Friday, March 7, 2014

Friday March 7 Ag News

NRDs Promote National Groundwater Awareness Week

Water is vital to life.  Farmers, ranchers, city residents, industries, recreationists, livestock, and wildlife all depend on Nebraska's most precious natural resource (water).  Generally Nebraska's water is abundant and clean, thanks largely to the High Plains Aquifer. Though it is plentiful and usable, Nebraska's water is neither infinite nor immune from pollution. Irrigators, cities and villages, industries and wildlife all compete for the resource. Contamination may come from sediment, farming chemicals, urban runoff and industrial sources.

The 16th annual Groundwater Awareness Week will take place March 9-15, 2014.  This is a time to remind the public about groundwater and its importance to public health, quality of living, the environment and economic sustainability. Over 85% of Nebraskans’ drinking water comes from groundwater. Nebraska’s Natural Resources Districts have active groundwater management plans to protect groundwater quantity and quality for generations to come.

High nitrate levels in groundwater are a problem for many Nebraska communities and rural residents. The NRDs, through state statutes, have been charged with managing groundwater in Nebraska.  NRDs encourage stewardship by providing financial assistance to landowners for irrigation water management and best-management practices to protect water.   Where voluntary measures are not effective to reduce contamination, the NRDs are tasked with invoking regulatory controls such as fertilizer limitations.  Fortunately, because NRDs and producers have worked together on groundwater protection, these regulations have been somewhat limited.

“Since 1988 our district has seen a decrease in average nitrate concentration in groundwater,” said Lyndon Vogt, general manager of the Central Platte NRD. “During that same time period crop yields have generally increased.  Farmers have taken appropriate measures to reduce the nitrate impacts because they value the importance of being stewards of the land and value the importance of clean water,” said Vogt.

The NARD, the trade association for Nebraska's 23 natural resources districts, works with individual NRDs to protect lives, protect property and protect the future of Nebraska’s natural resources.  These districts are unique to Nebraska.  NRDs are local government entities with broad responsibilities to protect our natural resources.  Nebraska’s major river basins form the boundaries of the 23 NRDs, enabling districts to respond best to local conservation and resource management needs. To learn more about groundwater and ways to protect it, visit the NARD website at or the National Groundwater Awareness Week website at


Bruce Anderson, UNL Extension Forage Specialist

               Believe it or not, it soon will be planting time again.  Stick around to make your new alfalfa plantings more successful.

               Do you plan to seed new alfalfa this spring?  Will it go into ground that has been in row crops for many years?  If so, it might be wise to get a “special” soil test before planting.

               New fields of alfalfa often are planted where alfalfa has not been grown for many years.  Seedlings usually emerge well, but sometimes they grow slowly and often look yellow.

               The surface layer of many of these fields has an acid pH.  This acid layer often is only a couple inches deep, but it can be severe enough to reduce the ability of alfalfa roots to absorb nutrients from the soil.  More importantly, it can prevent nodules from forming on the alfalfa roots.  Then seedlings are unable to produce their own nitrogen, thus becoming nitrogen deficient and unthrifty.  Imagine that!  Nitrogen deficient alfalfa.

               You can avoid this problem.  Before planting, gather two types of soil samples — one at a normal seven or eight inch depth and one only two inches deep.  Then have the lab analyze the normal sample with the usual tests for phosphorus, potassium, pH, and so forth but just test the shallow sample for pH.

               If the pH of the two-inch sample is below six point two, you need lime.  But if the pH of the normal sample is above six point two and more than a half point higher than the shallow sample, you need only about half the usually recommended amount because your subsoil contains much less harmful acid.

               What is the pH of your alfalfa ground?  You don't know?  Well, maybe you better find out and add lime if needed.


               Festulolium.  That’s quite a mouthful, isn’t it?  Festulolium.  If you haven’t heard of it, don’t feel bad.  It’s a relatively new grass developed by grass breeders by crossing either meadow fescue or tall fescue with either perennial ryegrass or Italian ryegrass.

               Ryegrasses may be the most nutritious grasses around, permitting milk production and weight gains almost as high as corn grain.  But they don’t last, dying either from our cold winters or hot, dry summers.

               Crossing ryegrasses with meadow or tall fescue adds drought and stress tolerance plus winterhardiness from the fescues, creating a high quality, persistent grass that is well-suited to being grazed heavily.  And it has yielded just as much as any other cool-season grass in Nebraska tests.

