Friday, March 9, 2018

Thursday March 8 Ag News

WP Champber Hoste Ag Appreciation Dinner March 20

This year's Ag Appreciation Dinner will be held on Tuesday, March 20th.  This year's entertainment will be provided by Eric Snodgrass, Meteorologist, Storm Chaser, and Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The event will be held at the Nielsen Center beginning with a social at 6:00 p.m. and dinner and the program beginning at 7:00 p.m.  The event is hosted by the West Point Chamber of Commerce.  Tickets are available from sponsor business.  More information at

Sasse Convenes Free Trade Meeting with Nebraskans, Mexican Ambassador

Today, U.S. Senator Ben Sasse, an outspoken advocate for Nebraska exports, convened a meeting with Gerónimo Gutiérrez, Mexican Ambassador to the United States, and Nebraska agriculture leaders to discuss trade, tariffs, and the importance of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Sasse welcomed Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson, Nebraska Corn Growers Association President Dan Wesely, U.S. Dry Bean Council and Nebraska Dry Bean Commission Representative Cindi Allen, and Chairman for the Joint International Trade Committee at the National Association of Wheat Growers and U.S. Wheat Associates Randon Peters to the meeting.

"Walking right to the brink of a trade war is dangerous,” said Senator Sasse. “As the anti-trade nonsense in Washington gets louder, our trading partners are getting ready to retaliate against Nebraska agriculture. A trade war would needlessly target Nebraska farmers and ranchers. Here's the good news: free-trade is a win-win for our state. The best advocates for trade are Nebraskans. We know trade best because we do it better than anyone – it’s our job to feed the world. That’s why it’s good to have these Nebraskans at the table with the ambassador today. Our message is simple: Mexico wants Nebraska agriculture and we want Mexico’s money for our crops."

Reaction from Nebraska’s ag leaders is found below:

Steve Nelson, President, Nebraska Farm Bureau -- Axtell, Nebraska:
"This is about the importance of trade to our almost 60,000 member families that make up the Nebraska Farm Bureau. Senator Sasse, the Nebraska Farm Bureau, and our whole state get this: trade wars destabilize markets — hurting producers and consumers. NAFTA is good for Nebraska and good for America."

Randon Peters, Immediate Past President, Nebraska Wheat Growers Association, Chairman for the Joint International Trade Committee at the National Association of Wheat Growers and U.S. Wheat Associates -- McCook, Nebraska:
"Half of Nebraska's wheat is exported annually — that’s why low tariffs and trade deals like NAFTA matter to our producers. The rhetoric on trade coming out of Washington is already having real impacts for our wheat growers in Nebraska — for the first time ever, Mexico is buying wheat from Argentina and pulling back from Nebraska producers. Trade is good for Nebraska, and on behalf of our state’s wheat farmers I'd like to thank Senator Sasse for being a strong free trade advocate in public and behind the scenes."

Dan Wesely, President, Nebraska Corn Growers Association -- Morse Bluff, Nebraska:
"Corn is Nebraska’s number one export to Mexico and free trade is a huge reason why. Nebraska’s corn growers are appreciative of Senator Sasse and his promotion of free trade in expanding opportunities for Nebraska corn and value-added products."

Cindi Allen, U.S. Dry Bean Council, Nebraska Dry Bean Commission -- Ogallala, Nebraska:
"Nebraska has the world’s best farmland, and our dry bean growers are proud of our contributions. Trade deals with countries like Mexico and Canada are vitally important to our state and our livelihoods. We appreciate the support that Senator Sasse is giving Nebraskans as NAFTA negotiations continue."

Statement by Steve Nelson, President, Regarding President Trump’s Announced Steel and Aluminum Tariffs

“Today’s irresponsible action by President Trump to place tariffs on imported steel and aluminum puts Nebraska farmers, ranchers, and consumers on the front line of a possible global trade war. The casualties of this conflict will unfortunately be the pocketbooks of all Americans.”

“Even with the exemption of Canada and Mexico, Nebraska risks more than $3.72 billion dollars in agricultural exports, or 58 percent of Nebraska’s total export market.”

“While we anticipate retaliatory measures to be both strategic and overtly political, markets that Nebraska farmers and ranchers have worked hard to build and maintain should not be victims of President Trumps misguided attempts to correct our nation’s trade imbalance.”

“This is not just about farmers and ranchers. U.S. consumers also stand to pay the ultimate price in both lost jobs and higher priced goods that rely on a steady supply of imported steel and aluminum.”

“With more than 30 percent of U.S. gross farm income depending on agricultural exports, and with so many farmers and ranchers riding the line between profitability and economic calamity, today’s action only serves to destabilize the agricultural economy further."

TRADE FACTS - Nebraska Risks from Retaliation on U.S. Tariffs on Steel & Aluminum
Jay Rempe, NE Farm Bureau senior economist

Top 5 Steel Suppliers to U.S.                      Top 5 Aluminum Suppliers to U.S.
Canada                                                                 Canada
Brazil                                                                     Russia
South Korea                                                       United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Mexico                                                                 China
Turkey                                                                  Bahrain

Total value of exports of agricultural goods in 2016 from Nebraska $6.4 billion (USDA ERS)

Top 6 markets for Nebraska agricultural exports (2016, USDA ERS):
Mexico            $1.46 billion                 23%
Canada           $1.22 billion                 19%
Japan              $695 million                 11%
EU                   $695 million                 11%
China               $471 million                 7%
S. Korea          $413 million                 6%

Exports to Mexico, Canada, and China are most at risk from trade war over steel and aluminum imports, but Japan is also in the top 10 countries exporting steel to the U.S.


Grazing cattle on cropland can be a win-win situation for both crop production and livestock feeding.  A Nebraska Extension field day on April 4 will provide a unique learning and networking opportunity for cattle operators and those involved in crop production.

The “Capturing Value in Cropping Systems using Cattle,” conference and field day will be from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Eastern Nebraska Research and Extension Center near Mead.

