Friday, February 24, 2017

Thursday February 23 Ag News

Nebraska Farmers Union Strongly Opposes Efforts to Dismantle Nebraska’s Unique Public Power System

Nebraska Farmers Union (NeFU) testified in strong opposition to LB547 brought by Senator Dan Watermeier before the Natural Resources Committee today.  NeFU also strongly opposed LB657 and LB660 brought by Senator Justin Wayne heard by the Natural Resources Committee February 16th.

NeFU President John Hansen described the three bills as a package of bills brought to Senators Wayne and Watermeier by private sector special interests designed to unbundle and deconstruct Nebraska’s reliable, efficient, low cost, public power system.  “While describing their private approach as consumer choice, they are in reality undermining our public owned and controlled system of electrical utilities.  As owners and voters, we vote for the boards that control our public utilities. Replacing a phony choice for real control is a very bad horse trade.  The benefits of ownership and control far outweigh and offset any claimed benefits by out of state business interests,” said NeFU President John Hansen.

Hansen noted that the data clearly shows that all classes of Nebraska electric power users are not only getting reliable energy and first class service, they are paying less for their energy than most states, and less than states served by privately owned utilities with so-called consumer choice.  “The reason NeFU was such a strong advocate in the formation of our public power system was because rural Nebraska was literally left in the dark by the private sector.  Electrical services came to many rural communities in the late 1940’s, long after Omaha and Lincoln had electrical services.  While our public power system is an enormous asset to all Nebraskans, it is an even larger asset for rural Nebraska,” Hansen said.

“Our unique public power system is a kind of publicly owned cooperative.  Public power operates so well because our comprehensive system shares resources in times of need and works together to serve the overall interests of everyone in our state, both urban and rural users and owners.  When ice storms or tornadoes strike, our public power system helps their neighboring systems recover and restore services.  The good neighbor system we now have works very well, Hansen said.

“Our state’s unique public power system has operated so well for so long it is easy for us as owners of our own system to take its many benefits for granted.  We encourage all Nebraskans to contact members of the Natural Resources Committee to let them know that we still appreciate the advantages of our unique public power system, and urge them to oppose and indefinitely postpone (kill) LB657, LB660, and LB547,” Hansen said. 

Deere Opens Strategic Technology Office at ISU

Deere & Company has opened a strategic technology office in the Iowa State University Research Park, growing its on-campus presence in recognition of the world-class research, education, and talent development capabilities at Iowa State.

"We are delighted that John Deere is establishing a physical presence at the ISU Research Park," said Dr. Steven Leath, president, Iowa State University. "This is a significant step forward in creating a world-class research park and fortifying our university-industry partnership model to promote top talent and innovation."

Teams working at the Deere ISU location will focus on developing integrated solutions for John Deere's Agriculture & Turf and Construction & Forestry Divisions. One key area of concentration will be in precision agriculture technology.

The office will allow John Deere to leverage the work of ISU students and its research and to develop a talent pipeline in support of the company's business objectives.

"Working with Iowa State University helps John Deere continue its leadership in precision agriculture and many other areas of technology that are important to our customers," said John May, Deere's president of agricultural solutions and its chief information officer. "This new office at ISU will conduct groundbreaking research, engage future leaders of our industry, and will add to the extensive innovation and research capabilities that John Deere has invested in around the world," May added.

Deere's strategic technology office at ISU will collaborate with the company's business units to complement John Deere's global network of technology and innovation centers. This effort expands Deere's recent work with ISU that has included funding some activities at the university's research farm.

The Iowa State University Research Park offers corporate partners a unique model for leveraging the strong capabilities of the university and its students.

West Central Iowa Leads in Corn Production

The West Central District was Iowa's largest corn producing district in 2016 with 419 million bushels according to estimates released by the USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service. The Central District was 3.75 million bushels behind the West Central District.

Kossuth County was the largest corn producing county with 68.4 million bushels produced. Pottawattamie, Crawford, Webster and Sioux rounded out the top five. Other counties producing more than 40 million bushels were Hamilton, Franklin, Woodbury, Plymouth, Hardin, Benton and Clinton.

Cherokee led all counties with an average of 219.7 bushels per acre. Ida, Scott, Shelby, and Cedar counties rounded out the top five with yields over 215 bushels. Sixty of the 99 counties surpassed the 200 bushel mark in 2016.

Plymouth Leads Soybean Output at 13 Million Bushels

In 2016, four Iowa counties produced over 10 million bushels of soybeans, led by Plymouth County, with 13.0 million bushels according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. Kossuth (12.8 million), Pottawattamie (11.1 million), and Sioux (10.1 million) also topped the 10 million bushel threshold. Woodbury (9.9 million) rounded out the top 5.

Soybean yields were highest in the northern two-thirds of the state, where all the districts averaged over 60 bushels per acre. The Northwest District produced the highest district average yield at 63.2 bushels per acre.

Statewide, one county (Cherokee) broke the 70 bushel per acre barrier with an average of 70.1 bushels per acre. Forty-eight other counties averaged over 60 bushels per acre. Ida (68.1), Plymouth and Lyon (66.7), and Sioux (66.4) counties rounded out the top 5. No county recorded an average yield less than 50 bushels per acre. Clarke County, at 50.3 bushels per acre, had the lowest yield in the State.

USDA Livestock Slaughter Report:  Record Low Veal Production for January

Commercial red meat production for the United States totaled 4.29 billion pounds in January, up 6 percent from the 4.06 billion pounds produced in January 2016.

By State:   (million lbs - % of Jan 2016)

Nebraska .......:     660.1            103      
Iowa ..............:     591.4            101      
Kansas ...........:     453.2            108      

Beef production, at 2.12 billion pounds, was 8 percent above the previous year.  Cattle slaughter totaled 2.58 million head, up 9 percent from January 2016.  The average live weight was down 11 pounds from the previous year, at 1,370 pounds.

Veal production totaled 6.3 million pounds, 5 percent below January a year ago.  Calf slaughter totaled 46,600 head, 12 percent above January 2016.  The average live weight was down 39 pounds from last year, at 235 pounds.

Pork production totaled 2.15 billion pounds, 3 percent above the previous year.  Hog slaughter totaled 10.1 million head, 4 percent above January 2016.  The average live weight was down 1 pound from the previous year, at 284 pounds.

Lamb and mutton production, at 12.3 million pounds, was 9 percent above January 2016.  Sheep slaughter totaled 177,000 head, 10 percent above last year.  The average live weight was 138 pounds, down 1 pound from January a year ago.

USDA Cold Storage January 2017 Highlights

Total red meat supplies in freezers on January 31, 2017 were up 2 percent from the previous month but down 9 percent from last year. Total pounds of beef in freezers were down 5 percent from the previous month but up 1 percent from last year. Frozen pork supplies were up 11 percent from the previous month but down 16 percent from last year. Stocks of pork bellies were down 22 percent from last month and down 77 percent from last year.

Total frozen poultry supplies on January 31, 2017 were up 3 percent from the previous month and up slightly from a year ago. Total stocks of chicken were down 4 percent from the previous month and down 6 percent from last year. Total pounds of turkey in freezers were up 22 percent from last month and up 17 percent from January 31, 2016.

Total natural cheese stocks in refrigerated warehouses on January 31, 2017 were up 3 percent from the previous month and up 5 percent from January 31, 2016.  Butter stocks were up 34 percent from last month and up 16 percent from a year ago.

Total frozen fruit stocks were down 6 percent from last month but up 24 percent from a year ago.  Total frozen vegetable stocks were down 7 percent from last month but up 4 percent from a year ago.

USDA Forecasts Higher Soy, Lower Corn Acres

USDA projects soybean acres will grow to 88 million acres planted this spring, up 4.6 million acres from last year, while corn planting will be 90 million acres, down 4 million from last year.

In a broader perspective, USDA projects farmers will have high overall production, slightly lower overall acres and higher exports. Still, USDA forecasts lower overall income for farmers in 2017. That was the first major forecast from the USDA Outlook Forum on Thursday by USDA Chief Economist Bob Johansson.

Corn acreage will decline by 4 million acres even though corn prices will increase slightly to an average of $3.50 per bushel, up about 3% from the 2016-17 marketing year.

Soybeans will see an average price of $9.60 per bushel for the 2017-18 marketing year, up roughly 1.1% from the current marketing year. Still, soybean acres will gain on corn because the price ratio for soybeans is projected at 2.6 times that of corn, based on the February futures prices. If the numbers hold through the rest of the month, they will be the most favorable price spread between soybeans and corn since 1997, Johansson said.

At 88 million acres, soybean planting will be 5.5% higher than 2016 and will ensure another record acreage for the soybean crop this year.

Wheat acres are projected to fall to 46 million acres, down 8.3% from last year. All-wheat acres are continuing to decline, which will help boost the average wheat price, projected at $4.30 per bushel, up 12% from the current marketing year.

Overall total acres for the eight major commodity crops are projected at 249.8 million acres, down 1.4% from the 2016-17 marketing year.

IGC Sees 2016-17 Global Grain Output at Over 2.1B Tons

The International Grains Council said Thursday it expects global grain production to top 2.1 billion metric tons for the first time as it raised its production forecast amid favorable weather.

The IGC increased its monthly output forecast for 2016-17 to 2.102 million tons from 2.094 million tons, which would be a 5% increase year-over-year.

Forecasts of giant harvests in many grain-growing regions have led the IGC to raise its production forecast in nine of its last 10 reports.

"Australia accounts for much of this month's adjustment, including record harvests of wheat and barley, while prospects for maize (corn) improved in South America," the IGC said.

The IGC upgraded its corn production forecast to 1.049 billion tons from 1.045 billion tons and its soybean forecast by 2 million tons to 336 million tons. It left its wheat production forecast of 752 million tons and its rice forecast of 482 million tons unchanged.

It said the upward revision in expected production will be nearly matched by a corresponding hike in its consumption forecast. As a result, its forecast for year-end global grain inventories was raised by just 1 million tons to 508 million tons.

Looking further ahead, the IGC said growing conditions for 2017-18 winter crops that have already been planted in the northern hemisphere "remained mostly favorable."

Farm Credit Reports Year-End Financials

The Farm Credit System reported combined net income of $4.8 billion for the year ended December 31, 2016, as compared with $4.7 billion for the prior year. The system also reported combined net income of $1.3 billion for the fourth quarter of 2016, as compared with $1.2 billion for the fourth quarter of 2015.

"The System continues to execute its mission of lending to rural America despite headwinds arising from low prices for certain commodities," remarked Tracey McCabe, President and CEO of the Federal Farm Credit Banks Funding Corporation. "Credit quality remains solid and System institutions remain well capitalized."

Combined net income increased $160 million or 3.4% for the year ended December 31, 2016, as compared with the prior year. The increase resulted primarily from an increase in net interest income of $432 million and a decrease in the provision for income taxes of $22 million, partially offset by increases in the provision for loan losses of $160 million and noninterest expense of $99 million and a decrease in noninterest income of $35 million. Net interest income increased 6.2% to $7.4 billion for 2016, as compared with $7.0 billion for the prior year.

