Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Tuesday November 24 Ag News

Nebraska Soybean Day and Machinery Expo Offers 2016 Growing Season Information

The 2015 Nebraska Soybean Day and Machinery Expo Dec. 17 will assist soybean producers in planning for next year's growing season.

The expo, which begins at 8:30 a.m. and concludes at 2:15 p.m., will be in the pavilion at the Saunders County Fairgrounds in Wahoo, said Keith Glewen, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension educator.

The expo opens with coffee, doughnuts and the opportunity to view equipment and exhibitor booths. Speakers start at 9 a.m.

Presenters include UNL researchers and specialists, Nebraska Soybean Board representatives, soybean growers and private industry representatives.

Dr. David Kohl, Professor Emeritus Agricultural Economics, Virginia Tech will present on Megatrends in Agriculture and Global Economics, How it Impacts Nebraska Farmers.  Tina Barrett, Executive Director, Nebraska Farm Business Association   will discuss Nebraska’s Farm Financial Outlook. Management of Herbicide Resistant Weeds:  Combatting Waterhemp, Palmer Amaranth, and Marestail will be presented by John Frihauf, Field Biologist Sr., BASF.  And Nebraska Extension Educator Keith Glewen will provide information on the Nebraska On-Farm Research Network as he presents “Discovering Production Answers On Your Farm, What Could be New in Your Tool  Box?”.

The expo also will include an update on the Nebraska Soybean Checkoff update and association information.

Producers will be able to visit with representatives from seed, herbicide, fertilizer and equipment companies and view new farm equipment during a 30-minute break at 9:45 a.m.

The Saunders County Soybean Growers Organization requests that each participant donate one or more cans of nonperishable food to the food pantry.

Complimentary noon lunch will be served.

Registration is available the day of the expo at the door. For more information about the program or exhibitor information, call (800) 529-8030 or e-mail kglewen1@unl.edu.  Information online at:  http://ardc.unl.edu/nebraskasoyexpo.

This program is sponsored by Nebraska Extension in the university's Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the Nebraska Soybean Board, Saunders County Soybean Growers Organization and private industry.  There is no registration fee.


The Nebraska Power Farming Show, presented by Farm Credit Services of America and AgDirect, is known for showcasing the latest technology in agriculture and this year is no exception. The use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) is an exciting frontier. Four UAV companies will display their products this year. There are three plane-type UAVs: Honeycomb, Sensefly and Slantrange, and two Helicopter-type UAVs: Slantrange and Precision Drone.

UAVs are the new form of crop scouting. Equipped with a camera and the correct software on the ground, UAVs give growers and scouters the ability to check crop health from the air at an efficient rate. Software on the ground can stitch aerial shots into a high-resolution mosaic map that can be used to make better crop management decisions.

UAVs can provide farmers with two types of detailed views. First, seeing a crop from the air can reveal patterns that expose everything from irrigation and fertilizer problems to soil variations and even pest and fungal infestations that are not apparent at eye-level. Second, cameras can take multispectral images (infrared and visual spectrum) which can be combined to create a view of the crop that highlights the difference between healthy and distressed plants.

Laura Thompson, UNL Extension Educator, will discuss the use of unmanned aerial vehicles as it relates to measuring nitrogen levels and other ways UAVs are advantageous in agriculture. She will be presenting Wednesday of the show in Seminar 1 located north of the food court in Pavilion 3.

Although there is excitement about the use of UAVs, the legality of flying them remains an issue. The Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) prohibits the use of all unmanned aircraft for commercial use without the agency’s express approval. The FAA has said that it plans to allow commercial UAVs once it has drawn up proper regulations for the aircraft. Some rulings may occur yet in 2015, but more likely in early 2016. In the meantime, the current recommendation is to educate yourself about UAVs and spend some time with flight simulator software.

Honeycomb is in Booth 3505 in Pavilion 3; eBee by Sense is sold by Labra Consulting, Booth 4914 in Pavilion 4; SLANTRANGE Ag Drone is in Booth 3209 in Pavilion 2 and Precision Drone is represented by McGinnis Precision Drone, Booth 1908 in Pavilion 1. There could be more UAV vendors by show time, so stop by any information booth to inquire.

The Nebraska Power Farming Show, the second largest indoor farm show in the United States, runs from December 8-10, 2015, at the Lancaster Event Center in Lincoln, Nebraska. This year the show is sponsored by: Diamond Sponsors – Farm Credit Services of America & AgDirect; Platinum Sponsor – Bayer CropScience; and Gold Sponsors – Nebraska Farm Bureau and Stine Seed.

The 2016 Crop Season Promises Challenges; GrowingOn® 2016 Meetings Offer Solutions

It’s no secret the agriculture sector is in one of its down cycles. Midwest crop prices have been falling for the past few years and livestock prices are under pressure as production recovers from herd reductions caused by prolonged drought and diseases. While many are focused on cutting input costs, the GrowingOn® meetings hosted by Farm Credit Services of America (FCSAmerica) will focus on solutions tied to risk management and fixed costs.

FCSAmerica hosts GrowingOn each year as part of the Association’s commitment to be a dependable and reliable partner during all ag cycles. This year’s educational meetings will be held at six locations in Nebraska, from December 14-17, 2015. Always topical, GrowingOn will provide an outlook on agriculture based on today’s economic environment and offer producers strategies to improve profits and maximize revenue guarantees.

Steven Johnson, farm management specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, is the main speaker. He will offer his 2016 crop price outlook and cost of production estimates and share insights into a variety of strategies, tools and case studies to highlight solutions for managing farm, financial and marketing risks.

“Farmers are scrutinizing expenses as a result of the drop in crop prices. Most already are focused on reducing their variable costs, such as seed, fertilizer and crop protection,” Johnson said. “However, most variable costs are not expected to decline much in 2016. It’s really the fixed costs that are key to reducing overall cost of production.”

“Fixed costs include land, machinery and equipment, as well as family living expenses,” he said. “These are what typically differentiate high-cost from low-cost farming operations. Renegotiating cash rent leases and perhaps refinancing existing debt should be priorities this winter. Combine these solutions with the discipline to manage other costs without cutting yields, and market proactively to improve results.”

According to Johnson, crop insurance continues to be one of the best investments for managing crop price volatility. In the western Corn Belt, revenue protection is used on roughly 95 percent of all tillable acres. Since it insures both yield and price, revenue protection facilitates a pre-harvest marketing plan.

FCSAmerica crop insurance specialists will share ways to maximize 2016 crop insurance choices. “Somewhere every year, Mother Nature shows us why crop insurance is important,” said Tony Jesina, senior vice president-related services. “This year, weather challenges in our four-state area ranged from delayed and prevented planting to hail and factors that affected grain quality. Crop insurance kept many operations whole. Perhaps most importantly, it allows producers to take advantage of pricing opportunities before and during the growing season. It really is one of the most fundamental tools for farm business risk management. But the right policy is different for each operation.”

Crop insurance decision-making is complex, Jesina emphasized. FCSAmerica’s crop insurance specialists understand the financial side of risk management. FCSAmerica also offers online tools that allow customers to build crop and insurance plans; calculate breakevens, set profit goals and measure results; track progress of cash sales, futures and options; see how marketing plans align with crop insurance coverage and calculate a variety of what-if scenarios.

“Federal crop insurance products are the same, but crop insurance agents aren’t,” Jesina said. “Farmers should look for an agent who specializes in crop insurance full time, who has up-to-date information, truly understands the business of farming and offers value-added tools and services.”

While meetings are free, preregistration is required for GrowingOn. Details can be found at growingon.com, or by calling local FCSAmerica offices or 1-800-884-FARM.


Today, Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) Director Greg Ibach announced the selection of the members of the 2015-2016 Nebraska Agricultural Youth Council (NAYC). The Council is comprised of college-aged students from around the state who have a passion for agriculture and who promote the industry by teaching others. NDA sponsors the Council and its activities throughout the year.

“There is a great deal of need for agriculture education and outreach,” said NDA Director Greg Ibach. “This is a talented and committed group of young men and women, and they are ready to create excitement among Nebraska’s youth about agriculture and the many careers available in the industry.”

The NAYC is entering its 45th year with the installation of this group of Council members. Throughout the year, the Council coordinates several agricultural learning experiences for Nebraska youth including: visiting elementary classrooms to discuss where food comes from; taking urban youth to experience farms and what a day in the life of a farmer is like; and visiting with high school students from across the state. The primary focus of the NAYC is to coordinate the annual Nebraska Agricultural Youth Institute (NAYI), a five-day summer conference for current high school juniors and seniors.

“It’s important that young people carry on the tradition and heritage of those who have made this state the agricultural leader it is today,” said Ibach. “These are the future leaders of our agricultural industry, and I am excited to see what these students accomplish as they serve on the Council.”

This year’s Council is comprised of 23 young men and women. The 2015-2016 NAYC leadership includes:
·         Head Counselors: Morgan Zumpfe, Friend and Landon Swedberg, North Platte;
·         President: Rebecca Cornelius, Madrid;
·         Secretary: Toni Rasmussen, Albion;
·         Vice President of Promotions: Railen Ripp, Kearney;
·         Vice President of Greater Nebraska NAYI: Kate Likens, Swanton;
·         Vice President of Communications and Social Media: Rachel Ibach, Sumner;
·         Vice President of Sponsorship and Alumni Relations: Grant Uehling, Uehling;
·         Vice President of Youth Outreach: Maggie Louthan, Smithfield; and
·         Vice President of NAYI Improvement: Sarah Wollenburg, Beatrice.

Additional NAYC members include: Hannah Borg, Wakefield; Dylan Dam, Hooper; Logan Kalkowski, Omaha; Amanda Kowalewski, Gothenburg; Brandon Nichols, Bridgeport; Elizabeth (Liz) Rice, Murray; Hunter Schroeder, Howells; Ryan Schroeder, Wisner; Jacy Spencer, Brewster; Grant Suddarth, York; Collin Thompson, Eustis; Eric Wemhoff, Humphrey; and Cody Zumpfe, Friend.

To learn more, visit the NAYI website at www.nda.nebraska.gov/nayi/ or search for Nebraska Agricultural Youth Institute on Facebook.

