Friday, May 27, 2016

Friday May 27 Ag News

Lower Elkhorn NRD receives grant to provide cost-share on flow meters

     The Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) recently received a grant from Nebraska’s new Water Sustainability Fund (WSF).  Nebraska’s Natural Resources Commission approved nearly $11.5 million in projects, with $900,000 being awarded to the LENRD for water and soil conservation.  The LENRD will provide a match of $600,000.  This will allow the district to have $1.5 million available for cost-share assistance on irrigation flow meters.

     At their May board meeting, the LENRD Board of Directors voted to utilize the funding to offer incentive payments of $250 per flow meter to producers who are approved for the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) funding.  They also agreed to offer payments of $500 per flow meter to producers who apply for the LENRD cost-share by June 30, 2017, if they are not receiving any other incentives or cost-share.  LENRD General Manager, Mike Sousek, said, “The deadline to have flow meters installed on all irrigation wells is January 1, 2018.  The cost-share is available for producers who get signed up before June of next year.”  Producers are asked to sign-up through their county Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office to apply for the LENRD cost-share.

     The board also approved a contract with Aqua Geo Frameworks (AGF) for the 2016 Airborne Electromagnetic (AEM) project that will provide aquifer framework mapping across approximately 608 miles of the district, including portions of Cedar, Dixon, Knox, Madison, Pierce, Platte, Stanton, and Wayne counties.  Sousek added, “By continuing the flights, we can work on defining more aquifers and work with the UNL Conservation & Survey Division to complete an atlas of our district.  We have received $250,000 for this project from the WSF, and we will be matching up to $167,000 to continue the mapping project.”

     In other action, the board voted to provide a $2,197.70 grant for the Madison Public School’s Watershed Dynamics Program.  The request came from the school for their on-going sampling program of Taylor and Union Creeks.  The program is in its sixth year and provides hands-on learning for many students during the summer months.

     Funding was also requested by the Northeast Nebraska Weed Management Area, a group organized under the Northeast Nebraska RC&D, to match LB1038 funding for controlling invasive plant species.  The group is requesting funding from four area NRDs to control invasive plant species in the Elkhorn River Basin.  The board approved $5,000 for the project.

     A public hearing was also held, relating to the proposed amendments to the LENRD’s Erosion & Sediment Control Program.  The adopted changes will be added to the plan and can be viewed on the district’s website.

     The next board meeting will be held on Thursday, June 23 at 7:30 p.m. in the Lifelong Learning Center on the campus of Northeast Community College in Norfolk.  Visit the LENRD website to sign up for emails from the district.  Like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.


    Simanti Banerjee, assistant professor of agricultural economics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has received a four-year, $498,641 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study the effectiveness of conservation auction policies.

    The grant will initiate a new research collaboration between UNL and Fordham University in New York City.

    Agricultural lands have the potential to deliver a wide variety of benefits to the environment. In an effort to preserve natural habitat, the USDA has implemented policies, such as the Conservation Reserve Program. In exchange for a yearly rental payment, farmers enrolled in CRP agree to remove environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production.

    However, the cost-effectiveness of these policies is uncertain. Fund disbursals are subject to budget constraints and often landowners end up being overcompensated. The USDA implements reverse auctions under the CRP to mitigate such overcompensation.

    "Since these payments are an integral part of the agricultural system of the U.S., scientific investigation is important to identify auction design features which contribute positively to cost-effectiveness, while generating environmental and economic benefits for agricultural communities and society at large," Banerjee said.

    Banerjee's project will use economic experiments to focus on the impact of information about the environmental effects of land use actions, auction format, social and community ties and individuals' tendencies to seek peer approval. Her experiments will involve real people making choices on the basis of which they will be paid. The findings will provide insights about human behavior under changing conditions.

    The grant was made through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Foundational program, administered by USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The program supports projects that sustain and enhance agricultural and related activities in rural areas, protect the environment, enhance quality of life and alleviate poverty.

    UNL students will play a critical role in the project, according to Banerjee.

    "The economic experiments will serve as a means to engage university students and stakeholders in experiential learning, providing them with a keener appreciation for human decision making," she said.

    The role that empathy plays in decision making is the focus of an additional grant awarded to Banerjee and Mark Burbach, environmental scientist in the UNL School of Natural Resources, along with colleagues at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. The two-year, $80,258 grant from the Center for Behavioral and Experimental Agri-Environmental Research, will evaluate the effectiveness of empathetic messaging in conservation stewardship program participation.

    The research team will work with the Natural Resources Conservation Service to send letters to farm operators, inviting them to participate in a Conservation Stewardship Program in exchange for a financial incentive. Previous economic experimental research conducted by the team suggests that introducing empathetic messaging into that letter could result in a higher adoption of conservation practices.

    "We hope to see a much higher adoption in conservation when using a combination of empathy and financial incentives," Burbach said.

    The project is one of 12 behavioral science projects awarded by the Center for Behavioral and Experimental Agri-Environmental Research that aim to explain the complex human responses to agri-environmental policies implemented by the government, with the goal of helping to design better public programs.

USDA Announces More Than $8 Million in Payments to Support the Production of Advanced Biofuel

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $8.8 million to boost the production of advanced biofuels and sustain jobs at renewable energy facilities in 39 states. USDA continues to lead the way in promotion of advanced biofuel production, from implementing the revised Farm Bill bio-refinery program to the launching of the Green Fleet with the Department of the Navy and developing the Biogas Opportunities Roadmap, which outlines voluntary strategies to overcome barriers to expansion and development of a robust biogas industry within the United States.

"Advanced biofuels expand America's energy options and increase our sources of homegrown, renewable energy," Vilsack said. "These payments not only help to spur biofuel production, but also protect the environment and help create jobs by building a renewable energy economy in rural areas."

The funding is being provided through USDA's Advanced Biofuel Payment Program, which was established in the 2008 Farm Bill. Payments are made to biofuels producers based on the amount of advanced biofuels produced from renewable biomass, other than corn kernel starch. Examples of eligible feedstocks include crop residue, food and yard waste, vegetable oil, and animal fat. Through this program to date, USDA has made $308 million in payments to 382 producers in 47 states and territories. These payments have produced enough biofuel to provide more than 391 billion kilowatt hours of electric energy.

Ag Processing, Inc. headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska will receive a $486,725 payment for biodiesel production from soybean, canola and waste vegetable oils at their St. Joseph, Missouri, Sargeant Bluffs, Iowa, and Algona, Iowa production facilities.  

Quad County Corn Processors Co-Op of Galva, Iowa, is receiving a $2,011 payment to convert more than 39 million gallons of corn kernel fiber into 660,000 gallons of cellulosic ethanol. The company converts the fiber into ethanol and other products using a process developed by its own research team.

Secretary Vilsack has recognized the biobased economy as one of the pillars that strengthen rural communities. Through the Advanced Biofuel Payment Program and other USDA programs, USDA is working to support the research, investment and infrastructure necessary to build a strong biofuels industry that creates jobs and broadens the range of feedstocks used to produce renewable fuel. Over the course of this Administration, USDA has invested $332 million to accelerate research on renewable energy ranging from genomic research on bioenergy feedstock crops, to development of biofuel conversion processes and costs/benefit estimates of renewable energy production.

In January, Secretary Vilsack joined Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus to launch the Great Green Fleet, and witnessed destroyer USS William P. Lawrence (DDG 110) being replenished with advanced biofuel made from waste beef fat. Aviation biofuels, like those used by the Navy, are creating new markets for energy created from agricultural waste products.

USDA has also supported efforts to build six new biorefineries to produce advanced biofuels in Louisiana, Georgia, Oregon, Nevada, North Carolina, and Iowa, in addition to three existing facilities in New Mexico, Michigan and Florida.

Investments in renewable energy and the biobased economy are a leading part of USDA's commitment to mitigating climate change and promoting a clean-energy economy. This month, the Department is examining what a changing climate means to agriculture and how USDA is working to reduce greenhouse gases. 

ISU Field Days Provide Insight into Crops Research

Iowa State University Research and Demonstration Farms and ISU Extension and Outreach will highlight current research during early summer field days. Research and Demonstration Farm research is being conducted on crops and soil health, cover crops, water quality and drainage.

The research farms host field days to give the public a chance to see research projects in progress and talk with researchers and extension staff involved with the experiments.
Seven field days in June and July will highlight crop and soil research

    June 21 – McNay Memorial Research and Demonstration Farm (45249 170th Avenue, Chariton) – 12:45-4 p.m. or 5:30-8:30 p.m.
    June 21 – Allee Demonstration Farm (2030 640th Street, Newell) - June 21 time TBD
    June 21 – Muscatine Island Research and Demonstration Farm (111 North Street, Fruitland) - 5:30 p.m.
    June 23 – Southeast Research and Demonstration Farm (3115 Louisa-Washington Road, Crawfordsville) - 1 p.m.
    June 23 – Northern Research and Demonstration Farm (310 S. Main Street, Kanawha) - 9 a.m.-12 p.m.
    June 28 – Northeast Research and Demonstration Farm (3321 290th Street, Nashua) - 1-4:30 p.m.
    July 13 – Northwest Research and Demonstration Farm (6320 500th Street, Sutherland) - 10 a.m.

All field days are open to the public. No registration is required. Field days are held regardless of weather and many of the events serve a meal. A full schedule of 2016 field days is linked to the research farm website at: .

Contact the research farm in your area or the ISU Research and Demonstration Farm office (515-294-5045) for specific details on each event.

2016 Hay & Forage Expo to Focus on Education

The Hay & Forage Expo returns to central Iowa for the 30th annual event. The show is scheduled for June 22 and 23 at the Central Iowa Expo facility located just east of Boone, Iowa. The Central Iowa Expo site is also the host for the 2016 Farm Progress Show which will be held in late August.

The Hay & Forage Expo has always been known as the best place to see the latest hay and forage equipment and an expanded list of programs has been added to the agenda for this year’s show.

“Farmers who attend the Hay & Forage Expo love the demonstrations and enjoy watching the equipment in action. We wanted to expand on that and offer educational programs as well,” says Matt Jungmann, events manager for Penton Agriculture. “Two of our education programs are hot topics in agriculture, drones and the weather. Producers want to use drones to improve field scouting and we want to help them understand the regulations and restrictions of this type of technology. And weather is always a crucial subject for farmers and they want to learn about weather trends and how they will affect the growing season.”

“Another program we are excited to offer this year is a hay auction,” comments Jungmann. Scheduled for Wednesday only, the hay auction will be conducted by the American Ag Video Auction. 

All presentations will be held at the show site in the Morton Building located at Sixth Street and Central Avenue.
Educational Program and Auction Schedule

11:15 - Weather Outlook for Crops 2016 and Beyond presented by Prof. S. Elwynn Taylor, Iowa State University.  A very strong El Nino that reminds us of 1983 and 1988 has folks in the Corn Belt a bit on edge in 2016.  But, the El Nino event of 1998 was a "good" crop event.  Weather records and forecasts are giving us ever-better ways to anticipate how our crops will turn out.

12:15 – The Future of Commercial Drone Operations presented by Philip A. K. Stiles, Esq. The use of drones in the agriculture industry has exploded over the last five years. Now with the FAA catching up on regulating drone use, Stiles will explain current regulations, what you need to know if you are using a drone service or flying your own drone and talk about the future of drone use in the ag industry.

3:00 – Hay Auction – WEDNESDAY ONLY. Conducted by American Ag Video Auction. American Ag Video Auction is an online hay marketing company that streams live, real-time auctions. Auction personnel go to a producer’s farm or ranch, video and test hay, and then market it by utilizing the live real-time video auction platform. American Ag Video Auction is committed to building lasting relationships with their buyers and sellers. They provide an innovative and professional way to market hay, while expanding and creating market opportunities worldwide.
New Products and Equipment

Sponsored by Penton Agriculture's local farm publications, The Farmer, Wisconsin Agriculturist and Wallaces Farmer, the Hay & Forage Expo provides easy access to the new hay and forage technology with an extensive exhibit area and working field demonstrations conducted throughout each show day.

The two-day hay extravaganza showcases mowing, conditioning, baling and hay handling demonstrations on prime alfalfa acres. Visitors have multiple opportunities to compare the most popular equipment brands operating side by side under actual field conditions.

