Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Tuesday January 21 Ag News

Nebraska Dairy Convention Slated for March 11

Dairy farmers attending the 2014 Nebraska Dairy Convention will be able to learn more about their consumers, their industry and their own farms. The convention will take place on Tuesday, March 11, at Divots Conference Center in Norfolk, sponsored by the Nebraska State Dairy Association. It includes a trade show, the Nebraska Dairy Princess coronation, the annual meetings of both the Nebraska State Dairy Association and the Nebraska Holstein Association, and various educational sessions.

Sessions during the event include a presentation about the decisions that influence people’s purchases of milk and yogurt, from John King, US/Canada Food Team, Elanco Animal Health.  Sessions on managing the dairy during a crisis, on dairy beef quality assurance and on dairy opportunities for Nebraska’s future are also on the schedule. Dairy producers can also participate in a town hall-style meeting to discuss their dairy promotion checkoff program.

Ronnie D. Green, the vice president of agriculture and natural resources at the University of Nebraska, is the banquet speaker. The evening’s events also include the dairy princess coronation. A reception begins at 5:30 p.m. with the banquet following at 6:30 p.m.

The convention trade show runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Nebraska Holstein Association meets at 11 a.m. and the Nebraska State Dairy Association Annual Meeting takes place at 12:15 p.m.

The 2012 Nebraska Dairy Convention is free to all Nebraska dairy producers, families and guests.  Special room rates are available at the Norfolk Lodge and Suites by calling 1-800-230-4134.  Questions about the convention can be directed to Rod Johnson, Nebraska State Dairy Association, at 402-261-5482 or rod@nebraskamilk.org.  Attendee and sponsorship registration forms are available at nebraskamilk.org. The pre-register is encouraged by March 2. 

2014 Nebraska Farm Bureau and Ag in the Classroom Teachers of the Year Selected

Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture’s Ag Promotion Committee and the Nebraska Agriculture in the Classroom Program have selected two teachers as their 2014 Teachers of the Year.

Kathy Bohac and Patti Romsheck, both teachers at East Butler Public School in Brainard, Neb., were honored. Bohac teaches fifth grade and Romsheck teaches fifth and sixth grades.

“These teachers demonstrate how agriculture can be used to meet state educational standards. Each of these teachers provide their students with real hands-on learning experiences in such a manner that it relates to their students’ everyday lives,” Deanna Karmazin, executive director of the Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture, said Jan. 11.

“Ag-citement” in the Classroom”

Bohac and Romsheck were able to bring “ag-citement” to their classrooms through a variety of activities, lessons and experiments. Students were able to dive into agriculture from soil to plate with six units spanning two weeks covering soil, soybeans, corn, pork, beef and nutrition.

Their project began with a lesson in farm safety and general pre-test over content from each of the units. Students were able to utilize their math skills with hands-on activities such as “Soybean Silos” and “M&M’s Corn Futures.” Each of the units also included guest speakers, weekly field trips and science experiments. The units concluded with a related agricultural game that helped keep the “ag-citement” in the classroom.

One field trip in particular increased students’ awareness of the use of by-products from agricultural commodities.

“Some students cringed at the butcher shop as they saw the hearts and tongues of the pork, only to realize that nothing went to waste,” said Bohac.

At the end of the 12-week lesson, students created presentations and brochures pertaining to one of the units to highlight what they learned.

“We have realized a student interest and enthusiasm that far exceeded our expectations,” said Bohac.

Both teachers will be presented with an award recognizing their achievement and will receive an all-expense-paid trip to the 2014 National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference set for June 23-27, in Hershey, Penn.

Remember to Register for NCGA CUTC 2014 Today!

Register for the National Corn Growers Association's 2014 Corn Utilization and Technology Conference today to take advantage of exclusive savings.  The biennial event, which will be held June 2-4 in Louisville, Ky., will feature the cutting-edge technologies and new uses that continually improve and dynamically change the corn industry.

"While June may seem a ways away, registering now for CUTC provides an opportunity to save with valuable early registration discounts available until March 30," said NCGA Research and Business Development Action Team Chair Tom Mueller. "The 2014 conference remains a must-attend event on calendars of many throughout the industry, fostering innovative ideas and the important networking connections necessary to move the industry forward."