               Choosing the best variety for our area, however, can be a little confusing.  There are many possible combinations in making this hybrid, so it’s important to make sure you select a variety with the best parents.  Most importantly, pick a variety that has perennial ryegrass as one parent to get extra longevity.  And if you plan to use it in rotationally grazed pastures, meadow fescue makes the better second parent because it tends to tiller and regrow better all summer.

               Festulolium probably works better in mixtures with tall fescue, meadow fescue, meadow brome, and orchardgrass along with legumes like clovers and trefoil than all by itself.

               Festulolium.  It’s a mouthful of a new grass that might belong in your pasture. 

U.S. Producers See Global Competitive Landscape in Market Expo

The intensity of the global competition for red meat market share was brought home vividly for a dozen U.S. leaders of state and national agriculture organizations who recently completed a visit to the Middle East and Europe sponsored by USMEF.

The U.S. agriculture leaders attended the second-largest food industry show in the world, Gulfood in Dubai, where they met with U.S. exporters; saw the large-scale presence of competitors ranging from Australia, Brazil and India to Canada, Mexico and New Zealand; and received briefings on industry-supported marketing activities in the region.

The Market Expo agenda also included meetings with importers, processors and retailers, and opportunities to get insights into the import environment in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as well as the European Union (EU).

“I was blown away by the choices at retail – the countries present at retail – from Australian beef to Brazilian to Indian,” said Kim Brackett, cow/calf and stocker producer from Buhl, Idaho, after the Dubai portion of the trip. Brackett, who also chairs the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, noted that U.S. beef stood out from its competitors based on its quality.

Iowa Corn Promotion Board Director Wayne Humphreys echoed Brackett’s sentiments, noting that competitors are anxious to fill a vacuum in the market whenever U.S. product is faced with access issues, as American pork and beef are currently restricted in Russia and U.S. beef continues to face a ban in Saudi Arabia.

“If we are to realize a gain from adding value to our cattle and hogs in the form of meat, we need to export that meat,” said Humphreys. “This is a market (Middle East) that is ripe for the picking for the export of high-quality U.S. beef.”

“What we saw in both regions is the competitiveness of countries wanting to be in the market,” said Mark Jagels, USMEF’s chairman who operates a diversified farm in south-central Nebraska where he produces corn and soybeans while custom feeding cattle. “In the EU, it’s a value-added market for producers who want identity-preserved product. In the UAE, as we see in any foreign market, it’s a worldwide game – very competitive – with product from Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, even Pakistani meat. It gives the consumer choices. Australia has put a lot of dollars into this (UAE) market. The competitiveness is unbelievable. We have to make sure we have a presence."

While each export market has its own characteristics and challenges, the participants in the Market Expo team came away with agreement on the potential for growth of U.S. red meat exports, and the importance of maintaining a strong presence in the markets.

One of the key challenges, according to Wes Plummer, chairman of the Montana Beef Council, is educating consumers and the trade in these export markets about the value of U.S. red meat products.

“Educating the public is a key,” said Plummer. “I wish any local producers who are hesitant at all about spending checkoff dollars (in export markets) could come to one of these (Gulfood) shows and see how this sells our beef. It’s a true eye-opener.”

Humphreys, who noted that the current export premium for U.S. pork is $53.95 per head and $244.96 per head of fed beef slaughter, cited the importance of having a global presence to maintain strong American red meat exports.

“We saw people sitting at tables at Gulfood looking at purchase orders,” said Humphreys. “Individual producers – regardless of how much they have at stake back home – could not possibly make it happen half-a-world away to put buyers and sellers together. (Buyers) complimented USMEF for the possibilities they created putting buyers and sellers together. Our checkoff dollars work to make these shows possible and profitable for American farmers.”

Dan Halstrom, USMEF’s senior vice president for global marketing and communication, complimented the Market Expo team on their engagement and eagerness to learn about the two diverse markets.

“The real value of these Market Expos is helping American producers – representatives of our funding sources – see and better understand both the challenges and opportunities that the United States faces in the international market,” said Halstrom. “We are stewards of their checkoff dollars, so the better informed our members are, the better we can represent their interests.”

“The message we need to carry back home (to our members) is how hard their checkoff dollars are working for them overseas,” said Brackett.

