Friday, June 26, 2015

June 26 Hogs & Pigs Report + Ag News


Nebraska inventory of all hogs and pigs on June 1, 2015, was 3.20 million head, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. This was up 7 percent from June 1, 2014, and up 3 percent from March 1, 2015.

Breeding hog inventory, at 410,000 head, was up 5 percent from June 1, 2014, but down 2 percent from last quarter. Market hog inventory, at 2.79 million head, was up 7 percent from last year, and up 4 percent from last quarter.

The March May 2015 Nebraska pig crop, at 1.90 million head, was up 7 percent from 2014.  Sows farrowed during the period totaled 170,000 head, unchanged from last year. The average pigs saved per litter was a record high 11.20 for the March - May period, compared to 10.50 last year.

Nebraska hog producers intend to farrow 175,000 sows during the June – August 2015 quarter, unchanged from the actual farrowings during the same period a year ago. Intended farrowings for September – November 2015 are 175,000 sows, down 3 percent from the actual farrowings during the same period the previous year.

Iowa Hogs & Pigs 2nd Highest on Record

On June 1, 2015, there were 21.0 million hogs and pigs on Iowa farms, according to the latest USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service – Hogs and Pigs report. This is the second highest inventory since records began in 1870, behind only December 2014’s inventory of 21.3 million. The June 1 inventory was up 2 percent from March and up 10 percent from last June’s 19.1 million head.

The March-May quarterly pig crop was 5.25 million head, down 2 percent from the previous quarter, but 5 percent above last year. A total of 495,000 sows farrowed during this quarter. The average pigs saved per litter was 10.60 for the March-May quarter.

As of June 1, producers planned to farrow 490,000 head of sows and gilts in the June-August quarter and 490,000 head during the September-November quarter.

United States Hog Inventory Up 9 Percent

United States inventory of all hogs and pigs on June 1, 2015 was 66.9 million head. This was up 9 percent from June 1, 2014, and up slightly from March 1, 2015.

Breeding inventory, at 5.93 million head, was up 1 percent from last year, but down 1 percent from the previous quarter.  Market hog inventory, at 61.0 million head, was up 9 percent from last year, and up 1 percent from last quarter.

Total Inventory - (1,000 hd - % June '14)

Illinois ............:        4,600         107 
Indiana ...........:        3,600         103 
Minnesota ......:        8,050         105 
Missouri .........:        2,900         118
North Carolina :        8,000         105 

The March-May 2015 pig crop, at 29.6 million head, was up 8 percent from 2014. Sows farrowed during this period totaled 2.85 million head, up 1 percent from 2014. The sows farrowed during this quarter represented 48 percent of the breeding herd. The average pigs saved per litter was a record high 10.37 for the March-May period, compared to 9.78 last year. Pigs saved per litter by size of operation ranged from 8.00 for operations with 1-99 hogs and pigs to 10.40 for operations with more than 5,000 hogs and pigs.

United States hog producers intend to have 2.91 million sows farrow during the June-August 2015 quarter, down 3 percent from the actual farrowings during the same period in 2014, but up 1 percent from 2013. Intended farrowings for September-November 2015, at 2.87 million sows, are down
4 percent from 2014, but up 3 percent from 2013.

The total number of hogs under contract owned by operations with over 5,000 head, but raised by contractees, accounted for 46 percent of the total United States hog inventory, down from 48 percent last year.


The 2015 state average for Nebraska agricultural land values declined 2 percent from 2014, according to the final results of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Farm Real Estate Market Survey.

The statewide all-land average value for the year ending Feb. 1 averaged $3,250 per acre, down $65 per acre from 2014.

Land used for irrigated and dryland crop production showed the greatest percentage decline. This change was driven by a decrease in crop prices.

Hayland and grassland values, meanwhile, were up significantly from 2014. Record cattle prices fueled the increase.

The changes in land values were also reflected in cash rental rates. Cropland rental rates declined in all areas, while pasture rates were up across the state.

The 2015 Nebraska Farm Real Estate Market Survey covers Feb. 1, 2014, to Feb.1 1, 2015. Over 100 agricultural land market experts provided their insights. The full report is available at


Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) Director Greg Ibach today announced that the depopulation of birds with, or exposed to, highly pathogenic H5N2 avian influenza (HPAI) in Dixon County is now complete.

According to Ibach, a total of 4.9 million laying hens and pullets were humanely depopulated and composted at five farms owned and operated by the same producer in Dixon County.  Four of those farms had confirmed cases of HPAI, while the producer voluntarily depopulated the birds at the fifth farm in an effort to contain the spread of the virus within their operation.  A backyard flock with epidemiological connections to the five farms, and located within the 6.2 mile quarantine zone established by NDA, also tested positive for the virus.  Fewer than 100 mixed fowl were depopulated and buried on that property. 

“I feel the depopulation process ran as smoothly as it did because of the working relationship and cooperation we received from local, state and federal agencies,” Ibach said. “I personally want to thank our staff for their hard work, dedication and long hours they put in to help prevent further spread of the virus. I also want to thank those within several key organizations who played a critical part in the response.”

Ibach said Governor Pete Ricketts signed an emergency declaration, and that gave the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency, Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, Nebraska State Patrol, Nebraska Department of Roads and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services additional flexibility to play vital roles in assisting NDA. He also said county emergency management teams were instrumental in daily operations in both Dixon and Knox counties.

“Our federal partners at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) were also a critical component to the success of the depopulation and now the cleaning and disinfection efforts,” Ibach said. “I’d like to thank each of these partners for their support and contributions to addressing this disease.”

With the depopulation process completed, the work of cleaning and disinfecting each building and the equipment found in those buildings can begin in earnest.  According to Ibach, USDA contracted crews have arrived in Dixon County to facilitate and oversee those cleanup efforts.  Upon successful completion of the cleaning and disinfection process, environmental tests will be conducted to ensure the presence of the virus has been eliminated.  Once that testing is successfully complete, the producer will be able to repopulate its operation.

NDA staff will be returning to regular duties, while an individual specializing in composting protocol will remain on site in Dixon County to monitor the compost piles daily to ensure proper temperature levels are being maintained to effectively eliminate the virus.  The compost piles will remain in place at the affected properties until regulatory officials confirm the process has eliminated the virus from the compost material.  Once the virus has been successfully eliminated the compost can be utilized for its nutrient value.  

As part of NDA’s ongoing surveillance work, a total of 48 farms with poultry that are located within a 6.2 mile radius of the affected farms remain under quarantine.  Those flocks have all undergone one round of avian influenza testing with no further cases of the virus detected.  Those flocks will undergo another round of testing in July, and if the virus is not detected at that time, NDA will begin the quarantine release process for those farms.

“While we are cautiously optimistic that the virus has been contained at this time, I continue to urge all poultry operations – big and small – to continue to exercise the strictest of biosecurity measures on their farms,” Ibach said.  “We must all work together to prevent the spread of the HPAI virus in Nebraska.”


The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said there have been no new probable cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in the state this week and the last positive flock was detected on June 16.

Infected turkey flocks have been depopulated and are currently being composted.  Clean and disinfection is taking place.  Environmental samplings of all sites will take place to confirm successful cleaning and disinfecting before restocking.  IDALS and USDA officials have been meeting with affected farmers regularly to share information and answer questions.

All the commercial laying and pullet facilities have been depopulated and cleaning and disinfection of facilities is ongoing.  Disposal of affected birds has been completed except for the layer site announced last week.  That site had been doing on-site burial of affected birds, but due to the recent wet weather, burial has been stopped.  The birds are now being placed in bio-secure boxes and will be disposed of via incineration or at the landfill in Southwest Iowa.  Disposal of other materials from affected sites is ongoing.

To-date, over 1000 bio-secure boxes have been disposed of via incineration or at one of the two currently approved landfills.  Approximately 250 are still in need of disposal.  U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) contractor Clean Harbors is moving the materials.  All trucks are cleaned and disinfected before the leave an infected premise and before leaving a disposal site.

USDA has more than 2300 staff and contractors helping respond to the avian influenza situation in Iowa.  A USDA Incident Management Team (IMT) has been operating out of Ames and overseeing USDA’s activities.

More than 300 state employees have also participated in the disaster response at some point. The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Iowa Department of Public Health (in conjunction with local public health officials), Iowa Department of Human Services, Iowa Department of Transportation, Iowa Department of Corrections, Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, and Iowa National Guard have all supported the response effort to this disease. 

USDA Seeks Partner Proposals to Protect and Restore Critical Wetlands in Nebraska

Natural Resources Conservation Service State Conservationist Craig Derickson announced today the availability of $17.5 million in financial and technical assistance nationwide to help eligible conservation partners voluntarily protect, restore and enhance critical wetlands on private and tribal agricultural lands.

“USDA has leveraged partnerships to accomplish a great deal on America’s wetlands over the past two decades,” Derickson said. “This year’s funding will help strengthen these partnerships and achieve greater wetland acreage in Nebraska and throughout the nation.”

Proposal funding will be provided through the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership (WREP), a special enrollment option under the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program’s Wetland Reserve Easement component. It is administered by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Proposals must be submitted to NRCS state offices by July 31, 2015.

Under WREP, states, local units of governments, non-governmental organizations and American Indian tribes collaborate with USDA through cooperative and partnership agreements. These partners work with willing tribal and private landowners who voluntarily enroll eligible land into easements to protect, restore and enhance wetlands on their property. WREP was created through the 2014 Farm Bill and was formerly known as the Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program.

According to Derickson, Nebraska has had success with restoring wetlands in partnership agreements through WREP.

“NRCS has worked with several partners, including the Rainwater Basin Joint Venture, Nebraska Environmental Trust, Nebraska Association of Resources Districts and Nebraska Game and Parks, to develop WREP projects in Nebraska.

“For example, from 2010 to 2013 NRCS had a WREP project in the rainwater basin wetland area in central Nebraska where 840 acres were enrolled in long-term conservation easements. This project helped restore habitat for thousands of ducks and geese that will use the restored wetlands each year during their annual migration. These sites also protect habitat for the threatened and endangered whooping crane,” Derickson said.

Wetland reserve easements allow landowners to successfully enhance and protect habitat for wildlife on their lands, reduce impacts from flooding, recharge groundwater and provide outdoor recreational and educational opportunities. The voluntary nature of NRCS' easement programs allows effective integration of wetland restoration on working landscapes, providing benefits to farmers and ranchers who enroll in the program, as well as benefits to the local and rural communities where the wetlands exist.

Projects can range from individual to watershed-wide to ecosystem-wide.  Under a similar program in the 2008 Farm Bill, NRCS and its partners entered into 272 easements that enrolled more than 44,020 acres of wetlands from 2009 through 2013. The new collaborative WREP will build on those successes by providing the financial and technical assistance necessary for states, non-governmental organizations and tribes to leverage resources to restore and protect wetlands and wildlife habitat.

Through WREP, NRCS will sign multi-year agreements with partners to leverage resources, including funding, to achieve maximum wetland restoration, protection and enhancement and to create optimum wildlife habitat on enrolled acres. WREP partners are required to contribute a funding match for financial or technical assistance. These partners work directly with eligible landowners interested in enrolling their agricultural land into conservation wetland easements.