Sessions will address genetics, biotechnology and grain quality. Additional offerings will explore new technologies and products from wet and dry processing, enzyme technology and products from biorefineries. Participants may also select to attend presentations on new starch uses, resistant starch and nutrition, biopolymers and higher valued products such as nutraceuticals.

The Gary Lamie Graduate Student Poster Competition will again showcase the latest student research and provide networking opportunities for students looking to enter these fields after graduation.

Increasingly recognized as an important industry networking event, CUTC offers attendees the chance to meet hundreds of valuable business contacts, identify potential new customers and learn how new technologies will enhance the value of corn.

CUTC 2014 will be held at the Marriott Louisville Downtown Hotel. Visit www.corntechconf.org for updates as additional information becomes available.


The U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance will focus on health and nutrition during the Food Dialogues: Washington, D.C. at the USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum on February 21, from 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. EST at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Va.

Carolyn O'Neil, MS, RD, the author of “Slim Down South Cookbook” and a nutrition advisor to BestFoodFacts.org, will moderate the panel “Nutrition: Who is Shaping America’s Eating Habits?”  Terms like organic, conventional, natural and locally grown are used to describe an increasing number of food products, whether in the grocery store aisles or restaurant menus. But do consumers have a solid grasp on what these words really mean and what role do they play when making healthy food choices?

“The Agricultural Outlook Forum brings the agriculture community together to address key issues and topics and USFRA is thrilled to be a part of the USDA’s annual event,” said Bob Stallman, chairman of USFRA and president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. “Health and nutrition are paramount to what we do as food producers, so this is an extremely important discussion and the Outlook Forum is a great venue for it.”

The Food Dialogues: Washington, D.C. will be the sixth in a series of national town hall-style forums that USFRA has hosted over the past two years. This signature series provides the organization with the vehicle to further the conversation on some of today’s most important issues concerning food.

The panel will steam live online and is the first session at the Agricultural Outlook Forum to do so. To sign up to attend the event either in-person or watch the livestream, visit Food Dialogues: Washington, D.C.

For more information about USFRA or its signature Food Dialogues event series, visit www.FoodDialogues.com.

Retail Fertilizer Prices Mixed

Average retail fertilizer prices are mixed the second week of January 2014 with five fertilizers lower and three fertilizers higher compared to last month, according to fertilizer retailers surveyed by DTN. Retailers have reported in recent weeks there are some signs prices could begin to climb higher after many months of moving lower.

Leading the way to the low side is MAP. The phosphate fertilizer was 5% lower compared to the second week of December and had an average price of $520 per ton.  Also lower were DAP, potash, 10-34-0 and anhydrous, although none were down significantly. DAP had an average price of $493 per ton, potash $472/ton, 10-34-0 $504/ton and anhydrous $615/ton.

The one fertilizer to see a price increase of any consequence was urea. The nitrogen fertilizer, reported to be increasing in price in recent weeks by retailers, was 5% higher compared to a month earlier and had an average price of $465 per ton.  The remaining two fertilizers were higher in price compared to last month, but the rise was fairly small. UAN28's average price was $321/ton and UAN32 was at $367/ton.

On a price per pound of nitrogen basis, the average urea price was at $0.51/lb.N, anhydrous $0.38/lb.N, UAN28 $0.57/lb.N and UAN32 $0.57/lb.N.

All eight of the major fertilizers are now double digits lower in price compared to January 2013.  UAN32 is now down 13%, UAN28 is 14% less expensive and 10-34-0 is 17% lower. Urea is 19% lower, potash is now 23% less expensive while both DAP and MAP are both 23% lower and anhydrous is 30% less expensive compared to last year.  Anhydrous is the first fertilizer to reach the 30% lower level during this most recent downturn in the market.

Less Commodities Shipped Via Mississippi Last Year

The number of tons of commodities on barges going through locks and dams in the Mississippi River in this region last year was the second lowest since 1975. The U.S. Corps of Engineers reports that total tonnage through the 13 locks and dams from St. Paul to Guttenberg, Iowa, was 81,149,559 tons, down from 93,627,222 tons in 2012. If a barge was pushed through all the locks, its total would be included 13 times.

The peak in the period from 1975 through last year was 184,887,000 in 1983; the lowest was 73,722,588 in 2008. The most recent 10-year average is 95,584,090 tons.