“Using cover crops and crop residues as forage sources can be cost-effective for the cattle producer and increase revenue from cropland. Opportunities and challenges of integrating cattle into cropping systems in eastern Nebraska will be discussed at this program,” said Beef Systems Specialist Mary Drewnoski.

There are many challenges and opportunities when trying to decipher how to utilize cover crops as forages and graze cattle in a traditional cropping system.  Speakers will touch on the economics, cover crop species selection, grazing management, and more. First-hand insight from a producer utilizing cover crops as forages in their cropping rotation in eastern Nebraska will also be shared.

 “We are really excited to be working with the university to explore the opportunities that bringing cattle back onto the land can offer,” says Saunders County crop producer Angela Knuth.  She is partnering with the University on a rye grazing study north of ENREC.  Knuth says, “We hope to prove that a diversified cropping rotation along with grazing is both good for the cattle and the bottom line of the cattle producer and landowner.”

Program topics include:
-    The UNL Beef Systems Initiative: Can we sustainably produce more with the same resources?
-    Nitrate toxicity: What is the potential when grazing cover crops?
-    Oats planted after high moisture corn or silage: How much grazing can we get?
-    Using triticale for spring grazing in soybean systems?
-    Grazing rye planted in corn and soybean systems: How do the cattle and crops perform?

There is no cost to attend and lunch will be provided for those who pre-register.  Participants will drive to several plots at ENREC during the event.

Registration is requested by March 30. To pre-register, visit

For more information, contact Nebraska Extension in Saunders County at (402) 624-8030 or

Gov. Ricketts Receives Awards for Leadership in Growing Agriculture

Governor Pete Ricketts was presented with two awards this month honoring his leadership in growing Nebraska agriculture.  Last week, Governor Ricketts received the “2018 Agri-Award” at the Triumph of Agriculture Exposition.  On Wednesday night at the 30th Annual Governor’s Ag Conference, he was presented with the “Nebraska and Beyond” award from the Commodity Markets Council (CMC). 

“Agriculture is the backbone of our state and the number one key to growing Nebraska,” said Governor Ricketts.  “I am honored to receive these awards on behalf of our team, which has successfully partnered with farmers and ranchers across our state to grow opportunities in agriculture.  We will continue to work together to move agriculture forward for future generations of Nebraskans.”

The Agri-Award was established in 1976 by the Triumph of Agriculture Exposition to recognize individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to agriculture in the Midwestern area.  The Triumph of Ag Expo is considered to be the area’s largest indoor short-line farm machinery show and serves as an opportunity for farmers, ranchers, and their families to learn about ways to improve their farm/ranch operations from leading farm and ranch manufacturers and suppliers.

“Congratulations to Governor Ricketts on winning the 2018 Agri-Award,” said Bob Mancuso, Jr., Triumph of Ag Expo Director.  “The Governor has been a staunch advocate for agriculture in Nebraska since his first day in office.  He has advocated on behalf of Nebraska agriculture on international trade missions, worked for and delivered property tax relief, and helped grow value-added agriculture in our state.”

CMC Chairman Charles Carey presented the “Nebraska and Beyond” award to Governor Ricketts for his efforts and leadership in growing demand for Nebraska ag products both domestically and internationally.  The award specifically recognizes the Governor’s work in marketing Nebraska agriculture by building and maintaining global relationships, which in turn create demand for Nebraska ag commodities.  The CMC is the leading trade association for commodity futures exchanges and their industry counterparts.

“We applaud Governor Ricketts’ drive and desire to tackle the large issues facing everyone involved in food, fiber, and energy production,” said CMC Chairman Carey.   “Governor Ricketts has been a leader in building foreign trade relationships that help create demand for Nebraska ag commodities.  His leadership has helped create new trade opportunities for Nebraska ag, such as his work to ensure that a Nebraska company was the first to ship beef to China after its market re-opened to U.S. beef after a 13-year ban.”

The Governor’s Ag Conference is an annual event that provides an opportunity for Nebraska ag producers across the state to hear prominent speakers in the ag industry, network, share ideas and concerns, and learn more about the future of agriculture in the state.

Farmers from Kansas, Iowa, and Nebraska talk farm bill in Washington D.C.

Three Midwest farmers met yesterday with their legislators in Washington D.C., to discuss conservation and beginning farmer policy in the next farm bill.

On March 7, farmers Mariel Barreras, Cameron Peirce, and Adam Ledvina joined Anna Johnson, of the Center for Rural Affairs, in a “farmer fly-in” with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

“I enjoyed the responsibility of sharing with our representatives the importance of conservation,” Peirce said. “The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and other conservation programs have helped us become more environmentally responsible through the use of no-till and cover crops.”

Peirce, along with his wife and two sons, raises wheat, soybeans, corn, and sunflowers in Reno County, Kansas. He talked about using cover crops with staff in the offices of Sens. Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Jerry Moran (R-KS), and Reps. Kevin Yoder (R-KS) and Roger Marshall (R-KS).

Ledvina, who raises goats near Toledo, Iowa, explained that conservation and working lands programs have played an important role in the growth and development of his farm. He visited with staff in the offices of Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Joni Ernst (R-IA), and Rep. David Young (R-IA).

Barreras visited with staff in the offices of Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE), and Reps. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Don Bacon (R-NE) about training and educational resources for veteran farmers.

She and her husband, Lt. Col. Anthony Barreras, currently on mission with the U.S. Army, raise livestock for direct retail and wholesale customers in the Omaha, Nebraska, area. Barreras said veteran farmer resources have been invaluable for them as they further develop their operation.

“The opportunity to farm and grow our family farm has come with many of the same traits needed to excel in the military service: initiative, creativity, organization, and a dedication to quality in every task completed,” she said. “Our growth and knowledge comes directly through the assistance of programs and initiatives like USDA programs and other programs built around fostering veteran and farmer networking.”

