Friday, February 5, 2016

Friday February 5 Ag News

 Farm, Business Leaders Say Passage of LB 176 a “Win” for Nebraska

Nebraska farm and business leaders say the Legislature’s passage of a bill allowing Nebraska-based pork processors to own hogs in Nebraska is a win for farmers, but also for the state’s broader economy. Nebraska lawmakers gave final approval to Legislative Bill 176, Fri., Feb. 5, with a 34-14 vote. The measure eliminates a ban that was put in place in 1998 to prevent pork processors in Nebraska from owning hogs in the state and in turn prevent them from entering into agreements with Nebraska farmers to feed and care for processor owned hogs. The practice is common in other states and Nebraska is the last in the U.S. to prevent pork processors from owning hogs.

“This bill has always been about giving farm families the opportunity to partner with Nebraska pork processors to produce pigs here at home. For far too long, Nebraska farmers could only watch their neighbors in surrounding states take advantage of these opportunities. This is about opportunities for Nebraska farm families and giving them the tools to compete in today’s world,” said Al Juhnke, executive director of the Nebraska Pork Producers Association.

“This is an important step forward for Nebraska agriculture,” said Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson. “Pork production is a critical part of our state’s agriculture economy, but our pork sector has struggled to keep pace with neighboring states because we’ve limited these type of opportunities. We have to provide opportunities for future generations and this bill does that for pork producers. ”

Current state law already allowed pork processors with facilities located outside of Nebraska to own hogs in the state, meaning the restrictions on pork ownership only applied to Nebraska processors.

“This is a common sense measure that evens the playing field for Nebraska companies. It’s critical that we don’t tie the hands of Nebraska-based companies relative to their competitors in other states. These are companies who pay Nebraska taxes and employ Nebraskans,” said Barry Kennedy, Nebraska State Chamber of Commerce and Industry president.

“We have farmers who are looking to diversify their operations and custom feeding hogs is a popular way for that to occur. LB 176 allows Nebraska processors to own hogs, which means they can participate in those types of agreements. That only furthers opportunities for investment in Nebraska businesses,” said Richard Baier, Nebraska Bankers Association president and CEO.

A number of agriculture and business organizations support the bill citing the numerous positive impacts of expanded pork production in the state.

“On behalf of the Nebraska Pork Producers Association, the Nebraska Farm Bureau, the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, Nebraska Soybean Growers Association, Nebraska Bankers Association and the Nebraska State Chamber of Commerce and Industry, we thank all of those in the legislature who have helped moved this initiative to the Governor’s desk.”

LB 176 was introduced and prioritized by Sen. Ken Schilz of Ogallala. Senators voting to support LB 176 included: Baker, Campbell, Coash, Craighead, Ebke, Friesen, Garrett, Gloor, Hadley, Harr, Hilkemann, Hughes, Johnson, Kintner, Kolowski, Kolterman, Krist, Kuehn, Larson, Lindstrom, McCollister, Mello, Murante, Fox, Pansing-Brooks, Riepe, Scheer, Schilz, Schumacher, Seiler, Smith, Stinner, Watermeier, Williams.



Unicameral votes for Meatpackers over Family Farmers and Ranchers


Today, the Nebraska Unicameral voted for final passage of LB 176, legislation introduced by Senator Ken Schilz in 2015 that will rescind Nebraska’s statute prohibiting meatpacking corporations from owning hogs prior to slaughter. The bill will now be sent to the Governor for his consideration.

Debate over the bill was halted when 34 Senators voted in favor of invoking cloture and ending debate. The bill was passed on final reading by a vote of 34 to 14. Senators Davis, Bloomfield, Schnoor, Sullivan, Groene, Chambers, Brasch, Bolz, Cook, Crawford, Hansen, Howard, Morfeld, and Ken Haar stood in opposition to final passage of LB 176.

“I am unable to describe how disappointing this vote is to me, and to the independent, family farm and ranch livestock producers that I know and have worked with. Corporate money spoke out on this issue and too many Senators listened,” said Traci Bruckner, Senior Policy Advocate with the Center for Rural Affairs. “Meatpackers want to own hogs because that’s where the profit is. They’d rather someone else did all the work of raising the pigs, stood all the risk, and debt-financed the buildings.”

“Arguments by proponents that the bill was needed for reasons of constitutionality, increasing hog production or complaints about the messages they received from constituents and organizations in opposition to LB 176 were little more than sleight-of-hand, excuses for taking what will be the unpopular position of voting against family farmers and ranchers, arguments that were completely unfounded,” Bruckner continued.

This bill was a legislative solution in search of a problem, and make no mistake, this was about the bottom-line of meatpacking corporations. This bill offers nothing to family farmers and ranchers, creates no opportunities. In fact, it does the opposite, it slams the door in the face of farmers and ranchers, especially young farmers trying to get started in livestock production, and instead offers them the chance to become virtual serfs to meatpacking companies, added Bruckner.

Bruckner applauded the determined efforts of a core group of Senators that stood in opposition to the meatpacking corporations.

“Senator Davis, Senator Bloomfield, Senator Schnoor, Senator Sullivan, Senator Groene, Senator Chambers, and Senator Ken Haar… these Senators had the courage to stand up for farmers, ranchers and small town Nebraska. And they were heroic in their efforts. Senator Davis, in particular, was a true champion for rural Nebraska and the family farms and ranches that are the backbone of our rural economy,” Bruckner continued.

“This legislation is not about helping family farmers, it is not about jobs, nor rebuilding communities. If consolidation and vertical integration created jobs and healthy communities, rural Nebraska would be a paradise today. But in truth, this bill will result in fewer farmers, declining rural population and shrinking small town economic opportunities,” said Traci Bruckner, Senior Policy Advocate for the Center for Rural Affairs. “We believe in a bright future for rural Nebraska, with vibrant small towns surrounded by thriving family farms and ranches. But advancing the cynical vision of LB 176 will only serve to make achieving that future that much more difficult.”

“Sadly, as bad as this bill is for current and future hog farmers, the matter is made even worse because, in our opinion, this starts the clock ticking for a time when proponents of this legislation will seek to repeal the prohibition on packers owning cattle as well. Maybe it will be a year, or five years, before that happens but the handwriting is on the wall now,” Bruckner concluded.



PVC Plan 2 Events in February

Jared Drinnin, President, Platte Valley Cattlemen


 Be sure to bring your Valentine for a post Valentine night out Monday, February 15, at Wunderlich’s Catering. The night’s meeting will include The Rose Colored Glass Wine Tasting Room of Stromsburg. The social hour will begin at 6:00 p.m. with the meal to follow at 7:00 p.m. Thank you to Performance Plus for Sponsoring the social hour and First National Bank for sponsoring the meal.

Additionally, the 2016 Banquet is set for Saturday, February 20, at 5:30 p.m. at Platte County Ag Park. The night’s entertainment is Damion Mason (comedian). Tickets are on sale now for $30 each and are available from any Platte Valley Cattlemen Director.

We hope you and your spouse can join us for both events. And especially, be sure to tell your friends that the place to be Saturday, February 20, is Ag Park in Columbus.



USDA to Invest $150 Million through Conservation Stewardship Program to Help Improve Working Lands


Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced yesterday that $150 million in funding is available for agricultural producers through the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), USDA’s largest conservation program that helps producers voluntarily improve the health and productivity of private and Tribal working lands. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) plans to add an estimated 10 million acres to the rolls of CSP during fiscal 2016.

“The Conservation Stewardship Program is one of our most popular programs with producers because it results in real change on the ground by boosting soil and air quality, conserving clean water and enhancing wildlife habitat,” Vilsack said. “With this investment, we’ll be able to build on the already record number of acres enrolled in USDA’s conservation programs, enabling producers to achieve higher levels of conservation and adopt new and emerging conservation technologies on farms, ranches and forests.”

NRCS accepts applications for CSP throughout the year, but producers should submit applications by March 31 to USDA service centers to ensure they are considered for enrollment in 2016.

Participants with existing CSP contracts that will expire on Dec. 31, 2016, have the option to renew their contracts for an additional five years if they agree to adopt additional activities to achieve higher levels of conservation on their lands. Applications to renew are also due by March 31.

According to Craig Derickson, NRCS state conservationist, “CSP has been a very successful program for Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers. Over 2,500 CSP contracts occur in all 93 counties and cover nearly 5 million acres in Nebraska.”

Funding is available for more than 100 kinds of enhancements nationwide to help participants:
-    Improve soil quality through use of cover crops, conservation crop rotations and other activities that increase soil productivity.
-    Use water wisely and improve water quality through enhancements such as more efficient irrigation systems and weather monitoring.
-    Restore habitat for wildlife and pollinators such as the greater sage-grouse, lesser prairie-chicken and monarch butterfly through the use of better grazing systems and improved plant management.

A CSP self-screening checklist is available to help producers determine if the program is compatible with their operation. As part of the application process, applicants will work with NRCS field personnel to complete a resource inventory of their land to determine the conservation performance for existing and new conservation activities. The applicant’s conservation performance will be used to determine eligibility, ranking and payments.

Through CSP, USDA has provided more than $4 billion since 2009 in assistance to farmers, ranchers and forest managers to enhance conservation on more than 70 million acres. For more on technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs, visit your local NRCS office or www.ne.nrcs.usda.gov.



Dairy Transition Cow Field Days Coming in March


Dairy producers in northeast Iowa will learn how to improve and manage their transition cow program at the 2016 Transition Cow Field Days hosted by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach specialists. The program is scheduled at seven Iowa locations in March.

dairy cows“While transition cow management encompasses only 20 to 30 percent of the herd, it can ultimately influence the milk production and health of the entire herd,” said Jennifer Bentley, ISU Extension and Outreach dairy specialist.

Larry Tranel, ISU Extension and Outreach dairy specialist, added “We want to inform producers on how to achieve better milk quality, how to improve calving and provide best management practices for record keeping.”

Transition Cow Field Days will be offered at seven Iowa locations: 
    Wednesday, March 2 - LeMars, 10 a.m. to noon; hosted by Plymouth Dairy, 23505 K-49
    Thursday, March 24 - Cascade, 10 a.m. to noon; hosted by producer, Marv Lynch, 24764 Highway 151
    Thursday, March 24 - Dyersville, 12:30-2:30 p.m.; hosted by producer, Tom Pasker, 1415 330th Ave.
    Tuesday, March 29 - Fort Atkinson, 12:30-2:30 p.m.; hosted by Einck Dairy, 1140 227th Ave.
    Wednesday, March 30 - Stacyville, 12:30-2:30 p.m.; hosted by Brumm Dairy, 2370 465th St.
    Thursday, March 31 - Dundee, 10 a.m. to noon; hosted by producer, Chad Demmer, 1419 140th St.
    Thursday, March 31 - Elkader, 12:30-2:30 p.m.; hosted by producer, Dennis Bergan, 16618 290th St.

