Friday, December 9, 2016

Thursday December 8 Ag News

Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation’s Inaugural Grower’s Gala Auction a Success

The Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation held its Inaugural Grower’s Gala on Dec. 5 during the 2016 Nebraska Farm Bureau Annual Convention. The evening was filled with dinner, a live auction, and entertainment by rockabilly duo The Time Burners.

The live auction featured a Golfer’s Dream Getaway at the Prairie Club in Valentine, a Case power washer, sporting events, and travel and entertainment packages. Wayne Thunker of Keith County Farm Bureau was the lucky winner of the Remington 870 Wingmaster shotgun raffle.

“We are grateful for the more than 300 people that attended the Grower’s Gala and supported the future of agriculture,” said Megahn Schafer, executive director of the Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation. “The money raised from the event will go to support our programs which connect with youth and consumers and share the message that agriculture is important to all Nebraskans.”

More than $47,000.00 was raised in support of the Foundation’s programs including Nebraska Agriculture in the Classroom, the Ag Pen Pal program, scholarships and awards, and consumer engagement efforts.

Special thanks to auctioneer Rick Shoemaker and the following live auction and raffle donors: Rob Robertson, Lincoln Salt Dogs, Embassy Suites Downtown Lincoln, Titan Machinery of Fremont, Lied Center for Performing Arts, Lincoln Marriott Cornhusker, CASE IH, Andrew Ward, Steve and Elma Nelson, Green Line Equipment, Kevin and Penny Burch, NMC CAT, Phelps-Gosper County Farm Bureau, Great Wolf Lodge, Kevin Lofton, and Nebraska Farm Bureau Southeast Membership District.

Valmont Board Declares Quarterly Dividend

The Board of Directors of Valmont Industries, Inc has declared a quarterly dividend of 37.5 cents per share payable on January 17, 2017 to shareholders of record on December 30, 2016. The dividend indicates an annual rate of $1.50 per share.

Valmont is a global leader, designing and manufacturing engineered products that support global infrastructure development and agricultural productivity. Its products for infrastructure serve highway, transportation, wireless communication, electric transmission, and industrial construction and energy markets. Its mechanized irrigation equipment for large scale agriculture improves farm productivity while conserving fresh water resources.

In addition, Valmont provides coatings services that protect against corrosion and improve the service lives of steel and other metal products.


The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship today announced the passage of the referendum to reinstate the $.50 per head Iowa beef checkoff that was held November 30th.

The preliminary results show a positive vote of 56 percent to 44 percent in favor of reinstating the assessment.  A simple majority was needed for passage.

The Department has until December 30th to certify the referendum results.  Collection of the checkoff will begin March 1, 2017.

The Iowa beef checkoff will be mandatory, but refunds will be available to interested producers. The federal beef checkoff of $1 per head remains in place and would not be affected by the Iowa vote.

A petition to vote on the state beef checkoff was delivered to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship on September 2 by the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association. The petition contained over 500 signatures of cattle producers in the state of Iowa who are interested in a referendum.

ICA & IBIC pleased with state beef checkoff referendum results

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship today announced the passage of the referendum to reinstate the $.50 per head Iowa beef checkoff that was held November 30th. 

The preliminary results show a positive vote of 56 percent to 44 percent in favor of reinstating the referendum.  A simple majority was needed for passage.

The Department has until December 30th to certify the referendum results.  Collection of the checkoff will begin March 1, 2017.

The Iowa Cattlemen’s Association (ICA) was responsible for changes to Iowa code 181 regarding the state checkoff, and also delivered a petition with 500 signatures of cattle producers interested in a referendum to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.

ICA’s board of volunteer leaders gathered input from members across the state before initiating the process to reinstate the state assessment. The feedback indicated five priority use options for state checkoff funds and the Iowa code governing the state beef checkoff now includes those priorities, which are:
-Marketing & promoting Iowa’s beef and beef products
-Enhancing Iowa’s beef industry image
-Production research
-Expanding international trade relationships
-Providing producer, consumer, and youth educational opportunities

“We are very pleased with the results of the referendum. Reinstating our state checkoff has been a priority mission for the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association over the last year and we've been encouraged at each step in the process by the input and support of producers around the state,” says Dr. Phil Reemtsma, veterinarian and president of the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association.

The Iowa beef checkoff will be mandatory, but refunds will be available to interested producers. The federal beef checkoff of $1 per head remains in place and would not be affected by the Iowa vote.

The federal beef checkoff is administered by a board of directors representing Iowa cattle producers. The state beef checkoff will be administered by the 10 member executive committee who will serve on both boards of directors for the Iowa Beef Industry Council.

“We look forward to the opportunity with additional funding to build beef demand both domestically and globally.  We work on behalf of Iowa’s cattle producers for the long-term sustained growth of the Iowa beef industry,” says Scott Heater, Chairman of the Iowa Beef Industry Council.

2017 Feedlot Forum to Focus on Lingering Issues

The new year is a time of new beginnings, but beef feedlot producers know that much of their future is quite uncertain. To help them learn more about what they need to know and the decisions they need to make, these issues — Veterinary Feed Directive, feedlot assessments, market volatility, market prices and industry updates — will be center stage at Feedlot Forum 2017. The event is set for Tuesday, Jan. 17, at the Terrace View Event Center in Sioux Center, and opens with a trade show at 8:30 a.m.

feedlot forum 2017Iowa State University Extension and Outreach beef program specialist Beth Doran said all the issues to be covered continue to be timely to the industry. Market volatility especially is a concern, with historical extremes from record high prices to fed cattle prices of less than $100/cwt.

“This is why we’re having David Lehman of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Group present a CME update,” Doran said. “We know everyone is concerned, but the real question is how to correct the huge volatility in the market. He’ll help us understand the current situation and how to think about the future.”

Other topics and nationally recognized presenters at Feedlot Forum 2017 include:
-    Veterinary Feed Directive: What the Producer Needs to Know - Grant Dewell, DVM at Iowa State University
-    What’s on the Packer’s Horizon - Lora Wright, Tyson
-    Taking Control of Your Cattle Price - Carl Babler, Atten and Babler Commodities, LLC
-    The Beef Checkoff Program Update - Doug Bear and Kent Pruismann, Iowa Beef Industry Council
-    ICA Update - Matt Deppe, Iowa Cattlemen’s Association
-    District 1 ICA Update - Craig Moss, Iowa Cattlemen’s Association Director

“This year’s forum also features 26 trade show exhibitors — a record,” Doran said. “They are all very in-tune with and supportive of the topics that will be presented.”

Feedlot Forum 2017 is co-hosted by ISU Extension and Outreach, Iowa Beef Center, and the Sioux, Lyon, Plymouth and Iowa Cattlemen’s Associations. Special highlights include a steak dinner and a $10 beef certificate to each attendee.

Registration is $25 per person, with a special reduced rate of $10 for students. People should register at the ISU Extension and Outreach Sioux County Office by Jan. 12. The event brochure contains the complete agenda, list of sponsors and registration form. For more information, call the ISU Extension and Outreach Sioux County Office at 712-737-4230.

Heinrich re-elected Iowa Farm Bureau Vice President

Johnson Elected, Podhajsky, Rozenboom Re-Elected to State Board of Directors

Joe Heinrich of Maquoketa was re-elected vice president of the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) for a two-year term at the organization’s 98th annual meeting in Des Moines.  Heinrich has served as IFBF vice president since 2011.

Heinrich, a Jackson County farmer, farms with his family, including his wife Shelley and a nephew.  Together, they have a diversified farming operation including corn, soybeans, oats, and hay.  They also have a beef cow-calf herd and a dairy operation.  Heinrich was first elected to the IFBF board in 2004, representing District 6, prior to his service as vice president.  Before his election to the state board, Heinrich served as Jackson County president, vice president, voting delegate, young farmer chair, and served on the state internal study committee.

IFBF voting delegates also re-elected Nick Podhajsky of Tama County and Calvin Rozenboom of Mahaska County to the state board of directors.  Brent Johnson of Calhoun County was elected to the state board, following the retirement of Doug Gronau of Crawford County.  Each director will serve a three-year term.

Podhajsky represents District 6, which consists of 11 counties in eastern Iowa.  He was elected to the position in 2011.  Podhajsky was a 2010 Iowa delegate representative for the American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting and has served in many other elected positions in his county Farm Bureau office, including president and county voting delegate.

Rozenboom represents District 8, which consists of 10 counties in south central Iowa.  He was elected to the position in 2001.  Before that, he was very active in the Mahaska County Farm Bureau where he served as president and vice president.  He has also served as chairman of the IFBF swine advisory committee and as a member of the IFBF resolutions committee.  He was also a member of the AFBF swine advisory committee.  He has spent six years on the board of directors of CRWRC, an international relief agency which currently serves in 28 countries, primarily providing community development, health education, literacy services and disaster relief.

Brent Johnson was elected to represent District 4, which consists of 12 counties in west central Iowa.  Prior to his election to the state board of directors, Johnson served as president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer of the Calhoun County Farm Bureau.  Johnson and his wife LuAnn farm near Manson and grow corn, soybeans and have a herd of beef cattle.

Nine delegates were elected to represent Iowa at the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) Annual Convention in Phoenix, January 8-13.  They include: IFBF President Craig Hill of Warren County; IFBF Vice President Joe Heinrich of Jackson County; Nick Podhajsky of Tama County; Gary Rayhons of Hancock County; Terry Murray of Buena Vista County; Allen Burt of Marshall County; Karen Seipold of Mills County; Don Swanson of Wapello County; and Andy Hill of Worth County.  Steve Hoffman of Decatur County was elected as an alternate.

Matt Schuiteman of Sioux County was elected to a three-year term on the IFBF internal study committee.  The internal study committee serves as a liaison between the county Farm Bureau voting delegates and the state board of directors. 