Today’s announcement builds on the roughly $332 million USDA has announced this year to protect and restore agricultural working lands, grasslands and wetlands.  Collectively, NRCS’ easement programs help productive farm, ranch and tribal lands remain in agriculture and protect the nation's critical wetlands and grasslands, home to diverse wildlife and plant species. Under the former Wetlands Reserve Program, private landowners, tribes and entities such as land trusts and conservation organizations enrolled 2.7 million acres through 14,500 agreements for a total NRCS and partner investment of $4.3 billion in financial and technical assistance.


(from National Pork Producers Council newsletter)

Amendments in House bills to fund the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services would prevent language on sustainability from being included in the final 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. In February, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee released a report claiming that a plant-based diet is better for the environment than an animal-based one. (The committee also recommended less consumption of red and processed meat.) NPPC supports the riders, pointing out that the advisory committee had no mandate and no expertise to address sustainability. The amendments would limit the dietary guidelines, which are being written by USDA and HHS, to “matters of diet and nutrient intake.”


Officials from the United States and South Africa met again this week to discuss opening the South African market to U.S. pork exports. NPPC has been working closely with U.S. and South African government officials to gain market access.  The United States is at a significant disadvantage in exporting pork to South Africa’s large and growing market because that nation accepts pork from key competitors Brazil, Canada and the European Union. While the Sub-Saharan country prohibits U.S. pork, it is a beneficiary of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), which provides beneficiary countries with duty-free access for certain products going to the U.S. market. Legislation to reauthorize these preference programs, passed in both the House and Senate, and await approval from President Obama.


The “Animal Welfare in Agricultural Research Endeavors” (AWARE) Act, H.R. 746, which would bring farm animals used in agricultural research at federal research facilities under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), could be tacked on to the fiscal 2016 agricultural funding bill now moving through the House Appropriations Committee. NPPC is urging panel members to oppose the measure, which could significantly limit valuable food-animal research.

Fuel Retailers counter EPA’s blend wall assumptions in RFS proposal

Station owners who offer ethanol blends above ten percent are gaining increased sales and higher customer counts, contrary to assumptions made by the EPA in its recent proposal that would reduce the amount of renewables required to be blended with gasoline in the United States. Retailers also point out that the addition of the products was simple and that none of the engine issues ethanol opponents had predicted have occurred.

Those were points frequently cited by the many retailers who gave testimony at an EPA Field Hearing yesterday in Kansas City, Kansas.

“We have seen our ethanol sales numbers increase as we educate the public on the higher ethanol blends,” said Scott Zaremba, Owner of Zarco USA, and the first retailer to offer E15 in the United States.  “Renewable blends make up 98% of my gasoline sales mix, Almost 30% of the fuel I sell is in renewable blends above 10%” noted Charlie Good, Owner of Good and Quick convenience store in Nevada, Iowa.

“The oil industry has spent a lot of time and money insisting to EPA that there is a “blend wall” that makes it impossible to sell more than ten percent ethanol,” said American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) Senior Vice President Ron Lamberty. “Yesterday, EPA heard from real marketers with real fuel stations whose renewable sales are well above ten percent. Hopefully their input will help EPA see that the rumors of E15’s impossibly have been greatly exaggerated,” said Lamberty.  Other stories of marketers who had success with higher blends can be found on, a website ACE designed for retailers, according to Lamberty.

Dave Sovereign, owner and operator of the Cresco Fast Stop, summarized the thoughts of many retailers, telling EPA, “When consumers have a choice, there is no blend wall.”

The public can also submit comments on the EPA’s proposed Renewable Fuel Standard by clicking on

U.S. Refinery Capacity Reaches 18 Million b/d

U.S. operable atmospheric crude distillation (CDU) capacity increased by 0.2% in 2014, reaching 18.0 million barrels per calendar day (b/d) according to EIA's recently released annual Refinery Capacity Report.

This was the second consecutive year of modest capacity growth following the 2.9% increase in 2012 that resulted from the restart of East Coast refineries that had closed in 2011.

The capacities of secondary units that support heavy crude processing and production of ultra-low sulfur diesel and gasoline, including thermal cracking (coking), catalytic hydrocracking, and hydrotreating/desulfurization, also increased.

The refinery capacity reported for the start of 2015 includes expansions that were operable on January 1, but not necessarily operating. Capacity for those projects is listed as idle. Dakota Prairie Refining recently completed construction of one of the few new refineries built in the U.S. over the last 30 years.

Day 5, Kansas Wheat Harvest Report - June 25

Praise for the late season rains keeps pouring in from around the state. Industry experts had pegged them the “million bushel rains,” but it looks like they have added even more to this year’s crop.

Steve Thummel from the Plains Equity Exchange & Coop Union said that the harvest near Plains, in Meade County, is around 45% complete. Area farmers are seeing 20-30 bushels an acre for dryland wheat while irrigated wheat is yielding around 65 bushels an acre. Thummel reported variable test weights that are averaging around 58-59 pounds per bushel. He estimates that this is going to be a close to average year, something that coop employees weren’t confident in until after the late season rains.

Ron Suppes, a western Kansas wheat farmer, reported starting his harvest in northeast Finney County on Wednesday. Yields are better than expected, with Danby, a hard white wheat, yielding about 50 bushels per acre. His average test weight is 65.4 with a moisture range between 9 and 10 percent.

Blake Connely from the Southern Plains Coop in Lewis, Edwards County, is reporting an area average between 40-50 bushels an acre. He estimates the area’s harvest is around 60-65 percent complete. Connely also said that test weights in the area are variable, with fields that weren’t sprayed for disease weighing 55-58 pounds per bushel, while other fields are weighing in at 60-64 pounds per bushel.

Connely also reports that protein across the coop’s locations varies. The Greensburg location is seeing a 12 percent average protein content, while the areas around Lewis and Belpre are testing at 12.5-13 percent.

The 2015 Harvest Report is brought to you by Kansas Wheat Commission, Kansas Association of Wheat Growers and Kansas Grain and Feed Association.

Thursday June 25 Ag News

President Declares Nebraska Disaster, Delegation Calls For Immediate Action

This afternoon, President Obama declared a major disaster exists in Nebraska, following calls from the Nebraska delegation for an immediate response. On June 15, U.S. Senators Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), joined Representatives Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.), Adrian Smith (R-Neb.), and Brad Ashford (D-Neb.) in a letter to President Obama urging prompt approval of a request for a federal disaster declaration.

In May, severe storms caused immeasurable damage across Nebraska and impacted the counties of Cass, Dundy, Gage, Jefferson, Lincoln, Lancaster, Morrill, Nuckolls, Otoe, Saline, Saunders, and Thayer. Lieutenant Governor Mike Foley, on Governor Pete Ricketts’ behalf, delivered a formal request for a major disaster declaration once the full impact of this destruction was analyzed. The delegation’s letter in support of this request highlighted the damage caused by these severe storms, which the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency has estimated will cost nearly $13.8 million.  

Below is the announcement from the White House on the Nebraska Disaster Declaration:

President Obama Signs Nebraska Disaster Declaration

The President today declared a major disaster exists in the State of Nebraska and ordered federal aid to supplement state, tribal, and local recovery efforts in the area affected by severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds, and flooding during the period of May 6 to June 17, 2015.

Federal funding is available to state, tribal, and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds, and flooding in the counties of Cass, Dundy, Gage, Jefferson, Lancaster, Lincoln, Morrill, Nuckolls, Otoe, Saline, Saunders, and Thayer.

Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.

W. Craig Fugate, Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Homeland Security, named Christian M. Van Alstyne as the Federal Coordinating Officer for federal recovery operations in the affected area.

FEMA said additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by the state and warranted by the results of further damage assessments.


A federal official this week announced plans for the establishment of a new Drought Risk Management Research Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The new center will help state and local government be better prepared to respond to drought, said retired Coast Guard Vice Admiral Manson Brown, who is assistant secretary of commerce for environmental observation and prediction and the deputy administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA.

Brown made the announcement Wednesday at the annual meeting of the Western Governors’ Association in Nevada, where coping with the ongoing multi-year drought in western states topped the agenda.

"The Drought Risk Management Research Center will fill a vital role in providing states, communities and businesses with the best available drought research, data and information," Brown said. "This critical environmental intelligence will strengthen their ability to stay resilient to drought and leverage the collaborative work of NOAA and other federal and state partners."

Gov. Pete Ricketts said the announcement is good news for the state and for agriculture.

“The Drought Risk Management Research Center is an exciting new partnership for the University of Nebraska that has great potential to benefit our whole state,” he said. “Agriculture, our state’s No. 1 industry, feels the biggest impact of droughts, and benefits greatly from cutting-edge mitigation techniques and long-term planning for these events. The DRMRC will be an asset to our state and can help move agriculture forward to grow Nebraska.”

The DRMRC will be established at the National Drought Mitigation Center at UNL. It builds upon the UNL center's 20 years of working with decision-makers to implement drought monitoring and planning. It also will enhance the capabilities of the National Integrated Drought Information System to work directly with states to plan for drought. NIDIS, which integrates federal drought monitoring and preparedness resources from many agencies, is led by NOAA.

NOAA’s Sectoral Applications Research Program will support the new center with a three-year, $2.4 million grant. The center will launch this summer.

“This will solidify a long-standing relationship between NOAA, the National Integrated Drought Information System and the NDMC," said Michael J. Hayes, director of the National Drought Mitigation Center at UNL. "The emphasis on research will help us address critical needs related to drought monitoring, impact assessment and planning strategies. One of our goals will be to help states and other entities learn from each other based upon what they have experienced, such as what is happening across the West right now, and become more resilient to droughts in the future.”

The new center will conduct applied research on drought risk management by:

> helping lead the coordination of the U.S. Drought Monitor and supporting products and tools;

> working across all scales of drought preparedness and impacts, including local, state, regional, tribal, national, and international, and key socioeconomic sectors;

>enhancing regional drought early warning systems and performing drought event assessments;

>advancing innovations in planning for drought, including incorporating drought into multi-hazard mitigation planning, and

>helping to communicate and coordinate across the NIDIS partner network.

The DRMRC will work closely with NOAA’s Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments, the Regional Climate Centers, and other federal, tribal, state and regional efforts. The National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado will also be a partner. 

Farmers Travel to Talk Quality with Japanese, Korean Customers

A group of farmers from three corn states traveled to Japan and Korea last week to meet with customers and share crop progress updates direct from the farm, interactions that are critical to ongoing sales in those mature corn markets.

The team included Bruce Rohwer and Jim Greif from Iowa; Keith Truckor from Ohio; Kyle Kirby from Missouri; and Jack Irvin, director of government and industry affairs at the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association. They were accompanied by Melissa Kessler, U.S. Grains Council’s (USGC’s) communications director based in Washington, and USGC staff from Tokyo and Seoul.

The in-person visits allowed farmers a unique opportunity to thank customers while also addressing questions about their production practices, the apparent progress of this year’s crop, ethanol, biotechnology and more.

