Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Tuesday March 13 Ag News

Missouri River Basin Landowners Secure Legal Victory in Mass-Action Lawsuit for Flooding Against U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

A federal judge in Washington, D.C. ruled today that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers bears responsibility for causing recurrent flooding and damaging farms and property in four Midwest states along the Missouri River: Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas. The ruling states that the government must compensate farmers, landowners and business owners for the flood damage, which has been estimated to exceed $300 million.

The case, Ideker Farms et al v. United States of America, was brought by 372 plaintiffs comprised of farmers, landowners and business owners, and has been led by Polsinelli in partnership with Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll.

The mass action lawsuit was originally filed on Mar. 5, 2014 and alleged that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ actions have violated the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment that bars the Government from taking private property without just compensation. Judge Nancy B. Firestone with the United States Court of Federal Claims found in favor of the plaintiffs in five of the six years that the flooding was claimed dating back to 2007, disallowing the flood claims in 2011. The Court found that the Corps’ deprioritized flood control in 2004.

Judge Firestone stated in her Trial Opinion that the evidence established that the Corps’ changes to the river “had the effect of raising the Missouri River’s water surface elevations (“WSEs”) in periods of high flows.” She found that since 2007, the flooding has been among the worst in the history of the river and the Corps’ changes in the management of the river caused or contributed to the flooding. Citing the testimony of plaintiffs’ experts, the Court acknowledged that “recurrent flooding in the Missouri River Basin . . . will continue into the future,” and that increased blocked drainage of farm lands due to higher river levels is a problem.

“As a farmer and landowner who has experienced substantial losses from these floods, I’m extremely pleased with this outcome,” said lead plaintiff Roger Ideker of Ideker Farms in St. Joseph, Mo. “It rightfully recognizes the Government’s responsibility for changing the River and subjecting us to more flooding than ever before.”

Polsinelli Shareholder R. Dan Boulware of the firm’s St. Joseph office served as lead counsel on the case.

“Today is the day the plaintiffs have patiently waited for and have fought for during the past four years. Although we do not concur with the Court’s conclusions regarding the 2011 flood event, we are very pleased with the Court’s conclusions regarding the Corps changes to the river causing flooding, and we are certainly pleased with an outcome that will provide substantial compensation to plaintiffs living along the river who have suffered significant flood damage and losses throughout the past decade,” said Boulware. “It should now be clear that we have a changed river – one that is flood prone. We hope the Corps of Engineers will now do the right thing for our clients and that Congress will also act soon to restore flood control to a higher priority as it was during the last century.”

The ruling also addressed the critical shift in the management of the river by the Corps in 2004 to restore its ecosystem and benefit and create habitat for threatened and endangered species. The court found that the notching of dikes and revetments, as well as the reopening of the historic chutes, which allows the river to meander and erode the bank, created potential flood impacts. These changes to the river, coupled with increased reservoir storage and threatened and endangered species releases from the dams during high river stages below the dams, served to cause or contribute to cause flooding in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2013, 2014 and since.

“For nearly a decade, these individuals have suffered not only serious flood damage, but more critically, threats to their fundamental livelihood,” said plaintiffs’ attorney Benjamin Brown, Partner and Co-Chair of the Antitrust Practice Group at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll. “Today’s decision reflects what we have been saying since the outset of this litigation – all Americans should share the costs of protecting threatened and endangered species and the entirety of this burden should not be foisted on those who happen to live and work on the river.”

The Ideker Farms, Inc. et al v. United States of America case has two phases. This ruling marks the end of phase one, which began on Mar. 6, 2017, focusing on liability and the cause of the flooding. The trial in the Federal Claims Court began in Kansas City, Mo. before moving to Washington, D.C. It involved 44 plaintiff “bellwether” tracts and more than 90 witness testimonies over the course of the 63-day trial. Closing arguments were held in November and concluded in December. In total, over 100 depositions were taken and in excess of 20 million documents were produced throughout phase one.