Soy Growers Participate in Mission to Argentina

U.S. soy growers traveled to Argentina earlier this month to discuss market access issues and priorities for the coming year.

The U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) participated in an International Soybean Growers Alliance (ISGA) mission, which provides an excellent forum to share experiences and exchange ideas on how to address the challenges farmers face from many different sources. American Soybean Association Director and USSEC Chairman Jim Miller, joined United Soybean Board (USB) Director Jimmy Sneed, USSEC CEO Jim Sutter and USSEC Marketing Director – Market Access / Freedom to Operate Roz Leeck in the USSEC delegation.

This meeting in Argentina was a significant step forward on setting the agenda and priorities for the upcoming year. It also marked the first official meetings since Argentina’s ISGA members assumed the role of Secretariat. The group continues to target market access issues of mutual interest.

Key topics included:  biotechnology approvals and acceptance (especially in China, India and European Union), pesticide tolerance levels and the market acceptance of soy products derived by using Plant Breeding Innovation. The group also shared issues that farmers face in each of the member countries.  Many of these issues are regarding regulatory and social pressures.

Prior to participating in the ISGA meetings, the group visited Rosario, Santa Fe, stopping at a farm for an afternoon of discussion and a field tour. They also visited T6, a joint venture between Bunge and AGD, which is one of the largest crush plants in the world in addition to serving as an export facility for soy, soy products, corn and wheat.

The ISGA delegation had the opportunity to meet with the Minister of Agriculture and the Secretary of Agriculture. In those meetings, a number of different issues were discussed, including the changes Argentina has made in Differential Export Tax as well as the ongoing debate on seed law and intellectual property protection.

Both the Minister and Secretary recognized the significance of the six soy producing nations coming together to work on market access issues of mutual concern and encouraged the farmers to continue their efforts. This view was also expressed when the U.S. team met with David Mergen, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Ag Counselor located in Buenos Aires.

Merger Discussions, Elections Push Soy Checkoff into 26th Year

Navigating profitability through challenging times. That’s the thought on every soybean farmer’s mind and it resonates strongly with those appointed to serve on the United Soybean Board (USB). Charged with the fiduciary responsibility to invest farmer checkoff funds in research and promotion, USB takes the commitment to maximizing U.S. soybean farmers’ profit opportunities seriously.

Meeting for their annual board meeting, the farmer-leaders looked hard at investments that can bring innovative solutions back to their peers. From improving meal and oil to sustainability issues, the farmers have identified these opportunities to return the most value to the marketplace.

Over the last several years, the board has elevated its relationships with ag industry partners and the annual meeting was a great opportunity for Monsanto and Bayer to discuss the merger and the impact to farmers.

“From trait approvals, patent protection and brand equity, the two companies addressed what was top of farmers’ minds,” says John Motter, newly elected chair and farmer from Jenera, Ohio. “It was nice to hear about their plans to raise the bar in innovation and technology and ways to impact profit opportunities for U.S. soybean farmers into the future.

Motter will lead USB as its 26th chair. He has served on the board for eight years and also served as Ohio Soybean Council Chairman, USB treasurer, and USB vice chair. Also elected to the Executive Committee are:
- Lewis Bainbridge, Vice Chair – South Dakota
- Jimmy Sneed, Secretary – Mississippi
- Keith Tapp, Treasurer – Kentucky
- Mike Beard, Indiana
- John Dodson, Tennessee
- Nancy Kavazanjian, Wisconsin
- Jim Carroll, Arkansas
- Dan Farney, Illinois
- Gregg Fujan, Nebraska

The farmers also selected members to serve on the Strategic Management Committee. Those farmers include Mark Seib, Indiana; Doug Winter, Illinois and Jay Myers, North Dakota.

Moore Assumes American Soybean Association Presidency, Iowa's Heisdorffer Elected Vice President

Ron Moore, a soybean farmer from Roseville, Ill., assumed the role of president of the American Soybean Association (ASA) at the organization's annual winter meeting this week in St. Louis. Moore served as ASA's vice president throughout 2016, and per the structure of the organization, the vice president moves into the president's role for the following year.

"The industry faces many challenges and many opportunities in the year to come, and I am excited to tackle all of them," Moore said. "As we work to advance farmer priorities on our most important issues like trade, biotechnology and others. I look forward to drawing on the multiple talents of our dedicated board of directors to continue our success for soybean farmers."

Elected to fill the role of ASA vice president is John Heisdorffer, a farmer from Keota, Iowa, placing him in line to become ASA's President in 2018. Heisdorffer previously served as ASA secretary.

"This is an organization that, as it approaches its 100th anniversary, only becomes more impactful and more important as a voice for farmers," Heisdorffer said. "We've come very far, but there is still so much work to do to make sure that all soybean farmers have the policy and regulation and market conditions in place to succeed. I am excited to work over the coming years to see that through."

Richard Wilkins, who farms in Greenwood, Del., and served in 2016 as ASA's president, now moves to the role of chairman, and outgoing Chairman Wade Cowan of Brownfield, Texas, rotates off the Governing Committee. Davie Stephens, of Wingo, Ky., will serve a third consecutive term as ASA's secretary, and Bill Gordon, of Worthington, Minn., was elected to the position of ASA treasurer. Bret Davis, of Delaware, Ohio; Kevin Scott, of Valley Springs, S.D.; Sam Butler, of New Hope, Ala.; and Eric Maupin, of Dyersburg, Tenn., were elected as at-large members of ASA's Governing Committee.

Also at the meeting, the ASA board celebrated retiring directors Mike Cunningham, of Illinois, Ray Gaesser and Mark Jackson, of Iowa, Kevin Hoyer and Dan Roe, of Wisconsin, Ted Glaub, of Arkansas, Lance Peterson, of Minnesota and Wyatt Whitford, of North Carolina. ASA welcomed new directors Stan Born, of Dunlap, Ill.; Brad Doyle, of Weiner, Ark.; Morey Hill, of Madris, Iowa; Brian Kemp, of Sibley, Iowa; Brad Kremer, of Pittsville, Wis.; Kurt Krueger, of Rothsay, Minn.; Don Lutz, of Scandinavia, Wis.; Brian Ogletree, of Milner, Ga.; Bill Raben, of Ridgeway, Ill.; Rob Shaffer, of El Paso, Ill. and Jimmy Thomas, of Timberlake, N.C.

South Africa Approves Biotech Corn Events, Opening Door for U.S. Sales

South Africa’s government announced this week it is eliminating import restrictions on some biotech corn products, likely opening it for additional imports of U.S. corn.

The list of products, or events as they are described by the scientific community, announced by the country’s Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) that were previously ineligible for import includes several grown by U.S. corn producers either in single-event varieties or stacked varieties.

They include:
    MON 87460 x NK603
    3272 x Bt11 x MIR604 x GA21
    TC1507 x 59122 x MON810 x MIR604 x NK603
    TC1507 x 59122 x MON810 x NK603
    TC1507 x MIR604 x NK603
    TC1507 x MON810 x MIR162 x NK603
    MON87460 maize event

These events have all been found safe by other global regulators, including in the United States, but had faced process delays in South Africa.

The effort to achieve their approval ramped up late last year after a U.S. Grains Council (USGC) mission to South Africa uncovered a significant near-term opening for U.S. feed grain imports following a severe drought.

Under normal conditions, South Africa is a net exporter of corn, shipping approximately 1 million metric tons (39.4 million bushels) each year. However, weather conditions resulting from El Nino caused a short crop and necessitated imports of both yellow and white corn. White corn is a staple in the diets of South Africans and those in neighboring countries to whom they export in most years.

Unfortunately, lagging biotech approvals in South Africa have long hindered trade with the United States, leading South Africa to typically source yellow corn from Argentina and white corn from Mexico.

While some U.S. white corn not produced with biotechnology was shipped to South Africa early in 2016, the majority of imports came from Mexico, which in turn required Mexico to import more yellow corn from the United States to cover the white maize disappearance.

USGC has been diligent in its efforts to help ease trade roadblocks and promote U.S. feed grains in South Africa since discovering the depth of the issue.

Members first met with South African industry and government officials on this topic as part of an officers’ mission in December 2015. USGC members, staff and consultants also participated in an industry and government roundtable on the issue, presenting on white corn global supply and demand issues as well as solutions to enable U.S. corn shipments. Following that meeting, USGC representatives continued working with industry partners and DAFF towards a suitable resolution of this trade issue.

The United States is now in a better position to tap into an estimated market potential of approximately 400,000 metric tons (15.7 million bushels) of yellow maize and 300,000 tons (11.8 million bushels) of white maize anticipated through April 2017.

As this market opens up, USGC consultants locally and staff in the region and in the United States will continue to work closely with our South African partners to build a mutually beneficial trade partnership.

Dairy products getting a bubbly boost from Kansas State University scientists

Kansas State University researchers are deploying small air bubbles invisible to the human eye in a quest to improve several popular dairy products and co-products.

Food scientist Jayendra Amamcharla said his research team is perfecting a process to incorporate air bubbles into condensed milk and yogurt to make the texture of these products more desirable for consumers.

"The consumer trend is toward high-protein yogurt products," said Amamcharla, an assistant professor of animal sciences and industry. "But one of the disadvantages of having higher proteins is that it increases the viscosity, or thickness, of the yogurt. It becomes so thick that you can eat it only with a spoon. We have incorporated air bubbles into a high-protein yogurt to reduce its viscosity so that it is drinkable."

The process developed by the Kansas State University team is patent pending, but Amamcharla says that when ready, it will be fairly simple to implement for milk processing facilities.

"From the manufacturers' side of this, it will improve the efficiency of processing milk, thus saving money for the plant," Amamcharla said.

"The other side is consumers," he said. "We are improving the acceptability of high-protein dairy products. There shouldn't be any differences in how these products taste, but there should be an improvement in how they feel on the tongue and in the mouth when consumers eat these products."