Crop quality, particularly broken corn and foreign material (BCFM) measurements, was top of mind for customers in both countries. Several meetings included the exchange of specific data on crop quality concerns that USGC’s offices and staff can use to enhance ongoing efforts to assess and improve corn quality.

“In just a few days’ time, we learned a lot about what our customers are experiencing when they buy corn from the United States,” said Kirby, who farms in southwest Missouri. “This is important information for us as farmers, and we saw it with our own eyes. Even when the picture wasn’t pretty, it was good to be able to talk directly and know what we need to look at to keep these critical markets functioning.”

In Japan, the group met in Tokyo with JA Zen Noh, a major grain handler and exporter. Zen Noh and partner organizations also arranged meetings in the rural north of the country, where the farmer team was able to visit a cattle operation, a major mill and a port that serves as one of a handful of strategic bulk ports for the nation.

While in Tokyo, the team was hosted by several representatives of major feed companies at the Japanese Feed Manufacturers Association’s offices, and the farmers spoke to nearly 140 people from the trade, feed industry organizations and the media at a corn progress conference put on by USGC’s Japan office.

From Japan, Kirby, Greif and Irvin continued on to Korea, where they met with two feed miller organizations and visited the Incheon Port. They also spoke to more than 100 attendees at the USGC Korea office’s annual corn progress conference, a turnout notable especially because of the country’s concerns with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

While quality was the hottest topic of discussion, each meeting and conference also went in-depth on production practices and crop progress. Customers in both markets were excited to hear up-to-the-minute information on moisture, crop growth and production estimates directly from producers who could explain the technology they use on their farms.

“It’s exciting to be able to show those who are going to be using our corn how it is growing as its growing,” said Greif, who often featured a webcam feed of one of his fields that is broadcasting at “They want to know the details of our crop, and we are happy to be able to have those conversations that put a face with a name and solidify our relationship going forward.”

The producers’ mission was made possible by direct state support for those traveling, which the Council relies on to supplement funding from U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA’s) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS).

Ricketts, Ethanol Advocates Urge EPA to Maintain RFS

Today, Governor Pete Ricketts and Nebraska ethanol industry leaders commented on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed change that would slash billions of gallons of ethanol from the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS).

The proposed changes are scheduled for a hearing today in Kansas City, Kansas. Nebraska Energy Office Director David Bracht will testify on behalf of the State of Nebraska in opposition to the EPA’s proposed changes to the RFS.

“Corn ethanol adds jobs and economic growth, strengthens Nebraska’s corn markets, and creates a valuable co-product that enhances our cattle feeding sector," said Governor Pete Ricketts. “The EPA’s lack of commitment to the RFS is already driving potential investment away from our state. On a trade mission earlier this month, the CEO of a major biofuels company told me that his business previously had interest in expanding in the United States, but that the EPA’s recent proposal to reduce the RFS is a hurdle to future expansion plans.”

“When the RFS was established in 2005, Nebraska’s corn and biofuels sectors set themselves on a course of action,” said Nebraska Energy Office Director David Bracht. “They recognized the value this policy had in diversification of the U.S. domestic fuel supply, while providing economic benefits for healthy, sustainable rural communities. Our state has joined others in the Midwest and proved our ability to create a supply chain that has, and can, fulfill a consistently growing demand for ethanol. We’ve done it, and we can continue to do it, if given the chance.”

"Our corn farmers and ethanol processors have shown that through innovation and efficiency, they can continue to advance this home-grown fuel," Nebraska Department of Agriculture Director Greg Ibach said. "EPA's proposal fails to recognize this fact and surely will stifle future investment and activity in this sector. In addition, it depresses a value-added market for our corn, hurting farmers and our rural economies."

“Nebraska’s second-in-the-nation ranking for ethanol production means that it plays an important role in our state’s economy,” said Paul Kenney, Chair of the Nebraska Ethanol Board. “The EPA’s proposal to dramatically reduce the amount of corn ethanol in the RFS would not only harm Nebraska’s 24 ethanol plants, but it would also be devastating to our state’s farmers who produce the feedstock for the plants and the cattle feeders who rely on the high-quality feed ethanol plants to provide for their cattle.”

“All the work and investment that Nebraska corn and livestock farmers have put into building the ethanol industry is at risk. We've already seen corn prices drift at or below the cost of production and cutting the use of corn for ethanol could drive prices even lower,” said Tim Scheer, a farmer from St. Paul, Nebraska, and Chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board. “This decision could also idle capacity and restrict access to the distillers grain market for the livestock sector.”

“Ethanol is a critical element for Nebraskans and Americans who wish to build a diverse energy portfolio and a cleaner future,” said Chief Executive Officer Todd Becker of Green Plains, the largest ethanol producer in Nebraska and the fourth largest producer in the country. “Ethanol companies have over $5 billion in capital invested just in Nebraska alone, and these investments have helped to create over 3,000 jobs in the state.  By adhering to the Renewable Volume Obligations (RVO) in the RFS as they were established by Congress, the policy can continue to drive investment in the private sector as it was intended.”

Nebraska Farm Bureau Tells EPA RFS Changes Will Hurt Nebraskans

Nebraskans would be among the millions of Americans harmed by an EPA proposal to make changes to the federal Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), according to Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson. Nelson’s comments were made during a national public hearing hosted by EPA in Kansas City, KS, June 25. The RFS establishes the amount of ethanol required to be blended into the nation’s fuel supply. In May, EPA proposed modifications to reduce blending requirements below levels established by Congress.

“Ethanol is a Nebraska produced renewable fuel source that’s helped reduce our dependency on foreign oil, lowered fuel costs for consumers and provided significant environmental benefits. It’s also one side of Nebraska’s corn, cattle, ethanol triangle that has bolstered Nebraska’s rural economy and lifted Nebraska’s economy as a whole,” said Nelson.

In failing to meet the blending requirements for ethanol as outlined by Congress, Nelson said EPA is jeopardizing a key segment of Nebraska agriculture.

“Nebraska is the third-largest producer of corn in the country and ranks second in ethanol production and distillers grains (a livestock feed ingredient produced by ethanol plants). Nebraska also ranks first in the number of cattle on feed and second in cow-calf production. The synergy that exists in adding value to corn by turning it into a fuel source that also provides an added feed source for our strong livestock sector can’t be understated,” said Nelson.

According to Nelson, EPA’s RFS proposal is clearly a step in the wrong direction as it relates to American energy policy, and more importantly for Nebraskans.

“Nebraska’s ethanol industry is worth an estimated $5 billion per year to Nebraska’s economy and has helped create 3,000 Nebraska jobs. As an industry that started as a single plant in 1985 and has grown to 24 plants statewide today, it’s vital EPA recognize the benefits of ethanol to farmers, consumers and the environment. Meeting the RFS targets established by Congress is a place to start,” said Nelson.

In addition to testifying at the June 25 field hearing, Nebraska Farm Bureau will file public comments with EPA on the proposal. The agency is accepting public comments on the proposal through July 27.

NeFU Testifies at EPA RFS Hearing in Kansas City

Nebraska Farmers Union (NeFU) Vice President Vern Jantzen of Plymouth represented Nebraska Farmers Union at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hearing on their proposed ethanol production targets for 2014, 2015 and 2015.

Jantzen’s testimony took EPA to task for their failure to get the production targets finalized in advance of the production years, and also for the target levels themselves.  In his testimony, Jantzen said:   

“Timing:  EPA is inexcusably late with their decision.  EPA was under obligation to set the production targets, and propose and finalize the rules well before the 2014 production year began to give the ethanol industry the certainty it needs to prepare for the next year.  The 2014 production year has already come and gone.  The 2015 rules will not be finalized until the year is mostly over.  It remains to be seen if the proposed rule is finalized before the 2016 production year begins.  In our view, EPA’s failure to set production targets in advance of production years is inexcusable, and damaging to the ethanol industry by virtue of the uncertainty it creates.”

“Production levels:  EPA flat out blew the setting of targets.  We believe the proposed targets are not consistent with the intent of Congress.  In our view, EPA bought a bogus blend wall problem argument from the oil industry.  The oil industry is the source of any real or imagined blend wall problem by virtue of the fact they have failed to make higher retail ethanol blend options available to the consuming public.  They have denied fuel consumers the ability to purchase E85, E30, and E15 blends, and then claim there is a blend wall problem.  EPA’s proposed production targets rewards the oil industry for dragging their feet on the retailing of higher grade ethanol blends.”

“Summary:  EPA’s proposed ethanol production targets are not consistent with the Administration’s efforts to reduce the carbon emissions that drive global warming, not consistent with the intent of Congress, not consistent with our nation’s efforts to improve air quality, and not consistent with the needs of production agriculture and rural America that is facing a dramatic downturn in commodity prices for corn.  EPA’s proposed production targets hurt our ethanol industry, and our nation’s corn producers and the rural communities they live in.  We urge EPA to pull back their proposed rule, and stick with the original legislatively set targets for 2015 and 2016.  Thank you again for the opportunity to testify.” 

Soy Growers Happy with Increased Biodiesel Volumes, But Can Produce More

In an a hearing today on the Renewable Fuels Standard held by the Environmental Protection Agency in Kansas City, Kan., American Soybean Association Kansas Director Bob Henry pointed to the many benefits of renewable biodiesel produced from soybean oil as he called on the agency to maintain its commitment to clean, domestically-produced renewable energy.

“We are proud of the many benefits that biodiesel provides,” said Henry, who grows soybeans and corn in Robinson, Kan. “… including a more diversified energy market, increased domestic energy production, significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions resulting in improved air quality, new jobs and economic development, particularly in rural America, and, of course, expanding markets for soybean farmers.”

“The biodiesel and soybean industry has always advocated for RFS volumes that are modest and achievable and we have met or exceeded the targets each and every year that the program has been in place,” added Henry. “We have done this without any significant disruption or adverse impacts to consumers. And I would reiterate that we’ve done this while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions and providing jobs.”

Henry pointed out that ASA is “glad” that EPA’s proposed rule increases volumes for biodiesel in the RFS to 1.9 billion gallons in 2017, but noted that the agency has an opportunity to support more aggressive biodiesel levels in the future.

“We see no reason why EPA should not, at a minimum, support biomass-based diesel volumes of at least 2 billion gallons for 2016 and 2.3 billion gallons for 2017,” he said, highlighting that additional soybean oil will be displaced from domestic food markets as a result of the recent FDA determination requiring the elimination of all partially hydrogenated oil. Henry also illustrated that increasing the biomass-based diesel volumes relative to the total Advanced Biofuels volumes will promote the use of biodiesel over imported Brazilian sugar-cane ethanol, and noted that an increase in the biomass-based diesel volumes would account for the likelihood of increased imports of biodiesel from Argentina.

NCGA Leaders Defend RFS at Kansas City EPA Hearing

The top leadership of the National Corn Growers Association was well represented at today’s field hearing regarding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to reduce the volume of ethanol in the Renewable Fuel Standard.