A 10-acre exhibit field highlights displays from the major and shortline specialty manufacturers with a focus on products aimed at boosting the efficiency and profitability of hay and forage productions. The Hay & Forage Expo is a one-stop shopping and learning venue for hay and forage producers. Visitors can examine the latest balers, forage choppers, disk mower conditioners, tedders, rakes, mergers, bale carriers, forage seed and more hay production products.
Make Plans to Attend

The 30th annual Hay & Forage Expo will be held June 22 and 23, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Central Iowa Expo facility near Boone, Iowa. The site is located west of I-35 on Hwy. 30; the show's website features a map and detailed driving directions. Admission is free; parking is $10 per vehicle. For more information, visit or call (866) 264-7469. The public is welcome.

EPA Plans National Public Hearing for Renewable Fuel Standard Program in Kansas City, Mo., June 9

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency  is announcing a public hearing to be held in Kansas City, Missouri on June 9, 2016, for the proposed rule "Renewable Fuel Standard Program: Standards for 2017 and Biomass-Based Diesel Volume for 2018." The hearing will provide an opportunity for the public to comment on the proposal. The hearing will begin at 9:00 a.m. and will end when all parties present who wish to speak have had an opportunity to do so. All persons wanting to speak should register in advance, by May 31, 2016.  To register to speak at the meeting, or for further information, e-mail 

Oral comments and supporting information presented at the public hearing will be considered with the same weight as written statements and supporting information submitted during the public comment period. Written comments must be received by the last day of the comment period (July 11, 2016) and submitted to one of the addresses listed in the notice of proposed rulemaking. For more information about the public hearing see the Federal Register Notice:

The pre-publication version of the proposed rulemaking can be found at

The Clean Air Act requires EPA to set annual RFS volume requirements for four categories of biofuels. By displacing fossil fuels, biofuels help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help strengthen energy security. EPA implements the program in consultation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Statement from Agriculture Secretary Vilsack on the Latest Quarterly Agricultural Trade Forecast

American farmers and ranchers continue to compete and win in foreign markets. Even in today’s environment of lower commodity prices, abundant global supplies and a strong U.S. dollar, exports remain a key pillar supporting U.S. agriculture and rural communities. Today’s quarterly agricultural trade forecast shows the resilience of our agricultural sector despite the economic headwinds. Export volumes continue to post near-record totals across many key products.

Oilseed and product exports are forecast at $26.1 billion, up $700 million, and grain and feed exports are forecast at $27.7 billion, up $500 million from the February forecast. The report also underscores the importance of creating new export opportunities for our producers by knocking down tariffs and opening new markets through free trade agreements.

Exports comprise 20 percent of U.S. farm income, drive rural economic activity, and support more than one million American jobs. We have the opportunity to expand those benefits even further through passage of new trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. A report published by the International Trade Commission just last week shows that the TPP will significantly expand U.S. exports to some of the world’s fastest-growing economies and add an additional $10 billion to annual U.S. agricultural output by 2032.

Trade agreements such as the TPP are key to a stable and prosperous farm economy. They can help boost global demand for U.S. farm and food products, increase U.S. market share versus our competitors in key markets, and ensure that our farmers and ranchers have stable and predictable markets for the quality goods they produce.  Congress should move quickly to approve the TPP.

USDA Extends Deadline for Recording Farm Structure

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced a one-time, 30-day extension to the June 1 deadline for recording farm organization structures related to Actively Engaged in Farming determinations. This date is used to determine the level of interest an individual holds in a legal entity for the applicable program year. Farming operations will now have until July 1 to complete their restructuring or finalize any operational change. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued the extension in response to farmers and ranchers who requested more time to comply, and to assure that everyone has enough time to provide their information under the new rules.

"Most farming and ranching organizations have been able to comply with the actively engaged rule," said Vilsack. "This one-time extension should give producers who may still need to update their farm structure information the additional time to do so."

The 2014 Farm Bill provided the Secretary with the direction and authority to amend the Actively Engaged in Farming rules related to management. The final rule established limits on the number of individuals who can qualify as actively engaged using only management. Only one payment limit for management is allowed under the rule, with the ability to request up to two additional qualifying managers operations for large and complex operations.

The rule does not apply to farming operations comprised entirely of family members. The rule also does not change the existing regulations related to contributions of land, capital, equipment or labor, or the existing regulations related to landowners with a risk in the crop or to spouses. Producers that planted fall crops have until the 2017 crop year to comply with the new rules. The payment limit associated with Farm Service Agency farm payments is generally limited annually to $125,000 per individual or entity.

Thursday May 26 Ag News

Fischer Introduces Bill to Alleviate Burdens for NE Producers

Today, U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), introduced legislation that would provide regulatory relief for Nebraska’s agriculture producers. The bill, known as the Farmers Undertake Environmental Land Stewardship (FUELS) Act, would modify costly EPA regulations that could negatively affect farmers and ranchers with on-farm fuel storage. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), the Chairman of the EPW Committee, joined Senator Fischer as an original cosponsor of the legislation.

Senator Fischer released the following statement this afternoon regarding the legislation:

“I am proud to introduce the Senate-version of the FUELS Act, which would provide relief for farms and ranches with on-farm fuel storage from unnecessary regulations meant for oil refineries. This legislation will lower costs and cut red tape for Nebraska families who work hard to feed the world.”

Barb Cooksley, President of Nebraska Cattlemen, released the following statement in support of the FUELS Act:
“Nebraska Cattlemen appreciates Senator Fischer’s help in providing much needed regulatory relief for on-farm fuel storage. The SPCC rule would subject Nebraska’s farms and livestock operations to the same rigorous regulations as major oil refineries. The EPA’s one-sized-fits-all approach would result in excessive compliance costs and threaten our agricultural producers, the lifeblood of our state.”

Steve Nelson, President of the Nebraska Farm Bureau, released the following statement in support of the FUELS Act:
“We greatly appreciate the leadership Sen. Fischer has demonstrated in introducing the FUELS Act. This legislation provides a much needed, common sense and reasonable approach to how farms and ranches are to be regulated under EPA’s SPPC rule. If enacted, this legislation will save Nebraska farmers and ranchers time, money and cut through needless red tape. We look forward to working with her to secure passage of this important piece of legislation.”

The EPA’s Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) regulations were originally designed for major oil refineries, but over the past several years, the agency has threatened to subject the agriculture community to these regulations. This regulatory overreach would require farmers and ranchers to make costly structural upgrades to their facilities, placing tremendous burdens on farms and ranches when their fuel storage facilities do not pose significant risk to water quality.

In 2014, Senator Fischer successfully brokered a bipartisan provision in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014, which was eventually signed into law that addressed the EPA’s SPPC rule. Fischer’s provision provided an immediate 6,000-gallon exemption for agriculture producers. Additionally, the provision required the EPA to conduct a study to review and determine the most appropriate level of exemption for on-farm fuel storage between 2,500 and 6,000 gallons, based on significant risk of discharge to water.

In June 2015, the EPA published its study on the SPCC rule, which raised further concerns that Nebraska farms would still be significantly impacted by SPCC requirements and costs.

The 2016 Water Resources and Development Act contained important provisions that would provide increased flexibility for local stakeholders and communities as they manage and protect their water. However, Senator Fischer voted against the bill during the EPW Committee’s markup of this legislation because it did not address the inadequate EPA study and the SPCC fuel storage issue, which is critically important for Nebraska.

Senator Fischer’s FUELS Act would exempt the following from the SPCC rule:
·         Farms with 10,000 gallons or less of storage.
·         Farms with an aggregate above ground storage of 10,001 to 42,000 gallons and/or no history of spills. These farms would be required to maintain a self-certified spill plan to respond to any potential spills.
·         All aggregate above ground storage tanks for animal feed ingredients, regardless of capacity. 

Nebraska Corn 2016 Internships Announced

The Nebraska Corn Board (NCB) and Nebraska Corn Growers Association (NeCGA) are proud to support seven college students as interns starting this summer.

Five of the seven interns will be hosted by national cooperators of NCB, including: the National Corn Growers Association in St. Louis, Missouri and Washington, D.C., the U.S. Meat Export Federation in Denver, Colorado and the U.S. Grains Council in Washington, D.C. and internationally in the Panama City, Panama office. The other two internship programs will be yearlong internships in the Nebraska Corn offices in Lincoln.

“We are thrilled to once again be able to offer these various internship opportunities to an excellent group of students,” said Kelly Brunkhorst, executive director for the Nebraska Corn Board. “Nebraskans should be very proud of these bright and energetic collegiate candidates. They represent an insightful next generation of young people who will help bring a new dimension to producing food, feed, fuel and fiber for a growing world population.”

Below is a listing of students who were selected for this year’s internships and a short description of what they’ll be experiencing. You can keep up with these students and their experiences throughout the summer on Nebraska Corn’s blog entitled “Nebraska Corn Kernels.” Visit to learn more.

The National Corn Growers Association headquarters’ office in St. Louis, Missouri, will host Lauren Stohlmann of Murdock, Nebraska, as their summer intern supported by a partnership between NCB and NCGA. Lauren will be a senior in Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Communications at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She will be primarily working with market development on the American Ethanol NASCAR sponsorship as well as participating in a variety of other communications and grassroots activities.

The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) office in Washington, D.C. will host Colton Flower of Scottsbluff, Nebraska, as their summer intern supported by a partnership between NCB and NCGA. Colton will be a senior in Agricultural Education/Leadership with minors in Agribusiness-Entrepreneurship and Animal Science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. During his internship, he will be involved with a variety of agricultural issues related to environmental regulations, transportation, free trade agreements, biotechnology, ethanol, and energy.

The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), located in Denver, Colorado will host Kelsey Scheer of St. Paul, Nebraska, as their summer intern supported by a partnership between NCB and USMEF. Kelsey will be a senior in Animal Science with a Production and Management option from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She will be assisting with beef, pork and lamb specific projects, as well as promotions and international relationship opportunities.

The U.S. Grains Council (USGC) in Washington, DC will host Maddy Breeling of Omaha, Nebraska, as their summer intern supported by a partnership between NCB and USGC. Maddy will be a senior studying Global Studies, with minors in Business and National Security at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. She will be working with the global programs team and assisting with preparation for international trade teams and other market development programs that help to develop demand for U.S. coarse grains and co-products.

In cooperation with NCB, the U.S. Grains Council will also host Andrea Gurney from Torrington, Wyoming, as their international intern in the Panama City, Panama office. Andrea will be a senior majoring in Agricultural Business at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She will be working with the western hemisphere team on issues related to global trade in food and agricultural products, assisting with communication to importers.

The NeCGA office in Lincoln is happy to welcome Laura Lundeen of Axtell, Nebraska, for a yearlong internship. Laura will be a junior in Agricultural Education with minors in Animal Science and Agronomy at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She will oversee NeCGA’s online communications as well as contribute to a variety of communication and outreach projects.

The NCB office in Lincoln is excited to welcome Morgan Schilling of McCook, Nebraska, for a yearlong internship. Morgan will be a senior studying Agricultural Education with a minor in Agronomy at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. As part of his internship, he will oversee Nebraska Corn’s crop progress report placement, contribute to communication programs and projects and will help coordinate educational and promotional activities.

“Nebraska Corn’s internship program has been engaging students for over 20 years and has been a great investment into Nebraska’s agricultural future. As our board has observed, the educational and career advantages these internships have provided to students over the years, have been instrumental in motivating students go on to excel in agricultural focused careers,” added Brunkhorst.

Corn Groups Secure USDA Funds for Phenotyping Research

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it will make available $250,000 to match checkoff investments from the Iowa Corn Promotion Board (ICPB), Illinois Corn Marketing Board and Nebraska Corn Board for phenotyping research. This is part of a larger $130 million research initiative announced by USDA to fund research, education, and extension projects. ICPB initiated the a phenotyping research initiative, known as Genomes to Fields, to expand our understanding of interacting effects that corn genetics and crop environments have on corn yields.

"We thank the USDA for providing us the ability to advance our plant productivity research," said Iowa Corn Research and Business Development Chair Curt Mether, a farmer from Logan, Iowa. "Our goal is to make the connection in understanding how genes of the corn plant perform under different environmental growing conditions and how various plant traits will be impacted. If scientists can predict how corn traits will perform, given their understanding of the genes in a hybrid and how they react to environment stressors, this will enable plant breeders to design better corn plants for improved productivity to meet the growing demand for food, feed and fuel in the future."