The case will next proceed to phase two, where the Court will determine the extent of losses due to the taking.

The plaintiffs are represented by Am Law 100 firm Polsinelli, led by Boulware, who is recognized by his peers as among the top 1 percent of all trial attorneys in the country, Edwin Smith, Seth Wright, Todd Ehlert and Sharon Kennedy. Brown and Laura Alexander of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, one of the nation’s leading plaintiffs’ firm based in Washington, D.C., also supported plaintiffs in this case.

For more information, including historical background, on this case, please visit http://www.missouririverflooding.com

FieldNET® by Lindsay Connects with John Deere Operations Center

Lindsay Corporation (NYSE: LNN), a leading global manufacturer and distributor of irrigation and infrastructure equipment and technology, announced today a new data connection between its industry‑leading pivot telemetry tool, FieldNET®, and the John Deere Operations Center, giving growers increased access to farm irrigation data. The connection will help growers improve irrigation precision and productivity.

“We understand the power that comes with the ability to leverage big data,” said Randy Wood, president of Agricultural Irrigation at Lindsay Corporation. “This new connection will help growers who utilize both FieldNET and the John Deere Operations Center platforms to share their data between the two systems to achieve greater operational efficiencies.”

FieldNET is a fully integrated wireless management tool giving growers the ability to remotely monitor and control entire irrigation systems, regardless of electric pivot brand. The platform delivers real-time status updates and alerts about possible performance issues. For added decision support, FieldNET Advisor™ takes this to the next level, giving growers science-based recommendations to make faster, better-informed decisions about when, where and how much to irrigate.

“An industry first, FieldNET Advisor combines environmental inputs, including soil type and hyper-local weather, with key crop statistics, including hybrid, planting date, and evapotranspiration, to automatically create an optimized irrigation schedule and variable rate irrigation recommendation,” Wood said. “The grower can then put the schedule and recommendations into action with the simple touch of a button on a smartphone, tablet or laptop.”

This data connection will allow users of both platforms to establish an automatic flow of relevant data from the John Deere Operations Center, delivering additional data points informing irrigation recommendations from FieldNET Advisor. Automatically populating FieldNET Advisor with this data, such as crop details and planting dates, will save growers time and improve the precision of the resulting crop zones and variable rate irrigation recommendations. The data connection is now available to FieldNET and John Deere Operations Center users.


Nebraska farmers and ranchers still have time to be counted in the 2017 Census of Agriculture, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). Although the first deadline has passed, NASS will continue to accept Census information through the spring to get a complete and accurate picture of American agriculture that represents all farmers and ranchers.

"We thank everyone who has completed their Census to date. Nebraska currently has a return rate of just over 46 percent of the Census questionnaires mailed to producers last December," said Dean Groskurth, director of the NASS Northern Plains Field Office. "A lot is at stake if producers are not represented in this data. Census data have and will continue to influence important decisions for American agriculture.

The data will affect every operation and every farming community at some point, whether it be through farm policy, disaster relief, insurance or loan programs, infrastructure improvements, or agribusiness setup. There is accuracy and strength in numbers, which is why NASS is committed to giving producers every opportunity to respond."

Federal law mandates that everyone who received the 2017 Census of Agriculture questionnaire complete it and return it even if not currently farming. NASS will continue to follow-up with producers through the spring with mailings, phone calls, and personal visits. To avoid these additional contacts, farmers and ranchers are encouraged to complete their Census either online at www.agcounts.usda.gov or by mail as soon as possible. Responding online saves time by skipping sections that do not apply and automatically calculating totals. The online questionnaire is accessible on desktops, laptops, and mobile devices.

For more information about the 2017 Census of Agriculture, visit www.agcensus.usda.gov. For questions or assistance filling out the Census, call toll-free (888) 424-7828.

