Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Wednesday August 19 Ag News

Midwest Crop Tour Day 3 - The Yield Search
Can Illinois and Iowa deliver the big yields needed to reach USDA's August production estimates? That continued to be the question of the day as crop scouts on the ProFarmer Midwest Crop Tour pulled samples in the big corn and soy states Wednesday.

The tour measured the Illinois crop at 171.64 bushels per acre -- nearly equal to USDA's 172 bpa August estimate and higher than the 3-year tour average yield of 163.01 bpa.

The Illinois soybean crop was measured at 1,190.47 pods in a 3-foot-by-3-foot square, down 8.4% from the previous year, but comparable to three-year tour averages and in line with USDA's soybean yield estimates for the state.

Early corn counts from southwestern Iowa measured 166.26 bpa. Iowa soybean pod counts ranged from a low of 1,213.52 in north-western Iowa to 1,296.49 pods in a 3-foot-by-3-foot square in southwestern Iowa.

Yields improved as Iowa scouts headed north. West-central Iowa tour samples averaged 184.88 bpa and north-central Iowa measured an average 188.19 bpa. Northern corn leaf blight and Goss's Wilt was noted in corn fields and there was some concern about stalk quality.

Soybean maturity is a concern in Iowa. Scouts observed fields that were planted in mid-to-late July and still actively blooming.

UNMC spinoff company to test H1N1 vaccine in animal trial

An H1N1 vaccine developed at the University of Nebraska Medical Center will enter a definitive round of testing this month, and researchers hope to establish its ability to ward off  the virus.

Made possible by a licensing deal brokered through UNMC's technology transfer office, UNeMed Corporation, the study will evaluate the vaccine on 30-40 pigs.

If tests yield results as expected, Prommune, Inc. could begin offering an H1N1 vaccine to hog farmers as early as the end of the year, although full approval from the USDA would likely take another three or four years.

Ultimately, an H1N1 vaccine as potentially effective as Prommune's could dramatically diminish the virus as a global threat to the world's pig population and could even lead to more effective vaccines for similar diseases in birds and perhaps humans.

Prommune, Inc. was built around the research of Sam Sanderson, Ph.D., who founded the company in 2002. Sanderson is currently a research associate professor of pharmaceutical science in the UNMC College of Pharmacy.

Sanderson's technology essentially helps activate and direct the immune system into a more targeted and efficient attack against invading pathogens.

The technology, an immune stimulating peptide called EP67, is a "platform technology" that is so versatile it can be tweaked and modified to work against a number of ailments and in a wide variety of animals.

In addition to the H1N1 vaccine, EP67 could have applications against different varieties of the avian flu virus, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and other infectious agents.

But long before Prommune can develop anything for human use, researchers still need to compile years of data – beginning with the planned trials in coming weeks, said Prommune's interim CEO Sam Al-Murrani, Ph.D.

Al-Murrani joined Prommune in March, after first meeting Sanderson at an animal health investment forum in Kansas City back in 2013.

Al-Murrani, who has a background in animal health and holds a doctorate in immunology and biochemistry, said a platform technology like EP67 would intrigue investors and strategic partners. Several recent initial public offerings in the animal health sector didn't compare well to Prommune's innovative technology, he said.

"I think Prommune today has more product and market potential than any of those companies," he said.

Al-Murrani is the chief executive officer of Babylon BioConsulting, a firm based in Cheyenne, Wyo., which specializes in bringing early-stage technologies to biomedical markets.

Since signing on with Prommune in March, Al-Murrani has helped Prommune build a corporate structure, negotiated the licensing deal with UNeMed and established a strategic alliance with a nationally renowned animal testing facility that helped open the door to the upcoming trial.


Visitors to the Nebraska State Fair -- Aug. 28 to Sept. 7 in Grand Island -- can view more than 10,000 4-H exhibits from 2,500 exhibitors, representing all 93 Nebraska counties. In many cases, these exhibits represent the first step in a career path for Nebraska youth.

4-H research has shown that the hands-on learning gained through these projects is more effective than traditional classroom lectures at getting youth excited about careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Exhibits will be displayed in more than 40 project areas, including animals, foods, clothing and textiles, robotics, computers, the environment, veterinary science, heritage and leadership.

"Working on projects for the fair gives 4-H youth the opportunity to discover areas they'd like to learn more about and cultivate their skills," said Shane Potter, assistant extension educator in 4-H youth development. "The Nebraska State Fair is the capstone event for 4-H'ers to showcase their educational experiences that have taken place in the past year."