The two-hour workshops are free of charge and do not require preregistration. For more information contact an ISU Extension and Outreach county office or an area dairy specialist.



Grassroots Grazing Program for Young and Beginning Graziers Expands


The first-ever Grassroots Grazing program for young and beginning graziers was such a success last year that Joe Sellers, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach beef program specialist, said the program is being expanded this year.

“This grazing management series is designed for young and beginning graziers, although anyone interested in basic grazing management is welcome to attend,” he said. “Grassroots Grazing is a three-part series at two new locations, Corning and Ames. The Corning location begins Monday, Feb. 22, and the Ames location starts the following day, on Tuesday, Feb. 23. Session times are slightly different, so be sure to note the start time for your preferred location.”

All participants will receive a resource manual for use throughout the course and at their farms. The first session includes discussion on controlling feed costs, goal setting for individual grazing systems and comparing various grazing programs. The second and third sessions will include pasture walks and additional meetings on dates determined by the participants.

“There is no fee to attend, but we strongly encourage preregistration to plan for the meal and ensure adequate materials for everyone,” Sellers said. “Please register by Feb. 19 regardless of the location you will attend.”

The date, time, address and contact information for the initial session at each location are listed below, along with a link to the specific session flier.

Corning, Feb. 22, 6:30-9:30 p.m.  - St. Patrick’s Church, 607 6th St. (four blocks west of Casey’s)
    Contact:  Joe Sellers, sellers@iastate.edu or 641-203-1270
    Chris Clark, caclark@iastate.edu or 712-250-0070
    Chris Nelson, Adams County Extension Office, 641-322-3184
    Brian Peterson, 641-322-3228

Ames, Feb. 23, 5:30-8:30 p.m. -  ISU's Hansen Ag Student Learning Center, 2508 Mortensen Road
    Contact:   Joe Sellers, sellers@iastate.edu or 641-203-1270
    Erika Lundy, ellundy@iastate.edu or 515-294-9881

The series is provided by ISU Extension and Outreach and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and ISU Extension and Outreach beef program specialists will lead sessions with assistance from other producers and volunteers. In Corning, additional local sponsors are the Southern Iowa Forage and Livestock Committee and the Adams County Cattlemen’s Association.



Biotech Working Group Members Meet in Wilmington, DE


American Soybean Association’s (ASA) Biotech Working Group braved the snow to travel to Wilmington, Delaware last week for their annual winter meeting.

During the meeting, members participated in discussions about Emerging Technologies in Biotech Creation with Jane DeMarchi, Vice President, Government and Regulatory Affairs, ASTA; Food Labeling – Next Steps and Implications featuring Kelly Johnston, Vice President of Government Affairs, Campbell Soup Company; and an update from the U.S. Biotech Crops Alliance.

DeMarchi’s presentation focused on the new technology behind precision plant breeding techniques, and together with the group discussed the need over the coming months to establish messaging that will adequately explain in common terms what is a very in-depth and technical concept. A key challenge, said DeMarchi, is going to be ensuring that the new technology doesn’t fall victim to the rhetoric that has engulfed the discussion over GMOs in the U.S.

Campbell Soup’s, Johnston provided the group with an extensive overview of his company’s new position on the labeling of GMO content in its products, including consumer data and reasoning behind the Campbell’s shift on the position.

Grower members of the Biotech Working Group also had the opportunity to tour Stine-Haskell Research Center.

ASA’s Biotech Working Group provides a consultative forum for the soy biotech industry with key soybean industry and association grower leadership on a consistent basis. The forum provides grower leaders the opportunity to review the progress of individual company traits, engage in dialogue and provide feedback along with the needed support and advocacy to advance approvals for new technologies.

The next meeting of the Biotech Working Group will be in early fall 2016.



Energy Bill on Senate Floor Draws Anti-RFS Amendments, Expands Farm Bill Energy Title Program


This week the U.S. Senate is considering S. 2012, the Energy Policy Modernization Act (EPMA), a comprehensive energy bill that includes provisions ranging from energy efficiency to modernizing the nation’s electricity transmission grid and funding for energy research.  There has also been 231 amendments filed so far, including several aimed at eliminating ethanol from the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) or eliminating the RFS entirely.   Senate leaders hope to pass the bill this week with a strong bipartisan vote and are trying to fend off any controversial amendments.  The RFS related amendments are among the controversial amendments that are not expected to be brought up for a vote.  The American Soybean Association (ASA) and our biodiesel industry partners are monitoring the bill and the amendment process.

The bill’s provisions to increase energy efficiency, modernize the nation’s electric grid, and increase federal funding for energy research are designed to lower energy costs, improve reliability, and make the U.S. economy more competitive internationally and they enjoy bipartisan support. However, there are some partisan and geographical differences regarding the conflicting interests of fossil fuels and renewable energy sources as well as issues unrelated to energy policy that threaten to derail the bill.

The underlying bill includes revisions to the Biomass Research & Development Initiative (BRDI), a program that is authorized under Section 9008 of the Farm Bill Energy Title.  The EMPA would amend the BRDI program to provide research assistance and grants for the development of woody biomass heat and biopower projects, as well as a provision specifically including oilseed crops as eligible for the new grant program.  The BRDI is jointly administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Among the many amendments that have been filed is one from Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) that would establish a federal education program to ensure landowners are given all of the federal conservation options available to them when choosing to put their land into a conservation easement.  There is no indication as of yet whether the Rounds amendment will be considered.



Vilsack Denies Cottonseed Request, Defers to Congress


Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack denied a request to include cottonseed as an eligible oilseed under the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) and Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) programs. Vilsack said the U.S. Department of Agriculture does not have the legal authority to authorize such a change, shifting responsibility to Congress, which supporters of the measure called into question. Vilsack also said Congressional authority would be needed to use the USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation to provide payments to cotton growers.



Poll: Chesapeake Bay Residents Do Not Trust Federal Regulation, Putting Local Farmers in Federal Regulatory Peril Is Biggest Concern


Nearly three in four residents of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed say state and local government authority over water resources should trump federal authority. When health, safety and environmental regulations are needed, nearly half say they trust state and local governments, compared to only 28 percent who trust the federal government.

Those were two key findings of new Morning Consult polling conducted Jan. 21-24 of 1,042 registered voters who reside within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The poll was sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation.

"Residents of the Chesapeake Bay region believe their local governments should have authority when it comes to protecting their water, and, understandably, they trust state and local authorities much more than they do the federal government," said Ellen Steen, general counsel for AFBF.

The Morning Consult poll looked at voter opinion on a range of issues related to the Environmental Protection Agency's regulatory "blueprint" for the Chesapeake Bay that sets strict federal limits across the region for local land uses such as farming, forestry and development. AFBF has asked the Supreme Court to review the EPA rule, which it believes to be unlawful. The case is American Farm Bureau Federation v. EPA (15-599) http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/american-farm-bureau-federation-v-epa/

According to the poll, 48 percent of respondents said that when health, safety and environmental regulations are needed, they trust state and local governments more than the federal government. Just 28 percent said they would trust the federal government more. When it comes to ensuring the quality of rivers, streams and creeks, 74 percent said that state and local communities should be primarily responsible and only 18 percent said the federal government should have the primary responsibility.

More than three in four respondents (77 percent) said local or state governments should be most responsible for regulating how people use land or produce food. Only 14 percent favored the federal government.

While six in 10 voters familiar with the EPA's regulations initially expressed their support, after being informed of how the rules might affect them locally, that support plummeted to just 39 percent, with 45 percent of the voters opposing them.

"In these days when people place a high value on local food, 62 percent of the respondents said they were less likely to support the EPA's Bay regulations because they would put a number of local farmers out of business due to restrictions and high regulatory costs," Steen said. "That's what this rule is all about; imposing federal restrictions that will make it impossible for many local farmers to continue to farm in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

"We all support better water quality in the Bay, but people living in the watershed care about local farmers, jobs and communities, too. There are better, more affordable and less intrusive ways for states to take the lead and get this important job done that also save room in the watershed for the people producing local food."

Results from the full survey have a margin of error of ±3 percent. The interviews were conducted online and the data were weighted to approximate a target sample of registered voters based on age, race, gender and educational attainment.



Insurance companies increase focus on child ag safety: survey


Insurance companies are becoming more involved in farm safety, as revealed in a survey by the National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety.

You might think liability drives the increased interest in farm safety, but it is not the top reason, according to the survey results and discussions with insurance professionals.

“Our company has been promoting farm safety for several years, because working to help keep children safe on farms is the right thing to do,” said Eric Vanasdale, senior loss control representative at Country Financial, Bloomington, Ill.

 More than 75 percent of insurance professionals indicated that they felt their clients would be pleased if they supported child farm safety programs, according to a survey given at the 2015 National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC) Agricultural Risk Inspection School in West Des Moines, Iowa.

The survey assessed current practices and future opportunities to promote childhood ag injury prevention. Ninety-six of 170 attendees (loss control specialists, underwriters, managers and supervisors) completed the survey. Additional highlights:
-    85 percent of respondents indicated they communicate safety messages to farmers
-    83 percent adjust premiums based on loss control surveys
-    75 percent want to strengthen their company’s focus on child ag safety      

The survey also revealed that insurance professionals believed they would need additional farm safety resources in the future, and identified the topics they felt would be most important to address, including ATVs, operating tractors and skid steers, working with animals, agritourism, and extra riders on farm equipment.

“When talking with insurance personnel, however, many were unsure where to find the information and resources they need,” said Marsha Salzwedel, survey co-author and National Children’s Center youth safety specialist. “I was happy to tell them that we could help.”

The National Children’s Center offers free safety resources, and will work with interested insurance companies to provide information, resources and any other materials they need, Salzwedel said.



Thursday, February 4, 2016

Thursday February 4 Ag News

NFB Foundation for Agriculture Deadline for Scholarships and Education Loans Fast Approaching

"Time is running out to apply for valuable scholarship dollars for our Nebraska Farm Bureau members and we encourage applicants to check out the programs available,” Megahn Schafer, executive director NFB Foundation for Agriculture said.

There are four scholarships offered through the Foundation. Below is a list that summarizes each scholarship and its requirements. Applications are open to all Farm Bureau members.

Nebraska Agriculture Education Student Teacher Scholarship Program
Applicants who apply for the Nebraska Agriculture Education Student Teacher Scholarship Program must be enrolled in the Agricultural Education Teacher Education program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. They are eligible to apply for scholarship for the value of approximately one-half tuition or $1,200 for the semester in which the student's student teaching experience occurs. Applications are due March 1, 2016.

Charles Marshall Loans
The Charles Marshall Loan Fund is supported by voluntary contributions from Farm Bureau members. It offers higher education loans for worthy Farm Bureau members enrolled for training in accredited institutions for the advancement of professional skills. Loans can be approved up to and including 50 percent of the cost of training which includes tuition, room, board, books and transportation. The amount approved depends upon the needs of the applicant and funds available. Applications are due May 1, 2016.