Ag Haulers Get 90-Day Waiver From Hours of Service Regulations

Today, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced the agency has issued a 90-day waiver for agriculture haulers from hours of service regulations. This announcement follows a meeting Senator Fischer facilitated last month between several Nebraska agriculture representatives and the Deputy FMCSA Administrator, Cathy Gautreaux. The waiver will provide the agency with more time to release guidance on the hours of service regulations as they relate to agriculture.

“It’s good to see the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration be responsive to the concerns raised by Nebraskans following our meeting last month with Deputy Administrator Gautreaux. Nebraskans in agriculture want more flexibility when it comes to these regulations. By issuing this waiver, the agency will have more time to release important guidance for agriculture commodity and livestock haulers,” said Senator Fischer.

The meeting with Deputy Administrator Gautreaux, Senator Fischer, and Nebraska ag stakeholders took place on February 13, 2018. Representatives from Nebraska Cattlemen, Nebraska Farm Bureau, Nebraska Pork Producers, and the Livestock Marketing Association attended the meeting.

Nebraska Cattlemen Announce Additional 90-Day Exemption from ELDs

Nebraska Cattlemen is pleased to announce that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has extended the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate exemption for ag haulers by an additional 90 days.  This delays the compliance date until June 18, 2018 for drivers hauling agricultural products, including livestock.

The impending ELD mandate and underlying hours of service have caused a great deal of consternation among Nebraska's cattle industry.  On February 13, 2018, Nebraska Cattlemen met with FMCSA in Senator Deb Fischer's D.C. office to discuss the need for increased flexibility to account for the uniqueness of livestock hauling.

"Nebraska Cattlemen applauds the Agency for making the right determination that the ELD mandate is not ready for primetime with respect to livestock haulers.  In addition to compliance issues and lack of Agency outreach, we remain deeply concerned that the underlying hours of service limitations pose serious consequences on the health and welfare of live animals," said Galen Frenzen, President of Nebraska Cattlemen.

Nebraska plays an integral role in the beef production chain, which includes diversified farms and ranches that span the entire United States.  Beef cattle are born and raised in every state in the country; however, the vast majority of feed yards and processing facilities are located in the Midwest and Great Plains.  As a result, almost all beef cattle are shipped much farther than 150 miles from the farm or ranch where they originated.

The nationally recognized and scientifically proven Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program outlines numerous safety protocols for transporting livestock, including the recommendation to avoid stopping the vehicle.  This can be dangerous for livestock, especially during the summer months when high temperatures and humidity can be stressful on cattle.  BQA makes a similar recommendation regarding cold and windy conditions.

The U.S. livestock industry also has an excellent record of public safety.  Major studies reviewed by the U.S. Department of Transportation illustrate that livestock hauling-related injuries and fatalities are exceptionally rare:
-    Of 1,123 accidents involving trucks hauling cargo, a mere 5 involved the transportation of livestock - Large Truck Crash Causation Study, FMCSA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Institute
-    20 out of 4,352 - 2008 Center for National Truck and Bus Statistics at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (TIFA study)
-    FMCSA relied on the TIFA study in its decision to exempt livestock haulers from the 30-minute break rule under HOS, citing the low number of fatal crashes for an industry that includes 66,316 active livestock carriers.

Hauling livestock is very different than hauling any other commodity.  Nebraska Cattlemen will continue to work with FMCSA and Congress to develop livestock specific solutions to the underlying hours of service concerns while still maintaining safety of our roads.

Reminder: livestock haulers operating under this exemption will need to keep a copy of the federal register notice in their trucks at all times.  Please use this form for now.  We will update our members when the federal register notice accounting for the new delay is issued.

Nebraska Cattlemen will also be hosting an exclusive webinar on ELD compliance for members on March 20, 2018.  Please check www.nebraskacattlemen.org for more details on how to register.