Amamcharla said the benefits of incorporating air bubbles will go beyond yogurt. The researchers are also finding positive results in other products and processes used in the dairy industry, including condensed milk, milk protein concentrates and whey protein concentrates.

Kansas State University's work has been funded by the Midwest Dairy Food Research Center and the National Dairy Council. Amamcharla credits Bingyi Li, master's student in food science, and Zhe "Dylan" Liu, postdoctoral researcher in animal sciences and industry, as being especially critical in the progress the team has made so far.

Global Commodity Oversupply and Industry Consolidation to Reshape U.S. Grain and Farm Supply Industries  

A confluence of market factors will dramatically reshape the U.S. grain and farm supply industries between 2017 and 2019, according to new report from CoBank. Continued low commodity prices, increased foreign competition and the strong U.S. dollar will stress U.S. crop and animal supply chains leading to more industry consolidation, which will introduce the next phase in the evolution of the agricultural industry.

Prices across the crops sector will continue to remain low as a result of a significant global oversupply. While low commodity prices are also boosting consumption and overall global demand, strong production will continue to outpace demand over the next three years, barring a severe weather event in a major agricultural producing country.

“The U.S. grain and farm supply industries have reached another historic inflection point that will be good news for some and bad news for others,” said Tanner Ehmke, CoBank senior economist and author of the new report. “The co-ops that thrive through this cycle will be those that offer innovative products and services to their farmer customers, are earnest and unrelenting in controlling costs, are properly aligned in the industry chain, and focused on risk management. These co-ops ultimately end up well positioned as the industry realigns.”

Adding to the list of market challenges is the increased competitiveness of foreign producers—​particularly countries such as Argentina, Brazil and Russia—which have expanded production to take advantage of the export opportunities created by their weaker currencies. Ehmke notes that a strong dollar will continue to impede U.S. exports and is causing many producers to reconsider their crop rotations, switching from wheat to more profitable and higher-performing crops, such as corn and soybeans.

These conditions are expected to exert additional pressures across the U.S. agricultural spectrum—from producers to farm suppliers to retailers—which will drive a continuing trend of consolidation. Farm size is expected to increase as farmers acquire acreage outside their existing territory, which will exert consolidation pressure on the retailers that serve them. In addition to consolidation within the respective retail and wholesale categories, some wholesalers are expected to merge with retailers, resulting in compression of the supply chain.

“This trend is expected not only to continue, but to accelerate as agribusinesses adjust to a climate of low prices and thinning margins,” said Ehmke.

Disruptive factors such as severe weather or sudden changes in foreign exchange rates could prompt a deviation from the current cycle. However, given the current environment of low commodity prices, a strong dollar and increased competition, a sustained recovery over the next three years in unlikely.

A synopsis of the report, “What’s Ahead for the Grain Markets and Farm Supply in 2017-2019” is available at

Milk Prices Poised for Modest Improvement

After a few years of significant challenge the outlook for U.S. milk producers is beginning to improve, according to a new report from CoBank. Despite projected supply increases, milk prices are poised for modest improvement in the years ahead thanks to new export opportunities and gains in processing and production efficiency.

“We’re seeing dairy farm expansions, meaning producers are hopeful that prices will increase from today’s levels,” says Ben Laine, senior economist at CoBank. “These dairies are banking on the future and on global growth. We believe that there is cause for cautious optimism given prospects for strengthened international demand and the industry’s long track record of innovation.”

U.S. dairies will produce over 225 billion pounds of milk in 2020—approximately 7 percent higher than today’s output—according to projections from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And domestic demand for milk and milk products will remain relatively flat, given the maturity of the U.S. consumer market. Nonetheless, Laine says, the industry is poised to benefit from overseas demand in Asia, Latin America and Africa driven by population growth and increased middle class consumption.

Exports now represent about 14 percent of all U.S. milk production, compared to less than 8 percent a decade ago. That increases the amount of exposure U.S. dairies have to currency risk, geopolitical events and other unpredictable factors. “The outlook for the next several years is positive, but precarious,” Laine says.

One immediate challenge facing the industry is that processing capacity has not kept up with the growth in milk production.

“New processing plants and plant expansions over the next couple of years will provide some relief,” says Laine. “Meanwhile, the U.S. dairy industry must do everything it can to maintain and develop domestic demand and evolve with customers. This includes the development of innovative products to adapt to changing consumer tastes.”

Going forward the U.S. will need to position itself strategically to be able to compete with other mature dairy producing regions, the European Union in particular. Additionally, the U.S. dairy industry must invest in establishing relationships within sophisticated global supply chains to further develop demand and open new markets, according to the CoBank report.

“Success will hinge on the ability to balance innovation in domestic products with responsiveness and competitiveness abroad,” Laine says.

A synopsis of the report, “Future of the U.S. Dairy Industry Hinges on Exports” is available at

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Wednesday December 7 Ag News

Nebraska Farm Bureau Delegates Set Agriculture Policy Positions, Elect New Leaders
Delegates representing farm and ranch families from all 93 Nebraska counties outlined key agriculture policy priorities and elected new leaders for the Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation as part of the organization’s 99th Annual Meeting and Convention held Dec. 4-6 in Kearney. In addition to reiterating state tax reform as the top priority for the organization heading into the 2017 legislative session, delegates identified several other key priorities, said Steve Nelson, Nebraska Farm Bureau president.

“Tax reform to address our overreliance on property taxes is still the top concern for our members. With that said, delegates also adopted a resolution pointing to other important issues that must be addressed for the well-being of Nebraska farm and ranch families, our rural communities, and our state,” said Nelson.

Among those priorities is the need to tackle the growing burden of federal regulations, including EPA’s Waters of the U.S. Rule which would significantly expand the agency’s ability to control what happens on private land.

Delegates also support efforts to expand market opportunities for Nebraska agricultural commodities, specifically growth into foreign markets through trade opportunities.

“The vast majority of the world’s consumers reside outside of America’s borders. Many of those are people who are looking to improve their standards of living and their diets by incorporating meat protein. We must continue to look for opportunities to build those relationships. Growing our markets is good for Nebraska agriculture and our state’s economy,” said Nelson.

Delegates also called on Farm Bureau to continue efforts to work on reform for both health care and the federal tax code.

“We need tax policies that allow farmers and ranchers the opportunity to pass their operations down from one generation to the next and that includes doing away with the federal estate tax. And we must also address the growing costs of health care on farm and ranch families and other self-employed individuals who purchase health insurance through the individual market place,” said Nelson.

Delegates also discussed priorities to be included in the development of the next farm bill, pointing to federal crop insurance as being the top priority.

In addition to taking policy positions, delegates also conducted elections for positions on the Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation board of directors.

Hilary Maricle of Boone County Farm Bureau was elected to the position of at-large ag promotion director. Maricle and her husband Brian grow corn, soybeans and alfalfa, and raise cattle, hogs, and sheep near Albion.

John Temme of Wayne County Farm Bureau was elected to the position of youth-at-large director. Temme and his wife Molly operate a row crop and dairy operation near Wayne.

Martey Stewart of Dixon County Farm Bureau was elected to represent Dist. 3, which includes Antelope, Cedar, Dakota, Dixon, Knox, Madison, Pierce, Thurston, and Wayne counties. Stewart and his wife Linda raise livestock near Dixon.

Leslie Boswell of Clay County Farm Bureau was elected to represent Dist. 4, which includes Butler, Clay, Fillmore, Hamilton, Jefferson, Nuckolls, Polk, Saline, Seward, Thayer, and York counties. Boswell and her husband Ken operate a row crop farm near Shickley.

Katie Olson of Holt County Farm Bureau was elected to represent Dist. 6, which includes Blaine, Boyd, Brown, Cherry, Custer, Garfield, Grant, Holt, Hooker, Keya Paha, Logan, Loup, McPherson, Rock, Thomas, and Wheeler counties. Olson and her husband James grow corn and soybeans and raise cow/calf pairs near Atkinson.

Dustin Ladenburger of Hitchcock County Farm Bureau was elected to represent Dist. 7, which includes Chase, Dawson, Dundy, Frontier, Furnas, Gosper, Harlan, Hayes, Hitchcock, Lincoln, and Red Willow counties. Ladenburger grows dryland wheat, corn, milo, and has a cow/calf operation near Stratton.

98th Iowa Farm Bureau Annual Meeting celebrates innovation, accomplishments of agriculture

Members of Iowa's largest grassroots farm organization gathered in Des Moines, 1,000 strong, to celebrate the many ways agriculture helps Iowans “Believe, Lead and Achieve” a path of success in rural Iowa. The 98th Iowa Farm Bureau Annual Meeting, held December 6-7, not only showcases the many accomplishments of farmers through the generations, but highlights young leaders who lead a bold, new path of innovation.

Craig Hill, IFBF president and longtime Milo, Iowa, grain and livestock farmer, says, “IFBF members know achieving sustained excellence in agriculture does not happen by chance. It is purposeful, thoughtful and strategic, which is why nationally we will seek to identify our needs in the next comprehensive farm bill, always striving to achieve your policy objectives. Members have many achievements, those won by the present and past generations of agriculturalists. The challenges facing humanity are significant. The world population is expected to grow to 9.6 billion by 2050, which means we must grow 70 percent more food, and do so on less land, with less water, less fertilizer and less energy. As innovators, we can do that,” says Hill.