Participants in the 2014 USMEF Market Expo included: Sam Funk — United Soybean Board; Judson Vasconcelos — Merck Animal Health; Mark Caspers — Nebraska Soybean Board; Wes Plummer — Montana Beef Council; Don Duvall — Illinois Corn Marketing Board; Robert White — United Soybean Board; Dan Halstrom — USMEF; Kim Brackett — Cattlemen’s Beef Board; Jackie Boubin, USMEF; Don Hutchens — Nebraska Corn Board; Annie Dee — United Soybean Board; John Brooks — USMEF; Wayne Humphreys — Iowa Corn Growers Association; Mark Jagels — USMEF Chairman; Don Murphy, Illinois Corn Marketing Board; Bassem Bousaleh — USMEF.

Northey to Visit 7 Communities and Nebraska March 10-12

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey Thursday announced that he will be visiting Pottawattamie, Mills, Fremont, Page, Sac, Carroll, Audubon and Cass Counties from March 10 through 12.

On Monday Northey will present the Gary Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award in Oakland, visit Mulholland Grocery in Malvern, tour Green Plains Renewable Energy in Shenandoah and then speak to an Iowa Corn Growers Association meeting in Shenandoah. On Tuesday Northey will speak at a cover crop meeting in Sac City, tour a feedlot in Carroll and then visit the John James Audubon Cultural Center in Audubon. On Wednesday he will attend of the Triumph of Ag Expo in Omaha, Nebraska and then speak at a cover crop event in Atlantic.

March 10
-- Pottawattamie County -- 11:30 a.m., present the Gary Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award, Oakland Community Center, 614 Dr. Van Zee Rd., Oakland
-- Mills County -- 2:45 p.m., visit Mulholland Grocery, 409 Main St., Malvern
-- Fremont County -- 4:30 p.m., tour Green Plains Renewable Energy, 4124 Airport Rd., Shenandoah
-- Page County -- 7:00 p.m., speak to Iowa Corn Growers Association meeting, the Elks Lodge, 701 S. Fremont St., Shenandoah

March 11
-- Sac County -- 11:00 a.m., speak to cover crop meeting, First Presbyterian Church, 812 Audubon St., Sac City
-- Carroll County -- 1:00 p.m., tour a cattle feedlot. (This is a private tour, but would be available for interviews beforehand or afterwards)
-- Audubon County -- 2:30 p.m., visit John James Audubon Cultural Center, 401 N. Park Place, Audubon

March 12
-- Omaha, Neb. -- Noon, attend Triumph of Ag Expo opening lunch, CenturyLink Center, 455 North 10th St., Omaha, NE
-- Cass County -- 2:30 p.m., speak to cover crop meeting, Cass County Community Center, 805 W. 10th St., Atlantic

Northey, a corn and soybean farmer from Spirit Lake, is serving his second term as Secretary of Agriculture. His priorities as Secretary of Agriculture are promoting the use of science and new technologies to better care for our air, soil and water, and reaching out to tell the story of Iowa agriculture.

Iowa Joins Lawsuit Opposing California Law on Egg Producers

Iowa Gov. Branstad Thursday joined a lawsuit in the Eastern District of California opposing California's egg-production law that discriminates against Iowa's egg producers. Branstad, along with other five other states, argues that California's egg-production law is unconstitutional and violates the commerce clause.

"The burdensome law from the State of California effectively regulates the industry across state lines, hurts Iowa agriculture and is detrimental to Iowa egg producers," said Branstad. "Iowa is by far the leading egg producing state in the nation. This law is an unwarranted burden being imposed on Iowa's producers by another state and violates the interstate commerce clause of the United States Constitution."

Iowa's egg farmers lead the nation in egg production by producing nearly 15 billion eggs per year. Almost one out of every five eggs produced in the United States are produced in Iowa. The Iowa egg industry contributes about $2 billion in total sales and impacts about 8,000 jobs.

"Governor Branstad and I know a strong agricultural economy is critical to our continued economic growth," said Iowa Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds. "California's law adversely affects Iowa agricultural jobs and we believe its negative effects and regulations felt by egg producers across the country is a violation of the commerce clause. We're pleased that Democrats and Republicans are coming together in support of agriculture and against onerous regulations."

The lawsuit, which was filed by Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster and co-signed by the attorney generals of Nebraska, Oklahoma, Alabama, Kentucky and Gov. Branstad, argues that the court should rule that California's law violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The commerce clause prohibits any state from enacting legislation that regulates conduct wholly outside its borders, protects its own citizens from out-of-state competition, or places undue burdens on interstate commerce.

"California's effort to unconstitutionally limit the ability of Iowa farmers to access California's consumers must be stopped. I support all efforts to uphold the right of Iowa farmers to sell their products, including eggs, in every state free from unconstitutional restraints imposed by any state," said Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey.

California's law puts unnecessary burdens on Iowa farms which could force some Iowa farmers out of business.

