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Weather: Hot as a Firecracker on the Fourth

Our heat has been relentless since June 23. Highs have been over 90 degrees each of those days.

Three of those days the highs made it into the triple digits. The isn’t expected to stop for some time and will last through the Fourth of July weekend.

A strong upper-level ridge of high pressure will continue across the western United States. Highs could reach 100 degrees again on Friday and there will be plenty of sunshine. The Fourth of July will be hot but maybe not with highs in the triple digits. It looks right now we should also remain dry on Saturday with highs in the middle to upper 90s across southern Idaho.

Small changes come to the forecast Sunday into next week. The ridge of high pressure that brought the heat and sunshine will slowly begin to break down across the west. It will remain hot with highs in the lower 90s but that is also a five to 10 degree decrease in temperatures from what we’ve been experiencing. This breakdown in the pattern will also bring a threat of isolated showers and storms across the region Sunday into next week.


Letter to the Editor: Obesity a Growing Problem

Obesity is a growing problem in America I don't think anyone can dispute that.

In reaction to this Michelle Obama decided that action needed to be taken for school lunches. As a student at Jerome High School, I can tell you she is going about this the wrong way.

For example, growing kids need food. The cheap alternatives is junk food, and in my opinion the government should back off the schools lunch programs.

When teenagers, boys and girls start to grow rapidly. The key element for growth is food. While this may be broken down into subcategories it is relatively the same. Many students also participate in sports. I for one play tennis and we don't get home from practices till 6 p.m. and games are even later.

I remember one day for lunch all I got was a burrito (a little bigger than the store-bought package), an apple, 20 baby carrots, and milk (which is about a pint). When we don't get enough food where do we go? At school we have vending machines and the snack bar and outside the school there are stores.

The cheap stuff which is what high school students are willing/able to pay is the usual nachos, Doritos, and everything else you could imagine. This stuff is very unhealthy and how much better would it be if they maybe had an all-you-eat buffet of fruits and vegetables.

There are also plenty of other options that are better than what we currently have. The third problem with the system is that the government is throwing down too many regulations on the lunch ladies. I remember one day a close friend was surprised at how little we were getting and mentioned it. The lunch lady replied, "If I give you guys more I will lose my job!"

If they had a little more leeway they could serve us better. If they were allowed to do more they could make the meals taste better and better for us. One way this could help is that certain areas are more different and will need different amounts of food.

In conclusion, certain measures could be taken to make the lunches better for the students and the faculty. It is't right the way it is and we know the changes that are needed to be made. Please make them.

JOSHUA POWELL

Jerome

Joshua Powell, a student at Jerome High School, and a soon to be Eagle Scout.


America’s most and least patriotic states — in 3 maps

With the Fourth of July comes flags, barbecues and fireworks (some more legal than others). Americans stock their refrigerators with beer, grill a few dogs and gather with family and friends — remembering, all the while, that it's all thanks to Lady Liberty.

The experts at FindTheHome aimed to determine which states are the most patriotic. While there are many ways to show patriotism, they started by measuring civic engagement.

Using data from Non-Profit Vote, a nonpartisan organization that aims to encourage voter participation, FindTheHome mapped the states with the highest voter turnout in the last presidential election. 

Slideshow: America's most and least patriotic states

FindTheHome chose voter turnout, military enlistment and volunteering to be important factors that make up a patriotic state. Overall, Minnesota and Wisconsin are the only states that ranked highly in more than one category, which might signal that the residents of each state are America’s most dedicated, country-loving community-oriented people.


For Tobacco Growers, Farming is a Family Affair

NEWBERRY, Fla. • Trevor Bass walked among the rows of tobacco plants — the broad, green leaves up to his chest — and declared a good crop.

From amid the 210 acres planted in tobacco this year, the plants cover the horizon. Sometime in July, a harvester will drive between the rows and start knocking the lower leaves off — upper leaves come later — as a crew of about 30 people loads the leaves onto a school bus with the roof partially removed.

The leaves are piled on a conveyor belt on the bus and roll into metal boxes called leaf loaders that hold 1,800 to 2,400 pounds each. They then are loaded into 31 11-by-40 climate-controlled metal barns where the tobacco is heated by liquefied petroleum gas.

After a harvest that takes seven to nine weeks, the flue-cured tobacco is hauled to Tifton, Ga., where Bass has contracts to sell to three major tobacco companies.