Cattle On Feed

Kate Brooks, Assistant Professor
Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Nebraska - Lincoln

USDA-NASS released the monthly Cattle on Feed report on November 20.  Numbers came in very similar to the average pre-report estimates. Total cattle on feed number (U.S. feedlots over 1,000 head capacity) on November 1 was up 2.1% over 2014 at 10.8 million head. This is the largest November cattle on feed number since 2012.  In 2015 cattle on feed inventories have been at or above 2014 levels for all but one month, with the last five month inventories at 2% or more above last year's levels.

October marketings were as expected at 1.63 million head, down 3.2% from October 2014.  There was one less marketing day available in 2015 compared to 2014 which would attribute to fewer marketings.  As we look at the marketings on a state basis, Iowa and Nebraska appear to be at the center of the heavy weight cattle.  Compared to 2014, October marketings for Iowa were up 13% and Nebraska were up 3%, while Texas was down 14% and Kansas was down 6%.  Nebraska was also up 7.5% in September marketings compared to 2015.  It appears we have pushed through many of the heavyweights during the end of September and through October.  The last report shows steer weights as of Nov 7th at 921 pounds down from the peak of 930 pounds.

Placements in October came in at 2.28 million head, down 3.7% compared to a year ago, which was in line with pre-report estimates.  Feedlots appear to be cautious with placing cattle as current closeouts have been reported at losses.  Of the three largest cattle on feed states, Kansas was the only state with increased placements up 6% compared to year ago. Nebraska placements in October were down 2% and Texas was down 13%.

Not to sound like an old record, but the trend for heavier weight placements continued again in October.  All weight categories saw declining placement numbers for October 2015 compared to year ago, except the heavy weight category (800 pounds and over) which increased placements by 5.4%.  Decent forage and pasture conditions throughout much of the U.S. has continued to be a major driver, allowing cattle to stay out of the feedlots longer and placing at heavier weights.  Recent rains in the southern states have allowed for decent wheat pasture conditions, this trend for placing heavier cattle could continue for another couple of months.

High Octane Ethanol Fuels Championship for Oder

John Oder claimed the Kearney Raceway Pro Class Points Championship in a come-from-behind victory Nov. 1.

Trailing by 60 points late in the event, Oder needed to win two more rounds to take the lead. His excellent reaction time helped him snatch the victory from the jaws of defeat and earn his second consecutive championship.

The Osceola resident won six races during the 2015 season, including his final three races. Although he’s been racing 16 years, this was his first year racing on Ignite Fuel – a 90 percent ethanol and 10 percent gasoline blend.

“I remember thinking ‘Wow! I can’t believe I pulled this off,’” Oder said. “I didn’t think I had a chance of winning the championship again, but the car ran on the ‘number’ all weekend. It finally sank in the following week when I had time to think about the accomplishments and work I did figuring out the new fuel, carburetor and car setup.”

His fuel choice shifted when he was approached by Grady Koch, local farmer and Kearney Raceway Park investor, to consider racing his 2015 season on Ignite Fuel.

“I wanted to supply a consistent ethanol-blended fuel for our racers and I needed a driver willing to give it a try,” Koch said. “Bringing in Ignite high performance racing fuel was a great decision for our track. We get a high quality, high octane blend of ethanol every time.”

Oder’s 1971 Dodge Challenger, which runs a Dodge 440 big block engine, needed some fine tuning to properly run the new fuel. The first half of his racing season was spent adjusting the new carburetor, which was not set up for drag racing, according to Oder.

“I’m always interested in ways to advance my racing and I like a challenge,” he said. “I drove on race fuel 15 years, so I knew this would be a good learning experience. I learned to be patient and not give up quickly when I had issues at the beginning of the season.”

After figuring out the jetting and timing of his Challenger, Oder noted the biggest benefit was the consistency of the car.

“Consistent times allow for precise ‘dialing in,’ which is important in E.T. bracket racing,” he said. “My horse power and torque increased helping improve all my times.”

Although Oder burns about 30 percent more fuel the economics still work in his favor. The race fuel he used previously cost more than $7.70 per gallon. Ignite Fuel has a 114 octane rating and is about $4 per gallon – about a 50 percent savings.

“I would recommend it to my fellow racers to improve horsepower, torque and consistency,” Oder said. “Ethanol fuel doesn’t corrode like straight methanol, so I was able to use all the same fuel system components.”

Koch is in negotiations now to bring Ignite Fuel to Nebraska circle tracks including Junction Motor Speedway in McCool and I-80 Speedway in Greenwood.

“Racers gain about 10 percent more horsepower with a less expensive fuel that burns cleaner,” Koch noted. “Ethanol is a green fuel that reduces pollution and our exposure to unhealthy toxic compounds found in racing fuel. This is a great opportunity for more tracks to get a cleaner-burning, high octane fuel.”

New Herbicide Publication for Corn and Soybean Producers

The status of weed control across the state and the most effective herbicides for tackling weeds are outlined in a recently released Iowa State University Extension and Outreach publication.

The “2016 Herbicide Guide for Iowa Corn and Soybean Production” was written by ISU Extension and Outreach weed specialists Bob Hartzler and Mike Owen and is now available online at the Extension Store, https://store.extension.iastate.edu/

Hartzler and Owen note that the many weed issues from the past continue to plague Iowa’s farmers, particularly the weed, water hemp, in soybean fields.

“There has not been a notable increase across the state in major weed management failures,” according to the weed specialists. “However, random surveys suggest that a high percentage of fields with weeds visible above the soybean canopy have evolved resistance to one or more herbicides.” They conclude that herbicide-resistant weed populations are slowly increasing.

The two experts advise farmers that now is the time to make adjustments to their weed management programs before weed densities become worse. Their suggestions include diversifying types of herbicides as well as paying attention to how and when they are used.

The 24-page guide provides industry updates and gives instructions on how to design resilient herbicide programs to manage herbicide resistance. The resilient herbicide programs rely on multiple herbicide groups to manage weeds, and the new publication details successful approaches. Non-herbicidal strategies also are included.

It also lists the effectiveness of different herbicides for controlling grass, broadleaf and perennial weeds in corn and soybeans, grazing and haying restrictions for herbicides used in grass pastures and the active ingredients in herbicide prepackage mixes.

The publication contains four tables on herbicide sites of action — the specific proteins that herbicides inhibit in plants to kill them — and information about typical injury symptoms. “Herbicide programs that include several different sites of action is a key step in managing herbicide-resistant weeds,” the authors wrote.

Beef Stew Warms Living History Farms Race Runners

Thousands of runners braved the cold temperatures and snow for the 37th annual Living History Farms Off-Road Race on Saturday, November 21, located at Living History Farms in Urbandale. The annual cross country race, hosted by Fitness Sports, challenged runners through farm land by crossing creeks and conquering many obstacles. Proceeds from the race support the Living History Farms Museums.

Upon completing the race, all runners were welcomed to refuel with a warm bowl of beef stew, served by beef industry volunteers including members of the Dallas County 4-H Club and the Madison County Youth Beef Team.

“Beef is an excellent source of protein, which is a great tool to refuel the runners,” says Brooke German, Director of Marketing for the Iowa Beef Industry Council. “Amongst the thousands of runners were many Team Beef members representing states such as Iowa, Missouri and Minnesota.”

Team Beef, Iowa member, Jack Dekkers, Professor of Animal Science at Iowa State University, enjoyed refueling with beef stew after crossing the finish line. “It was great to hear the crowd cheer the beef team on along the race,” he comments. “It was even better to cross the finish line and refuel with beef stew. After a long and challenging race, protein is exactly what my body needs to repair.”

“This is an event we look forward to every year,” states German. “Rain, sleet or snow, we are always excited to see everyone brave the weather and finish the race with the signature beef stew.”

The beef checkoff provided the beef used in the beef stew which was prepared by the Iowa Machine Shed.

Farm Sector Profitability Expected To Weaken in 2015

Both net cash and net farm income are forecast to decline for the second consecutive year after reaching recent highs in 2013. Net cash income is expected to fall by 27.7 percent in 2015, while the forecast 38.2-percent drop in net farm income would be the largest single-year decline since 1983 (in both nominal and inflation-adjusted terms).


-    Both net cash and net farm income are forecast to decline for the second consecutive year after reaching recent highs in 2013. Net cash income is expected to fall by 27.7 percent in 2015, while the forecast 38.2-percent drop in net farm income would be the largest single-year decline since 1983 (in both nominal and inflation-adjusted terms).

-    Crop receipts are expected to decrease by 8.7 percent ($18.2 billion) in 2015, led by a forecast $8.6-billion decline in corn receipts, a $5.7-billion drop in soybean receipts, and a $2.7-billion drop in wheat receipts.

-    Livestock receipts could fall by 12.0 percent ($25.4 billion) in 2015, a reversal from the 43.8-percent increase in receipts over 2005-14 period.

-    The reduction in crop and livestock receipts is largely driven by changes in price rather than changes in output.

-    Government payments are projected to rise 10.4 percent ($1.0 billion) to $10.8 billion in 2015.

-    Total production expenses are forecast to fall 2.3 percent, the first time since 2009 that they have fallen year over year. Energy inputs and feed are expected to have the largest declines. Expenses are forecast to increase for labor, interest, and property taxes.

-    After several years of steady improvement, farm financial risk indicators such as the debt-to-asset ratio are expected to rise in 2015, indicating increasing financial pressure on the sector. However, debt-to-asset and debt-to-equity ratios remain low relative to historical levels.

-    Declining farm sector assets resulting from a modest decline the in value of farmland, investments, and other financial assets—as well as higher debt—are forecast to erode equity by 4.8 percent, the first drop since 2009.

-    After several years of steady improvement, farm financial risk indicators such as the debt-to-asset ratio are expected to rise in 2015, indicating greater financial pressure on the sector. However, the sector appears to have remained well insulated from solvency risk.