The key objectives of this research are to:

-- Develop a public corn phenotype database to allow study of mechanisms by which genes interact with the environment to influence traits

-- Develop new methods and devices to analyze the relationship between genetic, trait and environmental data to predict performance of plants

-- Be able to predict the growth and yield of a corn plant given the genetic background and the environment

-- Convert the corn genome sequence into functional knowledge

Scientists seeking funding from this USDA announcement must also request a letter of support from the Iowa Corn Promotion Board. Scientific proposals are due to USDA on July 28.

"This is another example of checkoff dollars being leveraged on behalf of corn farmers to improve long term profitability," explained Mether.

Iowa Corn Applauds Governor Branstad’s Extension of Retailers Renewable Fuels Incentives

Iowans driving flex fuel vehicles received good news this week as  Iowa Governor Terry Branstad signed into law a bill extending tax provisions for fuel retailers providing Iowa motorists with homegrown, renewable ethanol and biodiesel.

Senate File 2309 is an act that extends the per gallon income tax benefits for retail stations who choose to offer higher blends of ethanol (E15 and E85) and/or biodiesel (B5 and B11) to their customers at the pump through 2024. This bill passed by the legislature this session, with bipartisan support in both the Iowa House and Iowa Senate.

“We thank Governor Branstad and the Iowa legislature for providing continued support for retailers offering higher blends of ethanol and biodiesel to Iowa consumers at the fuel pump,” said Iowa Corn Growers Association President Bob Hemesath, a farmer from Decorah. “The renewable fuels industry provides 43,000 jobs to our state. These types of investments ensure the biofuels industry continues to thrive and support rural communities across our state.”

The E85 Promotion Tax Credit, available for fuel blends containing 70 to 85 percent ethanol, was extended at 16 cents per gallon through 2024.  The E15 tax credit, available for fuel blends containing 15 to 69 percent ethanol, was extended through 2024 at 3 cents per gallon from September 16 through May 31, and 10 cents per gallon from June 1 through September 15 to help alleviate the summertime blending issues for registered E15.

IFBF Economic Summit to feature panel of trade experts to examine critical export challenges and opportunities for farmers

A downturned economy has farmers facing uncertainty and a growing set of new challenges both on the farm and in the export market.  The 2016 Iowa Farm Bureau Economic Summit, titled “Buckle Up for Bumpy Ride,” to be held June 27 in West Des Moines, seeks to answer common questions farmers have about their challenges today and in the future.

One of the mounting challenges farmers face is challenges in the export market both from international competitors and high tariffs on beef and pork, limiting the U.S. exports of those commodities.  Additionally, here at home, the leading candidates for U.S. President have been critical of potential trade agreements, such as the TransPacific Partnership (TPP), which farmers consider essential for the sustainability of their family farms.

“Meeting these challenges and remaining competitive in the export markets is extremely important for Iowa crop and livestock farmers,” said Dave Miller, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) director of research and commodity services.  “That’s why exports is one of our focal points in our upcoming Economic Summit.”

IFBF’s June 27 Economic Summit features a panel of trade experts who will examine the numerous export challenges and opportunities, both domestically and internationally, that impact a farmer’s operation.  Miller noted that events that can affect exports are often difficult to read and comprehend, which is why the expert panel will provide summit attendees with clarity and a realistic outlook for the future of important trade deals.

The international trade panel at the summit will feature Erin Borror of the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF); Sam Funk, chief economist of the United Soybean Board (USB); and Veronica Nigh Swerdlow, trade specialist for the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF).

“These presenters will provide us perspective on the potential for exports as well as an outlook for Congressional approval of the TPP and the proposed TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union,” Miller said.

Additionally, the panelists will look at trade, as it pertains to the 2016 U.S. Presidential campaign and the impact on farm exports.  Both expected nominees, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and businessman Donald Trump, have been critical of TPP and blamed the trade agreement for the loss of American jobs, and have expressed opposition to the multi-nation trade deal.

“There is a concern that these stances could roll back trade agreements or even set off a trade war,” Miller said.  “Historically, agriculture thrives under trade agreements, but feels the brunt of the negative impact during trade disputes.  It’s important for all of us in agriculture to see the potential consequences.”

The Economic Summit will also feature panels on other key issues facing farmers today, such as trends in land prices and rental rates, the ag lending climate and outlook for farm economy, and key technology such as big data and unmanned aerial systems or drones.

Mike Pearson of IPTV’s Market to Market will moderate the one-day event which will be held at IFBF headquarters, 5400 University Avenue in West Des Moines on June 27, beginning at 7:30 a.m.  There will also be special panel discussions on key issues and experts to take questions.

Summit registration, which includes access to all presentations and lunch, is $75 for Farm Bureau members and $100 for non-members.  Register now for this essential risk management seminar.  Visit or call Lavonne Baldwin at 515-225-5633 or email

Current National Drought Summary

This U.S. Drought Monitor week saw minor improvements in drought conditions in areas of the West including: northeastern California, northern Nevada, northwestern New Mexico, and southeastern Alaska. In Texas, persistent rainfall led to the complete removal of drought conditions from the state. In the Northeast, Northwest, and Southeast, short-term precipitation deficits, low streamflows, and pockets of dry soils led to further deterioration of conditions. Significant rainfall accumulations this week were observed along the western Gulf Coast, portions of the Mid-Atlantic, Northern Rockies, and Southeast. In southeastern Florida, seven-day rainfall totals were impressive with some coastal areas receiving nearly fifteen inch accumulations. Temperatures across most of the conterminous U.S. were below normal during the past week with the largest negative departures across the Central and Southern Plains, lower Midwest and Mid-Atlantic where average temperatures were four-to-ten degrees below normal. Conversely, temperatures were four-to-ten degrees above normal in the North Plains and High Plains of Montana.

The Plains

Across the Plains, only minor changes were made on the map this week including removal of the remaining area of Moderate Drought (D1) from west-central Oklahoma. Overall, the region was relatively dry in western portions while eastern portions received modest rainfall accumulations of generally less than two inches. Temperatures were two-to-ten degrees above average in the Northern Plains while further south below normal temperatures prevailed.

Looking Ahead

The NWS WPC 7-Day Quantitative Precipitation Forecast (QPF) calls for significant rainfall accumulations across the nation’s midsection – primarily focused on Texas, Plains, and western portions of the Midwest with accumulations from three-to-six inches while much of the South and Western U.S. area forecasted to be generally dry. The CPC 6–10 day outlooks call for a high probability of above normal temperatures in the eastern half of the U.S. and Far West while below normal temperatures are expected in the Desert Southwest, extending northward into the eastern Great Basin and Central Rockies. Below normal precipitation is forecasted for the Pacific Northwest, much of California, western Great Basin, and across portions of the Northeast while there is a high probability of above normal precipitation across the Northern Rockies, Plains, Mid-Atlantic, South, and Southeast.

FY 2016 Exports Forecast at $124.5 billion; Imports at a Record $114.8 Billion

Agricultural exports in FY2016 are forecast at $124.5 billion, which are $500 million below the projection and $15.2 billion below FY2015 exports - according to the most recent USDA Economic Research Service report issued Thursday afternoon. Grain and feed exports are forecast at $27.7 billion, up $500 million from the February forecast, primarily due to larger wheat and corn volumes and higher unit values for corn and sorghum. Oilseed and product exports are forecast at $26.1 billion, up $700 million in response to stronger soybean and soybean meal export volumes and higher soybean unit values. Cotton exports are forecast at $3.1 billion, down $100 million from the February forecast. The forecast for livestock, poultry, and dairy is lowered $300 million to $25.4 billion as lower dairy, poultry product, and beef exports are not offset by gains in other livestock products. The forecast for horticultural products is lowered $1.2 billion to $33.5 billion. This is the second consecutive quarter-to-quarter downward revision and the total would be the first year-over-year decline since FY2009. This reduction is mainly due to sharply lower unit prices of pistachios and walnuts, as well as reduced almond shipments to the EU and China.

U.S. agricultural imports are forecast at a record $114.8 billion, down $3.7 billion from  February, mostly from a decline in tropical products. The U.S. agricultural trade surplus is forecast at $9.7 billion, down from $25.7 billion in FY2015.  

See the entire report here...

USMEF Board Meeting Gets Underway in St. Louis

The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) Board of Directors Meeting and Product Showcase kicked off Wednesday in St. Louis, Missouri. Attendees were welcomed to the event by Richard Fordyce, director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture. Fordyce discussed the important role exports have played in making agriculture Missouri’s largest industry, and outlined several initiatives designed to promote agricultural development in the state – including programs designed to attract and retain young farmers and ranchers.

“If agriculture is going to maintain that No. 1 ranking in Missouri, we’re going to have to grow that new crop of leaders,” Fordyce said. “We need to work with young people to continue to ignite the passion they have for agriculture, continue to cultivate that interest, and move them forward in their agricultural careers.”

Fordyce also discussed his department’s efforts to promote Missouri’s agricultural products in international markets, including an upcoming trade mission to Cuba next week.

Wednesday’s keynote address was provided by Jonathan Cordone, USDA deputy under secretary for farm and foreign agricultural services. Cordone noted that USDA currently has 93 international offices covering more than 170 countries on behalf of U.S. agriculture. He stressed the importance of market access for U.S. products, which has been enhanced in recent years through negotiation and ratification of several trade agreements. But Cordone also acknowledged that trade agreements are only as valuable as the United States’ ability to enforce them.

“We have an excellent record of ensuring that countries cut their tariffs as they promise to do in our trade agreements, and historically this has been the primary force driving our increased exports to FTA partners,” Cordone explained. “But that’s not the whole story. There are non-tariff barriers that unjustly restrict our access in some markets, and USMEF and its members know better than most that other countries are increasingly deploying non-tariff barriers as their protectionist tool of choice.”

Cordone emphasized USDA efforts to address these barriers through bilateral engagement, noting, “This goes on every day, and without much fanfare at all.” He said it is important for USDA to better inform policymakers, industry stakeholders and the public about the “real-world success stories” resulting from this constant engagement with trading partners.

Also addressing USMEF members was Jesus Madrazo, Monsanto’s vice president for corporate engagement. Madrazo discussed ways in which Monsanto is collaborating with industry partners to meet growing global food demand, but to do so while promoting environmental stewardship and addressing concerns such as climate change, water usage and scarcity of agricultural land. He applauded the increased willingness of agricultural producers to engage with the public on these issues.

“It has been a real privilege to see how many more people are participating in conversations in social media and in other forums where agriculture did not show up in the past,” Madrazo noted. “Now we’re seeing the voice of agriculture represented in forums where consumers typically get their information, and that’s a great thing.”

In addition to the lineup of guest speakers, attendees also heard from USMEF Chair Roel Andriessen, who heads international sales for Tyson Fresh Meats. Andriessen gave USMEF members an update on the organization’s strategic planning efforts and outlined the process through which USMEF applies for funding from the USDA Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development Program.

USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng also addressed Wednesday’s opening general session, providing his thoughts on global market conditions and stressing the importance of exports in advancing growth and profitability in the U.S. meat industry. Seng lamented the recent increase in anti-trade sentiment in the U.S. political climate, noting the critical role trade has historically played in the country’s growth and development.

“Trade is being discussed – and being cussed – like never before,” Seng said. “But in my view, trade is really in our DNA.”

Thursday’s agenda includes a panel discussion on the impact of Russia’s recent decline as a meat importer, and how this is affecting trading patterns across the globe. A panel discussion will also be held on the impact of currencies and exchange rates on red meat trade. USMEF’s standing committees – the Pork and Allied Industries Committee, Beef and Allied Industries Committee, Exporter Committee and Feedgrain and Oilseed Caucus – will also meet.

Thursday evening features the USMEF Product Showcase, in which member companies will display beef, pork and lamb products for international buyers. This week USMEF is hosting 16 trade teams that include about 130 buyers from key markets across the world. In addition to attending the meeting in St Louis, these buyers had opportunities earlier in the week to observe U.S. meat production, processing and merchandising practices, and to visit several farming and ranching operations.

USGC Building On U.S. Coarse Grain Export Momentum

After months of struggling corn exports due to a strong U.S. dollar and larger than expected global supplies, U.S. corn exports are on the rise with key markets picking up demand late in the 2015/2016 marketing year. The U.S. Grains Council (USGC) will use this success to build momentum for corn exports into 2016/2017 and beyond.

