Monday, March 12, 2018

Monday March 12 Ag News

Platte Valley Cattlemen Mtg is March 19th
Lucas Luckey, President, Platte Valley Cattlemen

The year is quickly moving along and many of our members are in the middle of calving while others are trying to figure out this cattle market.  With the weather finally starting to straighten out, our thoughts are starting to turn to the upcoming growing season, but before we can get that far we need to have our annual feedlot meeting.

Our March meeting will be on Monday, March 19th at Wunderlich’s Catering in Columbus.  We have Mallory Wilken as our guest speaker.  Mallory is with ICM and will be discussing bunk management and the importance of distillers in feed rations.  We will also have Settje Agri-Service update us on any changes that may be taking place with the DEQ and manure management.

Social hour will begin at 6:00 p.m. and is being sponsored by Settje Agri-Services & Engineering, Inc. The meal will be at 7:00 p.m. and sponsored by Kit Held Trucking/Mycogen Seed. See you Monday, March 19th, for drinks, steak, and great discussion.

Nebraska Among World's Best Ag, Forestry Universities

For the second year in a row, the University of Nebraska--Lincoln has been named one of the top 50 universities in the world for agriculture and forestry.

Nebraska tied with the University of Minnesota for 37th in the 2018 Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings, which were released Feb. 28. Nebraska's world ranking was two spots higher compared to the 2017 survey.

Among universities in the United States, Nebraska was 17th for agriculture and forestry.

"The QS ranking reflects IANR's palpable momentum in preparing the next generation of leaders, conducting world-class research, and making an impact here in Nebraska and across the globe," said Mike Boehm, Harlan Vice Chancellor for the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

The rankings are compiled by Quacquarelli Symonds, a British company that specializes in education. They consider reputation among academics and employers, and the citations of academic papers from the university.

Now in its 145th year, the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources (CASNR) is working to link curricular, co-curricular and experiential learning to prepare students for careers addressing global challenges. The college is increasingly focused on preparing students to engage in a globalized world. IANR has developed a number of new partnerships around the world to expand international programming focused on the shared goal of preparing students as leaders for a future in which demands on food, energy and water systems will challenge sustainability.

Required Youth Tractor Safety Training at 12 Sites This Summer

Youth Tractor Safety and Hazardous Occupations Courses will be held at 12 locations this year for 14- and 15-year-olds who will be working on a farm other than their own.  Anyone older than 15 years is also welcome to take the Nebraska Extension class, but those under age 14 are not eligible.

The class includes extensive training on tractor and ATV safety with classroom lessons and hands-on activities. Instilling an attitude of safety and a respect for agricultural equipment are primary goals of the course.

Federal law prohibits youth under 16 years of age from using specific equipment on a farm unless parents or legal guardians own the farm. Certification received through a course provided by Nebraska Extension grants an exemption to the law, allowing 14- and 15-year-olds to drive a tractor and work with certain mechanized equipment.

The most common causes of agricultural-related deaths in Nebraska are overturned tractors and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs).  Employing anyone uncertified under age 16 is a liability risk for farmers if those children operate such equipment.

The first day includes classroom instruction and hands-on demonstrations, concluding with a written test. Classroom instruction will cover the required elements of the National Safe Tractor and Machinery Operation Program. Students are required to pass the written test before taking the driving test. Day two includes lessons on equipment operation and ATV safety and a physical driving test. To receive certification, students must demonstrate competence in hitching and unhitching equipment and driving a tractor and trailer through a standardized course. Instructors will offer an ATV simulator experience to learn about safe behaviors and laws for ATVs and UTVs. Students will also need to complete homework assignments for the second day.

Course instructors are staff members of the Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health: Aaron Yoder, Ellen Duysen, Daniel Kent, and UNMC student Lucy Finocchiaro.


All on-site classes begin at 8 a.m.; end times will vary, depending on the number of participants.
Fairgrounds, Geneva - (402) 759-3712 - May 22-23
Fairgrounds, Hastings - (402) 461-7209 - May 24-25
Fairgrounds, Kearney - (308) 236-1235 - May 29-30
Fairgrounds, Auburn - (402) 274-4755 - May 31-June 1
Evangelical Free, Ainsworth - (402) 387-2213 - June 5-6
Plains Equipment, O’Neill - (402) 336-2760 - June 7-8
WCREC, North Platte - (308) 532-2683 - June 12-13
Legacy Museum, Gering - (308) 632-1480 - June 14-15
Fairgrounds, Wayne - (402) 375-3310 - June 19-20
Fairgrounds, Gordon - (308) 327-2312 - June 21 (Day 1 online)
Fairgrounds, McCook - (308) 345-3390 - June 22 (Day 1 online)
Fairgrounds, Weeping Water - (402) 267-2205 - June 29-30

Cost of the course is $60, which includes educational materials, instruction, supplies, and lunches.

