Thursday, March 6, 2014

Thursday March 6 Ag News

UNL Report Outlines Potential for Livestock Expansion in Nebraska

            A new report from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln outlines the potential for expansion of the state's livestock industry.

            Ronnie Green, vice president of agriculture and natural resources for the University of Nebraska, discussed the report today (March 6) at the Governor's Ag Conference in Kearney.

            "We all know that livestock is big business in Nebraska," Green said. "Clearly there are opportunities to expand the industry to ensure further economic success in our state."

            Greg Ibach, director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, welcomed the report.

            "The report outlines exciting rural development opportunities through the livestock sector," Ibach said. "But it also outlines the critical role local community leaders and public policy makers still have in helping Nebraska achieve its full potential."

            The 24-page report, prepared by faculty in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's agricultural economics department, notes that the "Nebraska advantage," a reference to the state's unique mix of crop, livestock and biofuel production, has served the state well. However, the report notes, in some respects Nebraska's livestock industry has fallen behind those in other states.

            The report, prepared in collaboration with the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, outlines potential expansion scenarios in beef cattle, dairy cattle, pork and poultry. It outlines potential obstacles and benefits.

            The report concludes: "At this juncture it would appear that the livestock component of this unique system has considerable potential for further expansion. In fact, the long-term economic sustainability of the total crop/livestock/biofuel system and its ability to thrive in the future may hinge upon such expansion as global demand for food products, especially protein-based products, rises. The market forces, both domestic and global, are well positioned to allow investment in and expansion of this state's animal industry in the coming decade."

            "As the state's land-grant university," Green said, "we are hoping to use this report as a way to start a statewide conversation about this potential, understanding that all Nebraska citizens have a stake in this matter."

            The report is posted online at the agricultural economics department's website,


The Nebraska Department of Agriculture has released a new video featuring the scope and depth of the agriculture industry in the state.  The video, simply called "Nebraska Agriculture," will be used to promote the state's top industry within the domestic and international marketplace.

Nebraska Agriculture Director Greg Ibach unveiled the six-minute video during the 26th annual Governor's Ag Conference in Kearney.  The piece is meant to inform while creating a simultaneous emotional connection, Ibach said.

“I think this video will be a source of pride for those involved in the industry, but also touch those outside of agriculture,” Ibach said.  "It captures the essence of what we do in agriculture in a way that I think the consumer - our customer - will appreciate."

The video also serves a basic and important educational function, Ibach said.  It provides viewers with an overview of Nebraska’s agricultural landscape and specifically highlights the technological innovations that producers use, the compassion and pride of producers in creating food, fuel and fiber for the world, and the rich heritage and the future of the industry.

"Whether you are a producer, a consumer, or an agribusiness looking to locate in Nebraska, you’ll be able to learn more about how truly diverse and spectacular the agricultural industry across our state is," Ibach said.

The video also will serve a key role in the educational exhibits in the new Nebraska agriculture building that will debut at the 2014 Nebraska State Fair, so there is the potential for some 300,000 views of the video through that venue, Ibach said.

A number of Governor's Ag Conference speakers discussed the importance of sharing the agriculture story with consumers, said NDA Public Information Officer Christin Kamm.

"It is a message we have been repeating to others," Kamm said.  "The agriculture industry organizations are doing great work, often specializing in their respective sectors.  We wanted to do our part and put a comprehensive piece in front of the public."

Kamm said the video is available through the Department's website, YouTube channel, Facebook and Twitter pages.

Ibach said he encourages all those involved in the agriculture industry in Nebraska to share the video. It can be used for marketing, as well as general educational purposes.

"This is for everyone who wants to help tell the positive story of agriculture in Nebraska," Ibach said. "There is no other industry quite like it."

Legislation Introduced to Prevent EPA from Releasing Producer Information

Today, United States Reps. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.), Lee Terry (R-Neb.), Mike McIntyre (D-NC) and Jim Costa (D-Cal.) introduced legislation to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from disclosing the private and confidential information of livestock and poultry producers to the public.

The Farmer Identity Protection Act (H.R. 4157) comes in response to the EPA’s release of livestock and poultry producers’ names and other personal information to three radical environmental groups through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in February and again in April 2013. The release divulged names, addresses, geographic coordinates and in some cases telephone numbers and email addresses of over 80,000 producers in 29 states. EPA has plans to release information on thousands more farmers and ranchers in the future.

“There is no justification for the blatant disregard of our privacy,” said NCBA President Bob McCan. “To turn this type of information over to anyone who has a computer is not just reckless, but it poses serious agro-terrorism threats.”

EPA claims it lacks statutory authority to protect livestock producers’ personal information. The Farmer Identity Protection Act would unequivocally provide the agency with the ability to prevent such farm-specific releases from happening in the future, allowing the agency to provide information to outside parties only in aggregate without individual identifying information, or with the producer’s consent.

“Once this information is released, you cannot take it back,” said McCan. “With EPA planning to release more information as soon as it is able, Congress must step in and provide relief to livestock producers. We applaud the representatives that have introduced this bill to help protect the health and safety of cattle producers and their families.”

H.R. 4157 is the companion bill to S. 1343 introduced in the Senate by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) in July 2013.