Helping Iowa farmers invest in conservation innovations is one of the highlights brought out by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, during his keynote address. “Iowa farmers have invested more than $2.6 billion in conservation during my tenure with the USDA. We are committed to water quality, so we’ve added an additional $33 million to our national water quality effort, and this is going to help about 600,000 acres of land that we are investing in to improve the quality of our small tributaries and those small rivers that lead into larger rivers and streams and major waterways. We’re also announcing additional acres in our Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) of about 700,000 acres for wildlife habitat, and 100,000 acres for pollinators,” says Vilsack. The U.S. Agriculture Secretary and former Iowa Governor also chose the IFBF meeting to announce a new program which brings into focus the measurable progress of collaborative efforts between urban and rural watersheds; the launch of the Clean Lakes Estuaries and Rivers (CLEAR) program. “This program will assist landowners with the cost of building bioreactors and saturated buffers and under this program, we’ll provide a 90 percent Cost Share and the only qualification is that the land be adjacent to water,” says Vilsack.

As in previous years, educational seminars which focused on furthering conservation knowledge, brought big crowds. Doug Adams, a farmer from Humboldt County who has 510 acres out of his total 660 acres seeded to cover crops, told fellow Farm Bureau farmers that success in improving water quality is not an option, but a necessity. “Managing nutrients on our farms is a complicated issue and I’ve learned it’s important to begin with good measurement to know where you’re starting, so you can plan your approach with multiple conservation options; look at your nutrient timing and rates; look at different cover crop seedlings and methods; do some soil leaf, stalk and tissue testing and consider that sometimes, weather will trump your plan. But, it doesn’t mean you can stop; we all must keep trying because we all need to work to make our Nutrient Reduction Strategy work. The time is now,” says Adams.

Other popular education seminars helped Farm Bureau farmers assess market risk. Dale Durchholz, senior commodity analyst at AgriVisor, brought a sense of hope to farmers who have been struggling through three consecutive years of volatile prices for corn, soybean, hogs and cattle. “We are one significant weather problem away from a big move, because we’ve had three years of really good crops, the odds are saying there is going to be a big hiccup somewhere in the world. Then, we can be in for a really big change as strong demand begins to chip away at large supplies.”

Iowa Farmers Union Welcomes New President

Iowa Farmers Union (IFU) members gathered at the Iowa Arboretum near Madrid, Iowa for the 2016 IFU Annual Convention, Taking Root for a New Century.

The convention included elections for IFU president, vice president, and board of directors. IFU members elected Aaron Heley Lehman, a fifth-generation family farmer from rural Polk County, to serve as the next IFU president.

Lehman and his family raise corn, soybeans, oats, and hay in both organic and conventional rotations on their family farm. He served as the IFU vice president immediately prior to his election as president. Lehman also has served previously as the executive director and legislative director for IFU and on the National Farmers Union Policy Committee. His father, Phil Lehman, is a past IFU vice president and board member, and Aaron was active in Farmers Union youth programs growing up.

"I am honored to serve the family farmers of this organization for the next two years," Lehman stated following his election. "I am extremely proud of the Farmers Union, and I am very optimistic about our future and our role in shaping a positive path for agriculture in Iowa."

Lehman is also a member of the Advisory Board of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University and Treasurer of the North Polk School Foundation. He is a graduate of North Polk High School in Alleman, Iowa and St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. He and his wife, Nicole Heley Lehman, have two children, Jordan and Benjamin.

Out-going IFU president, Jana Linderman of Linn County, was elected to serve a two-year term as IFU vice president.

"I have been so privileged to have the opportunity to lead this organization as president for the past 3 years during a time of growth and transition," said Linderman. "I look forward to working with our new president to continue to build a strong grassroots organization that represents Iowa's family farmers."

IFU members also elected John Gilbert of Hardin County, Sally Gran of Story County, Julia McGuire of Polk County, Matt Russell of Marion County, and Ron Tigner of Webster County to serve on the IFU board of directors. D'Quinton Robertson of Des Moines, a participant in the 2016 National Farmers Union Beginning Farmer Institute, was elected to serve as a student representative on the IFU board.

The 2016 IFU Convention featured workshops on water quality, pesticide drift, a proposed statewide CAFO moratorium, and proposals for the next federal farm bill. IFU members also debated and approved new IFU legislative policy for 2017, and adopted two special orders of business on water quality and market competition.

Branstad as China Ambassador

Bill Northey, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey issued the following statement regarding Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad accepting the role of U.S. Ambassador to China:

“Governor Branstad is uniquely qualified to serve in this critically important position.  Iowa and the entire nation will benefit from his leadership of our diplomatic efforts in China.  For the Governor, public service has always been about responding to the call and putting his state and nation before his own interests and this is just another example.

“As Iowans, we will miss his steady leadership and passionate service here at home, but his leadership in China will be felt here in Iowa. His influence in this new position will not only be good for agriculture and trade, but good for America.

“The Governor leaves the state in a tremendous position thanks to his leadership over the past 6 years.  With Lt. Governor Reynolds as our next Governor, Iowans can be assured that we will continue to advance the Branstad/Reynolds agenda of addressing water quality, improving education, reducing the size and scope of government, increasing family incomes and creating new jobs.

“I was beginning to explore a run for a potentially open seat for Governor in 2018.  If I made the decision to run, it would not have been a decision to run against a fellow Republican, but because I feel I have more to give by serving in a different role.  I encourage Iowa republicans to unite behind Lt. Governor Reynolds, help ensure her election in 2018 and join me in working to keep Iowa red for the next generation.”

Iowa Soybean Association heralds Gov. Branstad as U.S. ambassador to China

Karey Claghorn, Chief Operating Officer, Iowa Soybean Association

“Iowa and U.S. agriculture will be among the many beneficiaries of Gov. Terry Branstad’s selection as U.S. ambassador to China.

“His enduring relationship with the leaders and people of China, forged over many years of conversation and joint participation in activities here at home and abroad, will advance strong China-U.S. relations at a critical time for both countries.

“The governor and Iowa soybean farmers have long recognized the strategic and significant role China plays for U.S. agriculture. The country of nearly 1.4 billion people purchases nearly 60 percent of global soybean production. About one of every three rows of soybeans grown in Iowa are destined for China. Food is essential for life and trade relations forged with the people of China by Branstad and soybean farmers will serve both countries well.

“Branstad has and continues to be a champion of Iowa’s farm families. Having been raised on a farm and served Iowans as the state’s chief executive officer during the depths of the farm crisis, he has a unique understanding of what makes rural America tick. He will draw from these experiences to serve all Americans as ambassador.

“While we acknowledge the opportunities that abound for our state and country as a result of Branstad’s selection as U.S. ambassador to China, we recognize his long and distinguished service as Iowa governor. We look forward to presenting Gov. Branstad with our Friend of the Iowa Soybean Farmer Award next week during a meeting of the ISA board of directors in Ankeny.

“We also welcome the opportunity to work with Iowa’s new chief executive to advance the competitiveness of soybean farmers to the benefit of all Iowans.”

ASA Welcomes Branstad as Incoming Ambassador to China

Following news this morning that President-elect Donald Trump will name Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad the next U.S. Ambassador to China, American Soybean Association (ASA) President Richard Wilkins expressed the association's support for the pick, citing the governor's extensive experience working with China and the importance of the marketplace for U.S. soybean farmers:

"ASA enthusiastically supports Gov. Branstad as the next U.S. Ambassador to China. As we have said in the weeks that followed the presidential election, it is extremely important to have voices within the incoming administration that understand and value the huge impact that global trade has on U.S. agriculture and specifically American soybean producers. Nowhere is that relationship more significant than in China, a market that demands nearly 60 percent of our soy exports, and over 25 percent of our production overall.

"Governor Branstad has proven himself to be a valuable ally on this issue. He clearly understands the global nature of the agricultural economy, and knows what American farmers and Chinese buyers mean to one another. We look forward to working with him and his staff in the years to come. We also look forward to continuing our outreach to President-elect Trump to help underscore the priorities of American soybean farmers, including the importance of trade and exports to our industry and all of agriculture. "

Growth Energy Congratulates Scott Pruitt on EPA Administrator Nomination

Today, President-elect Donald Trump nominated Oklahoma Attorney General, Scott Pruitt, to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In response to the nomination, Growth Energy CEO, Emily Skor, issued the following statement:

“We congratulate Mr. Pruitt on his nomination and look forward to working with him to carry out President-elect Trump’s strong commitments to protecting the Renewable Fuel Standard and ending restrictions to getting more ethanol into our fuel supply.

“America’s ethanol industry worked hard to help bring President-elect Trump to the White House and continues to support his dedication to ensuring home-gown domestic energy security.”

Fischer Statement on Nomination of Scott Pruitt to Lead EPA

U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, released the following statement on the nomination of Scott Pruitt to serve as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):

“I am eager to meet with Mr. Pruitt to discuss his plans for rolling back the harmful rules and regulations put forth by the EPA over the past eight years. Undoing this extreme overreach that has hurt Nebraska families and stunted economic growth is long overdue. If confirmed as EPA administrator, Mr. Pruitt will be charged with returning the EPA to its intended mission: implementing the nation’s laws, not creating new ones.”

October Pork Exports Largest Since 2014; Beef Exports Remain Strong

U.S. pork and beef exports continued to build momentum in October, with both achieving double-digit increases from a year ago, according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

October pork exports totaled 201,936 metric tons (mt), up 14 percent year-over-year and the largest monthly volume since March 2014. Export value was $521.1 million, up 16 percent. For January through October, export volume was 6 percent above last year’s pace at 1.86 million mt, while export value was up 3 percent to $4.79 billion.

Exports accounted for 25.5 percent of total pork production in October and 21 percent for muscle cuts only. For January-October, exports accounted for 25 percent of total production – up a full percentage point from a year ago – and 21 percent for muscle cuts, up slightly. Export value per head slaughtered averaged $47 in October, up 8 percent year-over-year, while January-October export value averaged $49, steady with the same period last year.

October beef export volume was 105,938 mt, up 12 percent from a year ago, while export value climbed 10 percent to $559.5 million. For January through October, export volume was up 9 percent from a year ago at 954,868 mt, while value was down 3 percent to $5.1 billion. Beef muscle cut exports were especially strong in October at 75,903 mt – the largest volume in two years.