A separate field of organic tobacco is also harvested, cured and hauled to Tifton, where it is sold to Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company for its Natural American Spirit cigarettes.

Bass, 34, is a fourth-generation farmer and the fourth generation to grow tobacco. He is also among the last tobacco growers in Florida and one of the reasons Alachua County has emerged as the top tobacco-growing county in the state.

In 1997, Florida had 196 tobacco growers — including 28 in Alachua County — with 6,951 acres and $26 million in sales, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s five-year census. By 2012, that number had shrunk to 10 growers in the state, with three in Alachua County, totaling 482 acres and $1.4 million in sales. Of those 482 acres, 373 were in Alachua.

Bass knows of four local growers this year, including Hodge Farms, his neighbors in Newberry.

Hodge Farms keeps about 150 of their 1,500 total acres in tobacco, according to Gail Hodge, whose husband David’s family has been growing tobacco since 1936.

J. Michael Moore, a tobacco extension agronomist with the University of Georgia who works with tobacco farmers in Georgia and Florida, estimates that Florida has about 1,250 acres in tobacco this year, taking into account anecdotal information that doesn’t always match the USDA data.

North Carolina and Kentucky produce the vast majority of the nation’s tobacco.

Moore said the exodus out of tobacco farming first started as a result of narrow profit margins before the end of the quota and price support loan system in 2004.

The quota system started in 1938, during the Great Depression, to control price volatility by placing limits on acreage and production. The system ended with the Tobacco Transition Payment Program, or Tobacco Buyout, in 2004, with tobacco companies funding $10 billion in payments to growers and quota owners over 10 years.

Now, tobacco companies contract directly with growers instead of through the old auction system and growers are not limited to where they can grow.

Moore said a lot of farmers who were at or near retirement age and didn’t have children who wanted to take over took advantage of the buyout to leave the business.

Nationwide, the number of tobacco farmers has dropped 70 percent since the buyout and 38 percent between 2007 and 2012, according to the USDA.

Remaining tobacco farms tend to be larger, Moore said.

Tobacco farmers say they are motivated by the relatively stable prices of tobacco compared with the often wild swings for other commodities.

Hodge said the limited number of buyers — mainly large tobacco companies — and their direct contracts with farmers keep prices relatively steady.

“Year in and year out, tobacco has always been the commodity that has paid the bills compared to row crops, grain crops and vegetables,” Moore said.

Bass, who started growing tobacco when he took over the family farm in 2006, said last year was the best price he has received at $2.26 per pound. Prices are down about 8 percent this year because of an oversupply, he said.

Last year, growers increased production in response to a worldwide shortage of quality flue-cured tobacco, Moore said, and this year are contracting for 25 percent less tobacco.

U.S. tobacco is in demand worldwide for its flavor, with more than half sold abroad and added to cheaper, lesser quality foreign tobacco as a flavoring agent, Moore said. He attributed environmental conditions and the abilities of U.S. growers for producing the aromatic qualities that smokers prefer.

The market for tobacco products is in decline in the U.S., where cigarette consumption fell 6 percent from 2012 to 2013, and in the European Europe, but is growing in China and throughout Southeast Asia, according to North Carolina State University’s U.S. Tobacco Situation and Outlook report.

Exports of U.S. flue-cured tobacco to China exceeded exports to the EU for the first time in 2013 and they are projected to grow 17 percent from 2013 to 2018.

Bass is able to sell his organic tobacco for about twice the amount of a regular crop, as high as $4.15 per pound for the highest quality leaf compared to $2.22 for nonorganic, while the lowest quality leaf starts at 50 cents for each.

To be certified organic, tobacco crops must use natural fertilizer and insecticide, with choices of blood meal, feather meal, meat and bone meal, sulfate and potash for fertilizer. Bass uses an insecticide made from a naturally occurring soil bacteria that kills worms.

He also keeps a separate set of equipment used only on the organic tobacco just to be on the safe side. Farmers have lost their organic certifications for not properly washing out sprayers used on nonorganic crops, he said.

Describing himself as a social smoker, Bass said organic cigarettes have a more natural flavor, with the same aroma as his barns, and they burn twice as long as regular cigarettes. Smokers will pay an extra $1 or so per pack for organic.

“It’s no more or less healthy, but the word sells,” Bass said.

From a shed used as an office on the family farm, Bass’ grandmother, Evertice Bass, who is 88, described helping her father plant tobacco one plant at a time with a mule and a hoe, and pulling worms off the stalks.