Statement by NeFBF's Steve Nelson on Revenue Committee Fails to Advance Property Tax Relief Measure

“We are extremely disappointed the Nebraska Legislature’s Revenue Committee has voted not to advance LB 670 from committee. The decision made today is a blow to the hundreds of Nebraska farm and ranch families that took the time and effort to attend public hearings across the state this past fall to share their concerns about the ever growing property tax burden.”

“LB 670 would help alleviate property tax pressure by lowering the value of agricultural land from 75 percent of value to 65 percent of value for taxation purposes through a three-year phase in period.”

“The Revenue Committee’s decision is disheartening based on the fact that Nebraska farmers and ranchers pay the third highest property taxes in the U.S. It is also widely known that Nebraska taxes agricultural land at a much higher rate than neighboring states. And in terms of equity in our tax system, farmers and ranchers account for less than three percent of our state’s population, but have watched as their share of statewide property taxes paid has grown from 18 percent to 26 percent since 2006.”

“Despite the Revenue Committee’s decision today, it is our hope the Legislature will refocus its efforts to provide the meaningful property tax relief that was called for by so many Nebraska farm and ranch families.”


Bruce Anderson, UNL Extension Forage Specialist

               Alfalfa is a hungry crop.  Proper fertilizing in spring often is needed to feed alfalfa so it will produce profitable yields.  So what are your fertilizer plans?

               How much fertilizer should you apply to alfalfa?  With increasing fertilizer costs and strong land use competition from other crops, the only way to answer that question intelligently is to first get a soil test.  Soil tests tell you the amount of each nutrient your soil can provide to your alfalfa plants.  Then we can determine how much more fertilizer, if any, should be applied for maximum profits.

               Remember that alfalfa gets most of its nitrogen from the air if the plant roots are well-nodulated.  So usually you are just wasting money and fertilizer if you fertilize with nitrogen.  However, all other nutrients must come from the soil or from fertilizer.

               Many soils in our region provide high quantities of most nutrients.  But very few soils provide all the nutrients needed for top alfalfa yields.  So fertilizer often is needed.

               Collect soil samples as soon as frost is gone from existing alfalfa fields and also from fields you expect to plant to alfalfa this spring or next fall.  Send these samples to a lab for analyses of at least phosphorus and soil pH.  If your field is sandy, eroded, or highly weathered, also test for potassium and sulfur.

               Most important of all, use the results of these soil tests, with advice from your extension educator and fertilizer dealer, to develop an alfalfa fertilizer program designed for your conditions.  Better alfalfa profits will be the result.

Pellet Technology USA Announces Award of Feed Pellet Patent

Pellet Technology USA (PTUSA) announced today the award by the US Patent Office of a patent that covers the process of using agriculture residue biomass to produce feed for the livestock industry.

The patent, 8,551,549 is for a process to create feed pellets from Ag residues such as corn stover (the stalks, leaves and cobs of corn) or wheat straw.

"This latest patent is an integrated platform in connection with our technology that allows Ag residue to be developed into a nutritious feed source for the livestock industry," said Russ Zeeck, Founder and COO, PTUSA.

The patent covers one of the technologies in PTUSA's process for creating feed pellets from Ag residue. It further covers the harvesting, baling, shredding, grinding and processing components. This patent allows PTUSA to diversify itself from other residue treatments due to the specific manufacturing requirements necessary to produce a consistent finished feed.

"Our Commercial Demonstration Facility located in Gretna, Nebraska allows us to have a research and development base to create additional Ag residue outputs as we see the needs for solutions to accelerate," said Zeeck.

This "densified feed" conceptually similar to today's livestock feed rations, can effectively be used to improve nutrition and eliminate the need to handle and process large amounts of raw feedstocks for livestock producers. Innovation of this kind reduces volatility during times of commodity fluctuation. Being able to use more Ag residue as feed sources is a win-win for agricultural and livestock producers.

USDA Makes Payments to Support Production of Advanced Biofuel Three Nebraska companies receive funding to help reduce dependence on foreign oil and increase development of domestic renewable energy

Agriculture Under Secretary Doug O’Brien today announced that USDA is making nearly $60 million in payments to 195 producers to support the production of advanced biofuel.

  Producers across the country are yielding strong results. Ag Processing, Inc headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska, received total payments of $3,855,520. The company produces biodiesel from soybean and other oils at facilities located in Sergeant Bluffs and Algona, Iowa and St. Joseph, Missouri.

  Cornhusker Energy Lexington, LLC received total payments of $957.00. The company operates an ethanol processing facility in Lexington, Nebraska. Ethanol produced from sorghum feedstock (versus corn) qualifies as an advanced biofuel and therefore is eligible to receive payments under the Advanced Biofuel Producer Payment program.

  Chief Ethanol Fuel, Inc received total payments of $4,079.00. The company operates an ethanol processing facility in Hastings, Nebraska and has also expanded the feedstock used in the production of ethanol to include sorghum.

   “These payments represent the Obama Administration’s commitment to support an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy and to help create jobs,” O’Brien said.  “Producing advanced biofuels is a major component of the effort to take control of America’s energy future by developing domestic, renewable energy sources.”

   The funding is being provided through the Advanced Biofuel Payment Program, which was established in the 2008 Farm Bill and reauthorized in the recently signed 2014 Farm Bill.  Under this program, payments are made to eligible producers based on the amount of advanced biofuels produced from renewable biomass other than corn kernel starch.  Examples of eligible feedstocks include but are not limited to: crop residue; animal, food and yard waste; vegetable oil; and animal fat.