The increase in net interest income resulted from a higher level of average earning assets, partially offset by a lower net interest spread. Average earning assets grew $24.7 billion or 9.0% to $299.6 billion for 2016, as compared with the prior year. Net interest margin decreased six basis points to 2.49% for 2016, as compared with 2.55% for 2015. The decline in the net interest margin was due to a decrease in the net interest spread of nine basis points to 2.31% for 2016, as compared with 2.40% for 2015.

Heinen Puts Soybean Farm Bill Roadmap on Record at Senate Ag Field Hearing

The American Soybean Association (ASA) laid out its initial approach to the upcoming farm bill negotiations in a hearing today before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry in Manhattan, Kan.

Testifying on behalf of ASA, Lucas Heinen, who farms in Everest, Kan., and serves as the president of the Kansas Soybean Association, pointed to the state of the farm economy as the most compelling signal of the need for a robust risk management framework in the farm bill. Citing falling prices for soybeans and the reduced cost of the 2014 Farm Bill as compared to original estimates, Heinen noted that ASA will push to fund farm bill programs to the level needed to adequately address each program’s needs, even if that means increasing funding.

“I understand that the conventional view in Washington is that the cost of farm programs and other parts of the farm bill will need to be reduced again, just as they were in the 2014 farm bill. This is not acceptable to producers,” said Heinen.

Heinen continued by detailing four key areas in which soybean growers will seek to make headway in the farm bill negotiations, including a strengthening of crop insurance and a continuation of the Agriculture Revenue Coverage option decoupled from planted acreage and with a shift to the use of yield data from USDA’s Risk Management Agency, as well as support for current conservation programs, including EQIP and the Conservation Stewardship Program, agricultural research, and Energy Title programs focused on biodiesel and biobased products.

Heinen also underscored ASA’s commitment to increased funding for the development of export markets in the bill. “We strongly support doubling mandatory funding for the Foreign Market Development program and the Market Access Program to spur promotion of U.S. agricultural exports,” he said. “Funding for these programs has been frozen for over ten years while our foreign competitors are massively outspending us on market promotion.”

Closing his testimony, Heinen repeated ASA’s call to maintain the traditional relationship between producer- and consumer-focused programs in the next bill. “There is a relationship between the need to provide assistance to those who produce food and those who consume it, when either needs that assistance,” he said. “This bond explains how Congress has been able to come together and enact farm bills for over 40 years.”

Kansas Dairy Farmer Lynda Foster Tells Senate Action is Needed to Address Dairy Safety Net, Other Important Ag Issues

Dairy farmers need Congress to make improvements in the dairy title of the farm bill this year, and not wait until 2018 when the current bill expires, according to testimony delivered here today by Kansas dairy farmer Lynda Foster.

In a field hearing Thursday on the campus of Kansas State University, Foster told members of the Senate Agriculture Committee that “dairy farmers deserve better” than the current Margin Protection Program (MPP), created in 2014 by Congress. “We need Congress to act swiftly this year and make the necessary changes in order for our industry to be able to protect ourselves from the bad year that could arrive at any time, even in years where experts are predicting higher margins.”

Foster is a third-generation dairy farmer and owner of Foster Dairy in Ft. Scott, Kansas. She testified on behalf of her cooperative, Dairy Farmers of America, as well as the National Milk Producers Federation, of which DFA is a member. Her full testimony can be found here.

The MPP, designed to assist farmers during periods of distressed milk prices or high feed costs, has failed to provide the level of protection envisioned in its original form. This has resulted in decreased participation in the program and dissatisfaction among dairy farmers across the country, Foster said.

“All we are seeking is a program that provides a safety net for dairy farmers when they need it most – something that delivers on the risk management promises dairy leaders and Congress committed to,” said Foster. “In order to do that, we must make adjustments to the program.”

In her remarks, Foster highlighted NMPF’s current effort to change the MPP. One of these changes includes restoring the formula for calculating feed costs to the one developed by National Milk in 2014. After NMPF worked to develop a model to reflect average feed costs for dairy cows, Congress subsequently cut that formula by 10 percent because of what turned out to be inaccurate projections by the Congressional Budget Office on program costs. This error resulted in a flawed calculation of dairy margins, and a much less useful program, Foster said.

Foster also discussed the critical need for proactive policies to help address farm labor demands. Citing a 2015 report prepared by NMPF and Texas A&M University, Foster said 51 percent of all dairy farm workers are foreign-born, and losing that labor would be devastating to the entire dairy industry, from farm to grocery store shelf. It’s why, Foster said, DFA and National Milk are urging Congress to address immigration reform “in a way that addresses agriculture’s needs for a legal and stable workforce.”

What has also changed considerably over the last decade is trade’s impact on dairy, said Foster. The industry went from $1 billion in exports in 2000 to $7.1 billion in 2014. Knowing the impact future trade policies could have on the health of the dairy industry, she said, it’s imperative that the United States protects the progress it has made when negotiating future agreements, or reassessing existing ones like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Foster also thanked the committee for their work on child nutrition programs. Milk has been a key component in school meals for decades, Foster said, but consumption has decreased because children are limited in their drink options. Foster encouraged the Senate to pursue policies that would expand milk offerings in the school lunch program.

Commodity Classic Education Showcases Mississippi Watershed Collaboration

Sharing knowledge is key to the Commodity Classic experience, and this year's attendees will have an opportunity to discover what efforts are being undertaken to address water management challenges within the Mississippi River Watershed. Harald (Jordy) Jordahl, Director of America's Watershed Initiative (AWI) will lead a discussion of private sector partners who are working together to craft meaningful improvements that look at the social, economic and environmental stability of the Mississippi River and its major tributaries.

"The demands on the Mississippi River watershed are growing due to increasing demands for water and productivity, crumbling infrastructure, habitat loss and the expansion of the hypoxic 'dead zone' in the Gulf of Mexico," said Jordahl. "But finding solutions to these challenges is even tougher because the watershed includes parts of 31 states and thousands of local governments and agencies. Any improvements to America's watershed will require different groups and users - both private and public - to work together." The discussion will focus on the collaboration to promote innovation and best practices, direct investments aimed at developing a 'New Watershed Economy,' and efforts to raise the grade of the Mississippi River Watershed Report Card by 2020. Jordahl will be joined by Max Starbuck from the NCGA and Larry Clemens, Agriculture Program Director for The Nature Conservancy.

This Learning Center Session takes place March 3 from 1:45 - 2:45 p.m. room 214 AB at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas.

Soy Growers Urge President Trump to Require Establishment of Under Secretary of Trade, Foreign Ag Affairs

Soy growers are urging President Donald Trump to support the provision contained in the 2014 Farm Bill requiring the U.S. Trade Secretary to establish an Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs.

The American Soybean Association (ASA), along with other agriculture groups sent a letter to Trump this week, emphasizing the importance of international trade to the U.S. economy and highlighting how the Under Secretary would help bring unified high level representation to key trade negotiations with senior, foreign officials and within the Executive Branch.

“Trade currently accounts for more than 25 percent of U.S. farm receipts, and the production from one out of every three acres planted is exported. Our vast and efficient export system, including handling, processing and distribution of our food and agriculture products, creates millions of U.S. jobs and helps feed hundreds of millions all over the globe,” the groups state in the letter. “Our $17 billion net trade balance in agriculture and food products in 2016 represented the single largest contribution to our balance of payments.”

But the groups said despite the success, the trade structure has remained the same since its last reorganization in the ‘70s at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

“The U.S. agriculture and food industry is ideally positioned to experience significant growth in the decades ahead given projected population growth of an additional 2.5 billion people by 2050. Yet with these opportunities will also come significant changes to keep existing foreign markets open and gain access to new emerging markets for U.S. farm and food products,” the groups state.

The ag groups added the creation of this Under Secretary position would help modernize USDA’s trade structure and streamline management.

“We believe it is vitally important for U.S. agriculture to fully capitalize on the long-term, increased global demand for farm and food products in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Overseas markets represent 73 percent of the world’s purchasing power, 87 percent of the economic growth, and 95 percent of the world’s customers,” they said. “We can take a major step towards that goal by ensuring that the trade structure at USDA is effectively positioned to address the trade challenges and enormous opportunities that await us in the decades ahead.”

Sorghum Becoming Smart Choice for Peruvian Importers

Peruvian livestock may soon feast on U.S. sorghum, thanks to work last week by the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) to detail the economic and nutrition advantages of the crop during a conference in Lima.

From a trade perspective, Peruvian importers can purchase U.S. sorghum without an import tariff, per the existing free trade agreement between the United States and Peru, an immediate advantage against corn of any origin.

In addition, U.S. sorghum has little or no tannins, a purposeful plant breeding shift that maximizes the nutrient digestibility of sorghum in livestock and provides a considerable advantage over sorghum from competitors like Argentina and Brazil.

U.S. sorghum also is less susceptible to breakage, contains fewer mycotoxins and has a longer shelf life in hot and humid conditions. As a result, sorghum is a cost effective addition to rations for broiler chickens and laying hens, requiring only slight dietary adjustments that do not increase cost.

During a recent conference, a similar event last year and visits to key decision makers during the summer, Dr. Carlos López, nutritionist and professor at the Autonomous University of Mexico, explained how to adjust the formulation of poultry diets to take full advantage of the nutritional qualities of sorghum.

For example, high tannins reduce the nutritional advantages of sorghum for livestock, so López scientifically demonstrated decades of performance feeding animals tannin-free sorghum varieties planted in the United States, breaking down a strong misconception based on unfavorable results decades ago.

With all these factors combined, USGC staff and consultants estimate the Peruvian poultry industry would reduce input costs by an estimated $10 million if buyers there shifted 30 percent of feed consumption to U.S. sorghum.

“In Peru, previous experiences with high-tannin varieties created a huge barrier,” said Luis Bustamante, USGC marketing specialist for the Western Hemisphere. “Attendees realized Peru has great opportunities to use sorghum and that it is a smart supply decision for the poultry companies of Peru that aspire to form a world-class industry.”

Meeting attendees represented 95 percent of the Peruvian poultry industry as well as representatives from universities, trade, dairy and swine industries. This wide participation showed the strong interest in the grain among local buyers and end-users.

“We received very positive feedback from potential importers on their intention to buy sorghum,” said Alvaro Cordero, USGC manager of global trade. “Local traders informed us that they are receiving requests for quotes for the product in a regular basis.”

New study of antibiotic use on farms and antibiotic resistant Salmonella pathogens shows the need for more robust farm to fork research

A team of interdisciplinary scientists at the Medical University of South Carolina and the Charleston VA Medical Center Research Service recently reviewed published literature for evidence of a relationship between antibiotic use in agricultural animals and drug-resistant foodborne Salmonella infections in humans, commonly known as salmonellosis. According to the 2013 CDC Antibiotic Resistance Threats Report, two of the eighteen pathogens that are of concern in the United States may have a direct link to agriculture — one of them being Salmonella.

Foodborne illness from both drug-sensitive and drug-resistant non-typhoidal Salmonella is estimated to sicken 1.2 million Americans annually (CDC, 2013). The study — conducted by veterinary and nutrition scientists and an infectious disease physician — reviewed 104 articles in the U.S., Canada, Denmark, Scotland and Ireland over the past five years and has been published in [volume 57, issue 3] of Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. Animals included in the reviewed studies were chicken, turkeys, pigs, beef cattle, and dairy cows.