Statement by Steve Nelson, President, Regarding 90-Day Waiver for Ag Haulers from Electronic Logging Device Mandate

“We are extremely pleased with the 90-day waiver for agriculture haulers from electronic logging device (ELD) regulations made by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The current wavier, which was set to expire March 18, did not provide the necessary time for FMCSA to educate agricultural haulers as well as local carrier enforcement personnel. The decision to offer an additional extension also provides the agency with more time to examine this regulation and work with the agricultural community to address some of our concerns related to ELD’s and hours of service regulations.”

“Agricultural haulers need more flexibility when it comes to these regulations. By issuing this waiver, the agency will be able to define the problem and offer up genuine guidance for agriculture commodity and livestock haulers.”

“Nebraska Farm Bureau, other Nebraska agriculture stakeholders and Sen. Deb Fischer met with FMCSA, Feb. 13 in Washington, D.C. to discuss this issue in more depth. We thank Sen. Fischer for her leadership on these issues. We look forward to working with her, the rest of the Nebraska Delegation, and FMCSA in the weeks and months ahead.”

Livestock Haulers Get Another Waiver From ELD Rule

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today granted drivers who haul livestock an additional 90-day waiver from a regulation that could have negative effects on animal well-being, a move applauded by the National Pork Producers Council.

A DOT rule issued in 2015 required truckers of commercial vehicles involved in interstate commerce to replace their paper driving logs with Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) by Dec. 18, 2017. In September 2017, NPPC petitioned the agency for a waiver and exemption from the requirement, and DOT provided an initial 90-day waiver – until March 18 – from the mandate for livestock haulers. A final decision on NPPC’s request for an exemption still is pending.

ELDs, which can cost from $200 to $1,000 plus a $30-$50 monthly fee, record driving time, engine hours, vehicle movement and speed, miles driven and location information. They electronically report that data to federal and state inspectors and supposedly help the DOT enforce its Hours of Service regulation. That rule limits commercial truckers to 11 hours of driving time and 14 consecutive hours of on-duty time in any 24-hour period. Once drivers reach that limit, they must pull over and wait 10 hours before driving again.

But because livestock such as pigs are vulnerable to health issues triggered by extreme temperatures, long-established industry standards preclude drivers from stopping while hauling animals, and that could run them afoul of the ELD and Hours of Service rules, NPPC argued in asking DOT Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Administrator Raymond Martinez for the waivers.

“The U.S. pork industry is grateful to DOT Secretary [Elaine] Chao and FMCSA Administrator Martinez for this additional waiver from the ELD rule, which poses some serious challenges for livestock haulers and the animals in their care,” said NPPC President Jim Heimerl, a pork producer from Johnstown, Ohio. “This will provide the department and Congress additional time to find a solution that meets the unique needs of livestock haulers.

“Drivers transporting livestock have a moral obligation to care for the animals they’re hauling regardless of any regulation.”

DOT did exempt from the Hours of Service regulations and from any distance-logging requirements truckers hauling livestock within a 150-air-mile radius of the location at which animals were loaded, but the exemption is not uniformly recognized and its implementation varies by state.

Develop a Weed Management Plan Using Tools Provided by Online Course

An online course has been designed by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach to provide farmers and agribusinesses the information needed to better manage weeds in crop fields.

Herbicide Resistance and Weed Management course (CROP 3138) is now available at https://store.extension.iastate.edu/product/15367. The cost for the course is $50.

The United States Department of Agriculture estimates the cost of dealing with herbicide resistance once it occurs to be $20-60 an acre.

“This course provides tools to help farmers and agribusinesses, either independently or working together, develop long-term weed management plans that will delay the development of herbicide resistance in crop fields and help reduce the long-term expenses of dealing with future development of herbicide resistance,” said Virgil Schmitt, field agronomist with ISU Extension and Outreach. “These plans will help provide effective weed management in the near term and to avoid the expense of dealing with herbicide resistance in the future.”

All farmers and agribusiness professionals who serve farmers are invited to complete the course.

