Thursday, March 27, 2014

Thursday March 27 Ag News

Free Farm Finance Clinics in April

NE Dept of Ag and Legal Aid of NE are hosting free Farm and Ranch clinics two times in Norfolk in the month of April.  This is your opportunity to sit down one on one with an experienced ag law attorney or ag financial counselor.  These clinic staff specialize in legal and financial issues related to farming and ranging, from financial planning, estate and transition planning, to farm loan programs, water rights, and more.  Clinic dates include:

Wednesday April 2nd
Thursday April 24th

To sign up for a clinic time or for more information, call Michelle at the NE Farm Hotline:  1-800-464-0258.

Farmer Appreciation Day in Newman Grove

Inviting all farmers to come to Fellowship Bible Church in Newman Grove for a morning of appreciation.  We will begin our day Saturday, April 5th, at 8am with breakfast followed by 3 great speakers.  Starting at 8:45am, Al Dutcher, Nebraska State Climatologist, will highlight weather patterns for the growing season ahead; Ray Ward of Ward Laboratories will focus on soils and plant health; and Roy Smith AKA "Soy Roy" will talk on marketing trends and give analysis.  There will be several vendors to visit with as well.  There will be plenty of breaks, snacks, giveaways, and time to interact with other farmers.  There will be a lunch available at the close of the program, you can either eat it there, or take it to go.  Best of all, the entire event is FREE!  For more information call John at the church at 402-447-6322 or go online to 

Saunders County Livestock Ladies Night

Saunders County Livestock Association will hold their annual Ladies Night on Sunday April 6th, 5pm at St. John's Parish Hall in Prague.  5pm Social, 6pm meal, followed by a program and entertainment.  Sponsor is Black Dirt Land Sales and Management, and owner Carrie Duffy of Yutan will share her background and an overview of her company.  ALSO, Jerry and Barb Soukup will share pictures and comments of their recent trip on the Panama Canal's 100th anniversary cruise.  Rounding out the evening the Dolezal Sisters - Haley, Miranda, Bourbon, and Lara - will perform a variety of musical selections.  And before the evening's over, the 2014 scholarship winners will be recognized!  It's sure to be a fun-filled-packed-full-of-activities evening!  For more information, call Dan Benes in Valparaiso.

Tickets available for Cuming Co Feeders Banquet

Tickets are now available for the annual Cuming County Feeders Banquet this year to be held on Saturday April 26th at the Wisner Auditorium in Wisner, NE.  Social will start at 6pm, with the meal and entertainment to follow.  In addition to the many elected officials and dignitaries that attend the banquet, this year's attendees will include entertainer Greg Hann and also a special appearance by the Peterson Brothers from Assaria, Kansas (made famous by their "Farming and I Grow It" YouTube video).  Corporate sponsorships and ticket requests are due by April 16th, so the tickets can be mailed out by April 21.  Contact Angie Ernesti ASAP at either 402-372-3036 or 402-372-8036.

Ethanol Emerging Issues Forum Features Key Issues and Trends

Ethanol and biofuels experts from across the U.S. will be in Omaha for the 9th annual "Ethanol 2014: Emerging Issues Forum" held April 10-11 at the Magnolia Hotel.  The forum is targeted to ethanol producers and others integrally involved in the production, technology, policy and marketing of ethanol and its co-products.   The forum runs from 1:00 to 5:30 pm on Thursday and from 8:00 am to noon on Friday.

The keynote address at 1:15 pm on Thursday will be presented by Doug Durante, executive director of the Clean Fuels Development Coalition in Washington, DC.  Durante will discuss the Federal Policy Impacts on Ethanol Production and Marketing.

Steve Bleyl of Green Plains Renewable Energy of Omaha will speak about the Blend Wall and  Market Access via Higher Blends.  A panel of experts from the University of Illinois Law & Policy Center, Novozymes and U.S. Department of Agriculture will discuss the Renewable Fuel Standard and Public Policy.

Other topics during the forum include domestic and international ethanol marketing opportunities and barriers, ethanol co-products, low carbon fuel standards and integrating technology trends into the ethanol processing platform.

Some 130 ethanol industry leaders are expected to be in attendance.  Registration for the event is open until 5:00pm April 7th.