Congress has started work on the next farm bill as several representatives have introduced bills with proposals that they would like to see in the final bill. The current farm bill expires on Sept. 30, 2018.

Donations give Rock Valley FFA Students Skills for the Real World

Students at a Sioux County, Iowa high school are being given the chance to learn how to use feedlot management tools after the addition of new laptops and software to their agricultural education program. The Rock Valley High School agricultural education program recently partnered with the Iowa Cattlemen’s Foundation, the Sioux County Cattlemen and Turnkey Computer Systems to fund this project. 

Located in far northwest Iowa, Sioux County is one of the top cattle feeding counties in the nation. In 2012, the county was ranked number four in operations and number fourteen in sales of fed cattle in the US. With such a large feedlot presence, Rock Valley High School agricultural education teacher, Micah Weber, wanted to better prepare his students to enter the agriculture workforce in the future.

“Our students needs hands-on experience using data to make decisions on the farm,” says Weber. “The Advanced Livestock Tracker software from Turnkey Computer Systems is giving them that opportunity.”

Many students who participate in the high school agricultural education program in Rock Valley will go on to work in agriculture. And although they have strong backgrounds in animal science and technology, few are trained in farm management software or farm management, both skills that may be needed in the future.

A division of Animal Health International, Turnkey Computer Systems has several programs available for farm management, tracking everything from feed ingredients to vaccinations, and associated costs. The program being used by Rock Valley FFA is Advanced Livestock Tracker, which is commonly used on Iowa’s smaller feedlots. A local cattle feeder is sharing his data so students have a real-life scenario to work with.

Meghan Anderson, from Turnkey Computer Systems, believes that this software will help better prepare students for the real world. “You can’t make the decisions you need to be profitable if you can’t measure the costs that are going in to your family’s farm operation. We’re hoping the students will find out that technology makes it really easy to know the costs incurred, and it’s very easy to know how much you are making.” The program will also allow students to print reports that farmers use with their bankers to secure ag loans, calculate a “breakeven” and make management decisions using financial data.

The Advanced Agriculture Class began using the Turnkey Computer Systems software in January.

January Exports Show Solid Start to 2018 for U.S. Beef, Pork

January exports of U.S. beef were significantly higher than the large totals of a year ago while pork exports were steady in volume and increased in value, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

Beef exports totaled 105,486 metric tons (mt) in January, up 9 percent year-over-year, while export value surged 21 percent to $624.4 million. Exports accounted for 12.4 percent of total beef production in January, up slightly from a year ago. For muscle cuts only, the percentage exported increased from 9.5 percent to 10.1 percent. Beef export value averaged $293.06 per head of fed slaughter, up 14 percent year-over-year.

January pork exports totaled 203,488 mt, steady with last year’s strong volume, while export value increased 7 percent to $545.6 million. Pork exports accounted for 24.7 percent of total pork production, down from 26.2 percent a year ago. For muscle cuts only, the percentage exported declined slightly to 21.5 percent. Pork export value averaged $50.93 per head slaughtered, up 1 percent year-over-year.

For muscle cuts only, beef exports reached 80,495 mt (up 15 percent) valued at $555.7 million (up 23 percent). Pork export volume increased 5 percent to 164,189 mt, while value climbed 9 percent to $454.2 million. Beef variety meat volume fell 5 percent to just under 25,000 mt, but value increased 7 percent to $68.8 million. Pork variety meat exports dropped 16 percent in volume (39,299 mt) but still managed a 2 percent increase in value to $91.5 million.

“January export results were solid overall and were especially strong for muscle cuts,” said USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. “Despite the decline in variety meat volume, export value continued to increase. This underscores the important contribution variety meats deliver for producers and for everyone in the U.S. supply chain.”

Asian markets continue to shine for U.S. beef

U.S. beef continued to gain momentum in the Japanese market, with January exports increasing 7 percent from a year ago in volume (23,968 mt) and 19 percent in value ($148.6 million). This included a 30 percent increase in chilled beef exports to 12,411 mt, valued at $92.4 million (up 38 percent). Frozen exports declined 13 percent in volume (8,141 mt) but increased slightly in value ($33.1 million). Frozen U.S. beef entering Japan is subject to a 50 percent safeguard tariff, which is scheduled to revert back to 38.5 percent on April 1, the beginning of the new Japanese fiscal year. Benefiting from a bilateral trade agreement with Japan, frozen beef from Australia is subject to a duty of 27.2 percent. This rate will decline to 26.9 percent on April 1.

Other January highlights for U.S. beef included:

-    Exports to South Korea, which reached a record $1.2 billion in 2017, increased 13 percent from a year ago to 17,133 mt, while export value soared 34 percent to $122.3 million. This included a 54 percent increase in chilled beef exports to 3,954 mt, valued at $36.9 million, up 63 percent. Through the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS), the duty on U.S. beef was reduced to 21.3 percent on Jan. 1, about 5 percentage points lower than Australia’s rate for this year and down significantly from the pre-KORUS rate of 40 percent.
-    Following large shipments in the fourth quarter of 2017, exports to Hong Kong slowed in January, but still easily exceeded last year’s totals, increasing 41 percent from a year ago in volume (10,493 mt) and 53 percent in value ($79.8 million). Exports to China, which resumed in June after a 13-year absence, hit a new monthly high of 819 mt in January valued at $7.5 million.
-    Exports to Taiwan posted impressive gains in January, increasing 17 percent in volume to 4,207 mt. Export value increased 41 percent to $42 million.
-    Led by solid gains in Indonesia and Vietnam, exports to the ASEAN region climbed 22 percent in volume (3,108 mt) and 13 percent in value ($15.9 million).
-    Strong results in Chile and Colombia fueled beef exports to South America, which increased 90 percent in volume (3,307 mt) and 65 percent in value ($13.9 million).
-    Exports to Central America jumped 40 percent in volume (1,082 mt) and 32 percent in value ($5.9 million), led by a strong performance in Guatemala and larger variety meat shipments to El Salvador.
-    Beef exports to Africa were mostly variety meat in 2017, but January produced a large increase in muscle cut exports to Angola and South Africa. As a result, total exports to Africa were up 19 percent in volume (954 mt) and surged 88 percent in value to $1.4 million.

