Thursday, January 23, 2014

Ag News Update - Early Jan 23

Saunders County Grain Marketing & Risk Mgt. Breakfast

You are invited to the ‘Big Red Grain Marketing & Risk Management Breakfast’ scheduled for Tuesday, February 4 at the ARDC/Extension Office. Compliments of the Saunders County Corn Growers Association and the Saunders County Soybean Growers Organization.  Breakfast will be served from 7:45 – 8:15 a.m. 

Featured speakers and topics from 8:15 – 10:00 a.m. are:
- Dr. Steve Johnson, Extension Farm & Business Management Specialist, Iowa State University, via Adobe Connect.  Steve’s topic will be “Just the Facts”. Steve will discuss the interaction of crop insurance premiums with February prices/volatility factors and the decision regarding the level of coverage and optional units vs. enterprise units. Steve will also tie in a weather outlook and new crop marketing strategies.
- Joel Wesley, Risk Management Consultant,  Futures One – Lincoln, NE.  Joel will provide a  look at the grain markets and the factors influencing today’s price situation as well as prospects for the future.
- Roy Smith, Cass County Farmer and Grain Marketing Analyst, will share his thoughts on markets and the factors influencing them.

For meal planning purposes, we ask you call ahead to reserve a seat by calling 800-529-8030 or dropping UNL Extension Educator Keith Glewen an e-mail.

2014 Beef Feedlot Roundtables at Three Locations in February

Beef feedlot managers, owners, employees and supporting industry personnel will learn the latest in feedlot health, nutrition, environment and economics at the 2014 Beef Feedlot Roundtables Feb. 11-13 in Bridgeport, Lexington and West Point, with remote connections to locations in Iowa.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension Roundtables will be offered Feb. 11 at the Prairie Winds Community Center in Bridgeport, Feb. 12 at the Holiday Inn Express in Lexington, and Feb. 13 at the Nielsen Community Center in West Point.

Registration is from 8-8:30 a.m. local time, with introduction and welcome at 8:30 a.m. by local extension personnel.

University and industry representatives will speak on feedlot economics, animal health, nutrition and management and other timely topics for feedlot operators. Topics and presenters include:
            – Changes in gain during feeding period (Jim MacDonald, UNL Animal Science)
            – Using fiber for cattle or ethanol (Galen Erickson, UNL Animal Science)
            – Large animal mortality composting (Amy Schmidt, UNL Biological Systems Engineering)
            – BRD bacterial pathogens and antimicrobial resistance (Dustin Loy, UNL Veterinary Diagnostic Center)
            – FDA eliminates antibiotic use for growth promotion and efficiency; what does this mean for producers? (Dee Griffin UNL, Great Plains Veterinary Education Center)
            – Cattle shifts and market outlook (Kate Brooks, UNL Ag Economics)
            – UNL feedlot research update (Matt Luebbe, UNL Panhandle Research and Extension Center)
            – Feedlot audits (Rob Eirich, UNL Panhandle Research and Extension Center)
            – Optional: Beef Quality Assurance training (following regular adjournment) (Rob Eirich, UNL Extension, Nebraska BQA Director)

The Nebraska Beef Council will give an update on new beef products and sponsor lunch.

Preregistration is available by phone, fax, e-mail or mail, and requested by Feb. 5. Cost is $30 for those who preregister, and will be accepted at the door. Cost for those who have not preregistered will be $40. For more information or a registration form contact Matt Luebbe at the UNL Panhandle Research and Extension Center, 4502 Ave. I, Scottsbluff, NE 69361, phone 308-632-1260, fax 308-632-1365 or e-mail

A downloadable and printable brochure with registration form also can be accessed at

The Beef Feedlot Roundtable is sponsored by UNL Extension, ISU Extension, and the Nebraska Beef Council.

No-Till, Cover Crops, and Grazing Workshop to be held in February

The No-Till, Cover Crops, and Planned Grazing Educational Workshop will be held Wednesday, February 12, 2014, from 9:00 a.m. - 3:30 p.m., at the Lifelong Learning Center located on the campus of Northeast Community College in Norfolk, NE.  This workshop will provide the opportunity for producers to hear and ask questions about various aspects of their farming and livestock operations.

The featured speaker will be Gabe Brown of Bismarck, North Dakota.  Brown has been practicing continuous no-till crop farming, cover crops, and livestock grazing on 5,000 acres near Bismarck since 1993.

Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) No-till Specialist, Dan Gillespie, said, “Gabe Brown will be a great addition to our agenda this year.  We are looking forward to the workshop and we hope that many of our area producers can attend and learn about some of our ideas for the future.”

Workshop topics will include:  Holistic Regeneration of our Lands;  No-till and Diversity of Crop Types;  Cover Crops – the Next Level in Continuous No-till;  Soil Biology;  Producing Human Nutrition; and Designing a Cover Crop Mix to Address your Resource Concerns.

The educational workshop is free to the public.  Please bring other interested producers with you.  Please RSVP for the meal by Friday, February 7th.  Lunch will be provided by the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resource District (LENRD).  To RSVP, or if you have any questions, please call your local NRCS office or call the LENRD at 402-371-7313.  This workshop is sponsored by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District.

Johanns Statement on OSHA’s Plans to Clarify Regulatory Practices on Small Farms

U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) today issued the following statement regarding the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) pledge to clarify its policies relating to regulating activities on small farms:

“I am pleased OSHA has indicated a willingness to revisit its policy of regulatory overreach on small farms, and I hope the agency is prepared to follow through,” Johanns said. “Stepping back in line with the law means that OSHA must honor Congress’s intent to protect family farms—including post-harvest activities.  And it means OSHA must reverse its pursuit of fines on farms that meet the law’s standards.

“This isn’t a matter of changing the law; it’s a matter of restating the same law that has been on the books for decades, and OSHA must honor the limitations set by Congress. Actions speak louder than words, so time will tell if OSHA is committed to following the law.”

Land Sales Remain Strong,  Auction Levels High, Lower Input Costs Keep Farms Profitable

Land sales finished strong in 2013, spurred by good farmer demand for additional land, according to Farmers National Company, the nation’s leading farm and ranch real estate company in the country.  Farmers National Company is reporting record real estate sales of $750 million for 2013, compared to $640 million in 2012.

Activity during the first half of 2013 slowed slightly because of a surge in sales at the end of 2012 prompted by tax law changes. However, sales levels turned upward to round out the year and finished strong, according to Randy Dickhut, AFM, vice president of real estate operations of Farmers National Company. He notes that trends indicate an active pace will continue through the first half of 2014 for most regions.

Within Farmers National Company’s 24-state service area, there has been continued widespread auction activity at year-end. Farmers National Company real estate agents worked 45 auctions during November alone. Out of 829 properties sold by Farmers National Company in 2013, over 40 percent sold at auction.

While land prices have stabilized compared to the double-digit price increases seen in recent years, levels are at historical highs. Prices per acre for high quality land range nationwide from $3,500 to as high as $12,000 to $13,000 per acre in areas of Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska. Values in the Upper Midwest are also very strong with sales reaching $10,000 per acre.

“Farms remained profitable in 2013 despite lower commodity prices, in part due to reductions in fertilizer expenses of nearly 30 percent,” said Dickhut. “This is prompting farm owners to continue buying premium land to expand their operations. Interest in average to medium quality land has waned, slowing activity for such property.”

Prices for pasture land have increased in places like Nebraska as Texas livestock producers transplanted herds due to recent drought. As regions in Texas continue to recover from the drought, land values there are forecast to rise 5 percent to 7 percent, according to Dickhut.

A price drop of 40 percent for sugar beets has impacted land values in the Northern Region (North Dakota/South Dakota/western Minnesota). Income reduction of nearly $350 per acre in some cases is taking some land buyers out of the market. Despite this pressure, values are fairly stable in this area, Dickhut said.

Farmers continue to be the primary land buyers. Dickhut reports that investor interest in land has been more guarded as many are not willing to pay high prices without a guaranteed strong return. Recent success in the stock market is generating interest in alternative investments, pushing outside investors to choices besides land.

“The market for farmland overall remains strong, particularly for quality land even though buyers are getting more cautious,” said Dickhut. “The impact of changes in commodity prices, expenses, and interest rates will all play into year-end results.”

Colorado, South Dakota, Nebraska and Wyoming

High quality land is still in strong demand for the wide region covering Colorado, South Dakota, Nebraska and Wyoming.

While values have not increased significantly, they are still at a steady high level says JD Maxson, area sales manager for Farmers National Company, North Platte, Neb.

While demand from both investors and farmer owner/operators is high, farmers are the ones paying top prices and targeting premium pieces of land. Auction numbers in this region continue to be strong, prompting sellers to net top sales prices, according to Maxson.