   Through this program and others at USDA, the department is working to support the research, investment and infrastructure necessary to build a robust and lasting biofuels industry that creates jobs and broadens the range of feedstocks used to produce renewable fuel.  More than 300 producers in 47 states have received $279 million in payments since the program’s inception.  It has supported the production of more than four billion gallons of advanced biofuel and the equivalent of more than 40 billion kilowatt hours of electric energy.

Several States Undermining Animal Welfare, Wasting Taxpayer Dollars, and Opposing States’ Rights by Joining in on Laying Hen Case
(from HSUS)

The decision by five states to join a lawsuit attacking a California animal welfare and food safety law may have far-reaching implications for a raft of state laws that protect agriculture and consumers.

The effort by Alabama, Iowa, Kentucky, Nebraska and Oklahoma to join a lawsuit attacking a duly enacted California statute to promote animal welfare and food safety was criticized by The Humane Society of the United States.

“State officials trying to curry favor with agribusiness interests are letting their political grandstanding trump their better judgment about the rights of states to make laws and about the wisdom of having some minimal standards for the care of animals,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States.

The lawsuit, initiated by Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, targets a California law requiring that shell eggs sold in the state come from hens that have enough space to turn around and spread their wings. But the legal challenge could have implications for a raft of state laws duly adopted by legislatures and departments of agriculture that protect agriculture and food safety and reflect the values of the states’ citizens. It puts at risk all state laws on agricultural imports, including on the labeling of seeds and weeds, the sale of adulterated commercial feed, the health of hogs and milk products entering the state, and the testing of cattle for brucellosis, tuberculosis and other diseases.

“State lawmakers and agriculture departments have real work to do, and the underlying basis of this lawsuit is to allow the federal government to trump state law as it wishes on agriculture policy,” said Kevin Fulton, a Nebraska cattle rancher who heads the HSUS Nebraska Agriculture Council. “Whether it’s setting requirements for the import of livestock infected with brucellosis or tuberculosis, for firewood infested with termites, or for eggs from hens confined in barren battery cages that are more likely to carry Salmonella, states have a right to make their own decisions.”

Iowa, the largest egg producer in the country, recently was home to a Salmonella outbreak, resulting in people being sickened across the country and prompting the recall of 500 million eggs. There have been nearly 20 studies published in recent years comparing caged and cage-free egg operations, and almost all found significantly higher rates of Salmonella in the caged facilities. California—and every other state—has a right under the U.S. Constitution to regulate or eliminate an unsafe and inhumane product from its local market, regardless of the product’s place of origin.

“Producers from all of these states can sell into California, as long as they adhere to reasonable and safe animal husbandry practices,” said Chris Petersen, an Iowa pork producer and a member of the HSUS Iowa Agriculture Council. “California is not asking anything more of out-of-state farmers than in-state producers.”

Because so many state laws on the books regulate the sales and imports of agricultural products, the laws put at risk by this legal challenge include those in the very states filing the lawsuit, such as:
-    Alabama laws on emission regulations for grain elevators, and labeling requirements for beer and wine.
-    Iowa laws requiring testing of swine for brucellosis before entering the state, setting standards for the sale of corn, soybeans and vegetable seeds, mandating segregation of dairy cattle to be moved to slaughter, requiring labeling of artificial sweeteners in products sold in the state and packaging requirements for eggs sold in the state.
-    Kentucky laws on the labeling of wine and liquor, and licensing for out-of-state brewers and microbrewers.
-    Missouri laws blocking imports of livestock, poultry and exotic animals from other states depending on flock’s certification under health programs.
-    Oklahoma laws relating to the branding and tagging of cattle, making it unlawful to move livestock into or out of a quarantine area, governing vaccines given to broiler chickens, requiring standards for milk products sold in the state and banning the sale of horse meat for human consumption.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the appellate court likely to hear this case at some point, recently rejected a very similar challenge to the one Missouri and the other states are bringing, over California’s ban on force feeding birds to produce foie gras, and the sale of products from force-fed birds. The court held that the foie gras law was well within the state’s broad authority to enact humane laws and prevent animal cruelty.

“It’s just not appropriate to jam six or eight birds in tiny spaces so they cannot move,” added Pacelle. “These states should stop trying to force their sub-standard products on California consumers, even though the California legislature has declared such products to be at odds with the state’s values and a threat to public health.”

55 Groups Ask Congress to Help Stop USDA from Introducing FMD Into the United States

In a letter sent today,55 organizations asked a bipartisan group of five U.S. Senators for help in stopping the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) from going forward with plans to relax the nation's protections against foot-and-mouth disease (FMD).

On Dec. 23, 2013, APHIS proposed to relax U.S. disease protections to allow the importation of fresh beef from Brazil, a country where, according to the group's letter, FMD is still considered endemic.

"We are concerned that APHIS is disregarding its responsibilities under the Animal Health Protection Act (AHPA)," the groups told the Senators.

The groups referred to APHIS' proposal to allow fresh Brazilian beef into the United States as "a radical and seemingly unjustified departure" from the disease protection measures that APHIS told Congress were necessary to prevent the introduction of FMD in a 2003 report.

The groups want Congress to require APHIS to suspend consideration of its Brazilian rule until after the agency updates its 2003 Final Report for the Animal Disease Risk Assessment, Prevention, and Control Act of 2001.