Pork steady to Mexico; strong increases for Japan, Korea, Central America

Building on a record 2017 performance, January pork exports to Mexico increased 1 percent from a year ago in volume (72,997 mt) and 4 percent in value ($133.5 million). Mexico continues to be a mainstay market for U.S. hams and is the second-largest destination (behind China/Hong Kong) for pork variety meat.

Other January highlights for U.S. pork included:

-    Exports to leading value market Japan totaled 35,048 mt (up 11 percent) valued at $146.4 million (up 17 percent). Chilled exports were up 15 percent in volume (20,212 mt) and 21 percent in value ($96.8 million).
-    Exports to Korea, which posted impressive gains in 2017, continued to gain momentum in January as volume increased 17 percent to 18,879 mt and value climbed 20 percent to $54.2 million.
-    Led by solid gains in mainstay markets Honduras and Guatemala and exceptional growth in El Salvador, pork exports to Central America increased 18 percent in volume (6,179 mt) and 20 percent in value ($14.5 million).
-    Year-over-year increases in both Australia and New Zealand pushed export volume to the Oceania region up 10 percent to 7,613 mt, while export value increased 15 percent to $22.2 million. Pork exports to Oceania are primarily composed of raw material for further processing, with Australia being one of the leading destinations for U.S. hams.
-    Led by strong growth to Vietnam, January export volume to the ASEAN region climbed 16 percent to 3,053 mt and value was up 17 percent to $7.9 million. The strong performance in Vietnam helped offset lower exports to the Philippines, the region’s largest destination for U.S. pork.
-    Reflecting larger domestic production in China and correspondingly lower hog and pork prices, exports to China/Hong Kong fell 16 percent to 31,997 mt, but still achieved a 2 percent increase in value to $77.9 million. For muscle cuts only, exports to China/Hong Kong increased 10 percent in volume (12,827 mt) and 14 percent in value ($25.6 million) from a year ago, but slowed from the fourth quarter pace when shipments gained momentum ahead of Chinese New Year. Following two big years, January pork variety meat exports to the region were the lowest since 2015.

Lamb exports get long-awaited boost from variety meats

Exports of U.S. lamb muscle cuts posted a solid performance in 2017, but overall results were held back by a decline in variety meat demand. That trend reversed in January, as variety meat exports were up 62 percent in volume to 614 mt and jumped 73 percent in value to $687,000. This helped push overall results for U.S. lamb to 740 mt (up 29 percent) valued at $1.5 million (up 6 percent). Variety meat export growth was led by Mexico, Angola and Gabon, while lamb muscle cut exports increased to the Caribbean and Canada.

Sharing Beef's 'Smart Starts' with Pennsylvania Family Physicians

The national beef checkoff, thanks to the Iowa and Pennsylvania Beef Councils, sponsored the annual Pennsylvania Academy of Family Physicians CME conference, in Philadelphia, March 2-4.

The academy’s annual meeting drew nearly 200 family physicians, residents and students from across Pennsylvania, for the three-day educational event. The conference allowed the checkoff to engage directly with this influential group of health care professionals to share the positive benefits of lean beef in the diets of their patients. Attendees enjoyed the Smart Start recipe collection, encouraging physicians to recommend beef as a nutrient-dense option for infants and toddlers through flavorful and nutritious beef meals the whole family can enjoy. Physicians also learned the importance of lean beef in the diets of variety of patients they counsel and how simple lean beef meals can be, with the new American Heart Association Heart Check-approved recipes. During the exhibition portion, nearly 60 attendees engaged with staff at the beef booth and 100% of those polled had a positive opinion of beef, stating either “The positives of beef strongly outweighed the negatives,” or “The positives of beef somewhat outweighed the negatives.”

After two full days of educational sessions, the physicians had the chance unwind at the Checkoff-sponsored, 2nd Annual Chili Cook-Off competition, with upwards of 50 physicians in attendance. Six different chili recipes were entered and featured at the evening reception on Saturday, March 3, where physicians could try each one and vote on their favorite. The ‘Killer Beef Chili’ submitted by Tammy Bonawitz (pictured left) of Geisinger Medical Center took first place. The recipe is featured below. Coming in second place was Kurt Ehrenfeuchter (Ppictured right), defending his champion title from last year, with his “Knock Your Socks Off- Texas Chili’.

The checkoff is thankful for our continued partnership with the Pennsylvania Academy of Family Physicians and opportunities to build beef demand with their members. “Hosting engaging events like the Chili Cook-Off demonstrates that when our nutrition influencers are more comfortable preparing beef themselves, they are more likely to recommend it to their patients as a nutrient-dense protein source,” states Jennifer Orr, Director of Nutrition Education with the Northeast Beef Promotion Initiative.

The Pennsylvania Academy of Family Physicians currently works on behalf of 5,000 family physicians, family medicine residents and students as a professional member-driven association. The Academy serves state physicians through acting as the leading resource for training of family physicians, being the primary voice of physicians on health care issues, setting standards for organized medicine and being a leader in the community on health care issues.

Soybean Growers: Steel and Aluminum Tariffs Harm Farmers

The American Soybean Association (ASA) responded forcefully to tariffs signed into action today by President Donald Trump, saying that the measures could likely lead to retaliation by affected countries and arguing that soybean exports are a prime target given their prominent role in U.S. agricultural trade. ASA President and Iowa farmer John Heisdorffer released the following statement this afternoon:

“These tariffs are a disastrous course of action from the White House. They may lead to retaliation by one or more of our valuable trading partners, which in turn will kneecap demand for soybeans in a time when the farm economy is struggling. We have heard directly from the Chinese that U.S. soybeans are prime targets for retaliation. The idea that we’re the only game in town, and these partners have no choice but to purchase from the U.S. is flatly wrong. Our competition in Brazil and Argentina is eager to capitalize on whatever openings these tariffs create for them in markets like China and elsewhere.