NCGA President Chip Bowling of Maryland and Chairman Martin Barbre joined scores of farmers and others on-hand in Kansas City, Kan., to speak of the importance of domestic, renewable fuels to the nation. The EPA’s proposal would cut nearly 4 billion gallons of ethanol from the RFS through 2016, representing nearly a billion and a half bushels in lost corn demand.

“We simply cannot afford – and will not tolerate – efforts to cut the demand for corn, and that’s exactly what your proposal will do,” Bowling told the EPA. “We cannot let this stand. We’ve done our part, and our allies in the ethanol industry have done their part. It’s time the EPA sided with those of us supporting a domestic, renewable fuel that’s better for the environment.”

Bowling ended his testimony telling the group that farmers were watching and would continue to speak out.

“We have never before seen so much grassroots interest in a particular issue,” he said. “The many who came here today had to set aside important work back home, with delayed planting or other important field work. They are here because they know what’s at stake.”

In his testimony, Barbre spotlighted the importance of the Renewable Fuel Standard and questioned the EPA’s methodology.

“Until the EPA proposed changes to the renewable volume obligation for 2014, the RFS was doing exactly what it was intended to do  ̶  driving adoption of domestic renewable fuel alternatives to petroleum, supporting jobs across the country, and ensuring the United States remains a global leader in developing new renewable energy sources while decreasing greenhouse gas emissions here at home,” he said. “The EPA's proposal threatens these outcomes. At the same time, we are extremely concerned about the methodology behind the EPA’s decision. The EPA only has the authority to issue a waiver when reviewing the RVOs if either the RFS would cause ‘severe economic harm’ to the economy or the environment, or if there is an inadequate domestic supply.”

ACE’s Jennings and over 100 people representing ACE members tell EPA to hold strong on the RFS

Over 100 representatives from companies or organizations that belong to the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) are testifying before officials from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today to maintain strong Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) blending targets as intended by Congress during a field hearing on the proposed Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs) for 2014, 2015, and 2016 in Kansas City, Kansas.

Brian Jennings, Executive Vice President of ACE, will testify on the first panel. “…obligated parties may protest today that your proposal ‘breaks the blend wall’ in 2016, but EPA needs to separate the signal from the noise.   The methodology EPA is proposing actually enables oil companies to stockpile more than 2 billion gallons of carryover Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) by 2016.   So in reality, your proposal continues to limit ethanol blending to E10 even in 2016,” according to Jennings.

ACE members providing testimony will give EPA officials a valuable first-hand perspective from the investors, producers, and average citizens who are innovating with advanced and cellulosic technologies and retailers who are offering consumers access to E15 and flex fuels.

“The farmers and biofuel producers who are trying to help EPA succeed in fulfilling the goals of the RFS are mystified that EPA is siding with oil companies who mock the President’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and take EPA to court every time you roll out new renewable fuel blending targets,” Jennings will testify. “EPA cannot take a passive approach with companies whose ultimate goal is to repeal the RFS.  Doing so turns a program designed to promote innovation and clean air into one that chokes innovation and increases pollution.”

 Growth Energy’s Buis to Testify at EPA Field Hearing on 2014—2016 RVOs

Today, during the Environmental Protection Agencies (EPA) field hearing on the 2014—2016 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) proposed rule, Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, testified before the EPA panel to explain the how the RFS has been a American success story and if the proposal were to be implemented as currently proposed, it would eviscerate the promise of the RFS. Buis noted:

“We see the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) as a modern American success story that has created jobs, revitalized rural America, injected much-needed competition into the vehicle fuels market, lowered the price at the pump, improved the environment, and made our nation more energy independent.

“However, EPA’s latest RVO proposal to waive the statutory renewable volume obligations would eviscerate the promise of the RFS. It would cause severe harm to farmers, the biofuels industry, and the nation’s economy. This proposal is already creating great uncertainty for farmers and other industry investors.

“The RFS was approved by a bipartisan majority in Congress and enacted into law eight years ago. Since that time, the oil industry has used its considerable power to delay, litigate, and undercut the RFS. Now, by refusing to take any steps to allow higher biofuel blends into the consumer marketplace, the oil industry is claiming the statutory volumes of the RFS cannot be met because of the so-called ‘blend wall.’ The EPA’s proposal to waive the statutory renewable fuel volumes mistakenly accepts this logic. It ignores the potential for E15, E85 and biodiesel. It ignores the large surplus of RINs, which could be used. It ignores increased gasoline demand.  And, most fundamentally, it ignores Congressional intent in creating the RFS program. The statutory volumes can easily be met if the oil industry would simply comply with the original intent of the RFS and allow higher ethanol blends like E15 to be competitively sold to consumers.

“Companies from all over the world have invested billions of dollars in first and second generation biofuels in the U.S. and are poised to do more. Arbitrarily reducing the levels established in the statute threatens investments that are making commercial production of cellulosic ethanol a reality – projects that will help achieve the significant greenhouse gas reduction goals outlined in the RFS. Also threatening greenhouse gas reductions, this proposal would nearly double the demand for imported Brazilian ethanol which has to be shipped thousands of miles by sea – and it isn’t being shipped via sailboat. At the same time, U.S. produced ethanol would then be forced to be exported – often times to Brazil. Literally a case of ships passing in the night.

“Now is the time for EPA to move the RFS forward, not backward. They have the opportunity to use their authority to continue the implementation of a successful policy that has been a win-win for our nation and its citizens. They should not squander this opportunity to placate Big Oil at the expense of the American taxpayer.

“EPA, if you seek to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, create jobs here in the US that cannot be outsourced and strengthen the rural economy, and, if you truly want cleaner air, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, a better environment for our children and lower gas prices for American consumers, tear it down this blend wall!”

USDA:  Record Low Lamb and Mutton Production for May

Commercial red meat production for the United States totaled 3.81 billion pounds in May, down 4 percent from the 3.95 billion pounds produced in May 2014.

Beef production, at 1.92 billion pounds, was 7 percent below the previous year. Cattle slaughter totaled 2.38 million head, down 10 percent from May 2014. The average live weight was up 33 pounds from the previous year, at 1,332 pounds.

Veal production totaled 6.6 million pounds, 16 percent below May a year ago. Calf slaughter totaled 33,200 head, down 29 percent from May 2014. The average live weight was up 50 pounds from last year, at 335 pounds.

Pork production totaled 1.86 billion pounds, up slightly from the previous year. Hog slaughter totaled 8.75 million head, up 1 percent from May 2014. The average live weight was down 3 pounds from the previous year, at 284 pounds.

Lamb and mutton production, at 11.9 million pounds, was down 14 percent from May 2014. Sheep slaughter totaled 168,500 head, 13 percent below last year. The average live weight was 141 pounds, down 2 pounds from May a year ago.

By State      (million lbs.,   -   % of May'14)

Nebraska .......:     586.6                96%      
Iowa ..............:     539.4               101%      
Kansas ...........:     432.0                96%      

Overall, January to May 2015 commercial red meat production was 19.7 billion pounds, up slightly from 2014. Accumulated beef production was down 5 percent from last year, veal was down 22 percent, pork was up 6 percent from last year, and lamb and mutton production was down 5 percent.

New Farm Poll Shows Nutrient Reduction Strategy Is Well Known

According to the latest Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll, the majority of farmers are aware of and support Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy, a science and technology-based approach used to assess and reduce nutrients delivered to Iowa waterways, the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico.

J. Gordon Arbuckle, a sociologist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, noted that these results are important because awareness of the Nutrient Reduction Strategy is a critical first step toward participation in actions to help meet the strategy’s goals.

“A majority of farmers knew about the strategy, which means that progress is being made. We also found that farmers with more than 500 acres of corn and soybeans were more knowledgeable about the NRS. Since those larger-scale farms represent most of Iowa’s cropland, this indicates that the stewards of that land have already crossed the awareness threshold,” said Arbuckle, who co-directs the annual poll with Paul Lasley, also an ISU Extension and Outreach sociologist.

The NRS addresses both point sources such as municipal wastewater treatment plants and industrial facilities, and nonpoint sources including farm fields and urban stormwater runoff, to address nutrient loss of nitrogen and phosphorus. The science assessment, the foundation of the nonpoint source portion of the strategy, was developed by Iowa State University and the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. There also was support from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
Farmer Perspectives

The report, “Farmer Perspectives on Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy” (PM 3072), draws on data from the 2014 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll. The survey, conducted from February through May 2014, focused on farmers’ awareness and knowledge of the nutrient reduction strategy, awareness and concern about nutrient-related water quality issues, attitudes toward the strategy and perceived barriers to action. The results represent an early measure of farmer perspectives on the strategy that was implemented by the state of Iowa in 2013. A total of 2,218 farm operators were surveyed; 51 percent, or 1,128 surveys were returned.  Arbuckle and graduate student Hanna Bates co-authored the report.

“A first objective of the study was to measure farmer knowledge of the NRS,” said Arbuckle. “If farmers don’t know about the strategy, they’re not likely to participate.” The survey showed that most farmers knew about the NRS, and more than half rated themselves as at least “somewhat knowledgeable” about it. Only 20 percent of farmers indicated no knowledge of the strategy prior to reading the survey’s introductory text.

Corn and soybean farmers, for whom the NRS is perhaps most relevant, reported higher levels of knowledge than farmers as a whole. “Because the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy is focused largely on reduction of nitrogen and phosphorus loss from crop fields, farmers who plant corn and soybeans are of particular interest,” said Arbuckle.

Survey results indicated that farmers with more corn or soybean acres show higher knowledge levels: more than two-thirds of farmers who had 500 or more acres said they were at least somewhat knowledgeable, compared to 37 percent of farmers with fewer than 100 acres.
Information Sources

Farmers had heard about the NRS from some sources more than others. “As expected, the farm press had been instrumental in raising awareness of the NRS, especially among larger-scale farmers,” said Hanna Bates, co-author of the study. “Government agencies such as ISU Extension and Outreach, the USDA-NRCS, Soil and Water Conservation Districts, IDALS and commodity or farm organizations were also important information sources.”

The least common information sources were local agricultural retailers, seed company salespeople and independent/private crop advisers. “It’s crucial for private sector advisers to get more involved,” Bates noted. “Iowa State and IDALS and other public sector and non-governmental organizations that are working on the strategy should continue to work closely with their private sector partners to help engage them as messengers.”

Concerns about Water Quality

Most Farm Poll participants expressed concern about agriculture’s impacts on water quality (76 percent), and believed that Iowa farmers should do more to address nutrient loss. Fifty-two percent agreed that nutrients from Iowa farms contribute to hypoxia, an oxygen-depleted water zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Forty percent were uncertain about the impacts of nutrients from Iowa on Gulf Hypoxia.

Survey questions measuring attitudes toward the NRS and related actions showed that Iowa farmers were generally supportive of the strategy and believed that farmers should do more to reduce nutrient and sediment run-off into waterways. Nearly three-quarters agreed that they would like to improve conservation practices on their own farmland to help meet the strategy’s goals.

Arbuckle said respondents indicated openness to receiving help from advisers. “About 60 percent agreed that fertilizer dealers — the group that most farmers look to for nutrient management advice — should do more to help their clients address nutrient loss,” he said. Nearly half expressed willingness to have someone help evaluate the effectiveness of nutrient management practices on their farms.