Print and complete a registration found at, and submit with payment to the appropriate Extension office for the site location at least one week before the course. (Call the number listed for the particular site for further registration details.)

ISU Study:  Return on Investment a Stumbling Block for Widespread Adoption of Cover Crops

Despite farmers’ positive perceptions about cover crops and the availability of cost-share programs to incentivize their use, an Iowa State University study shows the return on investment may be the biggest hurdle to overcome for widespread adoption of the practice.

Cover crops, on the left, growing in a harvested corn field.In 2017, Iowa fields planted to cover crops grew to 760,000 acres, with less than half receiving federal or state cost share. But with millions of acres of crops, Iowa — and other Midwestern states — has yet to see widespread adoption of cover crops to reduce nitrates in water from crop fields and to conserve and build healthy soils.

“We have a substantial body of research that shows cover crops have positive long-term benefits for water quality, soil health and the environment,” said Alejandro Plastina, assistant professor of economics and extension economist. “Farmers also have positive perceptions about the value of cover crops and can take advantage of cost-share programs that incentivize their use.”

“But it’s likely that the number of acres planted won’t substantially scale up if the practice doesn’t at least break-even in the short term,” he added.

In the study, Plastina and his colleagues calculated annual net returns to cover crop use by analyzing field data collected through focus groups conducted in Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota; an online survey with responses from 11 states; and a survey mailed to 1,250 farmers in Iowa. Through the survey and focus groups, conducted in partnership with the Practical Farmers of Iowa organization, the researchers compared each farmer’s costs and revenues from fields where they used cover crops and from fields without cover crops.

Working with Plastina were Fernando Miguez, associate professor of agronomy; Fangge Liu and Wendiam Sawadgo, graduate students in economics; Guillermo Marcillo, graduate student in agronomy; and Sarah Carlson, the strategic initiatives director for Practical Farmers of Iowa.

Using the survey results, the researchers developed partial budgets to evaluate changes in net returns resulting from using cover crops in corn or soybean production.

Overall, the researchers found substantial variability in net returns, driven by the costs of planting and terminating cover crops, feed cost savings from grazing cover crops, cost-share program payments, and the difference in yields obtained in fields with and without cover crops.

“Cost-share payments are a critical incentive to support the practice of cover crops,” Plastina said. “But we found that for most farmers, these payments are insufficient to cover all costs associated with cover crops.”

What can help tilt the balance to a more positive net return?

“We found that farmers who grazed livestock on cover crops or harvested them for forage or biomass generated sufficient additional revenue or cost savings to result in overall positive returns, in addition to receiving cost-share payments,” Plastina said. “Promoting the use of cover crops for livestock grazing or forage would help a farmer’s bottom line.”

“Anecdotally, farmers may find ways to reduce costs and increase revenues, but from our research we can affirm that is not what Iowa farmers are typically experiencing,” he said. Also helpful, he added, would be developing improved guidelines to help farmers minimize yield drag on corn and soybeans while containing cover crop planting and termination costs.

“A less sustainable alternative, due to federal and state budget constraints, would be to consider public policies that provide more incentives to adopt cover crops, like more cost-share payments, subsidized seed, discounted crop insurance premiums or tax credits,” Plastina said.

Plastina admitted that partial budgets derived on survey data do not account for long-term soil and water quality benefits because no market value exists for soil health or water quality, and neither does a generally accepted method to value them. But this information still provides valuable insight for farmers and policy-makers.

“The calculated returns are based on real field data, not experimental plots, from row-crop farmers who manage acres with and without cover crops,” he said. “This information can be a useful benchmark for current and potential cover crop adopters. It also can serve as a reference for discussions on future agricultural and conservation policy.”

Plastina is developing a website on the economics of cover crops that will include tools for farmers and others to discern potential costs and benefits. The website will include a downloadable spreadsheet with several budget scenarios for cover crops and a simple web-based decision tool to generate estimated net returns to cover crops.

He also continues to conduct research, including an evaluation of the effectiveness of cost-share programs in promoting adoption of cover crops.

A paper on Plastina’s study will be published by the Journal of the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers.

The project was funded by the North Central Region of the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NCR-SARE) and the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development at Iowa State.



As a farmer, I am calling on the Trump Administration to stand on its promise to support a strong Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). The RFS is critical for rural communities across this country, and especially for farmers like myself. There is a pending proposal being floated within the White House to cap the price of Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs). RINs are the market mechanism that drives biofuels blending. Any cap or other manipulation of the Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) would not only cripple the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), but also pull corn prices down with it. The Trump Administration needs to hear from Iowa farmers!

The research shows that a price cap or waiver credit for RINs would be devastating to farmers, especially at a time when net farm income is projected to be at its lowest level in more than a decade. Iowa State University estimates the price of corn will drop 25 cents per bushel because of a RIN cap/waiver. This will put prices well below the breakeven point and threaten the livelihood of my farm.

