is already underway, according to an article in the June 2008 issue of Rangelands, published by the Society for Range Management. This change involves fewer frost days, warmer temperatures, more frequent extreme weather events, such as drought and heavy rains, and greater water demand by plants, animals and people. "The current boundaries of southwestern deserts will likely expand to the north and east," write Steven R. Archer and Katharine I. Predick in their article "Climate Change and Ecosystems of the Southwestern United States." In the article, Archer and Predick say other effects of climate change on the Southwest desert include altered vegetation, a decline of net primary (plant) production, less rainfall, reduced water availability, higher soil erosion losses and an increase of nonnative plant species. These changes will also present new challenges for resource managers and the livestock and land they oversee. Lower stocking rates, reduced livestock weight gains in summer and an increase of disease pressures are just a few of the issues that Archer and Predick envision will challenge rangeland managers. To deal with the potential problems, Archer and Predick see a need for policies to facilitate greater coordination at the regional scale to promote stocking agility and sustainable grazing in a "warmer, drier, more drought-prone world." While grazing is currently the most extensive land use in the region, recent and continuing human population increases are likely to have a large impact on the region in the future. Current observing systems are ill-equipped to separate climate change effects from other effects. in Southwest deserts and Archer and Predick propose the establishment of a coordinated network of sites with the goal of tracking ecosystem response to co-occurring changes in weather patterns, disturbance and land use. Such a network would serve as the basis for improved climate prediction tools. To read the entire study, "Climate Change and Ecosystems of the Southwestern United States," click here: http://www.allenpress.com/pdf/rala-30-03-23-28.pdf. — WLJ

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Friday, June 27,2008

Farm Bureau awards mini-grants for ag education

by WLJ
Farm Bureau awards mini-grants for ag education The American Farm Bureau (AFB) Foundation for Agriculture, in cooperation with the AFB Women’s Leadership Committee, has awarded 29 $500 mini-grants to K-12 classrooms across the nation. The grants will be used to fund agriculture education projects that create or extend agriculture literacy. They are distributed through county and state Farm Bureaus. This year sets a record for the most grants awarded in any one year through AFB’s White-Reinhardt Fund for Education program. Criteria used for selecting the winners included: the effectiveness of demonstrating a strong connection between agriculture and education; how effectively the programs encouraged students to learn more about agriculture and the food and fiber industry; and the procedures and timelines expected for accomplishing project goals. "Mini-grants effectively help counties and states promote agriculture literacy across the nation and educate students on the importance of agriculture," said Betty Wolanyk, director of education and research for the AFB Foundation for Agriculture. The White-Reinhardt Fund for Education is a project of the AFB Foundation for Agriculture in cooperation with the AFB Women’s Leadership Committee. The fund honors two former committee chairwomen, Berta White and Linda Reinhart, who were leaders in early national efforts to improve agricultural literacy. — WLJ

