Dairy

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Idaho dairy producers are touting a new study that again shows the substantial role the dairy industry plays in the state’s economy. 

CompassioninWorldFarming / Flickr

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says dairy farmers can begin signing up Sept. 2 for a new program that replaces old subsidies.

The program is a kind of insurance that pays farmers when the difference between milk prices and feed prices shrink to a certain level. It replaces a program that paid farmers when milk prices sank too low.

Dairy farmers have struggled in recent years even with good milk prices. Feed costs have risen because of demand for corn from the ethanol industry and recent droughts.

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 This post was updated at 11:20 a.m. Aug. 27, 2014.

The Idaho dairy industry group that sent a letter to its members urging them to deny media tours and on-farm interviews now says it never meant to deny access.

Tuesday, after the Associated Press reported the letter was sent to 500 dairies, a public relations firm followed up with this statement from United Dairymen of Idaho CEO Karianne Fallow:

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On Wednesday a federal judge hears arguments on Idaho’s new “ag gag” law, which creates stiff punishments for people who surreptitiously video or photograph agricultural operations.

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A federal judge has denied a request by the Idaho Dairymen's Association to join Idaho in defending the recently passed law criminalizing surreptitious recording at agriculture facilities.

The Times-News reports that U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill shot down the request Monday. Winmill said in his ruling that the state can represent the dairymen's interests without the group getting involved.

cows
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A south-central Idaho milk processing company has agreed to pay a $170,000 fine for dumping wastewater with acidity levels high enough to damage Jerome's wastewater treatment plant.

The Times-News reports that the Environmental Protection Agency announced the agreement with Idaho Milk Products in a statement on Monday.

The agency says the company between March 2009 and July 2012 exceeded its acidity limit 138 times.

We’ve all heard of the Western Gold Rush. But how about the Northwest cattle rush?

cow, dairy, calves
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The Idaho Dairymen's Association is asking a federal judge to intervene in a lawsuit challenging a new law that makes it illegal to secretly film animal abuse at agricultural facilities.

The industry group filed a motion to become a defendant in the lawsuit late last week.

UGA College of Ag / Flickr

Idaho's farmers, ranchers and producers say they're happy with the outcome of the 2014 Legislature.

The Capitol Press reports a lot of things went right for the agricultural industry during the 74-day session, where numerous industry-boosting bills found a foothold.

That included the Agriculture Security Act, a dairy-backed bill that punishes those who film agricultural operations, and is designed to protect farmers from spying activists.

A lawsuit led by the ACLU is challenging Idaho's brand new, so-called “ag-gag” law aimed at stopping undercover animal rights activists from making videos of abuse at farms and slaughter houses.

Anna King / Northwest News Network

The American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho, PETA and other groups are suing the state over a new measure that would prosecute people who secretly film agricultural operations. Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter signed the so-called 'ag-gag' bill into law at the end of February.

Cows
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Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter signed a bill threatening people who secretly film animal abuse at Idaho's agricultural facilities with jail and fines.

Otter inked the new law Friday, two days after it cleared its final hurdle in the House.

Otter, a rancher, said the measure promoted by the dairy industry "is about agriculture producers being secure in their property and their livelihood."

Chobani
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Food processing heavyweight Chobani is urging Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter to veto a bill that would make penalties stricter for animal rights activists caught secretly filming Idaho agriculture facilities.

Chobani, which operates a huge Greek yogurt facility in Twin Falls, buys its milk from Idaho dairymen. In a press release, Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya says if passed, the measure would limit transparency.

When Pete Olsen talks about drought on his fifth-generation dairy farm in Fallon, Nev., he's really talking about the snowpack 60 miles to the west in the Sierra Nevada.

The Sierras, Olsen says, are their lifeblood.

That is, the snowmelt from them feeds the Truckee and Carson rivers and a tangle of reservoirs and canals that make this desert bloom. Some of the highest-grade alfalfa in the world is grown here. And it makes perfect feed for dairy cows, because it's rich in nutrients.

A bill to punish people who secretly film animal abuse at Idaho's agricultural facilities is headed to Gov. C. L. "Butch" Otter's desk after passing the House 56-14.

It's a response to videos released by activists who filmed workers at Bettencourt Dairy beating, stomping, and sexually abusing cows.

If Otter signs the bill into law, people who try to record such abuse face up to a year in jail, double the maximum punishment for animal cruelty.

Utah has a similar "ag gag law," currently being challenged in U.S. District Court.

A measure that seeks to bar animal rights activists from making undercover video in Idaho dairies is moving ahead in the state House.

Cow
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Dairy farmers enraged by spying animal-rights activists got a boost when senators agreed to intensify punishments for those who film their operations without permission.

Idaho's Senate voted 23-10 Friday to put people caught surreptitiously recording agricultural operations in jail and fine them $5,000.

The bill now goes to the House.

This measure stems from a 2012 incident at an Idaho dairy where activists captured images of workers caning, beating and stomping on cows.

cow
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Idaho's $2.5 billion dairy industry wants to put people who film their operations surreptitiously in jail for up to a year, a bid to block animal-rights groups from spying on farms in hopes of catching animal cruelty on tape.

Sen. Jim Patrick of Twin Falls Thursday introduced the measure on the heels of videos produced in 2012 by a group at one of Idaho's largest dairies documenting cows being beaten.

If the measure passes, anybody who enters an agricultural production facility without permission and records operations could face a year behind bars and a $5,000 fine.

UGA College of Ag / Flickr

An animal rights group wants Burger King to sever its ties with Idaho’s Bettencourt Dairies, and force the rest of its suppliers to implement strict animal welfare guidelines. 

The demands from the group Mercy for Animals came Wednesday as it released a disturbing video of animal abuse shot inside one of the Bettencourt dairies near Hansen, in Twin Falls County. 

The video shows workers stomping, kicking, punching and dragging cows.

UGA College of Ag / Flickr

The owner of a large Twin Falls County dairy operation says he fired five of his employees in August after seeing an undercover video made at a farm near Hansen.  Luis Bettencourt’s operation at Dry Creek Dairy was the apparent target of an animal rights group. 

The head of the Idaho Dairy Association, Bob Naerebout, says the video shows a cow with a chain around its neck being pulled by a tractor.  He says cows are kicked and jumped on in the recording.  It also shows workers using an electrical prod on the animals. 

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