There is no way to cut, cap, or eliminate RINs without cutting, capping, or eliminating gallons of homegrown biofuels. Cutting biofuels means less demand and lower prices for the corn I grow on my farm. It is simple - a RIN cap/waiver = lower prices for farmers. 

We should be looking at blending MORE clean-burning fuels, not less. The first step would be removing the regulatory barriers that currently prevent year-round sale of E15 and higher blends. A true win-win would be lifting the summertime restrictions on the sales of E15. However, even summer expansion for E15 would be fruitless if coupled with a RIN cap/waiver.

Iowa farmers need to stand up for their industry and ask the Trump Administration to remember the promise made to farmers, to support the biofuels industries that have kept communities like mine in rural America alive and thriving!

Go to to have your voice heard!

ASA Raises Concerns on Possible Retaliation for Steel Tariffs, Requests Meeting with President

The American Soybean Association (ASA) has expressed the organization’s serious concerns to President Donald Trump over the potential for retaliation by China in response to proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum, and requested a meeting with the president to discuss the issue.

In a letter today, ASA President and Iowa farmer John Heisdorffer urged the president to “modify if not reverse [his] decision to avoid a trade war that could seriously undermine our industry, which is highly dependent on trade.”

Heisdorffer noted the significant contributions of soybeans to the nation’s trade balance. “In 2017, U.S. farmers produced a record 4.4 billion bushels of soybeans and exported over 2.3 billion bushels, or 52 percent, valued at $27 billion. For the last 20 years, soybeans have contributed more to the U.S. trade balance than any other agricultural product,” he said.

Heisdorffer also highlighted the importance of the Chinese marketplace to American soybeans. “In the last ten years, China has become by far the largest customer for U.S. soybeans. In 2017, China imported 1.4 billion bushels from the U.S., 61 percent of our total exports and nearly one out of every three rows of soybean production,” he said. “The importance of the China market in sustaining our livelihoods and our industry’s role in the Nation’s agricultural and rural economy cannot be overstated.”

Finally, Heisdorffer dispelled the incorrect assumption that whatever market share the U.S. loses to South American competitors like Brazil can be made up with sales to other markets.

“In the case of soybeans, this argument fails to recognize that our largest competitor, Brazil, is continuing to expand soybean production on new lands,” Heisdorffer said. “Brazil is already the world’s largest soybean exporter, including to China, and would respond quickly in the event U.S. trade actions trigger retaliation against our soybean exports.”

“As an export-driven industry, we believe agriculture can make a powerful contribution to reducing the nation’s trade deficit if the administration pursues policies that enhance our competitiveness rather than reduce our access to foreign markets,” Heisdorffer added.

The prospect of retaliation against soybeans is on the mind of ASA’s Board of Directors as it gathers in Washington this week for meetings with lawmakers and administration officials.

USDA Decides Not to Impose Additional Regulatory Requirements for Organic Producers and Handlers

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced the decision to withdraw the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) final rule published on January 19, 2017. The rule would have increased federal regulation of livestock and poultry for certified organic producers and handlers. The withdrawal becomes effective May 13, 2018.

Significant policy and legal issues were identified after the rule published in January 2017. After careful review and two rounds of public comment, USDA has determined that the rule exceeds the Department’s statutory authority, and that the changes to the existing organic regulations could have a negative effect on voluntary participation in the National Organic Program, including real costs for producers and consumers.

“The existing robust organic livestock and poultry regulations are effective,” said USDA Marketing and Regulatory Program Undersecretary Greg Ibach. “The organic industry’s continued growth domestically and globally shows that consumers trust the current approach that balances consumer expectations and the needs of organic producers and handlers.”

According to USDA reports for 2017, the number of certified organic operations increased domestically by seven percent and globally by 11 percent. Industry estimates show that organic sales in the United States reached almost $47 billion in 2016, reflecting an increase of almost $3.7 billion since 2015.

The Department carefully considered public comments and the relative costs and benefits for both producers and consumers of imposing the proposed additional regulations.

More information on the OLPP final rule is available in the March 12, 2018, Federal Register, and on the USDA National Organic Program web page.

NCBA Applauds USDA's Withdrawal of Organic Marketing Rule

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Kevin Kester today issued the following statement regarding the announcement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that it is withdrawing its Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) final rule:

"Common sense scored an all-too-rare victory in Washington, DC, today. Not only did USDA not have the legal authority to implement animal-welfare regulations, but the rule would have also vilified conventionally raised livestock without recognizing our commitment to raise all cattle humanely, regardless of the marketing program they're in. Secretary Sonny Perdue deserves a lot of credit for yet another common-sense decision that will benefit America's cattle producers."