Potential Barriers

Farmers also were asked to rate their agreement or disagreement with statements about potential barriers to nutrient management-related conservation actions. More than half (56 percent) agreed that landlords often are unwilling to spend money on conservation. Likewise, 55 percent agreed that short-term pressure to make profit margins makes it difficult to invest in conservation practices when benefits are mostly long-term. Only 16 percent agreed the cost of further reduction of nutrient losses from their farm operation would be too high. However, 55 percent selected “uncertain” on this question.

“The survey results showed that farmers know about and support the NRS,” said Arbuckle. “The challenge going forward will be to translate awareness and positive attitudes into more widespread adoption of diverse conservation practices and farming systems that keep nutrients on farms.”

“The Nutrient Reduction Strategy focuses on ways farmers, agricultural stakeholders and cities can take action to reduce nutrient loads by 45 percent,” said John Lawrence, associate dean in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and director for Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension and Outreach.

Lawrence said the Iowa strategy was designed to be a dynamic document, evolving as new information, data and science are discovered and adopted. “The strategy summarizes ongoing research from Iowa State on the effectiveness of ‘best management practices’ in reducing nutrient loss from farmland,” he said. Lawrence also serves as director of the Iowa Nutrient Research Center, established in 2013 by the Board of Regents, State of Iowa, and serves on the Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance advisory board.

“Farmer Perspectives on Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy” (PM 3072) and previous Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll summary and topical reports are available to download from the ISU Extension and Outreach Online Store,, and Extension Sociology,

Farm, Development Groups Call for Coordinated, Agriculture-Based Effort to Meet Global Food Security Needs

A coalition of farm and international development organizations and agriculture-related foundations sent a letter on June 18 to congressional committees calling for a coordinated approach from the federal government to meeting global food security needs.

In their letter, the groups stated that international agricultural development is essential to meeting the urgent goal of feeding the world’s growing population, expected to rise from 7.2 to 9.1 billion by 2050. Global demand for food will increase by 60 percent during the same period.

“The American Soybean Association has a long history of improving access to food and building markets through the work of the World Initiative for Soy in Human Health. ASA is eager to continue that legacy by being a part of the solution to address global food security issues through agricultural development,” said Wade Cowan, the association’s president and a soybean farmer from Brownfield, Texas. “Training and engaging in technology transfers with people in least-developed countries helps to alleviate hunger and increase economic opportunities for local people, and provides long-term market growth for U.S. agricultural products abroad.”

“AGree commends Congress for its efforts to elevate food and agriculture development as a priority. We believe that the authorizing legislation should institutionalize a whole of government approach that truly acknowledges and leverages the contributions of USDA, research institutions, and the private sector to achieve a hunger free world,” said AGree Executive Director Deborah Atwood.

The letter also emphasized that the Department of Agriculture, the U.S. land grant university system, farm organizations and agribusiness should be leveraged more prominently in international agricultural development efforts, working in coordination with other development and humanitarian programs administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development. The letter was sent to the Senate Committees on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry and Foreign Relations, and the House Committees on Agriculture and Foreign Affairs.

“U.S. agriculture has a long legacy of hard work, ingenuity, and service,” said Tricia Beal, CEO of the Farm Journal Foundation. “Farm Journal Foundation is proud to support this effort to ensure that the U.S. global food security strategy continues to prioritize agricultural development, sharing the best our dynamic community has to offer to empower smallholder farmers to lift themselves out of hunger and poverty. This goal is consistent with our industry’s values and its long term interests.”

Senate Passes Bill to Reform Rail Oversight Board

The U.S. Senate late last week approved S. 808, a bill to reauthorize and reform the Surface Transportation Board (STB), which oversees the railroad industry. The bill, sponsored by Sen. John Thune (R-SD) and strongly supported by the American Soybean Association (ASA), would expand the STB and give it new authority to initiate and investigate freight-rail industry issues.

The measure passed the Senate by unanimous consent, but it is unclear if or when the House will act on the bill.  The bipartisan bill would increase the number of board members from three to five, require the agency to report to Congress every three months on regulatory proceedings and promote greater use of voluntary arbitration to more efficiently settle disputes between freight railroads and shippers.

The bill is supported by ASA and other agricultural groups.  While the Association of American Railroads, has opposed similar legislation in previous years it has thus far not mounted strong public opposition to S. 808.

Senate Moves Forward on COOL with Ag Committee Hearing

Today, the Senate Agriculture Committee heard from business and agricultural leaders on the impact of looming retaliatory tariffs from Canada and Mexico should the U.S. remain non-compliant with WTO rules on country of origin labeling (COOL) for muscle cuts of meat.

On May 18, 2015, the World Trade Organization (WTO) issued its fourth and final ruling, finding that the U.S. COOL rule for muscle cuts of beef and pork violates U.S. trade obligations, and allowing America's two largest export markets to establish retaliatory tariffs on more than $3 billion in U.S. exports. Both Mexico and Canada have already started the retaliation process, and unless the Senate acts before its August recess retaliatory tariffs could be implemented by late summer.

"Manufacturers risk losing major exports to our two largest trading partners as a result of this ongoing dispute and we are looking for a solution that will immediately stop the threat of retaliation," said Linda Dempsey with the National Association of Manufacturers and Co-Chair of the COOL Reform Coalition. "We welcome the ongoing discussions to address this issue, but urge that the Senate act quickly and decisively to eliminate the possibility of retaliation."

The United States is out of options. Last year, the COOL Reform Coalition continually urged enactment of a contingency plan by Congress to prevent retaliation. Regrettably, those efforts fell short and the U.S. is now facing retaliation and a serious blow to the economy.

"Trade with these countries-our two largest export markets-supports nearly 14 million U.S. jobs," said John Murphy with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Co-Chair of the COOL Reform Coalition. "While we applaud the Senate Agriculture Committee for its leadership on this issue to start the conversation, time remains short. We hope this proves to be the first step towards action by the Senate to bring the U.S. into compliance and avoid retaliation."

 NFU Calls Rhetoric to Repeal COOL in Senate Hearing “Overkill”

National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson called rhetoric aimed at repealing Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL), in today’s Senate hearing “overkill,” and pointed out that viable options remain on the table that would allow the U.S. to keep its popular labeling law while appeasing World Trade Organization (WTO) demands.

“The ceaseless saber rattling by Canada, threatening instant retaliation against the United States, is premature and over-hyped, because Canada has yet to make a credible case for real economic harm from COOL,” said Johnson.

“Looking at the recent report from Dr. Robert Taylor at Auburn University, there is significant evidence indicating that any harm to our trading partners by COOL has been negligible at best and likely attributed to the economic downturn of 2008, and not COOL,” he said.

Johnson point out that many times in the past, WTO members have worked as partners to find a mutual solution that satisfies all parties and demonstrates that good neighbors can indeed work together on complex issues. “Unfortunately, labeling law opponents like the multinational meatpackers and Canadian officials are trying to scare the American public with threats of huge job losses and sudden economic devastation, when in fact they could be working on a fair solution,” he added.

The recent bill to repeal COOL passed in the U.S. House of Representatives went far beyond what the WTO found fault with by repealing chicken, ground beef and ground pork.  “What the Senate needs to remember is that primarily, this is a right to know issue for consumers,” said Johnson. “Meatpackers would rather return to a situation whereby they can deceive consumers into believing they are buying a U.S. product when in fact they may not be,” he said.

“We urge the Senate to not kowtow to Canadian rhetoric and instead find a way to give the American public what it wants, which is to know where its food is from,” he said.

Dakota Properties Merges with Farmers National Company

Farmers National Company has announced that Dakota Properties Real Estate and Wyoming Properties Real Estate (Dakota Properties) and related services, headquartered in Spearfish,  S.D., has merged its real estate sales business with Farmers National Company effective June 1, 2015.

According to president Jim Farrell of the Omaha-based Farmers National Company, Dakota Properties is a “strong, client-focused sales company” with extensive specialized knowledge of farm, ranch, acreage and recreational property real estate in Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

Dakota Properties owner Jeff Garrett said the merger allows the company to increase the scope and quality of services that they can offer clients. “As we look to the future, we are confident we can accomplish this job most effectively by joining forces with Farmers National Company, a leading real estate and farm management company,” said Garrett.

Garrett, based in the Spearfish,  S.D.,office, will join  more than 200 Farmers National Company real estate agent offices in 24 states across the Midwest, Mid-South, South and Northwest.

Part of Farmers National Company's long-term strategy has been focused on growth into the upper Midwest and Montana, according to Farrell. "The addition of a well-established regionally-based company like Dakota Properties provides us with a strong market foundation to build from in future years,” he said.

Deere to Call Back Workers at Waterloo Plant

Up to 60 workers on layoff at Deere & Co.'s Waterloo operations will return to work next week. Cedar Valley Business Online reports that two rounds of temporary layoffs since October have trimmed about 1,000 workers from Deere's 6,000-employee workforce.

Callbacks will be determined by seniority, said Tim Niedert, shop chairman with United Auto Workers Local 838 in Waterloo. Many returning workers likely are working at other Deere plants.

Some workers who took spots in Dubuque and Davenport, which manufacture forestry and construction equipment, may choose to stay put. If they don't come back, they'll surrender their spots in Waterloo.

Some workers will return as early as Monday.

Deere workers have dealt with two rounds of layoffs, in October and January. Weak grain markets have spurred a fall in demand for new tractors. All of John Deere's big farm tractors are manufactured in Waterloo.

Monsanto Reports Quarterly Earnings Results

Monsanto Co. reported better-than-expected earnings results for the third quarter on Wednesday as executives of the huge agricultural business continued to make a case for a $45 billion takeover of Swiss competitor, Syngenta AG. St. Louis-based Monsanto reported earnings of $2.39 per share on stronger revenue from crop chemicals, compared with results of $1.62 per share in the prior-year period, reports the Associated Press.

The company reiterated its goal to more than double its 2014 earnings per share by 2019, emphasizing the potential benefits of a combination with Swiss chemical maker Syngenta, which has three times rejected its unsolicited offers.

Meanwhile, Syngenta provided a more detailed explanation this week of its concerns with Monsanto's takeover offer. In a video posted to its website, Chairman Michel Demaré said the offer undervalues the pesticide maker's business, which "they are trying to buy on the cheap." He also reiterated concerns that Monsanto is underestimating the antitrust challenges.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Wednesday June 24 Ag News


Growers, crop consultants and educators are encouraged to attend Nebraska Extension's Weed Management Field Day from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. July 1 at the South Central Agricultural Laboratory in Clay Center.

The field day will include on-site demonstrations of new technology and new herbicides for corn and soybeans. An early morning tour will focus on weed management in corn followed by a tour of weed management in soybeans. Field experiments will provide information for weed control options using several herbicide programs.

"Several new technologies are coming to the market, including Enlist Corn and Soybean, Roundup Ready 2 Xtend Soybean and Balance Bean," said Extension weed management specialist Amit Jhala.

The field day will provide the opportunity to see weed control and crop safety in new herbicide-resistant soybean varieties.

