Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Tuesday September 26 Ag News

2018 Nebraska Cattlemen Foundation Retail Value Steer Challenge

The Nebraska Cattlemen Foundation (NCF) is seeking donations of steers for its 19th Annual Retail Value Steer Challenge (RVSC) feeding competition. This is the primary fund raiser for the Foundation and by participating in the RVSC you join other Nebraska cattle producers to support NCF projects. Funds from this event support:
-    Youth and Adult Leadership Programs
-    NCF Education Programs – Scholarships
-    NCF Research Programs and Infrastructure Projects
-    History Preservation
-    Judging Teams at University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Northeast Community College, Norfolk and Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture, Curtis

Your involvement ensures these programs succeed. You also receive complete carcass data on your steer or steers and the chance to win prize money. And, you are helping the state’s leading industry sponsor programs that benefit our industry. Contributors should contact their tax professional as to the tax deductible status of this contribution. NCF is a 501 (3) C entity.

NCF welcomes steer donations by individuals, businesses, groups of individuals or businesses and NC affiliates. Participants can donate their own steer or purchase a steer from the Foundation for $1,100.   Steers need to be delivered to Darr Feedlot at Cozad prior to November 1.

Winners will be announced at the Nebraska Cattlemen Midyear Conference in June, 2018.

For more information or to enter a steer contact Lee Weide at 402.475.2333, or Jana Jensen, NC Foundation Fundraising Coordinator, at 308.588.6299


Bruce Anderson, NE Extension Forage Specialist

               Plan to graze corn stalks or bean stubble?  If these fields have much black nightshade, be careful, it might be toxic.

               Black nightshade is common in many corn and bean fields this fall, especially those with hail damage.  It usually isn’t a problem, but if the population gets high it can poison livestock that graze many of the plants.  Almost all livestock, including cattle, sheep, swine, horses, and poultry are susceptible.                                     

               All plant parts contain some of the toxin and the concentration increases as plants mature, except in the berries.  Drying as hay or after a freeze will not reduce the toxicity.

               It is very difficult to determine how much black nightshade is risky.  Guidelines say that a 1000 pound animal that eats one to three pounds of fresh black nightshade is at risk of being poisoned.  These guidelines, though, are considered conservative since there is little data on the actual toxicity of nightshade plants.  Also encouraging is that reports of nightshade poisoning have been very scarce in the past.

               How will you know how much nightshade your animals will eat?  In a corn stalk or bean stubble field, cattle usually don’t appear to seek out nightshade plants to graze.  However, green plants of nightshade might become tempting to a grazing animal, especially if there is little grain, husks, or leaves to select.

               So common sense and good observation must be your guide.  If you see animals selectively grazing green plants in stalk or stubble fields, pull them out and wait for a hard freeze before trying again.  Check again every couple days since diet selection may change as more desired residue parts are removed. If still unsure, expose only a few animals at a time to risky feed.

               Just remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

SHIC’s US Swine Disease Monitoring System Underway

The Swine Health Information Center (SHIC) is supporting a near real-time domestic swine disease monitoring system. The project will generate information useful for economic and animal health decision-making. Data will be analyzed to describe disease activity by major pathogen and/or by clinical syndrome, documenting disease activity (presence, incidence) with respect to geography while maintaining appropriate producer confidentiality.

A joint project between Iowa State University and the University of Minnesota, this new near real-time domestic monitoring system will allow:
-    Identifying and characterizing domestic emerging or endemic disease trends
-    Assisting in quantification of the economic impact of disease in specific regions
-    Aiding the progress of regional disease control programs

Field veterinarians and producers will benefit from the outcomes of this system. Information in the system will be based on existing veterinary diagnostic laboratory (VDL) data and will flow through SHIC on a regular schedule to the industry, beginning late in 2017.

Aggregating data while respecting confidentiality and producer anonymity, the system will ensure data quality and integrity for optimum reporting. Frequency of major detection of major pathogens will be reported by age group, sample type, and region. Other pathogens will be grouped into pre-defined categories and also reported by age group, sample type, and region.

To implement large-scale infectious disease control and management projects, precise, science-based information is required. By funding this project, SHIC leads the industry toward better swine health information and positively impacts the long-term sustainability of pork production. The near real-time information on swine disease made available by this system will enable better, faster, and more effective response to endemic or foreign infectious diseases. The result is a stronger, more vibrant U.S. pork industry.           

Iowa 5th in Nation for Number of Certified Organic Farms

The 2016 Certified Organic Survey was conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) in conjunction with USDA's Risk Management Agency (RMA). The 2016 Certified Organic Survey is an inventory of all known organic producers in the United States that are certified. This is the fifth organic production and practices survey NASS has conducted on the national level; the previous surveys were the 2015 Certified Organic Production Survey, 2014 Organic Production Survey, 2 011 Certified Organic Production Survey and the 2008 Organic Production Survey.

In 2016, the average organic farm in Iowa was 141 acres compared to 353 acres for the United States.

In 2016, Iowa ranked fifth in the nation for the total number of certified organic farms with 732 farms. That is about five percent of the nation's total number of certified organic farms. There were 103,136 acres of certified organic farmland in Iowa. This was an increase of 9,429 acres from 2015.