As of May 19, sales of U.S. corn totaled 41.8 million metric tons (1.6 billion bushels) for the marketing year ending Sept. 30, which is down 1.2 million tons (47.2 million bushels) from the same time last year. However, the brisk pace of corn sales in recent weeks is narrowing that gap. For example, during the week of May 6 to 12, U.S. corn net sales were up 33 percent from the previous week and 13 percent from the prior four-week average.

“We are excited to see demand for U.S. corn increasing around the globe as we are three-quarters of the way through a tough marketing year,” said USGC President and CEO Tom Sleight. “Our efforts on the ground in more than 50 global markets have helped maintain and build this demand each and every day.”

The Council’s plans for the remainder of 2016 are aimed at continuing this uptick as well as laying the groundwork for ongoing demand in future marketing years.

A major upcoming program is Export Exchange 2016, a global conference sponsored by the Council and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) every other year that hosts 200 key customers from around the world who also attend pre- and post-tours of the United States’ production areas.

“The buyers who participate in this conference not only do business directly while there, they also make connections that facilitate future sales,” Sleight said. “This has become one of our premiere activities that helps build demand in the near future and over the long term.”

In addition to the trade teams coming into the United States for the Export Exchange event, the Council will host teams throughout the summer. One of the first teams of the season will happen in mid-June when Taiwanese swine producers, government officials, researchers and association representatives visit the Midwest to learn about both modern U.S. swine production practices and the U.S. coarse grains industry.

“Trade teams are a critical and unique part of USGC’s programming each year,” Sleight said. “These teams not only educate decision makers in export markets but also allow members of the U.S. industry to build personal relationships with their customers that can solidify long-term business and prompt new sales.”

Of course, the Council is also undertaking long-term demand building activities around the globe. Examples of these include aqua feeding trials in Vietnam and the Middle East and North Africa; working with distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS) distributors in Southeast Mexico; promoting the clean air advantages of U.S. ethanol to interested Japanese audiences; and conducting technical programs to train the Peruvian industry on U.S. contracting procedures and purchasing specifications.

“USGC staff members around the world promote the high-quality U.S. brand that is invaluable to international buyers," Sleight said. "Whatever the market conditions, our work is never done."

NCGA Disappointed in House Failure to Support Inland Waterways Infrastructure

The National Corn Growers Association expressed disappoint that the House of Representatives failed to pass the FY17 Energy and Water Appropriations bill today and urged members to work collaboratively to find a way to pass this important legislation as quickly as possible.

"NCGA, along with 19 other ag groups, sent a letter to the House Appropriations Committee earlier this spring supporting the revitalization of our deteriorating inland waterways infrastructure, and our association remains resolute in its support of this key legislation," said NCGA Production and Stewardship Action Team Chair Brent Hostetler. "The House bill is important for our farmers who depend on the inland waterways system to export grain and to receive farm inputs like fertilizer for crop production. America's farmers sustainably produce food, feed and fuel for our nation, growing our economy with their growing crop. It is imperative that House members now do their part by finding a way to come together to pass this legislation."

‘GIPSA’ Rule Would Wipe Out TPP Benefits, Says NPPC

The significant benefits that would accrue to the U.S. pork industry from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement would be wiped out if the Obama administration implements pending rules related to the buying and selling of livestock, the National Pork Producers told the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry.

“Pork producers are very concerned about the so-called GIPSA Rule,” said NPPC past president Dr. Howard Hill, a pork producer and veterinarian from Iowa who today testified before the agriculture panel. “The livestock industry will be fundamentally and negatively changed, and the increased exports and jobs created from TPP will be negated” if the rule is implemented.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) is reproposing parts of the GIPSA Rule, which first was proposed in 2010 to implement provisions included in the 2008 Farm Bill. The regulations, however, went well beyond the Farm Bill provisions and would have had a significant negative effect on the livestock industry, according to analyses. A November 2010 Informa Economics study of the rule found it would have cost the pork industry more than $330 million annually.

Tens of thousands of comments, including 16,000 from pork producers, were filed in opposition to the rule, and Congress several times included riders in USDA’s annual funding bill to prevent it from finalizing the regulation. But no rider was included in USDA’s fiscal 2016 bill, and USDA earlier this year indicate it would move forward with new GIPSA rules.

On the TPP Agreement, Hill told the committee that NPPC strongly supports the Asia-Pacific trade deal, pointing out that its benefits will exceed all past U.S. free trade agreements and that it represents a tremendous opportunity for U.S. pork producers and for the entire U.S. economy.

The TPP, negotiations on which were initiated in late 2008 and concluded last October, is a regional trade agreement that includes the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, which combined have more than 800 million consumers and account for nearly 40 percent of global GDP.

“The agreement has become the de facto global trade vehicle, and other countries in the region already are lining up to get into it,” testified Hill. “The United States cannot afford either economically or geopolitically to walk away from the fastest growing region in the world. Congress must pass the TPP, and it must do so soon.”

Hill also addressed a potential challenge to pork producers: an outbreak in the United States of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD). He called on Congress to appropriate funds to set up an FMD vaccine bank to deal with an outbreak, which would close U.S. export markets.

NCBA President Testifies Before Senate Ag Committee

Statement by National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Tracy Brunner following his testimony before the Senate Agriculture Committee - A Review of the U.S. Livestock and Poultry Sectors; Marketplace Opportunities and Challenges:

“We appreciate the Senate Agriculture Committee holding this hearing; we see many more opportunities in the cattle industry than challenges. The challenges we do face are the result of regulation, specifically rampant over-regulation from this administration. We need the Senate to focus on defunding the EPA’s 'waters of the United States' final rule and pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership which would give us the best access ever negotiated into the Japanese market. Japan is already our largest export market for U.S. beef, but as the International Trade Commission report confirmed, TPP would add nearly $1 billion in beef exports. What we do not need is the USDA dictating how we market cattle or manage risk in the cattle industry. The industry has developed tools and alternative marketing arrangements that benefit cattle producers and consumers. We’re not asking the Senate to intervene in our contracts; we’re asking the Senate to play their role in expanding market access and ensuring we are not regulated out of business.”

NFU Defends Family Farmers and Ranchers in a Statement to the Senate Ag Committee

The Senate Agriculture Committee today convened a hearing to discuss opportunities and challenges in the livestock and poultry sectors, and National Farmers Union (NFU) encouraged Senators on the panel to hear from cow-calf producers as they grapple with the challenges facing the industry. In an independent statement submitted to the hearing record, NFU defended much-needed market relief efforts given the low prices and consolidated livestock market facing family farmers and ranchers.

“There are many challenges facing agriculture today. The livestock sector, like much of agriculture, is under economic stress with no near end in sight,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “I applaud the committee for exploring these challenges at today’s hearing, and I urge the members of this panel to take a comprehensive look at the livestock industry as they move forward with considerations of the farm economy.”

In 2015, producers faced a dramatic decrease in beef prices, despite predictions of several years of higher-than-average prices. Forecasts by the USDA point to a prolonged period of depressed prices, and projected beef production remains high for 2017 – a scenario, NFU explains, that will be detrimental for beef producers to recover financial losses that ensued from the recent price decline. 

Additionally, a sharp decline in the number of family farmers and ranchers over the past decade due to a heavily concentrated cattle market makes the scenario more troubling for independent producers competing against the packers.

“The marketplace is tipped disproportionately against the family producer. Currently, four packers account for nearly 70 percent of the value of all U.S. livestock purchased for slaughter. Without protection from unfair, anti-competitive practices, independent producers face difficulty succeeding,” Johnson explained in his statement to the committee.

NFU urges ongoing support for mandatory price reporting rules that provide market transparency for producers large and small as well as the Packers and Stockyards Act, which ensures integrity and competitive fairness in the livestock market.

“NFU has advocated on behalf of farmers facing a lack of competition in meatpacking for all 114 years of our existence. We will continue to work with lawmakers and the administration to ensure the voice of independent producers is heard,” Johnson concluded.

Growth Energy Applauds Trump for Standing by Commitment to Support the RFS

Responding to a speech on energy policy by presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy, issued the following statement:

“In January, Mr. Trump said that he supports the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and ethanol because ‘energy independence is a requirement if America is to become great again.’ We could not agree more. It is vital that Mr. Trump stay true to his principles on ethanol because the RFS is our country’s most successful energy policy.

“His announcement today that he would meet with Iowa Governor Terry Branstad about ensuring a strong RFS past 2022 is great news. The RFS protects affordable options for consumers at the pump, it reduces emissions, and without it, we would increase our dependence on foreign oil from countries like Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.
“Given both leading candidates for President support the RFS, we’re confident that America’s next president will earn the votes of renewable fuel supporters in North Dakota and across the country.”

Soy Growers Welcome MOU with Cuban Agribusiness Group

With a signing ceremony Thursday, the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba (USACC) and Cuba’s Grupo Empresarial Agricola (GEA) formalized an agreement between the two nation’s farm and food industries to re-establish the Cuban marketplace for U.S. food and agricultural products. As part of the agreement, both USACC and GEA will meet regularly to ensure that the relationship between both industries is mutually productive and beneficial. All this week, American Soybean Association (ASA) Vice President and Roseville, Ill., farmer Ron Moore is in Havana with USACC to interact with Cuban farmers.

“Our Cuban partners represent a great deal of promise for the American soybean industry,” said Moore. “The agreement that USACC is signing on to this morning is something that will help to ensure both American producers and Cuban buyers have what they need as our relationship continues to grow together.”

ASA supports policy to normalize relations with Cuba, including the full removal of the embargo.

“So much has changed since the era in which the Cuban embargo was put in place,” said Moore. “Since 1961, our countries have evolved, our industries have expanded, and our economies have matured. Cubans have an increasing opportunity to develop their economy, and Americans have an equally promising opportunity to help meet that demand. That’s why we’re here—to meet a burgeoning demand for meat protein, for cooking oil and for the array of other products that American producers can provide.”

IGC Hikes World Wheat Outlook

The International Grains Council on Thursday increased its forecast for global grain production in 2016-17 by 10 million metric tons to 2.015 billion tons on improving prospects for the wheat harvest in the E.U., Russia and the U.S.

If the forecast is correct, the 2016-17 harvest will be the second-largest on record after the 2.046 billion-ton crop of 2014-15, the London-based IGC said.

The wheat crop forecast was lifted by 5 million tons to 722 million tons. The corn forecast was raised 5 million tons to 1.003 billion tons as harvest prospects improved in the U.S. and Argentina.

As a result, the IGC expects global grain stocks to climb from 468 million tons at the end of the current year to a record-high 474 million tons at the end of 2016-17. China's share of that total could exceed 40%.

For the current 2015-16 crop year, the IGC cut its forecast for soybean production by 5 million metric tons to 314 million tons, a 2% drop from the previous year's output, due to bad weather in South America.

In a "highly tentative" forecast for 2016-17, the IGC said soybean production could rebound to 320 million tons, but this year's smaller harvest and increasing demand will mean global stocks are likely to dwindle. It cut its soybean stocks forecast for the end of 2016-17 by 3 million tons to 29 million tons.

Vilsack to Make First Official Visit to Puerto Rico

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will make his first official visit to Puerto Rico where he will highlight the U.S. Department of Agriculture's ongoing commitment to addressing food security and rural opportunity in the Commonwealth. While in Puerto Rico, Secretary Vilsack will meet with various officials from the Commonwealth; visit a National Forest research station; engage local farmers and ranchers; convene a group of financial leaders focused on finding opportunities for rural investment; and make several important announcements to address food security and rural development.

Secretary Vilsack is the latest senior Obama Administration official to travel to Puerto Rico, following visits from Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell, Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew, Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro and Secretary of Education John King earlier this year to urge action by Congress to provide Puerto Rico with the tools it needs to address the crisis, restructure its debt, support reform and enable growth.

While in Puerto Rico, Secretary Vilsack will meet with staff from seven USDA agencies working in the Commonwealth: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS); Agricultural Research Service (ARS); Farm Service Agency (FSA); Food and Nutrition Service (FNS); U.S. Forest Service; Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS); and USDA Rural Development. Since 2009, USDA has invested more than $20 billion in Puerto Rico across various programs, including nutrition, infrastructure, housing, farming and ranching, conservation and forestry, and research.