"This 2003 Final Report made clear that the more stringent disease protection protocols in place at the outset of the 21st Century were necessary to prevent the introduction of FMD into the United States," the letter stated.

Citing USDA trade reports indicating that the U.S. has been importing fresh beef from China and fresh pork from Colombia, even though both countries are banned from exporting either beef or pork to the U.S. due to FMD, the groups are also asking Congress to conduct an immediate investigation to determine if U.S. import controls have already been undermined.

To highlight the dire consequences of relaxing U.S. disease protections, the groups wrote: "The potential for FMD to devastate U.S. livestock production is paralleled by a new deadly virus now devastating U.S. hog producers: "PEDV" (Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus).

"PEDV was first identified in the U.S. in April 2013. In less than one year, PEDV has killed several million swine. PEDV is virtually 100% fatal for infected swine weighing less than 40 pounds. PEDV's DNA traces back to origins in China, according to Wisconsin State Veterinarian Dr. Paul McGraw." 

The bipartisan group of Senators that received the group's request include Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Senator Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.).

The 55 groups making the request include: Alabama Contract Poultry Growers, American Agriculture Movement, American Grassfed Association, Buckeye Quality Beef Association (Ohio), California Farmers Union, Cattle Producers of Louisiana, Cattle Producers of Washington, Center for Food Safety, The CJD Foundation, Coalition for a Prosperous America (CPA), Colorado Independent CattleGrowers Association, Contract Poultry Growers Association of the Virginias, Dakota Rural Action, Dewitt County Farm Bureau, TX, Every One At The Table For Health (EAT4HEALTH), Family Farm Defenders, Farm & Ranch Freedom Alliance, Farms Not Arms (Calif.), Food & Water Watch, Independent Beef Association of North Dakota (I-BAND), Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska, Independent Cattlemen of Wyoming, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), International Texas Longhorn Association, Intertribal Agricultural Council, Kansas Cattlemen's Association, Massey Road Cattle Producers (Iowa), The Milkweed, Missouri Farmers Union, Missouri Rural Crisis Center, Missouri's Best Beef Co-Operative, National Association of Farm Animal Welfare, National Family Farm Coalition, National Farmers Organization, National Farmers Union, National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association, Nebraska Farmers Union, Nebraska Women Involved in Farm Economics, Nevada Live Stock Association, New England Farmers Union, North Country Sustainability Center, Inc., Northern New Mexico Stockman's Association, Northern Wisconsin Beef Producers Association, Ohio Farmers Union, Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM), PCC Natural Markets, Powder River Basin Resource Council, Progressive Agriculture Organization (Pro-Ag), R-CALF USA, Rural Coalition/Coalición Rural, Socially Responsible Agricultural Project (SRA Project), South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, Texas-Mexico Border Coalition, Tri-State Wool Marketing Association, and Western Organization of Resource Councils.

Iowa Farm Custom Rate Survey Shows Slight Increases for 2014

The 2014 Iowa Farm Custom Rate Survey followed the recent trend of small, but consistent increases in rates each year. According to William Edwards, retired Iowa State University Extension and Outreach economist, most operations showed increases of 4 to 6 percent over the average rates in the 2013 survey. The survey includes information on tillage, planting, spraying and harvesting grain or forages. Also included are values for miscellaneous services and machinery rental.

The values reported on the survey are the average of all the responses received for each category. The range of the highest and lowest responses received is also reported. The values survey respondents report are what they expect to pay or charge in the coming year. These values are intended only as a guide to help both custom operators and people who hire custom work done arrive at a reasonable rate.

A total of 195 Iowa farmers, custom operators and farm managers replied to the survey. Twenty-seven percent of them reported that they performed custom work for others, 12 percent reported hiring custom work done and 61 percent indicated that they did both.

There are many reasons why the rate charged in a particular situation should be above or below the average. These include the timeliness with which operations are performed, quality and special features of the machine, operator skill, size and shape of fields, number of acres contracted, and the condition of the crop for harvesting. The availability of custom operators in a given area also will affect rates.

The Ag Decision Maker offers a Decision Tool to help custom operators and other farmers estimate their own costs for specific machinery operations. The Machinery Cost Calculator, File A3-29 can be found under Crops, then Machinery in the Ag Decision Maker table of contents.

The 2014 Iowa Farm Custom Rate Survey is available at your county extension office or online as publication FM-1698, from the Extension Online Store, or as Information File A3-10, Iowa Farm Custom Rate Survey, on the Ag Decision Maker website

Iowa Soybean Association farmers lead national policy development

Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) farmers helped develop national soybean policy regarding data ownership, crop and livestock interstate commerce regulations and commercial barge traffic at the American Soybean Association meeting held in San Antonio, Texas, last week.

ISA leaders provided resolutions including:

    Supporting national agriculture organizations working together on behalf of farmers and with industry to clarify policy for the acquisition, ownership, valuation and utilization of agricultural data and to provide educational opportunities for farmers on best use practices.

    Supporting the recommendations of the 25X25 Adaptation Initiative, including engaging in public and private research on best adaptations for crops and livestock, implementation of conservation practices designed to maintain the productivity of land and assisting farmers in risk management to minimize potential losses. Farmers also support approaches that strengthen production systems, improve profitability and reduce environmental impacts.