ASA to FDA: Alternatives, Implementation Timeframe Must Be Considered Rather Than Banning Partially Hydrogenated Oils

In a submission to the Food and Drug Administration today, the American Soybean Association (ASA) officially entered its comments on the FDA's proposal to further reduce trans fat consumption by rescinding the generally regarded as safe (GRAS) status for partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), including partially hydrogenated soybean oil.

While urging FDA not to withdraw GRAS status for partially hydrogenated oils, ASA noted the almost 70 percent reduction and continued downward trend in consumption of trans fats over the last decade, and touted the work of the soybean industry to develop high oleic soybean varieties. These varieties can replace the functionality of partially hydrogenated soybean oil in certain applications like baking, frying, and other food processing without the addition of trans fats. Current projections from QUALISOY indicate that approximately 1.3 billion pounds of high oleic soybean oil will be extracted from the 2016 crop of high oleic soybeans and available for use by the food industry in 2017, with increasing quantities available in subsequent years.

"We are confident that high oleic soybean oil can replace a substantial portion of the between 2 and 2.5 billion pounds of partially hydrogenated oils that are still in the market," wrote ASA in its comments. "But that cannot happen without FDA’s recognition of the importance of ensuring a sustainable domestically-produced food supply."

ASA further encouraged the agency to take into account the time needed to ramp-up domestic high oleic soybean oil production; and urged FDA to pursue alternative strategies that have already aided in the dramatic reductions in trans fat consumption over the last decade. These include education, revisions to the nutrition fact panel, and limits on the amount of trans fats that food products can contain to be labeled free of trans fats.

The association also registered serious concerns that FDA's proposal would have the unintended consequence of raising saturated fat consumption as a result of manufacturers opting to substitute higher saturated fat palm oil for PHOs as it waits for high oleic soybean production capacity to catch up with current demand. "This would replace our domestically-grown and sustainable soybean oil with palm oil," ASA wrote. "The saturated fat profile of palm oil is 6.7 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon, compared to just 2 grams for soybean oil. The result of this trade-off would be a 'lose-lose' for both the government and American consumers."

A further consequence of this substitution, according to ASA, is the loss of more than $1.6 billion in farmer income as a result of the immediate switch from soybean oil to higher saturated fat palm oil.

ASA also noted its concern that the FDA's proposal addresses the process of hydrogenation, rather than the end product of the oil itself. "We believe that the FDA’s proposal is so sweeping in its application that it would stymie technological advances in oil processing that aren’t even envisioned today," ASA commented. "As there is no definition of 'partially hydrogenated,' and as we know that the term encompasses a whole spectrum of oils, we are concerned that new technologies would be a casualty of the FDA’s proposal."

Finally, as an alternative, ASA cited the successful approach taken by other nations including Denmark in setting a limit on daily consumption of trans fats in food. Through that approach, Denmark has reduced its per capita intake of trans fat to only 1 gram per day, a level at which trans fat is no longer a significant source of fat intake. "This approach seems a more common-sense way to approach the goal of further reducing trans fats consumption in the U.S. diet than the FDA’s current proposal, which we see as likely to lead to increased saturated fat consumption, increased reliance on imported oils in the U.S. food supply, diminished ability for food manufacturers to adopt innovative technologies, and costly in terms of U.S. production and jobs."

Senate Resolution Recognizes Biosecurity, Agro-Defense

The U.S. Senators representing the Kansas City Animal Health corridor, Pat Roberts (R-KS), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) announced that late Thursday night, the Senate approved a resolution to recognize the importance of biosecurity and agro-defense to America's national and economic security.

"The hardworking folks in America's heartland understand that the protection of our region's leading industry, agriculture, and of our nation's food supply is of the highest importance," Roberts said. "This resolution reminds our colleagues in Washington that addressing the critical vulnerabilities to our food supply and the agriculture economy must also be their top priority. Completion of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) is critical to the nation and to our states."

"NBAF will protect our national economy by researching foreign animal disease threats, which have very real impacts," Moran said. "It is critical that construction begins immediately to safeguard against these threats and the devastation they would cause. The cost of an outbreak far outweighs the cost of construction, not only in the loss of human life but also its damage to the animal and agricultural industry. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I will continue working to make certain NBAF remains a top priority for the Department of Homeland Security, the Administration and among Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle."

"This resolution recognizes just how important biosecurity is to our country's safety, and to the agriculture economy across the United States," McCaskill said. "Strengthening our biosecurity starts with the completion of the facility in Manhattan, Kansas and continues with the further development of the Animal Health Corridor in the Kansas City region. I'll continue to work with my colleagues to ensure we accomplish these goals."