Kenneth Schwartz Scholarship
This fund is administered through the University of Nebraska Foundation, and at least one $1,000 scholarship will be awarded per year. The applicant must be an incoming junior or senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln majoring in an agricultural or agricultural-related program including agribusiness. Applicants must belong to a member family of a county Farm Bureau in Nebraska or have their own Farm Bureau membership. A student who receives the scholarship as a junior is eligible to receive the scholarship a second year if a satisfactory grade level has been maintained and the applicant again receives committee selection. The scholarship fund was established by the family of the late Kenneth E. Schwartz, who was executive vice president of Farm Bureau Insurance Company of Nebraska at the time of his death in 1987. Applications are due March 1, 2016.

Greater Horizon Scholarship
The Greater Horizon Scholarship is awarded to student’s ages 18 to 35 who are from a Farm Bureau member or their family is a member. Applicants must plan to study an agriculture-related field full-time at a college or university and plan to return to production agriculture. Applicants must be a resident of Nebraska and demonstrate leadership potential through extracurricular activities and work experience. Up to two $1,000 scholarships may be awarded. Applications are due March 1, 2016.

To apply for any of these programs, use the forms available on the Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture website at www.nefbfoundation.org, or contact the Foundation team at FoundationForAg@nefb.org or 402-471-4747.



NEBRASKA LEAD 34 FELLOWS TRAVEL TO HUNGARY, ROMANIA, MOLDOVA


    Twenty-nine Nebraska LEAD 34 Fellows recently returned from an international study and travel seminar in Hungary, Romania and Moldova.

    "Our international study is designed to provide firsthand appreciation and understanding of our international community and the potential for people of all nations to work together," said Terry Hejny, LEAD program director and group leader.

    During the Jan. 5-19 seminar, LEAD fellows participated in briefings with U.S. Embassy officials in Budapest, Hungary; Bucharest, Romania; and Chisinau, Moldova, including sessions with Colleen Bell, U.S. ambassador to Hungary; Hans Klemm, U.S. ambassador to Romania; and Jeanette Tyson of the Political-Economic Section in Moldova. The LEAD fellows also visited international businesses, several farm operations and entrepreneurs. Additionally, the fellows were able to meet with officials at Szent Istvan University in Godollo, Hungary; the Pioneer-DuPont Agriculture and Nutrition Research Center near Bucharest, Romania; and Agromester HD, the national John Deere dealership near Chisinau, Moldova.

    "The people-to-people encounters provided the members of Nebraska LEAD Group 34 an opportunity to view characteristics, conditions and trends in Hungary, Romania and Moldova and determine relationships to issues and situations in our country," Hejny said. "Through this experience, participants develop techniques in identifying comparisons and contrasts of the countries we recently studied in areas such as agriculture, politics, economics, energy, religion, culture and history as well as technology, trade, food, art and philosophy."

    LEAD 34 fellows in alphabetical order are: Reed Allen, Wayne; Lance Atwater, Hastings; Ashley Babl, Albion; Nicole Bohuslavsky, Omaha; Wayne Brozek, Gering; Adam Bruning, Kearney; Jonathan Carlson, Callaway; Josh Cool, Gothenburg; Tabbatha Cornelius, Bassett; Jordan Feller, Wisner; Debra Gangwish, Shelton; Mat Habrock, Lincoln; Todd Heithoff, Elgin; Clayton Hensley, Fremont; Justin Jarecke, Kearney; Tyler Kugler, Elwood; Hilary Maricle, Albion; Mark Miles, Ainsworth; Bryan Palm, Mitchell; Esther Rickert, Wood River; Jacob Robison, Elk Creek; Cecil Schriner, Hildreth; Jeff Schroeder, West Point; Alex Schwarz, Bertrand; Rick Spencer, Culbertson; Misty Stauffer, Harrisburg; Sarah Werner, Davenport; Lance Williams, Nora; and Teri Zimmerman, Wymore.   

    The Nebraska LEAD Program includes men and women currently active in production agriculture and agribusiness, and is a two-year leadership development program under the direction of the Nebraska Agricultural Leadership Council, in cooperation with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

    For more information, or to request an application for LEAD 36, contact the Nebraska LEAD Program at 104 Agricultural Communications Building, UNL, Lincoln, NE 68583-0763, call 402-472-6810 or email leadprogram@unl.edu. The application deadline is June 15.



2016 Gross Crop Margins Negative Despite Lower Costs


The total cost of corn and soybean production in Iowa is expected to fall this year, according to a report published by Alejandro Plastina, an assistant professor in economics at Iowa State University and ISU Extension and Outreach economist.

The report, titled “Estimated Costs of Crop Production in Iowa - 2016,” shows the cost of corn production dipping by 6 percent and soybean production falling by 2.5 percent this year. The full report is available online on the ISU Extension and Outreach Store at http://store.extension.iastate.edu/Product/Estimated-Costs-of-Crop-Production-in-Iowa-2016-pdf.

Total cost per bushel is projected at $4.63 for corn following corn, assuming an average yield of 165 bushels per acre, and $3.99 for corn following soybeans, assuming an average yield of 180 bushels per acre. The total cost per bushel of soybeans, assuming an average yield of 50 bushels per acre, is projected at $10.67 for the herbicide tolerant variety and $10.66 for non-herbicide-tolerant, according to the report.

“A substantial decline in fertilizer and lime prices, machinery costs and land rents are expected to more than offset increases in crop protection costs, especially herbicides,” Plastina said. “Labor costs are also projected to remain flat in 2016.”

Despite higher fixed costs associated with slightly higher interest rates, total machinery costs are projected to drop due to lower diesel and LP gas prices. Lower crop prices will result in lower crop insurance liabilities and therefore lower insurance premiums.

The accumulated declines in total costs of corn and soybean production amount, respectively, to 8 percent since 2013 and 4 percent since 2014. However, these cost reductions are dwarfed by the 47 percent and 37 percent reduction in corn and soybean prices, respectively, between 2012 and 2015.

Several caveats do apply to the projections. First, fertilizer and lime costs include volume and early purchase discounts. Second, producers paying land rents higher than the ones estimated in the report might face higher costs of production. Third, to be able to compare budgets through time, calculations are based on a fixed rate of input use.

This might be a strong assumption for 2016, when lower crop prices will likely push some producers to look for additional cost savings by changing the mix of inputs used. For example, some producers might opt for seeds with fewer traits than in other years to save on front-loaded input costs.

Finally, crop budgets are calculated assuming average yields remain constant through time. If El NiƱo impacts climatological conditions in 2016, there is a high chance of having higher than average yields. In that case, costs of production per bushel might be lower than reported.

“Thin profit margins in owned land and likely negative margins on rented land should warrant a discussion with a trusted agronomist to evaluate where to cut costs without hurting revenue potential,” Plastina said. “Knowing the cost per acre of your own operation is critical for marketing your crop and making the necessary arrangements (such as securing operating loans, restructuring machinery or real estate loans, adding non-farm income) to cash flow your operation. For more information, visit with your ISU Extension and Outreach field agronomist or farm management specialist.”



IOWA CROP PROGRESS & CONDITION REPORT


 Iowa experienced close to normal precipitation totals and temperatures for the month of January. Fieldwork activities for the month of January were limited to some dry fertilizer application according to the USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service. Average snow depth for January was 3 inches.

As January came to a close, topsoil moisture levels rated 0 percent very short, 0 percent short, 74 percent adequate, and 26 percent surplus. The south central portion of Iowa reported the highest moisture level with 45 percent rated surplus.

Grain movement rated 34 percent none, 45 percent light, 18 percent moderate, and 3 percent heavy. This year over three-quarters of grain movement for the month of January was rated light to none. Grain movement was generally prompted by a need for grain by end users or a need to generate cash flow by operators. Central Iowa recorded the most grain movement rated moderate to heavy for the month of January at 34 percent, while south east Iowa had the second most rated moderate to heavy at 30 percent.

Availability of hay and roughage supplies was 0 percent very short, 7 percent short, 84 percent adequate, and 9 percent surplus. Cattle conditions and performance deteriorated when temperatures were above freezing as cattle producers dealt with muddy pastures and feedlots. However, livestock conditions returned to normal whenever the ground was able to freeze.

IOWA PRELIMINARY WEATHER SUMMARY

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


General Summary. Iowa temperatures averaged 19.2° or 0.2° below normal while precipitation totaled 0.61 inches or 0.31inches below normal. This ranks as the 69th warmest and 36th driest January among 144 years of records.

Temperatures. The new year opened with eight consecutive days of above normal temperatures, continuing the mild pattern that persisted through the last one-third of 2015. A brief period of cold weather prevailed from the 9th through the 13th. Daytime high temperatures reached only -4° at Elkader and Northwood on the 10th while morning lows fell to -18° at Spencer on the 10th and at Northwood on the 11th. Brisk winds combined with the cold air to produce wind chill indices down to -36° at Estherville and Spencer on the morning of the 10th. A brief warm-up occurred on the 14th and 15th with Keosauqua recording the month’s highest temperature with a 55° reading on the 14th. This was soon followed by the coldest weather of January on the 17th and 18th. Spencer recorded a minimum temperature of -21° on the morning of the 17th along with a wind chill index of -42°. Daytime highs remained below zero over about the northern one-half of the state on the 17th with Northwood reaching a maximum of only -9°. Parts of far northeast and far northern Iowa endured a second straight day of subzero high temperatures on the 18th. Temperatures were above normal in most areas from the 21st through the end of the month with no subzero readings recorded in the state after the 20th. Temperatures reached into the low fifties at many far southern Iowa locations on the 29th, 30th and 31st. The mild and wet December 2015 weather resulted in little, if any, soil frost at the beginning of January. However, the arrival of very cold weather on the 9th quickly drove frost much deeper into the soil during the middle one-third of the month. At month’s end soils were frozen to depths of 12 to 18 inches over central Iowa and to about ten inches across the southern part of the state. However, a deeper snow pack across northern Iowa insulated the soils there with eight inches or less of frozen ground at month’s end.

Heating Degree Days. Home heating requirements, as estimated by heating degree day totals, averaged the same as normal, but 4% more than last January. Thus far this heating season (since July 1) heating requirements are running 14% less than last year at this time and 15% less than normal.

Precipitation. Precipitation was frequent during January, but in sharp contrast to November and December did not amount to much. About two-thirds of the month’s precipitation came in the form of rain from the 6th to the 9th. Otherwise there were numerous light accumulations of snow through the remainder of January but only one event, on the 19th, brought more than four inches of snow to any single location when Mount Ayr accumulated 5.1 inches. Despite the relative lack of new snowfall or persistent cold during January snow remained on the ground for most of the month across the northern one-half of the state. The statewide average snowfall was 3.4 inches or 4.3 inches less than normal. This ranks as the 18th least snowy January among 129 years of records. January precipitation totals varied from 0.26 inches at Fairfield to 1.55 inches at Tripoli. Meanwhile monthly snowfall totals varied from 1.1 inches at Washington to 8.9 inches at Little Sioux.



