Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday December 19 Cattle on Feed + Ag News

United States Cattle on Feed Up 1 Percent
   
Cattle and calves on feed for slaughter market in the United States for feedlots with capacity of 1,000 or more head totaled 10.9 million head on December 1, 2014. The inventory was 1 percent above December 1, 2013.

Placements in feedlots during November totaled 1.79 million, 4 percent below 2013. Net placements were 1.72 million head. During November, placements of cattle and calves weighing less than 600 pounds were 550,000, 600-699 pounds were 440,000, 700-799 pounds were 362,000, and 800 pounds and greater were 440,000. For the month of November, placements are the second lowest since the series began in 1996.

Marketings of fed cattle during November totaled 1.48 million, 11 percent below 2013. November marketings are the lowest since the series began in 1996.  Other disappearance totaled 74,000 during November, 9 percent above 2013.


Number of Cattle on Feed on 1,000+ Capacity Feedlots by Month
- States and US: 2013 and 2014
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                  :                 :                 :              December 1, 2014             
                  :                 :                 :--------------------------------------------
       State      :December 1, 2013 :November 1, 2014 :              :  Percent of  :  Percent of 
                  :                 :                 :    Number    :previous year :previous month
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                  :     --------------- 1,000 head --------------          ----- percent ----     
Arizona ..........:        275               250              252           92            101     
California .......:        505               420              435           86            104     
Colorado .........:        970               900              930           96            103     
Idaho ............:        225               220              230          102            105     
Iowa .............:        610               590              610          100            103     
Kansas ...........:      2,050             2,080            2,100          102            101     
Minnesota ........:        122               132              135          111            102     
Nebraska .........:      2,430             2,450            2,550          105            104     
Oklahoma .........:        265               260              260           98            100     
South Dakota .....:        220               230              245          111            107     
Texas ............:      2,510             2,550            2,560          102            100     
Washington .......:        207               226              234          113            104     
Other States .....:        335               325              335          100            103     
United States ....:     10,724            10,633           10,876          101            102     
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Number of Cattle Placed on Feed on 1,000+ Capacity Feedlots by Month
- States and US: 2013 and 2014
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                  :              :              :            During November 2014           
                  :    During    :    During    :--------------------------------------------
       State      :November 2013 : October 2014 :              :  Percent of  :  Percent of 
                  :              :              :    Number    :previous year :previous month
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                  :    ------------ 1,000 head -----------           ----- percent ----     
Arizona ..........:       30             22             26            87            118     
California .......:       63             53             62            98            117     
Colorado .........:      165            210            155            94             74     
Idaho ............:       42             61             43           102             70     
Iowa .............:      122            132            117            96             89     
Kansas ...........:      365            420            320            88             76     
Minnesota ........:       18             30             15            83             50     
Nebraska .........:      475            660            485           102             73     
Oklahoma .........:       40             60             45           113             75     
South Dakota .....:       61             84             53            87             63     
Texas ............:      405            520            385            95             74     
Washington .......:       44             51             47           107             92     
Other States .....:       37             54             39           105             72     
United States ....:    1,867          2,357          1,792            96             76     
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Number of Cattle Marketed on 1,000+ Capacity Feedlots by Month
- States and US: 2013 and 2014
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                  :              :              :            During November 2014           
                  :    During    :    During    :--------------------------------------------
       State      :November 2013 : October 2014 :              :  Percent of  :  Percent of 
                  :              :              :    Number    :previous year :previous month
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                  :    ------------ 1,000 head -----------           ----- percent ----     
Arizona ..........:       24             21             19            79             90     
California .......:       51             40             43            84            108     
Colorado .........:      140            145            120            86             83     
Idaho ............:       36             45             32            89             71     
Iowa .............:      100            100             95            95             95     
Kansas ...........:      345            320            285            83             89     
Minnesota ........:       12             11             11            92            100     
Nebraska .........:      400            430            370            93             86     
Oklahoma .........:       43             43             43           100            100     
South Dakota .....:       39             43             34            87             79     
Texas ............:      400            420            360            90             86     
Washington .......:       39             35             37            95            106     
Other States .....:       31             32             26            84             81     
United States ....:    1,660          1,685          1,475            89             88     
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------



Thursday December 18 Ag News

Ag education program targets urban users

Consumers are becoming more involved in food choices and urban gardening.

Farmer’s markets number more than 8,100 nationwide, nearly doubling over the past five years, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Community leaders and existing business owners in the Omaha area are seeing increased need for agricultural education opportunities which target aspiring entrepreneurs who are starting their own urban ag enterprises.

To meet that demand for knowledge and hands-on learning in local food production, three partnering entities unveiled a new program Thursday against the backdrop of the Omaha Home for Boys Cooper Memorial Farm.

There, aspiring agricultural entrepreneurs and urban participants can become successful in careers of local food production through the Urban Agricultural Education program established by the Omaha Home for Boys, University of Nebraska Extension, and the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture (NCTA).

“The three partners bring a breadth of resources to the Omaha area to meet the needs of the entire agricultural community,” said Ron Rosati, NCTA dean.

Formal and informal educational activities begin with academic courses starting Jan. 3 at the Douglas-Sarpy County Extension Office, and Jan. 17 at the Omaha Home for Boys woodshop at OHB’s main campus, Inspiration Hill.

Courses will be delivered by Nebraska Extension and NCTA to participants ranging from high school ages to adults.

The Spring semester courses in agricultural entrepreneurship and agricultural-residential carpentry are small-scale examples of a larger, longer-term academic model used at NCTA and Nebraska Extension, Rosati said.

“These applied courses are designed to help practitioners achieve farm ownership,” Rosati noted. “They are modeled after current partnership programs such as the 100 Beef Cow Ownership Advantage, offered by NCTA and Nebraska Extension since 2007.”

The Omaha program targets youth, 4-H members, college students and the greater Omaha area of individuals in various stages of their careers and business aspirations, said Chuck Hibberd, dean and director of Nebraska Extension.

 “Urban agriculture education is a key part of Nebraska Extension programming in Douglas and Sarpy Counties,” Hibberd said. “Our extension educators across the state, and in the Omaha area, have extensive expertise in farm management, horticulture, farmers markets, livestock management and overall food production. We are excited to be a partner with the Omaha community.”

High school age students associated with the Omaha Home for Boys day program may be some of the first participants, said Jeff Moran, president and CEO.

Spring courses can be coupled with summer sessions or fall semester courses too, perhaps preparing students to grow produce to be sold locally at farmers markets in the Omaha area, or giving them experience in livestock projects for the county fair in 2015 through Extension’s 4-H youth program.

“We are very pleased to be partnering with Nebraska Extension and NCTA to provide this programming to greater Omaha through the Omaha Home for Boys,” Moran said. “The urban agriculture program provides economic development and production of healthy foods for our local families and businesses.”

In addition to program participants, urban consumers can also gain an understanding and appreciation of larger-scale food production, the business complexities, operating costs, and regulatory aspects for food production and marketing, Rosati noted.

The courses will meet on Saturdays for 4 months. Classes can be taken as non-credit or for three college credits. Financial assistance will be available for tuition.

For course schedules and registration, see Urban Agriculture in Omaha at http://ncta.unl.edu or call 1-800-3CURTIS.



Soy to the World - Biodiesel Makes a Splash in the Big Apple


As you can imagine, a lot goes into powering the city that never sleeps. Whether it’s helping to fuel America’s largest city fleet, clearing snow off the runway at JFK in the dead of winter, or heating countless homes and buildings, biodiesel and Bioheat play an integral role in bringing the Big Apple to life.

Representatives from the Nebraska Soybean Board recently joined more than 30 farmer-leaders, as well as other representatives from the United Soybean Board (USB) and eleven other state soybean boards in New York City to see how biodiesel and Bioheat are being used to help clean up the city’s energy portfolio.

What is Biodiesel?

Biodiesel is America’s first advanced biofuel. Biodiesel is a renewable, clean-burning replacement for traditional diesel made from a diverse mix of feedstocks such as soybean oil, animal fats, and recycled cooking oil.

Keith Kerman, the chief fleet officer and deputy commissioner for the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, said biodiesel and Bioheat have played key roles in helping the city meet its GHG reduction goal. “In 2013, we reduced our emissions by 9.3%, and we fully expect that number to be over 20% after this year,” Kerman said.

On the tour, the group learned that Kerman has been a champion for biodiesel for many years. In his current role, he manages the largest city fleet in the country – more than 26,000 vehicles, 10,000 of which are diesel. Kerman said the city runs biodiesel all year round in its diesel vehicles and they don’t see any problems. “I would love to increase the blend rate. We don’t see any issues in regards to performance in the vehicles. Our biggest issue comes from how we manage storage in some of the older tanks.”

The group also met with the Department of Sanitation, another major user of biodiesel. Rocco Dirico, the deputy commissioner for the Bureau of Support Services, said he manages more than 5,500 vehicles in this fleet. Dirico said they run a B20 blend in the warm months and a B5 blend in the cold months and haven’t seen any problems. “You guys can spread the word that I said we use this fuel and everything’s fine. We don’t have any issues,” Dirico said. In typical New York fashion, Dirico doesn’t like to mince words on something he’s passionate about. To put things in perspective, the department uses roughly 9 million gallons of diesel fuel per year. At an average blend rate of 12.5%, the department burns more than 1.1 million gallons of B100 per year. That’s a lot of biodiesel!

What is Bioheat?

Bioheat is traditional home heating oil blended with biodiesel. By 2015, all buildings in New York City that use heating oil will be required to use a B5 blend of Bioheat, meaning that it contains 5% pure biodiesel. The current market for home heating oil is 4 billion gallons annually. After the implementation of the B5 in 2015, Bioheat alone will utilize 50 million gallons of pure biodiesel.

New York City has led the way in embracing alternative fuels such as biodiesel and Bioheat. In 2007, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced his Plan NYC, which brought 25 city agencies together to help tackle some of the toughest issues facing New York City in the years to come. As a part of this visionary plan, Mayor Bloomberg called for a 30% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2017.

Steven Levy, Chairman of the National Biodiesel Board, said Bioheat and biodiesel goes a long way in helping New Yorkers. “Bioheat and biodiesel are very important to New York for many different reasons. The people in New York want to be greener, more sustainable, and want to do the right thing for the country relating to energy dependence,” Levy said. “The legislators, both the City Council in New York and both the former and current mayor, have also stated their objective to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050. These city leaders have taken steps to reach this goal, including the major, immediate step to start using Bioheat and biodiesel. Our goal is to have using Bioheat and biodiesel become second nature to the people of New York and folks all across the country. We want to send the message that there is a substitute for petroleum products and that we can afford our children, and our children’s children, a cleaner environment.”

The Nebraska Soybean Board has been major funders of biodiesel and Bioheat education and outreach on the East Coast, and the investment seems to be paying off. Victor Bohuslavsky, the executive director of the Nebraska Soybean Board, said “New York City is one of the largest markets for using biodiesel year round. Bioheat also gives us a large market for wintertime use that we don’t see in the Midwest and farming sector. It’s very satisfying to see their enthusiasm for using alternative fuels such as biodiesel and their commitment to improving our environment and air quality in the long term.”