The overall prevalence of Salmonella and drug-resistance found in the systematic review aligns with recent National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) reports. The 2013 NARMS report showed that 81% of the Salmonella from human infections carried no resistance to any antibiotic, while Salmonella resistance rates in animals vary by the antibiotic tested. The findings of this systematic review did lead the team to important concerns about Salmonella and demonstrated that more research in this area is needed. For example, six articles showed increased antibiotic resistance in organisms derived from animals, not retail meats, used in conventional farming, versus those from antibiotic-free operations. No studies were found that followed animal-associated antibiotic resistant isolates from farm to retail products.

Lead scientist Kristi Helke, D.V.M., Ph.D. remarked, "While there were some studies worth noting in our review, it is most apparent that there is a greater need for a more robust data collection system and heightened publication expectations in the U.S. for transparency in antibiotic usage in both animals and humans. There is still much more research to be done. The agriculture and health care industries must work hand-in-hand with the scientific community, government regulatory agencies and human health community in order to ensure safe, humane, and affordable food sources to the public."

Richard A. Carnevale, V.M.D., Vice President for Regulatory, Scientific and International Affairs at the Animal Health Institute (AHI), who funded the study said, "On January 1, the agriculture community took an important step in promoting the effectiveness of antibiotics by being in full compliance with new FDA mandates—Guidance 209 and 213—which eliminates the use of medically important antibiotics for growth promotion purposes and requires approval by a licensed veterinarian for all remaining uses in feed through the veterinary feed directive. The proper public health focus—in both humans and animals—should be on using antibiotics only when necessary to fight disease. We support this research and more research like it to promote a positive impact on public health."

Principal investigator on the study, Bernadette Marriott, Ph.D., stated, "Our research results underscore the need for both veterinarians and physicians to work together as we advance toward solutions to concerns about antibiotic resistance."

Syngenta identifies key strategies to fight weed resistance  

As corn and soybean growers deal with an expanding and intensifying threat of resistant weeds, Syngenta is recommending strategies for managing weeds that begin early in the season. 

“Pigweeds have greatly affected our herbicide choices,” said Philip Nelson, a corn grower in Windom, Kansas. “In fact, we now apply herbicides ahead of time to keep the weeds from growing. It’s getting really hard to kill a pigweed at any stage of growth, but you can still kill the sprout and keep it from becoming a problem.”

As growers adopt more sustainable tillage programs and weed resistance to different modes of action expands, the importance of applying the right herbicide at the right time can't be overstated. Overusing the same herbicides without a programmed approach can lead to resistance. 

“It’s important for growers to always monitor their weed-management practices, because subtle weed escapes in a field can be a signal that there may be resistant weeds emerging,” said Dane Bowers, Syngenta herbicide technical product lead.

According to Bowers, if growers notice weeds surviving in fields, even in small numbers, they should consider changes in their management plan to help stop resistance in its tracks. 

“We have been on a herbicide resistance merry-go-round,” Bowers said. “We hop on one horse, or chemistry, and ride it until we wear it out, then we select another horse for the next ride. It is time to step off the merry-go-round and develop resistance-management strategies.”

To avoid getting caught in a cycle of resistance, growers can turn to pre-emergence applications of powerhouse combination technologies, like Acuron® and Acuron® Flexi herbicides for corn and BroadAxe® XC and Boundary® 6.5 EC herbicides for soybeans. These herbicides contain multiple effective modes of action and active ingredients that work together to control tough weeds before they emerge. 

“Using tank-mix partners or premixes with multiple effective modes of action in each application during the growing season can help reduce the selection pressure caused by using a single mode,” said Bowers, who also encourages growers to use residual herbicides whenever possible to help keep their fields clean all season long. 

Syngenta has developed Resistance Fighter® to help growers effectively manage resistant weeds through education, local recommendations and a strong portfolio of herbicides. Syngenta also recommends the following strategies to fight weed resistance: 

•        Start with clean fields. Help control emerged weeds before planting by applying a burndown herbicide plus a pre-emergence residual herbicide.

•        Employ crop rotation. This practice will extend the range of available herbicides and agronomic practices.

•        Rotate herbicide-tolerant traits. Alternate herbicide-tolerant traits or use herbicidetolerant trait stacks for more efficient rotation. This approach enables growers to rotate their herbicide applications and reduce selection pressure on resistant biotypes.

•        Always apply herbicides at the full, labeled rate and correct growth stage.  This ensures the most effective control of weeds in fields.

•        Prevent weed escapes from producing seed. Consider spot herbicide applications, hand removal of weeds or other techniques to stop weed-seed production.  

•        Do not tolerate any weeds in the soil bank. Not allowing surviving weeds to set seed will help decrease annual weed populations and prevent major weed shifts. 

•        Clean equipment. Always clean tillage, seeding and harvest equipment when leaving fields that are infested with herbicide-resistant weeds.

•        Utilize good agronomic practices. Consider narrow rows, increased plant populations and other practices that promote crop growth and competitive ability.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Wednesday February 22 Ag News

Nebraska Farm Bureau Celebrates Its Centennial; 100 Years of Representing Nebraska Farmers and Ranchers

Farmers, ranchers, and agricultural dignitaries from across the state will help honor the 100th anniversary of the Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation (NFBF) in a year-long celebration. A new centennial web page is launched and Governor Pete Ricketts issued a proclamation to recognize Nebraska Farm Bureau’s 100 years and its ability to unite thousands of Nebraska farm and ranch families under a common banner—doing together what they can’t do alone.

“100 years of engagement, 100 years of passion for Nebraska agriculture, and 100 years of representing Nebraska farmers and ranchers, the very people who grow our food, fuel, and fiber. It is not very often that an organization can say they have reached this milestone. I am very excited about our yearlong centennial celebration,” said Steve Nelson, NFBF president Feb. 14.

As part of honoring the past, renowned Nebraska sculptor Sondra L. Johnson, of Cambridge, will create a cast bronze bas-relief sculpture to mark the centennial. The sculpture, in the shape of the State of Nebraska, includes the many landscapes and crops found across the state. Looking to the future, the Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation announced the Cornerstone Campaign. “Celebrating Our Past, Building Our Future” is the theme of the fundraising campaign to provide a financial foundation for its programs that promote an understanding of and appreciation for Nebraska agriculture.

“Through our new Foundation, we will equip the next generation of Nebraskans for careers, leadership positions, and consumer roles that intersect with agriculture,” said Nelson. “Foundation programs such as Agriculture in the Classroom, student scholarships, and leadership development are an investment in the continued success of agriculture and all of Nebraska.”

The cast bronze centennial sculpture and corresponding Cornerstone Campaign donor recognition wall will be installed at the Nebraska Farm Bureau state office in Lincoln. An unveiling is planned for March 30, 2017.

Throughout this centennial year, Nebraska Farm Bureau will hold other statewide events including events for members in Western Nebraska, to be held in Scottsbluff June 8, Northeast Nebraska in Norfolk Aug. 8, and a tailgate will be held prior to the Sept. 22, Nebraska Husker football game against Rutgers in Lincoln. You can find out more about the celebration at our website

“As part of our centennial, Nebraska Farm Bureau continues to look ahead to the next century of possibilities, especially for the next generation of farmers and ranchers. Helping them get excited about agriculture and Nebraska Farm Bureau is vital to strengthening the future of our organization and Nebraska agriculture,” Nelson said.


The Nebraska Agricultural Youth Institute (NAYI) brings together high school juniors and seniors from around the state to explore the ag industry, discover potential ag-related careers and strengthen their appreciation for agriculture. Applications for this year’s NAYI are now available from the Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA). Current high school juniors and seniors interested in attending this summer’s program in Lincoln have until April 15th to apply.

“Agriculture is Nebraska’s largest industry with an abundance of potential for future career opportunities,” said NDA Director Greg Ibach. “NAYI provides students time to network with current and future ag leaders, learn more about the agricultural industry and discover the many agricultural career paths available to them in the future.”

NAYI is a five-day summer program for current high school juniors and seniors. The Institute will be held July 10-14, 2017, at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s East Campus. NAYI features motivational speakers, discussion on agricultural issues and opportunities, a computer-simulated farm management game, a formal banquet and awards presentation and a street dance. Celebrating 46 years this year, NAYI is the longest running ag youth program of its kind in the nation.

NAYI is coordinated by the Nebraska Agricultural Youth Council (NAYC), which is comprised of 21 college-aged students selected by NDA for their passion and interest in the ag industry. The Council’s purpose is to provide young Nebraskans with a better understanding of agriculture, including agricultural opportunities available to today’s youth. 

NDA selects students to attend NAYI based on their leadership skills, interest and involvement in agriculture. Applications are available online at or by contacting the Nebraska Department of Agriculture at 402-471-6859.

“It’s remarkable to think of the impact this program has had on the Nebraska agriculture community,” Ibach said. “NAYI is what the future of our industry looks like. If you know a current high school junior or senior interested in agriculture, encourage him or her to apply to NAYI before the April 15th deadline. ”


Bruce Anderson, NE Extension Forage Specialist

               I’m worried.  I’m worried that winter will return.  And when that happens, what will it do to our alfalfa fields?

               Alfalfa usually is a dependable crop.  It seems to come back year after year.  After the nice winters.  After the cold winters.  And even after the ugly winters.  But what about this winter.

               I’m not very good at predictions.  So I’m not going to tell you that your alfalfa will be fine this spring nor will I predict that it winterkilled.  But I will suggest that you check it extra closely this spring to judge how well it made it through this winter.

               The recent long spell of daytime temperatures in the 50s, 60s, and even some 70s probably awakened at least some alfalfa plants from winter dormancy.  When alfalfa plants break winter dormancy they use nutrients stored in their roots and crown and start to grow as if spring has arrived.  A return to average winter temperatures forces these plants back into dormancy.  Another streak of warm weather could break dormancy again, using more nutrient reserves.  If this is followed by more cold weather, eventually the alfalfa plants will exhaust their reserves and be unable to start spring growth when spring truly does return.

               Another potential problem in other areas has been snow followed by melting followed by freezing.  Prolonged or repeated formation of ice at or on the soil surface can prevent the exchange of gases between the air and the soil.  As alfalfa roots respire during winter they produce some gases that can become toxic to alfalfa plants if too concentrated.  The roots also need some oxygen to respire and remain healthy.  So ice can cause plants to essentially suffocate.

               It’s impossible to predict if alfalfa will be hurt this winter.  Since weather conditions have been risky, be ready to check your fields and make any necessary adjustments early.

Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman will Screen at Commodity Classic

Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman, fresh from its world premiere at Sundance Film Festival, will preview at Commodity Classic in San Antonio, Texas before it airs worldwide on Discovery Channel in August. The Discovery Impact film weaves together the stories of a Montana rancher, two Kansas farmers and a handful of Gulf fishermen who feed the world while stewarding the land and water they work. Based on a book by the same name, the documentary is a tribute to the unsung conservation heroes of America’s heartland.

“The men and women profiled in the book and film work tirelessly to protect America’s natural resources, make their operations more productive and resilient and leave a legacy for their children. They don’t receive much credit for their conservation achievements, and we’re trying to change that,” said Miriam Horn of Environmental Defense Fund.

Horn authored Rancher, Farmer Fisherman: Conservation Heroes of the American Heartland, on which the film is based. NCGA and EDF will host an audience Q&A with Horn after the screening.