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Friday, June 27,2008

Reliance on unverifiable observations hinders conservation

by WLJ
Reliance on unverifiable observations hinders conservation of rare wildlife species Nearly any evidence of the occurrence of a rare or elusive wildlife species has the tendency to generate a stir. Case in point: in February 2008, remote cameras unexpectedly captured the images of a wolverine in the central Sierra Nevada, an area from which the species was believed to be extinct since 1922. But frustratingly few observations prove to be so conclusive. So what, then, are managers to make of unverifiable observations, especially those that are not diagnostic? Researchers from the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountain Research Stations examined three cases of biological misunderstandings in which unverifiable, anecdotal observations were accepted as empirical evidence. Ultimately, they found that this acceptance adversely affected conservation goals for the fisher in the Pacific states, the wolverine in California, and the ivory-billed woodpecker in the southeast by vastly overestimating their range and abundance. The researchers’ findings appear in the current issue of the journal BioScience. "These cases revealed that anecdotal data can be important to conservation by supplying preliminary data, such as early warnings of population declines," said Kevin McKelvey, a research ecologist based in Missoula, MT, and the study’s lead investigator, "but conclusions regarding the presence of rare or elusive species must be based on verifiable physical evidence." In their study, the researchers found that the dependability of species occurrence data depends on both the intrinsic reliability of each record as well as the rarity of the species in question, because the proportion of false positives increases as a species becomes rarer. To help managers determine the suitability of evidence in conservation decisionmaking, the researchers developed a gradient of evidentiary standards for data that increases in rigor along with species’ rarity. This "sliding scale" of standards might permit the use of anecdotal data, the least reliable form, in decision making when the species in question is common, for example, but require indisputable physical evidence for a species thought to be extinct. The authors also encourage professional societies to debate evidentiary standards for their organisms of interest and to establish rules for using occurrence data. "Over the years, many state and federal management agencies have placed a lot of emphasis on compiling sighting reports and other unverifiable wildlife observations" said Keith Aubry, a research wildlife biologist based in Olympia, WA, and one of the study’s co-investigators. "Unfortunately, the uncritical use of such observations has largely impeded conservation goals, not advanced them." — WLJ

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Friday, June 27,2008

Nebraska Cattlemen seeking nominees for the Leopold Conservation Award

by WLJ
Nebraska Cattlemen seeking nominees for the Leopold Conservation Award The Nebraska Cattlemen (NC), in collaboration with Sand County Foundation, is seeking nominations for the Leopold Conservation Award. The partnership provides a $10,000 prize to a Nebraska land owner who has demonstrated responsible stewardship and management of natural resources. "We are proud to help bring the Leopold Conservation Award to Nebraska for the third consecutive year," said Dr. Brent Haglund, President of Sand County Foundation, the award’s sponsor. "Our partnership with Nebraska Cattlemen in allows us to honor the often unrecognized, important conservation work that is being done everyday by Nebraska landowners." Given in honor of Aldo Leopold, the Leopold Conservation Award recognizes extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation. In his book, A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage—which he called "an evolutionary possibility and an ecological necessity." "The land ethic described by Aldo Leopold is alive and well in Nebraska," said Michael Kelsey, executive vice president of NC. "The quality of nominations received each of the past two years is strong evidence of this." The winner of the Leopold Conservation Award will be selected by a varied panel of judges that will include representatives from the Nebraska Environmental Trust, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture and other organizations. The award will be presented during the NC Annual Convention in Kearney in December. The nomination deadline is July 30, 2008. For more information, visit www.leopoldconservationaward.org, email mfitzgerald@necattlemen.org or call 402/475-2333. Sand County Foundation (www.sandcounty.net) is a private, non-profit conservation group dedicated to working with private landowners to improve habitat on their land. Sand County’s mission is to advance the use of ethical and scientifically sound land management practices and partnerships for the benefit of people and their rural landscapes. Sand County Foundation works with private landowners because the majority of the nation’s fish, wildlife, and natural resources are found on private lands. The organization backs local champions, invests in civil society and places incentives before regulation to create solutions that endure and grow. The organization encourages the exercise of private responsibility in the pursuit of improved land health as an essential alternative to many of the commonly used strategies in modern conservation. The Leopold Conservation Award is a competitive award that recognizes landowner achievement in voluntary conservation. The award consists of a crystal depiction of Aldo Leopold seated on a horse and a check for $10,000. In 2007, Sand County Foundation also presented Leopold Conservation Awards in Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Texas, and California. The award is presented to accomplish three objectives: First, it recognizes extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation on the land of exemplary private landowners. Second, it inspires countless other landowners in their own communities through these examples. Finally, it provides a visible forum where leaders from the agriculture community are recognized as conservation leaders to groups outside of agriculture. — WLJ