“Naturally, all the boys had fun with them. If there were any girls there working, they gloried in putting them worms on the girls ‘cause they’d run and scream,” she said.

The tobacco that is now cured by LP gas in a climate-controlled barn was heated by wood fire that had to be continuously stoked, she said.

Her husband, Sylvester Bass, started growing tobacco in 1952. Their sons, Wayne and Bo, took over, but got out of tobacco growing in the early 1980s.

Trevor Bass farms the original family farm and additional acreage he bought in nearby Gilchrist County — 5,000 acres total. He also grows corn, watermelons and peanuts and raises cattle, fish, rats and snakes.

Water from his tilapia fish ponds is used to fertilize whatever crops are rotated nearby that year.

“One of the better (tobacco) crops I ever made we were using the fish water,” he said.

This year he is using the water on millet grass crops used for cattle feed.

“I haven’t had to put any fertilizer on the millet this year,” he said. “Fish water is very fertile.”


Florida Georgia Line’s Tyler Hubbard Weds in Idaho

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) | Tyler Hubbard of the country duo Florida Georgia Line has tied the knot.

A representative for the band confirmed the Wednesday nuptials to Idaho native Hayley Stommel. The wedding was first reported by People.com. The Georgia-born singer and his wife, both 28, were married in an outdoor ceremony in Sun Valley that also included Hubbard's bandmate, Brian Kelley, as the best man.

Florida Georgia Line broke into stardom with their multiplatinum hit "Cruise," a remix with rapper Nelly. They are currently touring on their latest album, "Anything Goes," and opening up for country star Luke Bryan.


Cooling Station Set Up To Help Wendell and Hagerman Residents Without Power

WENDELL • A cooling station was set up to help Wendell and Hagerman residents without power Thursday.

About 1,000 Idaho Power customers were without power after a transformer blew at a Wendell substation.

1,179 Wendell and Hagerman residents lost power around 9 a.m. Idaho Power said that crews were working to restore power and that some customer’s services had come back on but 400 remained with their power off at about 6 p.m.

A cooling station for everyone without power was set up at the Living Waters Presbyterian Church in Wendell at 821 E Main St. which still had power.

Idaho Power said power could be restored fully by 8 p.m. Thursday.


July 4 Fireworks Are a Go for Twin Falls

TWIN FALLS • The fireworks are on for the 4th this year.

The City Council has approved the annual July 4 fireworks display at the College of Southern Idaho. The festivities will start at 8 p.m. with music from the Twin Falls City Band, and the fireworks display itself will run from about 10 p.m. to 10:20 p.m. The area around the CSI traffic will be closed to traffic at 9 p.m.

Getting enough money to support the yearly show has been a struggle for the past six years. This year, a $4,000 donation from Chobani will ensure the show goes on, in addition to fees the city collects from fireworks stands or money that people choose to donate on their water bills or contribute online.


State Committee Looks at Mastery Education System

BOISE • A new state committee looking at mastery-based education met for the first time Thursday and Friday in Boise.

The committee — which includes teachers and school administrators — is developing recommendations related to the implementation of mastery-based education, the Idaho Department of Education announced Tuesday.

The system allows students to advance through subjects based on their knowledge and achievement rather than time spent in class.

South-central Idaho committee members include Shelley Coats, a teacher in the Cassia County School District; and Mike Glenn, a principal in the Blaine County School District.

State legislators passed a bill calling for the Idaho Department of Education to identify roadblocks and possible solutions for implementing mastery-based education.

The committee will also assist with implementation of 20 locally-controlled program “incubators” within the public school system by the start of the 2017-2018 school year.


Aging in Idaho: Can You Spot a Scam?

Scammers love the summertime. Some are schooled in the art of door to door knocking. Others prefer the phone. Do you think you can spot a scam?

Here’s one: “Good morning. We’re working in the neighborhood and noticed your driveway. We could seal it for you. Since you’re a senior citizen and it’s not that big, we can offer you a discount.” This is a real scam and some senior citizens have fallen for it. Mr. Scammer starts sealing the driveway, but says that he has to get more seal coat. He takes off within a few minutes. They may steal anything else of value on their way out. One way to avoid this scam is to take note of the truck or vehicle they arrive in. Is it marked? Can you find the company online with a photo of the representative in front of you? Even if you decide to have a stranger do a job on the outside of your home, you don’t have to pay anything until the work is done. You can agree to inspect the work after it’s done and pay then. Don’t let anyone pressure you into giving them money upfront if you don’t know them. The pressure to act now, for a great price, is part of the scam.