“Farmers are buying land while we are seeing a trend here of investors going elsewhere,” said Maxson. “Some investors are just reluctant to pay the higher prices they had in the past. Continued lower interest rates are still helping to keep sales activity high.  However, commodity prices and the stock market’s positive performance are impacting land activity.”

Maxson reports that prices overall are plateauing for high quality land, and average to medium ground is not peaking investor interest.

The recent drought in Texas has been a major factor in driving grazing land prices up in Nebraska/South Dakota, as ranchers were relocating herds to these regions. As herds are being moved back south, grassland prices will likely adjust.

Prices in these regions are ranging from $4,500 to $12,000 per acre for high quality tillable acres, with location, soils and topography dictating price.  The range varies from west to east as well as by water availability and type of irrigation. 

Farmland in Eastern Nebraska is quite varied ranging from top quality cropland, to mixed use properties to pasture farms.  Buyers are being more cautious when purchasing farmland as they look for good quality land at a good price, Average to below type farms are not being sought out by buyers and prices have slipped off the recent highs that have been occurred in the marketplace. Good quality farms have also seen a decline from the recent strong escalation in prices that has been happening over the past seven years.  Therefore, there is a wide range of land values from $4,500 per acre to $10,000 per acre depending on quality and if irrigated.

Soil Fertility and Nutrient Management Short Course Feb. 18-19

Making sound soil fertility management decisions is an important part of successful crop production, on both an economic and environmental level. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach will offer a two-day crop production short course Feb. 18-19 focusing on principles of soils, soil fertility and nutrient management. Highlights include sampling and testing; pH and liming; essential, secondary and micronutrients; nitrogen dynamics and manure management.

The Soil Fertility and Nutrient Management Short Course will be held in Room 250, Scheman Continuing Education Building, Iowa State University, Ames. Registration opens Feb. 18 at 8:30 a.m. with classwork beginning at 9 a.m. and ending at 4:30 p.m. on Feb 19. Registration is limited to 40 participants and pre-registration is required. The small class size allows for increased discussion and interaction with extension specialists.

The short course cost is $275 and includes the course reference notebook, lunches and breaks. Registration and fees must be received by midnight Feb. 11. Registrations can be completed online with a credit card or by mail with check payment. Online registration and forms are available at

Iowa Soybean Association survey: Exports, production research key to soybean farmers

Iowa soybean farmers are concerned about herbicide resistance, market volatility and building exports. They perceive domestic livestock production and consumer confidence in today’s farming methods as critical to their future success. And they’re heavily invested in on-farm management practices to improve soil and water quality and eager to learn how to successfully implement components of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

The insight was provided by nearly 440 soybean farmers surveyed by CampaignHQ of Brooklyn. The poll was conducted in November on behalf of the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA).

When asked what the biggest challenge will be to the soybean industry in the next two to three years, 16 percent of farmers said herbicide resistance followed by market volatility (15 percent).

Among nine topics queried, soybean farmers ranked weed, insect and disease research, growth of domestic livestock production, favorable consumer trust in farming and international market growth for soybeans as the top-four issues affecting the continued success of their farming operations.

Soybean farmers have embraced a variety of on-farm strategies to improve environmental performance and are interested in learning more about the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy, according to the survey.
-    Fifty-five percent cited minimum tillage (most popular response) followed by no-till (49 percent), grassed waterways (41 percent) and crop rotation (36 percent) when queried about conservation practices currently used on their farms.
-    Thirty-nine percent said they are familiar with the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy. Nearly one-third say they’re planning to participate in the strategy and 52 percent are considering involvement.
-    When asked what the ISA can do to best assist soybean farmers in participating in the strategy, 37 percent said additional information and analysis about practices to help them assess what may work best on their farms, 18 percent indicated more information about the strategy while 11 percent said to provide more opportunities to view on-farm demonstrations.

Other findings of note:
-    Seventy-eight percent of soybean farmers surveyed do not plan to change the number of acres they plant to soybeans in 2014; 12 percent said they plan to plant more acres to soybeans while 11 percent plan to plant fewer acres to soybeans.
-    Ninety-four percent say soybean exports are important to the price they receive for their soybeans.

Soybean farmers also value information and engagement provided by the ISA. Ninety-three percent of respondents say information they receive from the ISA is trustworthy while 88 percent perceive it to be valuable. In addition, 86 percent of those surveyed said they would recommend an ISA membership to other farmers.