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Friday, June 27,2008

Business advisor: 16 ethanol plants filing bankruptcy, many more to come

by DTN
Business advisor: 16 ethanol plants filing bankruptcy, many more to come The U.S. ethanol industry is in trouble and can expect to see a rash of bankruptcies and dismantling of at least some production, according to a specialist who helps companies in distress. Alex Moglia, president of Moglia Advisors based in the Chicago area, said he knows of at least 16 ethanol companies that are filing for bankruptcy, and there will be at least two to three times that number filing within the next year. Though he declined to give the names of companies involved, Moglia said, "There’s a whole host of them we’ve either looked at or handled." If Moglia is right, a U.S. ethanol industry shakeout that started last year is about to shift into high gear, potentially threatening the ability of the industry to meet mandates laid out in the Renewable Fuel Standard. Companies come to Moglia Advisors and similar firms to help save their businesses, which often can result in filing for bankruptcy protection. "Investors are just pulling their hair out in trying to restructure debt with lending institutions," said Moglia, who was hired early on to help the Central Illinois Energy ethanol plant in Canton, IL, prior to the company’s decision to file bankruptcy. "Everybody is stuck in this industry," he said. "Equity investors are stuck, the lenders are stuck, the producers are stuck, and even worse, with farmers who had supply contracts and marketing contracts, they’re stuck. The reality is that most of the players that are going to be active here are going to be funded by foreign investors." Moglia has led numerous corporate restructurings, acquisitions, workouts and bankruptcies in the past 25 years. Before founding Moglia Advisors, he held senior management positions with Continental Illinois National Bank and CNW Corp. Moglia currently serves on the board of directors of the Corporate Finance Association Foundation. The weakness of the U.S. dollar makes it possible for foreign investors to acquire ethanol plants "at a deep discount," he said. "They can buy as low as 20 or 30 cents on the dollar," Moglia said. "That should scare the hell out of anyone in the biofuels industry. I’ve worked with plants that are incomplete, others that can’t operate profitably so they’ve all shut down. This will shake out most of small- and mid-sized players. Larger players will survive because they have buying power." More ethanol producers will continue to file bankruptcy, he said, because of high feedstock costs and a "limited upside flexibility in terms of how much you can sell ethanol for." "The demand for ethanol is not there," Moglia said. "The same thing happening to ethanol is happening in the biodiesel business. It will be the Wal-Mart-ization of the ethanol industry. It’s just a mess." For the record, since 2007 there have been just four ethanol bankruptcies documented in the media and/or in court records, together accounting for 60 to 80 million gallons of production capacity. They include the following: Ethanex Energy Inc. based in Basehor, KS, an ethanol-development company that never did operate an ethanol plant, filed for Chapter 7 liquidation bankruptcy at the end of March; E3 BioFuels LLC in Mead, NE, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in November 2007; Central Illinois Energy in Canton, IL, filed for Chapter 11 in December 2007 and was bought at auction; and California-based Convergence Ethanol Inc. filed for Chapter 7, also in December 2007. Christopher Grooby, an ethanol financing attorney with Washington, D.C.-based law firm Baker and McKenzie, said bankruptcy is becoming a possible solution for struggling ethanol plants. "My guess is bankruptcy is a very strong word," he said. "There are many plants now that are either under construction or in the early stages of their operation that still have debt and so are in restructuring talks with their lenders so that formal bankruptcy proceedings can be avoided." Joseph Peiffer, a bankruptcy attorney with Day Rettig Peiffer in Cedar Rapids, IA, said the number of ethanol plant bankruptcies Moglia cites is "about right." Peiffer said many ethanol plants are and will be folding because "the business model they were built on doesn't work." Farmers and their cooperatives have either borrowed money or pledged their land as collateral in building ethanol plants, he said. "Now they’re getting bought out on cents per dollar," he said. "Equity investors and people who made secured loans are not able to