Those who successfully complete the course are also eligible for three Certified Crop Advisor Continuing Education Units. The cost of the CCA credits is included in the course price.

Perdue Statement on Extension of Agriculture Exemption from ELD Mandate

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today applauded Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao for her announcement of an additional 90-day extension of the agriculture exemption from the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate. Agricultural compliance with the mandate would have been problematic for the agriculture industry because the devices do not accurately account for the agricultural exemptions currently provided in the law.

The ELD rule went into effect in December 2017, with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) granting the agriculture industry an initial exemption that was set to expire on March 18, 2018. 
With the granting of another extension, the agriculture industry will now have additional time to comply.
Secretary Sonny Perdue issued the following statement:

“The ELD mandate imposes restrictions upon the agriculture industry that lack flexibility necessary for the unique realities of hauling agriculture commodities. If the agriculture industry had been forced to comply by the March 18 deadline, live agricultural commodities, including plants and animals, would have been at risk of perishing before they reached their destination. The 90-day extension is critical to give DOT additional time to issue guidance on hours-of-service and other ELD exemptions that are troubling for agriculture haulers.”

“Current ELD technologies do not recognize the hours-of-service exemptions for agriculture that are in federal law. This is a classic example of a one-size-fits-all federal regulation that ignores common sense to the detriment of sectors like agriculture.

“I applaud Secretary Chao for recognizing these obstacles and giving extra time for compliance while DOT issues guidance. While public safety is a critical concern for all of trucking, the safety of living agricultural commodities in transport must also be considered.”

BACKGROUND: Agriculture haulers operating within 150 air miles of the source of their agriculture products or livestock do not have to comply with DOT’s hours-of-service regulation, which limits driving hours to only 11 hours after being off duty for more than 10 consecutive hours.  For more information on the hours-of-service exemption for agriculture shipments, visit this U.S. DOT webpage: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/hours-service/elds/eld-hours-service-hos-and-agriculture-exemptions.

For more information on agriculture commodities that are transported to domestic and foreign markets, visit this USDA webpage:  https://www.ams.usda.gov/services/transportation-analysis.

NCGA Encourages Participation in Updated Pollinator Initiative

Corn farmers and Midwest landowners who want to help honey bees and Monarch butterflies have a unique opportunity to do this in a strategic fashion through The Bee & Butterfly Habitat Fund's SEED A LEGACY Pollinator Habitat Program, which is being supported by the National Corn Growers Association.

The updated program, expanded in 2018 to include 11 states, seeks partnerships between landowners and beekeepers to provide cost-effective, high-quality pollinator habitat to ensure honey bee and Monarch butterfly populations thrive.

Applications for each state are being accepted online at BeeAndButterflyFund.org/habitat-programs through March 31, 2018 for spring planting. A second application period will open later in 2018 for projects to be planted in the fall.

Native pollinators, honey bees and Monarch butterflies have experienced population declines over the last two decades. The Habitat Fund offers a way for farmers to incorporate the latest innovation and technology into their stewardship efforts and do so in a way that is cost effective, establishes quickly, provides greater pollinator value and addresses weed competition.

Enrollment is open to public, private and corporate landowners in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. These states were selected based on their critical role to address National Pollinator Partnership Action Plan goals.

Submitted applications will be ranked to ensure projects maximize benefits for both pollinators and landowners. Successful applicants will receive free or highly discounted pollinator seed mixtures proven to provide pollinator value for Monarch butterflies, honey bees and native pollinators. All projects must meet program guidelines and complete the appropriate state application online at BeeAndButterflyFund.org/habitat-programs.

CattleFax Supporters, Staff Look Back on 50 Years of Providing Valuable Market Information

                Challenges to profitability in the cattle industry have been relentless throughout its history. Over the past 50 years, however, an organization created by cattle producers has helped effectively address those challenges.

                Started in 1968, CattleFax is a member-owned organization that serves producers in all segments of the cattle and beef business. For half a century, it has been a global leader in beef industry research, analysis and information. Its exclusive industry database has set the standard for market information and analysis.