Three Certified Crop Advisor Continuing Education Units are anticipated in the integrated pest management category.

There is no cost to attend the field day, but participants are asked to register at

The South Central Agricultural Laboratory is five miles west of the intersection of Highways 14 and 6, or 13 miles east of Hastings on Highway 6.

Farmland Leasing Meetings Will Increase Understanding of Rental Agreements

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is hosting multiple farmland leasing meetings during July and August at various times and locations throughout Iowa. The annual meeting is offered to address questions that land owners, tenants or other interested individuals have about leasing farmland.

“More than half of Iowa’s farmland is rented, and strong landlord/tenant relationships are important for the long-term viability of Iowa’s valuable farmland,” said Ann Johanns, program specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach. “Iowa farmland cash rental rates decreased by $14 an acre from 2014 to 2015; every district in Iowa showed a decline in reported rental values. The decreases ranged from $24 in Central Iowa to $4 in northeast Iowa. Northeast Iowa reported the highest average in 2015 at $273, and the lowest district value was $187 in south central Iowa.”

The three-hour workshop is designed to assist landowners, farm tenants and other agri-business professionals with current issues related to farmland ownership, management and leasing arrangements. Attendees will gain understanding of current cash rental rate surveys and factors driving next year’s rents such as market trends and input costs. Additional information on the 2014 Iowa State Land Value Survey, 2014 Farm Bill, flexible leases, Corn Suitability Rating Index (CSR2) and Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy will be presented.

Each registrant will receive a 100-page workbook with resources regarding land leasing agreements such as surveys, sample written lease agreements and termination forms and many other publications.

The leasing meetings being held across Iowa are facilitated by farm management specialists with ISU Extension and Outreach. A listing of county extension offices hosting the meetings will be available on the ISU Extension and Outreach online calendar for July and August, and at Ag Decision Maker.

For registration information, contact the local ISU Extension and Outreach county office. Preregistration is encouraged, as an additional $5 fee will be added if registering fewer than two calendar days before the meeting date.

The Ag Decision Maker leasing section also provides useful materials for negotiating leases, information on various types of leases, lease forms and newly updated Decision Tools.

Ricketts Comments on TPA Passage

Today, Governor Pete Ricketts and Nebraska Department of Agriculture Director Greg Ibach commented on the approval of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) by the U.S. Senate. This vote sends TPA to President Barack Obama’s desk for his consideration.

“This is a good day for Nebraska. As I have said from the beginning of my governorship, one of my top priorities is to Grow Nebraska, and that means creating jobs and expanding businesses,” said Governor Ricketts. “Increasing exports is one way to do that. With Trade Promotion Authority now in the President’s hand, we are closer to completing trade agreements that open up more opportunities for Nebraska to increase our exports and thus grow our economy.”

“Over the past several months, I have said how important passing TPA was to Nebraska in regard to opening up more export opportunities,” continued Ricketts. “Over 20 agriculture organizations joined me in echoing that sentiment. Today’s passage of TPA in the U.S. Senate moves us a step closer to completing trade agreements that will be important to all aspects of our state’s economy. I want to thank Nebraska’s Congressional Delegation for staying united on this issue and voting yes on TPA legislation.”

“Nebraska agriculture has a great deal at stake when it comes to foreign markets,” said Director Ibach. “With over $6 billion in exports last year, including $1 billion in beef products alone, the scope of importance of trade is without question. With Trade Promotion Authority, U.S. negotiators will have more credibility to finalize negotiations on TPP and continue moving forward on T-TIP for the benefit of Nebraska agriculture and the overall economy.”

“Trade agreements provide opportunities to improve our trading relationships with many countries that already appreciate our product, as well as breaking down barriers to access markets in new countries,” Ibach continued. “In the past several years, I have had the opportunity to take part in several international trade missions on behalf of Nebraska agriculture. I know our products have the quality consumers around the globe are looking for.”

NeFBF on Senate Passage of Trade Promotion Authority

Steve Nelson, Nebraska Farm Bureau President

“International trade is vital to the future prosperity of Nebraska farm and ranch families and Nebraska’s broader economy as a whole. The Senate’s vote earlier today to send Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation to the President is a step forward in ensuring Nebraska agriculture commodities and Nebraska agriculture products will have the opportunity to reach consumers beyond our nation’s borders.”

“While we are excited about the prospects of growth opportunities for Nebraska agriculture through trade agreements that will result through the passage of TPA, it’s important that we also remember trade has been, and always will be, about the opportunity to build and strengthen relationships with other nations, helping both grow our economic future and enhancing national security for our country. We thank U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer and U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse for their votes in support of TPA legislation.”

“We urge the President to move swiftly in signing TPA legislation into law so the U.S. can be a viable partner and negotiator in major trade discussions like those taking place with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, involving nations throughout the Asia Pacific region and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union.”

Iowa Soybean Association recognizes U.S. Senate’s passage of Trade Promotion Authority

Tom Oswald issued the following statement as president of the Iowa Soybean Association. Oswald farms near Cleghorn in northwest Iowa...

“The U.S. Senate’s passage of legislation extending Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) to President Obama bodes well for the thousands of Iowans who depend on ag-related employment and the farm families who provide our food, fuel and fiber.

“We urge the president’s prompt signage of this important legislation. The timing is critical as farmers struggle to manage anticipated record commodity supplies with drastic declines in market prices.

“TPA is a catalyst for opening international markets for U.S. soybeans. Nearly one of every three rows of soybeans grown in Iowa are destined for export representing a value of nearly $3 billion. By reducing export barriers, new opportunities emerge for selling soybeans as well as pork, beef and other agricultural commodities to customers around the world.

“Access to international markets is critical given rising global affluence. As living standards grow, so does demand for protein. Iowa and U.S. farmers are recognized worldwide as reliable suppliers of high-quality soybeans. TPA will facilitate greater movement of U.S. domestic soybean supplies to global customers and that bodes well for Iowa’s economy.”

ASA Commends Senate on Passage of Trade Promotion Authority

The farmer leaders of the American Soybean Association (ASA) praised the Senate for a vote today that advances trade promotion authority (TPA) to President Barack Obama’s desk, and called on the president to sign the bill as quickly as possible, citing the importance of TPA in creating and strengthening international trade agreements.

“Today, the Senate voted to bring the U.S. back to the international bargaining table,” said ASA President and Texas soybean farmer Wade Cowan. “With negotiators fully equipped and empowered, we no longer have to miss out on the global network of trading partnerships that continues to grow, even in our absence.”

Cowan pointed to the importance of the Senate’s vote in moving toward finalizing negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“Most immediately, the Senate’s vote puts us back on track in terms of finalizing a Trans-Pacific Partnership that includes vital export markets for U.S. soybeans and meats, as well as the developing markets that grow in their demand for American soy every day,” Cowan said. “We can now move to enact a high-standard TPP that further opens valuable markets and doesn’t put our farmers at a disadvantage.”

Soybeans represent the nation’s most important agricultural export, and Cowan highlighted the crucial role international trade plays in the industry, as well as the many benefits trade yields for the country.

“The U.S. exports roughly 60 percent of the soybeans we grow. That investment in overseas markets creates demand here at home, and translates to real dollars for farmers and rural communities,” Cowan said. “Plus, for the nation as a whole, trade both creates and sustains jobs. Every billion dollars in U.S. agricultural exports supports almost 7,000 American jobs. An administration equipped with TPA is better able to represent this essential component of our economy at the bargaining table, and the Senate deserves a big ‘thank you’ for helping to make it happen.”

Trade Promotion Authority Bill Goes To Obama

With today’s passage by the Senate of legislation granting the president authority to enter and finalize free trade agreements, the National Pork Producers Council called on U.S. trade negotiators to conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an Asia-Pacific regional trade deal.

Senate lawmakers voted 60-38 to approve Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which defines objectives and priorities for trade agreements the United States negotiates and establishes consultation and notification requirements for the president to follow throughout the negotiation process. Once trade negotiators finalize a deal, Congress gets to review it and vote – without amendments – yes or no on it. Congress has granted TPA to every president since 1974, with the most recent law being approved in August 2002 and expiring June 30, 2007.

The House approved TPA last Thursday by a 218-208 vote.

“We applaud Congress for approving TPA, which is imperative for finalizing free trade agreements that boost U.S. exports and create U.S. jobs,” said NPPC President Dr. Ron Prestage, a veterinarian and pork producer from Camden, S.C. “Now we need U.S. trade negotiators to get the best deal possible from the other TPP countries and to finalize one of the most significant regional trade agreements ever.”

The TPP talks among the United States and 11 Pacific Rim countries would generate 10,000 U.S. jobs tied to pork exports, according to Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes. The U.S. pork industry would see exponential growth in exports to the TPP countries.

“U.S. trade negotiators now have the leverage they need to close the TPP negotiations,” Prestage said. “The U.S. pork industry needs TPP to continue growing our exports.”

Since 1989 – the year the United States began using bilateral and regional trade agreements to open foreign markets – U.S. pork exports have increased 1,550 percent in value and 1,268 percent in volume. The United States shipped more than $6.6 billion of pork to foreign destinations in 2014. The U.S. pork industry ships more pork to the 20 nations with which the United States has Free Trade Agreements than to the rest of the world combined.

Senate Finalizes TPA, Sends to President's Desk

Today, the Senate took the final vote needed to send Trade Promotion Authority to the President for his signature. Passing by a vote of 60-38, National Cattlemen's Beef Association President Philip Ellis hails the final passage.

“NCBA appreciates the support of the Senate on final passage of Trade Promotion Authority, a fundamental step to securing future free-trade deals that will allow beef producers greater access to foreign markets. Cattlemen and women have seen tremendous value in trade, exporting over $7.1 billion worth of U.S. beef in 2014, which alone accounts for over $350 in added value per head of cattle in the United States. This value is not just from increased demand, but also from adding value to variety meats that have very limited value here at home. As the demand for U.S. beef continues to grow around the world, the future success of the beef industry rests in our ability to meet foreign demand without inference of tariff and non-tariff trade barriers. With TPA passed, the U.S. can focus on finalizing trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership that will give us greater access to consumers throughout the Pacific Rim.”

NCGA: TPA “A Huge Victory” for Corn Farmers

The National Corn Growers Association today celebrated passage of the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (TPA-2015) in the Senate, following last week’s vote in the House of Representatives.

“Today is a huge victory for America’s corn farmers and the entire agricultural industry,” said Chip Bowling, a Maryland farmer and president of NCGA. “Ag exports are a major driver of the U.S. economy, supporting more than one million jobs. With greater market access, American farmers and ranchers can do even more. Thank you to both the Senate and the House of Representatives for passing Trade Promotion Authority. We look forward to a quick signature by the President.”

“With major trade negotiations underway in the Asia-Pacific region and Europe, today’s vote could not have come at a better time. The U.S. is back in the driver’s seat, negotiating the best possible deal for American farmers and livestock producers in these and other future trade agreements,” said Bowling.