recover their investments either. Investors are losing and creditors are losing. Banks are looking at their losses and trying to minimize their loss." Julia Pettit, a biofuels attorney with Stoel Rives LLP in Salt Lake City, Utah, said while the number 16 seems "a little high," it is difficult to track ethanol companies going bankrupt. "I would say that’s probably a little high based on what I’ve been watching the last six to nine months," she said. "What’s also difficult is that sometimes a company doesn’t use the word ‘ethanol’ in their name, they use ‘energy’ or something else. It’s always difficult to track these companies. As to whether you're going to see numbers double, that’s somewhat difficult to predict. I think that there are certainly some projects that got financed way back during the heyday when ethanol was hot. It may just be that those projects don’t really have all the components to make them successful or viable." Pettit said Moglia "certainly has his ear to the ground and is very sensitive to the economics of these projects." "If you sit back and take a look at the whole industry, there’s no doubt there's a shakeout occurring," she said. "For what it means to the industry as a whole, it is not as bad as it seems. That's my perspective." Pettit said companies are either shutting down operations altogether or are still in the process of being constructed and deciding whether to finish. "We’re going to see targeted mergers and acquisitions," she said. "My guess is it’s going to be a company that put in a lot of equity up front and has a lender who just doesn’t understand an industry to work with them to get over the hump, or know how to venture into hedging arrangements. In those situations you have the lender really putting the screws to that company. These might be the kind of companies that need to seek bankruptcy protection to give them some breathing room." There are going to be times when ethanol producers "just don’t produce" to get "supply/demand in the place where it needs to be to operate," Pettit said. For every 10 ethanol and/or biodiesel plants "you read about in the media, there are probably 50 to 100 others that are in financial difficulty and are contemplating shutdown," Moglia said. "Lenders are restructuring the debt so the plant has a chance of servicing the debt on a monthly basis through the financial institutions," he said. "The investors, lenders and operators are holding hands and trying to ride out this economic cycle. They are suffering quietly because there are public policy implications also." Since ethanol production is mandated by the federal government, he said they are already "operating outside free-market fundamentals." "And when you are having activities operating outside free market, there are public policy implications," Moglia said. "There is an enormous reticence to allow the market to adjust. There are a variety of economic, labor or similar strategic reasons, which is why people pushed biodiesel and ethanol so hard. You have a homeland security issue affecting business enterprise." When it comes to the work Moglia Advisors does, he said, bankruptcy is usually a last resort. Moglia said that’s because it is expensive and full of time delays, and the "stigma of bankruptcy" could hurt a company for years to come. "Most businesses—biofuels or not—they get into trouble and they never see the inside of a bankruptcy court," he said. "Most of these settle outside of court. We tell people they just slash expenses to a minimum. In most cases, we suggest plants be mothballed for the next two to five years to see what happens. I spoke at an ethanol producers’ conference. Somebody raised a hand and asked, ‘What is the biggest problem facing ethanol plants today?’ I looked him straight in the eye and said, ‘Management.’ Unless you’re talking about a bomb hitting your building, or a meteorite hits your building or an act of God hits your building, management should have prepared and anticipated for such an eventuality." Moglia said many ethanol plants were started or funded by people "who did not have a background in process industries." "Just because you’re a good farmer doesn’t make you a good judge of a manufacturing enterprise," he said. "Too many people forget that making ethanol is different from growing a crop. Most ethanol operators could benefit from contacting a turnaround firm, for technical and refinance side. The minority will contact us; the majority will try to make things happen on their own. Most of those home-spun remedies will fail. Then they contact us when it is impossible to restart the plant or complete the plant." — DTN