    Supporting the Interstate Commerce Clause stating that no state should attempt to regulate interstate commerce of crop and livestock products by adopting more stringent regulations than federal requirements for crop and livestock production and products and applying those standards to all products sold in that state.

    Supporting the commercial barge traffic amendment seeking maintenance and improvement of river locks and dams, focusing available funding on maintaining and preserving the existing system. In addition, if available funding is available, it should be applied to the construction of new 1,200 foot lock chambers at Lock and Dam 25, 24, 22, 21 and 20 on the Upper Mississippi River and LaGrange and Peoria on the Illinois River, along with the modification and expansion of other structures and facilities that increase transportation efficiency. 

 “We were pleased to have our most important issues brought forward through the resolution process,” said Brian Kemp, ISA president and Sibley-area farmer. “It was a true grassroots and Midwest team effort, as well. We worked with several neighboring states as these resolutions were developed. These are topics that we surfaced and discussed at our own policy work earlier this winter. We will continue to support our members through this national policy work.”

2014 Commodity Classic Breaks All Records

With more than 7,300 total attendees, the 2014 Commodity Classic convention and trade show, which took place last week in San Antonio, Texas, shattered previous records for the landmark event.

“We knew it was the biggest event ever, but the numbers really surprised us as we saw them rolling in over the course of the event,” said Commodity Classic Co-Chair Rob Elliott. “San Antonio was such a perfect venue for our growers, and Commodity Classic had so much to offer this year. We’re thrilled with the numbers and the great feedback we had from our growers.”

Total attendance was 7,325, representing an 18 percent increase over last year's record-breaking number of 6,214. Other records broken were the number of growers, at 3,874, a 16.5 percent increase over 2013’s record-breaking number of 3,324; and the number of first-time attendees, at 1,261.  Additionally, the trade show featured an all-time high of 301 participating companies, representing a record 126,200 net square feet of booth space.

“It’s amazing the number of first-time attendees we saw at this year’s Classic,” Commodity Classic Co-Chair Wyatt Whitford said. “This means not only are we reaching a wider farmer audience, but will continue to do so as these attendees spread the word and encourage even more to see what Classic is all about next year.”

The record attendance comes as Commodity Classic looks forward to two landmark events in 2015 and 2016. Next year in Phoenix, Ariz., the 20th annual event takes place in the city where it all started; and in 2016 in New Orleans, Commodity Classic welcomes a new affiliate, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM). The expanded show of tomorrow will look much like the Commodity Classic of today, only bigger and better, including the addition of several components and a number of exhibitors from AEM’s 2013 AG CONNECT Expo & Summit. Commodity Classic is, and will continue to be, farmer-led.

The recently updated Strategic Vision for Commodity Classic is as follows: Commodity Classic is America’s top agricultural convention and trade show, managed by farmers, for farmers, and will draw a greater quantity of high-caliber, innovative and professional farmers who attend to be educated, engaged and entertained. A key strategic goal of Commodity Classic is to more than double the number of farmer-attendees, and this year’s increase in attendance continues the progress toward that end.

Good Steward Recognition Program Honors Farmer for Conservation and Outreach

The National Corn Growers Association recognized good stewardship last week during the 2014 Commodity Classic convention and trade show in San Antonio, Texas.  Tim Smith from Eagle Grove, Iowa was honored as the inaugural honoree in NCGA’s Good Steward Recognition Program. The program and award funding was provided by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation as part of their Harvesting the Potential campaign to raise awareness among U.S. farmers of the importance of conservation agriculture.

“NCGA is known for taking the lead on many programs that are now commonplace in the corn industry,” said NCGA President Martin Barbre. “We expand awareness of best practices in sustainable corn production by recognizing the special efforts of those who demonstrate the economic and conservation value of soil management, and Tim has really proven a superior commitment to sustainability through innovation.”

“We are pleased to support the Good Steward Award to recognize farmers who demonstrate superior commitment to sustainable farming practices,” said Howard G. Buffett, chairman and CEO of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation.  “We are proud to partner with NCGA to advance soil health and conservation agriculture among America’s farmers, who play a critical role in feeding the world, and congratulate Tim on winning this award.”

Smith grows 820 acres of corn and soybeans in Wright County, located in north central Iowa. Within the past few years, he has adopted strip tillage, nutrient management, cover crops and a bioreactor on his farm. In addition to developing an NRCS Nutrient Management Plan, Smith participated in a nutrient strip trial to get a better understanding of the impact of reduced nitrogen application on corn yield. He also monitors the water quality benefits of his bioreactor along with monitoring his tile water to get a better understanding of how his implemented best management practices are impacting water quality. And Smith has conducted soil quality sampling to gather baseline data regarding soil health – to assist with identifying changes/improvements over time as a result of adoption of conservation practices such as strip tillage and cover crops.

In addition to making significant improvements on his farm, Smith has also become a leader in conservation outreach. He has been interviewed on camera and for articles published by multiple conservation and agricultural organizations. He has hosted tours and participated in field days for local farmers, agribusinesses and legislative leaders alike. Smith has presented his knowledge of and experiences with best management practices and water quality monitoring at conferences, to advance conservation implementation in the Boone River Watershed and beyond.

Smith was nominated for this recognition by The Nature Conservancy, which is working with NCGA, Monsanto, the Walton Family Foundation and others on a new Soil Health Partnership.