“Most farmers I know have spent a lifetime trying to do a better job of protecting the soil and water resources on their farms.  This love of the land and how to grow crops more sustainably is passed down in many cases for four generations or more,” said Brent Hostetler, National Corn Growers Association’s Sustainability Action Team chairman and a farmer from Plain City, Ohio.  “This project opens public dialogue to challenge traditional notions and show how modern farming and environmentalism can go hand in hand.”

The screening and audience discussion will be held in the Lila Cockrell Theatre during Commodity Classic’s Closing Learning Center Session on Saturday, March 4, 2017 from 1:30–3:30 pm CDT. Anyone with a Commodity Classic badge may attend.

Most Retail Fertilizer Prices Higher

Retail fertilizer prices continued to increase the third week of February 2017, according to retail data tracked by DTN. This marks the fourth week in a row prices have moved higher.

Seven of the eight major fertilizers were higher compared to a month earlier with four higher by a considerable amount.  UAN28 was 8% higher compared to last month while UAN32 was 7% more expensive, urea was 6% higher and anhydrous up 5%. UAN28 had an average price of $240/ton, UAN32 $276/ton, urea $357/ton and anhydrous $491/ton.  Three fertilizers were slightly higher than the previous month. MAP had an average price of $450/ton, potash $332/ton and 10-34-0 $440/ton.

DAP prices actually fell slightly for the month, with an average price of $432/ton.

On a price per pound of nitrogen basis, the average urea price was at $0.39/lb.N, anhydrous $0.30/lb.N, UAN28 $0.43/lb.N and UAN32 $0.43/lb.N.

Retail fertilizers are lower compared to a year earlier. Five of the eight major fertilizer are double digits lower.  10-34-0 is 23% lower from a year ago while potash is 12% less expensive and anhydrous is 11% lower. Both DAP and MAP are 10% less expensive compared to year earlier.  UAN32 is now 9% lower, UAN28 is now 8% less expensive and urea is 3% lower compared to last year.

National Coalition Advocates for Investment in Rural Infrastructure

More than two hundred organizations from across the country wrote to President Donald J. Trump today encouraging him to prioritize rebuilding infrastructure in rural America.

“American agriculture truly feeds the world and creates millions of jobs for U.S. workers. Our nation’s ability to produce food and fiber and transport it efficiently across the globe is a critical factor in U.S. competitiveness internationally. Infrastructure that supports rural communities and links them to global markets has helped make the U.S. the unquestioned leader in agricultural production. Our deteriorating infrastructure threatens that leadership position,” the letter states.

The coalition went on to highlight the unique infrastructure needs in rural communities where populations are less dense and distance between communities creates challenges, calling on Trump to “provide leadership to ensure that rural America’s needs are addressed."

While a stronger transportation infrastructure will help American agriculture compete in an increasingly crowded global marketplace, the other infrastructure needs of rural communities differ from urban areas. The letter highlights the “critical needs” that “exist in providing clean water for rural families, expanding broadband to connect rural communities to the outside world, and enhancing the ability to supply affordable, reliable and secure power for the rural economy.”

The #RebuildRural organizations that signed the letter represent U.S. agricultural producers, rural businesses, rural communities and rural families.

Trump Reiterates Support for Renewable Fuels

In a letter sent Monday to National Ethanol Conference attendees, President Donald Trump reiterated his commitment to ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard.

"Rest assured that your president and this administration values the importance of renewable fuels to America's economy and to our energy independence. As I emphasized throughout my campaign, renewable fuels are essential to America's energy strategy," Trump wrote.

"As important as ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard are to rural economies, I also know that your industry has suffered from overzealous, job-killing regulation. I am committed to reducing the regulatory burden on all businesses, and my team... [will] identify and reform those regulations that impede growth, increase consumer costs, and eliminate good-paying jobs without providing sufficient environmental or public health benefit," Trump added.

"Thank you to President Trump for reaffirming your support for ethanol and the RFS," said NCGA President Wesley Spurlock. "President Trump understands that the Renewable Fuel Standard is a critical economic driver for rural America. We look forward to working with him and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to maintain a strong RFS and promote American-grown, renewable ethanol."

New Economic Analysis Exposes Problems with Changing the Renewable Fuel Standard Point of Obligation

Growth Energy today released an expert economic analysis that identifies numerous problems associated with changing the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) point of obligation. Growth Energy strongly supports EPA’s proposed denial to move the point of obligation.

“Changing the point of obligation would have a disastrous impact on the industry, retailers, and consumers,” Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor said.

“Shifting the financial and administrative burden to retailers and fuel distributors would result in a logistical and regulatory nightmare. Hundreds – if not thousands – of new parties would suddenly be required to demonstrate compliance. This would require new rules, new staff, new infrastructure, and years of recalibrating a program that already works, not to mention potential delays with annual renewable volume obligations (RVO)s. Changing the point of obligation would dramatically expand the number of new obligated parties including fuel marketers, convenience stores, truck stops, trucking companies, railroads, and even consumer service companies like FedEx and UPS.”

The analysis, conducted by Edgeworth Economics, is part of the association’s detailed comments, to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which were filed today. Growth Energy’s comments and the analysis detail how a shift in point of obligation would be detrimental to growing the renewable fuels marketplace and would ultimately undermine an energy policy that has cut oil imports and reduced transportation-related emissions. A change to the point of obligation would limit consumer fueling options and would increase costs for consumers by stifling competition among market participants.

The analysis’ key findings include the following:
·         Shifting the point of obligation would have no impact on the incentives to invest in biofuel infrastructure or increase blending of renewable fuels.
·         Renewable Identification Number (RIN) values represent neither windfalls for blenders nor out-of-pocket costs for refiners.
·         RIN markets are, for the most part, operating efficiently and competitively; moreover, a change in the point of obligation would have no beneficial impact on those conditions.
·         Changing the point of obligation would have no impact on fraud in the RIN markets.
·         The petitioners’ proposal would result in an increase in the number of obligated parties and an increase in the overall administrative burden of the RFS.

“The RFS point of obligation must be preserved to ensure that fuel retailers continue to have the incentive to make the investments necessary to deliver renewable fuels that provide consumers with better, cleaner, and more affordable choices at the pump,” Skor added.

Smithfield Foods Introduces Pure Farms™ Antibiotic-Free Product Line

Today, Smithfield Foods, Inc. announced the launch of an antibiotic-free line of fresh pork products under its Pure Farms™ brand. The Pure Farms™ product line meets the highest level of USDA standards with minimal processing and no antibiotics, steroids, hormones or artificial ingredients. The full line of products will be available in fresh pork cuts, ham cuts and packaged pork cuts such as breakfast sausage and bacon in both retail stores and food service beginning this month.

"The Pure Farms™ brand is ideal for families looking to enjoy the highest quality, antibiotic-free pork," said Ken Sullivan, president and chief executive officer for Smithfield Foods. "We're proud to provide our customers and consumers with a broader range of products to meet a variety of needs and preferences, including antibiotic-free."

As the only company in the industry to report antibiotics usage since 2007, this new product line further affirms Smithfield's continued leadership of practices that uphold highest standards of transparency and strengthen consumer trust. Smithfield also recently refined its definition of ‘prevention' as related to antibiotics use in farm animals, providing a practical explanation to consumers and customers that offers greater clarity. These efforts are driven by an internal antibiotics task force, which supports Smithfield's commitment to industry-leading antibiotics initiatives.

"This new line from Pure Farms™ reflects Smithfield's continued commitment to meeting the needs of all consumers with good food that is made the right way," said Stewart Leeth, vice president of regulatory affairs and chief sustainability officer for Smithfield Foods. "This commitment led to the creation of this new line and other bold steps we continue to take to ensure our products exceed our customers' and consumers' expectations."

Tuesday February 21 Ag News

Repealing The Death Tax
Senator Deb Fischer

Nebraska has a long, proud tradition of family owned businesses. Walk down any street, in any town in our beautiful state, and you’ll find them: the furniture store, the auto parts shop, the dry cleaner, the pharmacy. Like our family owned farms and ranches, each one of these businesses provides a valuable service to our people. Together, they make our communities stronger and more vibrant.

Building a family business is hard work. It demands passion, drive, and an unbounded willingness to work. It means long days and longer nights, the anxiety of meeting payroll, and the pressure of performing well. It is also profoundly satisfying. With that work comes the deep joy of a job well done, the dignity of honest labor, and the knowledge that the business can be passed down to one’s children. More than a job, for these small business owners, their work is part of a legacy that reaches through time, generation to generation.

But because of our broken tax code, many family business owners cannot hand down to their children their life’s work.

The reason? The federal estate tax, commonly called the “death tax.”

To quote the Internal Revenue Service, “the estate tax is a tax on your right to transfer property at your death.” Because of it, those family businesses with property valued above a set amount cannot hand down to their children the family legacy – unless those children pay up.

That’s right. Rising generations of small business owners, the backbone of America’s economy, must pay Uncle Sam before they can take possession of something their family already owns.

The death tax hits these families hard. Their wealth is in their business and the equipment they use to run it. They are cash-poor and asset-rich, but the death tax turns their assets into liabilities. Many times, the children of these families want to follow the path of their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. But those who cannot pay the tax find themselves forced onto a different road.

Often, it takes them far from home.

The death tax harms our Nebraskan way of life. It hurts our economy. It is time for it to go.

In the Senate, I have cosponsored the Death Tax Repeal Act of 2017. Introduced by Senator John Thune of South Dakota, this bill would permanently repeal the federal estate tax.

Our bill would amend the Internal Revenue Code to repeal the estate and generation-skipping transfer taxes. It would also make permanent the maximum 35 percent gift tax rate and the lifetime gift tax exemption.

Repealing this tax is good policy. It’s also the right thing to do.

Government, when at its best, unleashes the human spirit and rewards families for accepting a risk and working hard. It dignifies their labor. The death tax does just the opposite. Government at its worst, it punishes that spirit, seeking instead to take its cut of a lifetime of hard work, risk, and reward. It erodes that proud legacy shared across generations.

By repealing the death tax, we can help strengthen Nebraska’s proud tradition of family businesses. I am hopeful that we will.


Taxpayers, local school board members, superintendents, agriculture and education groups from across Nebraska today announced they have joined forces to create a coalition called Nebraskans United for Property Tax Reform and Education. The coalition which was formed in support of these two principles:


Adequate and sustainable funding of high quality K-12 education is imperative for the future of Nebraska.
·       A well-educated workforce is essential for economic development and a high quality of life.
·       Education reduces poverty, boosts economic growth and increases income. In sum, education is one of the most important investments a state can make in its people and its future.
·       Low levels of state funding for education is at the heart of Nebraska’s property tax issues, not school spending.


Tax reform which reduces the over-reliance on local property taxes is necessary to ensure our tax system is fair to all Nebraska taxpayers.
·       Nebraska must reduce property taxes to ensure a fair and balanced tax system.
   o   Nebraska ranks 49th in the country in the percentage of K-12 funding that comes from the state.
   o   Nebraskans pays the 7th highest effective property tax rate in the nation.
·       To fund the state budget, we need a tax system that is fair and balanced for all Nebraska taxpayers. Nebraska’s taxpayers need a significant reduction in property taxes.
    o   Nebraska K-12 schools receive 33% of their funding from state sources while the national average is 47%.
    o   Nebraska K-12 schools receive 49% of their funding from local property taxes while the national average is 29%.