On Wednesday, Secretary Vilsack will meet with Governor Alejandro García Padilla, Senate Majority Leader Eduardo Bhatia, and Speaker of the House of Representatives Jaime R. Perelló Borrás. Later that day he will tour the U.S. Forest Service Sabana Field Research Station and El Yunque National Forest to highlight USDA's key research initiatives in the Caribbean Climate Sub Hub. USDA has established a network of seven regional Climate Hubs and three Sub Hubs to support applied research and provide information to farmers, ranchers, advisors, and managers to inform climate-related decision making and region-specific adaptation strategies.

On Thursday, Secretary Vilsack will highlight Puerto Rico's amazing growth potential and announce a series of additional federal investments in Puerto Rico's future. The day will begin with a meeting of farmers, ranchers, producers and agriculture-related businesspeople to gauge the needs and opportunities of Puerto Rico's agricultural sector. Secretary Vilsack will then convene a meeting with a dozen investors, financial leaders, economists and entrepreneurs to discuss rural economic opportunity and the potential to leverage public and private resources in a more integrated and coordinated way in the Commonwealth to create a brighter future for its residents.

Since 2006, Puerto Rico and the 3.5 million American citizens who call the Commonwealth home have endured a decade-long recession and are facing a serious crisis that requires immediate congressional action. Fiscal conditions have contributed to record numbers of citizens leaving Puerto Rico for the mainland. The Obama Administration has worked extensively with Puerto Rican officials to find solutions to the Commonwealth's fiscal crisis. However, only Congress has the authority to provide Puerto Rico with the necessary tools to address the crisis and to lay the foundation for the Commonwealth's recovery, and Congress must act now.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Wednesday May 25 Ag News

Bruce Anderson, NE Extension Forage Specialist

               Native meadows will soon start growing rapidly and bromegrass is about to head out.  Here are some tips to make your grass hay suitable for your animals.

              When do you cut your grass hay?  Do you wait until all crops are planted?  Maybe you plan to cut during first or second irrigation of corn.  Or like some folks, maybe you cut grass hay just when you get around to it.

               Instead, how about cutting your grass hay so the grass nutrient content matches with the nutritional needs of your livestock?  Now that's a different way to look at it, isn't it?  But doesn't it make sense to harvest hay that will meet the specific needs of your livestock and minimize your supplement costs?

               We all know that protein and energy concentration declines in grass hay as plants become stemmy and get more mature.  As this happens, the types of livestock that can be fed that hay with little or no supplements become more limited.

               For example, grass hay cut at early head often can support more than one pound of daily gain for pregnant yearling heifers all by itself.  But if the same grass gets mature it won't even maintain weight of a mature cow without some protein supplements.

               So, what should you do?  First off, plan what type of livestock will receive the grass hay from each field.  Young livestock need high nutrient concentrations so cut that hay before or just when heads begin to emerge.  If the hay will go to mature, dry cows instead, let the grass produce a bit more growth and cut it after it is well headed out, but before seeds develop.

               Matching your hay harvest with your plan of use can pay handsome dividends in lower costs and less supplementing.

Weed and Brush Management Field Day to look at Problems and Solutions

Producers interested in learning more about planting following rye cover crops, and about area weed pressures including thistles are invited to a weed and brush management field day near Corning. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach beef specialist Joe Sellers said the June 22 evening session will start and end at Lake Icaria.

“Everyone will meet at the west picnic shelter at 5 p.m. and start the program with introductions and a review of the agenda,” Sellers said. “We’ll then carpool to specific locations to view no-tilled soybeans that followed a rye cover crop, and several sites around the lake to look at control options for thistles and other problem plants.”

Following the tour, the group returns to the shelter for a ribeye steak sandwich meal prepared by the Adams County Cattlemen’s Association and more discussion on weed and brush control. The event will conclude by 8:30.

In addition to Sellers, presenters during the field day are Scott Flynn with Dow AgroSciences and extension field agronomist Aaron Saeugling. Program sponsors are Southern Iowa Forage and Livestock Committee, the Adams County Cattlemen and ISU Extension and Outreach.

There is no cost to attend and no preregistration is necessary.

Directions to Lake Icaria
-    Go north from Corning on Highway 148 approximately four miles to 183rd Street, also known as the Carbon Corner.
-    Go east (right) approximately 3/4 mile to the intersection of Juniper Ave and 183rd street. This is the entrance to Lake Icaria Beach, Marina and Camp Ground.
-    Go north (left) on Juniper Ave past the Camp Ground and past a Park Rangers house.
-    Just past a 15-mph-sign there is a “Y” in the road. Go right on Juniper and very shortly there will be another “Y” in the road. Turn left to go to the main picnic area.

For more information on the field day program, contact Sellers by phone at 641-203-1270 or email

Iowa Swine Day is only 1 month away

Most people are thinking about preparing for the World Pork Expo, but we wanted to make sure that after Expo, your attention will turn to registering for Iowa Swine Day – which is only 1 month away.

Following are a few presentation summaries to give you a flavor of the event:

Dr. Peter Davies from the University of Minnesota  will discuss the human health impacts of antibiotic use in animal agriculture.  He will consider the contribution of antibiotic use in animal agriculture to the growing threat of antibiotic resistance in human medicine, using current data in the context of changing regulatory and societal environments in the USA and globally.

Dr. Michael Agerley from SvineVet, Haderslev, Denmark will talk about achieving high farm productivity with low antimicrobial consumption. Danes have been dealing with this issue for close to 20 years, so this is a great opportunity to learn from their experience. Dr. Agerley is a practicing veterinarian who will share with us his on-farm experience with large scale production units trying adjust to the changing legislation in that country all the while trying to keep productivity up.

More and more swine barns built 20 or 30 years ago are at a crossroads. What is the most economical approach to this problem? Tracy Borkowski, Director of Maintenance Operations at Iowa Select Farms has asked this exact question, and will share with us the result of his analysis and his experience in operating and maintaining older facilities.

Lots of people focus on full value pigs, but have you ever thought about producing full value pork? What does it even mean? Dr. Ken Prusa from Iowa State University will describe what full value pork is in the marketplace and what producers can do to produce not only full value pigs but also full value pork.

These are just 4 of the 16 presentations at Iowa Swine Day, to be held on June 30, 2016 at the Scheman Building at Iowa State University.  There is plenty of free parking, and the program will end with a pork barbecue. Registration is only $60 until June 17th, when it will increase to $80. Students can register at no cost prior to June 17th. For more details, and to register, visit:

In past years, about 300 people have registered for Iowa Swine Day, representing more than one-third of all pork production in the country: close to 2 million sows and more than 40 million market hogs. We hope you will be able to join us for the program and for the chance to mingle with others in the pig industry – and for some the good eating!

Iowa Swine Days is a joint initiative of Iowa State University, the Iowa Pork Industry Center and the Iowa Pork Producers Association.

House Interior Appropriations Committee Marks Up FY17 Spending Bill

Statement by National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Tracy Brunner on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies mark-up of the fiscal 2017 spending bill:

“The spending bill marked up by the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee contained a number of priorities for cattlemen and women. Specifically this legislation would defund EPA’s ‘waters of the United States’ final rule. Cattle producers continue to voice their opposition to the flawed WOTUS rule and defunding by Congress would prevent our members and taxpayers from expending future resources on continued litigation. The bill also clarifies the agricultural exemptions in the section 404 permitting process and continues defunding of new regulations under the Clean Air Act and Greenhouse Gas reporting for manure management systems.”

Statement by Public Lands Council President Brenda Richards:

“Public lands ranchers were pleased to see several of our priorities addressed in the FY 2017 Interior spending bill. The bill maintains the one-year delay on further rulemaking or listing of the Greater Sage Grouse under the Endangered Species Act and blocks the President’s proposed administrative fee on top of the grazing fee that was already raised by 25 percent earlier this year. The bill also reduces funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund at $322 million, restoring some responsibility and prioritizing state and local projects while reducing funding for land acquisition. We are pleased that Payment in Lieu of Taxes was fully funded, offsetting the loss of local tax revenue for public lands. Finally, the bill increases funding for wildfire suppression at $3.9 billion.

While these go a long way to meet the needs of the West, we were greatly disappointed to see that the bill did not include the broad bi-partisan language reining in the President’s abuse of the Antiquities Act.”

More Steadiness in Fertilizers

Fertilizer prices continue very steady according to retailers tracked by DTN for the third week of May. Retail fertilizer prices have been unwavering for six consecutive weeks now.

Five fertilizer prices slipped lower compared to last month, but none were down any significant amount. DAP averaged $476/ton, MAP $501/ton, potash $365/ton, urea $384/ton and 10-34-0 $558/ton.

The remaining three fertilizer prices edged higher compared to a month earlier but again the move was fairly trivial. Anhydrous averaged $588/ton, UAN28 $274/ton and UAN32 $321/ton.

On a price per pound of nitrogen basis, the average urea price was $0.42/lb.N, anhydrous $0.36/lb.N, UAN28 $0.49/lb.N and UAN32 $0.50/lb.N.

Year-over-year changes show potentially large savings in fertilizer budgets compared to 2015. All fertilizers have fallen double digits lower in the past year, on a percentage basis.

UAN32 and 10-34-0 are both 14% lower while both MAP and urea are 16% less expensive from a year previous. In addition, DAP and anhydrous are both 17% less expensive, UAN28 is 18% lower and potash is 26% less expensive.

April Hired Workers Up 2 Percent, Wage Rate Increases 4 Percent From Previous Year

There were 703,000 workers hired directly by farm operators on the Nation's farms and ranches during the week of April 10-16, 2016, up 2 percent from the April 2015 reference week - according to USDA's Farm Labor report issued last Thursday. Workers hired directly by farm operators numbered 582,000 during the week of January 10-16, 2016, up 6 percent from the January 2015 reference week.

Farm operators paid their hired workers an average wage of $12.75 per hour during the April 2016 reference week, up 4 percent from the April 2015 reference week. Field workers received an average of $12.00 per hour, an increase of 6 percent. Livestock workers earned $12.01 per hour, up 4 percent. The field and livestock worker combined wage rate, at $12.00 per hour, was up 5 percent from the 2015 reference week. Hired laborers worked an average of 40.4 hours during the April 2016 reference week, compared with 39.9 hours worked during the April 2015 reference week.

Farm operators paid their hired workers an average wage of $12.83 per hour during the January 2016 reference week, up 2 percent from the January 2015 reference week. Field workers received an average of $11.84 per hour, up 4 percent, while livestock workers earned $12.02 per hour, up 3 percent from a year earlier. The field and livestock worker combined wage rate, at $11.91 per hour, was up 3 percent from the January 2015 reference week. Hired laborers worked an average of 38.8 hours during the January 2016 reference week, compared with 39.2 hours worked during the January 2015 reference week.


In the Northern Plains Region (Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota) there were 34,000 workers hired directly by farm operators on farms and ranches during the week of April 10-16, 2016, down 3 percent from the April 2015 reference week, according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Workers numbered 30,000 during the week of January 10-16, 2016, up 7 percent from the January 2015 reference week.

Farm operators in the Northern Plains Region paid their hired workers an average wage of $13.99 per hour during the April 2016 reference week, down 1 percent from the April 2015 reference week. Field workers received an average of $14.10 per hour, down 3 cents. Livestock workers earned $13.08 per hour, down 1 cent. The field and livestock worker combined average wage rate of $13.50 was unchanged from the 2015 reference week. Hired laborers worked an average of 42.0 hours during the April 2016 reference week, compared with 39.3 hours worked during the April 2015 reference week.

Farm operators paid their hired workers and average wage of $13.96 per hour during the January 2016 reference week, down 4 percent from the January 2015 reference week. Field workers received an average of $14.39 per hour, down 19 cents from a year earlier. Livestock workers earned $12.83 per hour compared to $13.41 a year earlier. The field and livestock worker combined wage rate of $13.30 was down 50 cents from the January 2015 reference week. Hired laborers worked an average of 41.4 hours during the January 2016 reference week, unchanged from the hours worked during the January 2015 reference week.