"Further development of the Animal Health Corridor in the Kansas City region is the next step in bolstering our nation's biosecurity and agro-defense," said Blunt. "Farm families in Missouri and nationwide understand the severity that these devastating attacks could have on our food supply, the agriculture industry, and our national security. I'm pleased this resolution was approved by the Senate, and I will continue to advocate for further development of the Animal Health Corridor as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee."

EU Expanding Dairy Trade Barriers by Restricting Common Food Names

(from National Milk Producers Federation)

Through its membership in the Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN), NMPF met last month with U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Michael Froman and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to help convey dairy producers’ strong concerns about the continued expansion of barriers to commonly named dairy products. A number of companies and associations, representing both dairy producers and processors, conveyed a unified industry position in opposition to the EU’s efforts to limit U.S. competition by confiscating common food names. The fly-in meetings also included discussions the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office and with Congressional staff.

The EU has been actively using its free trade agreements to seek to block U.S. companies from using many common product names (e.g., romano, muenster, parmesan, feta, and more). It executes this goal by terming those generic terms “geographical indications” (GIs) and claiming that only certain European producers should be authorized to use them. The EU has been clear that it sees the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) as a way to put those restrictions in place in the U.S. market itself – thereby impacting not just U.S. exports, but also domestic sales. The meetings with leading U.S. government officials were intended to provide NMPF and other industry leaders with an opportunity to underscore the U.S. industry’s strong opposition to the EU’s latest in a long series of protectionist strategies.

FDA Reports Continued Decline in Drug Residues in U.S. Milk

Only one out of 7,200 milk tankers tested positive for antibiotic residues last year, according to the National Milk Drug Residue Database 2013 report, released last month by the Food and Drug Administration. The new report showed that the decade-long decline in bulk milk samples testing positive for residues is continuing. Of the approximately 3.2 million milk pickup tankers tested, only 445 (or 0.014%) yielded a positive – down from 0.017% in 2012. This is the seventh year in a row that the percentage of positive tankers has declined.

Additionally, not a single sample of the 40,435 consumer-packaged pasteurized milk products tested positive for animal drug residues. Data from four of the last five years have not yielded a single positive result for pasteurized products.

CWT Assists with 37.2 Million Pounds of Export Sales in First Two Months of 2014

In the first two months of 2014, Cooperatives Working Together (CWT) provided export assistance on 108 sales of cheese, 39 butter sales, and six whole milk powder sales.

Of 364 assistance requests received, CWT will provide assistance on 26.1 million pounds of Cheddar, Gouda, and Monterey Jack cheeses, 10.4 million pounds of 82% milk fat butter, and 698,895 pounds of whole milk powder. The products will go to 19 different countries and will be delivered through August 2014.

The milk equivalent on a milk fat basis of these sales is 475.3 million pounds of milk. Combined with the 2013 CWT-assisted sales scheduled to ship in the first six months of 2014, the total milk equivalent is equal to 25% of USDA’s projected increase in total milk marketings for all of 2014.

Idaho Governor Signs Bill to Outlaw Dairy Spying

(AP) -- Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter signed a bill Friday that imposes jail time and fines against people who secretly film animal abuse at Idaho's agricultural facilities.

Otter inked the new law swiftly, just two days after it cleared its final legislative hurdle in the House.

The bill came in response to videos released by Los Angeles-based vegetarian and animal rights group Mercy for Animals showing workers at Bettencourt Dairy beating, stomping, dragging and sexually abusing cows in 2012.

Idaho's $2.5 billion dairy industry complained the group used its videos not to curb abuse, but to unfairly hurt Bettencourt's business. Bettencourt operates dairies at numerous locations that include more than 60,000 cows and is one of the largest dairy companies in the U.S.

Otter, a rancher, said the measure will help make agriculture producers more secure in their property and their livelihood.

"My signature today reflects my confidence in their desire to responsibly act in the best interest of the animals on which that livelihood depends," Otter wrote in a statement. "No animals rights organization cares more or has more at stake than Idaho farmers and ranchers do in ensuring that their animals are healthy, well-treated and productive."

Utah, Idaho's neighbor to the south, has a similar law. It's being challenged in federal court on grounds that, among other things, it infringes upon activists' free speech rights to expose cruelty.