“We know TPA is critical to concluding trade agreements with Pacific Rim countries, the European Union and in other markets that represent demand for our grain over the next generation,” said Ron Gray, an Illinois farmer and chairman of the U.S. Grains Council, the corn industry’s overseas market development organization. “Trade policy that works for agriculture sets the rules of the road for our efforts around the globe. We are excited to work with negotiators to conclude these agreements and with buyers to increase their use of our products.”

Wheat Growers Commend Trade Commitment

The Senate once again affirmed its commitment to world trade today by passing legislation to reauthorize Trade Promotion Authority with a 60-38 vote. NAWG President Brett Blankenship issued the following statement:

“Wheat farmers commend the Senate and the House of Representatives for renewing their commitment to trade and reauthorizing Trade Promotion Authority. As the U.S. leads the world in wheat exports, the international marketplace is critical for the agricultural economy. This TPA vote reaffirms America’s commitment to expanding agricultural trade and provides the tools necessary to develop strong trade relationships that are crucial to the success of the U.S. wheat industry. We are grateful for the bipartisan vote and the efforts completed to move the bill to the President’s desk. We urge the President to sign the bill quickly and to utilize this authority to expand market access in Trans Pacific Partnership countries.”

Dairy Groups Commend Senate for Passing TPA Legislation, Clearing It for President’s Signature

The National Milk Producers Federation and the U.S. Dairy Export Council today thanked the Senate for passing and sending to the White House new Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation.

The two dairy groups also praised Senate passage of complementary Trade Adjustment Assistance legislation to help those who lose jobs as a result of trade. They urged the House to quickly approve TAA and send it to the president as well.

NMPF and USDEC said Trade Promotion Authority is crucial to negotiating a better deal for dairy farmers in the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership, as well as in future free trade agreements. They urged the president to sign the bill, which passed the House last week, as soon as possible.

“The U.S. dairy industry has been a strong advocate for TPA,” said NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern. “In turn, we have seen a broad level of support for TPA from many members of Congress in dairy districts and states. TPA now must be used by our negotiators to conclude a positive outcome for U.S. dairy producers in TPP so that we are able to realize the net trade benefits that a strong agreement could offer to the industry.”

USDEC President Tom Suber added, “To remain competitive globally, our sector needs trade agreements that maximize our export opportunities across the wide range of dairy products produced in the United States. We are confident that TPA will help the United States effectively pursue that path and expect our trade negotiators to insist on nothing less than balanced agreements with positive results for our industry.”

Both groups also thanked three leading legislators — Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) — for playing key roles in drafting and steering TPA through Congress successfully. Hatch is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Wyden is senior Democrat on that committee. Ryan is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

TPA, which expired in 2007, is important to the U.S. dairy industry because the United States now exports the equivalent of one-seventh of its milk production.

Biodiesel Supporters to Press EPA on Renewable Fuel Standard

Two dozen biodiesel representatives are slated to testify at an EPA hearing Thursday on the agency’s latest proposal establishing volumes under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

The industry leaders, coming from states across the country, planned to thank the EPA for increasing volumes in the latest proposal while calling for further growth in the final rule set to be released in November.

Bob Morton, co-owner of Newport Biodiesel in Rhode Island and a member of the National Biodiesel Board’s governing board, planned to highlight biodiesel’s success as an Advanced Biofuel under the RFS and to emphasize biodiesel’s potential for significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions under the RFS.

“We appreciate that EPA has improved the numbers and that the volumes increase with time; however, the volumes remain well below what the industry can produce and they are far from an aggressive approach to expanding biodiesel production and thereby significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” Morton says in his prepared testimony. “There is little we can do regarding 2014 and 2015, but we can take a more aggressive stance in 2016 and 2017.”

NBB Vice Chairman Ron Marr, director of government affairs at Minnesota Soybean Processors, planned to emphasize the industry’s strong potential for growth with the right policy.

“Our message to EPA is simple,” Marr says in his prepared testimony. “The biodiesel industry has, can and will deliver on the goals of the RFS, particularly those for Advanced Biofuels. We are poised to expand production and continue building this industry with the right policy signals, but we need stronger biodiesel and Advanced Biofuels volumes in the final rule to make that happen.”

Made from an increasingly diverse mix of resources such as recycled cooking oil, soybean oil and animal fats, biodiesel is a renewable, clean-burning diesel replacement used in existing diesel engines without modification. It is the first and only commercial-scale fuel produced across the U.S. to meet the EPA’s definition as an Advanced Biofuel - meaning the EPA has determined that it reduces greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50 percent when compared with petroleum diesel.

Biodiesel falls under the Biomass-based Diesel category of the RFS, which is a subset of the overall Advanced Biofuels category. The EPA proposal, which is slated to be finalized in November, would gradually raise biodiesel volumes by about 100 million gallons per year to a standard of 1.9 billion gallons in 2017. Because of biodiesel’s higher energy content, this would count as 2.95 billion ethanol equivalent gallons under the RFS. The overall Advanced Biofuel standard would rise to 3.4 billion ethanol equivalent gallons in 2016. NBB had requested more aggressive growth to a biodiesel standard of 2.7 billion gallons by 2017, along with additional growth in the overall Advanced Biofuel category.

In its initial proposal in November 2013, the EPA called for holding the biodiesel standard flat at 1.28 billion gallons through 2015 – an effective cut from actual annual production in 2013 and 2014 of about 1.8 billion gallons.

Biodiesel is produced in nearly every state in the country and is supporting more than 62,000 jobs.

'Rally for America' Thursday at Kansas City EPA Hearing

Scores of corn growers and ethanol supporters from more than a dozen states will converge on Kansas City, Kan., Thursday. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will hold a public hearing on its proposal to slash nearly 4 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol from the Renewable Fuel Standard through 2016.

Members of the Missouri Corn Growers Association, Kansas Corn Growers Association, Iowa Corn Growers Association, Nebraska Corn Growers Association, National Corn Growers Association, Renewable Fuels Association, Growth Energy, local ethanol plants and other industry partners, are coming together to show EPA that rural America supports renewable fuels.

The EPA is hosting a public hearing regarding the proposed decrease in renewable fuel levels. The hearing begins at 9:30 a.m. A Rally for Rural America will be held in conjunction with this hearing. It begins at 11:30 a.m. at the Jackson Reardon Center, 520 Minnesota Ave., Kansas City, Kan.

Officials slated to attend the rally include: Iowa Governor Terry Branstad; Missouri Governor Jay Nixon; Missouri Director of Agriculture Richard Fordyce; Missouri Corn CEO Gary Marshall; Missouri Corn Growers Association President Kevin Hurst; Tom Buis, Growth Energy CEO; Geoff Cooper, Renewable Fuels Association; and National Corn Growers Association President Chip Bowling.

Ethanol Stocks Plummet, Output Climbs

Ethanol stocks in the United States fell by nearly 900,000 barrels (bbl), or 4.3%, to a 5-1/2 month low of 19.8 million bbl in the week-ended June 19, trimming the nation's year-over-year surplus to 1.7 million bbl, or 9.1%, according to a report released Wednesday, June 24, by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The EIA report also showed domestic production increased 14,000 barrels per day (bpd), or 1.4%, to a record high of 994,000 bpd last week. Year-over-year output was up nearly 6.0%.

Blender inputs, a gauge for ethanol demand, eased from a record high last week, falling week-on-week by 10,000 bpd, or 1.1%, to 902,000 bpd, while 1.2% higher year over year.

EIA data showed implied demand for gasoline continued to be volatile, spiking 479,000 bpd to 9.655 million bpd last week, while up 9.6% year over year.

Department of Energy Invests in the Future of Sorghum

The U.S. Department of Energy has recently announced it will be investing $30 million in sorghum research through the Transportation Energy Resources from Renewable Agriculture (TERRA) program, one of two new programs providing a more secure and sustainable energy future.

"This investment is critical for the sorghum industry's future," said J.B. Stewart, National Sorghum Producers Board Chairman. "Producer investments alone cannot move the industry forward. We must have government and private industry investment. We applaud DOE for making such a vital commitment to our rapidly growing industry."

The TERRA program seeks to develop technologies that can increase the precision, accuracy and throughput of energy crops breeding. Doing so will enable more detailed measurements of phenotyping, plant physiology and more sophisticated bioinformatics for gene discovery and trait association.

"This underscore's something we strongly believe in," said Clayton Short, Renewables Committee Chair for the United Sorghum Checkoff Program. "Sorghum is a genetically diverse crop ripe for improvement. The DOE realizes this and we are excited to see what additional opportunities this leads too."

This is one of the largest investments the sorghum industry has seen to date and will have a significant impact on the future of sorghum. A total of six projects were funded through the DOE at universities and research institutions across the nation. The project locations are Clemson University, Purdue University, Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension, University of Illinois, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.

NSP and the Sorghum Checkoff continue to invest in relationships with DOE, private industry and researching universities and will keep members updated as research progresses and results are published.

Improved Grazing Conditions Limit Lightweight Placements

Tim Petry, Livestock Economist, North Dakota State University Extension Service

USDA-NASS released the monthly Cattle on Feed Report on June 19. Cattle and calves on feed for slaughter market in the U.S. for feedlots with capacity of 1,000 or more head totaled 10.6 million head on June 1, 2015. That number was 0.6% higher than last year, and just under the average 0.9% increase that a pre-report survey of market analysts expected.

A question that has surfaced the last couple of years is how can cattle on feed numbers be above previous years when the cow herd was declining with smaller calf crops being produced. Now that beef herd rebuilding has started the same question relates to the increased heifers that are being retained for breeding purposes and not entering feedlots.

Several contributing factors have enabled feedlots to maintain cattle on feed inventories. Record high feeder cattle prices and the increasing $US value have caused increasing imports from Mexico and Canada. Demand for dairy steer calves by the beef feedlot industry has increased, and resulted in declining calf slaughter throughout 2014. That trend is continuing in 2015.  Furthermore, lower feed costs and the record high feeder cattle prices have caused cattle to be kept in feedlots longer and fed to record high weights. A result is more stability in inventories but decreased marketings from feedlots.

That was evident in the report, where marketings of fed cattle during May totaled 1.711 million head, 8.3% below 2014. May marketings were the lowest since NASS started the series in 1996. Marketings were very close to the pre-report survey of analysts.

Placements into feedlots during May totaled 1.714 million head, 10.2% below 2014. Improved moisture conditions in much of the U.S., with the far western states certainly the exception, contributed to the decline in placements in a couple of ways. First, producers that were forced to liquidate cows due to drought are now keeping more heifers for replacement purposes. Second, the improved grazing conditions allow the lighter-weight feeder cattle to stay on pasture and not be marketed. For example 355,000 head in the under 600 lb category were placed on feed compared to 435,000 last year, an 18.4% decline. Placements weighing 600-699 lbs were down 10.3%, with 700-799 lbs down 17.9%, while the over 800 lb category was the same as last year.

Each Monday afternoon from May through October, USDA-NASS releases pasture and range conditions by state in its weekly Crop Progress report. A percentage rating in categories of very poor, poor, fair, good, and excellent is reported. The latest report for the week ending June 21 showed 65% of pastures and ranges in the U.S. where rated good to excellent. That compares to 55% last year. In North Dakota, where I am, 79% were rated good and excellent. Oklahoma, which has been suffering with dry conditions for several years, has received beneficial moisture this year and now has a 68% rating of good and excellent. Contrast that to drought stricken California with only 35% of pastures and ranges reported good and excellent.