Iowa Farm Bureau Heading to China for Market Study Tour

China, home to the world's fastest-growing middle class, holds the key to market demand of Iowa's corn, soybeans and pork. Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) is now accepting applications for its members to help Iowa farmers capture that market with knowledge they gain through the IFBF's annual Market Study Tour. The tour is exclusive to members who apply and are selected.

"By going to China, we can give Iowa farmers inside knowledge on the biggest internal issues that China faces with its agriculture systems; that way, our farmers will be poised to meet demands of one of the most lucrative and challenging markets in the world," says tour organizer David Miller.

Miller, IFBF director of research and commodity services, says it is China's growing middle class that is the number-one driver for demand of many Iowa ag products. "We know that in just one generation, China's middle class will be four times the size of our own, so that is an important market to capture," says Miller.

The 2014 IFBF China Market Study Tour group will meet with Chinese farmers, agri-business leaders, government officials and citizens of Beijing, and will also explore the provinces of Hebei and Jilin/Liaoning. IFBF members in attendance will also get the opportunity of a lifetime to visit the most spectacular cultural sites in China, including the Great Wall and Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

Participants for the IFBF China Market Study Tour will be selected based on leadership participation in Farm Bureau and other agriculture organizations; equally important is a participant's communication skills and their willingness to share the perspectives they learn. "This is a knowledge share trip and so a willingness to give back to fellow Iowans by giving presentations to their community or visiting with local media is a must," says Miller. Miller says the tour is designed to help participants understand the rapid changes in China's farming practices. "We'll get a look at the technologies they are using now and we'll see how our production and exports can complement what they are doing."

Applications must be submitted by Feb. 28. For more information on the IFBF China Market Study Tour, or to complete an application, visit the IFBF website at

GeneSeek Now Offers Rapid PEDV Test

Neogen Corporation announced the immediate availability of a new test to rapidly and accurately detect porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV). Early detection of the virus is critical to stop its spread from farm to farm, and between facilities within a pig farm or pig production site. Neogen's new PEDV test is offered through the veterinary diagnostics laboratory of its GeneSeek subsidiary, which is based in Lincoln, Neb. Each test is $25, and depending on testing volumes, GeneSeek anticipates most test results should be available on the next business day after sample receipt. Sample types accepted for testing include environmental sample pads or swabs, fecal swabs and oral ? uids.

"Porcine epidemic diarrhea virus can devastate a population of nursing pigs, with mortality approaching 100%, and can signi? cantly impact the performance of adult pigs," said GeneSeek's Dr. Stewart Bauck. "Especially now, it is important to determine the causative agent of a diarrheal disease, as the clinical signs of porcine epidemic diarrhea can mimic other similar but less pathogenic diseases, such as transmissible gastroenteritis.

"Livestock biosecurity experts we have worked with believe the most ef? cient testing protocol for PEDV is to perform environmental testing in farm facilities and on vehicles that move between farms, and within the different operations of a single farm," Dr. Bauck continued. "One very easy environmental sample collection method is the use of moist, unscented disposable mop pads, such as those sold under the Swiffer brand. All we need is that sample mop pad in a sealed plastic bag, and we can quickly determine if the sample contains PEDV."

The new test utilizes real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) methodology, and is one of many rapid animal health tests available through GeneSeek. Other tests for swine include those for porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV), swine influenza virus (SIV), Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae, and porcine circovirus type 2 (PCV2).

Neogen, Lansing, Mich., develops and markets products dedicated to food and animal safety. The company's Food Safety Division markets dehydrated culture media, and diagnostic test kits to detect foodborne bacteria, natural toxins, food allergens, drug residues, plant diseases and sanitation concerns. Neogen's Animal Safety Division is a leader in the development of animal genomics, along with the manufacturing and distribution of a variety of animal healthcare products, including diagnostics, pharmaceuticals, veterinary instruments, wound care and disinfectants.

Life Technologies Introduces First USDA-Licensed Real-Time PCR Test for the Detection of Tritrichomonas foetus DNA in Bulls

Life Technologies Corporation (NASDAQ: LIFE) today announced the availability of the only USDA-licensed, real-time PCR test to detect Tritrichomonas foetus (T. foetus) – a sexually transmitted disease in cattle that leads to early embryonic losses and infertility, resulting in significant economic impact to the cattle industry due to open (non-pregnant) and late-calving cows.

The VetMAX-Gold Trich Detection Kit provides veterinary diagnostic laboratories with a test that provides highly sensitive and specific results through real-time PCR amplification of T. foetus DNA. Accurate testing to identify positive bulls is the only way to prevent the spread of Trichomoniasis disease prior to cows being exposed to bulls. Infected bulls do not show any outward signs of infection.