Interested in Learning more about the Soybean Checkoff? Come See for Yourself this Year!


It's no secret that our international customers play a big role in determining the price of our soybeans. In fact, studies suggest that one out of every four rows of soybeans in Nebraska will be shipped to China or the Pacific Rim. Have you ever wondered how they get there?

The Nebraska Soybean Board recently funded the eleventh year of its "See for Yourself" program. The See for Yourself program is designed to give Nebraska soybean farmers the opportunity to learn more about their checkoff. Farmers selected to take part in the program will attend checkoff-sponsored activities in an attempt to gain a better understanding of how their checkoff dollars are being invested to build demand and increase profitability.

See for Yourself is designed to include opportunities to attend state, national and international activities. The in-state program gives farmers the chance to attend functions in Nebraska that are vital to the continued success of the soybean industry. The national program includes attending meetings sponsored by the United Soybean Board, United States Meat Export Federation, National Biodiesel Board, United States Soybean Export Council, Untied States Poultry and Egg Export Council, as well as many other important national meetings and activities. The international program is designed to show soybean farmers first-hand what the checkoff is doing to build global demand.
Join the program!

This year's international tour will take a group of soybean farmers to the Pacific Northwest to learn about the logistics of meeting our customers' needs. For more information, or to apply for this year's trip, please visit http://www.nebraskasoybeans.org/producer-resources/see-for-yourself.



USDA Releases APH Yield Exclusion Resources to Help Farmers Manage Risk


The U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) announced program details related to a new Farm Bill initiative that will provide relief to farmers affected by severe weather, including drought. Information made available today includes eligible crops, crop years, and counties where producers are eligible to exclude certain yields under the Actual Production History (APH) Yield Exclusion, a fact sheet, and a list of frequently asked questions.

The APH Yield Exclusion will be available in the actuarial documents beginning in the 2015 crop year for spring planted corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, grain sorghum, rice, barley, canola, sunflowers, peanuts, and popcorn. It will allow eligible producers who have been hit with severe weather to receive a higher approved yield on their insurance policies through the federal crop insurance program.

“APH Yield Exclusion will provide additional options to producers who have suffered from devastating natural disasters,” said RMA Administrator Brandon Willis. “The resources made available today will help eligible producers get the most benefit out of the new protections created in the 2014 Farm Bill.”

Under the new Farm Bill program, yields can be excluded from farm actual production history when the actuarial documents provide that the county average yield for that crop year is at least 50 percent below the 10 previous consecutive crop years’ average yield.

The APH Yield Exclusion allows farmers to exclude yields in exceptionally bad years (such as a year in which a natural disaster or other extreme weather occur) from their production history when calculating yields used to establish their crop insurance coverage. The amount of insurance available to a farmer is based on the farmer's average historical yields. In the past, a year of particularly low yields that occurred due to severe weather beyond the farmer's control would reduce the amount of insurance available to the farmer in future years. By excluding unusually bad years, farmers will not have to worry that a natural disaster will reduce their amount of insurance for years to come.

Crop insurance is sold and delivered solely through private crop insurance agents. Producers should contact a local crop insurance agent for more information about the program or visit www.rma.usda.gov/news/currentissues/farmbill/index.html. A list of crop insurance agents is available at all USDA Service Centers or on the RMA website at www.rma.usda.gov/tools/agents/.



Senate Agriculture and Appropriations Committee Members Announced


The Senate announced their 114th Congress committee memberships this week. Committee assignments for the Senate Committee on Agriculture Nutrition and Forestry and the Senate Appropriations Committee include:

Senate Committee on Agriculture Nutrition and Forestry
Republicans (11)
Pat Roberts, Kansas, Chairman
Thad Cochran, Mississippi
Mitch McConnell, Kentucky
John Boozman, Arkansas
John Hoeven, North Dakota
David Perdue, Georgia
Joni Ernst, Iowa
Thom Tillis, North Carolina
Ben Sasse, Nebraska
Chuck Grassley, Iowa
John Thune, South Dakota

Democrats (9)
Debbie Stabenow, Michigan, Ranking
Patrick Leahy, Vermont
Sherrod Brown, Ohio
Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota
Michael Bennet, Colorado
Kirsten Gillibrand, New York
Joe Donnelly, Indiana
Heidi Heitkamp, North Dakota
Bob Casey, Pennsylvania


Senate Committee on Appropriations
Republicans (16)
Thad Cochran, Mississippi, Chairman
Mitch McConnell, Kentucky
Richard Shelby, Alabama
Lamar Alexander, Tennessee
Susan Collins, Maine
Lisa Murkowski, Alaska
Lindsey Graham, South Carolina
Mark Kirk, Illinois
Roy Blunt, Missouri
Jerry Moran, Kansas
John Hoeven, North Dakota
John Boozman, Arkansas
Shelley Moore Capito, West Virginia
Bill Cassidy, Louisiana
James Lankford, Oklahoma
Steve Daines, Montana

Democrats (14)
Barbara Mikulski, Maryland, Ranking
Patrick Leahy, Vermont
Patty Murray, Washington
Diane Feinstein, California
Richard Durbin, Illinois
Jack Reed, Rhode Island
Jon Tester, Montana
Tom Udall, New Mexico
Jeane Shaheen, New Hampshire
Jeff Merkley, Oregon
Chris Coons, Delaware
Brian Schatz, Hawaii
Tammy Baldwin, Wisconsin
Chris Murphy, Connecticut



Iowa Farmland Values Fall from Historic High


Average Iowa farmland value is now estimated to be $7,943 per acre—a drop in value of $773, or 8.9 percent, per acre. Land values were determined by the Iowa Land Value Survey, which was conducted in November by the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development at Iowa State University. Results from the survey are similar to results found by the Realtors Land Institute and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

As farmland values do not rise or fall uniformly across the state, the survey examines values by crop reporting districts; each of the 99 counties individually; low, medium and high grade farmland; and also averages the state as a whole. The $7,943 per acre and 8.9 percent drop in value represent the state as a whole.

While this year marks the largest decline in farmland values since 1986, it is only the second year since 1999 that the survey has shown a decline in farmland values. After hitting a historic peak in 2013, values have returned to a mid-point between 2011 and 2012 values. In spite of the decrease, farmland values are more than double what they were 10 years ago, 81 percent higher than 2009 values, and 18 percent higher than 2011 values.

“I think we have seen a peak for the time being,” said Michael Duffy, a retired ISU economics professor and extension farm management economist, who conducted this year’s survey. “Commodity prices and farm income are settling back to more expected levels, and I think land values will probably move sideways for a while,” he said. “Many people think this report indicates the beginning of another farm crisis, but land values are still considerably higher than they were just a few years ago.”

Drop in commodity prices influences farmland values

Corn and soybean prices started falling in 2013, and as a result farm income dropped. The most recent USDA net farm income estimate showed a record high income in 2013, but a 23 percent drop in net farm income for 2014. Falling commodity prices, along with a drop in farmland value, could make problems for some farmers.

“The drop in farmland value is due to the drop in commodity prices,” Duffy said. “Pressure could come if farmers incurred debt in anticipation that commodity prices would continue. I think all farmers will have a cash flow problem for the next 18 months or so. If farmers still have equity in their land they should be able to refinance, but farmers who got over-extended will be in trouble.”

Of respondents that listed positive and/or negative factors influencing farmland values, low interest rates were the most commonly cited positive factor, and lower commodity prices were the most frequently cited negative factor. Other negative factors mentioned included high input prices and an uncertain agricultural future.

The survey was initiated in 1941 and is sponsored annually by Iowa State University. Only the state average and the district averages are based directly on the ISU survey data. The county estimates are derived using a procedure that combines the ISU survey results with data from the US Census of Agriculture. Beginning this year the survey is being conducted by the Center for Agriculture and Rural Development in the Economics Department at Iowa State University.

The survey is based on reports by licensed real estate brokers and selected individuals considered to be knowledgeable of land market conditions. Respondents were asked to report for more than one county if they were knowledgeable about the land markets. The 2014 survey is based on 428 usable responses providing 608 county land values estimates.

For additional resources, including maps and historical survey data, please see http://www.card.iastate.edu/land-value/2014/



Iowa Farmers Are Concerned about Pesticide Resistance


Many Iowa farmers believe they have identified pesticide resistance on the land they farm, and most are concerned that herbicide-resistant weeds and pesticide-resistant insects will become a problem, according to a new report from the Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll.

“Farmers understand that the way they use pest management technologies has a major impact on the rate of resistance development. However, they also view resistance management as a community problem involving multiple stakeholders in the agricultural sector,” said J. Gordon Arbuckle Jr., a sociologist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Arbuckle co-directs the annual poll with Paul Lasley, also an ISU Extension and Outreach sociologist.

“Farmer Perspectives on Pesticide Resistance” (PM 3070) is available for free download from the ISU Extension and Outreach Online Store, https://store.extension.iastate.edu/, and the ISU Department of Sociology Extension and Outreach website, http://www.soc.iastate.edu/extension/ifrlp/about.html.

The data represent 889 farmers from the 2014 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll who planted corn and/or soybean in 2013. Data from the 2013 and 2012 Farm Poll surveys also are reported.

A ‘Treadmill’ of Resistance Evolution

“The results of the poll indicate most Iowa farmers view pest management as a treadmill cycle of resistance evolution,” said Arbuckle. “They feel that when new management technologies are introduced, it’s only a matter of time before pests evolve resistance.”

The report concludes that this “treadmill” perspective is concerning, because it implies that many farmers feel somewhat powerless to cope with the evolution of resistance. However, the report points out that the rate at which pests evolve resistance can be slowed significantly through widespread, coordinated pest management practices and strategies.

Who Is Responsible for Resistance Management?

The Farm Poll asked farmers to rate the level of responsibility that various stakeholders have for contributing to resistance management efforts. “Farmers reported that they are most responsible for resistance management. This makes sense, because farm-level strategies such as crop rotation, rotation of different types of pesticides, and other practices as part of integrated pest management programs are the foundation of effective landscape-scale resistance management strategies,” Arbuckle said.

“However, farmers also believe that other key stakeholders, such as pesticide manufacturers, university scientists and commercial pesticide applicators, share in the responsibility. This suggests they believe that pesticide resistance management should be a community effort among stakeholders,” Arbuckle said.

The survey also found that most farmers do not develop their own herbicide programs, and most use custom applicators to apply their herbicides. “Most farmers look to their agricultural retailers and crop advisers for guidance on weed and insect management,” Arbuckle noted. “These stakeholders have a critical role in helping farmers to implement effective resistance management strategies.”

“Pesticide resistance is becoming more common in Iowa. Now would be a good time for farmers and other stakeholders to get together to work on coordinated, collaborative resistance management approaches,” Arbuckle said.