The event is presented by the Nebraska Ethanol Board, Clean Fuels Development Coalition, American Coalition for Ethanol, Association of Nebraska Ethanol Producers, and the Nebraska Ethanol Industry Coalition.  A detailed agenda for the Ethanol 2014: Emerging Issues Forum can be found at

Prepare for PEDV Ahead of Show Season

PEDv presents a very serious issue that requires careful attention from hog exhibitors. PEDv poses no danger to humans or to the safety of the food supply. However, now is the time to educate and plan on how to deal with the many questions and challenges associated with Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDV).

In light of the devastating effects of PEDV, the Nebraska Pork Producers Association urges that swine health protocols should be re-emphasized and an increased awareness about the need for strict biosecurity needs to be a priority before, during and after every show. Although the virus has less impact on the older, growing pigs headed for a show ring, the potential to spread PEDV and other pathogens rises since the pigs are commingled at weigh-ins and then taken home.

Swine Show Biosecurity Recommendations

When pigs come together at events such as shows and weigh-ins, spreading disease is a risk; but the risk can be minimized through proper biosecurity procedures. Organizers and advisors scheduling commingled pig events should assess each situation and the associated risks to pig health. Having a plan in place to manage pigs from many different locations, identifying sick pigs, completing certain tasks such as taking a pig's temperature, knowing health certificate requirements and best practices for returning home will also help reduce the chance of disease spread.  Jodi Sterle, Iowa State University Extension specialist, offers some biosecurity recommendations that swine exhibitors should make part of their regular routine.
·    Bring only healthy pigs to a show. Observe them daily because the pigs will tell you a lot.
·    Clean out the tack box and do it away from the barn or pigs. Remove any organic material, then wash and disinfect all equipment—pails, brushes, waterers, whips, panels, gates—even the boots you wore at the show. Use a commercial disinfectant according to label directions and allow everything to dry.
·    Clean out the truck cab and trailer. Use the same basic approach—remove organic matter, floor mats, gates, ramps—and wash, disinfect and dry.
·    Take only the feed and shavings that you will need, and leave anything not used behind. Don’t bring any feed or shavings home—it’s not worth the risk. To not waste feed, weigh and bag the amount of feed you will need for each day of a show, add in a couple extra servings for a safety net and that’s it.
·    Pigs that return home should go into isolation—if at all possible—for at least 30 days, and 60 days is best. A shed or another room in a low-traffic area is good.
·    Do the chores in the isolated area last each time and wash your hands before and after. Wear disposable boots and coveralls, and put them in the trash away from other pigs. Finally, be sure no equipment crosses out of this area.

Regardless of PEDV's presence though, certain measures should always be a priority for anyone involved in swine shows. The Pork Checkoff has created several resources for swine show organizers, as well as swine exhibitors, to help them minimize their risk of contracting or spreading PEDV. Pork Checkoff’s fact sheets “Swine Health Recommendations: Exhibitors of All Pigs Going to Exhibits or Sales” is an excellent resource for answers and guidance. Biosecurity information for show organizers also is available through these fact sheets: “Swine Health Recommendations: Organizers of Exhibitions and Sales” and “Swine Health Recommendations: Biosecurity for Organizers of Weigh-ins or Tagging Events.”  For all of the PEDV resources and research available please visit

As a hog exhibitor, the bottom line is educate yourself, be aware, and take all steps necessary to protect your animals

Energy is the Most Important Nutrient for Post Calving Cows

Steve Tonn, UNL Extension Educator, Washington County

The winter of 2013-2014 has brought challenges in the form of cold weather and now spring is slow to arrive.  This may result in some cows calving in marginal body condition.  Unfortunately, this is a season where maintaining or gaining body condition on spring calving cows is really quite difficult.  Cool season grasses are slow to green up and warm season grass pasture feels like a long ways off.   Energy is the most important nutrient that cows need after calving.  Feeding a low quality hay along with only a self-fed, self-limited protein supplement, the cows may become very deficient in energy.  Remember, the instructions that accompany these self-fed supplements.  They are to be fed along with free choice access to adequate quantity and quality forages. 