“USDA licensing ensures increased confidence in accurate testing results that are critical for the cattle industry to effectively manage bovine Trichomoniasis,” said Kirk Adams, Animal Health Global Product Management Leader, Life Technologies. “Validating the sensitivity and specificity of this diagnostic test through the USDA approval process shows Life’s commitment to offer quality products and invest in the research needed to secure this license.”

The approval of the VetMAX-Gold Trich Detection Kit is based on the successful completion of the USDA’s stringent review process to ensure effectiveness of the real-time PCR test, manufactured in our USDA licensed and inspected production facility. Veterinary diagnosticians have historically relied on Life Technologies’ molecular reagents and instrumentation to detect and control animal diseases. However, the USDA-licensed product now provides them with a federally approved diagnostic test for Trichomoniasis containing all the necessary reagents and controls in a single detection kit.

An alternative to the culture testing method, real-time PCR diagnostic methodology results in a more convenient and accurate test from one sample run in comparison to three culture tests spanning a three-week period. Additionally, because of the sensitivity of real-time PCR, samples can be pooled for greater test cost efficiencies. The VetMAX-Gold Trich Detection Kit is licensed with a USDA label claim for pooling up to five samples.

“Life Technologies is committed to the animal health industry by providing next generation molecular tools that help veterinary laboratory diagnosticians more accurately test for diseases of economic impact,” said Adams. “Real-time PCR has the potential to become a new standard for T. foetus testing and will help multiple states find common ground for the harmonization of using the best diagnostic technology solution to manage Trichomoniasis within and between states.”

Hay Prices Moderate Farm Record Highs

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

U.S. hay prices were at record high levels last spring, and have been declining since. The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) reports average monthly hay prices by state on a crop year (May-Apr) basis. Prices are reported for alfalfa hay, other hay, and the combined all hay categories.

Hay prices in the U.S. generally increased throughout the last crop year, and other hay prices ended the year in April at a record high $157 per ton. Prices have declined this crop year to $130/T recorded in December. Keep in mind that the reported prices are averages and the range can be wide given varying quality and geographic supply and demand conditions. For example, the highest other hay price in December was $230/T in Colorado. Contrast that to the lowest average price of $68/T in North Dakota.

Hay supplies declined in the U.S. for the last several years. Both the competition for land due to historically high crop prices, and the 2011 drought in the Southern Plains and more widespread drought in the U.S. in 2012 were major causes of the decline. However, better moisture conditions for 2013 in much of the U.S. caused much needed improvement in hay supplies.

In the annual Crop Production Summary report released on Jan. 10, 2014; NASS reported state and total U.S. hay area harvested, yield per acre, and production for alfalfa, other hay, and all hay categories on a calendar year basis. All hay harvested in the U.S. at 58.3 million acres in 2013 was a 3.5% increase over the 56.3 million harvested in 2012. The average U.S. yield per acre for all hay in 2013 was 2.33 tons. That compares to the drought reduced 2.13 T/A in 2012, which was the lowest since the 1.94 T recorded in the 1988 severe drought year.

All U.S. hay production in 2013 at almost 136 million tons was a 13.4% increase over the record low 119.9 million produced in 2012. For comparison with other drought years, 120.1 million tons were produced in 1976 and 125.7 million was recorded in 1988.

NASS also reports May 1 and December 1 hay stocks on U.S. farms in its monthly Crop Production report. Dec. 1, 2013, hay stocks at 89.3 million tons were 16.7% above the historically low Dec. 1, 2012, stocks of 76.5 million.

The May 1, 2013, stocks were also historically low so that is why record prices occurred. Even though Dec. 1 stocks improved, they were still about 9% below the previous 10 year average.

Currently the Western U.S. is experiencing very dry conditions, with much of California in severe to extreme drought. Lack of forage is forcing supplemental feeding of beef cows that would normally be grazing. Lack of irrigation water in California will hamper hay and silage production, and it is expected that dairies will need to import hay from other states. Much of the Great Plains has had a very cold winter with higher beef cow maintenance requirements.

So hay supplies will likely remain historically tight and prices will be impacted as the potential for 2014 hay crop production starts to materialize.  

USDA Cold Storage Highlights

Total red meat supplies in freezers were up slightly from the previous month but down 2 percent from last year. Total pounds of beef in freezers were down 3 percent from the previous month and down 6 percent from last year. Frozen pork supplies were up 2 percent from the previous month and up 1 percent from last year. Stocks of pork bellies were up 67 percent from last month and up 124 percent from last year.