“Throughout this process, we’ve met with officials at Commerce, with Treasury, with USTR and with White House staff. It is unfortunate that our input was not taken into account given the announcement today. While we are deeply disappointed and concerned, we reaffirm our commitment to sit down with the president and communicate the importance of trade for soybean farmers. There is absolutely a way to encourage growth in domestic industry without cannibalizing the success of agricultural trade. With these tariffs, the administration has taken the opposite approach, and sacrificed the progress and potential of farmers.”

South Dakota Rancher Testifies Before U.S. Senate in Support of FARM Act

Third-generation South Dakota rancher Todd Mortenson today testified in support of S. 2421, the Fair Agricultural Reporting Method (FARM) Act, which would prevent the federal government from regulating nearly 200,000 animal agricultural operations as if they were toxic Superfund sites. Mortensen delivered his testimony at a hearing of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Superfund, Waste Management, and Regulatory Oversight, which is chaired by U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD).

“I manage 1,295 cattle on 19,000 acres of land,” Mortensen explained in his testimony. “The concentration of emissions is extremely low, because my cattle are spread over such a large area. However, CERCLA reporting requirements do not take concentration into account - only release. It makes no difference whether my cattle are spread over 10 acres or 10,000 acres. If my 1,295 cattle emit over 100 pounds of ammonia or hydrogen sulfide per day, I am required to report their emissions to the U.S. Coast Guard and EPA.

“Reporting is no small task,” Mortenson added. “It is a three-step process that spans, at minimum, one year.”

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) was enacted to provide for cleanup of the worst industrial chemical toxic waste dumps and spills, such as oil spills and chemical tank explosions. The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) was enacted to ensure that parties who emit hazardous chemicals submit reports to their local emergency responders to allow for more effective planning for chemical emergencies. Both of these laws include reporting requirements connected to the events at hand.

Neither of these laws was ever intended to govern agricultural operations, for whom emissions from livestock are a part of everyday life. To make this clear, in 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a rule to clarify that farms were exempt from CERCLA reporting and small farms, in particular, were exempt from EPCRA reporting, given that low-level livestock emissions are not the kind of "releases" that Congress intended to manage with these laws.

Unfortunately, in April 2017, the D.C. Circuit Court vacated the EPA's 2008 exemption, putting nearly 200,000 farms and ranches under the regulatory reporting authorities enshrined in CERCLA and EPCRA.

“As the May 1, 2018, reporting deadline quickly approaches, only Congress can ensure that the agricultural community is protected from this reporting burden, the reliability of our emergency response coordination is maintained, and the integrity of the Superfund law is not degraded,” Mortenson concluded. “The key to environmental sustainability is working together with stakeholders — not fighting us.”

Soy Growers Urge Timely Biodiesel Tax Credit Extension

While the biodiesel tax credit was extended retroactively for 2017, it is once again lapsed for 2018 and beyond. Congressional supporters, especially in the U.S. Senate, continue to push for consideration of an extension of the biodiesel tax credit for 2018 while a longer-term policy is developed.

This week, the American Soybean Association (ASA) joined our biodiesel industry partners on a letter to Congressional Leadership, urging extension of the biodiesel tax credit for 2018 as soon as possible. In addition, ASA also joined a broader letter that included various industries that are seeking extension of expired tax credits.

On March 14th, the House Ways & Means Committee will hold a hearing on the expired tax credits. Ways & Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) has indicated his intent to review the expired credits to determine which should be continued and which ones would no longer be extended.

ACE statement in opposition to Welch, Udall legislation

Companion bills to undermine the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) were introduced today by Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) in the U.S. House and Senate, called the GREENER Fuels Act (Growing Renewable Energy through Existing and New Environmentally Responsible Fuels Act). The American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) CEO Brian Jennings released the following statement in response to this introduced legislation:

“If this strange and unserious legislation ever became law it would have the opposite of its intended effect. Dismantling the RFS in this way would increase pump prices and greenhouse gas emissions. It would also be the final nail in the coffin for some farmers and rural communities who are already struggling. Thankfully when Congress enacted the RFS several years ago it took a more forward-thinking approach that remains the law of the land today. We intend to keep it that way.”

Latest RFS Bill Ignores Wealth of Science Documenting Ethanol’s Environmental Benefits

Statement by Kevin Skunes, National Corn Growers Association President, and Arthur, North Dakota farmer regarding the Udall/Welch Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Legislation H.R. 5212/S. 2519)

“This legislation seeks to kill our most successful American renewable energy program. The bill ignores current science reflecting the significant environmental benefits of ethanol and would have catastrophic consequences for our nation’s economy, our energy security, and family farmers.

The sponsors of this legislation need to understand farmers’ productivity. Ethanol production is not significantly impacting land use.  In fact, planted corn acres were lower in 2017 than when the RFS was expanded in 2007, yet we produced significantly more biofuels. We produce more biofuels because average crop yields have increased by more than 25 bushels per acre, not because we are farming more land. The total agriculture footprint in the United States is shrinking.

Corn production is also increasingly sustainable. Since 1980, corn farmers have doubled production while using half the nutrient inputs per bushel. Through our Soil Health Partnership, corn farmers are advancing production practices that result in greater productivity and more environmental benefits.

Every citizen has a stake in the RFS. The first casualty of this legislation will be consumer choice at the fuel pump, when they will be forced to buy more expensive gasoline, and the second will be the environment as we increase reliance on fuel that produces more greenhouse gases and toxic emissions like benzene.

Last year, analysis done for USDA shows corn-based ethanol results in 43 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) when compared to gasoline. And the Environmental Protection Agency notes air quality has improved in the last 15 years, at the same time ethanol blending has increased. I find it difficult to believe the public wants to walk away from this kind of environmental success and leave farmers as a casualty in the process.”