Body condition at the time of calving is the most important factor affecting rebreeding performance of normally managed beef cows.  Nonetheless, condition changes after calving will have more subtle effects on rebreeding especially in cows that are in marginal body condition.  Body condition changes from the time the cow calves until she begins the breeding season can play a significant role in the rebreeding success story.  This appears to be most important to those cows that calve in the marginal body condition score range of "4" or "5".  An Oklahoma research trial illustrates the vulnerability of cows that calve in the body condition score of 5.  Two groups of cows began the winter feeding period in similar body condition and calved in very similar body condition.  However, after calving and before the breeding season began, one group was allowed to lose almost one condition score.  The other group of cows was fed adequately to maintain the body condition that they had prior to calving.  The difference in rebreeding rate was dramatic (73% vs 94%).  Again this illustrates that cows that calve in the body condition score of 5 are very vulnerable to weather and suckling intensity stresses and ranchers must use good nutritional strategies after calving to avoid disastrous rebreeding performance.

Continue feeding a source of energy, such as corn silage, alfalfa or a moderate to good quality grass hay free choice and high energy supplements until the brome pastures green up or the warm season grasses grow enough to provide both the energy and protein that the lactating cows need.  Yes, the feed is high-priced.  But the cost of losing a good portion of next year’s calf crop is even greater!

LEAD Fellowship Applications Available for Group Thirty-four

            Fellowship applications for Nebraska LEAD (Leadership Education/Action Development) Group 34 are now available for men and women involved in production agriculture or agribusiness.

            "Up to 30 motivated men and women with demonstrated leadership potential will be selected from five geographic districts across our state," said Terry Hejny, Nebraska LEAD Program director.

            In addition to monthly three-day seminars throughout Nebraska from mid-September through early April each year, Nebraska LEAD Fellows also participate in a 10-day National Study/Travel Seminar and a two week International Study/Travel Seminar.

            Seminar themes include leadership assessment and potential, natural resources and energy, agricultural policy, leadership through communication, our political process, global perspectives, nuclear energy, social issues, understanding and developing leadership skills, agribusiness and marketing, advances in health care and the resources and people of Nebraska's Panhandle, Hejny said.

            The Nebraska LEAD Program is designed to prepare the spokespersons, problem-solvers and decision makers for Nebraska and its agricultural industry.

            In its 33rd year, the program is operated by the Nebraska Agricultural Leadership Council, a nonprofit organization, in collaboration with the University of Nebraska's Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources and in cooperation with Nebraska colleges and universities, business and industry, and individuals throughout the state.

            Applications are due no later than June 15 and are available via e-mail from the Nebraska LEAD Program. Please contact Shana at  You can also request an application by writing Room 318 Biochemistry Hall, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 68583-0763 or by calling 402-472-6810. You can visit for information about the selection process.

            Nebraska LEAD Program offices are in the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Bruce Anderson, UNL Extension Forage Specialist

Thin alfalfa stands can be rejuvenated by interseeding and converting them to pasture.

Most alfalfa fields start to lose stand and production ability after cutting hay for several years.  Sometimes winterkill thins stands.  When this happens to you, interseed grasses, and maybe some other legumes, to turn your thinning alfalfa into high producing pasture.  Not only might you extend the useful life of your alfalfa field by several years, you also will develop excellent grazing for your livestock.

The most common grasses interseeded into alfalfa are orchardgrass and smooth brome, but other grasses like endophyte-free tall fescue, meadow brome, festulolium, and wheatgrasses also can be used.  In addition, include other legumes like red clover for short-term pasture or birdsfoot trefoil if you plan to graze this pasture more than three years.  This will add diversity to your animals' diet and help assure good legume growth for several more years.

You must get these new seedlings off to an early start, so be sure to interseed as soon as soils thaw and conditions allow tractor and drills to operate properly.  If your alfalfa still is relatively thick and vigorous, also take a very early hay cutting well before buds form, probably during the first week of May.  This will allow sunlight to continue to reach new seedlings below the alfalfa.  Then use your good judgement regarding competition from the existing alfalfa for subsequent hay cuts.  By mid- to late summer you could be able to start to rotationally graze.

Inter-seeding grass into existing alfalfa takes timely planting and haying, but both land and livestock can improve with your efforts.