Have you heard about the “granny scam?” Young scammers pretend to be family members in need of help. It’s often centered around an emergency and some excuse for why the person can’t tell their parents. Some senior citizens who suffer from memory and hearing loss become easy prey for this scam. The senior adult on the other line is too embarrassed to admit that they don’t recognize the voice. Some families create a password to avoid this type of scam. If the caller doesn’t offer the password, the senior adult doesn’t give any money. Another option is to make it your practice to never give bank information over the phone or transfer funds based on an incoming phone call.

Scammers love to take advantage of senior citizens who are home during the day. They count on you being vulnerable and unaware. Stay connected as much as possible to family, friends and community members. You’ll be strengthened to say “no,” and can receive warnings about scams. For those of you who serve or advocate for seniors, share information about how to protect yourself from scams.


Groups Clash in Court over Columbia River Basin Salmon Plan

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) | Federal authorities defended their latest plan for mitigating damage to salmon and steelhead imperiled by hydroelectric dams in the Columbia River Basin.

In oral arguments in U.S. District Court on Tuesday, the government argued its approach is resulting in more salmon surviving at dams, juvenile fish migrating faster to the ocean and record numbers of fish returning to restored habitat.

But conservation and fishing groups, Oregon and the Nez Perce tribe, which challenged the plan in court, said it's deeply flawed. They said it won't lead to the recovery of wild fish populations, because many have not achieved the promised benefits and are barely hanging on. Most of the returning fish were artificially bred in hatcheries.

Thirteen species of salmon and steelhead are listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act in the Columbia River Basin.

The plan's various iterations have been litigated in court for more than two decades. The most recent plan — known as the biological opinion — was issued in 2008 to cover a 10-year period through 2018, and a supplemental plan was added in 2010. It was struck down in court in 2011 for depending too much on habitat improvements whose benefits are unknown. The plan's latest version was issued in January 2014.

The groups in court clashed over which standard of recovery should be used to measure success. The federal government argued it can't cause additional risks or harm to the fish, and it has met that standard.

The plan, said federal attorney Michael Eitel, isn't a plan for recovery. Rather, it asks whether fish will be "trending toward recovery." This means one year's returns must outnumber the previous year's, regardless of whether that eventually leads to recovery or when.

But the plaintiffs argued the government has set the bar too low. They said because energy-producing dams are the main cause of fish mortality, the plan must do more to protect and recover them.

"A growing species is not the same as a recovered species," said Todd True, an attorney with Earthjustice who represents environmental groups in the court case.

What's missing from the plan, said True, is a definition of what constitutes recovery and when approximately it will be achieved.

True criticized the uncertainty of habitat restoration, which is the plan's main tool to improve fish survival; other plan components include reducing the effects of hatcheries on wild fish and keeping predators at bay, as well as improving fish passage at the dams.

Plaintiffs said habitat can't compensate for harm done in the "migratory corridor" where dams harm fish. Even where habitat has been restored, many fish populations don't replace themselves, said Stephanie Parent, the lawyer representing Oregon.

Plaintiffs also said the government has not analyzed the effects of climate change and isn't taking any actions to mitigate for them. As a result, said Earthjustice attorney Steve Mashuda, it's hard to know how much climate change's effect could "erode or negate the predicted benefits" of government's actions to help salmon.

Eitel, the government lawyer, said the magnitude and timing of climate change are poorly understood and its effects on species vary, so additional actions were not planned to offset its effect.

Critics also said the current plan rolls back some of the spill ordered by U.S. District Judge James Redden 10 years ago. In 2011, Redden, who has since retired and stepped off the case, asked the government to consider whether removal of the four lower Snake River dams might be necessary — an action environmentalists have long called for, in addition to increased spill.

The government says breaching dams isn't needed. Lorri Bodi, the Bonneville Power Administration's vice president of fish and wildlife, said it has not ignored the hydro system's effects — it has invested over $1 billion in improvements such as weirs and other types of fish passage, improving survival.

Judge Michael Simon, who took over the case from Redden, did not indicate when he would rule.

No matter what Simon decides, the current management plan will be in place just for another three years. Soon, the government will need to start discussing another biological opinion that would be put in place in 2018.