There were 19,000 workers hired directly by farms in the Cornbelt II Region (Iowa and Missouri) during the reference week of January 10-16, 2016, according to the latest USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service – Farm Labor Report. Farm operators paid their hired workers an average wage rate of $13.23 per hour, up $0.55 from January 2015. The number of hours worked averaged 36.1 for hired workers during the reference week, compared with 36.6 hours in January 2015.

During the reference week of April 10-16, 2016, there were 22,000 workers hired directly by farms in the Cornbelt II Region (Iowa and Missouri). Farm operators paid their hired workers an average wage rate of $13.17 per hour during the April 2016 reference week, up $1.09 from April 2015. The number of hours worked averaged 37.8 for hired workers during the reference week, up from 37.0 hours in April 2015.

USDA Broiler Hatchery Report - May 25 2016

Broiler-Type Eggs Set in the United States Up 1 Percent

Hatcheries in the United States weekly program set 220 million eggs in incubators during the week ending May 21, 2016, up 1 percent from a year ago. Hatcheries in the 19 State weekly program set 211 million eggs in incubators during the week ending May 21, 2016, up 1 percent from the year earlier. Average hatchability for chicks hatched during the week in the United States was 84 percent. Average hatchability is calculated by dividing chicks hatched during the week by eggs set three weeks earlier. 

Broiler-Type Chicks Placed in the United States Down Slightly

Broiler growers in the United States weekly program placed 179 million chicks for meat production during the week ending May 21, 2016, down slightly from a year ago. Broiler growers in the 19 State weekly program placed 172 million chicks for meat production during the week ending May 21, 2016, down 1 percent from the year earlier. Cumulative placements from the week ending January 9, 2016 through May 21, 2016 for the United States were 3.55 billion. Cumulative placements were up 1 percent from the same period a year earlier.

Lawmakers Say Co-ops Should Count in 2017 Census

The co-chairmen of the Congressional Cooperative Business Caucus say the Census Bureau should account for the economic role of co-op businesses for the first time in 20 years.

Reps. Ed Royce, R-Calif., and Mark Pocan, D-Wis., asked Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker to include cooperative businesses in the 2017 Economic Census, which her office oversees.

"We believe it's in the best interest for Census to change data gathering in a way that enables more accurate and comprehensive identification of cooperatives directly," Royce and Pocan said in a letter signed by seven other House members.

"The next Economic Census in 2017 provides the perfect opportunity to again measure their impact nationwide," they noted.

The Census dropped a checkbox for "cooperative" in its Legal Form of Organization question in 1997. The deletion was a response to an interagency data-sharing agreement with the Internal Revenue Service that was supposed to provide information about co-ops.

However, those data sets do not directly identify co-ops, Royce and Pocan wrote, meaning that the Census might be underestimating the range of co-op economic activity.

"Given the unique niche that cooperative businesses continue to fill in the U.S. economy, it is unfortunate that so little is known about where and how they operate and the economic impact they make," they wrote. "As a consequence, there is no readily available federally reported data on cooperatives in the U.S."

In a separate statement, Royce cited his longtime advocacy of credit unions, mutual insurers and rural electric co-ops.

"I believe policymakers should have a better handle on how these organizations are building a stronger economy," he said.

Added Pocan: "To better advocate on federal policy issues unique to the cooperative community, it is vital we have ample data on this vibrant sector of our economy."

Other signatories included Reps. Ron Kind, D-Wis.; Reid Ribble, R-Wis.; Walter B. Jones, R-N.C.; Barbara Lee, D-Calif.; Steve Stivers, R-Ohio; Bruce Westerman, R-Ark.; and Robert A. Brady, D-Pa.

Badgerland, AgStar & 1st Farm Credit Discuss Potential Merger

The boards of directors that serve the region's three main Farm Credit institutions have begun exploring the possibility of joining forces. On Tuesday, Badgerland Financial, AgStar Financial Services and 1st Farm Credit Services announced they are in the process of evaluating a potential collaboration with each other.

According to a joint release--which was signed by Badgerland CEO Diane Cole, AgStar CEO Rod Hebrink, and 1st Farm CEO Gary Ash--the three cooperatives combined would create the nation's third largest Farm Credit group with about $17 billion in assets.

"Once our research is complete, all three Boards of Directors will decide whether to move forward," the CEOs said in their memo. "If a merger is deemed appropriate, as cooperatives owned by our member-borrowers, our stockholders will receive further communications and have the opportunity to vote on the proposal."

The statement also noted that all three of the associations share the same values and commitment to rural communities and agriculture.

"For more than 100 years, Farm Credit has supported rural communities and agriculture with reliable, consistent credit and financial services and we're just as committed to that mission today and in the future," the release said.

Badgerland Financial, based in Prairie Du Sac, serves 33 southern Wisconsin counties with 17 locations. The co-op's loan volume between its more than 16,000 members is about $3.8 billion. AgStar Financial Services, headquartered in Mankato, Minnesota, has 13 branch offices in 69 counties in Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin, while the Normal, Illinois-based 1st Farm Credit covers 42 counties in northern Illinois at 16 individual sites.

Board members say they have not established an exact time-table for such a merger, but it could happen within 12 months.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Tuesday May 24 Ag News

Ricketts Announces International Trade Mission to Asia

Today, Governor Pete Ricketts announced he will lead a trade mission, November 9-15, 2016 to meet with investors and host events in Xi’an, Shanghai, and Hong Kong to strengthen Nebraska’s relationships with the state’s fourth largest trading partner.  The Governor will be joined by Director of Economic Development (DED) Courtney Dentlinger and Nebraska Director of Agriculture (NDA) Greg Ibach among others on the trade mission.

“China’s growing economy offers nearly boundless opportunities for Nebraska ag producers and manufacturers,” said Governor Ricketts.  “This trade mission will help Nebraska businesses build on our existing relationships and strengthen our relationship with our fourth largest trading partner.  Nebraska businesses who do business in China or that are hoping to enter this market should contact DED or NDA to express their interest in joining the trade mission.”

The Governor also mentioned that Nebraska business representatives who join the trade mission will get the opportunity to meet with business, ag business, chamber of commerce, government, and academic officials.

“Nebraska has had a close trade relationship with China for years,” said DED Director Courtney Dentlinger.  “The Governor’s decision to lead this trade mission to China will offer the perfect opportunity to build on existing relationships.  For companies interested in China, but who have not established themselves in the market, this is an opportunity to grow their business internationally in the world’s second largest economy.”

NDA Director Greg Ibach emphasized the importance of this trade mission not only to Nebraska’s farmers, ranchers, and agribusinesses, but to the entire state.  Agriculture is Nebraska’s largest industry.

“In the last few years Hong Kong has grown into one of the top export destinations for beef from Nebraska and we’re working diligently to nurture continued growth,” said Director Ibach.  “As Asia continues to grow, so does their appetite for Nebraska proteins.  China has been a major importer of Nebraska agricultural products.  During this mission, we will also showcase Nebraska pork products in the Southeast Asia marketplace.”

Ibach also pointed out that the Chinese market is an extremely important market for soybeans, with China purchasing over half of U.S. exports several years running.”

DED and NDA worked with the Governor to build the itinerary for the fall trade mission.  Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi Province, is a key economic hub for Northwestern China, and strategically important to accessing markets in China’s inner regions.  Shaanxi Province shares many similarities with Nebraska in that it is an agriculturally rich area of China.  It also serves as the gateway to the Silk Road.

During the trip, trade mission members will participate in the 23rd China Yangling Agricultural Hi-Tech Fair while in Yangling, which is located in Shaanxi Province just outside of Xi’an.  The fair offers roughly 1.7 million square feet of exhibition space and is expected to draw 1.6 million visitors over five days, making it China’s premier agriculture fair.

Shanghai, one of the world’s largest metropolitan areas with a population of 24 million, is a leading business center, consumer market, and key entry port into China.  Nebraska established a trade office in Shanghai in 2013 to help its businesses make key connections and work with Chinese companies seeking opportunities in the U.S. and globally.

Hong Kong is one of the largest importers of Nebraska beef and a key market for other Nebraska products.  The city also is an important gateway for business throughout East Asia.  In 2015, Hong Kong was Nebraska’s sixth largest export market, accounting for $234 million in goods purchased from here with approximately 80 percent being exported food products.

Because space is limited, company officials interested in participating in the trade mission should contact Cobus Block at 402-480-5806 or or Stan Garbacz at 402-471-2341 or to express their interest soon.

We Support Agriculture to Host Livestock Crisis Management Seminar

Demand for meat, dairy, and eggs is on the rise, but so are calls to know more about how farm animals are treated.   Unfortunately, there are individuals and organizations, with agendas beyond improving animal welfare, who would like to tell that story for us.

In addition to a management plan for proper animal husbandry on your farm, crisis management plans for expected or unexpected site visits protect your family’s operation, and in the end promote consumer and lender confidence.

Please join We Support Ag, along with regulatory, legal, public relations, and agriculture experts, for a discussion about the necessity of crisis management plans.   

Tuesday, June 14, 2016 from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM (CDT)

Holiday Inn Kearney - 110 South 2nd Avenue, Kearney, NE 68847

RSVP and view the full agenda here...


Bruce Anderson, NE Extension Forage Specialist

               Bluegrass is heading out and overrunning brome pastures throughout the region this spring.  There are some ways, though, to get brome dominance back into these pastures.

               Pastures greened up early this spring during our warm March weather.  Unfortunately, bluegrass in pastures also matured and headed out early, reducing both its growth potential and forage quality.

               This early heading also showed us we had much more bluegrass in these pastures than most of us realized.  So how do you get rid of this bluegrass and bring back the higher producing brome.

               It might be nice if a magic chemical would kill bluegrass and not hurt brome but I’m afraid there isn’t anything labeled and available to do that yet.  So we need to use other methods.

               It starts with creating a growth environment that is better for brome than bluegrass.  That means higher soil fertility and improved rotational grazing management.

               As a taller, potentially higher yielding grass, brome responds more to fertilizer than does bluegrass, especially nitrogen.  Spring fertilization can give brome a competitive advantage over bluegrass.

               But we can’t stop there.  Bluegrass invades and thrives in areas that are grazed short and remain short for lengthy periods of time.  Unfortunately, this is how most brome pastures are grazed.  What you need to do is leave more grass in pastures when you move to a new area, shorten the length of time a pasture is grazed to no more than four or five days, and let pasture regrow longer before grazing again.

               The only practical way to do this is to subdivide with more cross-fences.  It probably takes ten to twelve smaller pastures to make a big change.  I know it sounds like a huge undertaking, but if you are serious about improving your pastures, it’s worth doing.

World Pork Expo Seminars Offer the Latest Ideas and Information

World Pork Expo attendees will have access to leading pork experts and the latest ideas and information at a variety of seminars scheduled for Wednesday, June 8 and Thursday, June 9. Included in their Expo admission price, pork producers and their staff can participate in more than a dozen educational seminars addressing topics such as business management, production technologies and future developments impacting pork operations. The seminars are just one of many events featured at the 2016 World Pork Expo, brought to you by the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), June 8-10 at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa.

“The Expo seminars provide a tremendous opportunity for pork producers running all types and sizes of operations to collect new ideas to take back home,” says John Webber, NPPC president and pork producer from Dysart, Iowa. “Pork producers are continually learning, and these seminars offer forums where producers can ask questions specific to their operations, exchange insights and develop business strategies for the future.”

Business seminars target competitive advantage

This year’s business seminars will present ideas for producers to maximize their competitive advantages from the farrowing house to the global marketplace.

On Wednesday, June 8, from 9:30 a.m. to noon, Hamlet Protein will feature experts in piglet nutrition and gut health discussing the development of the post-weaning gut and how to optimize performance. They will delve into the role of weaning age and the implications of ingredient selection, as well as whole-diet-formulation targets.

On Wednesday from 1 to 2 p.m., and again from 3 to 4 p.m., Tonisity, Inc., will present insights into preparing piglets at birth for a successful, low-stress weaning. Researchers will share on-farm trial results of a new isotonic protein drink that helps suckling pigs stay hydrated, which in turn can decrease pre-weaning mortality, increase weaning weights, improve gut function and digestion, and more.

Completing the business seminar lineup on Thursday, June 9, from 8:30 a.m. to noon, Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc., will host “Join the Race – Maximize Your Competitive Advantage.” Presenters will discuss opportunities in a global market, how to anticipate and respond to changing conditions and how on-farm strategies impact current and future success.