Extension Specialists Seek Soybean Field Data to Help Farmers Reach Potential Yields


Iowa State University Extension and Outreach specialists are asking soybean farmers to provide yield and agronomic data specific to their soybean production fields by March 1, 2016. Daren Mueller, extension plant pathologist, and Mark Licht, cropping systems agronomist, are gathering the data for a three-year project to identify key factors that prohibit soybean farmers from obtaining yields that are potentially attainable on their respective farms.

soybean field photo by Daren MuellerSoybean production is expected to rise to satisfy the increasing demand for food, biodiesel and livestock feed, both in the United States and globally. It is critical to reduce the yield gap, which is the difference between the attainable crop yield, as determined by the interactive effects of weather, soils and genetics, and the actual crop yield attained by the producer.

“We will conduct an in-depth analysis of what factors might be causing a yield gap from the data we receive,” said Licht. “We intend to provide annual reports to all soybean farmers based on our analysis of the data collected from farms across Iowa and major soybean growing areas of the Midwest.

The “Soybean Yield Benchmarking Project” is a collaborative effort and is funded by soybean checkoff funds through the North Central Soybean Research Program. The 12 states in the North Central region of the United States produced 81 percent of total U.S. soybean production and acreage from 2010-2014. During this time, the average soybean yield for the region was 43 bushels/acre, but some producers have consistently reached soybean yields near or greater then 80 bushels/acre.

“This large gap between an average state yield and the very high yield obtained by some producers in that state needs to be explored and better understood,” said Licht.

The project will benchmark current yield and management practices in producer fields across each participating state to identify key management factors that can be used by individual producers to increase soybean yield on their farms with input-use efficiency that will improve bottom-line net profit.

“Once those factors are identified, both the producer and the university research or extension specialist can focus on how to close the yield gap for that individual producers and others like them,” said Mueller.

To submit field information, email the fillable PDF to lichtma@iastate.edu or mail it to Mark Licht, Iowa State University, 2104M Agronomy Hall, Ames, Iowa 50011.



Buchanan County producer new Iowa Pork Producers president


A pig farmer with 37 years of production experience is the new president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association.

Al Wulfekuhle of Quasqueton began his one-year term as Iowa's pork industry leader on Jan. 26 at the conclusion of the IPPA Annual Meeting in Des Moines. He served as president-elect in 2015 and succeeds Dave Struthers of Collins.

"It's an honor to represent the industry and I'm looking forward to working with the great board and staff at IPPA," Wulfekuhle says.

Wulfekuhle outlined several issues that he says the IPPA Board of Directors will need to be concerned with during his term.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's new Veterinary Feed Directive that prohibits pig farmers' use of certain antibiotics and requires a veterinarian's prescription for others will take effect on Jan. 1, 2017, and Wulfekuhle says preparing producers for the change will be key.

"Staff and the board members need to get the word out about it and educate producers so they're prepared," Wulfekuhle said. "I don't think it'll be a big issue, but we need to do our part to make sure producers are aware of it and prepared for it."

IPPA is a strong supporter of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy and the Iowa Water Quality Initiative and the new president says the association will stay involved and work with other commodity groups.

"We've started a task force to do just that and work with Iowa State University again so we use science and research-based recommendations," he said.

Wulfekuhle believes it's going to be another challenging year for producers from a profitability standpoint. IPPA has invested additional resources with the National Pork Board and increased its marketing efforts to promote and sell more pork. He also recognizes the industry may have tighter packing capacity next fall and winter and encourages producers to be sure to communicate closely with their packers.

First elected to the IPPA Board of Directors in 2012, Wulfekuhle says production and management experience are his primary strengths.

Wulfekuhle is president and majority owner of G & W Pork, a farrow-to-finish business with 1,600 sows. About 36,000 pigs are marketed annually to Tyson in Waterloo and another 4,000 are sold as maternal gilts. He also owns CNI Consulting and farms 500 acres of corn and soybeans. He was named a county and state Master Pork Producer in 1991.



Nebraska Cattlemen Representing at the 2016 Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Tradeshow


Nebraska was well represented during the Cattle Industry Convention and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) Trade Show held in San Diego, California last week. More than 6,700 folks gathered under the sunshine to attend this year's convention. There was much to do during the days in San Diego from engaging in grassroots policy process, hearing from industry experts and browsing the vast trade show.

"After gathering together with producers from around the country I've realized that we may have different genetics, resources, and concerns, but we all have a passion for the cattle business and work hard to do our best for our livestock, land, consumers and families," Said NC President Barb Cooksley. "NCBA meetings always reinforce the fact, that we need the staff in Washington DC every day representing our interests and concerns to our elected officials.  With them doing their job, I can do mine at home!"

At the convention, several key beef industry leadership roles were filled by Nebraska Cattlemen members:
    Jerry Adams of Broken Bow, was elected to represent the North Plains for CattleFax
    Dawn Caldwell, Edgar, was elected to the Federation Operating Committee
    Steve Hanson, Elsie, was elected Chairman of the Federation of State Beef Councils
    Tom Jensen of Omaha, was appointed as Treasurer of CattleFax
    Joan Ruskamp, Dodge, was appointed Secretary Treasurer of the Cattlemen's Beef Board
    Craig Uden, Ellwood, was elected to become President Elect of NCBA

Congratulations to the Nebraska cattlemen and women that received awards for their hard work and dedication to the cattle industry:
    BQA Marketer Award - Scott Mueller, Samson, Inc. from Columbus
    2015 Top Hand Club Res. Champion with 80 Members - Melody Benjamin, Nebraska Cattlemen, Lakeside
    Top Recruiter for Revenue with $12,600 in dues - Melody Benjamin, Nebraska Cattlemen, Lakeside
        Top Hand Recruiters - Craig Uden 18; Mackenzie Johnston, 10; Bonita Lederer, 7; Dave Doeschot, 7; Brenda Masek, 3; Chris Schluntz, 3; Gregg Wiedel, 3; Barb Cooksley, 2; Bill Weaver, 2; Dick Hollman, 2; Joel Bruns, 2; Kurt Kruse, 2; and Mark Spurgin, 2.
    Beef Industry's 40 under 40 - Jaclyn Wilson, Flying Diamond Genetics, Lakeside
    BEEF Magazine National Stocker Award - Homer and Larry Buell, Shovel Dot Ranch, Bassett

In addition, Nebraska Cattlemen was one of eleven state affiliates to receive the "Outstanding Affiliate Award" presented by NCBA.



Iowans honored at National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Convention


Several Iowa cattle producers were honored at last week’s National Cattlemen’s Beef Association convention in San Diego.

Dave Petty, a cow-calf and small feedlot operator from Eldora, was honored for his work with NCBA’s Environmental Stewardship Awards Program (ESAP), which is celebrating its 25th year. Petty has played an important role in the program for many years, serving on the selection committee, engaging partners, and working to improve this program, which honors cattlemen who show exemplary environmental stewardship on their farms and ranches. “The Environmental Stewardship Award Program has been one of NCBA’s most successful programs for more than two decades,” said NCBA Immediate Past President Philip Ellis. “We are proud to have had the opportunity to honor Dave Petty for his leadership and the important role he has played to recognize and promote some of America’s best ranchers and their outstanding management practices.” Petty also serves as NCBA Region III Vice President and is a member of the NCBA Executive Committee.

Glenn and Bev Rowe of Lorimor were honored as the Region III Nominees for the Environmental Stewardship Awards Program. The Rowe family has shown a dedication to conservation and sustainability on their cow-calf operation, making improvements through the years that benefit the land and their livestock.

Ben Novak, Tama County cattleman, was recognized as the Region III Representative for the Young Beef Leader (YBL) program. The program is focused on education, engagement, networking and development of the next generation of beef industry leaders through engagement with NCBA’s state and breed affiliated organizations and incorporation into industry meetings and events.

Nodaway Valley Feeders owners Todd and Kristi Drake of Nodaway Valley won the beef checkoff’s annual national Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) Feedyard award. The award recognizes outstanding beef producers from across the country who incorporate BQA principles as part of the day-to-day activities on their operations.

Iowans also hold several leadership roles at the national level. Ed Grieman, feedlot operator from Garner, will continue in his role as chairman of the Cattle Marketing and Trade committee for NCBA. Scott McGregor, a cow-calf and feedlot operator from Nashua, was named co-chair of the Consumer Trust committee for the Federation of State Beef Councils and also serves on the Beef Promotion Operating Committee. Finally, Rock Valley feedlot operator, Kent Pruismann, continues his service on the executive committee for the Cattlemen’s Beef Board.

ICA is proud of the impact its members have at the local and national level and congratulates all those honored for their accomplishments.



CattleFax Elects Officers for 2016


New CattleFax officers for 2016 were elected at the organization’s annual business meeting Jan. 28, 2016, in San Diego Calif. Jeff Sparrowk, a cow/calf and stocker operator from Clements, Calif., was elected President. He has been actively involved in the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and has served as a past Chairman of that organization’s Marketing Committee. He is also a past President of California Cattlemen’s Marketing Committee.

President Elect is Todd Allen of Newton, Kan. Re-elected as Executive Vice President was Randy Blach of Centennial, Colo.  Jerry Adams of Broken Bow, Neb., was elected to replace Jerry Kuenning of Imperial, Neb., representing the North Plains. Dale Smith of Amarillo, Texas, was re-elected to a four-year term representing the Southwest region

Other Directors currently serving terms for CattleFax are Tom Jensen of Omaha, Neb., as Treasurer;  Jamie Willrett of Malta Ill.; Don Quincey of Chiefland, Fla.; Pono Von Holt of Kamuela, Hawaii; and Mark Frasier of Fort Morgan, Colo.

CattleFax is a member-owned organization that serves producers in all segments of the cattle and beef business. CattleFax is the global leader in beef industry research, analysis and information. Since 1968, the organization’s exclusive industry database has set the standard for market information and analysis. Visit www.cattlefax.com to learn more and become a member.




The U.S. Beef Consumer: Getting to Know This Complex Individual State by State


Five people may provide five different routes to the same destination, and each of those routes may eventually end at the final point. But which route makes the most sense when all of the factors are considered? When deciding how to spend beef checkoff dollars to maximize impact on consumer beef demand, it’s an important question.

Identifying who the beef consumer is and what they want is where it all starts. The national Consumer Beef Index (CBI) is an important tool in describing the beef consumer, according to John Lundeen, senior executive director of market research for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff Program.  Still, it obviously can’t explain everything about every consumer in every part of the country. In fact, when staff and boards at state beef councils take a look at the national numbers they may naturally wonder whether the picture represents their own beef consumers and the best route to reach them.

Nationally, the checkoff-funded CBI was started in 2006 as a “meaningful, actionable, data-driven national performance measure” to meet a beef industry Long Range Plan goal for a mechanism to track goals, according to Lundeen.  He says it has continued on a bi-annual basis through 2015, with 18 “waves” creating a combined national database of more than 19,500 consumers aged 13-65.