4-H also helps identify academic focus areas that will get youth one step closer to their careers. At the fair, youth can participate in their first class from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln through Nebraska's Largest Classroom, a self-guided field trip where students and teachers can take part in activities and educational content. Nebraska 4-H and UNL academic departments will lead activities. The classroom will be open Aug. 31 to Sept. 2.

In addition to 4-H exhibits, several free interactive activities for kids will be available to fair visitors. This includes exploring biological systems engineering, "ag-citing" science, animal science, healthy lifestyles, community engagement and early childhood development activities through The Learning Child.

Visitors can download the Nebraska State Fair 4-H app to keep track of events, results and news, and to view a map. The app also can be used to play the Seek and Scan game, which allows visitors to scan symbols on signs next to more than 50 exhibits to unlock videos.

The fair also will include:

> A showcase of youth participating in the 4-H Food Smart Families program, from 5 to 7 p.m. Sept. 1 in the Raising Nebraska building. The program, sponsored by the National 4-H Council and the ConAgra Foods Foundation, equips families to make healthy living part of their everyday lives through nutrition education, cooking skills and food budgeting skills. Nebraska 4-H is working with 13 Nebraska Extension offices across the state to guide 2,750 youth through the program. The program includes youth ambassadors mentored by Nebraska Extension professionals at each program site. Youth participants will showcase what they have learned, including food preparation and food budgeting skills.

> The UNL Food Processing Center's food-sampling display in the FFA-4H building. Many Nebraska favorites, along with newly introduced products, will be available for tasting from more than 10 food companies. Products include salsa, pasta, pickles, soups, lemonade, seasoning blends, jellies, sauces, beef jerky, popcorn, salad dressings, sunflower seeds and marinades. Companies scheduled to participate include: Preferred Popcorn, Chapman; Hiland Dairy Co., Grand Island; Barn Candle Company, Kiehl and Stroh Co., Hastings; Balabans, Henderson; Hill's Sunflower Seed Co., Punkindoodle Foods, and Smoking Gun Jerky & Marinade, Lincoln; Holen One Farms, Loomis; Sweet Heat Peppers, Omaha; and Country Rhoads, Superior.

> UNL Red Out Day on Sept. 6. Starting at noon, free Husker bags will be available for guests at the main entrance. Various UNL departments will provide hands-on activities for youth from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Family Fun Activity Center. A Husker pep rally on the Family Fun Zone Stage will take place at 3 p.m. Fans can hear the beatboxing skills of DeWayne and cheer along with UNL cheerleaders and Lil' Red.

For more information on the Nebraska State Fair, including schedules, visit or

Conversation Helps Bridge Farmer-Consumer Gap

A Food Dialogues event held last week in Minneapolis by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance focused on the need to bridge the gap between consumer concerns and food production and sourcing decisions.

From environmental sustainability to GMO safety and animal welfare, consumers increasingly want to know if the methods used to grow and raise food are impacting their long-term health or that of the planet.

At the panel event, it became clear how steps are being taken by food company executives, registered dietitians and chefs to address these questions and better meet consumers' needs, including sharing more information about the farms and ranches where the food comes from. At the same time, farmers and ranchers are connecting to consumers, using blogs, websites and social media to share their stories and make agriculture more accessible to consumers than ever before.

Despite these efforts, questions and concerns about food production are abound. The panel discussion, moderated by Bloomberg's Alan Bjerga and featuring Minnesota soybean farmers and food executives, was a conversation that focused on bridging the information gap between food production practices, consumer concerns on health and the environment, and choices food executives must make when sourcing their products.

Click here for a video of the panel and more information.....  The Minneapolis event was cosponsored by the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council and the Nebraska Soybean Board.

West Central Signs Letter of Intent with Farmers Cooperative Company (FC) for Unification Study

The boards of directors at two of Iowa’s leading farmer-owned cooperatives yesterday signed a letter of intent to study the membership benefits of a unification.  The boards of Farmers Cooperative Company (FC), of Ames, Iowa and West Central® Cooperative of Ralston, Iowa have unanimously approved the first step towards a potential unification of the two companies.

“This letter of intent allows us to further explore equity, governance, organizational structure, asset investment and other member-focused efficiencies,” explained Sue Tronchetti, a Paton-area farmer and chairperson of the West Central board.

Both FC and West Central are profitable companies with strong balance sheets.

“In our first series of discussions, we have identified several opportunities that we believe will benefit our members today and for decades to come,” explained John Scott, an Odebolt-area farmer and president of the FC board of directors.

“We recognize we must continue to serve the needs of our members in order to remain relevant in a global supply chain and in turn, protect our members’ cooperative investment,” added Tronchetti.