The highest tonnage through an individual lock was at Guttenberg, with 10,959,776 tons. In all, about 13 million actual tons moved through the locks in the region, with about 7 million of that grains.

Part of the drop can be attributed to more Midwest corn being used locally to make ethanol. But the overall reason is more complex and includes cost of hauling freight on oceans, said Gary Genz, president of the Upper Mississippi Waterway Association, which includes waterway operators, shippers and other waterway interests.

USDA: December Egg Production Up 2 Percent

United States egg production totaled 8.25 billion during December 2013, up 2 percent from last year. Production included 7.19 billion table eggs, and 1.06 billion hatching eggs, of which 986 million were broiler-type and 75 million were egg-type. The total number of layers during December 2013 averaged 351 million, up 2 percent from last year. December egg production per 100 layers was 2,353 eggs, up slightly from December 2012.
All layers in the United States on January 1, 2014 totaled 350 million, up 2 percent from last year. The 350 million layers consisted of 295 million layers producing table or market type eggs, 52.3 million layers producing broiler-type hatching eggs, and 3.02 million layers producing egg-type hatching eggs. Rate of lay per day on January 1, 2014, averaged 75.6 eggs per 100 layers, up 1 percent from January 1, 2013.


Egg  production  in  Iowa  for  December  2013  was  1.26  billion  eggs,  up 4 percent from last month, but virtually unchanged from last year, according to the  latest  Chickens  and  Eggs  release  from  USDA’s  National  Agricultural Statistics Service. 

The  total  number  of  layers  on  hand  during  December  was  53.9  million,  up 1 percent from last month, and up 3 percent from the 52.5 million in December, 2012. Eggs per 100 layers for the month of December were 2,343, up 3 percent from last month, but down 2 percent from 2,402 last year.

American Farmland Trust Survey Shows State Funding For Agricultural Land Protection Remains 39% Below 2008 Levels Despite An Increase Of 19% From 2011 To 2012

The annual American Farmland Trust survey of state farm and ranch land protection programs shows a 19 percent increase in funding from 2011 to 2012, but funding levels are still 39 percent below where they were in 2008, according to Andrew McElwaine, President and CEO of AFT.

"State budget cuts have hit agricultural land protection programs hard in the last five years, but our latest survey shows a very significant 19 percent increase in funding from 2011 to 2012," said McElwaine.  "This increase shows that a number of states have put a priority on protecting farmland, while state spending on environmental protection programs generally continues in a downward trend.

"But, if states had continued the same level of funding they had in 2008, we would have saved an additional 358,000 acres of agricultural land and purchased 2,000 additional farmland conservation easements," said McElwaine. "That's the gap AFT is working hard to narrow with our state partners."

Last year, American Farmland Trust worked with state partners in New York to increase farmland protection funding by $1 million and in Washington State to increase funding from $700,000 to $5.3 million.

The AFT survey released today shows states protected an additional 89,465 acres of agricultural land in 2012, acquiring 480 easements, and spent nearly $206 million. Overall since 1979, state farm and ranch land programs have protected 2,373,470 acres of agricultural land by acquiring 13,450 easements and spending a total of over $3.6 billion.

Colorado, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey and Vermont lead the 27 states with active farmland protection programs in the number of acres protected.

In terms of the percentage of farmland protected, New Jersey leads other states with 27 percent, Delaware with 21 percent, Maryland with 18 percent, Massachusetts with 13 percent and Vermont with 11 percent.

New Jersey also leads other states in the most money spent for farmland protection-- $975.1 million, followed by Pennsylvania with $853 million, Maryland with $672.3 million, Massachusetts with $214.2 million and Colorado with $170.5 million.

"While there is some optimism in our survey, the United States has been losing one acre of farmland every minute to development," said McElwaine.  "In the face of a global need to double food production by 2050, that is unacceptable.  We believe state, local and national governments  must step up to the plate and do more to protect land and keep farmers farming."

In particular, McElwaine cited increased funding for the federal Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program contained in the recently-passed budget that provides matching funds for farmland protection.

AFT's Farmland Information Center conducts an annual survey of state and local  programs throughout the country and makes results available through its Farmland Information Center.  This year's survey is available by going to: http://www.farmlandinfo.org/pace-status-state-programs-2013.

New SpeedTube™ increases planting speed, decreases equipment costs.

