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Idaho-Eastern Oregon Fruit & Vegetable conference held in Sun Valley

by Kathleen Thomas Gaspar | June 25, 2009
SUN VALLEY, ID -- Several dozen members of the Idaho-Eastern Oregon Fruit & Vegetable Association, along with family members, attended the group's 47th annual convention June 4-6, here.

In addition to the election of the 2009-10 officers and board of directors, the three-day event included a general business meeting, transportation sessions and a keynote address by Tom Nassif, president and chief executive officer of Western Growers Association.

Outgoing President Tim Gluch of Golden West Produce in Nyssa, OR, passed the gavel to Marc Bybee of Nyssa-based Fiesta Farms. Ryan Henggeler of Henggeler Packing in Fruitland, ID, moved into the vice president's seat, and Kent Sutherland of J.C. Watson Co. in Parma, ID, became secretary-treasurer.

In addition to Mr. Gluch, other board members are Jamie Mertz of Symms Fruit Ranch in Caldwell, ID; Ken Stewart of Fort Boise Produce Co. in Parma; Zane Beams of Appleton Produce in Weiser, ID; Mike Williamson of Williamson Orchards in Caldwell, ID; and Dwayne Fisher of Champion Produce Inc. in Parma.

The business segment of the event kicked off Friday, June 5, with an industry breakfast emceed by Rene Emch of Parma-based Nunhems USA. Mr. Emch introduced Dan Ohlmstead, community relations representative, and Mike Barrie, project manager, both of Idaho Power, who gave a brief talk and answered questions pertaining to the Boardman to Hemingway Transmission Line Project and its crossing of Treasure Valley farmland.

The two men explained an increased need for power, with Mr. Ohlmstead noting that the cost of a major transmission line connecting a coal-fired power plant in Wyoming with one in Oregon is $1.5 million per mile.

Two projects are proposed to bring that line into service, the first a 1,150- mile stretch known as Gateway West to be done in partnership with Rocky Mountain Power. A second leg of the line is the B2H, which would be 300 miles in length and a potential issue for farmers' center-pivot irrigation. Approximately half of the total distance of line will be on public land, and the other will be on private property.

Mr. Ohlmstead said that resistance to the B2H project has come from private- property owners, and a recent meeting resulted in new routes being considered. Numerous public meetings are scheduled, with an anticipated completion date for the project in 2015.

A transportation meeting included presentations from Scott Moscrip of Internet Truck Stop, an e-service that matches shippers with freight carriers on

Freight matching, fuel costing, credit reporting, carrier performance rating and other related services are provided, as well as subscriptions to an Internet magazine.

Mr. Moscrip's presentation illustrated the seesawing supply and demand and the correlation to escalating and dropping fuel prices. He said that many trucking companies have folded due to escalating costs, and he noted that "the average trucking company has about two weeks worth of revenue for fuel."

Following Mr. Moscrip was Brian Mahaffey, senior business manager for Union Pacific Railroad. The railroad, which covers 23 states with 32,000 miles of route and 45,000 full-time employees, services 25,000 customers, Mr. Mahaffey said. Food and agriculture products are included in the company's large manifest.

"In fact, our biggest business segment is agriculture," Mr. Mahaffey said, adding that in 2008 UP's transport of onions increased by 15 percent. Prior to introducing Mr. Nassif on Friday night at the President's Banquet, emcee Gregg Garrett of Boise Inc. told conference attendees that the entire meal featured items grown and produced in the Idaho-Eastern Oregon area, including the wine.

In his remarks, Mr. Nassif, who served as ambassador to Morocco during the Reagan administration and who worked for Gulf Oil as well as a number of other high-profile corporations, said that the time has come for fruit and vegetable producers to "get a similar goal and see if we can help each other."

He charaterized the Produce Bill for Specialty Crops' passage in 2003 "against all odds," and he said that it has served as a model for the 2008 farm bill. "It invests; it doesn't subsidize. The free market will decide who succeeds and who fails," Mr. Nassif said.

As for immigration reform, Mr. Nassif said, "We'll see what happens. It won't go any further than the president wants it to go."

The conference also gave attendees the opportunity to engage in a number of activities, including golf, tennis, trap shooting, walking and biking, with prizes awarded during the closing ceremony Saturday night.

Scholarship recipients Cameron Stewart, Travis Baker, Anne Williamson and Ryan Garrett were announced.

Next year's conference will be held in McCall, ID.