Cold Weather Biosecurity Tips for Pig Trucks and Trailers

(from the National Pork Board)

Maintaining good biosecurity for pig trucks and trailers against diseases such as Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDV) can be challenging at any time of year, but it’s particularly daunting when the thermometer drops below 32°F. However, Dr. Lisa Becton, director of swine health and information for the Pork Checkoff, says it’s not an insurmountable task if you follow a few key steps.

“Be sure to store disinfectants above 32°F and use additives to lower the freezing point of disinfectants such as adding 100 percent propylene glycol to them,” Becton says. “However, it’s important to note that for safety of pigs and people, regular antifreeze or ethylene glycol should not be used.”

Finally, you need to allow for sufficient dry time for disinfected trailers in areas that stay above freezing. And Becton says it’s important to thoroughly disinfect any equipment and facilities that may come in contact with a clean trailer.

For PEDV specifically, new disinfectant research shows that some specific protocols can greatly enhance your ability to inactivate the virus in trailers.

Taking biosecurity beyond disinfection is important when fighting a widespread disease such as PEDV. That’s why Becton also recommends that producers maintain a line of separation between ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’ areas on a farm and any trailer that’s used to transport pigs.

“Maintaining good biosecurity is critical all year, but even more so with PEDV during the winter, since we know it prefers cold, damp conditions,” Becton adds. “Even though only sporadic cases of PEDV have been reported so far during the last few weeks of cold weather, now is a critical time to redouble your biosecurity efforts to help keep the number of cases low.”



Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Company Of Iowa To Acquire John Deere Crop Insurance


Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Company of Iowa (FMH) today announced the signing of a definitive agreement to acquire John Deere Insurance Company and John Deere Risk Protection, Inc.

Ron Rutledge, FMH Chairman, President and CEO, commented, "I am very excited at the potential the combination of FMH and John Deere crop insurance creates.  In addition to the advantages that greater scale and diversity bring, our similar company cultures focused around taking care of the customer means all of our policyholders will continue to enjoy the high level of service they've come to expect."

"We are confident that customers of John Deere crop insurance will be well served with this action," said Don Preusser, President of John Deere Insurance Company and John Deere Risk Protection, Inc.  "Farmers Mutual Hail has provided tailored crop insurance packages to farmers for more than 120 years. We believe the success and long tenure of FMH speaks volumes about their dedication to customer service."

The transaction is subject to regulatory review and approval. Closing is expected in the first quarter of the 2015 calendar year. FMH was advised in this transaction by Conning as strategic advisor and NCP, Inc. as financial advisor. Faegre Baker Daniels LLP acted as legal counsel to FMH. 



Firms File Class Action Suits against Syngenta on Behalf of Corn Farmers in Twenty States


Three law firms that played a major role in a recent $750 million settlement on behalf of U.S. rice farmers who suffered financially due to genetically modified rice seed have filed two class-action lawsuits on behalf of U.S. corn farmers now suffering similar economic losses from genetically modified corn.

The three firms filed their complaints on November 11 in federal court in St. Louis and Kansas City, Kan., and amended them today to include 20 states, making it the most comprehensive action taken on this issue to date.  These 20 states represent 86 percent of the corn planted in the United States in 2014.

Gray, Ritter & Graham, P.C. of St. Louis, Gray Reed & McGraw, P.C. of Texas and Hare Wynn Newell & Newton of Birmingham, AL filed their class-action lawsuits accusing Switzerland-based Syngenta of causing economic harm to corn growers after the company marketed two genetically modified strains of corn - Agrisure Viptera and Agrisure Duracade – that have been outlawed in China.  China, a major importer of U.S. corn, began refusing shipments of U.S. corn one year ago after a genetic trait found in Viptera - MIR162 - was detected in the shipments.

With the loss of the Chinese market, prices for U.S. corn have plummeted. Earlier this year, losses to corn growers and the industry due to the loss of the Chinese market were estimated to be from $1 billion to $2.9 billion.  The corn growers' financial losses continue to grow, the lawsuits allege.

This new multi-state lawsuit further alleges that the company was aware of the potential damages from its actions but sold the seeds with MIR162 anyway.

States With 86 Percent of U.S. Corn Acreage Represented

The 20 states included in these latest MIR162 class action lawsuits account for approximately 86 percent of all corn acres in the United States.  They are:
Alabama
Arkansas             
Colorado
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kentucky
Kansas
Louisiana
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi           
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
North Dakota
Oklahoma
South Dakota
Tennessee
Wisconsin
   
The three firms anticipate that they will be representing farmers from other corn-producing states in the near future.



Don’t Miss the Opportunity to Apply for the CME Group Beef Industry Scholarship


Friday, Dec. 19, marks the application deadline for the 2015-16 Beef Industry Scholarship, sponsored by the CME Group. Ten scholarships of $1,500 each will be awarded to outstanding students pursuing careers in the beef industry.

The purpose of this program is to identify and encourage talented and thoughtful students who will emerge as industry leaders. Fields of study may include education, communications, production, research or other areas of study related to the beef industry.

Applicants must be a graduating high school senior or full-time undergraduate student enrolled at a two-or four-year institution for the 2015-16 school year. Students applying for the scholarship are required to write a one-page letter expressing future career goals related to the beef industry, a 750-word essay describing an issue confronting the industry and solutions to manage the problem, as well as submit two letters of reference from current or former instructors or industry professionals.

The National Cattlemen’s Foundation will convene a panel of judges to review the applications and select the winners. Applications must be submitted online or by mail no later than midnight (MST) on Dec. 19, 2014. The winning recipients will be announced on Jan. 15, 2015.

For more information or to apply, visit: www.nationalcattlemensfoundation.org.




Korea: Corn Rebounds Strong; Contributes to U.S. Ag Export Record


A sharp rebound in U.S. corn exports to Korea helped power overall U.S. agricultural exports to that nation to $6.9 billion in fiscal year 2014, a new record. Including manufactured goods and services, Korea is the sixth largest U.S. trading partner internationally, just behind Germany and ahead of the United Kingdom and France.

Building on the established partnership, the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) and the Korean Feed Association hosted the fifth annual Feed Grains Trade Seminar in Seoul, South Korea, on Dec. 5. The seminar provided more than 160 buying officials, feed manufacturers, corn millers, traders and end-users the opportunity to improve their understanding of the U.S. supply and demand outlook for the coming year.

“U.S. agricultural exports, including corn, are one of the areas where the United States runs a big surplus with Korea,” said Manuel Sanchez, USGC manager of global trade and one of the major presenters at the conference. “Korean buyers are very price sensitive, and with a good harvest, U.S. corn is competitive. Reliability is also important, and the United States is the world’s most reliable supplier.”

Topics included the U.S. and global supply and demand perspective, information about U.S. ethanol, and discussion of freight costs, including barge and rail rates in the United States and relative advantages of ocean shipping from the U.S. Gulf and Pacific Northwest.

“Buyers don’t like surprises, and events like the Feed Grains Trade Seminar give us an opportunity to showcase U.S. reliability and transparency,” Sanchez said. “The competition is tougher every year. Our goal is to make U.S. coarse grains growers the partner of choice versus other producers around the world.”



AGCO announces updates to its machine management solution AgCommand

AGCO Corporation (NYSE:AGCO) announced today several feature updates to its AgCommand® telemetry system, including key reports, mobile app enhancements and a new look and feel. AgCommand is a key product included in Fuse™ Technologies, AGCO's next generation approach to precision agriculture and precision machine management, enabling insights into the efficiency, performance and logistics of the entire farm operation and enabling key service offerings to ensure machine uptime.

AgCommand enhancements allow users to:
-    Make timely and more informed fleet management decisions using the new Automatic Weekly Machine Status Report, consisting of a brief vehicle summary, graphical efficiency chart and service report.
-    Identify optimal engine performance and standardize the fleet operation based on the updated Engine Performance Report which now shows more granular, single vehicle information.
-    Enhance overall productivity with increased insights from the Vehicle History Report which now offers each individual vehicle's information on productivity, performance, maintenance history and cost analysis.
-    Monitor overall fuel consumption, fuel per hour, fuel per area, and area per hour allowing customers to compare operator performance and adjust driving habits as needed for greater efficiency (as a new feature of AgCommand Standard Plus).
-    Access AgCommand in Czech and Hungarian now in addition to the other 14 languages available.

Enhancements made to the AgCommand mobile app for iPad and iPhone include iOS 8 updates, and a new look and feel that makes app navigation easier and more intuitive.

The ability to roam between 3G and CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) networks is an additional benefit expanding coverage so more customers and dealers can now use AgCommand over a broader stretch of land than before. This will be supported by new hardware released to the market in the first half of 2015.

Customers also have the option of an additional level of support provided by their dealer. With the machine owner's permission, AgCommand allows dealers to monitor their customers' fleets, and provide a significantly enhanced level of support and service.

"The new AgCommand updates will not only enable farmers to better utilize data collected from their equipment to make important decisions it will also give them the flexibility to include their local AGCO dealer in the process to gain greater insights on how they can increase productivity and reduce costs to capitalize return on investments," said Ben Studer, director of Product Management, Global Advanced Technology Solutions and Electronics Functional Group..



Thursday, December 18, 2014

Wednesday December 17 Ag News

Beef Profit Workshops at 11 Nebraska Sites This Winter

During the winter of 2015 Nebraska Extension will host 11 Beef Profitability Workshops to help beef producers evaluate their operations to make them more profitable thorough latest research information.  Examples of some of the topics that will be presented at each location by presenters:
    Harvesting crop residues – does it affect future crop yields?
    Balancing the Ranch for Protein
    Alternative Forages for Grazing – what works
    Fencing and Watering Options on Crop Residue
    Mineral Nutrition
    Composting Livestock Carcasses
    Windrow Grazing
    Forage Testing and What the Numbers Mean
    EPDs and Bull Selection
    Economics in the Beef Industry

A team of UNL Extension Educators, including Steve Pritchard, Larry Howard, Dennis Bauer, Gary Stauffer, Jim Jansen, and Steve Niemeyer will present information as well as practical approaches for beef producers.

These workshops have been held across Nebraska for the pasts eleven years.

These workshops are sponsored by Nebraska Extension.  The cost is $10.00 but may vary from location depending on local sponsorship.  Register by calling the local Extension office in the host county at least three days before the workshop to ensure there are enough handouts and refreshments.

For more information or assistance, please contact Steve Niemeyer, UNL Extension Educator in Garfield, Loup, and Wheeler counties at 308-346-4200 in Burwell or sniemeyer1@unl.edu.