Farm Bureau Praises Withdrawal of Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Rule

President Zippy Duvall

“The American Farm Bureau supports USDA’s decision to withdraw the misguided Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Rule. Livestock health and well-being is a priority for all farmers and ranchers. We rely on trained professionals, including animal scientists, nutritionists and veterinarians, to ensure the health and safety of our food. The rule did not promote food safety or animal welfare. It went beyond the intent of the Organic Production Act by allowing for animal welfare standards and metrics to become part of the organic label.

“Had the rule gone into effect, forcing organic farmers and ranchers to arbitrarily change their production practices, many would have been driven out of the organic sector or out of business entirely, reducing the supply of organic food choices for America’s consumers.

“Farm Bureau thanks Secretary Sonny Perdue for his leadership in withdrawing the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Rule.”

 Organic Livestock Standards Rule Withdrawn to Detriment of Family Farmers, Organic Label

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today withdrew the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) final rule, a set of standards that organic producers would have had to meet to qualify for the voluntary organic label for livestock and poultry.

USDA’s move will exacerbate consumer confusion about the meaning of the organic label, and it will ultimately negatively impact family organic producers who adhere to strict, voluntary organic standards, according to National Farmers Union (NFU).

NFU President Roger Johnson issued the following statement in response to USDA’s action:

“The voluntary practices that farmers need to meet to qualify for a USDA ‘organic’ label have always been governed by those that created the organic movement and who adhere to the strict standards that are agreed upon by the National Organic Standards Board. This body directed the National Organic Program to issue the OLPP standards in order to have some consistency in what is considered to be an organic practice.

“USDA’s action to withdraw the OLPP rule is a mistake that will cost the family producers who already adhere to strict standards in order to meet ‘organic’ standards. It puts them on an uneven playing field with the types of operations who skirt the rules, yet also benefit from the same USDA organic label.”

Soil Health Partnership Builds One of Largest U.S. Databases of Soil Health Sample Info from Working Farms

The seeds of good data have been planted—and the Soil Health Partnership is eager to harvest early results.

The organization’s team is currently preparing for another round of robust soil sampling, a critical part of identifying, testing and measuring farm management practices that improve sustainability through soil health. An initiative of the National Corn Growers Association, the program’s goal is to quantify the benefits of these practices–like growing cover crops in the off-season and reducing tillage—from an economic standpoint, showing farmers how healthy soil benefits their bottom line.

“We have spent the first few years carefully constructing the infrastructure within our program to make sure that we have scientifically credible data,” said Nick Goeser, NCGA Vice President of Production and Sustainability. “We are now beginning to make early sense of the scope and scale of the dataset collected over last 3 and a half years – and we are eagerly anticipating the next 7-plus years of data collection.”

Research of this type, size and scope on working farms is unique. Goeser noted that the farmer data in the program are closely guarded and used only in the farmer’s best interest. SHP data are not released to anyone – not even the founding partners in the program – without each farmer’s written consent.

Looking beyond routine soil tests, SHP has collected a database of more than 1,200 samples to look at physical and biological soil health indicators across enrolled farmers. When including stratified sampling for routine analyses, the number jumps to almost 17.5 thousand samples—making it one of the biggest databases of soil health sample information from working, commercial scale farms in the country, Goeser said. The SHP collects over 165 measurements on things like soil type, aerial imagery, yield, and management practices.

Based on the data, SHP has had a glimpse of very preliminary results on one important soil health indicator—aggregate stability. This refers to the ability of soil to resist breaking down in the face of disruptive forces like rain or wind.

“Many factors influence crop yields – and an early look shows as much as a 10-to-20 percent yield variability across the ranges of aggregate stability, depending on soil type,” Goeser said. “The current assumption is that aggregate stability is improved by reduced tillage and cover crops – we will continue testing this to see where this holds true.”

This research provides an opportunity to demonstrate whether poor aggregate stability is a limiting factor in production, Goeser added.

SHP is also looking at economics of practice shifts like adding cover crops, changes in tillage or adjustments to nutrient management. Early results are promising across the partnership with many individual farm examples of increased profitability through proper adoption of cover crops.

The SHP is also tracking how long it takes to improve soil health indicators like aggregate stability, water holding capacity, and nutrient content.

What makes SHP stand out from other conservation cropping system programs is that SHP strives to enroll typical farmers to gain realistic and practical perspectives about agricultural systems and the capacity to change. About 75 percent of the SHP farms are in a typical corn and soybean rotation. About 37 percent of the farmers practice no-till, 20 percent implement full-width conventional tillage, with a remaining 43 percent practicing reduced tillage, or a combination of reduced and no-till.

“We know that every soil type responds differently to erosion or tillage, weed management, nutrient application, and other agronomic practices. Over time, the data will bear out those effects more fully,” Goeser said.  “That’s when we’ll really have a field day digging into the data.”

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