A new seed delivery system now in development by Precision Planting promises to allow growers to plant corn and soybeans much faster than is possible with seed tubes.

Jason Stoller, Precision Planting Engineering Product Manager for the new SpeedTube™, says, “Available time for optimum spring planting is both limited and critical, and larger planters are not the answer to growing farm sizes. But planting speed is limited by the constraints of the seed tube, because high speeds lead to poor spacing.”

Stoller explains that SpeedTube solves these problems by controlling the seed all the way from the meter to the furrow. Feeder wheels at the top grab the seed from the disk and pull it into a flighted belt that deposits it in bottom of the trench. The SpeedTube belt spins at a rate that increases and decreases with planter speed and seeding rates, ensuring that the seed placement is optimal.

The SpeedTube concept development continues at a brisk pace, says Stoller, and more details will follow after the spring planting season.

Technology Preview – Precision Planting releases Multi-hybrid metering system

Initial research has shown solid yield improvement when the right hybrid is placed in the right yield environment.  In any field, there are multiple yield environments that are determined by soil type, slope, drainage plus dozens of other attributes.  In order to place the right hybrid in the right area of the field, each row of the planter will need to be able to frequently switch between hybrids as it moves from zone to zone.

Precision Planting is developing a retrofitable multi-hybrid metering system that uses the innovated vSet® meter technology and the new vDrive™ electric meter control system. Meters are positioned to fit within the existing row unit frame and deliver seed to a single, standard seed tube.  The electric drive system allows for instantaneous switching from one hybrid to the other – including the ability to plant each hybrid (and even each row) at different populations.  The system utilizes the standard dual bulk seed supply tanks available on most planters.

After successful concept testing, the new technology will be tested over more acres and more environmental conditions in the throughout 2014.  No schedule for commercial release has been determined.

The Climate Corporation Begins Unified Offering For Growers

The Climate Corporation announced today, during the Precision Planting® Winter Conference in Tremont, Ill., the first step towards integrating its leading decision support tools, Climate Basic™ and Climate Pro™, with Precision Planting’s leading hardware and software products to better help farmers optimize production. In addition to a unified account and data service, promotional offers of Climate and Precision Planting products and services will enable growers to drive more yield from their field through better monitoring, insights and control of production decisions. The promotional offers will be available starting February 3, through Precision Planting dealers and Climate Pro partners.

“We aim to enable greater agricultural productivity through the combination of industry-leading hardware, software and services, and are taking a unique approach with pricing to ensure more farmers have access to these revolutionary capabilities,” said David Friedberg, CEO of The Climate Corporation. “This is just the first step in our effort to simplify how farmers can make technology from soil to cab work for them in a way that delivers tremendous value with real-time, actionable insights and execution capabilities delivered via a single service offering, accessible anywhere and on any device.”

Farmers now have a unified offering to help increase their profits and make more informed production decisions. They will be able to:
-    Make minute-by-minute and daily decisions based on real-time, accurate weather, soil, crop and equipment performance that’s at their fingertips
-    Respond quickly and correctly to changing weather and field conditions
-    Anticipate yield-reducing agronomic issues
-    Seamlessly integrate data and access it across multiple devices, equipment and operation
-    Automatically integrate equipment, soil, weather, crop, agronomic practices, field boundaries, as-planted dates, as-harvested dates as well as report summaries for FSA or crop insurance reporting

This new offering from The Climate Corporation will make it easier for farmers to start combining Precision Planting hardware and software along with Climate Basic and Climate Pro by reducing the upfront cost of cab equipment by as much as 90 percent. Farmers will have a limited time option to purchase a subscription that starts at just $499/year.

To deliver on the vision of offering farmers a well-integrated precision ag platform, Monsanto Company’s (NYSE: MON) Integrated Farming Systems and Precision Planting groups have recently transitioned to The Climate Corporation, led by Friedberg, who reports directly to Brett Begemann, Monsanto’s President and Chief Operating Officer. This transition enables Climate to provide a unified service to help farmers increase their profits regardless of which brand of equipment, seed or other inputs they rely on.

Details on the offers can be gained through Precision Planting dealers who sell 20/20 SeedSense® and Climate ProTM certified partners, or by visiting www.precisionplanting.com/precisionacre.   