Location sites are follows:

Jan 29  Center at Courthouse meeting room at 1:00 P.M.  Contact Ruth Vonderohe at 402-288-5611 - Speakers : Dennis Bauer and Steve Pritchard         
Jan 29  Pierce  at the Courthouse at 6:00 P.M. with supper contact Ann Fenton 402-329-4821 - Speakers:  Dennis Bauer and Steve Pritchard
Jan 30  Leigh at Colfax County Fairgrounds  11:00 P.M. with Lunch contact Aaron Nygren 402-352-3821 - Speakers: Steve Niemeyer and Gary Stauffer
Feb 2 Hartington at Courthouse 6:00 P.M. with supper contact Jim Jansen 402-254-6821 - Speakers: Steve Pritchard and Gary Stauffer
Feb 3  Neligh  at Courthouse  12:00 noon  with lunch  contact Rod Wilke  402-887-5414 - Speakers: Dennis Bauer, Larry Howard and Jim Jansen
Feb  5- Ord at Valley Fairgrounds  1:30 P.M.  Doug Anderson  308-750-5071 - Speakers:  Steve Niemeyer, Gary Stauffer and Larry Howard
Feb 10 – O’neil at Courthouse  1:30 P.M.  no meal  Gary Stauffer 402-336-2760 - Speakers: Dennis Bauer and Gary Stauffer
Feb  10 – Basset at 6:30 P.M.  no meal Dennis Bauer  402-387-2213  - Speakers:  Gary Stauffer and Dennis Bauer
Feb 17 – Albion  at 1:30 P.M.  no meal  Steve Pritchard  402-395-2158 - Speakers:  TBA
Feb 19 -  West Point at courthouse  6:30 P.M. no meal Larry Howard 402-372-6006 - Speakers: TBA
Feb 24 – Taylor at Community room  1:30 P.M. no meal  Steve Niemeyer 308-346-4200 - Speakers: Dennis Bauer, Gary Stauffer, and Larry Howard



Farm Credit Services of America To Distribute Record $160 Million Cash-Back Dividend for 2014


Farm Credit Services of America (FCSAmerica), a customer-owned financial cooperative, has approved a 2014 cash-back dividend of $160 million to its eligible customer-owners. FCSAmerica serves the credit and risk management needs of farmers, ranchers, agribusiness and rural residents in Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming.

The 2014 cash-back dividend represents the largest annual dividend approved by the cooperative’s Board of Directors. Since 2004, FCSAmerica has distributed $990 million to its eligible-customer owners. Eligible customers can expect 2014 payments to be distributed in March 2015

The FCSAmerica Board also has approved a patronage program for 2015, ensuring a portion of the cooperative’s earnings will be returned to farmers and ranchers for the 12th consecutive year.

“Cash-back dividends are one of the unique aspects of our cooperative model,” said Jeremy Heitmann, a southeast Nebraska family farmer who serves as chairman of the FCSAmerica Board of Directors. “We are proud to return a portion of net income to those farmers and ranchers whose decision to do business with FCSAmerica strengthens the cooperative for all our benefit.”   

“Our customer-owners use their dividends to invest in their operations, their families and local communities,” said Doug Stark, CEO and president of FCSAmerica. “In the past 11 years, that has amounted to nearly a billion dollars that FCSAmerica has returned to its customer-owners to benefit agriculture and main streets across our four states. The portion of earnings retained each year by FCSAmerica helps build the cooperative’s financial capacity and strength to serve borrowers through all economic cycles, now and into the future.”



Iowa Soybean Association recognizes Governor Branstad for distinguished service


Farmer members of the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) recognized Governor Terry Branstad for his tireless support of Iowa agriculture and the soybean industry during the organization’s 50th Anniversary Symposium and Recognition Banquet held today in Des Moines.

ISA board president Tom Oswald presented Governor Branstad with the ISA Distinguished Service Award at the event’s opening luncheon.

“It is an honor to receive this award from the Iowa Soybean Association,” he said. “Agriculture is an important part of our state’s economy and I am proud to work so closely with a farmer group that is leading the industry.”

Oswald, who farms near Cleghorn, acknowledged the support and partnership of the Governor during his tenure.

“Governor Branstad is a long-time friend of the Iowa soybean farmer and we are appreciative of his service to agriculture and the positive impact he has had on the industry,” said Oswald. 



Iowa Soybean Association recognizes agricultural, environmental leaders


The state’s top agricultural chief, a high school senior preparing to study agricultural business at Iowa State University and a nationally respected leader in soil and water conservation were recognized by the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) for their dedication to Iowa’s farmers and the soybean industry.

Receiving ISA leadership awards during a banquet held in conjunction with the ISA’s 50th Anniversary Symposium were:
• Friend of the Iowa Soybean Farmer — Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, Spirit Lake
• Rising Star — Macy Marek, Washington
• New Leader — Julie Kenney, Nevada
• Environmental Leader — Tim Smith, Eagle Grove
• Legacy of Leadership — Curt Sindergard, Rolfe

The Friend of the Iowa Soybean Farmer Award, sponsored by Cargill, was presented to Bill Northey, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture and a fourth generation farmer from Spirit Lake. Northey’s priorities as Secretary of Agriculture have advanced science and new technologies to better care for our air, soil and water. He also reaches out to Iowans to share the story of Iowa agriculture. Each year, Northey travels the state to better understand the needs of farmers and determine how he can better lead the Agriculture Department and its service to Iowans.

The Rising Star Award, sponsored by Farm Credit Services of America, recognizes an ISA member’s son or daughter who’s active at the local, state and national level and preparing to continue ag studies in college. Marek is a senior at Washington High School and is the sixth generation on her family's diversified livestock and grain farm. She is a member of the Washington FFA and has participated in a program that gives students the opportunity to learn firsthand production practices for raising corn and soybeans. Marek is also involved in Business Professionals of America and is employed at Bazooka Farmstar. She will be attending Iowa State University next fall and majoring in agriculture business.

The New Leader Award, sponsored by DuPont Pioneer, recognizes an ISA member’s outstanding involvement and commitment to promoting the soybean industry and agriculture. After a decade of working in communications for DuPont Pioneer, Kenney recently took on a more active role with her husband Mark on their Story County family farm. She’s also a volunteer with CommonGround—a group of female farm bloggers across the state—and was a featured panelist for the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance Food Dialogue event at the World Food Prize this fall. She has also hosted farm tours and participated in national media tours to discuss modern farming practices with consumer audiences.

The Environmental Stewardship Award, sponsored by Monsanto, was awarded to Smith for his commitment to conservation and championing water quality practices. In 2011, Smith became involved with the Mississippi River Basin Initiative program through the Natural Resources Conservation Service. He has implemented cover crops, strip tillage, Prairie STRIPS and nutrient management practices on this farmland and installed a bioreactor to reduce nitrate levels in water moving across his land. Smith is an advocate for implementing practices that improve environmental performance and frequently hosts tours and participates in farm forums to share his personal and practical experiences.

The Legacy of Leadership Award, sponsored by Stine Seed Company, was presented to Sindergard for 18 years of service on the ISA board. During his tenure, Sindergard served on each of the association’s four board committees and held the offices of president, president-elect and treasurer. He was involved in numerous soybean-related boards and committees including the American Soybean Association, Soy for Life Foundation, Environmental Stewardship Foundation and the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation. Sindergard provided vital leadership and insight during his years of service on the board and contributed to setting forward thinking objectives to improve the competitiveness of Iowa’s soybean farmers.



NeFBF on Congressional Action Tax Extenders

President Steve Nelson

“Today is a good day for Nebraska farmers and ranchers and Nebraska’s rural communities. Last night the Senate passed a previously approved House measure that establishes a temporary one-year extension of several federal tax provisions that expired at the end of 2013. Those provisions are important, particularly the small business expensing and bonus depreciation provisions of Section 179.”

“These provisions provide an incentive for farmers and ranchers to reinvest dollars in their family operations in the form of vehicles, equipment and machinery. This reinvestment not only helps rural farm and ranch families, but the local rural businesses that farmers and ranchers partner with on such purchases.”

“While this is a positive step, we will continue to support measures to reinstate these tax provisions on a permanent basis for the benefit of rural Nebraska, which helps keep our rural communities strong.”



NCGA Urges President to Sign Tax Extenders Bill


Hill The National Corn Growers Association today asked President Barack Obama to sign the tax extenders bill passed by the Senate Tuesday, but also urged broader tax reform in 2015.

"HR 5771 is an important but temporary first step to tax laws that allow farmers to reinvest in their operations. We urge the President to sign this bill into law," said NCGA President Chip Bowling.

"If signed by President Obama, the bill will retroactively extend a package of more than 50 expired tax breaks through the end of 2014. Included among them is the Section 179 provision, which maintains the expensing limitation at $500,000 per year and a 50 percent bonus accelerated depreciation for the purchase of new capital assets.

These provisions are particularly important to farm operations, which require a significant investment in machinery and equipment.

"A new tractor, grain bin, or pivot will be nice to have under the Christmas tree," said Bowling. "But farmers shouldn't have to wait until the last two weeks of the year to find out whether they can afford to reinvest in their operations. This waiting game has a ripple effect across the agriculture industry and rural communities. NCGA looks forward to working with the next Congress to provide farmers with the certainty they need to make long-term business decisions."

At a Glance: Tax Extenders Bill

On Tuesday, the Senate passed H.R. 5771, a bill to retroactively extend more than 50 tax relief provisions for 2014, behind a strong push from national agriculture groups and business constituencies. The bill now awaits President Obama's signature. NCGA appreciates the efforts of our members and grower leaders who helped deliver a strong message of support for this legislation.

Key provisions of the bill include the following:

Business Tax Extenders: The top tax extenders advocated by NCGA included in the bill are the Section 179 provision, which maintains the current expensing limitation at $500,000 per year and a 50 percent bonus accelerated depreciation for the purchase of new capital assets.

Energy: The bill reinstates the tax credit for second-generation biofuel production as well as income and excise tax credits for biodiesel and renewable diesel fuel mixtures. In addition, the tax credits for producing electricity using wind, biomass and other renewable energy sources are extended through 2014.

Waterways: The barge diesel user fee will increase from 20 cents per gallon to 29 cents per gallon, effective April 1, 2015. The fees go toward the Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF), which finances construction and major rehabilitation on the nation's inland waterways. The fee increase is expected to generate $260 million over the next 10 years. The user fee will be used for repairs along most of the largest waterways, including the Ohio, Mississippi and lower Missouri Rivers, as well as the Gulf and Atlantic Intracoastal waterways, supporting 257 locks at 212 sites. The Ohio and Mississippi River systems carry nearly 90 percent of the tonnage transported on inland waterways. NCGA and other agriculture groups have advocated for this increase for many years.



Progress on Relations with Cuba Creates Multiple Opportunities for American Soy


Per an announcement from the White House today, the United States will begin the process of normalizing its relations with Cuba. The announcement brings with it significant implications for the agricultural trade sector, and as producers of the nation’s leading farm export, the American Soybean Association (ASA) cheered the news with the following statement from President Wade Cowan:

“Soybean growers are particularly excited about today’s announcement, specifically because of the promise that the Cuban marketplace holds for American beans, but also in the larger scope of trade’s ability to overcome even the most challenging geopolitical barriers. Trade builds bridges between nations, but it also generates real and concrete value for American farmers by expanding and strengthening our opportunities in foreign markets. Whether it’s the burgeoning Cuban demand for pork, poultry and dairy or that nation’s expanded demand for cooking oils, American soybeans have a significant market opening just off our own shores.