Beef exports accounted for 14 percent of total production in October and 11 percent for muscle cuts only. January-October ratios were just over 13 percent and 10 percent, respectively – up slightly from the same period last year. Export value per head of fed slaughter averaged $269.35 in October, up 5 percent year-over-year. Through the first 10 months of 2016, export value averaged $254.71 per head, down 8 percent.

“With pork production at a record level and beef production also on the rise, it is imperative that we work to expand global demand and accelerate the volume of product entering the international markets,” said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. “With strong support from USDA, our U.S. industry partners and our international contacts, USMEF has intensified its marketing efforts in key destinations and capitalized on opportunities to regain market share – not only in mainstay markets such as Japan, Mexico and South Korea, but in a wide range of countries. This has laid the groundwork for a strong finish to this year and further growth in 2017.”

Led by Mexico, pork exports strengthen in Western Hemisphere markets

Pork exports to Mexico remained strong in October, increasing 9 percent from a year ago in volume (65,271 mt) and 6 percent in value ($115.2 million). For January through October, exports to Mexico pulled within 2 percent of last year’s record pace in volume (576,008 mt) and remained 1 percent higher in value ($1.05 billion). This strong performance has been especially supportive of prices for U.S. hams, the highest-volume export item to Mexico. Through October, in pesos, U.S. ham prices were 21 percent higher than a year ago while demand in Mexico remained strong. Ham prices strengthened further in November, and weekly export data showed even larger shipments to Mexico. To overcome the difficult exchange rate situation, USMEF has emphasized the quality and consistency of U.S hams with Mexico’s meat processors and worked with these companies on new product development.

Pork exports to leading value market Japan were also strong in October, increasing 4 percent from a year ago in volume (30,987 mt) and 9 percent in value ($127.9 million). Through the first 10 months of the year, exports to Japan were 7 percent below last year’s pace in volume (320,491 mt) and 4 percent lower in value ($1.29 billion). Chilled pork exports to Japan remained on a record pace through October, totaling 180,793 mt, up 9 percent year-over-year.

Pork muscle cut exports to China/Hong Kong continued to moderate in October, reflecting a rebound in China’s domestic pork production, but variety meat exports to the region remained strong. For January through October, total pork/pork variety meat exports to China/Hong Kong were up 66 percent from a year ago in volume (450,257 mt) and 55 percent higher in value ($878.8 million).

Other January-October highlights for U.S. pork exports include:

-    After a slow first half of 2016, exports to Colombia continue to rebound. Though January-October exports were still down 13 percent year-over-year in volume (30,713 mt) and 20 percent in value ($70.6 million), October exports climbed 68 percent in volume (5,862 mt) and 77 percent in value ($14.6 million). October muscle cut exports to Colombia were the largest on record at 5,428 mt, up 58 percent from a year ago.
-    Following a slowdown in September, pork exports to Central America rebounded strongly in October, especially in Honduras, Guatemala and Panama. January-October exports to Central America were up 18 percent from a year ago in volume (53,259 mt) and 12 percent in value ($126.9 million).
-    Exports to the Dominican Republic were 9 percent above last year’s pace in volume (20,945 mt) and 4 percent higher in value ($45.8 million), including a 32 percent increase in October export value ($4.8 million).
-    Although January-October exports to Korea remain well below last year’s large totals, demand has strengthened in recent months. Pork muscle cut exports to Korea reached 11,469 mt in October, the largest since March. Combined pork/pork variety meat exports were 12,121, up 11 percent from a year ago. October export value climbed 26 percent to $33.8 million.

Beef exports set new monthly record in Taiwan; chilled exports continue to shine

October beef exports were highlighted by a record performance in Taiwan, where volume was up 90 percent from a year ago to 5,177 mt. This pushed January-October exports to Taiwan to 35,241 mt (up 20 percent year-over-year) valued at $284.9 million, up 7 percent and on track for a new record.

October exports were also outstanding to Japan, where volume soared 40 percent to 20,089 mt valued at $119.8 million (up 34 percent). January-October exports to Japan were up 21 percent in volume (213,636 mt) and 13 percent in value ($1.24 billion). Japan’s October imports of chilled U.S. beef exceeded chilled imports from Australia for the second consecutive month.

In Korea, October exports were 16,897 mt (up 63 percent year-over-year) valued at $98.8 million (up 68 percent). January-October exports to Korea were 139,592 mt valued at $814.2 million, up 36 percent and 21 percent, respectively, from a year ago. Export value to Korea is on pace to exceed the 2014 record of $847.4 million, and with a strong finish could approach the $1 billion mark in 2016.

Chilled beef exports to both Japan and Korea have excelled in 2016, with shipments to both markets up nearly 40 percent year-over-year. Through October, chilled exports were the largest on record to Korea and the largest to Japan since 2003.

Other January-October highlights for U.S. beef exports include:

-    Despite the persistent weakness of the peso, beef exports to Mexico were up 8 percent from a year ago to 195,799 mt, though export value to Mexico has trended lower this year ($812.1 million, down 11 percent).
-    While January-October exports to Hong Kong were lower year-over-year (86,943 mt, down 6 percent, valued at $525.2 million, down 18 percent), October exports were easily the largest of the year in both volume (11,998 mt) and value ($72.8 million).
-    Fueled by strong growth in Indonesia and Vietnam, exports to the ASEAN region increased 27 percent in volume (22,206 mt) and 3 percent in value ($119 million).
-    Despite a decline to leading destination Egypt, beef liver exports increased 9 percent to 67,394. Larger volumes to Mexico and the addition of South Africa, a promising liver market that reopened earlier this year, offset lower shipments to Egypt, which takes about 75 percent of U.S. liver exports.

Lamb exports trend lower, but muscle cuts improve

October exports of U.S. lamb fell 31 percent from a year ago to 600 mt, but this was due to a steep decline in variety meat exports. Lamb muscle cut exports were 224 mt, up 19 percent. Lamb export value in October was $1.41 million, down 4 percent. January-October exports were down 6 percent from a year ago in both volume (7,120 mt) and value ($14.8 million), as gains in Bermuda, Hong Kong, the ASEAN region and the United Arab Emirates were offset by lower exports to leading market Mexico.

USDA Announces New Conservation Opportunities to Improve Water Quality and Restore Wildlife Habitat

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will offer farmers and ranchers more opportunities to participate in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The announcement includes new CRP practices to protect water quality and adds an additional 1.1 million acres targeted to benefit wildlife, pollinators and wetlands.

"The Conservation Reserve Program is an extremely popular voluntary program that offers producers and landowners a wide variety of opportunities to prevent erosion, protect wildlife habitat and reduce nutrient runoff," said Vilsack. "With the program close to the legal enrollment limit of 24 million acres, USDA has been working to use all of the tools at our disposal to maximize benefits by combining multiple soil, water and wildlife objectives in the areas where it is needed most."

Vilsack unveiled a new conservation initiative known as Clean Lakes, Estuaries and Rivers (CLEAR), which will add new tools to CRP that can help to improve water quality. CLEAR will assist landowners with the cost of building bioreactors and saturated buffers that filter nitrates and other nutrients from tile-drained cropland. Early estimates indicate that CLEAR could help to reduce nitrate runoff by as much as 40 percent over traditional conservation methods. CLEAR may cover up to 90 percent of the cost to install these new practices through incentives and cost-share. These new methods are especially important in areas where traditional buffers have not been enough to prevent nutrients from reaching bodies of water.

USDA will also add an additional 1.1 million acres to a number of key CRP practices that are critically important to wildlife and conservation. These include 700,000 acres for State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) efforts, which restore high-priority wildlife habitat tailored to a specific state's needs. In addition to SAFE, 300,000 acres will be added to target wetlands restoration that are nature's water filters and 100,000 acres for pollinator habitat that support 30 percent of agricultural production.

The continued strong demand for CRP combined with the limited acreage available for enrollment and lower land rental rates, allows USDA to modify certain program components without affecting the integrity of the program. Signing incentives are being reduced by $25 per acre on certain practices for fiscal year 2018 enrollments (incentives are currently between $100 and $150 per acre) and a cap on the maximum soil rental rate is being instituted for Continuous CRP at $300 per acre. The savings from these changes are being reinvested back in CRP, including the additional acres for SAFE, pollinator habitat and wetlands restoration.

Webinar Looks at Expectations for Cow-Calf Producers in 2017

Have the lows been established for the cattle industry? With the magnitude of the break that we have experienced across the entire cattle industry thus far that question is on everyone’s mind. An upcoming free CattleFax webinar will address that question as well as provide an outlook for the cow-calf and entire beef industry for 2017.

The CattleFax Trends+ Cow-Calf Webinar will be Jan. 25, 2017, at 5:30 p.m. MT. To participate in the webinar and access program details, producers and industry leaders simply need to register online at!/about 

CattleFax analysts will discuss a variety of topics in the one-hour session, including:
-    Cattle and feedstuff market projections for the next 12 to 18 months
-    Supply expectations for the cattle and beef industry as well as competing meats
-    Margin expectations and profit/risk management strategies for the cow-calf producer                                                                                   

The Trends+ webinar series informs cattle producers about current market conditions and provides decision-friendly advice regarding management decisions. The analysis and strategies shared through the series has reached more than 3,500 producers, and sponsorship from Elanco Animal Health is making the seminar free for all attendees.

 NMPF Urges Participation in Upcoming USDA Dairy Cost of Production Survey

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) is in the process of conducting its Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) for dairy farms, also known as the Dairy Cost of Production Survey. The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) makes extensive use of this information and strongly encourages dairy producers to participate if called upon to do so. Specifically, NMPF will be using USDA cost of production data as it works with the new Congress to make improvements in the Margin Protection Program.