Eggs had the highest total value of sales of organically produced commodities in Iowa with $32.5 million in sales.

Corn for grain had the second highest total value of sales of organically produced commodities in Iowa with $27.1 million in sales. Iowa produced more certified organic corn of grain and soybeans than any other state, and comprised 16 and 19 percent of national production, respectively. The area harvested for organic corn for grain increased 21 percent from 2015. Organic soybeans came in with just over $15.0 million in sales.

Iowa produced 22% of the Nation's organic oats with sales totaling $3,480,529 in 2016.

On December 31, Iowa producers had 2,736 certified organic hogs on hand, and comprised 19 percent of the national inventory. Iowa's organic hog inventory ranked second, only behind Wisconsin.

Agriculture Fun in the Classroom

How are indoor barns impacting animal care? What is sustainable agriculture? How are new technologies improving water efficiency? These are the questions that are answered for high school students through U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance’s (USFRA) Discovering Farmland curriculum. With food production’s connection to science, economics, technology and sustainability, these topics make agriculture relatable to students highlighting how farming and ranching has evolved over several decades.

The Discovering Farmland curriculum uses the award-winning documentary, “FARMLAND,” a film by James Moll, as a foundation. It gives teachers and high school students a first-hand glimpse into agriculture through the eyes of six young farmers and ranchers. Through standards-aligned companion activities, 360-degree farm animal videos, and a Digital Exploration (exploring food product labels), these engaging resources bring the film and the agriculture industry directly into the classroom.

“New technologies continually improve animal welfare and environmental sustainability, and we’re excited to share our accomplishments in agriculture with others,” said Brad Greenway, USFRA Chairman and South Dakota diversified crop and animal farmer. “The Discovering Farmland curriculum sparks conversations with students about innovations enhancing our food supply, and these unique activities keep them intrigued.”

Launched in September, Discovering Farmland’s newest activities include:
-    360-Degree Videos: Animal safety, health, comfort and environmental sustainability are common concerns expressed in regards to raising animals for food. The 360-degree videos are one-of-a-kind immersion experiences of life inside a modern pig farm.
-    Interactive Lesson Plans and Activities: With 12 different videos supporting PowerPoint-based lessons plans and activities, engaging topics include: How to Use Trash to Help Crops Grow, Breaking Down Stereotypes, and Sustainability Practices in Modern Farming, among several others.
-    Digital Exploration: Students can investigate food product labels by choosing a specific product from virtual grocery store shelves featuring produce, meat, and cereal. It also includes an educator guide and Get to Know GMOs activity.

To promote these lesson plans more broadly, USFRA partnered with Discovery Education, the leading provider of digital content and professional development for K-12 classrooms, who created lessons that are flexible and easy to integrate for teachers. By aligning the lessons plans to the Next Generation Science Standards and agribusiness standards, in addition to C3 Framework Standards for Social Studies, the content can be integrated into a variety of settings. Serving 4.5 million educators and over 50 million students, Discovery Education’s services are in half of U.S. classrooms and more than 50 countries.

“This initiative has inspired students with an innovative curriculum that brings to life critical issues impacting the agriculture industry, such as sustainability, the new science and technology behind farming, and entrepreneurship,” said Randy Krotz, U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance CEO. “With the Discovering Farmland project reaching more than one million students, we want to continue that momentum and help inform the next generation of consumers.”

These resources are available to all high school students across the country at and will become available through Discovery Education Streaming. For more information about Discovery Education’s digital content and professional development services, visit Stay connected with Discovery Education on social media through Facebook, Twitter at @DiscoveryEd, or on Instagram and Pinterest.

EPA Wants Steeper RFS Cut

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants to further reduce the renewable volume blend requirements for advanced biofuels, biomass-based diesel volumes for 2018 and 2019, and the total renewable fuel volumes in the Renewable Fuel Standard, the agency announced in a notice on Tuesday.

The proposed reductions are in addition to the agency's proposal to cut those volumes already. The deadline for the final RFS is Nov. 30. The latest change will be subject to an additional 15-day public comment period.

In the EPA notice for data availability, the agency is seeking comment on a proposal to reduce the 2018 advanced biofuel volume requirement from the proposed level of 4.24 billion gallons to 3.77 billion gallons and also to reduce the 2018 total renewable fuel volume requirement from the proposed level of 19.24 billion gallons to 18.77 billion gallons. The EPA said in the notice the new proposal is based on concerns about biofuel imports.

NAWG Submits Comments in Support of the EPA’s Withdrawal of WOTUS

On September 25, 2017, the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) submitted comments on the withdrawal of the Waters of the U.S Regulation, Docket Number: EPA-HQ-OW-2017-0203. NAWG supports the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s action to withdraw and revise the regulation.

NAWG President and Sharon Springs, KS farmer David Schemm made the following statement:

"In our comments, NAWG reiterated our concerns about the broad reach of WOTUS and areas of land that would come under jurisdiction outlined in the regulation. Further, NAWG is alarmed with the activities EPA engaged in to promote the regulation and actions that the General Accounting Office determined were illegal. 