The Value of Agricultural Sector Production Forecast To Fall for the Second Straight Year in 2015
The annual value of U.S. agricultural sector production is expected to fall 9.2 percent to $427.7 billion in 2015, as the value of both crop and livestock production decline (see table on value of production). The value of production is comprised primarily of cash receipts adjusted for any changes in inventories and home consumption use, plus all farm-related income. The falling value of crop production (to a forecast $186 billion in 2015) represents a second consecutive decline from 2013’s record high of $233.2 billion, and the third straight year of declining crop cash receipts despite a net inventory reduction. The value of U.S. livestock production is also forecast to decline 12.3 percent (to $191.3 billion) in 2015 as a large drop in receipts more than offsets the sector’s inventory expansion.

Falling Crop Prices and Receipts Forecast for 2015

Crop cash receipts—the cash income from crop sales in the 2015 calendar year—are forecast to fall 8.7 percent in 2015, led by broad price declines for most field crops. Corn cash receipts are expected to decline the most, falling by $8.6 billion in 2015. Since hitting a record high in 2012, corn receipts have fallen 36 percent. While production is expected to drop slightly relative to 2014, corn prices are expected to fall by a larger percentage in 2015. Cash receipts for soybeans and wheat are also expected to decline from 2014, falling $5.7 and $2.7 billion, respectively. Rice cash receipts are expected to decline by 36.4 percent ($1.3 billion) on lower expected production and calendar-year prices.

Despite an expected increase in production, cash receipts for fruits and nuts are expected to remain flat in 2015 due to lower prices received by farmers. Production of grapefruits and oranges are both expected to fall as citrus greening disease has resulted in unmarketable fruit throughout Florida and elsewhere. California citrus production has held steady or increased relative to 2014, despite continued drought conditions. California has historically accounted for a large portion of U.S. vegetable and fruit/nut cash receipts. The drought there is likely to affect fruit/nut and vegetable production, and to reduce cotton and rice cash receipts. California is the second largest rice producing State and accounts for a large share of long-staple cotton production.

Animal and Animal Product Receipts Forecast Lower in 2015

Animal and animal product cash receipts increased by 43.8 percent in real terms from 2005 to 2014, but in 2015 are expected to fall 12 percent in 2015 (to $186.8 billion) in nominal terms. Much of the decline is due to falling dairy and hog receipts, but broilers and cattle/calves are implicated as well. After reaching a record high of $49.3 billion in 2014, milk receipts are expected to drop 28.2 percent in 2015 as declining prices more than offset an expected increase in milk production. Hog production is expected to rise in 2015 as the industry recovers from the porcine epidemic virus. However, hog prices are expected to drop sharply relative to 2014 and result in a 25-percent decline in hog cash receipts. Cash receipts from cattle production are also expected to decline by 4.9 percent in 2015 due to an expected drop in both price received and quantity marketed. The decline has primarily been driven by declining price expectations since the August data release.

Overall poultry and egg cash receipts are expected to fall 2.4 percent in 2015, due primarily to falling broiler receipts. Poultry and egg receipts are expected to be broadly affected by the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI or "Bird Flu") in 2015, although impacts are mixed. Since being detected in December 2014, HPAI has claimed 48.1 million birds, with turkeys and egg laying chickens most vulnerable. Both turkey and egg laying chicken quantities are forecast to decline and place upward pressure on prices. In contrast, U.S. broiler production is expected to increase in 2015. The increase in broiler production—coupled with HPAI-related import bans on U.S. poultry by some nations—has increased supply in the U.S. market, leading broiler prices sharply lower.

Falling Prices are Primary Driver of a Forecast Drop in Cash Receipts in 2015

Cash receipts for all commodities are expected to fall by nearly $41.5 billion in 2015. This decline largely reflects falling commodity prices, which are lower for a broad set of agricultural commodities in 2015 relative to recent years. To add perspective to the forecast change in cash receipts, the overall change for 2015 relative to 2014 can be decomposed into separate price and quantity effects for those commodities—soybeans, tobacco, peanuts, sugar beets, hay, potato, sunflower, flax, cottonseed, dry beans, barley, rapeseed, rye, canola, oats, mustard seed, safflower, sugarcane, sorghum, long-staple cotton, rice, wheat, upland cotton, and corn, hogs, broilers, milk, farm chickens, turkeys, eggs, and cattle/calves—where we forecast both prices and quantities. For these commodities, falling prices account for 96.5 percent of the decrease in receipts from 2014 to 2015.

Government Farm Program Payments Forecast To Increase in 2015

U.S. government farm program payments to the farm sector are forecast to rise 10.4 percent from 2014 levels to $10.8 billion (see table on government payments). New commodity-based programs introduced as part of the 2014 farm bill and implemented for the first time in 2015—such as the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) and Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) programs—are now the largest source of government payments to the farm sector. ARC is a revenue-based compensation system where payments are triggered when revenues fall below the ARC guarantee for the covered commodity. Payments on corn base acres are expected to account for over 80 percent of all 2015 ARC program payments. PLC payment levels depend only on the level of covered commodity prices relative to a reference price. PLC payments in 2015 are expected to go mainly to long-grain rice, peanuts, and canola base acres. Forecast increases in marketing loan gain and loan deficiency payments relative to 2014 reflect declining peanut and upland cotton prices in 2015, while increased payments for the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) and Margin Protection Program reflect declining milk prices. Increases in conservation spending reflect increases in Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) financial assistance.

In contrast to increasing commodity program payments, the largest decline in payments relative to 2014 is expected in the Supplemental and Ad Hoc Disaster Assistance category, down $3.1 billion to $1.7 billion in 2015. The decrease primarily reflects a drop in payments from the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP). In 2015, payments under the LFP are expected to decline significantly from 2014’s all-time high, which reflect delayed (since 2011) obligations collectively paid in 2014. This decline in ad hoc assistance is forecast to be partially offset by indemnity payments under an Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) program for losses from Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, or "bird flu," affecting U.S. poultry operations in 2015.

Declines in other government payment categories in 2015 reflect the phasing out of previous farm bill programs—including the Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) program, the Direct and Counter-Cyclical Payment (DCP) program, and the Tobacco Buyout—and completion of the 2014 Farm Bill’s transitory program for upland cotton (CTAP).

The November 2015 forecast for U.S. government payments declined by $586 million (5 percent) from the 2015 forecast issued in August. The major reason was an even larger decline in the forecast for ARC payments since the August forecast.

Production Expenses Forecast To Decline for the First Time in Since 2009

Year-over-year reductions in farm production expenses are infrequent. However, in 2015, for the first time since 2009 and for the third time since 2000, total farm production expenses are forecast to fall. The $7.7 billion decline, about 2 percent, follows a period of rapid increases in production expenses, on average, of over 9 percent annually (in nominal terms) from 2010 to 2014. Despite the decline in 2015, production expenses are still projected to be high by historic standards, behind only 2014 in both real and nominal terms. The drop in expenses alleviates, but does not completely offset, the effect of the drop in cash receipts, leading to tighter margins.

The forecast decline in expenses is driven primarily by lower spending on feed, fuel, and fertilizer, which outweigh expected increases in spending on labor, interest, and property taxes/fees.

    Even with higher expected demand for feed due to more cattle being fed, feed expenses are expected to be over $5 billion (8.5 percent) lower in 2015 due to lower feed prices.

    Continued rebuilding of cattle inventory and renewed poultry purchases to restore inventory depleted by the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI or “Bird Flu”) contributed to forecast livestock and poultry purchases remaining in line with 2014 purchase expenses.

    Fuel and oil expenses are forecast to decrease by over 28 percent to $12.7 billion in 2015. This reflects the Energy Information Agency’s forecast of the price of diesel and gasoline fuel, both projected down over 28 percent in 2015.

    Seed, pesticide, and fertilizer expenses, which are the principal inputs into crop production, are expected to decrease by about $3.2 billion in 2015, driven primarily by lower fertilizer expenses.

    Labor costs are expected to increase in 2015 by over 4 percent, with most of the increase driven by higher expected wage rates.

The largest forecast increase in farm production expenses is for interest outlays, up significantly due to forecast increases in farm debt. Interest paid on debt secured by real estate is expected to increase by almost 19 percent in 2015, to $11.4 billion. Interest payments for nonreal estate debt are also expected to increase by 23 percent based on continued demand for operating and other types of nonreal estate loans.

Net rent expense—the amount paid to rent land, adjusted for the landlord’s share of government payments and insurance indemnities and net of any expenses paid by the landlords—is forecast to remain relatively flat, decreasing by a little under 1 percent in 2015. As in recent years, the majority of net rent expense is forecast to be paid to non-operator landlords.

Property taxes and fees—which include real estate and personal property taxes, as well as motor vehicle registration and licensing fees—are expected to increase by over 7.8 percent to $15.5 billion in 2015, driven primarily by the increase in the (taxes) prices-paid index.

Miscellaneous expenses—which include insurance premiums, spending on irrigation, production contract fees, and grazing fees—are expected to increase slightly in 2015.

Payments to Stakeholders Expected To Increase in 2015

In 2015, payments to stakeholders are forecast to increase by $4.1 billion (6.3 percent), while net farm income is forecast to fall 38.2 percent. Net value added represents the sum of economic returns to all the providers of factors of production. Net value added is distributed among stakeholders who receive a fixed payment in return for their services and equity owners who share in the profits. Stakeholders provide the hired labor, leased capital, and rental land used in agricultural production, but in most cases don’t directly share risk in the short term. An exception is landlords who sign operators to share rent agreements. Consequently, the payments that stakeholders receive can be more stable over time than net returns to the equity owners of agricultural production.

Statement from Secretary Tom Vilsack on Updated 2015 U.S. Farm Income Forecast

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack today made the following statement:

"As one growing season comes to an end and another lies on the horizon, USDA continues to seek out new and innovative ways to expand opportunity for America's farming families and support markets that will boost farm income. Roughly one in three American farm products are exported, but there is significant and as yet untapped opportunity in markets in Asia and Europe. By the end of the year, I will have met with key leaders in those regions to promote the benefits of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and further negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, as well as expanded access in China. Expanded trade will help to drive higher commodity prices, additional farm income and agribusiness jobs that ultimately generate more cash flow in rural economies and support local businesses on main street.