Under Idaho's measure that was branded by its foes as an "ag gag bill," people caught surreptitiously filming agricultural operations face up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

It prohibits making audio or video recordings of such operations without first getting permission, and criminalizes obtaining records from agricultural operations by force or misrepresentation. Lying on an employment application for such a farm is also outlawed.

In the Legislature, Democrats opposed the bill on grounds that it makes Idaho's agriculture industry seem like it's hiding something.

Mercy For Animals immediately decried Otter's signature Friday, saying that it transforms Idaho into "a safe haven for animal abuse."

"Gov. Otter has failed Idaho and the American people," said the group's executive director, Nathan Runkle. "By signing this bill into law, he has sided with those who seek to keep Idaho's corrupt factory farming practices hidden from public view and created a safe haven for animal abuse and other criminal activity in the state."

Bob Naerebout, who heads the Idaho Dairymen's Association that promoted the measure, said Runkle has it wrong.

Naerebout contends Mercy For Animals unfairly sought to persuade Bettencourt's customers to stop buying its milk products — even after the farm's owner, Luis Bettencourt, fired five workers filmed mistreating cows and cooperated with their prosecution.

"The purpose of the bill was not to hide anything, the purpose of the bill was to address those who get on agriculture operations under false pretenses, with a predetermination to cause injury and economic harm," Naerebout said. "The dairy producers of Idaho — and dairy producers across this nation — take extremely good care of their cattle."

In the wake of the abuse, the University of Idaho Extension, along with the College of Southern Idaho, worked with the dairy industry to offer a program to help teach dairy workers about proper animal care, milking, calf raising and feeding dairy animals.

At least one of the Bettencourt workers pictured in the Mercy For Animals video pleaded guilty to misdemeanor animal cruelty and spent time in jail.

Weekly Column: New Farm Bill and 2015 Budget Expand Opportunity in Rural America

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack

This week, President Obama released USDA’s fiscal year 2015 budget proposal, which supports our ongoing work to create jobs and opportunity in rural America.

The budget builds on the new opportunities available to us through the recently-passed 2014 Farm Bill to achieve reform and results for the American taxpayer; foster opportunity for the men and women living, working and raising families in rural America; and support innovation through strategic, future-focused investments.

My team at USDA has been hard at work identifying everything that will be required—regulations, guidance and other activities—to develop a plan to implement the new Farm Bill.

Farmers, ranchers, foresters, researchers, and families and communities across America have waited a long time for the surety that this legislation brings, and we know that they deserve and expect an efficient, timely and responsible implementation process.

Obviously, certain provisions of this legislation are more complex than others and require more careful examination before we make final decisions, but we are committed to minimizing disruptions to stakeholders as implementation moves forward.

Earlier this week, I met with stakeholders here in Washington, DC to lay out our short term implementation goals. This is not an exhaustive list, but here are the highlights:
-   Create Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO) and Stacked Income Protection Plan (STAX) pilots for producers of upland cotton for crop year 2015.
-   Re-establish the Dairy Forward Pricing Program, a program for forward pricing contracts for milk handlers.
-   Establish criteria for Price Loss Coverage and Agriculture Risk Coverage, including base reallocation and yield updates.
-   Publish guidelines to update common program provisions, including payment limits, acreage reporting, signature authority and adjusted gross income.
-   Award $6 million in education and training funding by early summer to help producers understand the new safety net programs and make the best choices for their operation.
-   Make available disaster assistance relief for losses dating back to 2011.
-   Allocate funds in the near future for the Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development Program to build on record U.S. agricultural exports that support nearly one million American jobs.
-   Institute by the end of the year Farm Bill provisions related to beginning farmers and ranchers, socially disadvantaged farmers, and veterans, including making credit more easily available for new farmers and -improving and upgrading the microloan program.
-    Begin to set aside funds in eligible programs for strategic economic and community development projects.
-    Begin to take applications under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Agriculture Management Assistance Program, Conservation Stewardship Program, and other programs that will help boost record conservation practices already underway in rural America.
-    Establish the new Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, which will allow USDA to leverage a $400 million investment in agricultural research.
-    Make funds available through the Repowering Assistance Program, Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels, Rural Energy for America Program and the Biorefinery Assistance Program.
-    Continue to collect sufficient data to expand and improve price elections for organic crops.
-    Make funds available in the near future for the Business and Industry Loan Program set-aside for locally- or regionally- produced foods, and extend the deadline to apply for funds currently available through its Value-Added Producer Grants.

My staff will be following up with a series of meetings focused on specific topics related to implementation. You can find more information about our Farm Bill implementation plan and what it means for your operation at

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