The CBI measures changes in consumer perceptions of, and demand for, beef relative to other meat proteins; consumer impressions of beef that could be attributed to the industry’s communications and advertising efforts; areas of relative strength and potential vulnerability for beef sales; and market dimensions having an impact on national communication strategies.

It paints effective pictures of U.S. beef consumers at the national level, Lundeen says, and has been important in the development of national checkoff-funded programs that address consumer demand for beef. But by itself the research doesn’t distinguish between consumers geographically. That’s why since 2007 states have been allowed to customize that index to determine how their consumers differ from national scores for behavior and beliefs regarding beef and its primary competitors.

“The state or regional scoreboards enable state beef council boards to pinpoint their unique areas of strengths or vulnerabilities for beef within their own geographies,” according to Lundeen. “They also identify specific regional competitive challenges, while allowing each to tailor in-market communications strategies to the local culture.”  Or the endpoint is to develop further confidence in rolling out national programs because that state’s consumers mirror national norms on most variables. 

 So, what are the nuances to date? Lundeen notes it might include how often consumers eat beef (consumers in beef production states tend to eat beef more often); the importance or reduced importance of production issues; competitive proteins (chicken is produced more commonly in some areas of the country); and distribution channels (big discounters are more prevalent in certain regions).

Larger differences do exist, however. Lundeen says he was interested to learn, for instance, that even within what are commonly thought of as “beef production states” there are some significant urban elements. “Every state has a preponderance of urban dwellers that dominate the population in that state,” he says. “While consumers in these urban areas are more knowledgeable on agricultural issues than consumers in, say, Los Angeles or New York City, they are still further removed from agriculture.

“Those are the kinds of things a council board really wants to know,” Lundeen says. “They’re trying to make smart decisions in that state, and this information can help them. They want to set some targets, and maybe close some gaps.”
 
A Welcome Tool

State beef councils have responded very well to the checkoff-funded information, which they can purchase at-cost through the national database.  “It does help us in directing our program,” according to Linda Bebee, vice president of domestic marketing for the Texas Beef Council. “Obviously, our total program isn’t based on [the CBI], but it is interesting to see.”

Bebee says the TBC will be using the results from 2013-15 CBI research in development of their 2017 programs. They have used results from previous CBI research in developing current and previous TBC marketing programs, comparing Texas numbers to the national ones and doing research to determine local differences within the state.

“It’s always hard to get state-specific information,” Bebee says. “We wonder if Texas consumers are different than those in other parts of the country. Are they different from those on the coasts? Are they different from those in the rest of the Beef Belt? Answers to those kinds of comparisons are good to know.”

In the northern U.S. similar questions have surfaced, which have motivated participation in the program. “We wanted to see how we compared to the rest of the world,” says John Freitag, executive director of the Wisconsin Beef Council. “We also wanted a benchmark from which we could build some programs. The CBI gave our programs some direction, and things to focus on.”

Freitag says the research delivers valuable information as the WBC attempts to maximize its value to beef producers in Wisconsin. “We need to better understand consumers in our state,” he says. “We think using the CBI gives us the best opportunity for making key checkoff-funded decisions. Furthermore, we can use the CBI information to show that we’re being accountable and using the dollars wisely. If we don’t have benchmarks, how are we going to know where the best returns are?”

Patti Brumbach, executive director of the Washington State Beef Commission, agrees, saying her council has been participating in the CBI program at the state level since 2007. She and her board rely heavily on information gleaned from it. “It’s a very important part of our marketing plan,” she says. “We use it both as a benchmark and to evaluate our programs. We use it so that we can understand how best to invest funds and to be accountable for what we set out to accomplish.”
 
Joining Forces

Not all states have the consumer population that makes it cost-effective to conduct individual state CBIs. Ann Marie Bosshamer, executive director of the Nebraska Beef Council, says her organization joined forces with councils in Missouri, Kansas and Iowa to acquire data that would help them in their marketing plans. By joining together the “MINK” states could gather information useful in their efforts.

“As a state we looked at it quite a while, but thought it was cost prohibitive,” according to Bosshamer. “But by joining forces with Missouri, Iowa and Kansas, our states can get data we need. And I’ve been very pleased with the results.

”It’s definitely a valuable tool for us,” adds Bosshamer. “It shows us what the consumers know, and what they don’t know. It’s something we need to continue.”

In December Lundeen presented results from the MINK research to the participating states. Prior to that Bosshamer met with staff leaders from the other states to “discuss ways to partner on a variety of programs. We want to look at what we’re doing well, and in what areas we need to work harder,” she says.

States utilize the information they obtain in ways that are meaningful to their own volunteer producer state boards. For instance, the Wisconsin Beef Council used CBI information that suggested consumers in that state appreciate small meat markets to form a promotion partnership with the Wisconsin Association of Meat Processors. “Each state has different needs,” says WBC’s Freitag. “We all have to look for partnerships that make the most sense for programs and producers in our state.”

“Some states are using it to make their boards more knowledgeable, or to set key tracking goals,” according to Lundeen.  “Being able to divide this information for states was a creative solution to let them look at consumers within their own states.”

Bebee says that other research besides the CBI is crucial to planning – research in nutrition communications, for example. That information is conducted nationally through the Beef Checkoff Program and shared at the state level. WBC’s Freitag says they have used this kind of research to work with his state’s heart association and other health groups to promote beef’s value.
 
Bottom Line

According to Brumbach, CBI information is the kind of third-party research crucial to an industry that sometimes has a skewed perspective. “When you’re from the industry, you’re not objective,” she says. “We’re just too close to our product and our work. Being involved in the CBI allows us to see the consumer objectively, and plan and act accordingly. We need to remember that what we do starts and ends with the consumer.

“It’s important to remember that understanding the consumer is foundational for us,” she says. “If we don’t understand the consumer, we’re out of business.”



NCBA and PLC Accepting Applications for Two Summer Positions


The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the Public Lands Council’s government affairs office in Washington, D.C., is accepting applications for a 2016 summer  public policy intern as well as a summer law clerk. The deadline to submit an application for either position is Feb. 24, 2016.

NCBA Executive Director of Government Affairs Kristina Butts said these internships are a great opportunity for students with an interest in the beef industry and public policy.

“The internship gives college students the opportunity to work alongside staff on a range of issues that impact U.S. cattlemen and women,” Butts said. “Our interns work closely with the lobbying team on Capitol Hill and assist with NCBA and PLC’s regulatory efforts, providing college students a one-of-a-kind view into the policy making process. The interns are valuable team members that help staff on several fronts.”

Producer-led and consumer-focused, NCBA is the nation's oldest and largest national organization representing America's cattle producers. PLC is the only organization in Washington, D.C., dedicated solely to representing cattle and sheep ranchers that utilize federal lands. The organizations work hand-in-hand on many issues, sharing office space in the heart of the nation's capital.

The public policy internship will give students an opportunity to learn about career options and provide practical experience. From tax and trade to environmental and food safety regulations, interns will work on a variety of issues and have the opportunity to work specifically in the area of their interest. College juniors, seniors and graduates students are encouraged to apply.

The summer law clerk will provide support to NCBA’s Environmental Counsel on issues relating to environmental legislation and regulations that impact beef producers. The position will also work closely with the Executive Director of the Public Lands Council on issues relating to Federal lands management, grazing, and the Endangered Species Act. To apply for the law clerk position, students must currently enrolled in an ABA-accredited law school.

The full-time internship and law clerk positions will begin May 23, 2016 and end August 19, 2016. To apply for the public policy internship or law clerk position, visit www.beefusa.org.



As U.S. Signs Trans-Pacific Partnership, ASA Calls on Congress to Pass TPP This Year


In a ceremony today in New Zealand, the United States signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership and formally enabled the Obama Administration to begin the process of writing legislation for Congress to approve the pact later this year. The American Soybean Association (ASA) is a leading supporter of the TPP agreement, which represents more than a third of the world's gross domestic product, and both emerging and major soybean export markets along the Pacific Rim. ASA President Richard Wilkins, a farmer from Greenwood, Del., reiterated the association's support and encouraged Congress to press through election-year rhetoric and get to work on the TPP in 2016.

"With valuable, established markets alongside promising emerging markets, the 11 partner nations within the TPP combine to make this one of our most significant policy priorities right now. We are absolutely committed to the full-court press that we'll need to move it across the finish line this year. We know that the election makes everything harder, but this is important enough that we're ready to do whatever it takes. What we need from Congress is a commitment to move beyond the shortsighted focus on November and see what this agreement means for our economy, both in rural communities and nationwide. It means increased demand at home and abroad, which drives exports, which support jobs and economic activity all across the country. Election year or not, the TPP is a no-brainer."



Wheat Grower Organizations Welcome TPP Signing, Look for Rapid Congressional Review


The signing of the 12 nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) today in New Zealand marks another step toward putting the world’s largest free trade agreement into action. National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) and U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) welcome this step and now call for rapid consideration and eventual ratification of TPP by Congress.

"Wheat growers are "all-in" regarding the promise of the Trans-Pacific Partnership," said NAWG President Brett Blankenship, a wheat farmer from Washtucna, Wa. "Expanding sales and market share are important pillars to help revitalize the wheat industry. Now the ball is in Congress’ court and NAWG urges Congress to act quickly.”

A number of national and state wheat grower association members visited congressional offices this week to stress their support for the agreement. That is because wheat is the most export-dependent grain commodity grown by U.S. farmers. South Asia and Latin America represent growing, but highly competitive markets for our production. When implemented, TPP will have a significant positive impact on American wheat producers and on our country’s export supply industry.

“We need swift consideration and approval because every day that implementation is delayed, we face tariff disadvantages that undercut our ability to compete in established and new markets,” said USW Chairman Brian O’Toole, a wheat farmer from Crystal, N.D.

With duty-free access under its free trade agreement with Vietnam, for example, Australia currently enjoys a $12 to $15 per metric ton price advantage over U.S. wheat. U.S. wheat exports are at a tariff disadvantage in a number of other countries that want to join TPP but cannot apply for membership until after Congress and the governments of the 11 other countries ratify the agreement.

TPP is American agriculture’s platform for success in the expanding global market for years to come. As soon as possible after the implementing legislation is introduced, Congress should complete its reviews and take its up or down vote on TPP.



Some U.S. Farmers Urge Congress to Stop TPP


The U.S. Trade Representative today signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and a national organization representing farmers and ranchers from coast to coast is calling on Congress to block the giant trade pact.

“TPP is modeled after the failed deals of the past, and it is destined to fail,” explained Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union.  “Those past deals worsened America’s trade deficit, did nothing to stop our foreign competitors from cheating the system, and failed to live up to a long list of promises.”

Once signed by the Administration, TPP will eventually be delivered to Congress for a debate and an up-or-down vote without amendments.  Johnson and NFU members in all 50 states are urging Congress to take its time during the examination process and to ultimately reject the deal.