Total frozen poultry supplies on December 31, 2013 were down 3 percent from the previous month and down 6 percent from a year ago. Total stocks of chicken were down 7 percent from the previous month and down slightly from last year. Total pounds of turkey in freezers were up 8 percent from last month but down 20 percent from December 31, 2012.

Total natural cheese stocks in refrigerated warehouses on December 31, 2013 were up 1 percent from the previous month but down 1 percent from December 31, 2012.  Butter stocks were down 8 percent from last month and down 27 percent from a year ago.

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

New NRCS report: Cropland erosion stable, specialty crop acres boom

A new report on the status and conditions of America’s agricultural lands shows cropland erosion rates remained stable between 2007 and 2010, despite a growth in agricultural land use and more extreme weather events.

“We expected to see an increase in the erosion, but our numbers told a different story,” said Dr. Patrick Flanagan, national statistician for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

NRCS’ latest National Resources Inventory summary report features data on how U.S. non-federal rural lands are being used. Data come from 800,000 sample locations across the country.

NRI data also show that between 2007 and 2010:
- Fruit, nut and flower production acreage surged from 124,800 to almost 274,000.
- Cropland acres increased by 2 million acres, this following a steady decline over the previous 25 years.
- Pastureland increased by 847,000 acres.
- Developed land increased by 2 percent from 111.1 million to 113.3 million acres.
- Palustrine wetlands slightly increased. These include swamps or marshes, and estuarine wetlands.
- Acres enrolled in NRCS programs grew from about 17 million acres in 2007 to about 40 million in 2010.

“The NRI summary report is the only report of its kind and is one of our most comprehensive tools to understanding what’s actually happening on the country’s landscape,” said NRCS Chief Jason Weller.

Court Denies Calif. LCFS Rehearing

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' denied a petition on Wednesday, Jan. 22, seeking the rehearing en banc in the litigation regarding California's Low Carbon Fuel Standard.

Petitions were filed in early October by ethanol trade associations including the Renewable Fuels Association and Growth Energy, asking the court for a rehearing with regard to a September ruling that determined the LCFS does not violate the U.S. interstate commerce laws.

The September ruling overturned a December 2011 ruling that the LCFS was in violation of interstate commerce, and discriminated against fuels produced out of the state, such as corn-based ethanol.

In a joint statement issued Wednesday by the RFA and Growth Energy, the decision was blasted as "clearly discriminatory."

"Today's decision by the Court of Appeals to allow a clearly discriminatory LCFS to stand is a blow to California consumers," the statement read.

"We will continue to evaluate all our options moving forward to assure that sound science and fair play ultimately prevail in this case."

The ethanol groups, however, were "heartened" that a judge strongly dissented from the court's decision believing it merited further review.

The dissenter said "the majority opinion in this case upholds a regulatory scheme that, on its face, promotes California industry at the expense of out-of-state interests."

CWT Assists with 4.5 Million Pounds of Cheese and Butter Export Sales

Cooperatives Working Together (CWT) has accepted 13 requests for export assistance from Land O’Lakes, Maryland Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association, Michigan Milk Producers Association and Northwest Dairy Association (Darigold) to sell 2.028 million pounds (920 metric tons) of Cheddar, Gouda and Monterey Jack cheese and 2.457 million pounds (1,114 metric tons) of butter to customers in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. The product will be delivered in January through June 2014.

Year-to-date, CWT has assisted member cooperatives in selling 2.736 million pounds of cheese and 2.989 million pounds of butter to seven countries on three continents. These sales are the equivalent of 97.6 million pounds of milk on a milkfat basis.

Assisting CWT members through the Export Assistance program positively impacts producer milk prices in the short-term by helping to maintain inventories of cheese and butter at desirable levels. In the long-term, CWT’s Export Assistance program helps member cooperatives gain and maintain market share, thus expanding the demand for U.S. dairy products and the farm milk that produces them.

CWT will pay export assistance to the bidders only when delivery of the product is verified by the submission of the required documentation.

Future of experiential learning in school-based agricultural education focus of 2014 National Agriculture Education Summit in Indianapolis

Hundreds of agricultural education thought leaders, higher-education executives and business professionals will converge on Indianapolis next week for a three-day summit focusing on the future of experiential learning in school-based agricultural education.