"Thanks to its ability to remain competitive through thick and thin, American agriculture continues to enjoy some of the strongest years in our nation's history, supporting and creating good-paying American jobs for millions, and positioning the United States as a reliable supplier of high-quality goods for domestic and foreign markets alike. Overall, today's projections provide a snapshot of a rural America that continues to remain innovative, stable and resilient in the aftermath of the worst animal disease outbreak in our nation's history and as the western United States unloosens itself from the grip of historic drought. For example, today's projections indicate a rise in specialty crop receipts in 2015, while final farm income for 2014 was revised upward by $1.9 billion since August and $13.5 billion since February. Today's estimates also indicate that new 2014 Farm Bill safety net programs are working as intended and helping producers protect their operations from changes in the marketplace.

"Since 2009, USDA, under President Obama, has made historic investments in rural America and American agriculture. Two-thirds of all rural counties gained jobs over the past year and the American economy overall has created 8 million jobs over the past 36 months, the fastest pace since 2000. USDA and the Obama Administration will continue to stand with America's farming families, small businesses and rural communities as they build a brighter future for our country on the land that they love."

NCGA Commends Farm Service Agency Revision to Administrative County Rules for ARC-CO Program

The Farm Service Agency recently approved a modification allowing growers on a farm with one or more tracts outside the administrative county the option to recalculate Agriculture Risk Coverage-CO benefits based on the farm's physical location.  This decision follows an extensive of review of the potential impacts of the previous requirement that payments for the Agriculture Risk Coverage program be based on the administrative county where farm records are maintained.

"NCGA worked determinedly to bring this issue to the attention of FSA Administrator Val Dolcini. We greatly appreciate his consideration of our concerns and the decision to act on the information we provided," said National Corn Growers Association Public Policy Action Team Chair Steve Ebke.

According to the FSA Administrator's office, the payments for farms enrolled in 2014 and 2015 with payments "would be recalculated in each physical location and summed for the farm using weights according to the number of base acres (including attributed acres) in each county."

Farms will not be allowed to retroactively change the administrative county or to be reconstituted.   The choice for producers who may be adversely impacted is between recalculating all base acres on a farm or retaining the current calculation tied to the farm's administrative county.  The flexibility to select and choose among different tracts or crops is not available.  In addition, a decision to recalculate based on the physical location of the tracts must be agreed upon by all producers on the farm with a share in the payment.  The deadline for requesting a recalculation is February 1, 2016. 

Although NCGA has learned the number of farms not located in their administrative county represent a small percentage nationwide, the potential for variation in payments can be very significant.  Growers who have transferred their farm records to another county office and those who have been impacted by the consolidation of county offices are encouraged to contact your FSA office for additional information.    

CHS Inc. to hold annual meeting Dec. 3 and 4 at the Minneapolis (Minn.) Convention Center.

Nearly 2,500 member cooperative- and farmer-owners of CHS Inc. (NASDAQ: CHSCP), the nation's leading co-op and a global energy, grains and foods company will gather in Minneapolis Dec. 3-4 to hear how the company they own demonstrated its commitment to them in 2015. The 2015 CHS Annual Meeting — with the theme "Commitment"— features reports from the company's board and management on 2015 fiscal results, operational highlights and strategic direction. A member question/answer session, director elections and other business will also take place during the meeting. Former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, commander of Space Shuttle Endeavour's final voyage, will share his commitment story at the opening session on Thursday, Dec. 3, at approximately 4:30 p.m.

Agenda Highlights: (Complete agenda at www.chsinc.com/annual-meeting)

Thursday, Dec. 3

    CHS Expo Hall is open from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Learning exhibits and learning centers provide a hands-on experience with many of the resources and tools that CHS offers producers, cooperatives and business operations.
    Nearly 60 breakout sessions on Dec. 3 that tap into the expertise of CHS business leaders on issues affecting attendees' farm and cooperative operations. See a complete listing at chsinc.com/annual-meeting. Highlights include:
        Managing for opportunities through all economic cycles
        Producer financing
        Hedging 101: Price risk management
        Global crop nutrients market trends
        Ardent Mills joint venture value proposition
        Precision agriculture: YieldPoint® solution for success
        Global grain markets updates
        Energy prices
        Ethanol's value proposition
    Ardent Mills Mobile Innovation Center. Visitors will learn what is next in grain innovation, try some tasty grain-based samples and obtain new information about whole grain products. Representatives will also explain about their North American footprint that includes more than 40 community mills and blending facilities, as well as an artisan commercial bakery.

Friday, Dec. 4

    Starting at 9:30 a.m., the general session will feature board, management and financial reports, the company's business meeting and a member question/answer session.

Live webcast: Begins at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 3, and resumes at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 4, at www.chsinc.com.  Twitter hashtag: #CHSInc2015. 

New Infographic Explains Antibiotic Use on Pig Farms

The National Pork Board has debuted a new infographic depicting how U.S. pig farmers work with their veterinarians to use antibiotics responsibly to help keep people, pigs and the planet healthy.

“As pig farmers, we work closely with veterinarians to make sure we’re using antibiotics only when necessary for the health and well-being of our animals,” said Derrick Sleezer, president of the National Pork Board and a pig farmer from Cherokee, Iowa. “We’re also committed to protecting human health, and we understand the importance of using tools such as antibiotics responsibly to ensure food safety.”

The National Pork Board continues to update and expand programs, such as Pork Quality Assurance® Plus, that certify that farmers know the latest information about how to practice responsible antibiotic use at the farm level. However, pig farmers are increasingly communicating with the public about this issue with the goal of demystifying antibiotic use.

“We realize that today’s consumers want to know how their food is produced and that it’s safe for their families,” Sleezer said. “This is why we’re reaching out and telling people how we keep animals healthy to produce safe food. This infographic is one way we will achieve that goal.”

The National Pork Board has made a concerted effort in 2015 to address antibiotic-related issues. The board’s three-point plan of action focuses on research, education and communication. The plan will help shape educational outreach to pig farmers, share information with the retail and foodservice industries and inform pork consumers.

Other antibiotic initiatives coming from the National Pork Board include a new independent blue-ribbon panel to discuss the issue and to help prioritize research and producer education programs. The panel also will identify opportunities for improvement in current antibiotic practices and offer guidance in how to improve antibiotic stewardship in the pork industry.

“The role antibiotics play in pig farming is often misunderstood,” said Chris Hodges, National Pork Board chief executive officer. “That’s why we work closely with various groups in the food chain and why we’re reaching out to consumers with information about how antibiotics are used on the farm. It’s all part of our responsibility to build consumer trust in pork production.” The entire infographic can be found by visiting porkcares.org under the Our Practices tab.

Monday, November 23, 2015

November 23 Crop Progress & Condition Report - NE - IA - US


For the week ending November 22, 2015, snow blanketed western counties early in the week and northeastern counties over the weekend, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Rain preceded the snow in many areas with an inch or more common in the eastern two-thirds of the State. Fieldwork came to a halt as soils became too wet or snow covered to work.

Harvest was near completion in most areas except for the Panhandle. Temperatures averaged above normal across the east and below normal in western areas. There were 3.7 days suitable for fieldwork. Topsoil moisture supplies rated 5 percent very short, 21 short, 71 adequate, and 3 surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 5 percent very short, 25 short, 69 adequate, and 1 surplus.

Field Crops Report:

Corn harvested was at 95 percent, equal to last year, and near 97 for the five-year average.

Sorghum harvested was at 95 percent, near 96 last year and 99 average.

Winter wheat condition rated 0 percent very poor, 6 poor, 31 fair, 54 good, and 9 excellent.

Livestock, Pasture and Range Report:

Pasture and range conditions rated 3 percent very poor, 8 poor, 30 fair, 53 good, and 6 excellent.  Stock water supplies rated 2 percent very short, 11 short, 86 adequate, and 1 surplus.

Access the National publication for Crop Progress and Condition tables at:

Access the High Plains Region Climate Center for Temperature and Precipitation Maps at:

Access the U.S. Drought Monitor at:


 Most fall fieldwork activity was already complete when fieldwork activities were halted due to wet conditions as well as accumulating snow during the week ending November 22, 2015, according to the USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service. Statewide there were 2.9 days suitable for fieldwork, down nearly two full days from the previous week due to a winter storm system that moved through Iowa on Friday. Activities for the week included harvesting corn for grain, hauling manure, and minimal fertilizer application.

Topsoil moisture levels rated 0 percent very short, 4 percent short, 84 percent adequate, and 12 percent surplus. Subsoil moisture levels rated 2 percent very short, 9 percent short, 81 percent adequate and 8 percent surplus.

Ninety-eight percent of the corn crop for grain has been harvested. Some producers in south central Iowa have baled corn stocks as storms had knocked the corn down and they were unable to harvest the corn for grain.

Grain movement from farm to elevator was rated 36 percent moderate to heavy, down 7 percentage points from the previous week. Off-farm grain storage availability was rated 78 percent adequate to surplus. On-farm grain storage availability was rated 69 percent adequate to surplus.

Hay and roughage supplies were rated 97 percent adequate to surplus. Livestock conditions were described as normal, although lots are muddy due to a wetter than normal November.


Provided by Harry Hillaker, State Climatologist
Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship

It was a very wet week across Iowa with unseasonably warm weather transitioning to winter weather. Rain fell statewide on Monday (16th), Tuesday (17th) and Wednesday (18th) while temperatures were ten to twenty degrees above normal. Thursday (19th) brought dry weather and seasonal temperatures. Iowa’s first major winter storm of the season moved into northwest Iowa Friday (20th) morning and exited eastern Iowa Saturday (21st) morning. Heavy snow fell across much of northern Iowa with the greatest snow totals occurring over the far northwest with 15 inches falling at Rock Rapids. Snowfall totals of 8 to 12 inches were common from Lyon, Sioux and Plymouth counties along the South Dakota border east-southeastward to Clayton and Dubuque counties. Far southwest Iowa saw mostly light rain with the late week storm. Overall a statewide average of 5.9 inches of snow fell. A greater November snow total last occurred in 1991. Much colder weather followed the passage of the winter storm with daytime highs in the teens in the far northwest on Saturday. Spencer recorded a Saturday morning low of minus 4 degrees while Stanley in northeast Iowa saw a minus 5 degree reading on Sunday morning. Weekly precipitation totals varied from 0.75 inches at Decorah to 4.02 inches at Rock Rapids. The statewide average precipitation amount was 1.79 inches or four times the weekly normal of 0.45 inches. This was the wettest week in 13 weeks (mid-August). The week’s highest temperatures were recorded at Burlington and Keokuk on Tuesday with 64 degree readings. Temperatures for the week as a whole averaged 2.1 degrees above normal with the early week warmth slightly cancelling out the late week cold.