Fertilizer Prices Stuck in Neutral

Retail fertilizer prices remain steady, according to dealers tracked by DTN for the third week of June 2015. No fertilizers were substantially lower or higher compared to a month earlier, the same neutral position markets have registered for several months.

Five of the eight major fertilizers were lower in price compared to a month prior, but again these moves to the low side were fairly minor. Potash averaged $490 per ton, 10-34-0 $642/ton, anhydrous $706/ton, UAN28 $330/ton and UAN32 $369/ton.

Three fertilizers edged higher compared to the previous month, but the move was slight. DAP averaged $571/ton, MAP $597/ton and urea $467/ton.

On a price per pound of nitrogen basis, the average urea price was at $0.51/lb.N, anhydrous $0.43/lb.N, UAN28 $0.59/lb.N and UAN32 $0.58/lb.N.

Only one of the eight major fertilizers is double digits higher in price compared to June 2014, all while commodity prices are significantly lower from a year ago. 10-34-0 is still 14% higher compared to last year.

Two fertilizers are slightly more expensive compared to a year earlier. Both potash and anhydrous are 1% more expensive compared to last year.

The remaining five nutrients are now lower compared to retail prices from a year ago. DAP is 4% less expensive, MAP is 5% lower, UAN28 is down 7%, UAN32 is now 8% less expensive and urea is 13% less expensive from a year earlier.

National FFA Organization’s Washington Leadership Conference Teaches Importance of Growth, Leadership, Community Service

Thousands of FFA members from throughout the country are converging on Washington, D.C., this summer to analyze their personal skills and interests, develop leadership skills and create a meaningful community-service plan that will make a difference in their home communities.

More than 2,100 students are registered for the 2015 Washington Leadership Conference, the second-largest student experience that the National FFA Organization hosts each year. Created in 1969 and held annually in Washington, D.C., this year’s conference began June 2 at the Omni Shoreham.

Through July 26, FFA members will spend a week under the guidance of educational professionals, counselors and professional FFA staff. In workshops, seminars and small groups, students will focus on identifying and developing their personal strengths and goals and undergo comprehensive leadership training that will help them guide their local FFA chapters.

Students will also analyze the needs of their communities back home, develop a wide-ranging and high-impact community-service initiative and implement their plan with the help of their FFA chapter upon return home. Students in recent years have organized food and clothing drives, volunteer campaigns, educational outreach initiatives and more.

“Students who attend the Washington Leadership Conference learn their purpose, how to value people, how take action and the importance of serving others,” National FFA Organization CEO Dr. Dwight Armstrong said. “They leave with the knowledge and the confidence to act in ways that help their schools, communities and their country.”

During their time in Washington, FFA members will experience the history of the nation’s capital, touring landmarks including the Washington Monument, War Memorial, the National Mall, Arlington National Cemetery and the U.S. Capitol, among others. Many students also arrange meetings with members of Congress.

Agricultural education teachers attend the conference as well, learning how to motivate and help develop their students’ personal growth and leadership potential and how they can help maximize their local FFA chapters’ community-service initiatives throughout the year.

At the conclusion of each weekly session is a civic engagement activity where participants apply what they have learned at the conference to a real, hands-on service activity. In a partnership with Meals of Hope, students will pack approximately 60,000 highly palatable meals that will be delivered directly to the food insecure of Washington, D.C. Meals will include an oatmeal apple cinnamon mix as well as fortified macaroni and cheese.

The 2015 National FFA Organization's Washington Leadership Conference is sponsored through the National FFA Foundation by title sponsors Monsanto and CSX and by weekly sponsors TransCanada, Crop Production Services, Farm Credit and BNSF. For more, visit

 NFU Applauds Sen. Stabenow for Working Towards a Solution on COOL

National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson applauded Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow (D) for her efforts to advance the stalemate on Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) with the release of her draft bill that would make COOL voluntary for beef and pork.

“NFU has always fought for and deeply believes in mandatory COOL because it is in the best interest of both producers and consumers. We also recognize that Congress has faced tremendous pressure to cave into Canada and Mexico’s demands, even though there are likely several months of the WTO process remaining,” said Johnson.

The bill, if enacted, should resolve the current dispute against COOL at the World Trade Organization (WTO) by both Canada and Mexico.  “A voluntary approach for beef and pork is a prescriptive solution to a very narrow problem identified by the World Trade Organization,” he said. “Furthermore, this approach is in concert with Canada’s own voluntary meat labeling process.”

“Despite strong public support for food labeling, some members of Congress are eager to repeal this law. NFU vehemently opposes repeal,” said Johnson.  “We thank Senator Stabenow for her leadership and insight on this issue. While NFU is not pleased that Congress is intervening in the WTO process, this approach is much improved from the House bill that would repeal COOL even beyond the scope of the WTO dispute,” he said. 

AGree Report Calls for Food & Ag Research Reform

AGree today unveiled a comprehensive report on food and ag research, Research & Innovation: Strengthening Agricultural Research, which includes nine recommendations to strengthen the impact of public research dollars by reforming the system and also makes the case for increased research funding. As a driver of innovation, research is essential to face down the consequential challenges of our time, ranging from water shortages to animal diseases, while also bolstering the U.S. economy. Targeting, tracking, and transparently sharing vital food and ag research will maximize the return on investment and build support for increasing that investment.

“We need to make a smart investment even smarter,” said Deborah Atwood, Executive Director of AGree. “The need to modernize our research system has long been discussed behind closed doors – now it’s time to have an open national conversation about needed changes.”

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said, “Our nation’s agriculture industry is the most innovative and productive in the world largely because of our commitment to research. These recommendations underscore the importance of that investment.  That’s why I am proud of the work we did the Farm Bill by creating the new Research Foundation.  It is through these types of public-private partnerships, in addition to other smart strategies and targeted investments, that American agriculture will remain the gold standard throughout the world.”

Dan Glickman, AGree Co-Chair and former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, said, “Important progress has been made in recent years to bolster food and ag research. Now we need to maximize return on the dollar, which begins with Congress holding a series of oversight hearings examining long-established federal funding models with fresh eyes. I’m pleased with the interest we’ve received from the Hill and eager to move this ball forward.”

Kathleen Merrigan, AGree Co-Chair and former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, said, “Laser focus is needed to address the consequential challenges and opportunities facing the food and ag sector. Issues ranging from water shortages to antibiotic use and from nutrition to animal diseases demand sharply-focused, well-funded research. We need increased investment in food and ag research while we pursue opportunities to strengthen the research enterprise through reforms.”

Jim Moseley, AGree Co-Chair, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, and a long-time farmer noted, “The ag sector is constantly evolving, often driven by an innovative idea that requires validation by research. This direct correlation between research and our pace of progress across the food system – from natural resource management to consumer purchasing habits – should inspire a collective commitment to modernize our public research system.”

Emmy Simmons, AGree Co-Chair and former Assistant Administrator for Economic Growth, Agriculture and Trade for the U.S. Agency for International Development, said, “It is breathtaking to consider the increased impact we could have globally if we leverage every ag research dollar. Whether it’s addressing hunger or helping to grow stable economies on a foundation of dynamic agricultural development, research and innovation are critical to achieving the results that will assure our global future.”

The recommendations were developed based on meetings held across the country throughout a two year period involving more than 100 people. They were further informed by five Point of View papers commissioned by AGree, and guided by the direct engagement and insight of AGree Co-Chairs and Advisors.  They are:

    Scrutinize and modernize federal funding mechanisms for public research, education, and extension to foster innovation and maximize public benefits.

    Review and reset publicly-funded research priorities periodically, employing a transparent process with input from multiple stakeholders and end users to ensure that funds are focused on high-impact areas.

    Minimize duplicative efforts and unnecessary costs by assessing the existing research infrastructure and improving grant monitoring and tracking systems.

    Target public research funding to areas unlikely to be addressed by private industry.

    Increase Congressional oversight of the U.S. agricultural research enterprise.

    Make data, information, and findings from publicly-funded research accessible.

    Strengthen the role of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Chief Scientist to help ensure the U.S. continues to serve as a global leader on food and agricultural research and innovation.

    Integrate research, education, and extension activities to promote coordination across each of these three interconnected elements at the university level.

    Maintain U.S. leadership and engagement in international food and agricultural research.

AGree’s next steps include convening a diverse coalition of thought leaders to coalesce around smart, long-term changes to the public food and agricultural research enterprise. AGree will also build partnerships to advocate for near-term changes to include re-examining USDA’s Research, Education and Economics (REE) mandate and practices. Finally, AGree stands ready to strengthen the ability of the new Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research (FFAR), outlined in the 2014 Farm Bill, to effectively engage multiple stakeholders in identifying research priorities and public-private partnership opportunities.


Today, The Climate Corporation, a division of Monsanto Company (NYSE: MON), announced that farmers have mapped more than 75 million row crop acres in their digital agriculture platform, up from 50 million acres in 2014. This significant acre adoption represents nearly 45 percent of all corn and soybean acres planted in the U.S. The company’s digital agriculture platform includes Climate Basic™, Climate Pro™ and FieldView® from Precision Planting. The company also announced Climate Pro, their premium web and mobile product offering, has grown considerably from its initial launch from 1 million acres last year to more than 5 million acres this year across the U.S.

Together these tools provide one account with multiple product offerings and access points. The farmer can log in on a tablet from his tractor, on a mobile phone as he scouts his fields, or on his desktop computer.

The company emphasized the importance of farmer adoption to the future success of this emerging platform. “The interest we’ve seen from farmers this year in our digital platform reinforces the impact these tools ultimately can have on our industry,” said Mike Stern, President and Chief Operating Officer for The Climate Corporation. “We want to be the digital platform of choice for farmers, and our growth this year is evidence that we’re well on that path,” said Stern.

Tim Malterer farms in Janesville, Minnesota and has experienced The Climate Corporation’s digital platform firsthand. “I have been using FieldView from Precision Planting on my farm for three years, and Climate Pro for two years, and I can’t even count the numerous insights these two products have brought to my operation,” said Malterer. “We have had great success using the Nitrogen Advisor in Climate Pro so far and are excited to utilize it to better manage how much nitrogen we need on a field-by-field basis. I am very excited as we move forward to see what new insights this unique technology will bring to my farm, and to watch it adapt and grow as my operation grows.”

Backed by the most powerful data science engine and extensive field trial network in the agriculture industry, the Climate Technology Platform™ combines data science with field science to feed and validate the predictive models that power the tools offered through the company’s digital ag platform. This season, The Climate Corporation has field experiments on more than 25,000 acres in 17 states across the U.S., including four Climate Research Farms across key corn growing states.

“As we continue to expand the extensive data and field science engine that powers our digital tools, we see tremendous potential for this platform to grow, providing additional solutions for farmers that help them increase production and use resources more efficiently,” Stern added.

To learn more about the services offered by The Climate Corporation, visit