Iowa Corn Checkoff Legislation Signed by Branstad

Progressively started in 1977 by farmer referendum, the Iowa Corn Promotion Board checkoff legislation signed Wednesday by Governor Branstad removes current restraints limiting future control of farmer dollars. The legislation specifically raises the legislative cap (HF 2427) on the checkoff, allowing for incremental growth only by farmer referendum. Specifically, the legislation signed today, does not implement any changes to the current collection rate of one cent.

"Any decision regarding the checkoff rate would continue to be in the hands of Iowa corn farmers through a referendum, just as it was when created by the legislature in 1976 and voted on by farmers in 1977," says Roger Zylstra, a farmer from Lynnville and current ICGA President. "We thank Governor Branstad and the Iowa Legislature for unanimous passage of this bill and for the recognition that farmer dollars are best managed by farmers."

The bill unanimously passed both the Iowa House and the Iowa Senate. Governor Branstad signed the bill into law this afternoon. HF2427 changes the current legislative cap progressively from one cent to three cents, and reaffirms that any future increase in the checkoff rate may only be made by farmer referendum.

Historically, the Iowa Corn Checkoff was established by producer referendum in 1977. The Iowa Corn Promotion Board, made up of farmers elected by their peers, invests checkoff dollars for research, education, promotion, and market development. The checkoff is collected on corn that enters commercial channels, but not on grain used on-farm. The corn checkoff was moved in 2012 via referendum to the current rate of 1 cent per bushel marketed. Producers are able to request a refund of their checkoff contribution.

Farm Poll: Soil Compaction Concerns Increase

As tractors, combines and other farm equipment have become larger and heavier, Iowa farmers’ concerns about soil compaction and its impacts on crop yields have increased as well, according to the 2013 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll.

Combine and grain cart axle loads are some of the heaviest on row crop land, with axle loads for larger grain carts easily exceeding 75,000 pounds, said Mark Hanna, an extension agricultural engineer with Iowa State University.

“The 2013 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll results show that many farmers are concerned about soil compaction impacts of heavy equipment traffic. As farmers start to plan fieldwork, they should consider strategies such as controlled traffic lanes to mitigate potential compaction,” Hanna said.

ISU Extension and Outreach sociologists J. Gordon Arbuckle Jr. and Paul Lasley co-direct the annual poll. The 2013 poll included a series of questions examining farmers’ experience with soil compaction, their concerns about the issue and their perspectives on common compaction management techniques. The questions were developed in partnership with the ISU Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering. These questions were asked only of farmers who had planted corn, soybeans or other row crops in 2012, Arbuckle said.

“About 71 percent of farmers indicated they were concerned about soil compaction on the land that they farm,” Arbuckle said. “About 75 percent agreed that they were concerned about the impact of heavy machinery on soil health. Half of the farmers agreed or strongly agreed that they consider the weight of equipment when making purchasing decisions.”

Impact of Soil Compaction

“Compaction is variable depending on soil conditions and wheel loads,” said Hanna. “Some research suggests that yields may be depressed 2 to 5 bushels per acre or more in seasons with wetter soil, and we wanted to know if farmers are noticing yield losses.”

Respondents were asked to consider all of the land that they farm and estimate the average annual impact of soil compaction on corn yield over the past five years, Arbuckle said. Sixteen percent reported that they do not have soil compaction, while another 33 percent indicated that they have soil compaction issues, but with negligible effect on yields. However, more than half of farmers estimated that soil compaction has had an impact on yields: 25 percent estimated that those losses were 2 bushels or less per year; 20 percent reported yield losses of between 2 and 5 bushels an acre; 6 percent estimated loss of five to 10 bushels; and, 2 percent reported annual losses greater than 10 bushels per acre.

Managing Soil Compaction

Arbuckle said 91 percent of farmers indicated that they attempt to avoid compaction by taking soil moisture content, a major mediating factor, into account as they plan fieldwork. Sixty-five percent agreed that wheel traffic pattern control, a best management practice, is an effective means of reducing soil compaction.

“Compaction can be significantly reduced by aligning combine, grain cart, tractor and other wheel tracks into a controlled traffic pattern,” said Hanna. “Using the same wheel tracks helps minimize the amount of land damaged. Farmers also should carefully evaluate wheel tread patterns when acquiring machinery.”