2018 Commodity Classic in Anaheim Attracts Over 8,000

More than 8,000 farmers, agriculture leaders and ag advocates converged on the Anaheim Convention Center to Grow Beyond as the 2018 Commodity Classic took place Feb. 27-Mar.1 in California. Commodity Classic is America’s largest farmer-led, farmer-focused convention and trade show.

Preliminary numbers are out – this year brought 8,055 registered attendees including a record number of non-exhibitor, first-time attendees (1,533) and more than 150 media representatives. A total of 3,646 farmers from across the nation and several foreign countries were on hand to take part in a robust slate of educational sessions, tour the large trade show and hear from a wide range of experts and thought-leaders in agriculture.  Attendance numbers are subject to a final audit.

“We were very pleased with the turnout in Anaheim and the enthusiasm and energy were palpable,” said Paul Taylor, an Illinois farmer and co-chair of the 2018 Commodity Classic.“Commodity Classic attracts people who are passionate about agriculture, thirsty for knowledge and positive about the future.”

Gerry Hayden, a Kentucky farmer and 2018 Commodity Classic co-chair agreed.  “Commodity Classic is run by farmers, for farmers,” he said. “That makes for a unique and meaningful experience for everyone who attends—and everyone takes away new ideas that will help their operation Grow Beyond!”

The 2019 Commodity Classic is scheduled for Feb. 28-Mar.2, 2019 in Orlando, Fla.

Established in 1996, Commodity Classic is presented by the American Soybean Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Sorghum Producers and the Association of Equipment Manufacturers.

ICM, The Andersons to Build Bio-Refinery in Kansas

ICM, Inc., a global leading biofuels process technology provider, and The Andersons, Inc., a publicly-traded company with diverse interests encompassing a variety of agribusinesses, announced today that they are partnering to own and construct ELEMENT, LLC, a 70 MGY bio-refinery located in Colwich, Kansas.

This strategic collaboration will build and operate the most advanced ethanol plant in the world featuring ICM's cutting edge technologies. The combination of ICM's next-generation technologies, the merchandising, risk management and logistics expertise of The Andersons, and the demonstrated operational excellence of both companies will result in the production of the highest yielding, most profitable, and lowest carbon ethanol gallon in the United States ethanol industry today.

Utilizing ICM's Advanced Gasification Technology, ELEMENT will use waste wood to drive a combined heat and power generator that will offset more than 70% of the natural gas requirements and as much as 80% of the electrical demand.

Beyond this breakthrough technology, ELEMENT will include the latest versions, primarily manufactured in ICM's world-class manufacturing facilities, of ICM's proven proprietary technologies for corn ethanol, Selective Milling Technology V2 (SMT V2) and Fiber Separation Technology Next Gen (FST Next Gen).

ICM's patented SMT V2 is an innovative grind system designed to maximize ethanol and distillers corn oil production. ICM's patented FST Next Gen enables higher corn ethanol production, increases distillers corn oil yield, and separates the fiber from the process.

The separated fiber provides the feedstock for the patent-pending Generation 1.5 Grain Fiber to Cellulosic Ethanol Technology (Gen 1.5). The ICM Gen 1.5 cellulosic process will produce more than 5 MGPY of cellulosic ethanol which is expected to be the largest corn fiber to cellulosic ethanol plant in the world. ELEMENT will also produce unique high valued animal feed products which will bring significant value to ELEMENT and to customers.

These technologies will result in ethanol yields that exceed 3.10 gallons per bushel. The carbon index of both the corn and cellulosic ethanol will be industry leading and demonstrates both ICM's and The Andersons' commitment to environmental sustainability. The ethanol produced by ELEMENT will be sold primarily in California under the state's progressive Low Carbon Fuel Standard and will position ELEMENT to participate in other emerging low-carbon markets.

ICM began preparing the plant site in late fall 2016. Construction and manufacturing will begin in early 2018 with the first phase of start-up scheduled for spring 2019. ELEMENT is expected to be fully operational by year end 2019.

Brazil Raises 2017-18 Soybean Crop Forecast on Good Rain in Some Areas

Brazilian agriculture agency Conab raised its estimate for the country's soybean harvest in the 2017-18 growing season, as good rains in some areas boosted production.

But the agency cut its forecast for the corn crop.

Brazilian farmers will produce 113 million metric tons of soybeans in the season, Conab said Thursday, up from its forecast of 111.6 million tons in February. Brazil produced a record 114.1 million tons of soybeans in the 2016-2017 season.

Good rain in the north and northeastern states will boost crops in those areas, Conab said. The state of Mato Grosso, which is Brazil's biggest producer of soybeans, also appears set to have an excellent crop, according to the agency.

Conab forecast a total corn crop of 87.3 million metric tons in the 2017-18 season, down from the 88 million tons the agency forecast in February and less than the record 97.8 million tons produced in 2016-17.

Technical Progress Made In Mexico During Seventh NAFTA Round

Despite frustration related to the March 1 announcement of likely tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum to the United States, negotiators made substantial technical progress in several chapters and annexes during the seventh formal round of negotiations on the modernization of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), held in Mexico City from Feb. 25 to March 4.

“In addition to the continued general positive tone, there were indications negotiations may be able to continue on an informal basis,” said Floyd Gaibler, U.S. Grains Council (USGC) director of trade policy and biotechnology, who attended the round. “However, there is now additional uncertainty injected into the negotiations with President Trump’s intentions to impose steel and aluminum tariffs that could affect both Mexico and Canada.”

Negotiators closed the chapter on good regulatory practices, the sixth chapter to be completed. The new language promotes greater regulatory compatibility on issues impacting biotechnology authorizations and maximum residue levels (MRLs) for pesticides used on fruits and vegetables.