“More important in today’s announcement, however, are the implications for the Cuban people. While we have been able to sell our products in the country for decades, our Cuban customers were unable to secure the same financing and credit opportunities as other trade partners. Conversely, the restrictions on financing made it difficult for our products to compete in that marketplace. The easing of these restrictions will make it easier for American soy to gain a foothold in the market, but more importantly, it will enable the Cuban people to purchase the products that they need and want as their market develops.”



NCGA Welcomes News on Cuban Trade


The National Corn Growers Association welcomed President Obama's announcement today that the United States and Cuba will seek to normalize relations between the two countries.

"Today's announcement is good news for American corn farmers," said NCGA President Chip Bowling. "We have long supported normalized trade relations with Cuba, as we seek to open markets and feed the world. We applaud the Administration for removing regulatory and financial barriers to trade with Cuba and leveling the playing field with other countries."

Although the United States has allowed agricultural exports to Cuba since 2001, financing restrictions and other hurdles have limited the ability of U.S. agriculture to compete with other nations. U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba were valued at nearly $350 million in 2013, according to the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council.

"Cuba's market of 11 million consumers represents a great opportunity to expand trade and increase exports for corn and other ag products," Bowling added. "We will continue to work in close partnership with both the U.S. Grains Council and our livestock allies to promote corn, corn products, and high-quality protein as a nutrition source for consumers in Cuba and around the world."



U.S. Wheat Farmers Anticipate Increased Trade Opportunities with Cuba


The National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) and U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) applaud President Obama’s announcement today that the United States will begin discussions to renew diplomatic relations with Cuba, which will make it easier for Cuba to buy U.S. agricultural products, including wheat. We anticipate that these re-established trade relations will help open a market for U.S. wheat products in Cuba.

Cuba, which does not grow wheat commercially, is the largest wheat market in the Caribbean, purchasing almost all of its wheat from the European Union and Canada. Cuba could import at least 500,000 metric tons of wheat from the United States each year but has not purchased U.S. wheat since 2011. Under the current embargo, the United States can export agricultural products to Cuba through the use of third-party banking institutions, which makes facilitating trade burdensome and often more expensive.   

“U.S. wheat farmers are excited about the prospect of exporting more wheat to Cuba,” says NAWG President Paul Penner. “NAWG has long supported strengthened trade relations with Cuba and see this as a historic step in that direction.”

“The U.S. wheat industry applauds these actions, which take concrete steps away from a policy approach towards Cuba that has accomplished little,” said USW President Alan Tracy.  “If Cuba resumes purchases of U.S. wheat, we believe our market share there could grow from its current level of zero to around 80-90 percent, as it is in other Caribbean nations.” 



Vilsack on Historic New Course for U.S.-Cuba Relations


"Throughout history, agriculture has served as a bridge to foster cooperation, understanding and the exchange of ideas among people. I have no doubt that agriculture will continue to play that powerful role as we expand our relationship with the Cuban people in the coming years.

"Today's announcement expands opportunity for U.S. farmers and ranchers to do business in Cuba. It removes technical barriers between U.S. and Cuban companies and creates a more efficient, less burdensome opportunity for Cuba to buy U.S. agricultural products. It also makes those products far more price competitive, which will expand choices for Cuban shoppers at the grocery store and create a new customer base for America's farmers and ranchers."



Highly Pathogenic H5 Avian Influenza Confirmed in Wild Birds in Washington State H5N2 Found in Northern Pintail Ducks & H5N8 Found in Captive Gyrfalcons

The United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic (HPAI) H5 avian influenza in wild birds in Whatcom County, Washington. Two separate virus strains were identified: HPAI H5N2 in northern pintail ducks and HPAI H5N8 in captive Gyrfalcons that were fed hunter-killed wild birds. Neither virus has been found in commercial poultry anywhere in the United States and no human cases with these viruses have been detected in the United States, Canada or internationally. There is no immediate public health concern with either of these avian influenza viruses.

Both H5N2 and H5N8 viruses have been found in other parts of the world and have not caused any human infection to date. While neither virus has been found in commercial poultry, federal authorities with the U.S. Department of Agriculture also emphasize that poultry, poultry products and wild birds are safe to eat even if they carry the disease if they are properly handled and cooked to a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

The finding in Whatcom County was reported and identified quickly due to increased surveillance for avian influenza in light of HPAI H5N2 avian influenza outbreaks in poultry affecting commercial poultry farms in British Columbia, Canada. The northern pintail duck samples were collected by officials from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife following a waterfowl die-off at Wiser Lake, Washington, and were sent to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Wildlife Health Center for diagnostic evaluation and initial avian influenza testing. The U.S. Department of the Interior's USGS, which also conducts ongoing avian influenza testing of wild bird mortality events, identified the samples as presumptive positive for H5 avian influenza and sent them to USDA for confirmation. The gyrfalcon samples were collected after the falconer reported signs of illness in his birds.

Following existing avian influenza response plans, USDA is working with the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as well as State partners on additional surveillance and testing of both commercial and wild birds in the nearby area.

Wild birds can be carriers of HPAI viruses without the birds appearing sick. People should avoid contact with sick/dead poultry or wildlife. If contact occurs, wash your hands with soap and water and change clothing before having any contact with healthy domestic poultry and birds.

HPAI would have significant economic impacts if detected in U.S. domestic poultry. Commercial poultry producers follow strict biosecurity practices and raise their birds in very controlled environments. Federal officials emphasize that all bird owners, whether commercial producers or backyard enthusiasts, should continue practicing good biosecurity. This includes preventing contact between your birds and wild birds, and reporting sick birds or unusual bird deaths to State/Federal officials, either through your state veterinarian or through USDA's toll-free number at 1-866-536-7593. Additional information on biosecurity for backyard flocks can be found at healthybirds.aphis.usda.gov.

CDC considers the risk to people from these HPAI H5 infections in wild birds to be low because (like H5N1) these viruses do not now infect humans easily, and even if a person is infected, the viruses do not spread easily to other people.

Avian influenza (AI) is caused by influenza type A viruses which are endemic in some wild birds (such as wild ducks and swans) which can infect poultry (such as chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quail, domestic ducks, geese and guinea fowl). AI viruses are classified by a combination of two groups of proteins: hemagglutinin or "H" proteins, of which there are 17 (H1–H17), and neuraminidase or "N" proteins, of which there are 10 (N1–N10). Many different combinations of "H" and "N" proteins are possible. Each combination is considered a different subtype, and can be further broken down into different strains. AI viruses are further classified by their pathogenicity—the ability of a particular virus to produce disease in domestic chickens.



Vilsack: China OKs Viptera


The Chinese Ministry of Agriculture has approved a controversial biotech corn, Syngenta's Agrisure Viptera, one year after China began rejecting shipments of grain it said contained traces of the unapproved trait, according to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Vilsack said Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang told him during a meeting of U.S. and Chinese officials in Chicago that the corn and two biotech soybeans had been given the green light for import.

Vilsack also said the two had agreed on the need for a "high-level strategic dialogue and discussion on innovation in agriculture generally."

Syngenta submitted the corn for Chinese regulatory review in 2010.



Rabobank Dairy Quarterly Q4: Dairy prices continue to fall


Prices in U.S. wholesale markets have further to fall in coming months, and the onset of price recovery may also kick in later, as the local market cycle continues to lag behind the offshore market, according to the latest Dairy Quarterly report from the Rabobank Food & Agribusiness Research (FAR) and Advisory Group.

The report also finds international dairy markets continue to suffer from low prices, though the rate of decline in the price of dairy commodities has slowed compared to that seen in Q3 2014.
Exceptional milk production growth in export regions in the last nine months has outstripped weak local consumption, boosting supply in the international market and forcing prices to fall. However, low prices have succeeded in clearing huge volumes, with trade growth up 15 percent year on year. While Rabobank believes that there are signs of price stabilization, climbing off the market floor may take some time.

“Low prices were required to help clear a market still dealing with exceptionally strong supply growth, a rising U.S. dollar, a weak economic environment and reduced buying from China and Russia,” says Rabobank analyst Tim Hunt.

China has continued to buy far less from the international market than this time last year – with incoming shipments down almost 50 percet in October year-over-year as the country continues to work its way through excess inventory. Meanwhile, Russia’s enforced ban on imports from key suppliers has meant that globally, prices have had to fall by 30-50 percent from their peak, to encourage buying from second-and-third- tier importers, such as South-East Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, to clear the market.

While these markets have taken advantage of discount products, helping to avoid the accumulation of supply-side stocks, the challenge of avoiding stock accumulation will likely become greater in coming months. Much depends on how quickly the world’s dairy suppliers respond to recent price cuts.

Low prices, compounded in the EU by the risk of superlevy payments, should see producers in many export regions hit the brakes in H1 2015. Together with some improvement in consumption in the US, and to a lesser extent the EU, this will reduce the amount available on the international market in 1H 2015. However, this is unlikely to prove sufficient to generate any meaningful price recovery as demand looks set to continue at weak levels due to Chinese purchases tracking below the prior year and a continuing Russian trade ban.

Rabobank expects the market to gradually tighten in 2H 2015. However, it may take a weak southern hemisphere production peak in 2015 to finally tip the balance for a price recovery to gain momentum.



OTA Claims Hard-Won Victory in Check-off Exemption for Organic


The Organic Trade Association (OTA) applauded the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) announcement of a proposed rule to exempt more organic farmers and handlers from paying into conventional commodity check-off programs, saying this is an important step that recognizes the organic industry's unique needs, and lets the industry decide where its dollars are best spent.

"OTA has worked very hard to get this exemption on the books, and we are optimistic that this important regulation will now soon take effect," said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of OTA. "The organic sector is a fast-growing, distinct industry with its own unique demands for research and promotion. We're pleased USDA is moving swiftly to allow the industry to use its money to grow and develop its own sector."

National commodity research and promotion check-off programs, funded by producers of the specific commodity, have been a part of American agriculture for almost fifty years. There are now 22 national check-off programs in place, ranging from the oldest check-off program begun in 1966 for cotton, to one of the newest that promotes American-grown mangoes. The iconic "Got Milk" and "The Incredible Edible Egg" campaigns are examples of promotion and education programs paid for by successful producer-funded check-offs.

The proposed exemption, which was expanded by Congress in the Farm Bill of 2014, would extend the exemption for organic farmers, handlers, marketers, or importers from just the 100 percent organic label to the primary organic label (95 percent organic) and pertain not exclusively to farmers or handlers who work solely with organic products, but also to those who produce, process, handle and import both organic and conventional products.

The exemption from conventional commodity check-off program assessments is very significant for certified organic operations. USDA estimates that not having to contribute to conventional check-offs will free up an extra $13.6 million for organic stakeholders to invest back into the organic industry.

"These additional savings that will be available as a result of this exemption can be used by organic farmers, ranchers and handlers to address everyday problems and to tackle issues that will help advance their businesses and the organic sector," said Batcha.