General Mills Has a Soggy Idea for Cheerios

Henry I. Miller and Gregory Conko

This month General Mills announced that it would begin labeling its flagship product, the breakfast cereal Cheerios, as containing no ingredients from GMOs (genetically modified organisms), by which the company means crop plants bred with modern bioengineering techniques.

The Jan. 2 announcement came three months after activist group Green America launched a "No GMOs, Cheerios!" petition campaign online, although the company says its decision was made because it thinks "consumers may embrace it."

Whatever the motivation, General Mills GIS -0.49% may find that its move will neither catch on with "natural foods" devotees—who are unlikely to choose a highly processed, nonorganic breakfast food—nor silence antitechnology activists. The company may also have put itself in a legally awkward position.

General Mills's decision will require "a significant investment," according to a company spokesman, even though the bioengineered cornstarch and beet sugar in Cheerios make up a tiny fraction of its ingredients. The increased costs are a function of the difficulty of finding non-bioengineered sources of corn and sugar, and of maintaining a paper trail to document those sources. The company says it won't remove bioengineered ingredients from Honey Nut or Apple Cinnamon Cheerios or its other well-known brands.

Some consumers may opt for "GMO-free" products if the price is right. Still, it's an open question how many will pay the inflated prices necessary to remove the far less expensive bioengineered ingredients. In any event, General Mills received no applause from critics. Wired Magazine's Marcus Wholsen called the company's announcement "an elegant piece of corporate doublespeak that's completely devoid of substance." Mark Bittman, the New York Times's resident food Luddite, dismissed General Mills as "opportunistic marketers," and its new Cheerios label as "meaningless."

The product reformulation has also emboldened, not appeased, antitechnology activists. In a press release on the day of the company's announcement, Green America said the company's move is merely "the first step for General Mills." Having smelled blood in the water, the sharks are now circling—and that may be the least of General Mills's worries.

Humans have engaged in substantial "genetic modification" of food for millennia. Those techniques have included the use of radiation and chemical mutagens to scramble a plant's DNA. This has yielded thousands of new varieties, including Ruby Red grapefruit and most of the durum wheat varieties used to make pasta.

Long before the advent of modern bioengineering, scientists figured out how to forcibly mate plants from different species or genera in a way that cannot happen in nature. This "wide cross" hybridization involves the movement of thousands of unknown and untested "alien" genes that could unintentionally introduce toxins, allergens or carcinogens into the food supply.

What makes modern bioengineering unique is its greater precision and thus the greater predictability and safety of the resulting varieties. Toxins and undesirable properties (such as greater susceptibility to pests) have been inadvertently introduced into marketed products by conventional genetic modification techniques. Examples include two documented cases each of toxic potatoes and squash bred with simple hybridization. But no such harmful or unintended effects have ever occurred—and are far less likely to occur—with bioengineering. Study after study, as well as real-world observations by academics and government agencies, has confirmed the safety of the technology.

General Mills has said that its label will indicate that Cheerios are not "made with genetically modified ingredients." Yet essentially all oat varieties now planted commercially have been genetically modified in some way. Decades ago, breeders genetically modified oats using wide crosses between cultivated varieties and a number of different wild plants. Today's commercially planted varieties are almost all derived from those wide-cross lines.

A 2001 Food and Drug Administration guidance document warns against using terms like "not genetically modified" or "GMO free," because " 'genetic modification' means the alteration of the genotype of a plant using any technique, new or traditional," and "consumers do not have a good understanding that essentially all food crops have been genetically modified." Thus, according to the FDA, changing the Cheerios label to say, "Not Made With Genetically Modified Ingredients," with no further context, would be inaccurate, or at least misleading. That would make the product "misbranded," and selling it would violate federal law.

Although so-called GMOs and ingredients derived from them don't constitute a "category" of food products, antitechnology activists have seized on the term "genetically modified" because they know it conjures up lurid if inaccurate images of "Frankenfood" and "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes."

General Mills should have known better than to try to appease critics who refuse to operate in good faith. It has chosen a course guaranteed to raise its costs with little if any benefit, embolden antitechnology activists, and put itself in potential legal jeopardy. Company executives should have eaten their Wheaties.

Dr. Miller, a physician and molecular biologist, was the founding director of the FDA's Office of Biotechnology. He is a fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. Mr. Conko is executive director of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

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