“The more people learn about TPP, the more they dislike it,” Johnson noted.  “It’s soft on enforcement, it fails to reign in predatory trade practices abroad, and it does nothing to improve America’s trade balance.”

Johnson, who testified before the U.S. International Trade Commission last month, told government officials that TPP needs better mechanisms to hold trading partners accountable for promises made and should focus on improving the U.S. trade balance instead of simply reducing tariffs.

The U.S. trade deficit soared to $508 billion in 2014, up 6 percent from the previous year, despite trade deals with 20 countries, he testified.  And this trade imbalance, he explained, is a major hurdle to economic and job growth.

“TPP is a bad deal for rural and urban America alike,” Johnson said immediately after the pact was signed.  “We encourage all members of Congress to carefully read the text and ask the hard questions that have, thus far, gone unanswered.  Once they do, we believe legislators will vote no and demand better negotiations in the future.”



NFU Statement on Syngenta Merger


In response to today’s merger announcement by Syngenta AG and China National Chemical Corporation, National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson released the following statement:

“Today’s announcement is cause for concern among everyone in U.S. agriculture, especially farmers. NFU will pay particularly close attention to the alarming trend of Chinese government-owned entities purchasing U.S. and other agricultural companies. Most recently, Chinese company Shuanghui International acquired U.S. pork producer Smithfield.

“In this case, Syngenta would be owned by a company controlled by the Chinese government. For an increasingly consolidated sector of agriculture, this is of particular concern since state-owned businesses frequently do not act in economically rational or predictable ways.  As a result, more uncertainty often surrounds their businesses, and consequently, other competing businesses may be adversely affected.

“While NFU is pleased that Syngenta will maintain its North American presence for the sake of competition in the marketplace, we will continue to review the impact this deal may have on the competitiveness in U.S. agriculture. NFU is especially concerned that yet another merger will trigger additional domestic consolidation of the remaining seed and crop protection companies.

“We urge the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to review this transaction to the fullest capacity of its jurisdiction for its impact on national security.”



ADM May Sell Off Ethanol Plants


When Archer Daniels Midland opened two of the country's largest ethanol plants in Nebraska and Iowa six years ago, the biofuels market was on the cusp of a boom with prices and profits on the rise. But now, the plants are more of a headache for the Chicago-based company, considered an industry pioneer, amid crushed margins and weak prices as the financial success of its almost 40-year- old business fades.

In the industry's first major capitulation to depressed market conditions, ADM's chief executive, Juan Luciano, on Tuesday said he would consider options, including a sale, for those two plants as well as another in Peoria, Illinois. Reuters reports that the three dry-mill ethanol plants, some of the largest in the country, represent just under half of ADM's 1.8-billion-gallon-per-year U.S. ethanol capacity.

The news came as ADM blamed weaker-than-expected quarterly profits on poor ethanol margins and depressed U.S. grain exports, sending its shares tumbling almost 9 percent for their worst day in 6-1/2 years.

The review also comes as the 114-year-old company continues to shift its focus on developing new food ingredients as domestic demand for gasoline additive ethanol is forecast to remain flat over the next decade.

ADM is not alone as sinking ethanol prices and relatively stable corn prices squeeze margins and as crude oil prices tumbled to their lowest level in over a decade. Last week, Valero Energy Corp, one of the largest U.S. producers, reported a 76 percent plunge in income from its ethanol business in the final four months of last year.



Massey Ferguson Introduces 4700 Series Utility Tractors


Massey Ferguson®, a global brand of AGCO Corporation (NYSE:AGCO), will introduce North American producers to the highly anticipated and all-new 4700 Series heavy-duty utility tractors during the 2016 National Farm Machinery Show. The 4700 Series tractors stand out within the utility tractor market because they are designed with the weight, power, durability, and lift capacity to manage heavier, larger implements, draft work and other tough, demanding jobs.

“Producers have been waiting for a real tractor of this size, with this kind of performance, for a long time,” says Warren Morris, tactical marketing manager, Under 140 HP Tractors. “Many are looking for a new tractor in this horsepower range to use for more traditional field work and one that offers the pulling power and lift capacity they need for a reasonable price. The 4700 Series fills that need and delivers on Massey Ferguson’s world-wide reputation for power, endurance, value and ease of use.”

Three introductory models of this Tier 4 Final Series are the 4708 (80 HP), 4709 (90 HP) and 4710 (100 HP) open-station, 2WD and 4WD configurations. The 4700 Classic was developed for stability, versatility and operator comfort, offering a standard 8 x 8 or 12 x 12 Synchro-shuttle transmission. All Deluxe Edition models are equipped with a 12 x 12 Power-shuttle transmission plus other features to increase productivity. Cab models will be introduced soon.



AGCO Reports Lower Sales in 2015


Agco Corp. on Tuesday said its profit slumped 20% in the fourth quarter as sales fell across all of its geographic regions. The agricultural equipment maker said it anticipates its results for the year to reflect softer industry demand for farm equipment across all regions and the unfavorable effects of foreign currency translation.

The company reported that its gross and operating margins are projected to be below 2015 levels due to the impact of lower sales and production volumes, a weaker sales mix and increased investment in product development expenses. The company, however, backed its previously issued earnings and revenue guidance for 2016.

For the quarter, the company reported a profit of $62.1 million or 73 cents a share, down from $77.6 million, or 85 cents a share, in the year-earlier period. Excluding items, the company reported per-share earnings of 80 cents compared with $1.18 a year ago.



USDA Finalizes New Food Safety Measures to Reduce Salmonella and Campylobacter in Poultry


The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) today announced the finalization of new federal standards to reduce Salmonella and Campylobacter in ground chicken and turkey products, as well as in raw chicken breasts, legs, and wings. Based on scientific risk assessments, FSIS estimates that implementation of these standards will lead to an average of 50,000 prevented illnesses annually.

As part of this move to make chicken and turkey items that Americans frequently purchase safer to eat, FSIS has also updated its microbial testing schedule at poultry facilities and will soon begin posting more information online about individual companies' food safety performance.

"Over the past seven years, USDA has put in place tighter and more strategic food safety measures than ever before for meat and poultry products. We have made strides in modernizing every aspect of food safety inspection, from company record keeping, to labeling requirements, to the way we perform testing in our labs," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "These new standards, in combination with greater transparency about poultry companies' food safety performance and better testing procedures, will help prevent tens of thousands of foodborne illnesses every year, reaching our Healthy People 2020 goals."

FSIS uses pathogen reduction performance standards to assess the food safety performance of establishments that prepare meat and poultry products. By making the standards for ground poultry tougher to meet, ground poultry products nationwide will have less contamination and therefore result in fewer foodborne illnesses. FSIS implemented performance standards for whole chickens in 1996 but has since learned that Salmonella levels increase as chicken is further processed into parts. Poultry parts like breasts, wings and others represent 80 percent of the chicken available for Americans to purchase. By creating a standard for chicken parts, and by performing regulatory testing at a point closer to the final product, FSIS can greatly reduce consumer exposure to Salmonella and Campylobacter.

"This approach to poultry inspection is based on science, supported by strong data, and will truly improve public health," said USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Al Almanza. "The new performance standards will complement the many other proactive, prevention-based food policies that we've put in place in recent years to make America's supply of meat and poultry safer to eat."

For chicken parts, ground chicken, and ground turkey, FSIS is finalizing a pathogen reduction performance standard designed to achieve at least a 30 percent reduction in illnesses from Salmonella. For chicken parts and ground chicken, FSIS is finalizing a pathogen reduction performance standard designed to achieve at least a 32 percent reduction in illnesses from Campylobacter. Because FSIS has found the prevalence for Campylobacter in ground turkey to be already low, the reduction for this product is estimated to be 19 percent.

After these standards were proposed in early 2015, FSIS began to use routine sampling throughout the year rather than infrequent sampling on consecutive days to assess whether establishments' processes are effectively addressing Salmonella and Campylobacter. Once establishments have completed a full set of testing under the new standards, the agency will also begin posting online which facilities pass, meet or fail the new standards.

An estimated 1.2 million foodborne illnesses are thought to be caused every year by Salmonella, with approximately one-third or 360,000 of those illnesses attributed to FSIS-regulated products. In 2013, the agency released a Salmonella Action Plan, which created a blueprint for the agency to address this pathogen of significant public health concern. Today's announcement fulfills the major steps that FSIS had outlined in its plan.



Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Wednesday February 3 Ag News

IBACH URGES TOP FEDERAL OFFICIALS TO EXPEDITE EFFORTS TO OPEN UP BEEF EXPORTS TO CHINA, MAINTAIN MOMENTUM ON KEY TRADE AGREEMENTS

In letters to two top U.S. federal government officials, Nebraska Department of Agriculture Director Greg Ibach is requesting efforts to facilitate the movement of U.S. beef to China be expedited, and calling for continued activity on pending trade agreements with European and Asian countries.

Ibach hand-delivered the letters this week as he chaired the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) winter policy meetings in Washington, D.C.  Ibach is president of NASDA, and the group heard from U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, as well as Darci Vetter, who is the lead agriculture negotiator for U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, during its meetings.

In the letters, Ibach specifically mentioned a pending resolution between the United States and China that would open up increased opportunities for Nebraska beef exports.

“It is my understanding the United States and China have reached agreement on the parameters, with only the specific protocols to be finalized. I urge you both to complete these export protocols as soon as possible,” Ibach said.

In addition, Ibach urged continued efforts to finalize the pending multi-nation trade agreement known as TPP.

“The recently completed negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership will open even greater access for our nation’s and Nebraska’s agriculture interests,” said Ibach in the letters to Vilsack and Froman. “The State of Nebraska and its agricultural leaders remain strong supporters of these types of agreements and will continue to advocate for the approval of this and other trade agreements.”

Ibach went on to point out the importance of the continuing negotiations on another critical trade agreement.

“In addition, ongoing talks regarding another ambitious and important multicontinental agreement, the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, should be heightened so that forward momentum will not be lost,” Ibach said. “I am excited about the opportunities for free and fair trade between Europe and North America, should this agreement reach a successful conclusion.”



March 1, 2016 Deadline for Soybean Farmers Interested in United Soybean Board Nominations


The Nebraska Soybean Board (NSB) is looking for soybean farmers interested in filling two of Nebraska's four director positions with the United Soybean Board (USB).

USB is made up of 70 farmer-directors who oversee the investments of the soybean checkoff on behalf of all U.S. soybean farmers. Checkoff funds are invested in the areas of animal utilization, human utilization, industrial utilization, industry relations, market access and supply. As stipulated in the Soybean Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soybean checkoff.

Any farmer interested in applying needs to meet the following criteria:
1. Be involved in a farming operation that raises soybeans.
2. Be a resident of Nebraska.
3. Be at least 21 years of age.