The USDA proposed rule will also exempt eligible operations from paying into the portion of the assessment in federal marketing order programs designated for market promotion activities. There are 23 marketing order programs with market promotion authority.

The USDA published the notice of the proposed changes in the Dec. 16, 2014, Federal Register, with a 30-day public comment period.

"OTA is heartened by USDA's quick action to get this provision implemented and to allow for a concise 30-day comment period. It is the result of the clear and unambiguous Farm Bill language passed with strong bipartisan support and signed into law by the President. These important gains for organic farmers and the organic industry were achieved through lots of hard work by organic stakeholders," said Marni Karlin, Vice President of Government Affairs for OTA.

The 2014 Farm Bill also authorizes USDA to consider and hold a vote on an organic research and promotion check-off program if the organic sector submits to the agency an official proposal for an organic check-off. OTA has been gathering input from organic stakeholders for the past three years on how best to shape a check-off program that could effectively serve the industry.

The organic industry is experiencing booming times, with organic sales hitting a new record of over $35 billion in 2013. More than 80 percent of families in the U.S. now buy organic products.

"The successes in the organic industry have been enormous," said Batcha. "However, there is still much that needs to be done in the way of educating consumers about organic, devoting more research dollars to organic agriculture, and helping farmers to convert to organic. Giving the industry more ability to invest in its future is very significant."



New Holland Wins Four AE50 Awards  for Engineering Innovation


New Holland Agriculture and Construction has been honored with four prestigious AE50 Awards for smart engineering innovations by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE). The AE50 awards are presented for the fifty most innovative product ideas to enter the market in 2014. They honor new product ideas that are ranked highest in innovation, significant engineering advancement, and impact on the market served.

“We’re proud to receive these awards recognizing industry-leading advances in technology,” says Abe Hughes, New Holland’s Vice President of North America. “In 2015, New Holland will be celebrating our 120th year as an innovator, and these AE50 awards affirm our continued commitment to providing the smart, cutting-edge technology growers need to increase their efficiency and profitability.”

The New Holland award winners include:
-    QuickMax™ disc cutterbar quick-change knife system
-    41-foot760CG Varifeed™ grain header
-    Integration of LIN remote-control actuators on New Holland CR combines
-    Triple-Clean™ cleaning shoe technology for CX5000 and CX6000 Elevation combines

The optional QuickMax™ quick-change knife system provides a quick and easy method to flip or replace the cutterbar knives on New Holland Durabine® disc headers for Speedrower® self-propelled windrowers or on Discbine® 313 or 316 disc mower-conditioners. The QuickMax system greatly improves the operator’s productivity because it allows a full set of cutterbar knives to be flipped or replaced in about a third of the time required to change knives on the standard, bolted, retention system.

The 41-foot 760CG Varifeed™ grain header was developed specifically for the harvester who is using a controlled traffic harvesting method, to limit ground compaction to very small, specific tracks in the field. This header provides the exact product needed to optimize this harvesting practice, which increases yields and reduces or eliminates the need for tillage to break up compacted soil.

The header is ideal to work in combination with a 120-foot sprayer, which is compatible with 40-foot or 60-foot seeders, ensuring that only three defined paths are needed to plant, care for and harvest a 120-foot swath of crop. In addition to being sized specifically for those following controlled traffic farming methods, the header also provides extra-wide cutting width to take advantage of the higher capacities of today’s combines.

The integration of electrical LIN (Local Interconnect Network) remote-control actuators as standard equipment in New Holland CR combines enhances the accuracy and reliability of these harvesters. This is the first time an agricultural equipment manufacturer has adapted the use of LIN to connect to electrical remote actuators in harvester equipment. This kind of communication has been widely adopted by the automotive industry to support the increasing number of distributed electronic systems in today's vehicles.

LIN is used for communication between components in the combine. A single data wire replaces the heavy power cable and small electronic actuators replace hydraulic pumps and hoses. The system automates the operation and diagnostics of a variety of functions without the use of hydraulics (including threshing concave position, sieve opening, unloading tube pivot point position, unloading spout position, straw chopper deflector plate position, etc.). This technology is offered as standard equipment on all New Holland CR combines and will be adapted to even more of the combine functions in the future.

The new Triple-Clean™ cleaning shoe of New Holland CX5000 and CX6000 combines is a simple and innovative feature that increases the cleaning capacity by as much as 15% more than a dual-cascaded cleaning system.Through the extra cascade in the center of the grain pan, an additional air blast from the new Triple-Clean™ cleaning fan removes large volumes of chaff and short straw, before final cleaning even starts on the main sieves. This means that the grain is almost completely cleaned in the first 20 inches of the cleaning shoe, resulting in excellent grain quality. This triple cascade approach maintains the highest quality of cleaning even when the machine is working at its highest capacity.



Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Tuesday December 16 Ag News

Cow Herd Biosecurity
Larry Howard, UNL Extension Educator, Cuming County


Some cattle producers are thinking about increasing their herd size. For many, this increase comes from outside sources- like a neighbor, sale barn, or video auction. What can you do to protect your herd from outside diseases brought in by new cattle? Nebraska Extension Beef Veterinarian, Richard Randle has shared some information that will be useful as producers make decisions. 

Any time animals are co-mingled there is an increased risk of introducing disease into the herd or group of animals. While this risk cannot be totally eliminated, there are steps that can be taken to reduce the amount of risk and minimize the threat.  Start with your local veterinarian to discuss your concerns and needs.  The following are general recommendations that should be considered in developing a plan when contemplating expansion of the herd.

ASSESS YOUR HERD FIRST

Before you bring animals into your herd from another source, you should work with your veterinarian to assess the status of your own herd. Is your vaccination protocol adequate and current? Consider diseases like IBR, BVD, leptospirosis, Brucellosis and trichomoniasis.

ISOLATE NEW ARRIVALS

New animals should be isolated from the existing herd for at least 30 days. During this time, close observation should be made to detect any type of health problem early.  The isolation facility should have no fence line contact with the existing herd. These animals should be observed, fed, and handled last.  This isolation period also provides time to perform diagnostic testing and to administer health products such as vaccines, dewormers, and external parasite control to the animals before joining the herd. These new animals should receive the same vaccination protocol as your current herd paying attention to following label directions on the vaccines.

APPROPRIATE DIAGNOSTIC TESTING

While the new animals are isolated, you can test them for potential diseases. A good example of this is testing for persistently infected (PI) BVD animals. Current tests for PI animals are reliable but if appropriate testing is not performed, the risk is still present. Suppose you buy a group of pregnant females and test them for PI BVD. The test results are all negative. You can be pretty confident none of the females are persistently infected. However, you still do not know the status of the fetus the pregnant female is carrying. In this case, these animals would need to be kept separate from the rest of the herd until they have calved and the calves tested.

An ounce of prevention goes a long way to save your herd from potential diseases and infections! Taking the time to work with your veterinarian on a plan ahead of time is an important first step.



Saunders County Designated Livestock Friendly

Today, Gov. Dave Heineman announced the official designation of Saunders County as Nebraska’s newest county to receive the Livestock Friendly County designation through the Nebraska Department of Agriculture. Today’s announcement marks the final Livestock Friendly County designation of Gov. Heineman’s administration. Since he took office, nearly 1/3rd of Nebraska’s counties have earned this designation.

“Agriculture is our state’s most important industry, and livestock production is an essential part of our success. Being part of the Livestock Friendly program is significant and it is a great way to recognize the tremendously positive impact the livestock industry has on Main Streets and the local economy,” said Gov. Heineman.

With the addition of Saunders County, there are now 29 counties designated as Livestock Friendly through the state program. Saunders County joins Adams, Banner, Box Butte, Cuming, Dawes, Dawson, Deuel, Dodge, Gage, Garden, Grant, Hitchcock, Holt, Jefferson, Johnson, Kimball, Keith, Knox, Lincoln, Merrick, Morrill, Otoe, Pawnee, Saline, Scotts Bluff, Sheridan, Wayne and Webster counties.

Gov. Heineman presented the Livestock Friendly certificate to Saunders County Supervisors Doris Karloff, Dave Lutton, Scott Sukstorf, Darren Martin, Craig Breunig, Leroy Hanson, and Ed Rastovski. Saunders County will receive road signs bearing the program logo to display along highways. The state program is coordinated by the Department of Agriculture.

Department of Agriculture Director Greg Ibach said the official designation makes a positive statement about each county’s commitment to rural economic development through livestock production. “It is clear from the submitted materials that county officials have given some purposeful thought to supporting the livestock industry. We are pleased to welcome Saunders County into the program.”

To apply for a livestock friendly county designation, the county board must hold a public hearing and pass a resolution to apply. A completed application is then submitted to Department of Agriculture for review. Local producers or community groups can encourage their county board to submit a livestock friendly county application.

Additional information on the Livestock Friendly County program is available by contacting the Nebraska Department of Agriculture toll-free at 800-422-6692, or by visiting the Department of Agriculture website at www.nda.nebraska.gov and clicking the Livestock Friendly County link.



Winter Time Feeding

Steve Tonn, UNL Extension Educator, Washington County


Hay feeding time has started and feeding big round bales sure makes the job easier.  Large bale feeding systems are designed to minimize labor but not waste.   Most producers feed hay in some kind of feeder but did you know the type of feeder can affect how much hay is wasted?

Feeding hay in a rack or a round bale feeder limits the opportunity animals have to trample or soil hay, and reduces waste substantially.  Least feeding losses occur where hay is fed with a rack or bale feeder that forces the animal to turn its head when backing away from the feeder.   When animals can back straight out of a feeder, they can pull out large chunks of hay that drop on the ground and are lost as feed.  Research at the University of Nebraska and Michigan State University has shown feed waste of 3.3%, 5.9%, 9%, 11.1%, and 14.2% for cone, ring feeder with skirt, racks, trailer and cradle feeders.  Long feeders are less effective than round or square feeders because boss animals will push others back by walking down the long feeder, interrupting their feeding and reducing their intake.  The Noble Foundation has an easy to use spreadsheet to help you calculate hay wastage: http://www.noble.org/ag/tools/livestock/hay-ring/

Cone feeders are more expensive but when you figure the amount and value of the hay that is saved, they may be worth the extra cost especially if you have feeders with no skirts on them.

Hay loss and waste can also be reduced by managing how often we feed.  Daily feeding will force cattle to eat hay they might otherwise refuse, over-consume, trample and waste.  Cattle waste less hay when the amount fed is limited to what is needed each day.   One fourth more hay is needed when a four-day supply is fed with free access.  If hay is fed free choice, cows will over consume.

While some losses will always occur, keeping losses to a minimum can reduce feed costs, resulting in more efficient use of forages and increasing the profitability of the cow herd enterprise.

North Dakota State University has studied the potential for digestive problems in cattle that consume net wrap, plastic twine, biodegradable twine and sisal twine.  Their research shows that after 14 days net wrap, biodegradable twine are not broken down in the rumen.  70% of sisal twine does get broken down.  A little twine or net wrap in the rumen may not be damaging but as the cow accumulates it over time problems could arise.  Might pay to take a little more time and remove all the net wrap or twine.         