Quality education opportunities for our children are critical to the well-being of our communities, our economy and our state. To ensure the future of Nebraska we must provide a more diverse means of funding our schools and end our over reliance on property taxes to carry this responsibility,” said Steve Nelson, President of Nebraska Farm Bureau.

“ICON represents cow-calf operators with hundreds of members across Nebraska.  Our members are enthusiastic supporters of their local schools, which consume the lion’s share of a property tax bill.  Our segment of the cattle industry is at a breaking point.  With gross receipts declining by 50% across the grass counties, property tax reform cannot be kicked down the road any longer, and rural students should not be forced to cut programs because Nebraska is unwilling to step up and provide adequate state support for K-12 education.  We enthusiastically joined this coalition to demand that our Governor and Legislature find a solution,” said Al Davis, Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska.

“Nebraska Farmers Union enthusiastically joins this broad based coalition of education and property tax stakeholders to support appropriate funding for K-12 education and desperately needed property tax relief. Family farm agriculture is facing the worst financial crisis since the mid 1980’s with three years of below the costs of production commodity prices and more low prices forecast. We urge all impacted organizations and citizens to set aside their differences and get involved in the legislative process so that our combined efforts can push for the long overdue reforms in our state tax system.  Now is the time for all of us to work together for the good of our children and property owners across our state,” said John Hansen, President of Nebraska Farmers Union.

“It is an honor to work with this growing coalition to reduce property taxes while protecting funding for our public schools.  Coalition members come from all geographic parts of the state and all economic sectors: from Omaha to Chadron, homeowners, school board members, farmers, small business owners, public school leaders and others.  All believe that adequate and sustainable funding of high-quality K-12 education that will reduce our over-reliance on local property taxes is imperative for Nebraska’s future.  This should be Priority #1 throughout the legislative session,” said Mike Lucas, Superintendent of York Public Schools; President of Schools Taking Action for Nebraska Children’s Education (STANCE).

“The quality of our educational system and staff is threatened now more than ever by surrounding states advancing their educational revenues with increases in state sales tax. Our coalition is expressing the need for dire change now before permanent damage is done to the ones we care about the most, our children across greater Nebraska,” said Boone Huffman, Board of Education Member, Chadron Public Schools.

“Reform of Nebraska's antiquated property taxing system to support local schools is way past due. Taxes on Nebraska's crop and pasture ground bear too large a burden. We strongly support public schools and funding them. We urge protecting two of Nebraska's greatest assets: Our children and agriculture,” said Doug Nienhueser, Nebraska Fair.

“Nebraskans want – and they support – quality public schools for their children and grandchildren. They also want a balanced system for financing schools. But our heavy reliance on property taxes and low state support has created inequities. Let me be clear: Nebraska’s elected school board members are thrifty stewards of tax revenue dollars. The problem driving the increase in property taxes is that the state is not doing its share. Nebraska is 49th in the nation in state aid to education. There is a strong correlation between state aid investment and property tax rates. When state aid does not keep up, property taxes go up that much faster to make up the difference. The solution is evident. If the state hopes lower property taxes, state aid is the answer,” said Nancy Fulton, president of the Nebraska State Education Association.

“The coalition of Nebraskans demanding property tax reform continues to grow. The legislature needs to act this year to balance Nebraska’s tax code,” said Trent Fellers Executive Director of Reform for Nebraska’s Future.

"I’m a retired teacher from Hampton and currently serve on the York Board of Education. We are thankful for this growing coalition that represents over 85% of the school board members and school districts in Nebraska. We're excited to stand together with all of these organizations, and those to come, to encourage our lawmakers to protect high quality public education funding while reducing our over-reliance on local property taxes. This has to be a top priority," said Barb Skaden, York Board of Education, retired teacher from Hampton.

“A unique relationship has been established amongst urban and rural communities in Nebraska with regard to protecting school funding and property tax relief. GNSA proudly supports this coalition and is encouraged that this partnership foundationally believes adequate and sustainable funding of high-quality K-12 education that will reduce our over-reliance on local property taxes is imperative to Nebraska's future,” said Dr. Rob Winter, Executive Director, Greater Nebraska Schools Association.

Nebraskans United includes property owners, ag and education groups, school board members, superintendents (representing all school districts across the state) and other taxpayers across Nebraska, we urge the Legislature to act and balance the state's property tax system. Nebraska needs a more equitable system to fund the state's education priorities into the state's future.

Groups participating in today’s news conference include:
Nebraska Farm Bureau                                              
Nebraska State Education Association
Reform for Nebraska’s Future                                   
Nebraska Council of School Administrators
Nebraska Corn Growers Association                       
Nebraska Farmers Union
Women Involved in Farm Economics                       
Nebraska Soybean Association
Nebraska Pork Producers                                         
The Nebraska Wheat Growers
Nebraska Rural Community Schools Association  
Nebraska Fair
Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska                        
Gage County Property Tax Group
Greater Nebraska Schools Association: Bellevue, Bennington, Blair, Columbus, Elkhorn, Fremont, Gering, Grand Island, Gretna, Hastings, Kearney, Lexington, Lincoln, McCook, Millard, Norfolk, Norris, North Platte, Omaha, Papillion-La Vista, Plattsmouth, Ralston, Schuyler, South Sioux City, Westside Community Public Schools.
Schools Taking Action for Nebraska Children’s Education: Beatrice, Blair, Chadron, Columbus, Crete, Fairbury, Gothenburg, Holdrege, Nebraska City, Norris, Seward, South Sioux City, Wahoo, Waverly, York Public Schools

New Nebraska Dairy Princess Crowned in Columbus

Marta Pulfer, a 17-year-old from Wayne, Nebraska, was crowned the Nebraska Dairy Princess during the annual Nebraska State Dairy Convention in Columbus Feb. 21.

Pulfer is the daughter of Kent and Jodi Pulfer, and is a senior at Wayne High School. Her role as princess will be to make public appearances to help people understand the dedication of dairy farm families to their cows, their land and the milk they produce. Midwest Dairy Association sponsors the dairy princess program on behalf of Nebraska’s dairy farm families.

The new princess was a state delegate to the National 4-H Dairy Conference and has shown dairy, horses, dogs and cats at the Wayne County Fair, along with exhibiting dogs and a veterinary science project on dairy reproduction at the Nebraska State Fair. Her school involvement has included speech, music, cross-country and National Honor Society, and she is active in her church.

Pulfer plans to attend Texas A&M University next fall to earn a degree in biomedical engineering while pursuing pre-veterinary medicine.

The Nebraska Dairy Princess receives a scholarship from Midwest Dairy Association.

January Milk Production up 2.7 Percent

Milk production in the 23 major States during January totaled 17.0 billion pounds, up 2.7 percent from January 2016. December revised production, at 16.8 billion pounds, was up 2.6 percent from December 2015.  The December revision represented a decrease of 2 million pounds or less than 0.1 percent from last month's preliminary production estimate.

Production per cow in the 23 major States averaged 1,957 pounds for January, 37 pounds above January 2016. This is the highest production per cow for the month of January since the 23 State series began in 2003.

The number of milk cows on farms in the 23 major States was 8.69 million head, 67,000 head more than January 2016, and 5,000 head more than December 2016.

Milk production in Iowa during January 2017 totaled 433 million pounds, up 4 percent from the previous January according to the latest USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service – Milk Production report. The average number of milk cows during January, at 215,000 head, was the same as last month but 5,000 more than last year. Monthly production per cow averaged 2,015 pounds, up 30 pounds from last January.

2016 Annual Milk Production up 1.8 Percent from 2015

The annual production of milk for the United States during 2016 was 212 billion pounds, 1.8 percent above 2015. Revisions to 2015 production decreased the annual total 36 million pounds.  Revised 2016 production was down 76 million pounds from last month's publication. Annual total milk production has increased 14.4 percent from 2007.

Production per cow in the United States averaged 22,774 pounds for 2016, 378 pounds above 2015. The average annual rate of milk production per cow has increased 12.7 percent from 2007.

The average number of milk cows on farms in the United States during 2016 was 9.33 million head, up 0.2 percent from 2015. The average number of milk cows was revised down 5,000 head for 2016. The average annual number of milk cows has increased 1.5 percent from 2007.

Scholarships Available from Iowa State Dairy Association

The Iowa State Dairy Association (ISDA) will award 14 $500 college scholarships to those associated with the organization. The scholarships are available to members, or to children or grandchildren of an ISDA member, as well as to employees or the children of employees. The deadline for applications is March 17.

The ISDA is a membership organization of dairy producers and industry members. Those who wish to join or to renew are invited to access the membership information at

Applicants for the scholarship must be full-time students at an accredited college or university, or be planning to attend next fall. Applications and guidelines for an essay can be found at

Save the date for Iowa Swine Day 2017 - June 29 in Ames, IA

Please be advised that Iowa Swine Day 2017 will be held on June 29th starting at 9:00 am in the Scheman Building on the Iowa State University campus; this maintains our practice of holding the event on the last Thursday in June.

This year’s conference – the 6th – will follow the same structure as in past years, with a plenary session in the morning followed by 3 concurrent sessions in the afternoon. There will be 16 presentations in total.  Topics include:
·         Planning for a secure pork supply in the event of a foreign animal disease outbreak (Dr. Jim Roth, Iowa State University)
·         The future state of the U.S. pork industry (Mark Greenwood, AgStar Financial Services)
·         Gene editing for animal agriculture: Practice and possibilities (Dr. Randy Prather, University of Missouri)
·         Can diet be used to improve gut health? What role does drinking water play? (Dr. John Patience, Iowa State University)
·         Countering misperceptions about the use of science in meat production (Dr. Joe Schwarcz, McGill University)
·         VFD’s: What have we learned in their implementation (Dr. Jeff Verzal, Iowa Dept. of Agriculture and Land Stewardship)
·         Update on viruses: Seneca, PRRSv, PEDv, etc (Dr. Pablo Pineyro, Iowa State University)
·         What is on the horizon for new engineering technologies applied to hog barns (Drs. Jay Harmon and Steve Hoff and Brett Ramirez, Iowa State University)
+ 8 other topics

More than 500 people registered last year, about a quarter of whom came from outside Iowa. More than 2.5 million sows were represented, along with many major feed, pharmaceutical, genetics and equipment companies.

Sponsorship has been very, very important to the success of Iowa Swine Day. Some 40 sponsors help to keep our registration costs very low, while at the same time providing top quality speakers.

As in previous years, a Program Committee made up of pork producers from across the state selected the topics and in many cases the speakers invited to Iowa Swine Day again this year.

The Organizing Committee consists of Drs. Jason Ross, Jay Harmon, Chris Rademacher, Ken Stalder and John Patience, with tremendous administrative support from Brent Pringnitz, Dessie Schroeder and Julie Roberts.

Further details will follow.  As in previous years, a BBQ organized by AB Vista and Techmix will follow the program.

2016 U.S. Pork Exports Show Impressive Progress

At year-end 2016, U.S. pork exports showed impressive progress following a challenging 2015. In 2016, 5.1 billion pounds of pork and pork variety meats valued at $5.94 billion dollars were exported, up 8 percent and 7 percent respectively from 2015, according to the USDA.