USDA Weekly Crop Progress

Corn harvest is complete for 2015 and winter wheat planting is nearly done, according to USDA's latest weekly Crop Progress report.

Winter wheat planting is 96% complete, compared to 94% last week and a 100% five-year average. Ninety percent of the crop is emerged, compared to 87% last week and a 90% five-year average.  USDA reports that 53% of winter wheat was rated good-to-excellent.

Ninety-four percent of sorghum is harvested, compared to 91% last week and a 93% five-year average.

Seventy percent of the cotton crop is harvested, compared to 64% last week and an 82% five-year average.

Brazil Soybean Planting Continues To Lag

Brazilian soybean planting continued to lag last week with showers not making up for irregular rainfall in the first half of the month.  Farmers had planted just 70% of their soybean crop as of Friday, the lowest total since 2008, according to Agrural, a local farm consultancy.

Planting did move forward ten percentage points last week as showers returned to Mato Grosso but fieldwork remains six points behind the same point last year and 11 points behind the five-year average.  In many parts of Mato Grosso, soil moisture remains in deficit. The north and the west of the state are the worst affected with some replanting necessary, AgRural said. Showers are falling but they are light and irregular. Mato Grosso has planted 89% of its crop, down from the five-year average of 96%.

In southern Brazil, heavy showers continue.  Rain hindered efforts to finish planting in Parana, where fieldwork is 90% complete compared with a five-year average of 94%.  In Rio Grande do Sul, farmers planted in between showers last week and 49% of the state's crop is now in the ground, down from an average of 58%.

Monday November 23 Ag News


A well designed and maintained windbreak can provide many benefits to a farm, home or acreage. Nebraska Extension is partnering with the Nebraska Forest Service and the Lower Platte North Natural Resources District to provide a workshop offering information on how to create and implement a windbreak plan. The workshop will be Dec. 4 at the University of Nebraska's Agricultural Research and Development Center near Mead. 

Registration begins at 9 a.m. with the workshop from 9:30 to noon.

According to Nebraska Extension educator Keith Glewen, many of the windbreaks in eastern Nebraska have outlived their usefulness and are in desperate need of renovation and replacement in some cases. This workshop will provide participants with information on how to start the process.

Topics and presenters include: 
    > "Windbreak Renovations," Steve Karloff, Nebraska Forest Service district forester
    > "Planting New Windbreaks," Jay Seaton, Lower Platte South NRD forester
    > "Current Tree Health Issues," Jennifer Morris, Nebraska Forest Service, forest health specialist
    > "Lower Platte North NRD Tree Planting Program," Bob Heimann, operations and maintenance manager
    > "Bag Trees for Windbreaks," Heather Byers, horticulturist, Nebraska Certified Nurseryman, Weston

Pre-register by Dec. 2 to reserve a seat and to ensure workshop materials are available the day of the workshop. To register, contact Nebraska Extension at 402-624-8000 or cdunbar2@unl.edu. For questions about the program, contact Glewen at the above phone number or kglewen1@unl.edu.

Deere Dealers Oregon Trail, LandMark Implement to Merge

Nebraska-based John Deere dealerships Oregon Trail Equipment and LandMark Implement have announced the businesses will merge.

Oregon Trail Equipment owner Rick Bennett made the announcement to customers in a letter on Nov. 12. In the letter he said, "Even though the company will be going through a name change, most of the people you deal with every day, from the parts department to the sales team, will not change."

Oregon Trail Equipment was formed back in 2003 when three John Deere dealerships merged.

"Because a number of LandMark Implement dealerships are located in adjacent counties to the Oregon Trail stores, the merger also forms a near-continuous dealer network that spans from Marysville to Gothenburg, Neb.," Bennett said in the letter. "That translates into a number of customer benefits, including an even more extensive parts supply, a larger new and used equipment inventory and specialized product support."

According to reports, Bennett plans to retire and his two sons, Justin and Luke Bennett, are buying his interest in the company. Mike Kongs, who has been a business partner since Oregon Trail Equipment was formed by the merger of 3 dealerships back in 2003, will remain a part of the new organization.

Oregon Trail Equipment currently has locations in Marysville, Beatrice, Fairfield, Hastings, Hebron, Superior and Red Cloud, Neb. LandMark Implement has locations in Holdrege, Arapahoe, Elwood, Kearney, Minden, Shelton, Lexington and Gothenburg, Neb., as well as Phillipsburg and Smith Center, Kan.

Iowa Soybean Association’s Wolf recognized as Steward of Iowa’s Land

The innovative environmental efforts of Roger Wolf, Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) Environmental Programs and Services (EPS) director, were recognized by Drake University’s Agricultural Law Center at the Sustaining our Iowa Land (SOIL) conference Nov. 19 in Des Moines.

  Wolf was recognized as a Steward of Iowa’s Land for having shown long-term leadership and contributions to protecting Iowa’s land and water resources. He was presented with the award by farmer Ray Gaesser of Corning.

“Fifteen years ago, we hired this young environmental guy who challenged us and took us out of our comfort zone,” said Gaesser who is also a past ISA president and American Soybean Association chairman. “I’m glad he challenged us to make a difference. Because of Wolf’s efforts, ISA’s water and environmental programs are known around the United States. He is truly a Steward of Our Iowa Land.”

Wolf leads the ISA EPS team that focuses on the creation, development and oversight of programs and services designed to achieve data-driven environmental performance at farm and watershed scales, while improving agronomic and economic performance.

“I’m honored to receive the award and, more importantly, to have the opportunity to influence the positive progress of agriculture in this arena,” Wolf said. “Many farmers, partners and stakeholders across Iowa have come together to improve Iowa’s water and soil quality, and I believe that applying science and collaboration are the keys to moving forward.”          

Wolf also provides leadership to the industry through involvement in regional and national organizations including the U.S. Water Alliance Board of Directors, Green Land Blue Waters Steering Committee, America’s Watershed Initiative Steering Committee, 25x25 Climate Adaptation Working Group and Fishers and Farmers Partnership Steering Committee.

CHS posts fiscal 2015 earnings of $781 million

CHS Inc. (NASDAQ: CHSCP), the nation's leading farmer-owned cooperative and a global energy, grains and foods company, today announced earnings for fiscal 2015 of $781 million.

CHS earnings for fiscal 2015 (Sept. 1, 2014 – Aug. 31, 2015) of $781 million were down 28 percent from more than $1.1 billion for fiscal 2014, reflecting singular events as well as lower margins across CHS energy and agriculture businesses. Revenues for the year were $34.6 billion, down 19 percent from $42.7 billion for fiscal 2014, primarily due to lower values for the commodity energy and grains products it handles.

"Our core businesses of agriculture and energy have entered a global down cycle which affected both earnings and revenues for fiscal 2015," said Carl Casale, president and chief executive officer. "Nonetheless, we continue to fulfill our commitment to our owners by making significant investments in the future of our businesses; providing direct economic returns and maintaining a strong financial foundation for the future."

Year-over-year earnings for the CHS Energy segment declined primarily due to significantly reduced refining margins resulting from major maintenance turnarounds at its Laurel, Mont., and McPherson, Kan., refineries. Earnings for the company's propane business also declined due to lower margins and demand for both fall 2014 crop drying and winter 2014-15 heating use. CHS lubricants business reported record earnings.

CHS Ag segment earnings for fiscal 2015 also declined overall, driven primarily by a $116.5 million impairment associated with the decision to cease development of a nitrogen fertilizer plant at Spiritwood, N.D. In addition, grain marketing earnings decreased primarily as a result of robust logistical performance in fiscal 2014 which did not reoccur in fiscal 2015, as well as growth-related expenses and foreign exchange losses which were partially offset by increased margins. Within the company's Country Operations local retail, animal nutrition and sunflower businesses, earnings declined due to lower retail agronomy margins and growth expenses, but were partially offset by higher grain volumes and margins. CHS wholesale crop nutrients earnings increased in fiscal 2015 compared to fiscal 2014 due to increased margins partially offset by decreased volumes.

CHS renewable fuels marketing and production operations earnings also declined, primarily due to lower ethanol market prices and corresponding lower marketing commissions; this decrease was partially offset by additional production earnings from the company's two Illinois ethanol plants. CHS Processing and Food Ingredients fiscal 2015 earnings increased when compared with fiscal 2014; fiscal 2014 earnings included an impairment related to its CHS Israel assets.

CHS reports results for its Business Solutions operations and two food processing-related joint ventures under the Corporate and Other heading. Overall earnings for fiscal 2015 declined when compared with fiscal 2014; fiscal 2014 included a gain of $109.2 million associated with the formation of the Ardent Mills milling joint venture. Combined earnings for CHS Insurance, CHS Hedging and CHS Capital increased slightly in fiscal 2015.

In fiscal 2015, based on fiscal 2014 earnings, CHS returned $533.8 million to its owners in cash patronage, equity redemptions, preferred stock and dividends on preferred stock to its owners.

USDA Cold Storage Highlights

Total red meat supplies in freezers were down 3 percent from the previous month but up 21 percent from last year, according to USDA's monthly Cold Storage report released Monday afteroon. Total red meat is a record high for the month of October, since the data was first recorded in 1916. Total pounds of beef in freezers were up 3 percent from the previous month and up 34 percent from last year. Frozen pork supplies were down 8 percent from the previous month but up 13 percent from last year. Stocks of pork bellies were up 64 percent from last month but down 39 percent from last year.