“Our growers are seeking clarity in understanding which waters come under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act and the regulation finalized in 2015 does not provide that clarification.  

“The 2015 regulation also oversteps the federal role and should allow for state actions and respect the roles of cooperative federalism. EPA should not attempt to regulate in areas that are within the jurisdiction of state authority.

“NAWG supports the efforts of the administration to withdraw this regulation and take steps to developing a new regulation. We look forward to continue engaging with the EPA as they seek stakeholder input.”

NMPF Supports Effort to Bring Clarity to EPA’s Waters of the U.S. Regulation

The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) told the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today that the dairy industry supports a two-step process to roll back the existing Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) regulation and generate a new policy that provides farmers greater certainty in the future.

NMPF has supported efforts by the Trump Administration since January to restart the regulatory process behind the controversial 2015 Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule. NMPF provided comments today to EPA in support of rescinding the 2015 rule so the agency can initiate a new regulatory process defining and regulating groundwater sources. The agency has been soliciting comments on the WOTUS revision process during the past two months.

“A fresh start and a more reasonable approach that complies with past Supreme Court rulings will be in the best interests of the environment and dairy farmers,” said Jamie Jonker, NMPF vice president for sustainability and scientific affairs, in comments to EPA.  “We are committed to working with the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to find effective ways to protect America’s water supplies.”

Rescinding the 2015 policy – which is currently not being enforced because an appeals court suspended it last year, pending the outcome of several lawsuits – is the first step in a two-part process. In the forthcoming second step, EPA will need to propose a new rule that conforms to the various Supreme Court cases impacting definitions for what is considered a water of the U.S.  In NMPF’s letter to EPA, Jonker said that EPA and the Army Corps will need to correct the ambiguity resulting from the 2015 rule’s lack of clarity on key terms and definitions, such as “adjacent,” “floodplain” and “significant nexus.”

“The agencies’ new notice-and-comment rulemaking needs to provide dairy farmers with certainty as to what constitutes navigable waters of the United States by clearly complying with the Supreme Court decisions,” NMPF wrote. “We look forward to working with you in the future for the proper clarity that dairy farmers need on WOTUS to continue to meet our shared commitment to clean water,” NMPF wrote.

U.S. Packing Capacity Well Prepared for Expanding Beef Production

As the U.S. beef cattle herd expands over the next two years, beef production is projected to keep pace and increase another three to five percent in 2018 and 2019, according to a new report from CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange Division. Strong profitability and years of excellent pasture conditions provided the strong footing that has spurred the expansion.

“The beef herd expansion we’ve seen from 2014 to 2017 has been the most aggressive three-year start to any expansion on record,” said Trevor Amen, animal protein economist at CoBank. “Recent slaughter numbers and the cattle on feed mix indicate the expansion rate is slowing, but barring any significant export market disruptions or weather events, expansion will continue through the end of the decade.”

USDA estimates the 2017 calf crop will top 36 million head, an increase of 2.9 percent over 2016 and an 8.3 percent increase compared to the cyclical low calf crop in 2014.

“Profitability for cow-calf producers was at record levels in 2014 and 2015,” said Amen. “Historically, average profitability at the cow-calf level has to dip below breakeven to trigger a transition from herd expansion to contraction.”
Demand Will Remain a Critical Factor

Beef demand has exceeded expectations so far in 2017. A price rally and favorable margins for feeders and packers have bolstered overall industry profitability. Strong beef exports are critical to keep supplies in check and support prices. Exports are currently on pace to increase seven to nine percent in 2017 and five to seven percent in 2018.

“Export demand has been strong,” said Amen. “Momentum has been building since July 2016 and forecasts continue to adjust upward for the remainder of this year. Combined with decreased imports, we’re experiencing a more favorable net trade balance and keeping domestic per capita supplies in check while supporting prices levels.”

Amen suggests the industry will be squarely focused on maintaining export growth and strong domestic consumption in the face of growing supplies. Increasing dependence on export markets offers significant growth opportunities for the industry, but also increases the uncertainty and risk of domestic oversupply.
Packing Capacity Not a Concern

While the number of market-ready cattle will continue to increase over the next two years, currently available slaughter capacity at U.S packing plants will be sufficient to handle the increase. Saturday slaughter hours have been steadily increasing since the middle of 2016. However, it is unlikely that packers will need to reopen shuttered plants or build additional facilities.

“Plants will add additional slaughter hours to manage the extra supply through 2019,” said Amen. “The biggest potential concerns as the industry drifts closer to maximum packing capacity are labor availability and temporary plant closures for unforeseen maintenance issues.”

Processors are expected to increase investments in automation and robotics to reduce the risk of skilled labor shortages. Ongoing modernization of plants for greater efficiency and productivity will simultaneously equip the industry to meet the most advanced food safety protocols, an imperative to keep the U.S competitive in the global beef market.

A brief synopsis of the report, “U.S. Packing Capacity Sufficient for Expanding Cattle Herd” is available on the CoBank YouTube channel.

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