“We saw a strong 2016 for U.S. pork exports, but we still face challenges with increased global competition and a stronger U.S. dollar,” said Becca Nepple, vice president of international marketing for the Pork Checkoff. “The Checkoff is committed to bolstering its partnership with international customers through additional funding of in-country promotions of U.S. pork with the U.S. Meat Export Federation.”

On average, U.S. pork and pork variety meat exports accounted for 25.8 percent of total pork production in 2016. Export value returned an average $50.20 per head back to producers.

During 2016, more than 100 countries around the world imported U.S. pork.
-    The top five markets by volume were Mexico (1.61 billion pounds), China/Hong Kong (1.21 billion pounds), Japan (854.8 million pounds), Canada (452.2 million pounds) and Central and South America (299.7 million pounds).
-    The top five markets by value were Japan ($1.56 billion), Mexico ($1.355 billion), China and Hong Kong ($1.075 billion), Canada ($798.5 million) and Korea ($365.1 million).

With more pork available in the U.S., the National Pork Board recently approved an increase of 12.7 percent in funding for 2017 export market activities. This financial commitment translates into tangible marketing activities that increase U.S. pork exports to emerging and developing markets.

According to Nepple, promotions and marketing activities will focus on displacing other proteins and global competitors and on promoting larger pork cuts.

House Ag Committee Chairman to Speak at Commodity Classic

U.S. Congressman Mike Conaway, chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, will address the thousands of attendees at the 2017 Commodity Classic in San Antonio, March 2-4, 2017.

Congressman Conaway will speak during the popular General Session, which takes place from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. on Friday, March 3.

Serving his seventh term in the U.S. House of Representatives, Congressman Conaway represents 29 counties in Texas’ 11th congressional district, including the cities of Midland, Odessa and San Angelo.  A native Texan, he grew up in Odessa and earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in accounting from Texas A&AM University-Commerce.  A conservative Republican, Rep. Conaway’s background as a CPA gives him a unique perspective on fiscal responsibility.

In addition to his role as chair of the House Committee on Agriculture, Rep. Conaway also serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

“We are very pleased that Congressman Conaway has agreed to address Commodity Classic attendees,” said Ed Erickson, Jr., a North Dakota soybean farmer and co-chair of the 2017 Commodity Classic.  “With the change in administration in Washington, DC, the next Farm Bill due for debate, and discussions on international trade policy, the farmers attending Commodity Classic will be very interested to hear from one of the nation’s ag policy leaders on a wide range of issues.”

In addition to Congressman Conaway’s remarks, the General Session will include a presentation from John O’Leary, one of the most popular inspirational speakers on the circuit.  After suffering severe burns and amputations as a child, O’Leary shares a message of navigating adversity through decision-making, revealing a brighter vision for what’s possible and living boldly to impact others.

The General Session also features comments from the leadership of the four presenting commodity associations:  American Soybean Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Association of Wheat Growers and National Sorghum Producers.   A representative of the fifth Commodity Classic sponsor, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), will also make remarks.

All registration and housing reservations for Commodity Classic should be made online at  Experient is the official registration and housing provider for Commodity Classic.  Check the website for a listing of the official Commodity Classic hotels to secure your hotel accommodations.

Attendees may register for all three days of Commodity Classic or register for one day only.  For example, Friday registration includes the General Session, the early morning live taping of U.S. Farm Report, access to the huge Commodity Classic trade show with 425 exhibiting companies, the AG CONNECT Main Stage programs, and a wide range of educational sessions and technical presentations.  After the event, registrants will also be able to access on-line videos of selected educational sessions that took place on the days for which they were registered.

The 2017 Commodity Classic will be held at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.  The convention center will house most Commodity Classic events, including the Opening Reception, General Session, Evening of Entertainment, Trade Show, Learning Center Sessions and What’s New Sessions.

A detailed schedule of events is also available on the website.

Established in 1996, Commodity Classic is America's largest farmer-led, farmer-focused convention and trade show, produced by the National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Sorghum Producers, and Association of Equipment Manufacturers.

AFBF Joins Groups in Support of Farm Bill Funding

Reduced spending under the 2014 farm bill contributed greatly to the nation’s deficit reduction effort. However, additional cuts to the 2018 farm bill would present perils on many fronts, a diverse coalition today told congressional appropriations and budget leaders.

In a letter, 502 different groups, representing a wide range of constituents – from agriculture and nutrition assistance to rural development, conservation and local governments, said additional funding cuts would “hinder development and passage of the 2018 Farm Bill.”

Support for the letter was spearheaded by the American Farm Bureau Federation, Bread for the World, Feeding America, the Food Research & Action Center, the National Association of Counties, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

The letter strongly urged the congressional leaders “to reject calls for additional cuts” during a time when the agricultural and rural economies are showing stress, a significant number of American households financially are struggling to meet basic nutrition needs and U.S. farm income has declined 46 percent from only three years ago.

The last farm bill contributed $23 billion in savings to deficit reduction over 10 years at the time of passage, the letter states. That was the first time when spending for a farm bill was voluntarily reduced before Congress even began considering the measure.

“It was the only reauthorization bill in that Congress that voluntarily offered savings,” the letter said. “These difficult cuts resulted from hard choices made to reform and reduce the farm safety net, conservation initiatives, and nutrition assistance.”

In reality, savings from the 2014 farm bill was far more. The Congressional Budget Office’s January 2017 baseline estimates spending on nutrition and crop insurance alone was nearly $100 billion less than projected, while mandatory‎ federal spending outside the Agriculture Committees’ jurisdiction has risen over the same time period.

“We have all begun preparing for the 2018 Farm Bill and recognize that passing a bill with additional funding reductions would be extremely difficult, if not impossible,” the letter said. “Therefore, as the Senate and House Agriculture Committees begin preparing for the 2018 Farm Bill, it is imperative that the committees not be hamstrung by further budget or appropriations cuts to any farm bill program.”

The groups strongly encourage congressional leaders “to recognize the substantial savings already achieved, which far exceed expectations, and to provide the (Agriculture) committees the opportunity to complete their work through regular order, without arbitrary budget cuts or caps.”

“We know the (Agriculture) committees will once again face challenging budgetary and policy choices in the development of the 2018 Farm Bill,” the letter said. “That is why it is so important you ensure the committee process for the farm bill can proceed with some budget flexibility.”

American Ethanol Fuels NASCAR for 7th Season

The 69th NASCAR season kicks off this weekend during the Daytona 500. Amid all of the usual team, driver and sponsor paint-out design changes, Monster Energy also takes over as the Cup Series title sponsor, replacing Sprint. One thing that remains unchanged, however, is American Ethanol's footprint in the sport. "For the seventh straight year in a row, Sunoco Green E15 - a fuel blended with 15% American Ethanol - will power NASCAR," commented NCGA President Wesley Spurlock. "It's clear NASCAR is sticking with this winner. With over 500 million miles driven on E15 by American consumers, it looks as if E15 is also a proven winner at the pump." 

Also unchanged this season is American Ethanol's partnership with Richard Childress Racing (RCR) driver Austin Dillon. Last year, Dillon's racing accomplishments raised American Ethanol's exposure on the track. In last season's first American Ethanol paint-out, Dillon won the pole position in the Cup race at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. He picked up another pole award at Texas Motor Speedway, secured his first Chase berth, advanced to the championship's Round of 12 and finished the season 14th in point standings. Dillon's achievements coupled with NASCAR surpassing 10 million successful miles racing on E15, made 2016 a seminal year for American Ethanol.

American Ethanol also enjoyed an elevated profile off-track. Over the past year, the number of states selling E15 doubled. Consumers can now purchase E15 in 28 states at more than 630 gas stations, and can expect E15's availability to expand even more in 2017. 

Be sure to catch Austin Dillon in the No. 3 American Ethanol Chevrolet at the following 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races:
March 26 - Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California
May 13 - Go Bowling 400 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas
July 1 - Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida
July 30 - Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania
September 3 - Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina
October 15 - Alabama 500 at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama

CWT Assists with 1.3 Million Pounds of Cheese Export Sales

Cooperatives Working Together (CWT) has accepted 6 requests for export assistance on contracts to sell 1.347 million pounds (611 metric tons) of Cheddar cheese to customers in Asia and Oceania. The product has been contracted for delivery in the period from February through May 2017.

So far this year, CWT has assisted member cooperatives who have contracts to sell 8.374 million pounds of American-type cheeses, and 1.323 million pounds of butter (82% milkfat) to 10 countries on three continents. The sales are the equivalent of 107.057 million pounds of milk on a milkfat basis.

Assisting CWT members through the Export Assistance program in the long term helps member cooperatives gain and maintain market share, thus expanding the demand for U.S. dairy products and the U.S. farm milk that produces them. This, in turn, positively affects all U.S. dairy farmers by strengthening and maintaining the value of dairy products that directly impact their milk price.

Feed a Bee launches RFP for $500,000 pollinator forage initiative

Bayer, in coordination with the new Feed a Bee steering committee, today announced a call for proposals to establish additional forage for pollinators in all 50 states by 2018. Bayer’s Feed a Bee program, currently in its third year, has rallied more than 900,000 individuals and 117 partner organizations to plant more than 2 billion wildflowers across the U.S., creating and expanding forage areas for pollinators. Through this new initiative, Feed a Bee will build on the success of the program to fund forage initiatives and plantings for pollinators in every state in the U.S., working with organizations across the nation.  

To further the reach of Feed a Bee and contribute to additional forage development, the Feed a Bee Steering Committee, comprised of more than a dozen Feed a Bee partners, including R.D. Offutt Company, Sweet Virginia Foundation, Project Apis m., amongst others, as well as representatives from the Bayer Bee Care Program, will distribute $500,000 in funding over the next two years.

“We convened the steering committee to address an extreme need, now more than ever, to invest in forage and planting initiatives across the country,” said Dr. Becky Langer, project manager, North American Bee Health, Crop Science, a division of Bayer. “Today’s announcement represents a collaborative effort of some of the leading bee health stakeholders who are making it our mission to support the expansion of these programs and make sure organizations in every state in the U.S. have the opportunity to bring their pollinator initiatives to life.”

The committee is requesting forage initiative proposals that will promote pollinator health and help provide a tangible solution to the current lack of forage. Organizations including, but not limited to, nonprofits, growers (individual and trade groups), beekeepers (individual and associations), businesses, schools, clubs, gardening groups, government agencies, etc. are encouraged to submit a proposal.

Forage initiatives in each state must include the following priorities to be considered for funding:
1. Establishing pollinator forage via a dedicated planting or habitat restoration led by the applying organization. Examples of activities may include but are not limited to establishing a pollinator garden, increasing acreage of existing forage, management of right of way vegetation, restoration of native habitat land, etc. Location must be viable and able to support pollinator forage plants (wildflowers, ornamentals or trees) and pollinators, including (but not limited to) farms, community/urban gardens, schools, rights-of-way, etc.
2. Education initiative encouraging others to establish pollinator forage. Promote pollinator education to third parties, sharing with them the importance of planting diverse, abundant forage to provide pollinators with enough food.