Total frozen poultry supplies on October 31, 2015 were down 3 percent from the previous month but up 16 percent from a year ago. Total stocks of chicken were up 8 percent from the previous month and up 31 percent from last year. Total chicken is a record high for the month of October, since the data was first recorded in 1939. Total pounds of turkey in freezers were down 21 percent from last month and down 9 percent from October 31, 2014.

Total natural cheese stocks in refrigerated warehouses on October 31, 2015 were down slightly from the previous month but up 15 percent from October 31, 2014. Butter stocks were down 5 percent from last month but up 21 percent from a year ago.

Total frozen fruit stocks were up 13 percent from last month and up 5 percent from a year ago.  Total frozen vegetable stocks were up 5 percent from last month and up 1 percent from a year ago.

New Growth Energy Ad on RFS, Featuring “Bachelor” Star and Iowa Farmer Chris Soules

On a press call earlier today, Growth Energy and Chris Soules, Iowa farmer and star of “The Bachelor” and “Dancing with the Stars” announced a new television ad emphasizing the economic and environmental benefits of ethanol. The ad points to the significant harm that the EPA’s proposal poses to America’s farmers and features Soules urging politicians in Washington to support clean, secure, American-made ethanol.

On the call, Growth Energy Co-Chair Tom Buis spoke to the major progress in revitalization and job creation in rural America thanks to ethanol production. You can listen to a recording of the call here. Currently the ad is airing in Iowa, Illinois, Ohio and Indiana.

Under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), the ethanol industry has helped to generate more than 852,000 jobs throughout America and helped farming communities make a strong comeback. In Iowa alone, the renewable fuel industry spurs more than 73,000 jobs, generates $19.3 billion in annual economic output and $5 billion in wages annually, and contributes $1.7 billion in state and federal taxes each year.

“The Renewable Fuel Standard is a great American success story,” said Tom Buis, co-chair of Growth Energy. “More renewable fuel like ethanol means more investments in rural economies across America. Homegrown renewable fuel is also helping consumers at the pump, driving down our dependence on oil from hostile foreign regions, and reducing pollution in our air and water.”

“American-made ethanol reduces our dependence on foreign oil,” said Chris Soules, a fourth-generation Iowa farmer. “Our farmers are also leading the way in helping reduce carbon emissions—the use of corn ethanol results in a 34 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to regular gasoline. We need a strong Renewable Fuel Standard so we can continue providing opportunities for our country’s farmers and produce clean energy right here in America.”

Open Communication Crucial as USDA Examines Biotech Regulatory Process

National Corn Growers Association Trade Policy and Biotechnology Chair John Linder, a farmer from Ohio, and Director of Biotechnology and Crop Inputs Nathan Fields took part in a meeting hosted by the Biotechnology Regulatory Service to share with stakeholders how the U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to approach new rulemaking around part 340. This section of code, which is used to regulate the approval and deregulation of biotechnology products, is currently under review by USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, under which BRS falls.

"We are encouraged that the USDA reached out to stakeholders in this way, keeping them updated in a timely manner as the review process proceeds," said Linder. "By decreasing unnecessarily burdensome processes and delays, while maintaining the highest level of safety and careful review, USDA will help farmers gain access to the cutting edge products that they need to face ever-evolving challenges in the fields."

In describing how the USDA will approach rulemaking, BRS officials conveyed two points of particular importance.

First, USDA will attempt to reduce the regulatory burden registration extension. This would, in real world terms, mean that technology providers would only have to gain approval for each trait and, after deregulation, would be able to extend that approval in stacks with very specific additional information. Additionally, it would allow for expedited approval of traits already approved for use in another crop.

Second, USDA would likely move from a product-by-product assessment to a system that relies more heavily on an upfront risk assessment of new technologies. In doing so, it would create a clearer landscape for technology companies at an earlier stage, thus allowing them greater freedom to operate.

Notably, BRS representatives stressed that the USDA has been and will continue to be engaged with all of the United States' major trading partners as the process is developed to maximize potential synchrony with global markets.

The meeting, which was held in Riverside Park, Maryland, had the highest attendance of any stakeholder meeting of its type yet with more than 100 participating. The group consisted mainly of representatives of grower groups and technical companies with some from the grain trade also on hand.

NCGA will continue to engage with APHIS as this process moves forward and plans to submit remarks when the agency opens the public comment period on the notice of intent.

Growth in U.S. Agricultural Exports to China

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack arrived in China this weekend. Over the past decade, the United States' agricultural exports to China have risen sharply, propelling China into its position as the fastest-growing and highest-value export destination for U.S. farm and food products. In 2011, China surpassed Canada to become the top U.S. market and it has since retained that position. In fiscal year (FY) 2015, U.S. agriculture and related exports to China totaled $25.9 billion, comprising approximately 16 percent of all U.S. agricultural exports.

While the rapid growth in U.S. farm exports to China has plateaued in recent years, many macroeconomic conditions signal the potential for continued long-term growth and trade expansion in China. An increasingly urban population, a growing middle class, and higher disposable incomes have increased Chinese consumers' ability to diversify their diets and purchase high-value, protein-rich foods.

USDA forecasts a considerable increase in China's imports of coarse grains, soybeans, cotton, beef, and pork by 2024. Furthermore, growth in U.S. exports of horticultural goods, dairy, and alcoholic beverages to China bode well for future opportunities within the consumer-oriented products sector. Provided the U.S.-China trade partnership remains strong, U.S. agricultural producers are well positioned to capitalize on China's economic development and consumer demand into the foreseeable future.

The value of U.S. agricultural and related exports to China has more than tripled over the last 10 years, reaching a record $29.6 billion in FY 2014 before declining slightly in FY 2015.

Due to China's severe cropland shortage and inexpensive labor force, U.S. exports to the country have traditionally been dominated by land-intensive bulk commodities that China then processes for domestic consumption or export. More recently, China's booming demand for luxury items and ready-to-eat foods has created new opportunities for the United States, particularly for exporters of intermediate products such as oils, fats, flour, meal, and sweeteners, and consumer-oriented products such as processed foods, meats, dairy, eggs, tree nuts, and wine and beer. U.S. exports of bulk, intermediate, and agricultural-related products, such as forest and fish products, have each increased approximately 250 percent since 2006. Exports of consumer-oriented products grew 150 percent over the same period.

A variety of agricultural goods have made significant contributions to U.S. export totals, many gaining first-time market access to China in the last couple of years. For example, U.S. sorghum and distiller's dried grains used for animal feed have become billion-dollar exports to China despite being almost non-existent prior to 2008. Sales of these lower-cost feed substitutes have helped offset recent declines in U.S. corn exports caused by China's restrictive trade policies. Similarly, exports of U.S. hides and skins, seafood, and wood products have recently surpassed the $1 billion mark. While these numbers are significant, soybeans continue to dominate U.S. agricultural exports to China, historically accounting for approximately half the total value of U.S. exports. In FY 2015, U.S. soybean exports to China were valued at $12.7 billion, the second-highest level on record.

The tremendous expansion of U.S. agricultural trade with China has not come without challenges. Chinese consumers recognize the United States as a supplier of high-quality agricultural and food products that are both trusted and desired. However, U.S. exports are limited by Chinese policies that promote agricultural self-sufficiency and protect domestic industries. China's lack of regulatory transparency, inconsistent product review and approval processes, and erratic distribution of import quotas all distort trade and create uncertainty for U.S. exporters. This environment has prevented the United States from achieving its full potential in exports to China.

The size of the agricultural trade relationship for both the United States and China, as well as U.S. agricultural exports' support for China's food security through trade, provides incentives for both sides to address these issues. Recent engagements have shown that negotiations between the two countries can achieve positive results. For instance, a series of agreements on sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures and technical barriers to trade (TBT) for horticultural goods has greatly benefited U.S. almond, citrus, and apple producers. In FY 2015, U.S. exports of these goods to China were valued at $87 million, $34 million, and $20 million, respectively.

Ample opportunities for expansion continue to exist within China's food and agricultural markets. Growth in China's food consumption is forecast to outpace its domestic output by more than two percent per year between 2015 and 2020, resulting in increased demand for imports (IHS Global Insight). In order to address the growing demand for food, China is pursuing a number of economic and regulatory reforms to bolster its domestic agricultural production and efficiency. Additionally, according to Chinese officials, these reforms are designed to be market-oriented and consumer-driven. As China moves forward with this process, U.S. agricultural stakeholders must be fully engaged with the Chinese in order to avoid unwarranted restrictions of U.S. exports and to promote policies that are mutually beneficial to the trade partnership.

Registration Open for USGC Winter Meeting in Sarasota, Florida

The U.S. Grains Council (USGC) encourages farmers, members and other industry representatives to register soon for its 13th International Marketing Conference and 56th Annual Membership Meeting scheduled for Sarasota, Florida, from Feb. 15 to 17, 2016.

Registration is available online via www.grains.org.

The February meeting will follow USGC's annual theme of Excellence in Exports, with opportunities for attendees to learn about new developments and challenges emerging in the global grain trade. They will also get to meet face-to-face with USGC’s international directors who will travel to the sessions to provide insights into their dynamic markets.

“The Council’s Monday general session will focus on trade policy and the unique role it plays in our businesses as farmers,” said USGC Chairman Alan Tiemann. “We plan to discuss the two multinational trade agreements currently being negotiated, the long-term impacts that the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) had in Mexico and more.”

This meeting’s speaker line-up is scheduled to include renowned political analyst and publisher of The Cook Political Report, Charlie Cook, who will delve into the 2016 presidential election and how it may impact the global grain trade.

“After hearing from expert speakers like Charlie and our international staff, we are hopeful our members will leave the meeting fired up and dedicated to the work that needs to be done to continue expanding grain exports,” Tiemann said.

A significant amount of time at the Sarasota conference will be spent in meetings of the USGC Advisory Teams (A-Teams) and commodity-specific stakeholders. These groups will go in-depth on global strategies and compare notes about the global grain trade. During this time, members will also provide input into the Council’s planning process to enhance its strategic cohesiveness.

As a member-led organization, the Council depends on its delegates’ commitment and participation and encourages stakeholders to make plans soon to attend the February meeting.