Other practices were also seen as effective. Sixty percent of farmers agreed that removing crop residue can lead to increased soil compaction, and 57 percent agreed that no-till is an effective way to reduce compaction. Fifty-five percent indicated that fall tillage is an important compaction management strategy for their operation. Forty-seven percent indicated that winter freeze and thaw and summer shrink and swell are sufficient to address soil compaction on the land they farm.

Seventy-five percent of farmers reported they use “simple observation” to determine whether soil compaction is an issue. Fifty-nine percent use evaluation of plant growth, 24 percent dig the root system, and 21 percent use a penetrometer or other metal rod to measure soil resistance, Arbuckle said.

“Digging and inspecting old root masses to look for compaction is a good practice before investing in deep tillage operations,” added Hanna. “Excessive tillage can destroy natural soil structure that helps prevent compaction.”

More information about soil compaction can be found in the publication “Understanding and Managing Soil Compaction” (PM 1901B), available from the ISU Extension and Outreach Online Store.

Neuberger named Technical Services/Allied Industry Veterinarian of the Year

Darrell Neuberger, DVM, was honored as the Technical Services/Allied Industry Veterinarian of the Year at the American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV) Annual Meeting this month in Dallas. This recognition is given annually to the technical services or allied industry veterinarian who has demonstrated an unusual degree of proficiency and effectiveness in veterinary service to their company and its clients as well as giving tirelessly in service to AASV and the swine industry.

Dr. Neuberger has spent his career working in the swine industry in Iowa. Since 2009, Dr. Neuberger has served as a senior manager in Technical Services for Zoetis. Prior to joining Zoetis, he worked as a Technical Services veterinarian for Fort Dodge Animal Health and in a mixed-animal veterinary practice. Dr. Neuberger received both his undergraduate degree and doctorate of veterinary medicine (DVM) from Iowa State University (ISU).

“Dr. Neuberger is dedicated to improving the lives of the people and pigs around him, and that dedication has been duly acknowledged with this well-deserved award,” said Shelley Stanford, DVM, director, U.S. Pork Technical Services, Zoetis. “We consider ourselves very fortunate to have Dr. Neuberger and his years of committed service to veterinarians, producers and the swine industry as part of our team.”

In addition to his daily responsibilities of supporting veterinarians and producers, Dr. Neuberger enjoys mentoring veterinary students at ISU, as well as coordinating the Zoetis Summer Veterinary Student Intern Program. He also continues learning as he helps educate students, other veterinarians, producers and caregivers. Dr. Neuberger has been involved in countless research projects and completed the University of Illinois Executive Veterinary Program in 2000.

“I am most humbled to receive this recognition,” Dr. Neuberger said. “The swine industry is a wonderful community to work in, and I am honored to be spending my career as part of it. I would like to sincerely thank those who nominated me and the talented Zoetis team that I share this recognition with.”

Outside of work, Dr. Neuberger and his wife, Diane, keep busy by traveling and visiting their three daughters and four grandchildren. Dr. Neuberger also is an avid fisherman and Iowa State Cyclones fan.

NCGA Seeks Tomorrow's Leaders

The National Corn Growers Association reminders farmers they are invited to become a part of the change they desire by actively honing their leadership skills through the Leadership at Its Best Program or the Advanced Leadership Academy, both co-sponsored by Syngenta.  Growers must be nominated by their state corn association for either program.  Interested members should contact their state associations now for further information and get completed applications in to state offices by April 9.

"Since it began in the mid 1980s, Leadership at Its Best has helped train strong, confident volunteers who have helped shape the industry through their subsequent work at the state and national level," said NCGA President Martin Barbre.  "This year, we again ask that farmers come forward and act upon their desire to give back to their peers. NCGA depends upon grassroots leadership, and I can personally attest that the time and effort dedicated are repaid in full through the incredible relationships built with like-minded individuals."

Open to all NCGA membership, Leadership at Its Best provides training to interested volunteers of all skill levels.  The first session, held in August in Greensboro, N.C., addresses personal communications skills, public speaking and association management.  The second session, which will be held in January of 2015, addresses public policy issues, working with the Hill and parliamentary procedure.  Through this program, participants build the skill set needed to become a more confident public speaker with a solid background in the procedures and processes used by NCGA and many state organizations.