                The organization has since its inception had supporters who saw the value of knowing the market and what it was going to do. Cattle producer Jeff Sparrowk, for instance, says his family has trusted and valued services provided by CattleFax for more than 40 years.

                “My dad (Jack) has always been a big believer in CattleFax and what they do,” according to Jeff Sparrowk of Sparrowk Livestock, Clements, Calif. “They’ve helped us in our mission to sustain and improve an efficient, economically sound cattle operation since the 1960s.”

                “If not on the ground floor, we were certainly early adopters,” according to Mark Frasier, Frasier Farms, Last Chance, Colo. “We relied heavily on the information and insights that CattleFax provided. We knew that information was key, and my father (Marshall) realized the value there.”

                “You think of the 50 years that CattleFax has been around, and it’s a remarkable story,” says Tom Field, director of the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship program at the University of Nebraska, and a Colorado rancher. “What they’ve done is taken data and turned it into information.”

                That information was critical in the 1960s to cattle producers, who believed their negotiating power for marketing their animals needed improvement. The answer was partially found in mining and sharing data.

                “It felt like we needed our own information and data sharing business, where you could see some of the trends more frequently during the year, and also have our own double check on the system,” according to Randy Blach, CattleFax CEO. Still, it wasn’t a bed of roses as things got started.

                “We knew the industry pretty well, but we didn’t know the markets nearly as well as our customers,” he said. “We would get schooled on a regular basis. But I think we were able to learn under fire. We had some of the greatest mentors and greatest teachers in the industry.”

                One of those teachers was CattleFax’s first market analyst, Topper Thorpe. Thorpe became the CattleFax general manager in 1972, and for 30 years provided a steady hand for staff leadership and guidance. According to Blach, Thorpe helped revolution both the gathering and sharing of market information in the cattle industry, and allowed CattleFax to deliver the most complete, accurate information from which beef producers could make better marketing decisions.
Broader than Markets

                Increasingly it wasn’t just cattle markets that were getting the attention of CattleFax, its staff and customers. Grain, weather, beef demand and competing proteins – not just domestically but globally – were carefully monitored.

                “Whether it’s BSE or a 9/11 event, or the 2008 market crash, that volatility is something that we always have to be aware of, and try to understand, and be prepared for,” said Dale Smith, CattleFax president-elect from Amarillo, Texas. “CattleFax helps us expect and follow the things that impact our businesses.”

                That foresight is appreciated by those who provide financial resources for cattlemen. “We think it’s important for our customers to minimize risk as much as they can,” according to Tom Jensen, senior vice president of the First National Bank of Omaha. “We think CattleFax gives them the tools to be successful in the marketplace with the volatility that we see today.”

                Keeping up with the times to make sure producers had quality information on a timely basis, allowing them to make informed marketing decisions was a daily test for the staff. “Producers are so much more sophisticated today, and they look at the big picture, so it keeps our job challenging to keep on top of the data,” says Duane Lenz, CattleFax general manager. “Becaust they want to know data, they want to know the trends, and they want to know what’s going to happen in the market next week, next month, next year.”

                But Blach says more than anyone it was the volunteer leaders who kept the mission on track and on point. “They’re really who made the difference in our business over time,” Blach says. “The people who have led this organization have carved out the long-term vision of the industry.”

                Tom Field says the future for the organization is more than bright – it’s crucial for cattle producers. “The value of CattleFax will only go up,” he says. “They will help us better interpret and sort through data. The other thing I anticipate is we will gain a competitive advantage, in that we will have access to a trend faster than our competitors, because of our affiliation with this organization.”