The ARMS survey provides updated information about the financial well-being, costs of production and production practices of the U.S. dairy sector. In addition to providing solid data for USDA research on dairy production, the ARMS survey information is used to build accurate baseline information for the USDA monthly and annual reports on the cost of milk production. The ARMS surveys examine selected commodities on a rotating basis. This year, it is collecting data for corn and milk production, including the organic dairy sector. Dairy production is surveyed every five years.

Last summer, USDA screened and selected a sample of 3,269 dairy producers in 28 states for the survey. The survey will be administered by trained field enumerators who will schedule appointments from December 2016 through April 2017 with the individual dairy operators in the sample. The higher the participation in this year’s dairy ARMS survey, the better the quality of the information available to the industry.

 Roberts: No Child Nutrition Reauthorization

U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kan., chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, Tuesday released the following statement on the status of efforts to complete reauthorization of child nutrition programs.

"Today is a day I hoped would not come," Roberts said. "I'm very disappointed that the bipartisan, bicameral Child Nutrition Reauthorization negotiations have come to an end for the 114th Congress.

"I'm proud of the commonsense reforms and the bipartisan strides we have made in the majority of the programs. However, we are nearing the end of this legislative calendar, and we have not been able to overcome minority objections and additionally those in the House.

"Though our Committee passed a good, bipartisan bill -- something no one said we could do -- it wasn't enough for some. I'm proud to say the Agriculture Committee conducted this reauthorization process in an open and transparent manner that listened to all stakeholders, including schoolchildren. We wrote a well-balanced bill that increased program integrity, flexibility, efficiency, and effectiveness.

"Since that bill was passed by our Committee, we have been working to find an agreement with our colleagues in the House and the minority members of the Senate who halted the bill's progress. In the end, we were not able to reach a bipartisan, bicameral compromise. It is unfortunate that certain parochial interests and the desire for issues rather than solutions were put ahead of the wellbeing of vulnerable and at-risk populations and the need for reform.

"This is a lost opportunity to help hungry children and struggling schools. In addition, these programs will be vulnerable to attack without a reduction in the current error rates.

"As chairman of the Committee, I remain committed to continuing to look for ways to increase integrity within the program and to provide flexibility to local school and summer meal program operators."

The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry held a hearing in May 2015 and unanimously approved the Improving Child Nutrition Integrity and Access Act of 2016 in January.

Effort to Update School Milk Program Fades at End of 2016

Efforts to update child nutrition programs – and to enhance the milk options available in school lunch programs – faded this month as negotiations between the Senate and House failed to arrive at new school nutrition legislation.

The authorization for federal child nutrition programs formally expired at the end of September 2015, but existing programs continue to operate pending approval of a bill to reauthorize federal feeding programs, including school lunch regulations. The National Milk Producers Federation worked on a bipartisan basis with both the House and Senate during the past two years to include language in the reauthorization bill that would prompt the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to review milk consumption in school meals and WIC programs, as well as take steps to increase the intake of milk and the nutrients it provides.

NMPF held out hope that the December congressional lame-duck session would offer the opportunity to pass the nutrition legislation, but Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) said this week that negotiations have reached an impasse.

"I'm very disappointed that the bipartisan, bicameral Child Nutrition Reauthorization negotiations have come to an end for the 114th Congress,” Roberts said. “I remain committed to continuing to look for ways to increase integrity within the program and to provide flexibility to local school and summer meal program operators.”

Both the Senate and House Agriculture Committees had approved legislation in the past year, supported by NMPF, to reverse the decline of milk consumption in schools. NMPF’s goal was to prompt a reassessment of the current USDA policy that only allows fat-free flavored milk – and not 1% flavored milk – in the school lunch line, even though federal dietary guidelines support the inclusion of low-fat flavored milk.

After USDA removed low-fat flavored milk from lunch programs, schools served 187 million fewer half-pints of milk during the years 2012-2014, although total public school enrollment grew during that period.

“We will continue to work on this issue in the coming year to bolster the important role of milk in the nation’s schools,” said NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern. “Ignoring the decline in school milk consumption could have serious consequences for children’s health today and throughout their adult lives.”

UAN28 Price Moves Lower, Other Fertilizer Prices Mixed

Average retail prices for the majority of fertilizers moved lower the last week of November 2016. However, prices for a couple of fertilizers were slightly higher compared to the previous month, according to fertilizer retailers surveyed by DTN.

As has been the case for the last few weeks, prices of six of the eight major fertilizers were lower compared to a month earlier, with only one having a significant change. UAN28 was down 10% from last month with an average price of $217 per ton.

Other fertilizers with lower prices include DAP, which had an average price of $435/ton, MAP $445/ton, 10-34-0 $447/ton, anhydrous $465/ton and UAN32 $256/ton.

The remaining two fertilizers were slightly higher in price compared to a month prior. Neither fertilizer was up by any substantial amount, which has been the trend in recent weeks. Potash had an average price of $318/ton and urea was at $331/ton.

On a price per pound of nitrogen basis, the average urea price was at $0.36/lb.N, anhydrous $0.28/lb.N, UAN28 $0.39/lb.N and UAN32 $0.40/lb.N.

Retail fertilizers are lower compared to a year earlier. All fertilizers are now double digits lower.

Urea is now down 17%, both DAP and MAP are 20% less expensive and both 10-34-0 and UAN32 are 23% lower. UAN28 is 24% less expensive, potash is 25% lower and anhydrous is 26% less expensive compared to a year prior.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Tuesday December 6 Ag News

Confronting Crop Challenges Workshops Offer Crops Info AND Pesticide Training

Confronting Crop Challenges is a new series of workshops offered by Nebraska Extension in December for those wanting to learn more about the crops challenges from the past growing season and management options to deal with them during the 2017 growing season. Confronting Crop Challenges workshops will be offered at the following locations:

Friday, December 16
    9:00 a.m. to noon at the Community Building on the Fairgrounds in Stanton, and
    1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Nielsen Community Center in West Point

Wednesday, December 21
    9:00 a.m. to noon at the Extension Office in Fremont, and
    1:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the First National Bank Northeast meeting room in Tekamah

Topics to be covered include:
 *    The importance of factors to consider when selecting hybrids or varieties,
 *    A corn disease update including information on bacterial leaf streak, a new corn disease first discovered in Nebraska,
 *    Grain storage concerns in 2016-17,
 *    Options to control input cost when budgets are tight,
 *    Controlling Palmer amaranth, waterhemp and marestail, and
 *    A soybean disease update including information on seedling blights, phytophthora and SCN.

These topics will give farmers a better understanding of local crop challenges that emerged in 2016, such as bacterial leaf streak and the spread of herbicide-resistant weeds, and management options so you are prepared to deal with these issues during the 2017 cropping season.

A certification session at the end of each program will allow farmers needing to renew their private pesticide license to apply restricted use pesticides by April 15, 2017. This also meets the requirements for farmers needing an initial certification. This will satisfy the training requirements for the regular private applicator training sessions, of which additional trainings will be held in West Point on March 2nd. If you don’t need pesticide applicator training, you may leave after the last regular program session.

Registration for the general meeting is $10 for everyone. Those seeking to get a new or renew their private pesticide applicator license during the meeting will need to pay an additional $30, $40 total, for the training. The $30 fee is required and is the same as would be paid at the traditional training sessions in January through March.

Pre-registration for the West Point location is appreciated, but not required, by calling the Cuming County Extension office at 402.372.6006. These workshops will be presented by a local team of Nebraska Extension Cropping Educators including John Wilson, Nathan Mueller, and Aaron Nygren.

For more information, please visit Crop Tech Café at or contact Aaron Nygren, Extension Educator, Nebraska Extension in Colfax County at 402.352.3821 or

Ricketts Issues Directive on Ag Land Assessments

Governor Pete Ricketts announced a plan today to make adjustments to the land assessment process that will exclude factors that cause premiums on the purchase price of land parcels.

“Farmers and ranchers identified a number of factors where non-ag premiums can drive up purchase prices on parcels and affect subsequent assessed values. My administration will be issuing a directive to clarify guidance on comparable sales and request the help of county assessors to make sure we are not including premium sales that distort the market,” said Governor Ricketts. “As agricultural markets continue to change and as cattle and crop prices decline it is important our valuation assessment process reflects the true market.”

Farmers and ranchers have shared examples where premiums paid on a land purchase because of special financing, tax advantages, or “once-in-a-lifetime” purchases to acquire adjoining land were then used as comparable sales to set surrounding assessments.

Next week a directive will be issued from the Department of Revenue to county assessors to provide guidance about what constitutes comparable sales to avoid premium sales from driving up the price for non-ag related factors. Field staff for the Department of Revenue will be on hand to assist with training to comply with the new directive.

“When land comes up across the road from the farm for the first time in 100 years, that becomes a once-in-a-lifetime purchase opportunity,” said Property Tax Administrator Ruth Sorensen. “I will work with county assessors to ensure these transactions are excluded from the analysis to determine the market value of property in the ‘ordinary’ course of trade.”

Factors that can lead to land premiums that the directive will control for include:

·      Acquisitions of adjoining land.
    -       Adjoining and “once-in-a-lifetime” sales can lead to bidding wars on a parcel
·      IRS 1031 like-kind exchanges of land.
    -       1031 exchanges are when property owners defer taxes on the purchase of land via a land exchange that can lead to premium prices
·      Ag land used for recreational purposes.
·      Special financing available to the purchaser.

Property assessments are based on the market value of property as of January 1, 2017.   Current law allows the Property Tax Administrator to issue guidelines to county assessors in determining what constitutes a comparable sale.  It is difficult to quantify what effect the new directive will have on assessments, but will prevent improper increases caused by anomalies in the market place.

“Tax relief remains a focus of my administration, including property taxes and this is one thing we can do immediately within the framework of the current law,” said Governor Ricketts.  “I will continue to do everything I can to protect taxpayers and grow Nebraska.”