Since 1986, the National Corn Growers Association, the state corn associations and, most importantly, the U.S. corn industry, have benefited tremendously from the Syngenta- co-sponsored Leadership At Its Best Program.  More than 550 growers have gained invaluable media, communications, association management and public policy knowledge and skills over the lifetime of the program.

Advanced Leadership training aims to help develop top-notch state and national leadership that is empowered to elevate the leaders around them within the industry and their communities. It builds upon the Leadership at Its Best Program.  States may nominate two applicants, one as a primary candidate and one to serve as an alternate. Nominees must be a member of NCGA, a graduate of Leadership at Its Best, and about to assume, or already in, a senior national or state leadership post.

"As a graduate of the program, I understand the important role this program plays in helping develop the skills and build the relationships necessary to lead such a dynamic organization in an ever-changing environment," said Barbre.

Participants must be registered members of NCGA.  Those interested should contact their state corn organization which will submit nominees for the programs.

The first session of the Advanced Leadership Academy will take place Minneapolis, MN September 8-11, 2014. During this session, participants will focus on leadership, communication and negotiation skills. The second session, held January 25-29, 2015 in Washington D.C., will focus on the further development of lobbying and media training abilities.

Those interested should contact their state corn organization, which will submit nominees for the programs.

Farm Bureau on Water Quality Trading: It’s Complicated

Managing nutrients is complicated and any water quality trading system must take this into consideration, the American Farm Bureau Federation told Congress today. Although Farm Bureau supports the concept of water quality trading, such programs should remain under state management rather than federal government control.

Carl Shaffer, president of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment. Click on the image for a high resolution version.

“There are major scientific, market and regulatory challenges to water quality trading,” said Carl Shaffer, president of Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, testifying to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment on behalf of AFBF.

If properly designed and implemented, trading can help make reaching nutrient water quality standards more affordable, said Shaffer.

However, “Achieving the goals of trading depends on having easily understood rules that clearly define what is being traded and exchange procedures,” Shaffer explained. He also noted that farmers are deeply concerned about the environment.

“Farmers and ranchers constantly take advantage of new technology, new practices and programs as they become available, to grow quality food products while protecting natural resources,” Shaffer said.

Shaffer closed by emphasizing that although the concept of water quality trading has the potential to be a useful tool, in practice, it is not so simple, as regulatory and cost barriers can be a hindrance.

Fed Cattle Inventories Remain Low, But Growing

John Michael Riley, Extension Economist, Mississippi State University

The United States Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service (USDA, NASS) released their monthly Cattle on Feed report Friday afternoon (Mar 21). The report revealed that 10.790 million head of cattle were in U.S. feedlots with a capacity of 1,000 head or larger on March 1, 2014. Placements into feedlots during the month of February totaled 1.650 million head while marketings totaled 1.549 million head.

Placements were expected to be larger once again in February. The average of analysts' expectations called for an increase of 9.1% from last year's number and the range of expectations ran from an increase of 2.2% to 18.2%. So, while the range was wide, everyone who was polled looked for a year-over-year increase. The reported placement number, 1.650 million head, was an increase of 14.7% from February 2013 and a 1.0% increase from the five-year average from 2009 to 2013. Based on this, it is apparent that last year's number was a bit out of line. Indeed, the February 2013 placement number was the lowest since the current on feed data started in 1996.

Placements by weight revealed a tendency toward heavier cattle being put on feed, but overall placements were up across all weight classes. Despite lower feed prices in recent months, keeping cattle on grass remains an advantage. Placements in 600 to 699 pound weight group showed the largest year-over-year percentage increase, but were the smallest in terms of total head placed. This weight group saw a total of 330 million head put on feed versus 515 head for the 800 and up group, which was the largest. The average placement weight was 713.9 pounds, employing the common method of using the midpoint from each weight group, which was on par with last year and the average from 2009 to 2013. Nebraska once again led the nation in total placements with 430 million head. Texas accounted for 410 million head and Kanas placed 330 million head.

Cattle marketed in February totaled 1.549 million head, down 3.4% versus last year and down 9.4% compared to the average from 2009 to 2013. Pre-report expectations called for marketings to come in at a 2.9% drop, so the reported value was a tad worse than that. This marks the lowest level of February cattle marketed since the data began in 1996 and the second lowest across all months. Before being too alarmed, keep in mind that supplies are extremely tight and will limit marketings. Also, February is typically one of the three lowest months for marketings during the year due to the timing of placements five to six months earlier (August and September 2013 placements were, respectively, the lowest and second lowest on record for their respective months) and the lack of prominent demand, for example, given the start of the Lent season.