A joint project of the National Council for Agricultural Education and the National FFA Organization, the 2014 National Agriculture Education Summit is Jan. 28-30. The theme of this year’s event, held at the Sheraton Indianapolis Hotel at Keystone Crossing located at 8787 Keystone Crossing, will focus on renewal of experiential learning and supervised agricultural experiences within agricultural education.

“As the nation begins to deal with the skills gap that exists between current educational components and what will be needed for the future workforce, the general education community is looking to experiential learning as a key solution,” said National Council for Agricultural Education Managing Director Mike Honeycutt. “Changes in our industry and demographics are challenging teachers to find ways to meaningfully engage all students through experiential learning. The summit brings together a variety of national leaders in agricultural education to study, debate and seek solutions to the barriers we face.”

Featured speakers for this year’s summit include:
•    Dr. James Stone, director of the National Research Center for Career and Technical Education
•    Scott Stump, dean of career and technical education at Colorado Community College System
•    Matt Lohr, commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
•    Marc Howze, vice president of global human resources at John Deere

During the three-day summit, updates will be provided from national agricultural education organizations, including the American Association for Agricultural Education, on plans to support local implementation of supervised agriculture experiences for all students. Highlights of how educators have creatively engaged students in experiential learning regardless of backgrounds will be shared and discussions will focus on resources available and resources needed to help educators overcome barriers to engage more students.

The summit also provides National FFA Organization leaders the opportunity to get together with national agricultural education groups and discuss future programming and activities. It also provides the opportunity for FFA leaders to provide updates on state and national FFA officer training programs; the National FFA Convention and Expo, which is the single-largest annual student gathering in the nation and last year drew nearly 63,000 students; national award and leadership programs; teacher training; and best practices to gain increased adoption of the Agricultural Career Network, a national online portal for students to use to develop their educational and career timelines, document awards and achievements, apply for scholarships and pursue careers in the agriculture industry.

The 2014 National Agriculture Education Summit will be streamed online at

Pioneer Expands Plenish® High Oleic Soybean Lineup For 2014

Soybean growers interested in contracting high yielding soybean varieties with additional premiums have four new options to consider. DuPont Pioneer has expanded its high oleic soybean line by introducing four new Pioneer® brand soybeans with the Plenish® high oleic trait  for the 2014 planting season.

The new Plenish high oleic products for 2014 are part of maturity Group III for planting in the lower central Corn Belt.  In 2013 Indiana and Ohio research trials, all four new products offered yield and agronomic performance equal to other elite Pioneer® brand soybean products.

The new soybean varieties have solid genetics and defensive trait packages to help ward off key yield-robbing diseases and pests such as Soybean Cyst Nematode (SCN), Sudden Death Syndrome (SDS) and Phytophthora Root Rot (PRR).

    Pioneer® variety P31T96PR SCN, PRR 1C gene, SDS tolerance
    P33T34PR -- SCN, SDS tolerance, PRR field tolerance
    P34T90PR -- SCN, PRR 1K gene, PRR field tolerance, SDS tolerance
    P35T66PR --  SCN, PRR 1K gene, SDS tolerance

“Plenish high oleic soybeans offer growers the yield, pest resistance and strong agronomic package they expect,” says Steve Schnebly, DuPont Pioneer senior research manager for soybeans. “Growers can also count on receiving both high yields and a processor-paid premium for managing these identity-preserved products.”

Mark Hempfling is a third-generation crop and livestock farmer who plans to grow Plenish soybeans with his father and brother in Ottawa, Ohio, for the third season in 2014. Hempfling chooses to grow high oleic soybeans to meet customer demand.

“If the public wants oil with 0 grams trans fat, soybean growers had better respond to this need or manufacturers will use cooking oils from other sources,” Hempfling says. He also appreciates gaining a premium while getting the same yield and agronomic performance as soybean varieties without the high oleic trait. “We’ve found no yield difference compared to similar conventional soybean varieties, and we have no additional costs except dedicating a bin to on-farm storage,” Hempfling reports.

Pioneer is working with the major soybean processors, including ADM, Bunge, Cargill and Perdue AgriBusiness Inc. to produce Plenish oil. All Plenish soybeans are currently grown under contract with local soybean processors. The Plenish high oleic trait is approved in the U.S. and 94 percent of the U.S. export markets, the only major exception being the EU.

High oleic soybean varieties are helping soybean growers recapture a vegetable oil market that needs a highly stable oil, and also is moving away from trans fats. FDA requirements are reducing trans fats in the nation’s food supply, thereby diminishing the demand for traditional soybean oil.