PORK Academy addresses on-farm issues

Included in Expo’s free seminar lineup is PORK Academy, long valued for providing practical and forward-looking information. Presented by the Pork Checkoff, PORK Academy sessions will take place in the Varied Industries Building throughout Wednesday and Thursday. This year’s offering will address such timely matters as adapting to upcoming changes in on-farm antibiotic use, preparing for a Common Swine Industry Audit, addressing cybersecurity and much more.

“Expo seminars provide wonderful insights that pork producers can use to make their operations more productive and efficient, but there are many other things to see and do,” says Sheila Warrick, Expo’s general manager. “Expo hosts the world’s largest pork-specific trade show, which has even more exhibit space this year, so producers may want to plan to allow a bit more time to view all the latest innovations.”

Trade show hours run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, June 8 and Thursday, June 9, as well as 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday, June 10. Attendees can enjoy free pork lunches all three days of Expo at The Big Grill. The World Pork Expo Junior National hog show begins on Monday, June 6. An open show takes place on Friday, June 10, with breeding stock sales rounding out the week on Saturday, June 11, from 8 a.m. until they're completed (at approximately noon).

Study: Corn Exports Add $74.7 Billion To U.S. Economy

Exports of U.S. corn and corn products generated $74.7 billion in annual economic output in 2014, with sales of all U.S. feed grain products contributing $82 billion, according to a new analysis conducted by Informa Economics.

According to the analysis, the export of corn and corn products increased the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) by $29.8 billion over what would have occurred without such exports. The number of full-time equivalent jobs linked directly or indirectly to corn exports totaled 332,787.

All feed grains examined – corn, corn products, sorghum and barley – increased the U.S. GDP by $33 billion over what would have otherwise occurred, affecting 371,536 jobs.

“Corn – whether in the form of feed, ethanol, or meat and dairy – is a major driver of the U.S. farm economy. Exports impact not just farmers and ranchers, but the entire U.S. economy,” said National Corn Growers Association President Chip Bowling, a farmer from Newburg, Maryland. “That’s why it’s so important that farmers and ranchers have access to international markets, and why we need global trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership that give us a chance to compete.”

The study, which was commission by the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) and the U.S. Grains Council (USGC), quantifies the economic benefits nationally and to each U.S. state and selected Congressional districts of grain exports, showing results for corn, ethanol and its byproduct distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS), corn gluten feed and the corn equivalent of meats, in addition to sorghum and barley.

Every $1 in exports of grains and grain products generates an additional $3.23 in business sales across the U.S., the study found. The positive economic effects of corn exports benefit not only agriculture, but also wholesale trade, real estate, oil and natural gas production, and the banking and financial industries.

“Farming is a global business, and this study shows how immense the impact of grain exports is on not just the agriculture economy, but our national economy,” said Alan Tiemann, USGC chairman and a farmer in Nebraska. “The work our industry does to build new markets and grow our relationships with those overseas who rely on U.S. grains is critical for U.S. farmers’ profitability.”

The study also touched on the negative consequences to reducing exports of grain products, showing that if these exports were suddenly halted, more than 47,000 jobs and $2.8 billion in GDP would be lost in the farming, ethanol production and meat production industries alone.

Bowling said this study underscores the need for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the pending trade agreement with 11 other countries that will expand farmers’ market access to the Asia-Pacific region.

“America’s farmers and ranchers have a lot to gain from new trade agreements such as TPP, but there is also a consequence for not moving forward,” Bowling said. “Every day we delay TPP means lost markets, which this study demonstrates has a ripple effect throughout the farm economy. That’s why Congress needs to act. The sooner TPP is passed, the better for America’s farmers and ranchers.”

EPA, Army Corps of Engineers Violate Law, Oppress Farmers in California and Elsewhere, Farm Bureau Tells Congress

The Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers have violated their own regulations and effectively invented new ones in enforcing the Clean Water Act, the American Farm Bureau Federation said today.

Don Parrish, senior director of congressional relations at AFBF, told the Senate Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water and Wildlife that the Army Corps' novel interpretations of environmental law are threatening the very livelihoods of ordinary, middle-class Americans who happen to farm for a living.

"Based on what we see in California, it is clear that the expansions in jurisdiction over land and water features on the farm are already happening," Parrish told the subcommittee. "Most ordinary farming activities conducted in areas under jurisdiction will require permits if and when the Corps chooses to demand them. And when they demand permits, delays and costs will mount until most farmers simply give up. Congress needs to step in and give farmers some real certainty so they can plan their farming operations and protect the environment at the same time."

Parrish's testimony also included a detailed analysis of recent Army Corps actions by Jody Gallaway, an environmental scientist and California Farm Bureau member who has consulted on numerous discussions between local farmers and the Corps. The Army Corps interprets and executes environmental regulations that are largely determined by the EPA.

Parrish cited numerous examples of EPA and Army Corps mismanagement:
-    The Corps has made jurisdictional determinations and tracked farming activities based on classified aerial photographs and LIDAR imagery that is not publicly available, even to farmers under investigation
-    Army Corps officials have forced farmers to sign non-disclosure agreements - gag orders, in effect - as part of their enforcement actions.
-    One California farmer invested tens of thousands of dollars to map his private property to ensure his farming activity would avoid polluting local watersheds. The Corps, in response, threatened enforcement proceedings over construction of roads and ponds completed years before the farmer owned the property.
-    In the Army Corps' Sacramento district, any plowing through a wetland requires permits that typically cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in engineering fees, even though the Clean Water Act exempts plowing from permitting.
-    The Army Corps has issued menacing letters to farmers who have changed from alfalfa hay farming to cattle grazing and back, despite the absence of any law to support their objections.
-    The Corps has told farmers to stop working when it merely suspected they were plowing too deep or changing land use. The Corps' selective enforcement of this interpretation means it can now tell farmers where they may and may not farm, and what they may grow.
-    The five-year drought has forced many farmers to temporarily fallow land or change crops based on changes in irrigation and market conditions. Oblivious to such obvious economic distress, the Corps has repeatedly required permits for ordinary plowing necessary to prepare the ground to change crops, further compounding the economic dislocation farmers have felt in the Central Valley.

Parrish's testimony can be found here:

NCBA President Testifies on the Farm Economy

Today, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Tracy Brunner testified before the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture. Brunner, a fourth generation rancher and cattle feeder from the Flint Hills area of Kansas, stressed to the subcommittee that over-regulation poses the greatest threat to the profitability of cattle producers.

“Today we ask for no direct action from our government in our cattle marketing systems and forums,” said Brunner. “The cattle industry relies on the transparency of price discovery to send clear signals up and down the beef supply chain. We have recognized the volatility in the cattle futures market and we are working directly with the CME Group to find ways to address it. Our joint NCBA/CME working group is analyzing potential changes to ensure the markets work for producers who are using these tools to manage their market risks. Without futures contract integrity, our industry will abandon the use of these markets as a risk management tool.”

The hearing also addressed the assertion by USDA Secretary Vilsack that he would instate the proposed Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration marketing rule that resulted from language included in the 2008 Farm Bill.

“We have worked for years to find new and innovative ways to market cattle,” said Brunner. “Alternative marketing arrangements have been studied by USDA and independent groups, and the results show that these alternatives benefit producers and consumers alike. The proposed GIPSA marketing rule would have made USDA the ultimate arbiter of how cattle are marketed and taken away our ability as cattle producers to market cattle the way we want. That is why bi-partisan appropriations language defunded any additional work on, or implementation of, the proposed GIPSA marketing rule. We do not need USDA dictating how we can or cannot market our cattle.”

In closing, Brunner asked the subcommittee to help in easing the regulatory burdens faced by the industry.

“Solving our price problems relies on addressing the true issues of consequence to the cattle industry,” said Brunner. “Taking action to reform the Endangered Species Act, leveling the playing field for beef exports by passing the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and helping us keep EPA at bay would go a long way in easing the pressures on our industry.”

NPPC Says ‘GIPSA’ Rule, TPP Could Affect Producers

Although the U.S. pork industry is in good economic shape, pork producers’ future fortunes can be affected – for good or for ill – by opportunities and challenges with which they are presented, the National Pork Producers Council today told members of the House Committee on Agriculture’s livestock subcommittee, which was continuing a series of hearings on the rural economy.

A challenge of particular concern to the pork industry is proposed rules from the U.S. Department of Agriculture related to the buying and selling of livestock, said NPPC board member David Herring, a pork producer from North Carolina who testified before the Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture.

USDA is reproposing parts of the so-called GIPSA (Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration) Rule, which first was proposed in 2010 to implement provisions included in the 2008 Farm Bill. The regulations, however, went well beyond the Farm Bill provisions and would have had a significant negative effect on the livestock industry, according to analyses. A November 2010 Informa Economics study of the rule found it would have cost the pork industry more than $330 million annually.

Tens of thousands of comments, including 16,000 from pork producers, were filed in opposition to the rule, and Congress several times included riders in USDA’s annual funding bill to prevent it from finalizing the regulation. But no rider was included in USDA’s fiscal 2016 bill.

“We have grave concerns [the reproposed GIPSA Rule] will mirror the 2010 proposal,” Herring told the livestock panel. “If it does, the livestock industry will be fundamentally and negatively changed.”

Another potential challenge, said Herring, is an outbreak in the United States of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), which, if it occurred, would immediately stop U.S. meat exports. He called on Congress to appropriate funds to set up an FMD vaccine bank to deal with an outbreak.

Herring also reiterated NPPC’s support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, telling the subcommittee the benefits of TPP will exceed all past free trade agreements and represents a great opportunity for U.S. pork producers and for the entire U.S. economy.

The TPP, negotiations on which were initiated in late 2008 and concluded last October, is a regional trade deal that includes the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, which account for nearly 40 percent of global GDP. The countries combined have more than 800 million consumers.

“Because other Asia-Pacific trade agreements are being negotiated without the U.S.,” Herring testified, “the United States can’t afford either economically or geopolitically to walk away from the fastest growing region in the world. Congress must pass the TPP, and it must do so soon.”

NMPF Chairman Tells House Agriculture Subcommittee That Dairy Farm Safety Net Needs Work

The challenging economic conditions affecting America’s dairy farmers call for improvements by Congress to the federal safety net program created in the 2014 Farm Bill, according to Randy Mooney, chairman of the National Milk Producers Federation, in testimony Tuesday before the House Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture.

The hearing focused on the state of the livestock sectors in America, including dairy farming – which is facing the worst global turndown in milk prices since 2009. Mooney, a dairy farmer from Rogersville, Missouri, who also serves as chairman of Dairy Farmers of America, urged the committee to work with NMPF to reassess how the dairy Margin Protection Program (MPP) can be improved in the future.

“I’m confident that the MPP is the right dairy program for the future,” Mooney said of the program, which was developed following the recession-induced dairy price crash seven years ago. The program offers dairy farmers the ability to purchase insurance-type coverage against poor margins caused either by low milk prices or high feed costs.  “But the program is not completely fulfilling its intended objective as an effective safety net. For many farmers, the MPP is simply not enough to protect them in this economic environment.”

Mooney explained that when the Farm Bill was written, the MPP formula for calculating feed costs was altered, which understated the true cost of feeding a dairy herd.  At the same time, while the feed cost element was diminished, the farmer cost of insurance premiums was not reduced.  The MPP “has been less effective as a result,” Mooney said.

“In 2015, many farmers saw that the MPP didn’t pay out much, even at the highest levels of coverage. So in 2016 they opted for the least expensive – and minimal – level of coverage available. Had Congress not reduced the feed ration, more farmers would have seen benefits in 2015 and participated at higher levels this year,” he said.

Mooney said that the MPP remains a work in progress, and that farmers want to work with Congress and the USDA to “improve the effectiveness of MPP for all dairy producers.”  He said recent administrative changes made by USDA to the program will enhance the MPP’s flexibility and make it more useful for farmers.

Mooney also addressed two other pressing issues of importance to dairy farmers:  the threat posed by a lack of a federal standard on the labeling of foods made with biotechnology, and the promise of new export markets as a result of the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.

Mooney said that both chambers of Congress must establish a national law on how to define and label foods with genetically-modified ingredients prior to July 1, 2016, when Vermont’s law will take effect requiring labels on such products. In the absence of clear federal standards for food labeling, more states will pass differing versions of legislation addressing food biotechnology, leading to a confusing series of claims and mandates across the entire food marketing chain, Mooney said.