NCFC/NGFA Joint Statement on Legislation to Resolve  Section 199A of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

The National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC) and National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) today issued a joint statement regarding a stakeholder-driven proposal to resolve the unintended consequences of Section 199A of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

The two organizations said they support inclusion of the legislation to amend Section 199A as part of the fiscal year 2018 Omnibus appropriations bill this month, and believe it warrants bipartisan support.  The legislation, if approved by Congress, would be retroactive to the start of the 2018 tax year on Jan. 1.

NCFC and NGFA expressed appreciation to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation for developing legislative language over the last week that is designed to achieve the two fundamental objectives of stakeholders:

• First, to replicate to the greatest extent possible the tax benefits accorded to farmer-owned cooperatives and their farmer-patrons under the previous Section 199, also known as the Domestic Production Activities Deduction (DPAD), of the tax code, as it existed prior to its repeal in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act enacted on Dec. 23, 2017; and

• Second, to restore the competitive landscape of the marketplace as it existed in December 2017 so that the tax code does not provide an incentive for farmers to do business with a company purely because it is organized as a cooperative or private/independent firm. 

“Throughout the tax reform process that began last year, NCFC has consistently called on Congress to retain DPAD for famer co-ops and their member-owners and this legislation largely meets that goal. The old Section 199 had a proven track record of letting farmers keep more of their hard-earned money. We expect these provisions to do the same,” said Chuck Conner, president and CEO of NCFC. “By combining the individual-level business deductions that farmers can claim and the pass-through from their co-ops, farmers selling to cooperatives have the opportunity to see benefits in excess of the 20 percent 199A pass-through deduction.”

“We would also like to recognize the tireless efforts of Sens. John Thune of South Dakota and John Hoeven of North Dakota to ensure fair treatment for farmer co-ops and their member-owners,” Conner continued. “They have brought together both sides and fostered an atmosphere that has made today’s proposal possible.”

NGFA President and CEO Randy Gordon said great care was taken by stakeholders to develop a concept that provides tax relief to farmers, as envisioned in the tax-reform law, while restoring to the maximum extent possible the competitive balance in the marketplace.  NGFA noted its members consist of an almost equal number of grain, feed and grain-processing businesses organized as cooperatives and private/independents.

“Given the complexities of the issue and the different types and sizes of businesses, no legislation will ever be perfect for every income or business situation,” Gordon said.  “But the stakeholder concepts on which this legislative language is based have been analyzed and reanalyzed in excruciating detail by tax experts representing both cooperative and private/independent businesses, as well as Congressional tax staff experts. We believe the solution merits enactment so that competitive choices remain available to agricultural producers and the marketplace – not the tax code – determines with whom they do business.  We appreciate the commitment of members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, to get it fixed.” 

NGFA joined in thanking Sens. Thune and Hoeven, as well as Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Pat Roberts, R-Kan., for working with stakeholders, as well as several Democratic senators who have expressed an interest in seeing the issue resolved.

NCFC and NGFA said they will remain engaged on this critical issue until a stakeholder-led solution is enacted by Congress.

Ahead of Hearing, Dozens of Biodiesel Stakeholders Urge Passage of Tax Extenders

Today the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) and more than 50 of its member organizations sent a letter to Congressional leaders that calls for extending the biodiesel tax credit as soon as possible for at least 2018.

“The uncertainty created by the lapse of the tax credit is curtailing investments in new plants and capital projects to maintain, improve and expand existing plants. We believe that if the tax credit is extended through at least 2018, the biodiesel industry would experience substantial growth in the near term, which would create significant new employment opportunities,” they write. The full text of the letter is available for download as a PDF here.

“The noise of uncertainty is detrimental to the future of the industry,” said Kurt Kovarik, vice president of federal affairs at NBB. “We’ve seen biodiesel and renewable diesel production grow from 25 million gallons before the tax credit to nearly 3 billion gallons. Imagine how much farther we could be as an industry if this federal policy mechanism hadn’t lapsed so many times.”