Drones, Big Data, Waterways, GMO Labeling, Trans Fats and More On Tap During ASA Open Resolutions Process

During the annual meeting of its voting delegates at last week’s Commodity Classic in San Antonio, the farmer members of the American Soybean Association (ASA) plotted the association’s policy course for the coming year during the open resolutions process. This year’s delegates tackled multiple hot-button issues, including the use of drones—or unmanned aerial vehicles—in agricultural applications, and the stewardship of massive amounts of data collected by an ever-advancing range of technological solutions on the farm.

“The issues that face our industry change so frequently that we have to be adaptable and flexible,” said ASA President and Iowa farmer Ray Gaesser. “This session enables us to keep our finger on the pulse of farmers in each state and adjust our policies so that we are representing our entire membership as effectively as possible.”

During the meeting, new resolutions were adopted to call on the Federal Aviation Administration to meet its September 2015 deadline for providing regulations on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles in farming operations; as well as to encourage farm groups to work together to set industry standards on the collection, storage and stewardship of the data generated by precision agricultural instruments.

“New technologies have advanced our industry so far in such a short period of time,” added Gaesser. “We rely on these solutions, but we also need to establish best practices to ensure the data they generate is managed in such a way that respects personal privacy.”

On infrastructure, ASA adopted a resolution calling for the continued maintenance of the waterways that are so critical to soybean farmers, while also formalizing the association’s support for new lock and dam construction on the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, among other projects.

With respect to interstate commerce, ASA’s farmer leaders reiterated the association’s opposition to piecemeal state labeling laws governing foods with genetically-modified ingredients and reaffirmed their support for a national legislative solution that would prevent such a patchwork of state legislation. Also, the delegates adopted a resolution opposing state legislation on crop and livestock protection that are more stringent than those at the federal level.

“We believe that federal legislation, whether it governs biotech foods or animal agriculture, is a far better option than an uneven and inconsistent framework of state laws that may conflict with or even contradict one another,” said Gaesser.

Additionally, ASA used the process to again call on FDA to alter its proposal to remove the generally regarded as safe (GRAS) status for partially hydrogenated oils and instead consider other approaches to reduce trans fats. ASA also lent its support to the sustainability best practices outlined in the 25x25 Adaptation Initiative; and called for the timely determination of the FSA Form 1026 process, which governs lands enrolled in wetlands protection and highly-erodible lands programs.

Finally, ASA delegates expressed their support for the 2014 Farm Bill and called upon USDA to implement its provisions in a timely manner.

“The resolutions process is one that really defines ASA as a farmer-led, farmer-focused organization,” said Gaesser. “These resolutions come to us from the farm level—from farmers who, through their experience, realize what an impact each of these issues can have. This gives us quite a to-do list, but we’re determined to make progress on each issue.”

Soybean Growers: Current Coexistence Efforts are Working, Enhancements Unnecessary

In comments submitted to the U.S. Department of Agriculture this week, American Soybean Association (ASA) President and Iowa farmer Ray Gaesser urged the Department to take both a practical and a scientific approach to enhancing agricultural coexistence. He also urged USDA to consider the already extensive work on coexistence underway in the industry.

In Gaesser’s comments, ASA, which provided separate recommendations to USDA both as part of the AC21 Committee and as a member of the AgBiotech Alliance, reinforced its position that “there is no real evidence that current efforts to achieve coexistence between neighboring producers are not working” and pointed to the failure of the AC21 Committee to identify any data that shows contamination between IP, conventional and organic farming has occurred or is a significant problem warranting additional steps beyond enhanced communication and education.

”Farmers of many kinds of different cropping systems have a long and successful history of coexistence,” Gaesser commented. “Some farmers grow crops for high-quality seed production, some grow specialty varieties within conventional crops, some grow ornamentals or vegetables, and others grow non-GMO and organic crops. All require that the grower hoping to raise one of these premium crops take prudent management steps and communicate with neighbors. We’ve seen no data to suggest that such management and communication isn’t working.”

Livestock Producers Affected by Severe Weather Urged to Keep Good Records

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Juan M. Garcia, today repeated his appeal to livestock producers affected by natural disasters such as the drought in the West and the unexpected winter storm in the upper Midwest to keep thorough records. This includes livestock and feed losses, and any additional expenses that are a result of losses to purchased forage or feed stuff.

"The 2014 Farm Bill provides a strong farm safety net to help ranchers during these difficult times,” said Garcia. “We’ll provide producers with information on new program requirements, updates and signups as the information becomes available. In the meantime, I urge producers to keep thorough records. We know these disasters have caused serious economic hardships for our livestock producers. We’ll do all we can to assist in their recovery.”

In addition to western drought and the early-winter snowstorms, there are a variety of disasters from floods to storms to unexpected freezes. Each event causes economic consequences for farmers and ranchers throughout the United States. FSA recommends that owners and producers record all pertinent information of natural disaster consequences, including:

Documentation of the number and kind of livestock that have died, supplemented if possible by photographs or video records of ownership and losses; Dates of death supported by birth recordings or purchase receipts; Costs of transporting livestock to safer grounds or to move animals to new pastures; Feed purchases if supplies or grazing pastures are destroyed; Crop records, including seed and fertilizer purchases, planting and production records; Pictures of on-farm storage facilities that were destroyed by wind or flood waters; and Evidence of damaged farm land.