“Our early discussions highlight opportunities to improve productivity by sharing resources to better deploy assets like application equipment, rail access and truck logistics,” explained FC chief executive officer, Jim Chism. “Being more effective in our execution would reduce costs and allow us to better serve customers.”

Chism added, “We believe the opportunities in a combined company would also provide more consistent, value-added customer service.”

“Each organization brings unique strengths to the table which we believe would further diversify our businesses,” said West Central president and chief executive officer, Milan Kucerak. “For example, FC has access to every major rail line in Iowa and West Central has built-in soybean demand for 20 million bushels annually at our SoyPlus® manufacturing plant.”

“In addition, by strategically channeling capital we would be able to target larger, more substantial investments to benefit members,” added Kucerak. “We aim to always better utilize member resources and in turn, improve our services.”

In coming weeks, the companies will host a series of employee and member meetings and conduct due diligence. Then, the boards will determine whether to take the unification proposal to a membership vote. Should the process move to a membership vote, both FC members and West Central members would vote.

Board chairs Scott and Tronchetti urged members to participate in member meetings during the due diligence phase to share feedback and concerns with management and the board. A list of meeting dates and locations is available online via each company’s website in the customer log-in section.

Iowa Has New Info on Impact of Avian Flu

The avian flu outbreak, which forced the depopulation of 34 million birds on 77 Iowa farms, won't just raise the price for eggs and poultry for up to the next three years; it also is costing the nation's largest egg-producing state nearly 8,500 jobs; some of which, may never be replaced. That's the finding from a new study, commissioned by the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation and conducted by Decision Innovation Solutions.

The study shows in addition to job losses, the 'bird flu' outbreak will cost Iowa nearly $427 million in lost additional value, more than half of which is income for Iowans. IFBF Director of Research and Commodity Services Dave Miller says the ripple effects of the lost jobs and revenue could last for up to three years, which will also impact egg and poultry prices, since it takes months to get the birds and the staff back in place.

"Egg prices are likely to peak out this summer, but the "elevated" price for eggs is likely to linger for a minimum of 12 months and could last for two to three years. Recovery from this outbreak which devastated Iowa egg and poultry farms will not be swift," says Miller. "It's really astounding that we could lose half of our poultry flock in a couple of months."

While the avian flu outbreak was first discovered in a small, backyard chicken flock in another state, it cost Iowa the most damage, particularly in the northwest part of the state, since it has the highest population of birds and bird farms.

But, it's not just bird farms and bird farm workers who are at a loss; as poultry farms cut back, other Iowa businesses up and downstream were affected, including veterinarians, trucking companies, processors and lenders.

It also means nearly $427 million in value-added income was lost, because grain farmers and other businesses that sell their feed and other goods and services to poultry farms couldn't continue to make and sell products and services like they did before the outbreak.

APHIS Issues RFP for Highly Pathogenic Avian Flu Vaccine

The USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has been preparing for the potential recurrence in the fall of the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus that affected more than 48 million birds at over 200 poultry facilities earlier this year. As part of these preparations, APHIS and its state and industry partners are examining the potential use of vaccine to help prevent illness in birds and interrupt the spread of the disease. APHIS is announcing two actions related to vaccine use: the issuance of a request for proposals for vaccine doses to equip the National Veterinary Stockpile, and notification that APHIS will publish an environmental assessment evaluating the potential environmental impacts of using vaccine in the event of an HPAI outbreak.

While APHIS has not approved the use of vaccine to respond to HPAI to date, the Agency is preparing to ensure that vaccine is available should the decision be made to use it. APHIS is seeking to create a stockpile of vaccine for the Eurasian H5 (EA H5) virus strain that circulated in domestic poultry earlier this year. APHIS issued a request for proposals yesterday for vaccine manufacturers with the interest and capability to supply a variety of EA H5 vaccines in sufficient numbers to establish the emergency stockpile.

Vaccines will be carefully evaluated on a number of factors including their efficacy against EA H5 viruses, and products must meet all of APHIS’ safety, potency, and purity standards. All eligible products to be considered must be either conditionally or fully licensed or permitted at the time of submission. Vaccine manufacturers will be evaluated on their ability to produce such vaccines in a timely manner in adequate numbers to meet the needs of the response.

The RFP is available online at

In the coming weeks, APHIS will also publish an environmental assessment that examines the impacts of using HPAI vaccine in the field during an outbreak response. This assessment will look at two alternatives: approving vaccine use targeting EA H5 viruses or taking no action. Once published, the EA will have a 30-day public comment period.