As a result of the higher placements than were expected and the lower marketings, total cattle on feed inventories were higher than anticipated. The 10.790 million head were 0.5% lower than March 1, 2013 and 3.6% lower than the average from 2009 to 2013. Interestingly, inventories have risen month-over-month for the past two months, which is typically not the case. So, we are noticing a build-up of inventories at a time when they historically shrink. While this comes across as concerning the more likely result will be fewer placements in future months and then fewer cattle on feed in the latter part of 2014. Therefore, the general tightening of supplies has not suddenly evaporated and continues to provide underlying price support.

Demand for US Corn in Egypt, North Africa on the Rise

According to USDA's Production, Supply and Distribution database, Egypt is expected to import 6.2 million metric tons (244 million bushels) of corn in the year that began Oct. 1, 2013, which is the second highest level of corn imports to Egypt ever. In this dramatic turnaround, the United States is projected to enjoy at least a 30 percent market share in the 2013/2014 marketing year that began Sept. 1, 2014, after the market share dropping to less than one percent during the 2012/2013 marketing year. The U.S. Grains Council has been active in Egypt promoting the United States as the long-term, reliable supplier of corn.

USGC Regional Director of the Middle East and Africa Cary Sifferath has spent the past week in Egypt, meeting with major corn importers and end-users in the poultry sector. Sifferath was joined by Hesham Hassanein, hired last January as USGC Egypt marketing manager.

"Despite a still-struggling economy in Egypt, demand is picking up for livestock feed," Sifferath said. "Because of an abundant supply of U.S. corn from an exceptional harvest last year, U.S. corn prices are much more competitive in Egypt and the rest of North Africa."

According to USDA's Export Sales Report, Sept. 1, 2013, to March 20, 2014, accumulated exports and outstanding sales to Egypt have already exceeded 1.6 million tons (63 million bushels). Industry insiders project sales are likely to total 2 million tons (78.7 million bushels) for the 2013/2014 marketing year, which ends Aug. 31. The last three years, Egypt has imported a majority of its corn from Ukraine and South America.

"Due to the on-going difficulties in Ukraine, resulting in increased prices, we've seen importers switch to placing orders for U.S. corn from March through the summer months," Sifferath said. "We're also seeing a rebound in other North African countries, including Morocco and Tunisia, where market share has also been near zero the last two years."

A Welcome Rebound: US Corn Exports to Mexico

According to USDA's Export Sales Report, as of March 20, 2014, accumulated exports of U.S. corn to Mexico are 5.5 million metric tons (216.5 million bushels), more than 3.3 million tons (131 million bushels) greater than at the same time last year. For perspective, Mexico only imported 4.5 million tons (177 million bushels) of U.S. corn for the 2012/2013 marketing year than began on Sept. 1, 2012. This dramatic turnaround is due to an abundant U.S. corn crop harvested in 2013, which allowed for U.S. corn to be competitively priced in the export market.

The 2012/2013 corn marketing year that began on Sept. 1, 2012, was marked by a tight supply of U.S. corn due to a severe drought in large part of the U.S. Corn Belt. Some top markets, including Mexico, were forced to diversify sourcing to meet demand. During 2013, Mexico imported approximately 609,000 tons (24 million bushels) of corn from Argentina and Brazil.

However, despite the availability of South American origin corn, the United States is still the preferred long-term reliable supplier of corn. The U.S. Grains Council helps bolster this reputation by providing yearly Corn Harvest and Export Cargo Quality Reports that evaluate the U.S. corn crop at harvest and again at the export channel.

Mexican grain traders confirmed their preference for U.S. corn by stating they anticipate a slight increase in corn imports compared to imports in the 2011/2012 marketing year, which was a more normal corn importing year than 2012/2013. The traders have indicated the only difference this year is the lack of competition from other suppliers such as Argentina and Brazil.

However, later this year, a projected large Mexican corn crop could dampen the rate of corn exports to Mexico. There could be a slowdown in the volume of U.S. corn imported when Mexico's corn crop is harvested, but for now the Mexican market is demonstrating its longstanding preference for U.S. corn.