Proposals should address one or more of the above priority areas and include:
Executive project summary (500 words max.)
Requested dollar amount with itemized budget
Proposal – background, objective, methods, results
Partners involved in project
Project site – If requesting funds for planting, is the site currently available or still to be identified? How will it be maintained after installation?
Funding will be distributed in grants of $1,000; $2,500 or $5,000, and proposals will be accepted on a rolling basis. Proposals submitted before March 31, 2017 will be considered for initiatives and events to occur July – September 2017. The first projects funded will be announced during National Pollinator Week, June 19-25, 2017.   Visit beginning March 3, 2017, for more information on how to submit proposals.

The Feed a Bee Steering Committee members forging this program forward with the help of facilitator Sarah Myers, education lead at the Bayer Bee Care Center, include:
Barry Nevaras, Massey Services
Becky Langer, Bayer Bee Health
Billy Synk, Project Apis m.
Dan Price, Sweet Virginia Foundation
Diane Wilson, Applewood Seed
Doris Mold, American Agri-Women
Keith Norris, The Wildlife Society
Nikki Hindle, Ernst Conservation Seed
Rick Johnstone, IVM Partners
Sandy Farber, University of D.C.
Scott Longing, Texas Tech University
Scott Witte, The Bee Barometer Project at Cantigny Golf
Vince Restucci, R.D. Offutt Company
Zac Browning, Honey Bee and Monarch Butterfly Partnership

Feed a Bee is one of several programs sponsored by Bayer’s Bee Care Program, continuing its nearly 30 years of supporting bee health. For more information on Bayer’s bee health initiatives, please visit: You can also follow and share with us on Twitter @BayerBeeCare, on Facebook at and view photos on Flickr.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Monday February 20 Ag News

Private Applicators Need Certification

All farmers who use restricted use pesticide must have a current certification card according to the Nebraska Department of Agriculture. The Nebraska Extension is conducting the following training sessions which are approved for renewal or initial certification according to Nebraska Extension Educator Larry Howard of Cuming County.  Again this year, there will be a fee charged to support the cost of materials.  Producers are reminded to bring their old cards or the letter with the form at the bottom that they received from the Nebraska Department of Agriculture if they are re-certifying.

Each session last approximately three hours and will be held in West Point at the Nielsen Community Center on Thursday, March 2 at 1:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

For additional information, contact the Nebraska Extension office in Cuming County at 402/372-6006.

SCN Now Confirmed in 58 Counties; How About Your Field? 

John Wilson - NE Extension Educator
Loren Giesler - NE Extension Plant Pathologist

Thirty years ago last fall, a microscopic pest was identified in a Richardson County soybean field near Falls City. The next spring, a comprehensive sampling program identified the same pest in six counties bordering the Missouri River as well as Pawnee County. Levels of this pest in the soil indicated it had been here much longer, but had gone undetected.

Thirty years later, this pest, the soybean cyst nematode (SCN) is causing more yield losses for soybean growers in Nebraska and across the U.S. than all other soybean diseases combined! Last year SCN cost Nebraska farmers an estimated $40 million in lost yields; nationally, that loss is estimated at $1.5 billion.

Nebraska Soybean Board Supports SCN Sampling

Without a concentrated effort to sample fields for SCN, it was identified in 27 counties over the next 19 years. Then in 2005, the Nebraska Soybean Board started an extremely successful program that continues today. It provides Nebraska soybean farmers with free soil analysis for SCN by the UNL Department of Plant Pathology. It started slowly, but over the years it grew and has now processed 8,230 samples, almost a third of which have been positive for SCN.

This program had an immediate impact. The first year of the program SCN was identified in seven new counties and in the first seven years, the number of counties where SCN had been identified doubled the number found in the previous 19 years. This illustrates the importance of sampling. In most fields, the grower had no idea SCN was present, but he or she knew their soybeans weren’t yielding as well as they expected or as well as their neighbor’s fields. Farmers can have 20%-30% yield losses with no visible symptoms on the plant—the plant looks dark green and healthy.

We are pleased to have the Nebraska Soybean Board as our partner in this soil sampling effort. They recognized what a serious problem SCN was to soybean growers and, without their support, we would not have reached this many Nebraska farmers. Support from the Nebraska Soybean Board covers the cost of analyzing the soil samples, normally $20 per sample.

Indicators of SCN

Often the first sign of an SCN infestation is when soybean yields hit a plateau or even start to drop off, while corn yields in that field continue to increase.

SCN infestations are rarely uniform across a field. Other signs include field areas you visually observe or that show up on your yield maps with lower-than-expected yields not explained by differences in soil type, weed pressure, herbicide injury, insect infestations, flooded or compacted areas, or other factors. 

Another possible sign of SCN infestations are pockets of sudden death syndrome (SDS) or brown stem rot (BSR). Both of these diseases enter the plant through the roots. Because SCN attacks the roots of a plant, they create microscopic wounds that make it easier for these diseases to infect a plant. It is possible to have SDS or BSR without SCN in a field, or you may have SCN in a field without SDS or BSR. However, in areas where SCN populations are highest, you are more likely to have either of these diseases.

If you observe any of these signs of SCN, collect and analyze a soil sample from the lower yielding area and one from the higher yielding area and compare the SCN egg counts.

Identifying the problem in individual fields is important because once you know you have SCN in a fields, you can start managing this devastating pest.

Next Steps

Although SCN often goes undetected, it is here and reducing profitability for Nebraska soybean producers. To learn more about SCN or to pick up bags to submit soil samples from your fields, contact your local Nebraska Extension office.

Announcing the 7th Annual SCN ‘Tode Awards 

Each year the results of soybean cyst nematode soil tests conducted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Department of Plant Pathology are reviewed and analyzed. Based on the 2016 SCN tests in Nebraska, the following counties were recognized:

In the category of Most (#) Samples Submitted:
Winner: Seward County (63)
Honorable Mention: Madison (62), Buffalo (53), and Antelope (50)

In the category of Most (#) Samples Positive for SCN:
Winner: Seward County (32)
Honorable Mention: Antelope (29), Madison (19), and York (16)

In the category of Most (%) Samples Positive for SCN: (must have submitted at least five samples)
Winner: York County (89%)
Honorable Mention: Richardson (80%), Burt (71%), and Dodge (70%)

In the category of Sample with Highest Egg Count: (# eggs/100 ccs of soil)
Winner: Holt County (42,240)
Honorable Mention: Dixon (38,320), Antelope (28,640), and Rock (14,480)

And finally, in the category of Counties with First SCN Detection:
Winners: none!

We had no county where SCN was detected for the first time this year. That isn’t completely surprising as the counties where SCN has already been detected produce about 93% of the soybeans grown in Nebraska. Our chances of finding a new county are becoming less and less. What is noteworthy is that two counties, Antelope and Seward, have now submitted over 100 samples that tested positive for moderate (>500 eggs/100 cc’s of soil) or high levels of SCN.

Dormant Spraying Alfalfa Weeds 

Bruce Anderson - NE Extension Forage Specialist

Before the warm weather greens up your alfalfa, consider the advantages of starting your weed control now.

Weeds like pennycress, downy brome, mustards, cheatgrass, and shepherd's purse are common in first cut alfalfa.  They lower yields, reduce quality, lessen palatability, and slow hay drydown. If you walk over your fields during the next few weeks when snow is gone, you should be able to see their small, green, over-wintering growth.

If your alfalfa variety is Roundup Ready, you can spray almost anytime without hurting your alfalfa. Once conventional alfalfa starts growing, though, you can't control these weeds very well without also hurting your alfalfa.  However, if you treat your alfalfa as soon as possible during this spring-like weather, you can have cleaner, healthier alfalfa at first cutting.

Before spraying these weeds, be sure they are causing economic damage to your alfalfa. Spraying will give you more pure alfalfa but may cost some in total tonnage.

Several herbicides can help control winter annual grasses and weeds in conventional alfalfa. They include metribuzin, Velpar, Sinbar, Pursuit, Raptor, and Karmex.  They all control mustards and pennycress, but Karmex and Pursuit do not control downy brome very well.

Timing is crucial when controlling winter annual weeds in alfalfa. To be most successful, you must apply most of these herbicides before alfalfa shoots green up this spring to avoid much injury to your alfalfa.  If alfalfa shoots are green when you spray, plant growth may be set back a couple weeks. If it does get late before you can make an application, use either Raptor or Pursuit because they tend to cause less injury to alfalfa.

Be Alert to Risk of Alfalfa Winter Injury 

Like many alfalfa growers this year, I’m a little worried about what this winter may do to our alfalfa fields.

Alfalfa usually is a dependable crop. It seems to come back year after year. After the nice winters. After the cold winters. And even after the ugly winters. But what about this winter?

I’m not good at predictions and I’m not going to tell you that your alfalfa will be fine this spring nor will I predict that it winterkilled, but I will suggest that you check it extra closely this spring to judge how well it made it through this winter.

The recent long spell of daytime temperatures in the 50s, 60s, and even some 70s probably awakened at least some alfalfa plants from winter dormancy. When alfalfa plants break winter dormancy they use nutrients stored in their roots and crown and start to grow as if spring has arrived.

A return to average winter temperatures forces these plants back into dormancy. Another streak of warm weather could break dormancy again, using more nutrient reserves. If this is followed by more cold weather, eventually the alfalfa plants will exhaust their reserves and be unable to start growing when spring truly does return.

Another problem in other areas has been snow followed by melting followed by freezing. Prolonged or repeated formation of ice at or on the soil surface can prevent the exchange of gases between the air and the soil. As alfalfa roots respire during winter they produce some gases that can become toxic to alfalfa plants if too concentrated. The roots also need some oxygen to respire and remain healthy. Without this interchange plants can essentially suffocate.

It’s impossible to predict if alfalfa will be hurt this winter. Since weather conditions have been risky, be ready to check your fields and make any necessary adjustments early.

McKenzie Beals Awarded Sitzman Youth in Nebraska Agriculture Scholarship

McKenzie Beals of Friend, NE, has been awarded the 2017 Larry E. Sitzman Youth in Nebraska Agriculture Scholarship.

McKenzie is a senior studying Animal Science/Pre-Veterinary Medicine at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. She has been accepted as a member of the veterinary school class of 2021, in the cooperative program between the University of Nebraska – Lincoln and Iowa State University. Upon graduation, she plans to focus in food animal medicine and will return to rural Nebraska to help producers improve herd health, management, and sustainability of livestock production while maintaining the integrity and quality of the food supply that feeds the world.

McKenzie has experienced the diversity and breadth of agriculture, growing up around swine, beef cattle, sheep, and horses. Therefore she understands how all agriculture industries have a common goal of feeding the world, protecting hard working farmers and ranchers, and promoting the agriculture industry to the public.

McKenzie says, “As a veterinarian, you are more than just your title, you are a role model and a community leader. I’m excited for my future as a veterinarian where I will impact agriculture in my work, membership with agricultural organizations, and as a role model to young people interested in agriculture.”

Dr. Ronald Lewis, professor of animal breeding and genomics at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln wrote, “McKenzie has a passion for our agricultural industries, with the capacity to make a difference. Her personal qualities and ambition, coupled with her community spirit and leadership skills personify the vision of Larry Sitzman and this scholarship program.”