USDA Quarterly Hogs and Pigs Survey Coming Soon

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) is reminding hog producers nationwide to keep an eye out for the Quarterly Hogs and Pigs Survey. Next conducted in early September, the quarterly survey will gather detailed data on inventories of market hog and breeding stock inventories as well as farrowing intentions.

Producers who receive the survey questionnaire in the mail can respond via the Internet, mail or fax. Producers who do not respond in one of those ways will have the opportunity for a telephone or personal interview. The data gathered in these quarterly surveys allow NASS to accurately measure and report conditions and trends in the U.S. pork industry over the course of the year. The information is used by all sectors of the industry to make strategic decisions and guide investments.

As is the case with all NASS surveys, information provided by respondents is confidential by law.

Internet Access Increases as more Producers use Satellite and Wireless Connections

When U.S. producers were asked to respond to questions for USDA-NASS's biennial Farm Computer Usage and Ownership report, 70 percent report having access to the Internet, up 3 percentage points from 2013. A DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) connection is the most common method of accessing the Internet, with 30 percent of the farms in the United States using it, down from 35 percent in 2013. A wireless connection, at 29 percent, and a satellite connection at 21 percent, increased 5 and 4 percentage points, respectively. Other reported methods of accessing the Internet include cable modem service (12 percent), dial-up service (3 percent), and other or unknown (5 percent).

Farms with computer access at 73 percent is slightly higher than the 71 percent of the farms that reporting owning or leasing a computer. Computer access by sales class is 71 percent for sales class $1,000--$9,999; 70 percent for sales class $10,000--$99,999; 73 percent for Sales Class $100,000--$249,999; and 85 percent for Sales Class $250,000 or more. 

Computer usage for farm business at 43 percent nationally, is up 3 percentage points from 2013. This compares with usage by the four geographic regions: West (48 percent), North Central (46 percent), Northeast (45 percent), and the South (36 percent). Comparing computer usage by crop and livestock farms, 47 percent of the crop producers use the computer for farm business compared to 39 percent of the livestock producers. Computer uses include:
*    Purchasing agricultural inputs: 19 percent
*    Marketing activities: 16 percent
*    Accessing USDA-NASS reports: 10 percent
*    Accessing other USDA reports/services: 17 percent
*    Accessing other federal government websites: 17 percent
*    Conducting business with any USDA website: 9 percent
*    Conducting business with any other federal government website: 7 percent
*    Conducting business with a non-agricultural website: 44 percent


According to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, 78 percent of Nebraska farms had access to computers in 2015. This compares to the national average of 73 percent. Seventy-five percent of farms in Nebraska had internet access, up 3 percent from the last time this data was collected in 2013.


Seventy-four percent of Iowa farms own or lease a computer, 3 percentage points higher than the U.S. percentage, according to the latest USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service Farm Computer Use report. Seventy-six percent of Iowa farms report having access to a computer, up slightly from 2013. Farms using computers for their farm business remains unchanged at 53 percent, still well above the national percentage, which rose to 43 percent.

Seventy-four percent of Iowa farms have Internet access, up 3 percentage points from 2013. A wireless connection is now the most common method of accessing the Internet, with 28 percent of farms in Iowa with access to the Internet utilizing wireless. In 2015, DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) service declined to 26 percent, down from 34 percent in 2013. The proportion of Iowa farms using satellite service increased to 19 percent and cable modem service increased to 14 percent.

Oil Lower on Bearish EIA Supply Data

New York Mercantile Exchange oil futures settled at new lows Wednesday afternoon after federal data showed a surprise build in weekly crude oil inventories with the complex led lower by a significant drop in RBOB futures.

The Energy Information Administration’s oil report for the week-ended Aug. 14 was viewed with a bearish tint for domestic crude stocks that accelerated selling that was also fueled by rising oil production out of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

EIA reported domestic crude oil stocks posted a 2.6 million bbl build during the week-ended Aug. 14 versus an expected draw down of 2.7 million bbl. At 456.2 million bbl, the data shows crude stocks remain at levels nearly 26% higher than a year ago.

EIA reported a 2.7 million bbl decline for gasoline stocks for the week-ended Aug. 14, surpassing an expected 1.8 million bbl draw, while distillates stocks nearly doubled estimates, up 594,000 bbl versus an expected 300,000 bbl increase.

The data showed demand for crude eased, with crude inputs down 254,000 bpd for the week and refinery runs down 1.0% to 95.1% of nationwide operable capacity.

Implied demand rose however, up 19,000 bpd for gasoline and up 350,000 bpd for distillate fuels last week, but the market was already looking ahead to the end of the summer gasoline season in early September. 