Tomorrow Cal Meyer, chief operating officer at Ag Processing Inc, will testify on behalf of NBB before the Ways and Means Tax Policy Subcommittee. The hearing will begin at 10:00 a.m. ET, but Meyer will testify later in the afternoon on Panel 4, probably closer to 2-3 p.m. ET. You can watch the hearing live here. Meyer will make the case of the importance of the biodiesel tax credit to accelerating growth in the industry and providing economic and environmental benefits to the taxpayer.

Brazil Court Releases Former JBS Chairman from Jail

The corruption scandal in Brazil continues to develop as JBS co-owner Joesley Batista turns himself into authorities. Reuters reports that a Brazilian federal court on Friday granted the release from jail of Joesley Batista, former chairman of the world's biggest meatpacker, JBS SA, according to court documents.

Batista, who steered JBS from a Brazilian beef processing firm to a global food conglomerate with major U.S. operations, was expected to be released later on Friday from a Sao Paulo detention center, said his lawyer, Andre Callegari.

Batista and his brother, Wesley, were arrested last year on charges of obstruction of justice and insider trading following a controversial plea bargain related to a corruption scandal that threatened to topple President Michel Temer.

Wesley Batista, the former chief executive of JBS, was released last month. The brothers cannot leave the country while they answer to charges against them. The Batistas control JBS through holding company J&F Investimentos.

The judge who ordered Joesley Batista's release said the reason for his preventive arrest order was no longer valid, since that type of arrest by law should not exceed 120 days. The former JBS chairman had been behind bars for the last six months.

U.S. Tractor Sales Fell in February, Combines Were Up

According to the Association of Equipment Manufacturer's monthly "Flash Report," the sale of all tractors in the U.S. in February 2018, were down 10% compared to the same month last year.

For the two months in 2018, a total of 10,486 tractors were sold which compares to 11,630 sold thru February 2017 representing a 10% decrease for the year.  Two-wheel drive smaller tractors (under 40 HP) were down 12% from last year, while 40 & under 100 HP were down 2%. Sales of 2-wheel drive 100+ HP were down 20%, while 4-wheel drive tractors were up 9%. Combine sales are up 34% for the month.

For the year, two-wheel drive smaller tractors (under 40 HP) are down 4% over last year, while 40 & under 100 HP are even. Sales of 2-wheel drive 100+ HP are down 11%, while 4-wheel drive tractors are up 15%. Sales of combines for the year total 481 compared to 393 in 2017.

Case IH Continues to Drive Data Openness and Interoperability in Precision Farming as an IoF2020 Project Stakeholder

On March 1, 2018, in Almeria, Spain, IoF2020 project stakeholders demonstrated a proof of concept focusing on interoperability and compatibility between farm machines, sensors and software. The IoF2020 group uses the ADAPT Framework focusing on interoperability and compatibility between farm machines, sensors and software. ADAPT is an open source software toolkit from AgGateway, based on a universal data compatibility model that uses plug-ins to enable translation between different proprietary data formats.

“In everything we’re doing, we’re focusing on understanding the daily challenges of our customers and supporting them with products and solutions that make farming easier,” said Andreas Klauser, Case IH brand president. “This project is another great step that will help farmers to increase efficiency by using their data without any boundaries.”

With the proof of concept demonstration, the IoF2020 partners confirmed their commitment to and progress on an open and interoperable system, through which data can flow seamlessly between different value chain participants. For farmers, this is critical because it will be possible to use different types and brands of equipment with a wide variety of software or services, regardless of manufacturer.
“Our goal in this project is to continue to simplify how our customers share data between operators, machines and service providers like agronomists or contractors,” says Robert Zemenchik, global product marketing manager for Case IH Advanced Farming Systems.

“Today, industry standards have focused on machine standards for physical design and electronic compatibility. The ADAPT solution goes a step further using digital plug-ins to ensure the various data types generated by the group membership are compatible with Farmer Management Information Systems. Now that we have a working proof of concept, we will deliver data management solutions to our customers that will be much faster and easier to work with than in the past.”

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