Nebraska Drivers Save $17 Million Using Ethanol-blended Fuel

In 2016, Nebraska drivers will save approximately $17 million by using ethanol-blended gasoline. The savings is based on lower prices for ethanol compared to wholesale gasoline and the state’s projected spark-ignition fuel consumption of 900 million gallons.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, ethanol is blended into virtually all U.S. gasoline. The most common ethanol blend sold nationwide is E10, a blend of 90 percent gasoline and 10 percent ethanol. Between August 2015 and August 2016, the cost of wholesale ethanol averaged 18 cents per gallon less than the minimum octane gasoline allowed to be sold in most of the U.S.

According to the Department of Energy, this year’s gasoline consumption by U.S. motorists will exceed 140 billion gallons and 97 percent of this fuel will contain ethanol. U.S. gasoline refiners continue to supply lower-octane gasoline which is typically enhanced with high octane ethanol to meet fuel standards. The octane-boosting capability and cleaner-burning attributes of ethanol make it an indispensable part of the U.S. motor fuel supply.

The significant role of ethanol in the nation’s fuel supply is likely to expand in 2017 to meet the requirements of the national Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), noted Nebraska Ethanol Board Administrator Todd Sneller.

“Higher octane fuel reduces ‘engine knocking’ and provides better vehicle performance,” he said. “Adding ethanol to boost octane reduces the toxicity of gasoline. It’s a win-win for consumers and the environment.”

Adding 10 percent ethanol to low octane gasoline increases the octane rating to levels recommended by auto manufacturers and required by federal regulations.  In most parts of the country regular gasoline enhanced with ethanol has an octane rating of 87 which is the minimum octane recommended by automakers.

According to EPA’s Urban Air Toxics report to Congress, U.S. refiners increasingly boost octane by adding refining by-products such as benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene and xylene. Several of these chemicals are known and suspected carcinogens, and they’re more expensive additives. According to a February 2016 study by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the price of petroleum-based additives range from 35 cents to a dollar per gallon more than ethanol.

“These products of oil refining, known as aromatics, can produce cancer-causing emissions which damage the human immune, respiratory, neurological, reproductive and developmental systems,” Sneller said. “Ethanol is much less expensive and cleaner-burning than these toxic petroleum-based chemicals.”

Nebraska is the nation’s second largest producer of ethanol with 25 plants producing a combined capacity approaching 2.5 billion gallons annually. The ethanol industry has a $5 billion annual economic impact in the state.

“Future growth in the ethanol industry is likely tied directly to automaker efforts to meet increasingly stringent U.S. fuel economy standards,” Sneller said. “New vehicles will have more efficient, higher compression engines that require even higher octane fuels. Ethanol will continue to play a role as a high-octane, low-carbon renewable choice in the U.S. and abroad.”

Holt County Farm Bureau Couple Take Home Young Farmer and Rancher Achievement Award

James and Katie Olson of Atkinson were honored as Nebraska Farm Bureau's 2016 Young Farmers and Ranchers Achievement in Agriculture award winners at the Nebraska Farm Bureau 99th Annual Convention Tuesday, Dec. 6 at the Younes Convention Center in Kearney.

Farm Bureau members 18 to 35 years of age apply for the award. The Olson’s were selected on the basis of performance in farm or ranch management, setting and achieving goals, overcoming obstacles, and service to the community and Farm Bureau.

James and Katie Olson are the fourth generation to farm near Atkinson in Holt County. They raise 85 head of cow/calf pairs and grow corn, soybeans, and hay on about 900 acres. Both grew up on farms, James near Atkinson and Katie on a dairy farm near Spencer. Both graduated from Northeast Community College in Norfolk with James receiving a degree in Farm and Ranch Management and Katie in Agribusiness.

The Olson’s keep family a top priority, balancing a busy schedule with farm life and working with Nebraska Farm Bureau. James and Katie have five children, 12-year-old Luke, 9-year-old Hannah, 8-year-old Elizabeth, 4-year-old Rebekah, and 10-month-old Sarah. 12-year-old Luke has shown some interest in being the fifth generation on the farm.

They got started farming when James’ grandfather, Carroll Olson, sub-leased an irrigated school land quarter. The farm has grown enough to take over that lease. James also works part time for his grandfather and does all the planting and harvesting, the majority of the tillage, and the majority of the irrigating for eleven irrigated quarters for his grandfather. This is all in addition to their own field work and irrigating. They are very diligent about taking good care of the land, so conservation is always in the back of their minds. In 2014 they purchased an Aerway, a vertical tillage machine, which has greatly reduced the amount of tillage they do in the spring. It has been a great tool for the Olson’s.

Katie does the majority of the trucking, haying, making sure the weaned calves are healthy, and taking care of the cattle. She also helps out with tillage, planting, calving, and servicing pivots. The couple work together, using each other’s strengths to make things on the farm run as efficient as possible.

“We have started using cover crops to help with erosion and keeping organic matter back in the ground. This method saves us money on fertilizer. We have our cows graze on those fields in the spring, which saves us from having to hay the cows until they can go to pasture. The fields also have moisture probes so we know just how much water is available for our crops, so we save money by not overwatering and we can easily monitor if the ground is getting too dry. The pivots are also linked to our smartphones so we can manage them wherever we are,” Katie Olson said.

The Olson’s try to find better ways to measure and evaluate the management of the operation. On the cow/calf side of the farm, they have been buying feeder calves and putting them in a feedlot. The Olson’s take the corn they grow to the feedlot to feed it to their calves. All of these methods help them to become as self-reliant as possible with the farming operation.

“This has allowed us to sell our corn for a fixed price where our profit is locked in. We also try to minimize our risk by hedging the cattle. We can lock in a profit on the corn side or the cattle side,” James Olson said.

The Olson’s currently are serving their second term on the state YF&R committee, representing district six. Katie is active on the local Holt County Farm Bureau board, currently serving as vice president. Both are very active in 4-H and their church. As winners of the Young Farmers and Ranchers Achievement Award, the Olson’s will receive a $500 cash prize and an all-expense paid trip to the 2017 American Farm Bureau convention in Phoenix, Arizona, in January, where they will compete in the national contest.

Paul and Elizabeth Janning and Randy Reinke Take Home NFBF Young Farmer and Rancher Awards

Paul and Elizabeth Janning of Hastings was named the recipient of the 2016 Young Farmers and Ranchers Excellence in Agriculture Award, and Randy Reinke of Neligh was selected as the winner of Nebraska Farm Bureau’s 2016 Young Farmers and Ranchers Discussion Meet. Both awards were given Tuesday, at the Membership Recognition luncheon during the Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation’s 99th Annual Convention held Dec. 4-6 in Kearney, Neb.

Paul and Elizabeth Janning, of Adams County Farm Bureau, were recognized for their ongoing involvement and commitment to agriculture. The Excellence in Agriculture Award is designed to recognize young farmers and ranchers for their contribution and involvement in Farm Bureau and agriculture. Candidates for the award are judged on their involvement in agriculture, leadership ability, and involvement and participation in Farm Bureau and other civic, service, and community organizations. Paul and Elizabeth Janning have two daughters, 3-year-old Maggie and 1-year-old Mary. Paul is currently employed with DuPont Pioneer Seeds as a maintenance mechanic at the Nebraska seed corn plant in Doniphan and Elizabeth is an Extension Educator at Raising Nebraska, where she focuses on connecting consumers to food and agriculture.

Randy Reinke received the top score of the contestants who advanced to the final round of the Discussion Meet contest. Rather than debating, contestants work to develop a solution to a problem being discussed, building on each other’s contributions. Competitors in the annual contest must be prepared to speak on any number of agriculture-related topics; the selected question is announced a short time prior to the contest round. Reinke and his wife Brendee grow corn and soybeans on their farm in Antelope County.

Anyone who is a Farm Bureau member between the ages of 18 and 35 can apply for the Young Farmer and Rancher Awards. Winners of each award receive $500 and an all-expenses paid trip to the American Farm Bureau Convention in Phoenix, Arizona in January 2017 to compete in the contests at the national level.

Local Dairy Days Feature Profitable Dairy Practices

Iowa dairy producers have the opportunity to learn about emerging dairy industry issues at the 2017 Dairy Days hosted by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach specialists. The program is scheduled at seven eastern Iowa locations between Jan. 16 and Feb. 2.

Holstein cows in a freestall barn“ISU Extension and Outreach conducts this workshop to provide the latest research to Iowa’s dairy producers,” said Jennifer Bentley, ISU Extension and Outreach dairy specialist. “Our goal is to help producers make sound herd management decisions that are backed by current and relevant information.

"This day-long program offers producers an opportunity to hear up-to-date information. They can also talk with our speakers for answers to their specific situations," said Bentley.

Topics covered at 2017 Dairy Days will include:
-    Colostrum Quality: How Does Yours Measure Up? Jenn Bentley, dairy specialist
-    Millionaire Model Dairies: Show Me the Money! Larry Tranel, dairy specialist
-    Woodland and Wildlife Mgt/Opportunities on your Dairy, Jesse Randall/Adam Janke, forestry/wildlife specialist
-    Keys to Successful Farm Transition, Melissa O’Rourke, farm management specialist
-    Silage, Snaplage and Shredlage: Know your Forages, Hugo Ramirez, assistant professor and dairy specialist
-    Balancing SCC and Milk Quality Decisions, Leo Timms, professor and dairy specialist

Dairy Days will be offered at seven Iowa locations: Jan. 16 in Waverly, Jan. 17 in Calmar, Jan. 19 in Riceville, Jan. 30 in Bloomfield, Jan. 31 in Kalona, Feb. 1 in Holy Cross and Feb. 2 in Ryan. Registration starts at 9:30 a.m. and the program will conclude by 3 p.m. Contact an ISU Extension and Outreach county office for more information.