July US Milk Production up 1.2 Percent

Milk production in the United States during July totaled 17.7 billion pounds, up 1.2 percent from July 2014 according to USDA.   Production per cow in the United States averaged 1,893 pounds for July, 12 pounds above July 2014.  The number of milk cows on farms in the United States was 9.32 million head, 54,000 head more than July 2014, and 1,000 head more than June 2015.

Milk production in Iowa during July 2015 totaled 406 million pounds, up 4 percent from July 2014 according to the latest USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service – Milk Production report. The average number of milk cows during July, At 212,000 head, was unchanged from last month but 4,000 more than a year ago. Monthly production per cow averaged 1,915 pounds, up 30 pounds from last July. This is the highest monthly milk per cow for July on record for Iowa.

NIAA Antibiotics Symposium Brings Together Industry Leaders in Animal and Human Health

The National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA) will be hosting its fifth annual antibiotic symposium, November 3-5, 2015 in Atlanta, Ga., at the Crowne Plaza Atlanta Midtown. This year’s conference is titled, Antibiotic Stewardship: From Metrics to Management and will be a unique forum bringing together leading researchers, government officials, retailers, and industry professionals in animal and human health.

Dr. Steve Solomon will be the Symposium’s moderator and brings over 30 years experience with the National Center for Emerging & Zoonotic Infectious Diseases at the Center for Disease Control.  He currently owns a consulting agency -- Global Public Health Consulting. “This is not just a gathering to discuss the challenges faced by the varied sectors,” says Dr. Solomon. “It is about a rich exchange of information, the development of a metrics framework, and moving forward on this very contentious and vital subject.”

NIAA has been at the forefront of driving the conversation about antibiotic use in animal agriculture and the related human health component. With increased consumer interest on this subject, and government focus on the rise, solutions from this diverse group of professionals and leaders will go a long way in filling the information gap that exists in the public and private sectors.

Solomon goes on to say, “It’s important to hear from people we don’t necessarily agree with. Everyone’s goal is to use antibiotics in an optimal way.”

Dry Bulk Freight Market Recovery May Take Year to Manifest, a Platts Survey Reveals

The global dry bulk freight market, crippled by oversupply but seeing signs of renewed activity,  is expected to take at least a year to hit the road to recovery, according to the latest Platts survey of shipping market participants.

This inaugural Platts Dry Bulk Market Survey was conducted in July and involved more than 100 dry bulk market participants, with respondents including shipowners, ship-operators, charterers, shipbrokers and analysts. Those polled represented all dry bulk segments across the Capesize, Panamax, Supramax and Handysize markets.

Some 89% of respondents felt the dry bulk freight market will need a minimum of one year to recover, while 54% of the industry players questioned were not expecting any positive changes for at least three more years.

“Despite some signs of life in dry freight rates over the past few weeks, the results of our survey indicated that most market players do not believe in a sustained upturn any time soon,” said Peter Norfolk, Platts editorial director for global shipping & freight. “While demand-side developments, particularly in China, remain of key importance to this sector, the overriding concern remains the oversupply of vessels.”

Among participants occupying various roles, shipowners were more pessimistic than charterers. While 73% of shipowners said the market would need 3-5 years to recover, 41% of charterers felt the turnaround would happen in less than two years. However, both camps were unanimous that freight rates will not be shooting up within the next 12 months.

Shipping professionals continue to see tonnage oversupply as the main reason for the current depressed state of the dry bulk freight market, with more than half of those polled citing this as the key issue hampering the sector.  Despite reasonable growth in demand across the key commodities, it remains outstripped by the availability of dry bulk vessels around the globe.

With the oversupply of tonnage being identified as the main factor behind the bearish dry bulk market, it comes as little surprise that tonnage recycling was seen by respondents as the primary driver for its recovery.  As many as 39% of respondents placed their hopes on scrapping.

As for the differences across the vessel classes, some 41% of respondents believed that all of the dry bulk market segments are contributing to its overall failing health. Though if there was a spider in the web, it would probably be identified as the Capesize market, 33% of respondents said.

Eco-ships have been considered the darlings of the dry bulk market for a while now. However, as survey results showed, not everyone shared the opinion that eco-vessels have any noteworthy influence on the general state of affairs.

The benefits accruing from eco-efficient vessels on freight rates seem to be marginal with 43% of respondents saying these ships have no significant impact at the moment.  This in part can be attributed to the currently low bunker prices that limit the fuel savings that modern tonnage gives.  On the other hand, 54% of respondents felt that lower bunker prices are beneficial to both charterers and shipowners.

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