China: Online U.S. Pork Promotion Goes Live on

(from US Meat Export Federation)

A new online commercial pork site opened this week and operated by China’s business-to-consumer market leader,, is promising nationwide delivery of eight U.S. pork items within 24 to 48 hours at discounts ranging up to 60 percent during a site-opening seven-day sale.

The new e-commerce platform attracted more than 400,000 viewers within the first few hours of operation, and a USMEF-organized promotion to win a sample of American pork drew more than 2,000 applications in the first hour. Support for the promotion is being provided through the Pork Checkoff.

The U.S. pork items, ranging from pre-cut bone-in pork butt steak to pork belly, are being offered to Chinese consumers nationwide. The products are sourced from three U.S. processors and are being sold through three specialized distributors who can deliver the frozen ready-to-cook items nationwide in under 48 hours.

The site provides a range of information on U.S. pork and the available products. A link allows shoppers to view a video on U.S. pork production, while other specific information about the brands and the distributors selling the products provide assurances and a “ten-fold money back guarantee” regarding the U.S. source of the products.

Three guest chefs, including Hong Kong celebrity gourmet Chef Hugo (Liang Wen Tao) and the chef to the U.S. ambassador to China, provided recipes, photos and instructional videos for the promotion.

“Online commerce is growing in China at a phenomenal rate,” said Joel Haggard, USMEF senior vice president for the Asia-Pacific region. “Food is still a small portion of total online sales, but consumers are becoming more accepting of receiving courier packages of food, including frozen perishables like meat.”

U.S. pork has been available online in China prior to this activity, but the dedicated sales platform represents a new breakthrough in online visibility, Haggard said. Online shoppers are looking for the latest brands, and are interested in the story behind the products, so the partnership with TMall will also help USMEF educate Chinese consumers about the attributes of U.S. pork.

USMEF has been investing in building up U.S. pork’s online sales potential for nearly a year. Early efforts focused on assisting online vendors with ideas and expertise on how to improve packaging so that the geographical footprint of product shipments could expand. In the meantime, investments in logistics in China have ramped up, including a project by TMall’s parent company, Ali Baba, to build its own logistical capabilities.

“We are very attracted to the online model,” Haggard said. “We see sales results instantaneously and, for this particular promotion, we stand to receive more than 1,000 detailed customer comments on U.S. pork.”

Revenue from e-commerce in China last year reached an estimated $290 billion, an increase of 38 percent over 2012. TMall is the largest business-to-consumer e-commerce platform in China, with 57 percent market share. It set a record last year for Singles Day (Nov. 11) when it sold $5.7 billion of goods and services in a 24-hour period. Logistics companies throughout China that day sorted more than 60 million packages. TMall was also featured at the USDA’s Agricultural Outlook Forum last month, where participants heard an eye-opening presentation on the company and the current and potential sales of U.S. food products through their USA Country Pavilion.

The TMall promotion’s various components were coordinated by USMEF Shanghai’s team over the last few weeks.

“This involved an incredible coordinating effort among our staff between TMall staff, U.S. processors, their distributors and the guest chefs featured on the site,” said Haggard.

The China/Hong Kong region was the third-largest export market for U.S. pork in 2013, purchasing 417,306 metric tons (920 million pounds) valued at $903.4 million, an increase of 2 percent in value on 3 percent lower volumes versus 2012 levels.

Proposed Budget May Be DOA, but Priorities Reflected Raise Some Concerns

This week, the White House released a proposed budget which has been deemed "dead upon arrival," as budgets of this nature have been for many years now. Primarily important in its symbolism, the budget released by the Administration reflects current values but is highly unlikely to impact policy in the near future.

Notably, the budget proposed by the Administration is not likely to move forward for many reasons. Senate Democrats expressed they do not find a reason to pass a budget at this time as the agreement which Congress came to in December on the matter will be in place for two years. Additionally, the proposed budget does not contain traditional enticements to encourage bipartisan discussion.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) also plans to release his own budget for his committee to consider. While neither budget is likely to have immediate ramifications, the documents' significance comes mainly from its expression of party priorities entering an election year.

The National Corn Growers Association does see cause for concern in the proposed cuts which would negatively impact American agriculture outlined in the budget released by President Obama. Proposing cuts to crop insurance and to food inspection budgets, the budget outlined by the Administration would lead to greater risk for farmers and higher prices for consumers.

The proposed cuts to crop insurance would come in the form of reductions to premium subsidies and also in funding cuts for crop insurance companies. These reductions are in direct opposition to policies passed only last month in the Farm Bill which support increased funding for crop insurance intended to help farmers minimize risk and provide economic stability for rural America. Notably, this legislation also provided tax payers' savings through the elimination of direct payments.

Proposed cuts to food inspection spending would be accompanied by proposed fees for inspection paid by users in the budget outlined by the Administration. While the reduction would theoretically reduce tax payer spending on such programs, it would create additional costs for consumers by increasing the cost of getting food to market.

Milk Life Campaign Debuts

The launch of a new campaign called Milk Life has been in the news over the past week. MilkPEP, the processor-funded checkoff, has introduced the campaign to focus on the nutrition and health benefits of milk – including protein. Protein is very important to consumers today, yet many don’t know milk delivers protein and other nutrients affordably.  The Milk Life name has multiple meanings, implying a “lifetime of milk” as well as the suggestion that consumers should “milk their lives for all they’re worth.” It aligns with the farmer-funded checkoff’s work.