A $15 registration fee covers the noon meal and proceedings costs. Pre-registration is requested by the Friday before each event to reserve a meal. Vouchers for the event may be available at local agri-service providers or veterinarian offices.

For more information contact an ISU Extension and Outreach county office or local dairy specialist, Jennifer Bentley at 563-382-2949 or Larry Tranel at 563-583-6496.

Choice Boxed Beef Rallies Late In the Year

Katelyn McCullock, Economist, American Farm Bureau Federation

Daily choice boxed beef cutout values advanced to the highest level seen since late September 2016 last week, reaching $190.50 per cwt on December 1. The boxed beef cutout value is a calculation using primal cuts' pricing and yield (rib, chuck, round, loin, brisket, short plate, and flank) for a specific grade.

Rib and tenderloin (loin) values tend to be seasonal, tied to Christmas and New Year's demand.  This year the seasonal rally was later than usual.  Given larger beef supplies and low prices, retailers did not pre-buy items until consumer demand was more apparent and specials/features/ads were fully fleshed out. As a result, rib pricing reached the highest value of 2016 on December 2nd, of $387.26 per cwt, rallying from its lowest point of the year in October of $290.17 per cwt, and increasing 33% since mid-October.  Loin values are up over recent weeks, but have not shown the strength relative to ribs.  Loins hit the lowest prices in mid-October, as well, and have climbed 6% to $234.31 per cwt over the last six weeks. Brisket prices have also contributed to the increase in the cutout over the same timeframe.  Brisket prices are up 14% since October, adding $69 per cwt.

Chuck, round, and short plate prices have lost ground from highs set earlier in the year and the week of 11/28/2016 moved opposite of the cutout on December 1st.  Still, chuck, round, and short plate prices are off their lows set for the year and are up 3-6%.  Flank prices have been the only primal setting an annual low in the last six weeks.  The lowest price recorded for the year is $83.30 per cwt, set the week if 11/28/2016.  Seasonally, chucks, rounds and flanks tend to be used more in winter months and end up on consumer tables as roasts and stews.  Short plate cuts are more dependent on the export markets, which were slow in the first half of the year but picked up in the third quarter.

Cutout values are still below year ago levels.  Rib and brisket primal values are the only cuts showing year over year increases in daily values and ribs will fade with the New Year. Chuck, round, and short plate prices are expected to play a larger role in the cutout movement after the first of the year, but those values now are down 9-15% compared to last year at this time. 

Commodity Classic Registration, Housing Opens Dec. 7 at 10 a.m. Central

Registration and housing for the 2017 Commodity Classic, March 2-4 in San Antonio, Texas, officially opens at 10 a.m. Central Time on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016.

All registration and housing reservations should be made online. Experient is the official registration and housing provider for Commodity Classic. In order to stay at an official Commodity Classic hotel, reservations must be made only through Experient to ensure favorable rates, reasonable terms and confirmed hotel rooms.

The 2017 Commodity Classic is at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. The convention center will house all Commodity Classic events, including the Welcome 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 Commodity Classic website...

EIA: Higher Biodiesel Production in '17

 In its most recent short-term energy outlook Tuesday, the Energy Information Administration forecast biodiesel production for 2016 to average 99,000 barrels per day and 104,000 bpd in 2017, compared to 82,000 bpd in 2015.

Net imports of biomass-based diesel are expected to rise from 31,000 bpd in 2015 to 45,000 bpd in 2016 and 51,000 bpd in 2017.

Projected ethanol consumption averages about 940,000 bpd in both 2016 and 2017, reflecting the ethanol share of the total gasoline pool averaging 10% in both years.

US October Ethanol Exports Up 88% From Year Ago

The U.S. Census Bureau said Tuesday that exports of goods and services in October totaled $186.4 billion, down $3.4 billion from the previous month. Imports totaled $229.0 billion, up $3.0 billion from the previous month. USDA later filled in more details for exports of ethanol, biodiesel and distillers grains.

USDA said that U.S. exports of ethanol totaled 131.6 million gallons in October, up a whopping 88% from a year ago. Brazil was the top customer in October, accounting for 32% of all exports while Canada was number two. Year-to-date ethanol exports in 2016 are up 21% from a year ago. 

U.S. exports of biodiesel totaled 13,402 metric tons in October, down 41% from a year ago. Canada was again the top customer for biodiesel exports in October, taking 32% of exports while Mexico ran a close second. In the first 10 months of 2016, U.S. biodiesel exports are down 1% from a year ago. 

U.S. exports of distillers grains totaled 1.005 million metric tons in October, down 3% from a year ago. Mexico was the top export destination in October, accounting for 13% of total exports with China and Vietnam a close second and third. So far in 2016, U.S. exports of distillers grains are down 11% from a year ago.

Growth Energy Testifies Before EPA on Renewable Enhancement and Growth Support (REGS) Rule

Today, at a hearing in Chicago, Chris Bliley, Director of Regulatory Affairs for Growth Energy testified before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the Renewable Enhancement and Growth Support (REGS) Rule.

During his testimony, Bliley outlined Growth Energy’s concern regarding the impact of the REGs rule on the developing market for E15, a fuel mixed with 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline. Specifically, Bliley noted, “While we certainly appreciate and support the regulatory clarity and vapor pressure relief for ethanol flex fuels, we are concerned about the impact of this proposal on the developing market for E15. While the proposal doesn’t directly address E15, it would isolate E15 as the only ethanol-blended fuel that does not receive Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) relief in conventional areas. This would deny retailers and consumers the choice of cleaner, less-expensive E15 in a large portion of the country during the height of the summer driving season. It is imperative that E15 be given the same RVP treatment as regular E10 gasoline because of its benefit to our nation’s air quality. Without relief, nearly 1,000 retailers will be forced to change their fuel blend to 16 percent ethanol and limit their sale to flex fuel vehicles, which represent a mere 8 percent of the total auto fleet, from June 1 to September 15 in conventional gasoline markets.”

Bliley also raised concerns about the limitations for natural gasoline used for flex fuel blending, explaining, “As proposed, the limits would likely force the use of other refined, hydrocarbon blendstocks and ultimately impose additional costs on the consumers of midlevel ethanol blends and E85.”

Bliley also discussed Growth Energy’s support of the use of biointermediates and new pathways to help develop cellulosic biofuels. He concluded by reiterating the importance of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) stating, “The RFS injects competition and consumer choice into the vehicle fuels marketplace. It is moving America forward. With more and more retailers moving toward E15, and the USDA investments through the Biofuels Infrastructure Partnership, now is exactly the wrong time to orphan E15 as the only fuel that cannot be sold consistently year-round.”

Dairy Groups Send Letter to President-Elect Donald Trump Detailing Importance of Dairy Trade

The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) sent a joint letter today to President-elect Donald Trump outlining the importance of exports to the U.S. dairy sector and seeking further dialogue on ways the organizations can work with the incoming administration on trade policy.

NMPF and USDEC said in their letter that expanded agricultural trade has created thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity in rural America. The two organizations said it is important “to preserve current overseas dairy sales while seeking to achieve new gains by removing foreign barriers that hold back additional exports,” according to NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern.

The USDA estimates that at the dairy farm level, each $1 billion of U.S. dairy exports generates more than 20,000 jobs and almost $3 billion of economic output. At the manufacturing level, USDA calculates that U.S. dairy exports support approximately 3,200 jobs per $1 billion of exports. Exports consume approximately 14% of the milk produced on American farms, the equivalent of one day’s production each week.

“During the last two decades, dairy exports have grown from less than a billion dollars a year to over $5 billion last year, in the process generating more than 120,000 jobs in dairy farming, manufacturing and related sectors,” said USDEC President Tom Suber.

He said that despite achievements made by free trade agreements, “rampant foreign nontariff barriers require a ramp-up in trade enforcement,” and urged the Trump Administration to closely monitor other nations’ compliance with existing market access concessions.

Emphasizing the need to ensure a level international playing field, Mulhern said that competitors to the U.S. dairy sector in Europe and Oceania “have not been happy to see the U.S. seizing market share from them in the last 15 years. They would relish the opportunity to regain an advantage over U.S. suppliers.”

USDA Invests $33 Million to Improve Water Quality in High-Priority Watersheds

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced an investment of more than $33 million in 197 high-priority watersheds across the country to help landowners improve water quality through the Natural Resource Conservation Service's (NRCS) National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI).

The NWQI helps farmers and ranchers implement voluntary conservation practices, such as nutrient management, cover crops, conservation cropping systems, filter strips, terraces and buffers, which protect and improve water quality where it is needed most. Conservation practices enhance agricultural productivity and profitability while also improving water quality by enhancing soil health and optimizing the use of agricultural inputs.

"USDA is committed to working hand-in-hand with farmers, ranchers, and landowners to address water quality issues and provide the tools necessary to ensure clean, safe water for communities and wildlife," Vilsack said. "This latest investment is yet another example of how voluntary, incentive-based conservation programs are benefitting both producers and our natural resources."

This year, NRCS added 42 new watersheds to the NWQI and selected 21 watersheds for new assessment projects. These assessment watershed projects span 17 states and include a variety of land uses and water quality issues. NRCS will provide resources for these assessment projects to leverage existing plans, data, and information, and fill gaps needed to complete watershed assessments and develop outreach plans. Experience and data gained from several studies, including the Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP), have shown that improvements in water quality are more likely to be detected when conservation systems are placed in the most vulnerable areas of a watershed.

The goal of the NWQI is to implement conservation practices within a local area to protect water bodies within priority watersheds. NRCS works closely with conservation partners and State water quality agencies to select watersheds where on-farm conservation can deliver the greatest benefits for clean water. State water quality agencies also work to align U.S. Environmental Protection Agency funding with these priority watersheds.