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Farm workers sort potatoes during harvest. File photo.

Farm workers sort potatoes during harvest. File photo.

Hot potatoes come out just fine in harvest

Despite scorching temperatures in Idaho this summer, the potato crop looks none the worse for wear, based on early reports.

July was Boise’s third hottest July on record, tied with 2006, according to the National Weather Service Forecast Office. That month, there were concerns that the potato crop would be affected.

“The heat can cause stress in the russet Burbank and other varieties,” University of Idaho extension agricultural economist Paul Patterson said in July.  “That’s sort of the wild card that’s hanging over the market right now.”

Patterson said the heat could affect potatoes’ appearance, primarily causing misshapen tubers. On the fresh market, “appearance is a critical component,” he said, so odd shapes could affect potatoes’ prices.

But Frank Muir, president and CEO of the Idaho Potato Commission, said Oct. 22 that farmers were able to mitigate the heat.

“It took a little bit of edge of our yield in some areas,” he said, while yields were up in other areas. He said Idaho’s irrigation supply gives farmers a tool to battle high temperatures.

“We can try to balance the heat situation with the proper amount of water.”

Despite ongoing drought, Muir said, potato farmers have the water they need. Based on harvest reports so far, he expects yields will be about average for the past five years.

“The quality of the crop looks good,” Muir said. “As long as it’s not too extreme for too long, they can handle pretty much anything.”

Cady McGovern

New VA clinic planned in northern Idaho

Rendering courtesy of Wolfe Architectural Group

Rendering courtesy of Wolfe Architectural Group

A new VA satellite clinic is slated for constructed in Coeur D’Alene.

The 16,255-square-foot community-based outpatient clinic will replace a facility that the VA is leasing on Ironwood Drive. The new location, at 915 Emma St., will provide primary care services, social work, behavioral health, physical therapy and an eye clinic.

Dr. Robby Riddle, chief of ambulatory care for Spokane VA, said the number of veterans served the clinic is expected to increase, requiring more medical service providers to work together. Currently 3,678 patients are treated at the facility.

“We have an aging population of mostly Vietnam-era vets or those that are older or have lost their insurance,” Riddle said.

Construction will begin in the next month and wrap up in April 2014. The general contractor is Williamson Johnson Company. The architect is Wolfe Architectural Group. The project will cost $1.8 million.

Jennifer Gonzalez

Idaho’s tax burden lower than that in nearly all states

When it comes to their taxes, Idahoans can count their blessings, according to a new report that concludes the state’s tax burden is lower than all but two states.

Only Alabama and South Carolina have a lower per capita tax burden.

In an annual report delivered Oct. 24, the Idaho State Tax Commission says Idaho also has the lowest tax burden among Western states.

The calculations are based on tax revenue in 2011.

Property Tax Policy Bureau Chief Alan Dornfest says Idaho’s overall tax burden rose slightly from 2010, a development largely the result of improved economic activity following the end of the Great Recession.

Idaho’s per capita tax burden was $2,975 in 2011, compared with $4,296 for the national average and $3,648 for the median of 11 western states.

The Associated Press

Man sentenced for unemployment insurance fraud

A 45-year-old Twin Falls mechanic has been sentenced for collecting $7,000 in unemployment insurance payments while also working.

District Judge Randy Stoker sentenced Richard Henry Ratliff on Oct. 18 to 10 years in prison. The court retained jurisdiction and Stoker recommended Ratliff complete a behavioral treatment program, after which the judge will decide if he should be released on probation or sent to prison.

Stoker pleaded guilty to collecting unemployment benefits while also earning more than $9,200 at his job between mid-August and mid-December 2010.

The department has recovered just over $1,900 in restitution and Ratliff still must repay the remaining $6,700. He also must report all “off-the-clock” wages he has been paid to the Idaho Tax Commission and the Internal Revenue Service for tax assessment.

The Associated Press

IRS’s inactivity no reason to ignore deadline

Just because the government was shut down for two weeks — the Internal Revenue Service included — doesn’t mean you can ignore the just-passed Oct. 15 filing deadline extension date.

“The problem was that they [IRS] did shut down some operations, they suspended some collection activity, suspended some notices of liens and levies …” said Terry O. Lang, a shareholder at Butzel Long in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. “But if there was a statute of limitations issue, they would have continued” processing that issue.

The IRS may have a backlog and aren’t helping taxpayers; they aren’t issuing checks if they owe you, but they are enforcing the IRS rules and regulations. It may just take a little longer than usual.

More than 12 million taxpayers filed for extensions in April and less than half have followed through with that late tax return.

According to the IRS, the penalty for filing late is usually 5 percent of the unpaid taxes for each month or part of a month that a return is late. This penalty will not exceed 25 percent of your unpaid taxes.

If you file your return more than 60 days after the due date or extended due date, the minimum penalty is the smaller of $135 or 100 percent of the unpaid tax.

Additionally, if you do not pay your taxes by the due date, you will generally have to pay a failure-to-pay penalty of half of 1 percent of your unpaid taxes for each month or part of a month after the due date that the taxes are not paid. This penalty can be as much as 25 percent of your unpaid taxes.

Dolan Media Newswires

Equipment finance confidence declines

Confidence in the equipment finance market declined from September to October amid uncertainty over the federal budget, according to a new report from the Washington, D.C.-based Equipment Leasing & Finance Foundation.

The index, an indicator of prevailing business conditions and expectations for the future, fell from 61.3 in September to 54.0 in October, according to the foundation.

“The future of the industry remains optimistic,” Valerie Hayes Jester, president of Brandywine Capital Associates, said in a foundation news release. “My larger concern is for the future of our country and the inability of our government to lead.”

The index is based on a survey of 50 industry executives, representing everything from independent finance companies to large banks.

Among the October findings:

11 percent of executives believe business conditions will improve over the next four months, down from 30.3 percent in September.

7.4 percent believe demand for leases and loans to fund capital expenditures will increase over the next four months, down from 33.3 percent in September.

33.3 said they expect to hire more employees over the next four months, down from 36.4 percent in September.

Dolan Media Newswires


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