Finally, do you know the nutrient content of your hay or forages?  Testing forages lets you determine their best and most economical use.  It helps you to allocate higher quality forage to high producing livestock and poorer quality forages to animals at lower levels of production.  For a list of testing labs contact me.  UNL Extension also has a NebGuide on Sampling Feeds for Analyses.

Questions to consider:

How much hay is wasted by my cows and what is it costing me?
Do my hay feeders have a solid ring or skirt on them?
Is this the year to replace some of my old feeders with a better feeder?  Cone feeder?
Do I get all the strings off my bales before feeding? 
What is the nutrient quality of my hay/forages?

For more beef information, check out the UNL Extension beef web site-- beef.unl.edu.  



USDA SURVEYING CATTLE OPERATIONS

January 2014 Report Revealed U.S. Cattle Inventory at Its Lowest in 60 Years, Current Count Needed


In January, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) will survey more than 40,000 cattle operations nationwide to provide an up-to-date measure of U.S. cattle inventories. As cattle prices have rebounded and feed costs have declined, an updated look at cattle numbers across the nation will determine if producers have begun rebuilding their herds from last year’s level which was the lowest in 60 years.

“In January 2014, Iowa’s cattle inventory of 3.7 million head ranked 7th in the U.S. Of the total cattle inventory, 1.23 million were cattle and calves on feed which ranked Iowa 4th in the nation,” said Greg Thessen, Director of the NASS Upper Midwest Regional Office. “Obtaining the current count of cattle will serve as a critical decision-making tool for producers and the entire agriculture industry.” 

During the first two weeks of January, Iowa producers will have the opportunity to report their beef and dairy cattle inventories, calf crop, death loss and the number of cattle on feed.  “This information helps producers make timely, informed marketing decisions and plan for herd expansion or reduction,” Thessen explained. “Additionally, the information producers provide helps promote exports, inform the public about the industry, and determine expected future slaughter volume.”

As is the case with all NASS surveys, information provided by respondents is confidential by law. NASS safeguards the privacy of all responses and publishes only state- and national-level data, ensuring that no individual producer or operation can be identified.

The January Cattle report will be released on January 30, 2015. This and all NASS reports are available online at www.nass.usda.gov



Master Equine Program Provides Training for Those Interested in Horses


The Master Equine Manager program offers participants a comprehensive educational series on horse management and riding and training concepts.

A partnership of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Iowa State University, the course is available online at www.extension.state.edu/masterequine. A complete program description and registration information are available there.

Kathy Anderson, UNL Extension horse specialist, said the program is designed to enhance the broad-based horse industry by informing and educating people on quality horse care and responsible horse ownership.

Horse owners, enthusiasts, boarding facility managers and industry employees benefit from increased knowledge and networking with others in the horse industry. The program combines focused learning opportunities with a hands-on practical evaluation.

The learning modules and topics include:
            – Welfare of Horses: Understanding Horse Behavior, Facilities and Equipment, Equine Quality Assurance
            – Horse Nutrition: Forages for Horses, Feeds and Feeding
            – Horse Health: Equine Emergency Treatment, Vaccinations for Horses, Understanding Horse Parasites, and Hoof Care
            – Selection of Horses: Conformation and Evaluation, Unsoundness's and Blemishes

Cost is $325 for adults (19 and older), $250 for youths, who might be high school juniors or seniors.

More information is available from Anderson, 402-472-6414, kanderson1@unl.edu.

Registrations are accepted from junior and senior high school students and adults with an interest in horses. Graduates of the program will become a certified Master Equine Manager and are encouraged to share their skills and knowledge with others. The program is approved by Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship and Certified Horsemanship Association – Certified Riding Instructors for CE credit for recertification.



Iowa's Winter Manure Application Rules Kick in Dec. 21


Animal producers with totally roofed (confinement) facilities face limits on applying liquid manure starting Dec. 21 if the ground is snow-covered.

The state rules kick in then, because runoff and nutrient loss after winter manure application is more likely when manure can't be injected into the soil or incorporated into a field.

Starting Dec. 21, liquid manure cannot be applied on snow-covered ground. These limits affect confinement facilities with liquid manure that have 500 or more animal units. Generally, 500 animal units is 1,250 finishing hogs; 5,000 nursery pigs; 500 steers, immature dairy cows or other cattle; or 357 mature dairy cows.

Except in emergencies, the law limits liquid manure application from Dec. 21 to April 1 if the ground is snow-covered with an inch or more of snow or one-half inch of ice. If manure can be properly injected or incorporated, it can be land applied during this time.

Starting Feb. 1, liquid manure application on frozen ground is restricted.

Producers must call the local DNR field office to report emergency applications before they apply.

While the law affects confinements with liquid manure, open feedlots and poultry producers can help keep manure in place by using common sense and choosing application areas far from a stream, on flat land with little snow cover.

All producers must follow setbacks from certain buildings and environmentally sensitive areas.

Search for more information on separation distances and winter manure application at www.iowadnr.gov/afo/. Recommendations from the Iowa Manure Management Action Group about applying manure in winter are available at www.agronext.iastate.edu/immag/pubs/imms/vol3.pdf or www.agronext.iastate.edu/immag/.



Strategies offered by Iowa AgState to help farmers capture value from ‘Big Data’


Leading Iowa farm organizations, agribusinesses, state government and Iowa State University have developed comprehensive action steps to help harness the power of agricultural data to the benefit of farmers.

“The Digital Transformation of Row Crop Agriculture” report, developed by The Hale Group at the direction of Iowa AgState (Agricultural Strategic Thinkers Acting Together Effectively), provides a roadmap for how agricultural data can be protected and used to boost farmer productivity, efficiency and profitability.

Key recommendations resulting from the 10-month study include:
·         Provide continuous, ongoing education for farmers, ag retailers and policy makers about the issue and its implications to expedite informed decision making;
·         Create an independent, farmer-controlled data warehouse for farm level data and aggregated agronomic data that can be used to better serve farmer participants; and
·         Continuously assess products, services, and business models in the market while promoting uniform, agreed-upon industry standards and guidelines pertaining to farmer data.

The report also recommends obtaining additional input from farmers on the digital information products and services that best serve their needs and creating a center for inter-disciplinary research that positions Iowa farmers to be at the cutting edge of digital technology for generations to come.

“It’s about optimizing farmer productivity, profitability and sustainability,” said Brian Kemp, AgState immediate past chair and grain farmer from Sibley, Iowa. “Digital transformations will create structural change in agriculture. Farmers are still able to help shape these outcomes and this report provides direction.”

Dean Lemke, nutrient management and environmental stewardship director of the Agribusiness Association of Iowa and AgState member, said the project complements other regional and national projects focused on similar concerns and opportunities.

“With this report in hand, we will now pivot quickly to include national organizations and other state organizations,” he said. “This is the beginning of exciting developments that will serve farmers and the greater industry. As a national agricultural leader, Iowa has a unique role to provide key insight.”

The report, posted online by many AgState partners, focused on four major topics: technology, business models, policy and farmer education. It approached the issue from the perspective of Iowa row crop farmers with the implication of the findings for other sectors of agriculture also addressed.

“Big Data” is not a new issue for agriculture but the ability to collect, interpret and put it to use is increasing exponentially. Questions by farmers about how the data is being collected and who has rights to it serves as the catalyst for the AgState digital farming project.

“Ultimately, a better understanding and use of data will help farmers continuously improve,” Lemke added. “It will also give them a more authoritative voice that provides leverage in matters that affect their business.”

Kemp agreed, saying it’s about farmers capturing the value of the data they produce without compromising their proprietary information and intellectual property rights.

Big data, as defined by The Hale Group, is both structured and unstructured data whose scale, diversity and complexity require new architecture, techniques, algorithms and analytics to manage and interpret it and extract value and hidden knowledge.  Big data is a key element in the new industry of Digital Agriculture which is built on the collection, use, coordination, and analysis of data from a multiplicity of sources with the goal of optimizing productivity, profitability and sustainability of farming operations.

Recently, a national coalition of major farm organizations and ag technology providers announced an agreement on data privacy and security principles which focuses on priority issues for farmers, including Big Data ownership, transparency, portability and data availability.

AgState is committed to exploring potential questions related to the use of Big Data on behalf the respective constituencies it represents while working closely with national partners to serve farmers.



'Raising Your Best Calf Ever' Workshops Start Jan. 5


Dairy producers are encouraged to attend one of the, one-day workshops, focused on Raising Your Best Calf Ever, hosted by the I-29 Dairy Outreach Consortium. The workshops will be held in South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota and North Dakota beginning Jan. 5.

Topics to be covered include:

-- Automatic Calf Feeders - Pro's and con's when utilizing: presented by Jim Paulson and Jim Salfer, Regional Extension Educators/Dairy, University of Minnesota.
-- Ventilation - When tube ventilation works and doesn't work: presented by Kevin Janni, Ag Biosystems Engineering Specialist University of Minnesota.
-- Milk Replacers: Accelerated growth vs. non-accelerated feeding: presented by Hugh Chester Jones - Dairy Specialist University of Minnesota.
-- Heifer diets and considerations when feeding DDGS: presented by Jill Anderson, Assistant Professor SDSU Dairy Science Department.
-- Calf Health - Dealing with respiratory and scours problems, and considerations for raising a healthy calf. Also a 15 minutes brief FYI on the Veterinary Feed
-- Directive update - presented by Russ Daly, DVM, SDSU Extension Veterinarian.

To register for the workshop, visit online event registration. The early registration rates are $50 for adults and $20 for students. After December 30, the rates will adjust to $65 for adults and $25 for students. The Western Iowa Dairy Alliance (WIDA) will cover up to $50 of the registration fee for members.

Workshops begin at 10 a.m. and run until 3 p.m.
-- Iowa: Jan. 5 at the ISU Sioux County Extension Complex, Central Ave. NW, Suite 700, Orange City, Iowa
-- South Dakota: Jan. 6 at the Days Inn, 2500 6th Street, Brookings, S.D.
-- Minnesota: Jan. 7 at the Ottertail County Government Center meeting room 520 West First Ave, Fergus Falls, Minn.
-- North Dakota: Jan. 8 at the Baymont Inn - Seven Seas, 2611 Old Red Trail, Mandan, N.D.

For more information, contact Tracey Erickson, SDSU Extension Dairy Field Specialist, at 605-882-5140.



ASA Hails Senate Passage of One-Year Tax Extenders Package, Renews Call for Longer-Term Solution


Earlier this evening, the Senate passed a one-year extension of multiple tax incentives and credits, including several that have direct impacts on soybean farmers. The American Soybean Association (ASA) welcomed passage of the bill, which would extend the dollar-per-gallon Biodiesel Tax Incentive, as well as the Section 179 expensing provision that farmers and other business owners use when purchasing new equipment and infrastructure, among other items.