IDFA and NMPF Urge Congress to Reject New Legislation Allowing Interstate Sales of Unpasteurized Milk

The nation’s dairy farmers and dairy companies today expressed their opposition to new legislation in Congress that would allow the interstate sales of raw milk, saying that any additional availability of the product will increase the number of sicknesses and deaths of people who consume it.

The International Dairy Foods Association and the National Milk Producers Federation said that “the risks inherent in raw dairy products are not worth any imagined benefits to either consumers or producers of unpasteurized milk products. Raw milk skips the pasteurization safety process, and this is playing Russian roulette with the health of too many Americans – including many of our children.”

The two associations urged lawmakers to reject the “Interstate Milk Freedom Act of 2014,” a bill introduced by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), which would repeal a long-standing ban on the sales across state lines of unpasteurized milk. Federal law currently gives states the discretion to regulate raw milk within their borders, but the dairy organizations expressed concern that repealing the interstate ban would greatly increase the production and consumption of a known health hazard.

“If this measure passes, those most vulnerable to dangerous pathogens – children – are the ones who will suffer the most. The benefits of consuming raw milk are illusory, but the painful costs of illness and death are very real,” said Jim Mulhern, President and CEO of the National Milk Productions Federation.

“Consumption of raw milk is a demonstrated public health risk. The link between raw milk and foodborne illness has been well‐documented in the scientific literature, with evidence spanning nearly 100 years. Raw milk is a key vehicle in the transmission of human pathogens, including E. coli O157:H7, Campylobacter, Listeria monocytogenes, and Salmonella,” he stated.

Several states in recent years have considered and approved legislation expanding the sales of raw milk, even as the product has been repeatedly linked to serious illnesses from coast to coast.

“Our dairy industry benefits from a very high degree of consumer confidence – confidence built in large part due to the excellent food safety record of milk and dairy products,” said Connie Tipton, President and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association. “While choice is an important value, it should not pre‐empt consumers’ well‐being. To further ease the regulations surrounding the national sale of raw milk is an unnecessary risk to consumer safety.”

The two dairy groups said that the Centers for Disease Control has reported that nearly 75 percent of raw milk‐associated outbreaks have occurred in states where sale of raw milk was legal. Only one to two percent of reported foodborne outbreaks are attributed to dairy products. However, of those, over 70 percent have been attributed to raw milk and inappropriately‐aged raw milk cheeses.

“Seldom has the science behind public health policy been so clearly one-sided. Pathogenic bacteria can be found on any dairy farm, regardless of its cleanliness or the good intentions of its owner. This legislation is a threat to public health and should not be approved,” the organizations said.

China Soybean, Rubber Importers Renege on Deals

Chinese importers of soybeans and rubber are backing out of deals, adding to a wide range of evidence showing rising financial stress in the world's second-biggest economy.

Most purchases are private, with little data on the volumes affected, but traders at Asian trading firms say they are seeing a sharp rise in canceled contracts this year while other buyers are demanding heavy discounts.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed that China has canceled orders for 517,000 metric tons of soybeans, used to make cooking oil, and compares to imports of 63.4 million tons last year. South American soybean contracts have also been canceled because of weak demand, says trade journal Oil World.

The cancellations are a big worry for the commodity markets as exporters around the world had relied for years on China's insatiable appetite for a wide range of raw ingredients. But now as jitters rise over the health of the economy, the fallout is rippling through into agricultural commodities, just weeks after the price of copper and iron ore tumbled on worries they had been used in risky Chinese financing deals.

Natural rubber, mostly grown in Southeast Asia and used to make products ranging from tires to latex gloves, is also getting hit as some buyers from China refuse to honor existing agreements, or look for ways to negotiate discounts. Two large Asian rubber producers, who asked not to be named, said Chinese buyers had defaulted on them.

Traders say buyers are trying to ask for discounts, citing reasons such as cargo arriving a few days late and claims about poor quality or contamination, said Bundit Kerdvongbundit, vice president of Von Bundit Co., Thailand's second-largest natural rubber producer. The contracts are already signed, but Chinese importers "refuse to take cargo or pay unless they get discounts."

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