Plenish high oleic soybean oil has an oleic content (Omega-9 monounsaturated fatty acid) of approximately 75%, the highest of any soybean under commercial development.  As a result, Plenish soybean oil has high heat stability, which is an advantage in frying and in the manufacture of baked goods. Its use also extends the shelf life of manufactured baked goods. This revolutionary new high oleic soybean oil also has excellent heat and oxidative stability in high-temperature industrial applications, such as oils and chemicals.

MO Soybean Assn. leadership shakeup ousts exec. director

(AP) — Two longtime leaders of the Missouri Soybean Association are out of their jobs as part of an organizational shakeup following an audit of how the prominent agricultural group managed millions of dollars of merchandising fees paid by farmers.

Board members of the soybean organization declined to release the audit and, in interviews with The Associated Press, provided no specific reason for the staffing changes.

But the ousted executives blamed their departure on an internal political squabble involving state and national leaders in the soybean industry.

Gone are Dale Ludwig, who served as executive director of the soybean association for more than 20 years, and the organization’s field services manager, J.P. Dunn. Both resigned under pressure Dec. 19.

Their departures are notable because soybeans are a multi-billion-dollar business in Missouri, which ranked seventh nationally last year in soybean production.

Missouri’s soybean organization has been a national leader in developing soy-based fuel used in diesel vehicles. It’s also a significant political player, making endorsements of state officials and contributions through a political action committee.

Ludwig said he was placed on paid administrative leave for about a month before his departure as an audit was underway at the behest of the United Soybean Board.

The national board, created by a 1990 U.S. law, oversees about $180 million annually of “check-off” fees paid on all U.S. soybean sales to help promote the industry.

Half of that money goes to the national group and half stays with state organizations.

Ludwig blamed his departure on pressure from national soybean leaders.

“This whole thing has some politics involved,” he said.

Dunn, who also cited “internal politics,” said he was asked to resign by the state soybean board.

“I did ask for an explanation and wasn’t given one,” Dunn said, adding that there was “no wrongdoing, no scandal or anything like that.”

Both Dunn and Ludwig said they never were shown the audit. But Ludwig said concerns were raised during the auditing process about how the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council used its share of the farmers’ check-off fees. Among other things, he said there was criticism for providing research money to private companies and for buying university laboratory equipment. The United Soybean Board’s compliance manual states that it “strongly discourages the funding of equipment.”

Ludwig said he also was accused of having a conflict of interest for investing in biodiesel facilities, which convert soybeans into fuel, while some of Missouri’s merchandising funds were used to promote biodiesel. Dunn also is an investor in biodiesel businesses.

The Missouri Soybean Association focuses on industry advocacy while the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council distributes the farmers’ check-off fees for industry research and marketing initiatives. Ludwig and Dunn worked for both entities.

The soybean association played an instrumental role in getting farmers to help start the Mid-America Biofuels plant in Mexico, Mo., and the Paseo biodiesel facility in Kansas City. Ludwig and Dunn both said they considered it their professional responsibility to personally invest in the facilities, which opened in 2006 and 2008.

“When I was out basically encouraging farmers to invest in this venture, it was from a standpoint of was I willing to walk the walk?” Dunn said.

Ludwig said no one suggested he had a conflict until this year’s audit was underway.

“Most everyone believed that if I was promoting it, that I should be involved in it,” Ludwig said. “Then a decade later, there were some people that said maybe that was a conflict of interest.”

Will Spargo, a southeast Missouri farmer who is chairman of the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council, said he couldn’t recall whether the audit identified any potential conflicts of interest. He said auditors found no money missing.

“There were just recommendations on how we handled procedures within the office when it comes to making sure we were recoding stuff in the proper places, and things we needed to do on a staff level to keep the flow of everything going smoother,” Spargo said.

Spargo and Doug Thomas, who is president of the Association, declined to comment on the connection between the audit and the staffing changes.

John Becherer, the CEO of the United Soybean Board, said the audits are confidential and declined to discuss the one for Missouri.

“The findings go back to the state, and the state takes the appropriate action that they feel is necessary,”Becherer said.

Since his resignation, Ludwig has registered as a lobbyist for Mid-America Biofuels, Paseo Biofuels and Missouri Farmers Care, a group backing a November ballot issue that would create a state constitutional right to farm.

Some state soybean board members praised Ludwig’s tenure at the association.

“There’s not a guy that is more dedicated to the soybean industry than Mr. Ludwig,” said Kelly Forck, a Jefferson City soybean farmer who is a board member and its former president.

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