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Friday, June 20,2008

BLM seeks bids for new wild horse pasture facilities

by WLJ
BLM seeks bids for new wild horse pasture facilities As part of its responsibility to manage, protect, and control wild horses and burros, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is soliciting bids for one or more new pasture facilities located anywhere in the continental U.S. Each pasture facility must be able to provide humane care for and maintain at least 500 wild horses—up to as many as 2,500—over a one-year period with an option under BLM contract for four additional one-year extensions. BLM needs additional space for wild horses placed in long-term holding facilities, all of which are currently located in Kansas, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. "The BLM is facing tough challenges as it manages and cares for wild horses and burros both on and off public rangelands," said BLM Deputy Director Henri Bisson, who noted that herds of wild horses and burros, which have virtually no natural predators, can double in size about every four years. "As a result," Bisson said, "our agency must remove thousands of animals from the range each year to ensure that herd sizes are consistent with the land’s capacity to support them. The horses and burros that must be removed, but for which no adoption demand exists, need to be cared for, and that’s why the BLM is soliciting bids from contractors who can provide a pasture for these animals on their private ranches." Bisson pointed out that the current wild horse and burro population roaming freely on BLM- managed lands in 10 western states—approximately 33,000 as of February 2008—significantly exceeds what BLM considers to be the appropriate management level. This sought-for level of about 27,300 is the number of free-roaming horses and burros BLM has determined can thrive on BLM-managed rangelands in balance with other rangeland resources and uses. "The BLM is working hard to achieve the appropriate management level so that healthy herds of horses and burros can thrive on healthy rangelands," Bisson said. "But with the herds’ reproduction rate of about 20 percent a year, at least 6,000 horses and burros must be gathered from the range annually just to keep the free-roaming population from increasing." Those wild horses and burros removed from the range that are not placed into private care through adoption (a one-year process) or direct sale (an immediate process) are fed and cared for at holding facilities. In the current fiscal year, holding costs are expected to exceed $26 million, which accounts for about three-fourths of BLM’s appropriated budget for the entire wild horse and burro program. Currently, there are more than 30,000 wild horses and burros maintained at holding facilities. In the case of long-term holding (pasture) facilities, unadopted and unsold horses live out the rest of their lives there. Animals are held between 10 and 25 years depending on their age when they enter lifetime holding. In contrast, only a small percentage of wild horses roaming public rangelands live past the age of 15 because of the harsher conditions. "The BLM is committed to fulfilling its mission under the landmark Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971," Bisson said. "That means not only providing humane care to wild horses and burros, but also managing them in an ecologically and fiscally sound manner. That includes bringing the number placed through adoption or sold each year into balance with the number removed annually from the range. By achieving this balance, fewer animals will need to be maintained in holding facilities." Details of BLM’s long-term holding facility requirements are described in solicitation NAR080108 which has been posted at http://www.fbo.gov. Applicants must be registered at http://www.ccr.gov to be considered for a contract award. The solicitation ends July 30, 2008. For further information about BLM’s wild horse and burro program, see the agency’s Web site at www.blm.gov. — WLJ