Negotiations have also finished on the sanitary-phytosanitary (SPS) measures chapter, expanding the original NAFTA text to include a fully-enforceable draft chapter similar to that in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) text. Improvements include language committing import checks to be based on actual potential risk; encouraging cooperative technical consultations to work for science-based solutions to SPS matters; and requiring parties to inform exporters or importers within a specified time frame if a shipment is being prohibited or restricted entry for a reason related to food safety or animal or plant health.

The chapter on technical barriers to trade and text related to biotechnology are also close to completion. Rules on biotech approvals are expected to go beyond TPP text, including transparency measures, established procedures for detection of trace amounts of unauthorized biotech traits in shipments, and creation of a working group on biotech trade issues.

“U.S. and Canadian agriculture groups had identified biotech approvals as an area ripe for modernization,” Gaibler said. “The language will also acknowledge the importance of recognizing new plant breeding techniques and the need for cooperation in how these new technologies will be regulated.”

All three countries also agreed to establish a formal energy chapter, including encouraging robust North American trade in biofuels by promoting regulatory compatibility for fuel blending requirements through policy and technical exchanges.

“New guidance on energy cooperation could be beneficial in the Council’s broad efforts to promote the use of ethanol with both Mexico and Canada,” Gaibler said. “However, other issues in the agriculture chapter remain sensitive and unresolved, as do trade remedy issues.”

All three countries are actively engaged on the agriculture market access for goods chapter, but little progress was made. Additionally, the seasonality provisions continue to be a non-starter for the Mexican government. There is a general view that talks will bog down and lose momentum unless the United States begins to show some flexibility on these and other “rebalancing” issues proposed by the Trump Administration.

In addition to participating in negotiations with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), the Council participated in meetings with government officials from all three countries as well as a Farmers For Free Trade media briefing with the Mexican press.

“The daily engagement with members of the Mexican grain trade and livestock sector are among our closest global relationships,” said Ryan LeGrand, USGC director in Mexico, who participated in the briefing. “We want to preserve these partnerships and the world’s most efficient interregional grain and livestock value chain.”

The Council will continue outreach efforts with Mexico’s USDA-equivalent, SAGARPA, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and industry representatives from the Mexican and Canadian livestock, agri-food trade and food and consumer products sectors.

The next formal round of negotiations is tentatively scheduled to start the week of April 8 in Washington, D.C., with negotiators continuing to exchange information and conduct intersessional negotiations in the meantime.

U.S. Sends First Soybean Shipment to Cambodia

The U.S. sent its first shipment of food-grade soybeans to Cambodia last week, exporting a total of 14 tonnes to both Cambodia and Myanmar to be processed in the receiving countries.

The shipments were sent to soy milk and tofu companies in the Kingdom, potentially opening up a long-term relationship between the U.S. and Cambodian-based soy companies.

Hean Vanhan, director general at the Agriculture Ministry's General Directorate, said he was unaware of the shipment and did not know which Cambodia-based processing companies were receiving the beans, but added the move as a positive one for the country's economy.

"Our economy will likely benefit from this," Vanhan said. "The best way is to use the raw materials produced in the country, but if the cost of production is higher for local produce, then it is better to import." Local soybean producers have been suffering due to high processing costs and low profitability for several years now, according to farmer Loeng Kim Sean, who once headed the Tah Ong Soybean Development Association in Kampong Cham province.

The association was dissolved a year ago, Kim Sean said yesterday, as he and other farmers switched from soybeans to produce more profitable crops, such as cashews or cassava.

Research Substantiates that Saturated Buffers at Field Scale do Reduce Nutrient Loading from Tile Drainage Waters

The Agricultural Drainage Management Coalition (ADMC) Member Companies and Dr. Dan Jaynes with the National Laboratory for Agricultural & The Environment collaborated to quantify the effectiveness of installing saturated buffers on buffers enrolled in the conservation reserve program to reduce nutrient loading from tile drainage waters. This demonstration program builds upon this same group of collaborator’s findings from the 2012-2015 project that evaluated the ability for saturated buffers at field scale to reduce nitrate and phosphorus from field drainage systems.

With many of the row-crop agriculture fields in the Midwest being located adjacent to ditches, streams, rivers and lakes, it is no surprise that nutrient transport from agriculture lands is a major concern. Large areas of the Midwest are intensively tile drained and it is assumed that many of the vegetated buffers adjacent to waterways are being under-utilized, because the tile outlets quickly move large amounts of subsurface flow past the buffer and into the receiving waterway without any opportunity for treatment by the buffer.

The project collaborators sought to demonstrate and evaluate the effectiveness of a new conservation practice commonly referred to as a Saturated Buffer (SB). The goal of a SB system is to hydrologically reconnect a subsurface drainage outlet with an edge-of-field buffer. This practice takes advantage of both the denitrification and plant nutrient uptake opportunities that are known to exist in buffers with perennial vegetation.

This project monitored 9 SB’s in Iowa, Illinois, and Minnesota. These sites intentionally included a variety of soil types, buffer vegetation, surface topographies, and ditch/stream channel depths. The monitoring timeline included a period from September 2016 through February 2017, yielding 6 months of flow and nutrient samples.

All 9 sites were consistent in showing nitrate concentration reductions from the main line of the drainage system to the stream side test well. This reinforces data from the previous study where 27 out of 28 field years indicated the same reductions. Current data collection techniques heavily support the use of saturated buffers as a credible nitrate load reduction practice.  The cost per pound of nitrate removed is low compared to other nitrate removal practices.

To view the full research report and find additional information and videos pertaining to saturated buffer systems, please visit

March Madness: These Colleges are Mad for Biodiesel

March Madness kicks off next week, showcasing the very best of college basketball. In that spirit, the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) has released its own bracket of colleges and universities upping their game with a different kind of prowess – biodiesel research, production and education. Many of these biodiesel ballers are members of the student group, Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel (NGSB).