“This meeting will be a step toward achieving our goals of Excellence in Exports,” Tiemann said. “Come to Sarasota this winter to build relationships with both new and old friends, collaborate with like-minded people and nurture your dedication to this organization.”

More about the meeting is available online at www.grains.org

 CWT Assists with 5.6 million Pounds of Cheese and Whole Milk Powder Export Sales

Cooperatives Working Together (CWT) has accepted six requests for export assistance from Dairy Farmers of America, Northwest Dairy Association (Darigold) and Tillamook County Creamery Association who have contracts to sell 307,104 pounds (139 metric tons) of Cheddar, Gouda and Monterey Jack cheese, and 5.331 million pounds (2,418 metric tons) of whole milk powder to customers in Asia and South America. The product has been contracted for delivery in the period from November 2015 through March 2016.

Year-to-date, CWT has assisted member cooperatives who have contracts to sell 53.667 million pounds of cheese, 25.671 million pounds of butter and 40.411 million pounds of whole milk powder to thirty-five countries on six continents. The amounts of cheese, butter and whole milk powder in these sales contracts represent the equivalent of 1.368 billion pounds of milk on a milkfat basis.

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

Friday, November 20, 2015

November 20 Cattle on Feed Report + Ag News


Nebraska feedlots, with capacities of 1,000 or more head, contained 2.45 million cattle on feed on November 1, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. This inventory was up slightly from last year.  Placements during October totaled 645,000 head, down 2 percent from 2014. Fed cattle marketings for the month of October totaled 445,000 head, up 3 percent from last year.  Other disappearance during October totaled 20,000 head, unchanged from last year.


Cattle and calves on feed for slaughter market in Iowa for all feedlots totaled 1,145,000 on November 1, 2015, according to the latest USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service – Cattle on Feed report. The inventory is up 3 percent from October 1, 2015, and up 5 percent from November 1, 2014. Feedlots with a capacity greater than 1,000 head had 640,000 head on feed, up 7 percent from last month and up 8 percent from last year. This marks the highest November inventory since estimates began in 1994. Feedlots with a capacity less than 1,000 head had 505,000 head on feed, down 1 percent from last month but up 1 percent from last year.

Placements during October totaled 238,000 head, an increase of 65 percent from last month and up 5 percent from last year. Feedlots with a capacity greater than 1,000 head placed 156,000 head, up 84 percent from last month and up 18 percent from last year. This is the greatest number of cattle on feed placed in a month since estimates began in 1994. Feedlots with a capacity less than 1,000 head placed 82,000 head. This is up 39 percent from last month but down 14 percent from last year.

Marketings for October were 198,000 head, up 21 percent from last month and up 23 percent from last year. Feedlots with a capacity greater than 1,000 head marketed 113,000 head, up 12 percent from last month and up 13 percent from last year. Feedlots with a capacity less than 1,000 head marketed 85,000 head, up 37 percent from last month and up 39 percent from last year. Other disappearance totaled 5,000 head.

United States Cattle on Feed Up 2 Percent

Cattle and calves on feed for the slaughter market in the United States for feedlots with capacity of 1,000 or more head totaled 10.8 million head on November 1, 2015. The inventory was 2 percent above November 1, 2014.

Number of Cattle on Feed  (1,000 hd - % Nov '14)

Colorado .......:                880                  100      
Iowa .............:                640                  108        
Kansas ..........:              2,150                 103        
Nebraska ......:              2,450                 100        
Texas ............:              2,560                 100     

Placements in feedlots during October totaled 2.28 million head, 4 percent below 2014. Net placements were 2.21 million head. During October, placements of cattle and calves weighing less than 600 pounds were 645,000 head, 600-699 pounds were 530,000 head, 700-799 pounds were 431,000 head, and 800 pounds and greater were 675,000 head.

Number of Cattle Placed  (1,000 hd - % Oct '14)

Colorado .......:               195                     93      
Iowa .............:                156                    118     
Kansas ..........:                445                    106     
Nebraska ......:                645                     98      
Texas ............:                450                     87        

Marketings of fed cattle during October totaled 1.63 million head, 3 percent below 2014.  Marketings are the lowest for October since the series began in 1996.  Other disappearance totaled 75,000 head during October, 23 percent below 2014.

Number of Cattle Marketed  (1,000 hd - % Oct '14)

Colorado .......:                140                     97     
Iowa .............:                113                    113     
Kansas ..........:                300                     94      
Nebraska ......:                445                    103   
Texas ............:                360                     86       

NE Cattlemen Announces the 2016 YCC Class

The Nebraska Cattlemen is proud to announce the 2016 class of the Young Cattlemen's Conference (YCC). YCC nominees were accepted from throughout the state and selected by committee to participate in the two-year leadership program. Each class is limited to 10 individuals.

The 2016 YCC class includes:
  Reiss L. Bruning, Bruning
  Jentry Cain, Berywn
  Bradley Christensen, Columbus
  Tricia Goes, Odell
  Adam Guenther, West Point
  Gus Petersen, Cambridge
  Heidi Pieper, Farnam
  Douglas Smith Ph.D., Curtis
  Kenneth Stauffer, Harrisburg
  Kelly Terrell, Gothenburg

The next two years will be spent growing and learning with this class. NC looks forward to the future of these individuals. 

NePPA Now Accepting 2016 Pork Mentorship Program Applications

The Nebraska Pork Producers Association wants students to be a part of the 2016 Pork Mentorship Program. If students are connected to agriculture and believe in the future of the pork industry, they are encouraged to apply! $500 scholarships are available for college-age students who have an interest in the pork industry – they don’t have to be a pork producer! Applications are due December 5th. Students may apply for this opportunity by requesting an application by emailing kyla@nepork.org, or visiting the youth tab on www.nepork.org.

The Pork Mentorship Program is directed under Kyla Habrock, NPPA Youth Education Director. Habrock stated, “The NPPA Pork Mentorship Program is more than just a scholarship. It’s a way for students to build their capacity as a leader and professional in the swine and agriculture industries in Nebraska. The program provides students with an opportunity to identify future career goals and to evolve into strong agricultural advocates.”

The Pork Mentorship program was established in 1999. To date, over 120 students have completed the program and over $65,000 in scholarships have been awarded. Each year the students participate in activities that encourage personal growth, leadership development, community engagement, and expand their knowledge of the pork industry. A $500 scholarship is awarded upon the completion of the year-long program.

Sheep Production Workshop Cancelled

The Iowa State University Extension Sheep Production Skill Development Workshop scheduled to be held on Saturday, Nov. 21, has been cancelled due to an expected snow storm. The program location was the Deb and Jeff Hanson Agriculture Learning Center located at 2508 Mortensen Road in Ames, IA.

The free workshop will be rescheduled for an undetermined day in January 2016. Topics covered will be reproductive management of ewe stock, basic sheep nutrition and feeding, a hands-on session at the Iowa State University Sheep Teaching Farm, condition scoring, mouthing and aging, using CIDRS and ram breeding tests, and hay sampling.

More information will be available at a later date.


(from National Pork Producers Council newsletter)

In a joint letter sent Tuesday to U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Alfred Almanza, the National Pork Producers Council, the American Sheep Industry Association, the National Milk Producers Federation and the National Turkey Federation raised a concern about USDA public announcements on other countries’ food safety systems.

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) conducts inspections of those systems to determine their equivalence with the U.S. system. When a foreign country’s system is deemed to be equivalent, an announcement is published in the Federal Register for public comment. But the groups pointed out in their letter that such announcements give the impression that meat and meat products then can be immediately exported to the United States. Before that happens, though, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) must review the disease status of a country and complete an assessment of the disease risk of importing meat and meat products from it.

The organizations suggested that USDA not publish the results of the FSIS equivalency inspections until APHIS conducts its risk assessments. If the results must be published, the organizations said, at the very least, the announcements should contain a statement indicating that “no exports to the U.S. can occur until approved by APHIS.”


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration last Friday released the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Final Rule on Foreign Supplier Verification for Importers of Food for Humans and Animals. The rule requires that importers of human food and animal feed – finished products and ingredients – from other countries verify that the products were produced in accordance with the good manufacturing procedures, hazard analysis and preventative controls required by the recently released FSMA human food and animal feed rules for domestic manufacturers. It creates a much stronger system for ensuring the safety of imported animal feeds and ingredients.

Given that imported feed ingredients have been identified as a potential source of Porcine Endemic Diarrhea and other viruses, NPPC supports a strong rule for foreign suppliers.  Though NPPC continues to have concerns about the scope of the FSMA animal feed rule domestically, the foreign supplier rule will benefit the U.S. pork industry, and NPPC will encourage FDA to provide robust enforcement of it.


NPPC this week asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) to take no further action on a proposed rule that would allow the importation of beef and beef products from Namibia until USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) completes a review of that country’s disease status.

FSIS investigates and approves the food safety systems of countries that want to import food into the United States and recently found Namibia’s system equivalent to the U.S. system. But in comments on the FSIS rule on Namibia submitted to the agency, NPPC expressed opposition to allowing the country to begin exporting meat to the United States because the African nation has had nearly 30 outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease in cattle since June.

Until APHIS evaluates Namibia’s safeguards to control and manage foreign animal diseases, meat from that country should not be allowed into the United States, said NPPC.

Bipartisan Group of Former Agriculture Secretaries Urges Congress to Pass Trade Pacific Partnership

A bipartisan group of former U.S. Agriculture Secretaries, today issued an open letter urging Congress to pass the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). The former secretaries note that opening new markets for exports is critical for farmers and rural communities. Agricultural exports provide 20 percent of farm income and support more than 1 million jobs, many of them in rural communities. TPP is a new trade deal that will create new opportunities for American-grown and American–made products in the dynamic Asia-Pacific region. By opening new markets in Japan, Vietnam, and other countries, we are giving our producers access to new customers and expanding their sales. These sales will generate more farm production, and related activities, that will grow the U.S. economy.

The letter from the former secretaries follows:

As former Secretaries of Agriculture, we have been personally invested in the negotiation of every major U.S. trade agreement of the past 40 years. We know from experience how important such agreements are to the economic well-being of our farmers and ranchers. In every negotiation where agriculture has been on the agenda these negotiations have expanded our markets, boosted farm incomes, and in the process created new jobs, both on-farm and off-farm, in rural America.