To be considered for the national leadership position, interested farmers need to submit a USDA Background Information Form before the March 1, 2016 deadline, to obtain this form, contact Victor Bohuslavsky at the Nebraska Soybean Board office at 402-432-5720.  

The NSB Board of Directors will submit to the U.S. Department of Agriculture a "first preferred choice nominee" and "second preferred choice alternate" for the open positions. The Secretary of Agriculture will make the final appointments. The USDA has a policy that membership on USDA boards and committees is open to all individuals without regard to race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation and marital or family status. The chosen individuals will begin serving a three-year term in December 2016. Each individual appointed is eligible to serve a total of three terms.

For more information about the United Soybean Board, visit www.unitedsoybean.org/.  



NCGA Welcomes TPP Signing


The following is a statement from National Corn Growers Association President Chip Bowling regarding today’s signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.

“After five years of negotiations, we are pleased to see the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement take another step forward today. The National Corn Growers Association supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership because it would give America’s farmers and ranchers greater access to some of the world’s fastest-growing economies. This agreement is good for both corn farmers and our friends and partners in the livestock industry. We all want to see more American grains, meat and dairy on dinner tables around the world.

“This agreement will strengthen America’s influence in the Asia-Pacific region and set the tone for future international trade agreements, such as with the European Union. By supporting TPP, Congress can send a powerful message: the United States will lead on trade. That’s why NCGA members will be going to Capitol Hill in the coming months, asking Congress to vote in favor of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement in 2016.”



FARMERS TO GAIN ACCESS TO MONSANTO’S ROUNDUP READY 2 XTEND™ SOYBEANS IN 2016


Monsanto Company (NYSE: MON) today announced its commercial launch plans for its Roundup Ready2 Xtend™ soybeans after it received import approval in China. This technology has been highly anticipated by farmers and is now available in the United States and Canada in time for the 2016 season.

“We are pleased to bring Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans to the market,” said Brett Begemann, Monsanto President and Chief Operating Officer. “After a decade of development, the new and elite germplasm in Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans can provide growers with outstanding performance in their efforts to produce the best crop possible.”

Monsanto’s Asgrow®, Channel® and regional brands, along with Corn States licensees, expect to introduce more than 70 soybean products across eight maturity groups with agronomic traits including resistance to nematodes and phytophthora root rot. Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans are broadly licensed to more than 100 seed brands.

Although Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans are tolerant to both glyphosate and dicamba herbicides, the use of dicamba herbicide over the top of Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans remains in late stage of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) review and is not currently approved by the EPA. Once approved, the Roundup Ready® Xtend Crop System – including Bollgard II® XtendFlex® cotton – will offer growers a vital tool for managing tough-to-control and glyphosate-resistant weeds.

Miriam Paris, U.S. Soybean Marketing Manager, says demand for Roundup Ready 2 Xtend™ soybeans has been strong. “To date, we’ve had significant pre-orders from farmers and are excited to move forward with commercialization,” she said. “Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans are built on the same high-yielding germplasm as Genuity® Roundup Ready 2 Yield® soybeans, which continue to deliver a greater than four bushel per acre advantage as compared to the original Roundup Ready® soybeans.  Pending dicamba approval, growers will continue to maximize their yield opportunity through the weed management recommendations and incentives provided by Roundup Ready PLUS® Crop Management Solutions.”



Adoption of Refuge in a Bag Products is Simplifying Grower IRM Compliance


The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) is pleased to see continued increase in adoption of refuge- in-a-bag (integrated refuge) products, simplifying growers’ refuge requirements in the Corn Belt. According to the annual Compliance Assurance Program (CAP) results, all growers surveyed in the Corn Belt planted at least one refuge in a bag product, and many growers planted exclusively refuge-in-a-bag products.

The CAP, implemented by Agricultural Biotechnology Stewardship Technical Committee (ABSTC), is designed to improve compliance with EPA-mandated Insect Resistance Management (IRM) requirements, and includes on-farm refuge assessments, an online survey, IRM education and awareness.

Adoption of refuge in a bag products results in automatic compliance in the Corn Belt

Highlights of the survey indicate a strong adoption of refuge-in-a-bag products, which include Bt and refuge seed interspersed in a single bag or container. “We are pleased to see that growers have rapidly adopted refuge-in-a-bag products to meet refuge requirements. Refuge compliance, whether through planting structured refuges or using refuge-in-a-bag products, is important to help preserve Bt corn technology durability” said Mark Kimm, ABSTC IRM subcommittee co-chair.

Survey shows that most growers are in compliance

In 2015, the majority of growers surveyed planted the required refuge size on their farms and planted it within the required distance for all of their Bt corn fields. Furthermore, the survey indicated that the percentage of growers not planting any refuge acres continues to be low.

The ABSTC continues to promote educational programs and strategies to preserve the efficacy of Bt technology. In addition, the ABSTC partners with NCGA to ensure that NCGA’s membership and networks are fully informed of refuge requirements and the CAP. A collaboration supporting insect resistance management and the use of best management practices for corn rootworm (CRW) has provided readily accessible information at www.ncga.com/cornrootworm.  The campaign also includes advertisements and editorials in local publications that include best management practices on how to help protect fields from corn rootworm.

“This type of collaboration is vital to the industry’s efforts to showcase the benefits of best management practices – such as crop rotation, scouting, and trait selection,” said John Linder, chairman of the National Corn Growers Association Trade Policy and Biotechnology Action Team. “The industry is committed to the success of the grower. The availability of refuge in bag products and educational programs provide our growers options that help manage challenging on-farm situations, as well as durability and stewardship of the industry’s trait technologies.”



Action Team Focuses on Building Demand through Trade, Increasing Access to Technology


Today, the National Corn Growers Association's Trade Policy and Biotechnology Action Team wrapped up its spring meeting in Long Beach, Calif., where team members reviewed recommendations coming out of NCGA's Priority and Policy Conference held earlier in January and met with representatives from across the value chain to explore upcoming challenges and opportunities.

Looking at a variety of issues, including goals set out in NCGA's strategic plan can be achieved, the team used their in-depth knowledge of the subject matter to develop the nuanced, strategic suggestions needed to help the Corn Board guide NCGA policy effectively.

"During the winter months, it can begin to feel like farmer leaders spend a large amount of time participating in meetings for a variety of agricultural groups," said Team Chair John Linder, a farmer from Ohio. "As my involvement has increased, I have come to even more fully appreciate the breadth and scope of the myriad issues facing farmers today.  By developing teams with specialization in major areas of opportunity and taking the time to analyze the issues in a critical, thorough manner, we are able to most effectively provide input on how, in our area, the Corn Board can shape NCGA policy and, subsequently, maximize the effectiveness of farmer-funded market development activities to increase demand."

The team also delved deeply into a variety of areas certain to impact the future of corn farming through presentations and discussions with industry representatives. Through these discussions, the farmers gained up-to-the-minute information that they will scrutinize and, as events unfold, incorporate into future recommendations.

Meetings included a tour of shipping facilities at the Port of Long Beach, where they took an up-close look at the logistics of trade.

In addition to Linder, team members include Vice Chair Don Duvall of Illinois, Corn Board Liaison Kevin Ross of Iowa, Mike Beard of Indiana, Chris Edgington of Iowa, Janna Fritz of Michigan, Robert Hemesath of Iowa, Wayne Humphreys of Iowa, Jon Miller of Ohio, Jim Raben of Illinois, Jay Reiners of Nebraska, Chad Wetzel of Texas, Tim Wiersma of Minnesota and Patrick Pfingsten of the Indiana Corn Growers Association. NCGA staff in attendance included Director of Biotechnology and Crop Inputs Nathan Fields, Director of Public Policy Zach Kinne and Administrative Assistant Maggie Fogerty.



Animal Ag Alliance Debuts 'Meat Matters' Campaign


The Animal Agriculture Alliance unveiled a new campaign focused on promoting the role of meat and poultry in a healthy, balanced diet. The Meat Matters initiative counters claims made by activist groups about the nutritional value of animal protein, as well as the sustainability of meat and poultry production.

"We've heard a lot of concern over the years from our members about activists pushing the 'Meatless Mondays' movement in their local schools and communities," said Kay Johnson Smith, Alliance president and CEO. "This misleading movement is another tactic to eliminate consumer choice--the ability that we each have to determine the right food choices for ourselves and our families. Our new campaign will help consumers sort through the myths and misinformation to understand the true value of meat and protein in their diets."

The Alliance has produced and maintained consumer-facing resources explaining the truth behind “Meatless Mondays” for nearly a decade, and the new Meat Matters materials take that content to a new level with eye-catching graphic design and easily digestible information.

Campaign materials include print and web versions of a poster filled with facts and statistics about meat's role in a healthy diet intended for distribution to consumers or decision-makers in communities being pressured by the Meatless Mondays movement.

For more information and to take the Meat Matters pledge, visit www.animalagalliance.org/engage/#meatmatters.



National Pork Industry Forum to Be Held March 3-5


Delegates from across the United States will gather in Indianapolis, March 3-5 for the annual National Pork Industry Forum.

The 15 producers who serve as members of the National Pork Board and Pork Checkoff staff leadership will hear directly from the forum delegates appointed by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. Each year the Pork Act Delegates confer, vote on resolutions and advisements and provide valuable direction on the important issues facing pork producers and the industry.

The theme for the annual pork forum – Inspiration Starts Here – is in reference to the passionate pork producers, savvy retailers and creative cooks who are all ready to share pork’s story of inspiration who have helped fuel the incredible demand that has been seen domestically and internationally for U.S. pork.

“As we continue our work on the 2020 strategic plan that is centered on the goals of building consumer trust, driving sustainable production and growing consumer demand, our work at Pork Forum has never been more important,” said Derrick Sleezer, president of the National Pork Board and a producer from Cherokee, Iowa. “Pork producers, processors, food service and retail leaders will need to work together to focus on elevating pork as the global protein of source by continuously and cooperatively working to do what’s right for people, pigs and the planet.”

In advance of the annual meeting, members of the National Pork Board also will convene their March board meeting. The agenda for that meeting will include updates on 2016 plans to enhance pork demand, increase market opportunities, improve pork production practices and invest in research priorities.

Included on the 2016 Pork Forum agenda will be opportunities for pork producers to become trained in the pork industry’s Pork Quality Assurance® Plus (PQA Plus®) certification process, as well as learn more about pork industry programs.

The full agenda is available at www.porkindustryforum.com. As the event draws near, the website will be updated with current information and links to the Pork Forum manual and videos of candidates nominated for industry positions.



Zoetis Collaborates with the National Pork Board to Extend Access to its Longstanding Pig Care Training Program

Starting this month, Zoetis will be working with the National Pork Board to help extend the reach of Individual Pig Care, an in-barn education and training program from Zoetis. For nearly 10 years, this program has highlighted the importance of early identification of sick pigs, which can improve treatment outcomes and reduce herd mortality.1 Ultimately, this knowledge helps ensure producers are supplying safe, high-quality pork and more pigs are reaching their full market potential.