“Failure by Congress to address this issue threatens the viability of not only my farm, but also the 30,000 farmers I represent. It also threatens our ability to feed the world’s growing population,” he said. Mooney said that if biotech crops are stigmatized and their usage declines, it will be harder to improve on agricultural sustainability through reductions in the use of water, pesticides and fuel.

Mooney also addressed the importance of free trade agreements that deliver new opportunities to America’s dairy sector. The U.S. dairy industry has gone from exporting less than $1 billion in dairy products in 2000, to more than $5.2 billion of exports in 2015, thanks to well-crafted trade deals.

NMPF supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Mooney said, but is adamant that each participating country must be held to its commitments. He said important implementation and enforcement issues must be addressed as Congress prepares to consider TPP.

In the case of the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the European Union, Mooney expressed concerns about the EU’s lack of good-faith commitment to opening its markets to agricultural trade, and its attempt to establish new non-tariff trade barriers through the use of Geographical Indicators. Mooney urged caution in securing an agreement with the EU.

“The EU has not demonstrated a good-faith commitment to open agricultural trade,” said Mooney. “The U.S. must proceed cautiously by securing clear commitments from the EU to guard against the imposition of future trade barriers.”

U.S. Organic Sales Reached New Record in 2015

The booming U.S. organic industry posted new records in 2015, with total organic product sales hitting a new benchmark of $43.3 billion, up a robust 11 percent from the previous year's record level and far outstripping the overall food market's growth rate of 3 percent, according to the Organic Trade Association's 2016 Organic Industry Survey.

The industry saw its largest annual dollar gain ever in 2015, adding $4.2 billion in sales, up from the $3.9 billion in new sales recorded in 2014. Of the $43.3 billion in total organic sales, $39.7 billion were organic food sales, up 11 percent from the previous year, and non-food organic products accounted for $3.6 billion, up 13 percent. Nearly 5 percent of all the food sold in the U.S. in 2015 was organic.

2015 was a year of significant growth for the industry despite the continued struggle to meet the seemingly unquenchable consumer demand for organic. Supply issues persisted to dominate the industry, as organic production in the U.S. lagged behind consumption. In response, the organic industry came together in creative and proactive ways to address the supply challenge, to improve and develop infrastructure, and to advocate for policy to advance the sector.

Organic Fruits & Vegetables retained its longstanding spot as the largest of all the major organic categories with sales of $14.4 billion, up 10.5 percent. The demand for fresh organic was most evident in the continued growth of fresh juices and drinks, which saw explosive growth of 33.5 percent in 2015, making it the fastest-growing of all the organic subcategories. The fastest-growing of the eight major organic categories was condiments, which crossed the $1 billion mark in sales for the first time in 2015, on 18.5 percent growth.

Dairy, the second biggest organic food category, accounted for $6.0 billion in sales, an increase of over 10 percent. Dairy accounts for 15 percent of total organic food sales.

The growth in the organic market, however, did not come without continued challenges to the supply chain. Dairy and grains were two areas where growth could have been even more robust in 2015 if greater supply had been available. There is an industry-wide understanding of the need to build a secure supply chain that can support demand. This goes hand-in-hand with securing more organic acreage, developing programs to help farmers transition to organic, and encouraging new farmers to farm organically.

Assessment from FAO/WHO Confirms Safety of Glyphosate, Contradicts IARC

A Joint Meeting of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) Panel of Experts on Pesticide Residues in Food and the Environment and the World Health Organization (WHO) Core Assessment Group of Pesticide Residues (JMPR) has recently released an assessment finding that the crop protection compounds glyphosate, diazinon and malathion were “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through diet.”[1] JMPR’s conclusion contradicts a 2015 report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), whose parent body is WHO, which classified the three compounds as “probably carcinogenic.”

CropLife America (CLA), the association representing the crop protection industry in the United States, welcomes JMPR’s science- and risk-based assessment. JMPR’s assessment confirms prior conclusions of regulators around the world including in the European Union, U.S., Canada and Japan. In November of 2015, a comprehensive review by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concluded that glyphosate is “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans.”[2]

“Once again, an impartial peer review has found that IARC’s classification of glyphosate, diazinon and malathion was, at best, questionable. And frankly, CLA views IARC’s findings as an unnecessary threat to farmers and the global supply of food,” stated Jay Vroom, president and CEO of CLA. “In the U.S., we are eagerly awaiting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new risk assessment for glyphosate. We urge EPA to consider the real risk of products and to use broad data sets, rather than responding to outside political pressure from activist groups.”

Notably, IARC is not a regulatory body and it used a very narrow set of data to assess potential for hazard only. JMPR and regulatory organizations, such as EPA, assess the actual risk of exposure (related to use) of products or ingredients at appropriate use levels and human health risk. Over the years IARC has generated hazard identification classifications on many everyday products and their flawed process has led the organization to label many regular consumer good items as possible carcinogens, such as coffee, or pickled vegetables. IARC also identified bacon and other processed meat as carcinogenic. An IARC expert panel is meeting this week to evaluate and update the monograph on coffee.

“Cancer is a serious health concern, and all health officials must be careful to give people correct dietary advice to live long, fulfilling lives,” stated Dr. Janet E. Collins, senior vice president of science and regulatory affairs at CLA. “IARC’s many findings, and poor communication of the organization’s role, have caused widespread confusion and are detrimental to encouraging people to eat a variety of nutritious foods. It is of the utmost importance that IARC change the way it communicates its hazard assessments. We want all consumers to know that they can feel confident in the food they eat, grown by U.S. farmers.”

All crop protection products must undergo extensive health and safety assessments by regulators before they are approved for use. CLA members actively support science-based regulation, and CLA believes that the thorough risk assessment method used by most pesticide regulators is a more logical and scientific approach for product evaluation as compared to the limited studies and hazard-only evaluation process followed by IARC.

[1] Joint FAO/WHO Meeting on Pesticide Residues. Geneva, 9–13 May 2016, Summary Report. Issued May 16, 2016.
[2] Glyphosate: EFSA updates toxicological profile. November 12, 2015.

Focus on ethanol’s “Power, Passion and Peformance” during ACE Conference August 8-10

Ethanol’s high octane future, the retail outlook for E15 and flex fuels, and expanding export opportunities are just some of the subjects that will be covered during the annual American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) Conference at the Loews Minneapolis Hotel located in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota August 8 -10.

“The theme for the 2016 event is ‘Power, Passion and Performance’ and conference topics will highlight how the people of the ethanol industry are working to capitalize on the economic and public policy benefits of high-octane, low carbon ethanol,” said ACE Executive Vice President Brian Jennings.

While ACE is firming up speakers and topics, many conference portions are already confirmed, including an energy market keynote by Tom Kloza form the Oil Price Information Service (OPIS), a ‘Progress at the Pump’ panel featuring retailers discussing the outlook for E15 and flex fuel sales, a panel examining the blending economics and regulatory path for higher octane fuel, and a presentation on export markets for ethanol and DDGs.

Goule Selected as New NAWG CEO

The National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) announced today the selection of Chandler Goule as its new Chief Executive Officer. Goule, currently Senior Vice President of Programs at the National Farmers Union (NFU), comes to NAWG with eleven years of agriculture policy experience on the House side of Capitol Hill and will assume the role of Chief Executive Officer beginning July 5. NAWG has been conducting a nation-wide search for a new Chief Executive Officer to fill the vacancy left by Jim Palmer, who announced in April his intention to step down to spend more time with family and on his Missouri farm.

“NAWG is very pleased to have Chandler on board,” said NAWG President Gordon Stoner, a wheat grower from Outlook, Montana. “With our industry at a critical juncture, we know that with Chandler’s guidance, NAWG will be in a great position to advocate on behalf of all wheat farmers. We are delighted to have such a talented and experienced person lead our D.C. staff.”

In addition to his NAWG CEO responsibilities, Goule will also serve as the executive director of the National Wheat Foundation (NWF).

“Wheat has many challenges ahead, and we know Chandler is up to meeting them all head-on,” said NWF Chairman Phil McLain, a North Carolina wheat grower.

Originally from Texas, Goule holds degrees from Texas A&M and George Washington University, and served as a Subcommittee Staff Director for the House Agriculture Committee before moving to the National Farmers Union in 2009 as Vice President of Government Relations. He was appointed Senior Vice President of NFU Programs in 2014.

“The U.S. wheat industry is poised to reach new heights in both production and quality,” stated NAWG CEO-designate Goule.  “I am thrilled and honored to have this opportunity to work alongside our national wheat grower leaders in positioning NAWG and NWF as pre-eminent wheat advocacy and educational organizations as we begin to develop strategy for making wheat a major player in the drafting of the next farm bill.”

Stoner believes that with the experience Goule gained in his legislative work in Congressional offices, as well as his leadership experience on the House Ag Committee and at the NFU, and his work on three previous Farm Bills, Goule will provide beneficial policy and legislative guidance to NAWG as it develops priorities for the next farm bill.

 “Chandler Goule is the right person, in the right place, at the right time for the wheat industry,” added Stoner. “NAWG is excited to begin writing the next chapter in advancing the wheat industry.”

Monsanto Views Bayer’s Current Proposal as Incomplete and Financially Inadequate

Monsanto Company (NYSE: MON) today announced that its Board of Directors unanimously views the Bayer AG proposal as incomplete and financially inadequate, but is open to continued and constructive conversations to assess whether a transaction in the best interest of Monsanto shareowners can be achieved.

“We believe in the substantial benefits an integrated strategy could provide to growers and broader society, and we have long respected Bayer’s business,” said Hugh Grant, Monsanto Chairman and CEO. “However, the current proposal significantly undervalues our company and also does not adequately address or provide reassurance for some of the potential financing and regulatory execution risks related to the acquisition.”

There is no assurance that any transaction will be entered into or consummated, or on what terms. The Monsanto Board of Directors has not set a timeline for further discussions and Monsanto does not intend to make further comment at this time.

USDA: Bulk of Ukraine Soy GMO

Much of Ukraine's corn and soybean harvest is grown from genetically modified seed despite a government ban on such crops, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

"Although the planting of genetically modified crops is officially prohibited, estimates from private commodity analysts suggest that about 80% of Ukraine's soybeans (and roughly 10% of the corn) are genetically modified," the USDA said in a report published Tuesday.

Ukraine's Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food declined to comment.

The widespread cultivation of GMO crops in Ukraine contrasts with the situation in neighboring countries, where public opposition to GMO has stymied the spread of the technology. In the European Union, farmers are only permitted to grow a single strain of corn developed by Monsanto Co., and its cultivation is largely confined to Spain. Similar restrictions are strictly enforced in Russia.

According to BMI Research, the de facto acceptance of GMO despite the lack of formal approval for cultivation of GMO crops makes Ukraine the best growth opportunity in Europe for companies selling genetically-modified seeds.

"Ukraine's citizens are less politically active regarding GM cultivation, and the country's plan to substantially increase its corn output over the coming years bodes well for such input growth," BMI wrote in a report Tuesday.

The biotech advance in Ukraine was aided by the signing of an International Monetary Fund bailout loan extended to Ukraine in 2014 that required Ukraine to encourage the use of biotechnology in agriculture, BMI said.

Companies that sell GMO seeds include Syngenta AG and Monsanto Co.

The USDA expects Ukraine to harvest 5 million metric tons of soybeans and 26 million tons of corn in 2016-17, up from 3.9 million tons and 23.3 million tons respectively in 2015-16. It is an important exporter of both crops, selling over half of its soybeans and around two-thirds of its corn abroad in 2015-16.

The spread of GMO crops in a key producer may test the GMO restrictions of countries that buy from Ukraine. One such case saw India agree to buy around 250,000 tons of Ukrainian corn in February in a rare import deal prompted by India's severe drought. India has a ban on GMO cultivation and controls its imports to make sure its domestic plants aren't contaminated.

"It's very difficult to guarantee non-GM out of Ukraine," said Swithun Still, director of Lausanne, Switzerland-based grain trading firm Solaris Commodities SA.

"Certain producers who work with one or two port silos might be able to say, hand on heart, 'we have the ID preservation from our fields that proves it's non-GM,'" he said. ID preservation is a system of tracking a shipment of a commodity so that its provenance is known along the supply chain.