“These colleges run the court as renewable energy champs. Universities like Purdue, with its first-class research on biodiesel sustainability, and Harvard, an early champion as a user, are top of the game,” said Don Scott, NBB director of sustainability. “The biodiesel research and training of the next generation at many other schools as well will pay dividends for years to come, increasing the efficiency and diversity of the biodiesel and fuel industries.”

From East-to-West, here are NBB’s “Elite Eight” programs:
Yale University (New Haven, Connecticut):  Yale’s basketball team may have had an average year, but when it comes to biodiesel, the Bulldogs are ahead of the game. Campus shuttles use B20 (20 percent biodiesel), and Yale has been exploring green technologies for biodiesel in the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering. Graduate researchers in Dr. Julie Zimmerman’s lab have investigated the use of microalgae as a biodiesel feedstock, the use of supercritical carbon dioxide as both an extraction and transesterification solvent for biomass processing and biodiesel conversion, and heterogeneous catalysis in biodiesel conversion, among other projects. Graduate student Mary Kay Mitchell received a travel scholarship and presented her research as a student member of NGSB at the National Biodiesel Conference & Expo earlier this year.

Rowan University (Glassboro, New Jersey): A team of undergraduate engineering students is working to develop a process that would reduce the energy consumption needed to obtain oil from a wet microalgae feedstock. This could reduce the cost of the overall extraction process and make it a more economically feasible feedstock for biodiesel. The project, which received recognition at the 2017 National AIChE Conference, is developing a novel lipid extraction method through the use of switchable ionic solvents. Their head coach, Dr. Iman Noshadi, is an NGSB alum and past scholar.

North Carolina State University (Raleigh, North Carolina): A maddening basketball loss may have brought March in like a lion for the NC State Wolfpack, but the school’s biodiesel program is a surefire winner. The school has a grease collection program on campus, which local company GreaseCycle turns into commercial biodiesel. Also, it’s where NGSB co-chair Jennifer Greenstein conducts her research developing biocatalysts that are high temperature-tolerant lipase enzymes generated by bacteria, making the enzymes easy to recycle and use in multiple reactions.

Loyola University (Chicago, Illinois): The Searle Biodiesel Program’s biodiesel lab is a slam-dunk, producing fuel, BioSoap, windshield wiper fluid from low-purity methanol and lip balm from campus beehives. Certified with the Illinois Green Business Association, the student-run enterprise bills itself as the first and only school operation licensed to sell biodiesel in the United States. Loyola students give it a full-court press, developing a Zero Waste Production Process with current research focused on wastewater treatment with algae.

Missouri University of Science and Technology (Rolla, Missouri): The Chemical Engineering Department at MS&T is developing a Multi-tubular Supercritical Separative Reactor (MSSR) to produce biodiesel. The venture started in the classroom with an experimental course, led by Dr. Bonnie Bachman, that simulated a start-up business. Students Shyam Paudel and NGSB Co-Chair James Brizendine were then accepted into an entrepreneurial program at the Technology Development Center in Rolla, Missouri. The program gave an assist, providing funding of more than $50,000 to develop a biodiesel business model and construct a lab-scale MSSR, currently in the testing phase.

University of Kansas (Lawrence, Kansas): The basketball team may be pegged as one of the favorites in the tournament, but the KU Biodiesel Initiative is already a champion. The student-run operation produces biodiesel from used cooking oil generated on campus, with the goal of meeting the requirements of KU's buses, landscaping and maintenance equipment, and power generators on campus. Glycerin produced from biodiesel process is repurposed to create a soap product. Additional projects involve testing fuel samples from outside the university, including for the Kansas Department of Transportation. Several students have attended the National Biodiesel Conference & Expo.

University of Nevada Reno (Reno, Nevada): As part of a growing Sustainable Dryland Agriculture Initiative, UNR is developing new ways to produce food, forage and fuels from underutilized semi-arid regions. The chemical engineering department is researching advanced conversion methods to optimize biofuel production, including biodiesel, from traditional and dryland crops. In the department of biochemistry and molecular biology, students investigate biodiesel feedstock development in species including camelina, agave, prickly pear, and gumweed. A minor in renewable energy and graduate certificate programs cover emerging alternative energy technologies like these, in addition to the policy and markets that drive bioenergy development. NGSB Co-Chair Jesse Mayer researched methods to increase oil content for biodiesel production from prickly pear cactus (Opuntia). He has attended the National Biodiesel Conference and Expo five times – a student record.

University of Idaho (Moscow, Idaho): While the Idaho Vandals men’s basketball team finished second in the Big Sky conference, the school’s biodiesel program is top of the class with an extensive research, development, and education program. The Biological Engineering Department has an advanced biofuel lab of more than 10,000 square feet for biodiesel production, testing and research. The school makes biodiesel on the campus from dining services waste oil and uses it in campus vehicles and equipment. The program educates students through lab tours, senior capstone design projects, the creation of videos and web content, and through participation in the Clean Energy Club. A recipient of the USDA National Biodiesel Education grant, the school maintains a biodiesel education website with hundreds of articles, videos, and educational materials for academia, biodiesel producers, users, policymakers and the public.

That’s Biodiesel’s Elite Eight, but since biodiesel makes all schools winners, here’s a wildcard addition:

Clemson University (Clemson, South Carolina): After taking a timeout to focus on startup ventures including an award-winning brewery, NGSB alum David Thornton and Clemson University are teaming up to train facilities personnel and instructors to bring the school’s biodiesel plant back online. On the rebound, the school’s goal is to produce about 3,000 gallons of biodiesel per year from waste vegetable oils on campus, which will displace about 20 percent of the diesel fuel used in campus vehicles. Biosystems Engineering students learn from operating the plant, while a renewable energy course and creative inquiry courses help further the school’s biodiesel education leadership. Several Clemson students have attended the biodiesel conference on scholarships.

Even if they don’t play in the actual NCAA tournament, these and many other advanced biofuel programs are true champions to the still-growing biodiesel industry.  

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