“Since we introduced Individual Pig Care in 2005, our technical service veterinarians have helped train hundreds of caregivers and production managers on the importance of walking the pens to check every pig every day,” said Dr. Rick Swalla, senior veterinarian, Pork Technical Services, Zoetis. “We want to help bring this program to more pork producers and pig caregivers, which is why this collaboration with the National Pork Board is so important.”

With new support from the National Pork Board, more pork producers and pig caregivers across the United States will have access to the Individual Pig Care program. Trained veterinarians, extension agents and PQA Plus trainers will deliver the same Individual Pig Care training that has been conducted and owned by Zoetis.

Those who participate will learn how to properly monitor pig health on an individual basis. This helps ensure any sick pigs are identified early, so they may be treated appropriately, as directed by the herd’s veterinarian, and in a timely manner.  Pigs exhibiting signs of illness are rated by using a classification system:
·         A pig = Acute illness
·         B pig = Subacute illness
·         C pig = Chronic illness
·         E pig = Humanely euthanize

The classification system allows caregivers to communicate a pig’s health condition more clearly to their managers and herd veterinarians. By doing so, pigs needing treatment are provided care at the right time with the right product and according to veterinarian-directed protocols. This essentially is the cornerstone of responsible antibiotic use.

“Pork producers are proud of how they care for their pigs,” said Bill Winkelman, vice president-producer and industry relations, National Pork Board. “We’re continuously collaborating with others to improve animal husbandry and focus on a bright future for pork. By bringing the Individual Pig Care program to more producers, we can have an industrywide, consistent method of care that results in healthier pigs.”

To learn more about the Individual Pig Care in-barn education and training program, please contact your local Zoetis representative or visit zoetisUS.com/IPC.



The Search Is on for America’s Pig Farmer of The Year


National Pork Board is accepting applications for its 2016 America’s Pig Farmer of the YearSM award through March 13 at americaspigfarmer.com. The award recognizes a U.S. pork producer who demonstrates excellence in raising pigs using the We CareSM ethical principles and in sharing his or her story with the public.

“As an animal lover and the leader of the country’s first national humane organization, I am honored to have been asked to serve as a judge for America’s Pig Farmer of the Year,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of the American Humane Association. She was a member of the judging panel that selected the 2015 America’s Pig Farmer of the Year.

“The American Humane Association celebrates all those, including our nation’s farmers, who care for animals and work hard to ensure they are treated humanely,” Ganzert said. “Today, more than ever it is important not only to point out where progress is needed, but to recognize when we get it right. I look forward to learning about these farmers who are working to give America’s families food that is safe, affordable, abundant, and in line with their values.”

Keith Schoettmer, a pig farmer from Tipton, Indiana, was selected as the first America’s Pig Farmer of the Year in 2015. He has participated in several events since earning this distinction last October. In the past four months, Schoettmer took part in a media tour in New York City, spoke at a congressional briefing in Washington, D.C., and urged fellow farmers to share their stories through presentations at several state agriculture association meetings.

“I encourage every pig farmer to apply to be America’s Pig Farmer of the Year,” Schoettmer said. “This is a much-needed program that allows us to open our barn doors and show consumers what is really happening on pig farms across the U.S.”

Any U.S. pig farmer, who is 30 years of age or older on Jan. 1, 2016, can apply through March 13. Anyone that knows of a deserving pig farmer can also nominate a producer for this award. Instructions and frequently asked questions can be found at americaspigfarmer.com or via a link on pork.org.

Objective, third-party judges, along with the American public, will help determine the final award recipient, with the winner announced during National Pork Month in October. In early September, videos of the award finalists will be displayed at americaspigfarmer.com and on the Pork Checkoff’s social media outlets so people can vote for their favorite.



Ethanol Stocks Hit 4-Year High


The Energy Information Administration released data for the week-ended Jan. 29 on Wednesday, Feb. 3, showing a decline for domestic ethanol production and weaker implied demand while total inventories surged to the highest level since April 2012.

The data showed total inventories increased 926,000 barrels (bbl), or 4.3%, to 22.4 million bbl last week, raising the year-over-year surplus to 1.4 million bbl, or 6.6%.

Plant production fell for the third straight week, down 2,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 959,000 bpd last week, while down 1.3% year over year. Blender inputs, a proxy for ethanol demand, fell 50,000 bpd, or 5.8%, to 815,000 bpd for the week.



Informa Sees Big South America Crops


Private analytical firm Informa Economics sees larger corn crops in Brazil and Argentina and maintains its forecasts for large soybean crops.

The firm also presented forecasts for Argentine production in 2016 that highlighted a big shift to corn following changes in the government's export tax policies.

Informa raised its forecast for Brazilian corn production to 81.6 million metric tons, slightly higher than USDA's 81.5 mmt estimate. In Argentina, the group calls for 26 mmt, more than USDA's estimate of 25.6 mmt, based on its recent survey of producers.

On soybeans, USDA sees Brazilian farmers harvesting 100.5 mmt, which is 900,000 metric tons below Informa's previous forecast but still higher than USDA's latest estimate. Argentine farmers are likely to harvest 60 mmt of soybeans, which is 1.5 mmt higher than last month's estimate and 3 mmt higher than USDA's last estimate.

Informa released early forecasts for next year's crop mix in Argentina, calling for 30 mmt of corn production and 56 mmt of soybean production. That's a big shift to corn from beans, and reflects the new president's decision to lift export taxes completely on corn while only gradually reducing them on soybeans.



CWT assists in capturing 8.4 million pounds of dairy product export sales contracts


National Milk Producers Federation’s Cooperatives Working Together members gained 37 contracts in January to sell 4.288 million pounds of cheese, 2.866 million pounds of butter and 1.866 million pounds of whole milk powder to customers in Asia, Central America, the Middle East, North Africa, Oceania and South America. The product will be shipped from January-July 2016.

These CWT-assisted transactions will move the equivalent of more than 113 million pounds of milk on a milkfat basis to customers in 11 countries on five continents.

Helping CWT member cooperatives gain and maintain world market share through the export assistance program expands the demand for U.S. dairy products and the farm milk that produces them. This positively impacts all U.S. dairy farmers by strengthening and maintaining the value of dairy products that directly impact their milk price.

The amount of dairy products and related milk volumes reflect current contracts for delivery, not completed export volumes. CWT will pay export assistance to the bidders only when export and delivery of the product is verified by the submission of the required documentation.

“In light of the ongoing weakness in world market prices, CWT is again proving to be a very important program to help move U.S. dairy products overseas, thereby improving the supply-demand balance in the domestic market,” NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern said.



USDA Dairy Products December 2015 Production Highlights


Total cheese output (excluding cottage cheese) was 1.02 billion pounds, 1.2 percent above December 2014 and 2.8 percent above November 2015.  Italian type cheese production totaled 453 million pounds, 3.1 percent above December 2014 and 3.4 percent above November 2015.  American type cheese production totaled 397 million pounds, 0.7 percent above December 2014 and 5.3 percent above November 2015.  Butter production was 177 million pounds, 4.3 percent above December 2014 and 17.0 percent above November 2015.

Dry milk powders (comparisons with December 2014)
Nonfat dry milk, human - 147 million pounds, down 10.2 percent.
Skim milk powders - 45.4 million pounds, up 5.1 percent.

Whey products (comparisons with December 2014)
Dry whey, total - 94.0 million pounds, up 25.1 percent.
Lactose, human and animal - 87.4 million pounds, down 5.2 percent.
Whey protein concentrate, total - 40.0 million pounds, down 14.8 percent.

Frozen products (comparisons with December 2014)
Ice cream, regular (hard) - 55.0 million gallons, up 5.4 percent.
Ice cream, lowfat (total) - 24.3 million gallons, down 10.9 percent.
Sherbet (hard) - 2.18 million gallons, down 16.2 percent.
Frozen yogurt (total) - 3.68 million gallons, down 0.8 percent.



USDA To Offer Certificates for Farm Commodities Pledged to Marketing Loans


The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced that producers who have crops pledged as collateral for a marketing assistance loan can now purchase a commodity certificate that may be exchanged for the outstanding loan collateral. The authority is provided by the 2016 Consolidated Appropriations Act, legislation enacted by Congress in December. Commodity certificates are available beginning with the 2015 crop in situations where the applicable marketing assistance loan rate exceeds the exchange rate. Currently, the only eligible commodity is cotton.

USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) routinely provides agricultural producers with marketing assistance loans that provide interim cash flow without having to sell the commodities when market prices are at harvest time lows. The loans allow the producer to store and delay the sale of the commodity until more favorable market conditions emerge, while also providing for a more orderly marketing of commodities throughout the marketing year.

These loans are considered “nonrecourse” because the loan can be redeemed by delivering the commodity pledged as collateral to the government as full payment for the loan upon maturity. Commodity certificates are available to loan holders having outstanding nonrecourse loans for wheat, upland cotton, rice, feed grains, pulse crops (dry peas, lentils, large and small chickpeas), peanuts, wool, soybeans and designated minor oilseeds. These certificates can be purchased at the posted county price (or adjusted world price or national posted price) for the quantity of commodity under loan, and must be immediately exchanged for the collateral, satisfying the loan.



USDA to Gather New Data on Organic Ag Production


The National Agricultural Statistics Service has begun conducting the 2015 Certified Organic Survey to gather up-to-date data on certified organic crops and livestock in the United States. This special survey effort is critical to help determine the economic impact of certified organic agriculture production in the United States.

NASS is mailing the survey to all known organic farms in the United States. The form asks farmers to provide information on acreage, production, and sales for a variety of certified organic crop and livestock commodities. In addition, NASS is gathering information about organic farmers’ production and marketing practices. The agency urges all participants to respond by Feb. 19. After this date, NASS will follow up by mail, phone and personal interviews with those who have not responded. Producers can return their forms by mail or complete the survey online at www.agcounts.usda.gov.

"In recent years, U.S. farms have experienced tremendous growth in organic agriculture sales. Last year, NASS reported that U.S. certified and exempt organic farms sold a total of $5.5 billion in organic products in 2014, up 72 percent since 2008," said Adam Cline, NASS Census section head and member of the USDA Organic Working Group. "As farm sales from organic agriculture products increase, demand for accurate statistics about organic farming grows as well. This survey will be another step forward by USDA in its commitment to helping organic agriculture thrive and will ensure that future decisions impacting the industry stem from factual information."

Agriculture statistics are frequently used by business and policy decision makers, and in this case farmers themselves stand to reap the most benefits. The 2015 Certified Organic Survey will provide data for USDA’s Risk Management Agency to evaluate crop insurance coverage to help provide adequate pricing for organic producers. The report, to be released September 2016, will also assist farmers, suppliers and others in the private sector in planning the production and marketing of new products to help sustain industry growth.

As is the case with all NASS surveys, information provided is confidential by law. NASS safeguards the privacy of all respondents, ensuring that no individual operation or producer can be identified, as required by federal law.