McKenzie is the scholarship chair for Sigma Alpha Professional Agriculture Sorority, treasurer for the Pre-Veterinary Medicine Club, historian/social media chair for Tau Sigma Transfer Honor Society and a member of many other organizations on and off campus.

McKenzie says, “Using my varied experiences and knowledge of the agriculture industry, I can promote and be a leader for the agriculture industry in the fullest way possible.”

The Larry E. Sitzman Youth in Nebraska Agriculture Scholarship is a $1,000 scholarship, which was awarded to McKenzie during the Annual Meeting of the Nebraska Pork Producers Association on February 14, 2017.

Rural Mainstreet Climbs to Highest Level Since September 2015

The Creighton University Rural Mainstreet Index remained weak with a reading below growth neutral for the 18th straight month, according to the monthly survey of bank CEOs in rural areas of a 10-state region dependent on agriculture and/or energy. 

Overall: The index, which ranges between 0 and 100 advanced to 45.8 from 42.8 in January. This is the highest overall index since September 2015.

“Weak farm commodity prices continue to squeeze Rural Mainstreet economies. However, the negatives are getting less negative. Over the past 12 months, livestock commodity prices have tumbled by 9.4 percent and grain commodity prices have slumped by 6.3 percent, both an improvement over last month,” said Ernie Goss, Jack A. MacAllister Chair in Regional Economics at Creighton University'sHeider College of Business.

Only 14.9 percent of bankers reported that their local economy was expanding. Approximately 34 percent indicated their local economy was in a recession with the remaining 51.1 percent indicating little or no economic growth.

Nebraska: The Nebraska RMI for February declined to 47.1 from 52.6 in January. The state’s farmland-price index rose to 39.3 from January’s 37.7. Nebraska’s new-hiring index climbed 58.3 from 56.1 in January.

Iowa: The February RMI for Iowa fell to 46.1 from 50.2 in January. Iowa’s farmland-price index for February sank to 40.1 from 48.6 in January.  Iowa’s new-hiring index for February slipped to a still strong 58.6 from January’s 60.1.

Farming and ranching: The farmland and ranchland-price index for February dipped to a frail 33.7 from January’s 33.8. This is the 39th straight month the index has languished below growth neutral 50.0.

Bankers indicated that farmland prices in their area had declined by an average of 5.1 percent across the region over the past 12 months.

The February farm equipment-sales index increased to 20.5 from 16.7 in January.  Almost three-fourths of the bankers expect agriculture equipment sales to continue to decline over the next 12 months. Only 4.3 percent expect agriculture equipment sales to increase over the same period of time.

Confidence: The confidence index, which reflects expectations for the economy six months out, improved to a weak 45.7 from 42.7 in January indicating a continued pessimistic outlook among bankers. “Until agricultural commodity prices begin to trend higher, I expect banker’s economic outlook to remain weak,” said Goss.


When scours, pink eye or respiratory disease strikes a cow-calf herd or feedlot pen, quick and accurate diagnosis of the culprit pathogen is key to containing the damage.

A new instrument has enabled veterinarians at the Nebraska Veterinary Diagnostic Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to identify potentially deadly bacteria in a matter of minutes – compared to the days it once took to identify pathogens via lab culture.

The $250,000 instrument uses MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry, which stands for Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption/Ionization-Time of Flight. Purchased at the urging of the Nebraska Cattlemen and the Nebraska Veterinary Medial Association, the device will be a centerpiece of the new $44.7 million veterinary lab now under construction on the university's East Campus.

Approved by the Nebraska Legislature in 2012, the new diagnostic facility is expected to open June 1. Donors provided 10 percent of the facility cost; the rest will be paid with state bonds in the next 10 years.

As a sign of the future and of the university's commitment to the region's livestock and animal health industries, the MALDI-TOF already is an integral part of the center's diagnostic procedures. It is used to diagnose ailments in pets and zoo animals, as well as livestock.

"The new MALDI-TOF in the Veterinary Diagnostic Center was purchased in order to provide our clients with new cutting-edge technology regarding identification of bacterial pathogens in a timely and accurate fashion," said Alan Doster, director of the Veterinary Diagnostic Center.

With an infectious disease, every day matters for the animal and the herd, said Dustin Loy, faculty supervisor of bacteriology in the laboratory. Some pathogens, such as E. coli and Salmonella, can cross over species to cause human illnesses. Others have become antibiotic resistant, making quick identification even more critical. The wrong medication not only is ineffective – it could foster even more antibiotic-resistant strains.

"It makes our throughput faster and our capacity higher and we can get diagnoses faster," Loy said. "Then we can treat faster and more appropriately, whether it's choosing the right antibiotic or vaccine or some other intervention."

For example, a 2014 case in which a shiga toxin-producing E. coli strain was found in a Nebraska feedlot relied on quick action and diagnosis. After observing bloody diarrhea among the heifer calves in the affected pen, the feedlot crew treated the animals for a parasitic infection. One animal was euthanized after displaying neurological symptoms. An immediate necropsy enabled university veterinarians to identify the E. coli infection, which appeared to be the first report in cattle of disease associated with that strain of E. coli.

Because that E. coli strain can cause human illness, the case led to a call for Nebraska veterinarians and livestock producers to watch for additional cases among cattle.

"Although we did not have the MALDI for this case, this type of situation underscores the impact diagnostics can have on potential public health issues," Loy said. “If we had had the MALDI, we would have been able to get the information to the veterinarian and the producer even faster."

Developed in Japan and awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 2002, the MALDI-TOF technology previously was used mostly for research. Recent improvements in bioinformatics and software now allow it also to be used for clinical purposes. The instrument is becoming standard equipment in the top veterinary labs across the country. Loy said Nebraska is one of about 30 U.S. veterinary diagnostic laboratories that have the instrument. About 60 state and university animal diagnostic laboratories, including Nebraska's, are part of the USDA's National Animal Health Laboratory Network.

When an animal becomes ill, veterinarians working with livestock producers, pet owners and even zoos submit samples from blood, stool, swabs, bedding or tissue for bacterial culture to the diagnostic center. The MALDI-TOF instrument requires a bacterial sample only the size of a tip of a toothpick.

A matrix material is applied to the samples, which are inserted into the machine via a port. A laser heats the matrix, which causes a microexplosion that vaporizes the bacteria into ionized proteins. The proteins are identified by their mass and charge as they fly through a vacuum chamber and collide with a detector. Each species of bacterium has its own mass spectrum "fingerprint." A nearby computer screen reveals the peaks, intensity and size of the spectra. The instrument has the capacity to compare and match with 7,000 reference strains of bacteria, Loy said, with Nebraska scientists constantly adding more to the database.

For example, Loy specializes in the study of pink eye and respiratory diseases found in calves. His undergraduate student, Kara Robbins, a pre-vet honors student from Brookings, South Dakota, is working to validate the method to identify a diverse collection of bacteria in the genus Moraxella, which cause pink eye, so that they can be accurately identified via MALDI-TOF.

Doster explained that the laboratory previously needed two to four days to use fermentation or media growth methods to culture a large enough sample of bacteria to identify it and to determine its antibiotic sensitivity.

Research now underway will develop methods to use the MALDI-TOF to determine which bacteria are more likely to be resistant to antibiotics or more pathogenic based on the specific proteins found in the individual bacteria.

The instrument represents a significant change for bacteriologists such as Loy.

"For me, professionally, it's a paradigm change," he said. "We're moving from classic, test-tube biochemical testing and phenotyping to using a proteomics-based approach. It's driven by computing capacity. This device can take large numbers of spectra and analyze them so quickly. The applications of this technology are just beginning."

Field Crop Scout School March 25 in Ames

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach will offer a Field Crop Scout School Saturday, March 25, at the Scheman Building in Ames. Designed for beginning crop scouts, the day-long course features sessions on crop growth and development, scouting methods and techniques, and identification of weeds, diseases and insects.

"The school provides a basic understanding of crop pests, how to identify them and field guides to help with identification," said Warren Pierson, program specialist for the Field Extension Education Laboratory with ISU Extension and Outreach. "It's very important to be able to identify insects, weeds and diseases to carry out a successful integrated pest management plan. Especially right now, when margins are tight, you want to make management decisions including applications that are timely and cost effective."

Kollin DeBerg, a senior in ag studies at Iowa State, attended the Field Crop Scout School in 2015 as an incoming intern for Innovative Ag Services. He believes the educational materials helped better prepare him for his internship.

"I also really liked the discussion on weed identification and learning more about the growth stages of crops," DeBerg said. "The scout school gives you a good base of scouting knowledge to know what to look for when you are out in the field. I would recommend attending the scout school because it teaches you something new and provides you with useful materials that you can use in the field."

Pre-registration is required and must be completed before midnight, March 17. The registration fee of $100 includes field guides, course handouts, lunch and breaks. Additional information and online registration is available at Registration fees includes copies of the Corn and Soybean Field Guide, Weed Identification Field Guide, and Field Crops Insects publication. Check-in will begin at 8:30 a.m. on March 25, with sessions beginning at 9 a.m. and adjourning at 3 p.m.

New this year is an optional session providing agricultural worker pesticide safety training, as outlined by the Worker Protection Standard. Certifications of completion for the training will be provided. The optional agricultural worker pesticide safety training session will begin at 3 p.m. and conclude at 4:10 p.m.

Deere Announces First-Quarter Earnings of $194 Million

Net income attributable to Deere & Company was $193.8 million, or $0.61 per share, for the first quarter ended January 29, compared with $254.4 million, or $0.80 per share, for the period ended January 31, 2016. Worldwide net sales and revenues for the first quarter increased 2 percent, to $5.625 billion, compared with $5.525 billion last year. Net sales of the equipment operations were $4.698 billion for the quarter compared with $4.769 billion a year ago.

"John Deere has started out the year on a positive note in the continued face of soft market conditions," said Samuel R. Allen, chairman and chief executive officer. "Although the quarter's sales and earnings were somewhat lower than last year, all of our businesses remained solidly profitable. Deere's performance showed further benefits from the sound execution of its operating plans, the strength of a broad product portfolio and the impact of a more flexible cost structure. At the same time, we are seeing signs that after several years of steep declines key agricultural markets may be stabilizing."

Summary of Operations

Net sales of the worldwide equipment operations declined 1 percent for the quarter. Sales included price realization of 2 percent and a favorable currency-translation effect of 1 percent. Equipment net sales in the United States and Canada decreased 8 percent. Outside the U.S. and Canada, net sales increased 11 percent, with a favorable currency-translation effect of 1 percent.

Deere's equipment operations reported operating profit of $247 million for the quarter, compared with $214 million in 2016. The improvement for the quarter was primarily driven by price realization, partially offset by expenses associated with the previously announced voluntary employee-separation program, higher warranty costs and the unfavorable effects of foreign-currency exchange. Additionally, the current quarter benefited from a gain on the sale of a partial interest in the unconsolidated affiliate SiteOne Landscape Supply, Inc.

Net income of the company's equipment operations was $80 million for the quarter, compared with $127 million for the same period last year. In addition to the operating factors mentioned above, a higher effective tax rate in 2017 reduced quarterly results.

Financial services reported net income attributable to Deere &  Company of $114.4 million for the quarter compared with $129.4 million last year. Lower results for the quarter were primarily due to less-favorable financing spreads and voluntary separation expenses.