Dairy farmers and the public have long loved the “got milk?” campaign, which was started by California milk processors in the early 1990s and licensed by the national farmer-funded and processor-funded checkoffs several years later. When the farmer-funded checkoff moved away from using generic advertising and began more strategic work to influence dairy sales several years ago, MilkPEP continued to use the ‘got milk?” theme to support fluid milk. 

Taco Bell Expands Breakfast with Dairy

Some of the dairy checkoff’s work with Taco Bell on breakfast menu items is reaching fruition with its U.S. rollout in all stores at the end of March. The headliner will be the Waffle Taco, filled with either bacon or sausage, and scrambled eggs and cheese, served with syrup in a portable package for eating on the go. The A.M. Crunchwrap, Taco Bell’s version of a breakfast sandwich, packs scrambled eggs, a crispy hash brown, melted cheese, and bacon, sausage or steak into a griddled tortilla. Other items will also include dairy. In fact, they plan to increase their dairy use by 5 percent this year.

New School Breakfast Campaign Begins

Research shows that improved nutrition, including daily breakfast, and increased physical activity can lead to improved academic performance. In spite of that, many kids aren’t eating this important meal and a new campaign helps to address that. Fuel Up to Play 60, Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign and Dean Foods have launched the It Starts With School Breakfast campaign. It aims to empower students and families to lead change in their own schools and communities to increase school breakfast awareness and participation by providing resources to help all kids start each day right. Breakfast includes dairy, so it drives dairy sales opportunities while also positioning dairy to help students succeed.

Taiwan Passes New GMO Tolerance Regulations

Taiwan’s government recently passed a law which, when implemented, will set some new tolerance regulations for food containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs).  This new law will require all foods containing GMO ingredients to carry a label and will also set the tolerance of GMO content for which ingredients must be labeled at 0.9%, similar to regulations in the European Union (EU).

The Taiwan Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently drafting the implementation regulations for this new policy.  These new regulations are expected to be published in May or June of 2014 and are anticipated to stipulate that items on menus and food sold in fresh markets will also require labeling regarding GMO content.

It is unknown at this time if the regulation will cover the testing bodies that will be authorized to certify the GMO content of imported foods/ingredients, and if certifications in country of origin will be allowed.  After the Taiwan FDA publishes the new regulations, there will be a 30 day comment period.

Taiwan consumes over 8 million bushels of soybeans used in soy foods.  95% of those 8 million bushels currently originate in the United States.  7.2 million bushels of those soybeans are GMO soybeans from the U.S.

Sorghum Checkoff Now Accepting Applications for Leadership Sorghum Class II

Sorghum farmers interested in participating in the Sorghum Checkoff’s Leadership Sorghum program can now apply online to become a member of Class II.  Leadership Sorghum is a farmer-focused program to develop the next generation of leaders for the sorghum industry.

Through five sessions over the span of 16 months, Class II will be exposed to various aspects of the sorghum industry from basic research to international marketing. Through both hands-on and classroom style education, participants will gain an understanding of how sorghum moves through the value chain, how checkoffs and stakeholder organizations interact on behalf of the industry and what the future holds for the crop. The program also provides professional development training and networking opportunities.

“This program has really shown me the value of producer leadership in commodity organizations as well as the broad diversity and opportunities that exist in the sorghum industry,” said Luke Sayes, Class I graduate and sorghum farmer in Deville, Louisiana. “I believe this industry has a bright future.”

Eligible applicants must be farmers actively engaged in sorghum production in the United States. Fifteen growers will be accepted into the program’s second class. Men and women are encouraged to apply.

 “It was amazing seeing the entire sorghum industry chain from seed production to the final end user,” said Pat Damman, a sorghum farmer from Clifton, Kan., and graduate of Leadership Sorghum Class I. “The experience and contacts I received will be a lifelong asset to my farming operation. I wouldn't trade the experience for anything.”

Applications and recommendations for Leadership Sorghum Class II are due April 30, 2014. Following the application deadline, all complete applications and references will be reviewed by a committee comprised of Sorghum Checkoff board members, staff and alumni of the Leadership Sorghum program. Finalists may be contacted via telephone to arrange an interview. Class members and alternates will be notified of acceptance by June 30, 2014. The online application, reference forms, program criteria and class schedule are available at

New Precision Potassium Fertilizer from AgroLiquid

Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers is pleased to announce the release of Kalibrate™, a soil applied potassium fertilizer that contains 6% sulfur.  With exceptional compatibility and efficacy when combined with many other AgroLiquid products, Kalibrate™ provides growers timely application options that can address most nutrient needs.  Kalibrate™ supplies usable potassium and sulfur when applied in strip-till, planter-time, and side-dress applications.  It is also effective when broadcast or injected through fertigation; making it an excellent potassium source for all soil-based cropping systems.

Superior performance and application flexibility are achieved through advanced manufacturing processes that utilize nutrient synergy and proprietary AgroLiquid chelating technology.  In most soil environments Kalibrate™ will eliminate the need for additional potassium applications.

Kalibrate’s lower freezing point and ability to come back into solution even after freezing makes it well-suited for fall and early-season delivery in northern climates.

No comments:

Post a Comment