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Friday, June 20,2008

$228 million paid as compensation for lost taxes on federal lands

by WLJ
$228 million paid as compensation for lost taxes on federal lands Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne announced that local governments with tax-exempt federal land in their jurisdictions will receive $228.5 million this year in compensation for forgone tax revenue. Under the federal Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) Program, the money is distributed to about 1,850 county and other local governments around the nation to help pay for essential services such as firefighting and emergency response, and to help improve school, road and water systems. "These communities play a key role in supporting federal lands throughout the year," Kempthorne said. "We recognize and appreciate that vital assistance and are distributing these payments to local governments by June 12 so the funds can help the counties plan their annual budgets." The Department of the Interior annually collects about $4 billion in revenue from commercial activities on federal lands such as livestock grazing, timber harvesting, and oil and natural gas leasing. Some of these revenues are shared with states and counties in the form of revenue-sharing payments. The balance is deposited in the U.S. Treasury which, in turn, pays for a broad array of federal activities, including annually appropriated PILT funding to counties. Eligibility for PILT payments is reserved for local governments (usually counties) that contain nontaxable federal lands and provide government services related to public safety, housing, social services, transportation and the environment. By law, the payments are calculated using a mandated formula based on the number of acres of federal entitlement land and the population within each county or jurisdiction. These lands include the National Forest and National Park Systems and National Wildlife Refuge System, as well as lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and those affected by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation water resource development projects, and others. Payments to individual counties may vary from the prior year because of changes in acreage data, which is updated yearly by the federal agency administering the land, and population data, which is updated based on U.S. Census Bureau data. The per acre and population variables used to compute payments are also adjusted for inflation, using the Consumer Price Index, as required by 1994 amendments to the Payments in Lieu of Taxes Act. Payments are also adjusted for the level of prior-year revenue payments and the amount that a county receives under Sections 6904 and 6905 of the PILT Act. Revenue payments are federal payments made to local governments under programs other than PILT during the previous year. These include those made under the Refuge Revenue Sharing Fund, the National Forest Fund, the Taylor Grazing Act, the Mineral Leasing Act, the Federal Power Act, and the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000. Sections 6904 and 6905 provide additional payments for additions to the National Park System and National Forest Wilderness areas. For the 2008 payments, the per acre amounts are adjusted from the 2007 payment of $2.23 per acre (maximum) and 31 cents per acre (minimum) to $2.29 per acre and 32 cents per acre. The population variables are adjusted from $59.85 (minimum)-$149.61 (maximum) to $61.41-$153.50 per capita. The 2008 payments fund about 62.2 percent of the authorized level of $367.2 million. As a result of increases in Forest Service timber payments, reductions in PILT entitlement land, a decrease in the prorating percentage and expiration of section 6904/5 payments, the total 2008 PILT payments to the following twenty-three states will be slightly lower than the 2007 payments by more than 1.5 percent: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virgin Islands, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Of the $228.9 million appropriated for PILT in FY 2008, $228.5 million goes for payments to counties and other local governments; the balance funds the administration of the program. — WLJ

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Friday, June 6,2008

Two weevil varieties can give growers double headaches

by Jason Campbell - WLJ Correspondent
Two weevil varieties can give growers double headaches Alfalfa growers in the central part of Nebraska should keep in mind that they may see two different varieties of weevils in their crop, said University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL) Butler County Extension Educator Mike Rethwisch. The eastern strain usually invades the crop in time for the first cutting, Rethwisch said. The western strain, prevalent in the western two-thirds of Nebraska, peaks one to three weeks later. So growers may treat for one strain, then may have to treat again for the other. To check for weevils, Rethwisch advised producers to use a sweep net. They will catch the caterpillar stage of the weevils in the net. Some growers look at the alfalfa plants, where small holes eaten in the leaves at the growing tip indicate weevil damage. "If you see lacy leaves, there’s a good chance the crop is already damaged," Rethwisch said. "The importance of that damage depends on the proximity of harvest. With alfalfa pushing $100 a ton or more, it doesn’t take much to add up to a substantial loss." "I have collected some clover leaf weevil larvae already this past week. Alfalfa weevil larvae should also be found if people begin to look," he said. "If the crop is less than 10 inches tall and the producer can find one weevil per stem, it’s probably time to treat." UNL has some publications with charts that will help determine the economic threshold for applying insecticides at http://entomology.unl.edu/fldcrops/pestipm.shtml. Click on one of the choices under Alfalfa Weevil. Larvae generally damage the first crop, Rethwisch said, while the adults damage regrowth by feeding on the developing crown buds. Rethwisch also mentioned potato leafhoppers as an intermittent pest for Nebraska alfalfa. Although eastern alfalfa sustained huge populations of potato leafhoppers last year, weather patterns and the way the wind blows will determine whether it will return in 2008, he said. Since the insect doesn’t overwinter in Nebraska, it depends on winds to bring it back. Every year is different. Grasshoppers may damage alfalfa sometimes and cutworms will attack it as well. Cutworms feed at night, so they’re not visible during the day. The alfalfa doesn’t green up after cutting. "We’ll see some variegated cutworms somewhere in Nebraska this year; they’re just not as widespread as the weevils," Rethwisch said. — University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension

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