The recently concluded Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations are in that same mold. TPP, a high-standard, 12-country agreement, represents this nation's "rebalance toward Asia," which fits American agriculture perfectly. That's where populations are increasing, as is purchasing power, and that's what dramatically enhances the demand for our food. We will in the future benefit significantly from increased access to those markets.

We have long had aspirations to sell more of our products to Japan, and we'll now have that enhanced opportunity. But TPP also opens up new markets in the growing economies of Vietnam and Malaysia. And it even provides additional access to Canada's poultry, egg and dairy markets.

TPP is a 21st-century agreement that sets enforceable "rules of the road" for trade throughout the region, and with countries currently representing over 40 percent of the global economy. But it is also meant to be an open platform for other countries to potentially join, over time, if they are willing to meet the high standards set forth in the agreement, and if we and the other TPP members—and our own Congress—confirm they can meet that bar. That means potential future agricultural export opportunities could open up within the region.

In addition, we should recognize that it is far better to be "on the inside" of agreements like TPP, than "on the outside" looking in. Being an insider gives all TPP participants an inherent competitive advantage over those countries which were not involved.

TPP obviously has non-economic benefits too. It will solidify our working relationship with the participating Asian (and South American) countries, and that has both foreign policy and national security implications. And "beyond the border" provisions such as enforceable labor and environmental provisions in developing countries—beyond mere tariff reductions—also help level the playing field for U.S. businesses and American exports, including agricultural products.

No trade agreement ever negotiated—TPP included—is perfect. But we should never let perfection be the enemy of the good, and this is a very good trade agreement. In addition to its market access benefits, it will establish the rules of the game for international trade – and help drive up standards for the entire world – for years to come. That is especially invaluable to a country like the United States, which tries to follow the rules of the global marketplace, whereas others often do not. TPP represents solid, committed leadership by the U.S. in international trade, and in one of the most dynamic, fastest-growing regions of the world.

For American agriculture there is no downside to TPP, and there is substantial upside. Hence, we strongly support a vote of approval by the U.S. Congress.

Secretary Ed Schafer (2008–2009)
Secretary Mike Johanns (2005–2007)
Secretary Ann Veneman (2001–2005)
Secretary Dan Glickman (1995–2001)
Secretary Mike Espy (1993–1994)
Secretary Clayton K. Yeutter (1989–1991)
Secretary John R. Block (1981–1986)

Cattlemen's Webinar Series - Transportation, Trade & Taxes

December 10, 2015
7:00pm Central Time

From trade to transportation, 2015 has been a turbulent year for a number of policy issues important to cattlemen and women both on Capitol Hill and within the federal agencies. Join the National Cattlemen's Beef Association policy experts, Colin Woodall and Kent Bacus, as they discuss the latest congressional activity in Washington D.C., and explain what these issues mean to you. Also, back by popular demand, CPA Larry Kopsa will share end of year tax tips for cattle producers. All panelists will be available for Q&A at the end of the presentation. Register here... https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7627463165368184577

Broad Coalition Urges Congress to Uphold Promise to Not Cut Crop Insurance or Other Farm Programs

National Farmers Union (NFU) joined a broad coalition of 49 groups representing farm interests, equipment manufacturers, banks, insurance companies, credit lenders, and other entities in urging Congressional leadership to keep their promise to American farmers to not cut crop insurance or other farm programs through the omnibus appropriations act.

“Cuts to crop insurance translate into further consolidation within the crop insurance sector, providing less choice for family farmers who depend on this cost-effective safety net program,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “We appreciate the deal struck during the budget negotiations between majority leadership and House and Senate Agriculture Committee leadership. As Congress negotiates an omnibus spending bill, we are urging them to keep their promise to leave the farm bill intact and not make cuts to the federal crop insurance program.”

An agreement was struck between U.S. Senate and House of Representatives Republican leadership and the committees of jurisdiction during the recent budget debate to unwind both the policy and the cut to crop insurance made within the budget deal.

“The crop insurance provision contained in the budget would gut the private sector delivery of the crop insurance program by cutting the target rate of return by 38%,” notes the coalition’s letter to all members of Congress. “Under the current target rate of return, crop insurance companies have realized negative net returns since 2011. Further reducing the target rate would only drive the industry further into the red.”

As previously reported by Agri-Pulse, “the $3 billion in savings that the cut was supposed to produce will be found in some other, non-agricultural area of the federal budget.”

“This commitment is very important to our members and to everyone involved in agriculture,” said Johnson. “Just like we opposed this unwarranted cut to crop insurance, our members will also strongly oppose cuts to other important titles of the farm bill, such as additional cuts to conservation, energy and nutrition.”

The letter also notes that the agriculture community is strongly committed to the belief that balancing the federal budget is important, which is why the industry supported the passage of a farm bill just last year that saved $16.6 billion.

“The farm bill is a careful balance of priorities and should not be reopened before its expiration in 2018,” notes the letter. “Additionally, the crop insurance program has contributed more than $12 billion towards reducing government spending since the 2008 Farm Bill, which well-surpasses the funding added to the program in 2014.”

“The crop insurance program is the lynchpin of the farm safety net and is crucial to the economic security of rural America,” says the letter. “As an omnibus spending bill is negotiated, we urge you to uphold the promise to make the crop insurance program whole again without re-opening the farm bill.”

Highway Bill May Get Another Short Term Extension

Conferees from the House and Senate have begun formal negotiations of a long-term surface transportation reauthorization bill. Both chambers have passed their own versions, and a conference committee has been established to work out the differences between the two. The current short-term extension expires on Friday.

In addition to policy differences, the two overarching questions facing negotiators are funding mechanisms and authorization length.

Both chambers' bills would authorize the program for six years; some Members of the conference committee have called for shortening the timeframe in order to help address funding challenges.

With these and other questions still unresolved, the House of Representatives passed another short-term extension of the current authorization extending to December 4 in order to provide additional time for negotiations.

Tyson Foods Closing Plants in Wisconsin and Chicago

Tyson Foods Inc. on Thursday announced plans to close two aging prepared-food plants, in the face of prohibitive renovation costs and changing demand.

About 880 workers would be affected by the closures of the plants in Jefferson, Wis., and Chicago. The meat-processing company said the workers—about 480 in Chicago and about 400 in Jefferson—are being encouraged to apply for other openings within the company.

"We examined many options before we turned down this road," Donnie King, Tyson's president of North American operations, said in a statement. "This affects the lives of our team members and their families, making it a very difficult decision."

The Chicago plant, which had been acquired by Tyson in 1994 and originally made meals for airlines, now produces meatballs, crepes, omelets and soups, among other products.

The Wisconsin facility was founded in 1875 as a processing facility for beef, pork and lamb. It currently produces sliced ham and pepperoni for pizza toppings and sliced pepperoni and salami for delicatessens.

The closures come as Tyson continues to remake itself after its 2014 acquisition of Hillshire Brands Co. Shortly after the announcement of the acquisition, Tyson announced in July 2014 that it was closing three prepared-food plants. In recent quarters, revenue growth in the prepared-food division has led the company's top-line growth, primarily as a result of the Hillshire acquisition.

In August, the company announced it was closing a 400-person beef-processing plant in Iowa, citing declining U.S. cattle herds.

In October, Tyson announced it was raising hourly wages for 34,000 employees at its U.S. chicken plants to better attract and retain workers.

Syngenta Sues Grain-Trading Firms

Syngenta AG sued several grain-trading firms over losses some U.S. farmers say they sustained after China rejected shipments of genetically modified corn, escalating a legal battle over the way biotech seeds are introduced to farm fields.

The lawsuit, filed late Thursday in U.S. District Court in Kansas, stems from a legal dispute that arose last year when grain companies and farmers sued Syngenta, arguing the company should compensate them for lost sales and depressed corn prices that they claim arose from the rejected shipments.

The Swiss seed and pesticide giant, which is contesting those allegations, argued in the new lawsuit that big grain merchants, including Cargill Inc. and Archer Daniels Midland Co., should be on the hook for losses that crop producers say they are due in the matter.

"We don't think there is any liability here, but to the extent there is, at a minimum, the lion's share of the duty falls on the grain trade," said Michael Jones, a lawyer for Kirkland & Ellis LLP representing Syngenta in the matter.

Representatives for ADM and Cargill had no immediate comment.

Syngenta in 2011 began selling a new variety of biotech corn seeds -- called Viptera and engineered to resist pests -- to farmers in the U.S., Argentina and Brazil after those governments granted approval for its cultivation. In late 2013, Chinese officials began turning away shipments of U.S. corn bound for Chinese ports after detecting the Syngenta strain, which the country had yet to approve for import.

Last year, Cargill sued Syngenta over the corn, alleging that Syngenta's decision to market the seeds without first securing Chinese import approval cost the Minnesota-based agribusiness $90 million when Beijing began rejecting corn shipments.

Other grain shippers, including Archer Daniels Midland Co., also sued Syngenta. The grain firms' cases touched off a wave of separate lawsuits filed by farmers across the country, who argued that they too lost money because China's rejections of U.S. corn shipments depressed the overall price of corn by closing off a key market.

Syngenta has defended its move to sell the seeds, saying it followed the law, was fully transparent and provided to farmers a valuable new tool for defending their crops against insect pests.

The judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas, who is handling the farmers' lawsuits, in September ruled that the farmers can bring legal claims against a seed company over its duty to ensure that any biotech seeds don't damage other players in the "interconnected" U.S. corn supply chain.

That ruling allowed the farmers' case against Syngenta to move forward. But Syngenta's new lawsuit argues that it also places responsibility on the grain traders, as participants in the grain market, to shield farmers and other players against the same potential economic damage that could arise if shipments are rejected for containing unapproved biotech traits.

If the judge determines the farmers are due damages, Syngenta's lawsuit argues that Cargill, ADM and two smaller grain companies should bear some or all of the liability. Syngenta could add additional grain companies to the lawsuit, Mr. Jones said.