“Today's passage of the tax extenders bill is a welcome relief to farmers as we close our books on 2014," said Wade Cowan, a farmer from Brownfield, Texas, and the new president of ASA. "While it's not the long-term fix we need, the legislation does include the dollar-per-gallon biodiesel tax credit, expensing for farm equipment and infrastructure under Section 179, and bonus depreciation on farm assets, all of which provide greater certainty and a more stable climate for the farmers and producers who make use of these programs."

In noting ASA's approval of the one-year extension, Cowan pushed Congress to redouble its efforts to pass a longer-term tax extenders package. "These aren't solutions that benefit farmers in some years and not in others; we need them every year on every farm," he said. "So we encourage both chambers of Congress to come together and find a solution that extends these beneficial provisions for the long term. What we need is certainty in the tax code, not a guessing game."

Also included in the package was language from the House's Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, which carried with it a provision to increase the barge fuel fee by nine cents a gallon to fund needed waterways infrastructure projects. The fee, which is supported by those in the waterways industry, dedicates funds to new waterways infrastructure construction and major rehabilitation of the inland waterways system through the Inland Waterways Trust Fund.



Congress Passes Key Tax Extenders Legislation

 
Today, the U.S. Senate voted 76 to 16 to pass a tax extenders package that holds key provisions for small businesses such as section 179 expensing and bonus depreciation. The tax extenders package was previously approved in the U.S. House of Representatives and now heads to the White House for approval. National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Bob McCan said this is great news for cattlemen and women.

“America’s cattle producers are primarily family-owned small businesses who need stability in the tax code in order to make sound business decisions,” said McCan, a cattleman from Victoria, Texas. “This tax extenders package encourages economic growth and provides greater certainty in the tax code.”

Kent Bacus, director of legislative affairs for NCBA, said the extension of Section 179, a provision that provides a higher deduction level for some capital expenditures, like machinery and equipment, and the extension of bonus depreciation are key for producers.

“Last year producers were able to expense up to $500,000 on capital investments, but this year that was lowered to $25,000,” said Bacus. “For large equipment purchases and other capital investments, cattle producers need certainty in order to properly plan for their business.” 

Unfortunately, the retroactive extension means producers will be operating under an expired tax code in 2015, but it could add the needed pressure to complete a comprehensive tax reform deal in the New Year, said Bacus.



NCBA on Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Meeting


Statement by Texas medical doctor and cattle producer Dr. Richard Thorpe on today's Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee meeting to discuss the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, where the Committee made clear their intention to remove lean beef and reduce red meat consumption from  healthful dietary patterns:

"Despite a large body of strong and consistent evidence supporting lean beef’s role in healthy diets, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee appears to be out of touch with today’s lean meat supply in the retail counter and the 30+ years of nutrition advice showcasing benefits of lean beef. I am deeply disappointed that the Committee missed this opportunity to positively influence the American diet by blatantly disregarding sound science and removing lean beef from a healthful dietary pattern. 

"Today, for the second time, the Committee presented and agreed to evidence showing that there are healthy dietary patterns with red meat intake above current U.S. consumption levels.  Against their own review of the science, the Committee is recommending healthy diets should be lower in red meat than they are today. The Committee has turned a blind eye to their own evidence library criteria, arbitrarily excluding peer-reviewed, sound science on the health benefits of lean beef. To recommend that Americans eat less of a heart healthy protein, the only area of the existing guidelines currently consumed within the recommended amounts, demonstrates that this Committee has its own agenda, and it is not guided by the evidence. This flawed process and Committee bias is preventing a fair and reasonable discussion of the true science. I encourage the Secretaries to take a step back and look closely at the inconsistency and absurdity of the Committee’s recommendation."



2014/2015 Corn Harvest Quality Report Indicates Good Quality For Record Crop


The overall quality of the United States’ 2014 corn crop was good, with 88 percent of samples rating at grade No. 2 or better, according to the U.S. Grains Council’s (USGC) 2014/2015 Corn Harvest Quality Report.

“This year’s report shows for the second year in a row that the United States has an abundant supply of high-quality corn available to export,” said Kurt Shultz, USGC director of global strategies. “The average values from the report indicate that the United States will have a crop that will store and handle well as it moves through the market channels to export.”

According to the report, the 2014 corn crop is entering the marketing channels with the following key characteristics:
-    average test weight well above the limit for No. 1 grade corn, indicating overall good quality.
-    low levels of broken corn and foreign material, with 96.2 percent below the limit for No. 1 grade corn.
-    100 percent of sampled corn testing below the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) aflatoxin action level of 20 parts per billion.
-    slightly lower moisture content than in 2013, as was the incidence of stress cracks. However, total damage levels were significantly higher, likely due to weather conditions, though 94 percent of samples were still below the limit for No. 2 corn.
-    protein concentration lower than in 2013, likely due to higher yields in 2014.
-    comparable starch concentration to 2013, indicating relatively good kernel filling and maturation.

This report is based on 629 yellow commodity corn samples taken from defined areas within 12 of the top corn-producing and exporting states, including Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. Inbound samples were collected from local grain elevators to observe quality at the point of origin and to provide representative information about the variability of quality characteristics across the geographic regions.

The corn samples were tested at the Illinois Crop Improvement Association’s Identity Preserved Grain Laboratory (IPG Lab) in Champaign, Illinois, in accordance with the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Federal Grain Inspection Service’s (FGIS) Grain Inspection Handbook. This follows the methodology that was developed for USGC’s 2011/2012 Corn Harvest Quality Report.

Total U.S. corn production for 2014 is estimated at 14.4 billion bushels (365 million metric tons), an all-time record, according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report.

The weather, like usual, had a significant impact on the crop’s development and ultimately on many of the corn quality factors measured including moisture content, total damage and stress cracks. During the planting season, the U.S. Corn Belt experienced a cool, wet spring that delayed planting. The summer months offered excellent pollination conditions, which set the stage for high yields, while the harvest season brought cool average temperatures along with extreme moisture in many areas, which slowed the dry-down of the corn and delayed harvest in U.S. Corn Belt.

The Council has chronicled these growing conditions in its U.S. corn production video available online at http://tinyurl.com/USGCCornVideo. The video examines the crop quality and growing conditions of U.S. corn producers located in Illinois, Nebraska, Kansas and Ohio. This video will be presented to international audiences in conjunction with findings from this report.

Though the harvest quality report is valuable to customers, corn quality will be affected by further handling. The Council will publish a second report, the Corn Export Cargo Quality Report, assessing the quality at the point of loading for international shipment, in March 2015.

The two reports are intended to provide reliable, timely and transparent information on the quality of U.S. corn as it moves through export channels by utilizing consistent methodology to permit the assessment of trends over time. The 2014/2015 editions of both reports are the fourth such reports in a series.



Retail Fertilizer Prices Firm Again


As has been the case for months now, average retail fertilizer prices continue to show little movement in either direction, according to data tracked by DTN for the second week of December 2014.

Six of the eight major fertilizers recorded slightly lower prices compared to a month earlier, while the remaining two were up just slightly. No fertilizer price moved significantly.

DAP, MAP, urea, anhydrous, UAN28 and UAN32 were slightly lower in price compared to the previous month. DAP had an average price of $568/ton, MAP $591/ton, urea $483/ton, anhydrous $709/ton, UAN28 $323/ton and UAN32 $368/ton.

The remaining two fertilizers were higher in price compared to a month earlier, but again these moves were fairly minor. Potash had an average price of $481/ton and 10-34-0 $571/ton.

On a price per pound of nitrogen basis, the average urea price was at $0.52/lb.N, anhydrous $0.43/lb.N, UAN28 $0.58/lb.N and UAN32 $0.57/lb.N.

Three of the eight major fertilizers are now double digits higher in price compared to December 2014, all while commodity prices are significantly lower from a year ago. DAP and anhydrous are both 12% higher while 10-34-0 is now 11% more expensive compared to a year earlier.

In addition, urea is 9% higher, MAP is 8% more expensive and both UAN28 and UAN32 are 2% higher from last year.

Potash remains the only nutrient which is still lower compared to retail prices from a year ago. Potash is 1% less expensive from a year previous.



Forward Contracted Fed Cattle and Basis

Matthew A. Diersen, Professor, Department of Economics, South Dakota State University


Heading into the New Year is a good time to think about price and basis levels. The markets currently reflect steep inversions as cash prices for live and feeder cattle are higher than their respective futures prices. On the basis side, there was talk for much of the past year about the relatively high basis levels occurring in the area. Related to that would be the forward basis information from the USDA-AMS report "LM_CT153", which covers weekly fed cattle volume contracted with basis levels.
                                               
The report is titled "National Weekly Direct Slaughter Cattle: Prior Week Slaughter and Contract Purchases" or "Weekly Direct Slaughter Cattle - Packer Owned Cattle". It does not receive much attention, but it gives the weekly volume (number of head) of new forward contract signings between feeders and packers. It also tracks the cumulative volume and a breakdown by delivery month with an average basis and a basis range of the related futures contract. The report is available at: http://www.ams.usda.gov/mnreports/lm_ct153.txt

The volume contracted is high. With all of the talk about tight fed cattle supplies the volume contracted for delivery in recent months has been quite high. There were over 400,000 head contracted for October, with slightly less in November and so far in December.

The highest amount for a given month is usually April delivery. In April of 2014 there were 421,737 head contracted - a monthly record. Seasonally, it would be unusual to see such high volumes for the other months. Looking at April of 2015, there are currently 250,636 head contracted. A year ago at this time there were 228,855 head contracted. The point is there have been large shares delivered on contracts in recent months and large shares expected in the coming months. The cumulative total continues to hover above 2 million head.

The basis pattern is consistent with the inverted market. Earlier this year local feedlots wondered about higher basis levels. Since March of 2014 in South Dakota the basis on fed cattle for non-delivery months has been much higher than average. June and October were close to the 5-year average. The constant surprise of higher cash prices at least partially explains the pattern. The general expectation has been for lower prices, at least by the next delivery time. That has carried over into the forward prices. This past week showed the average basis for forward contracts as positive through June of 2015. The range of basis levels for most months still shows a typical wide pattern - anywhere from -$10.00 to +$6.50 versus the futures price.

Knowing the recent basis levels and knowing that contract volumes have been high and are likely to continue may help feedlots as they evaluate new offers from packers. The futures price pattern and recent forward basis pattern both support the idea of a continued inverted market until June of 2015.



Ukraine Grain Exports Higher This Year


Ukraine's grain exports are up 7% from a year earlier, despite predictions that the country's harvest would fall because of the current political instability, the agriculture ministry said Tuesday.

Ukraine exported 17.087 million metric tons of grain from the start of the marketing year on July 1 and Dec. 15. The ministry said the total amount of export to date included 7.737 million tons of wheat, 3.492 million tons of barley and 5.668 million tons of corn.

The largest importers of Ukrainian grain during the period were: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Spain, Iran and Turkey.

Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk said in August that Ukraine's grain harvest this year was likely to fall to 55 million tons from 63 million tons in 2013, because of the loss of Crimea Peninsula and the military conflict in the south-east of the country.