Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Tuesday May 21 Ag News

Nebraska Cover Crop Selector Tool Now Available
Gary Lesoing - NE Extension Educator

An online Cover Crop Selector Tool is now available for Nebraska, thanks to work by the Midwest Cover Crops Council and representatives of Nebraska Extension, the Natural Resource and Conservation Service (NRCS), and the cover crop industry in Nebraska. The new Cover Crop Selector Tool is available on the Midwest Cover Crops Council website.

Users can plug in the top three attributes they’re seeking in a cover crop and the tool will provide a 1-4 rating of those attributes for individual cover crops and/or cover crop mixes. The tool rates such attributes as:  nitrogen source, nitrogen scavenger, soil building, erosion fighter, weed fighter, good grazing, quick growth, lasting residue, and winter survivability. The user can then click on the individual cover crop description and learn specific information, such as planting rates and timing, termination methods and timing, and advantages and disadvantages of the cover crop.

With the information provided, users can determine the cover crops best suited to their purpose. The Nebraska site includes 47 cover crops and six mixes.

The development of this tool was led by Dean Baas, sustainable agriculture educator at Michigan State University, and Anna Morrow of Purdue University, Midwest Cover Crops Council program manager. They worked with over 20 team members from Nebraska. Baas has led most of the states within the Midwest Cover Crops Council through this process to develop a cover crop selector tool. Selection tools are also available for Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin as well as the province of Ontario.

Nebraska Extension has been a member of the Midwest Cover Crops Council for five years. Gary Lesoing, extension educator and Nebraska State SARE Coordinator, represents Nebraska on the Board of Directors. The Midwest Cover Crops Council has a number of excellent resources, including the “Midwest Cover Crop Field Guide,” a cover crop pocket guide used by many farmers in Nebraska and across the Midwest.

This summer Nebraska Extension plans to release several cover crop recipes for beginning cover crop growers. These resources help guide a new grower through cover crop planning and preparation, fall work, spring work, and adjustments under various conditions and production systems.

USDA Seeks Project Proposals from Partner Organizations to Protect and Restore Wetlands

USDA is making available up to $40 million in technical and financial assistance to help eligible conservation partners voluntarily protect, restore and enhance critical wetlands on agricultural lands. Restored wetlands improve water quality downstream and improve wildlife habitat, while also providing flood prevention and recreational benefits to communities.

“These locally-led partnerships are instrumental in achieving greater wetland acreage and maximizing their benefits to farmers, ranchers and the local communities where wetlands exist,” said Craig Derickson, Nebraska state conservationist of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). “For example, we see this program as important to helping communities respond to natural disasters, such as the flooding in Nebraska. These partnerships can help with addressing croplands that flood frequently. The restored wetlands can provide critical water storage during times of flooding.”

Proposals should be emailed to NRCS at SM.NRCS.WRE@wdc.usda.gov by June 14, 2019.

About the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership

Funding will be provided through the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership (WREP), part of the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), a Farm Bill conservation program.

Through WREP, states, local units of governments, non-governmental organizations and American Indian tribes collaborate with NRCS through cooperative and partnership agreements. These partners work with landowners who voluntarily enroll eligible land into easements to protect, restore and enhance wetlands on their properties.

Wetland reserve easements enable landowners to successfully reduce impacts from flooding, recharge groundwater, enhance and protect wildlife habitat and provide outdoor recreational and educational opportunities. Partners benefit from WREP by targeting outreach and enrollment priorities supported by NRCS, including places impacted by natural disasters, such as the severe flooding that has impacted Nebraska.

The voluntary nature of NRCS' easement programs enables effective integration of wetland restoration on working landscapes, providing benefits to farmers and ranchers who enroll in the program, as well as benefits to the communities where the wetlands exist. Easements enable landowners to adopt a variety of conservation practices that improve the function and condition of wetlands.

Partners interested in WREP are encouraged to work with their NRCS state office as part of developing the proposal. Proposals must follow ACEP guidelines for wetland reserve easements.

Growth Energy Applauds House Biofuels Caucus Letter to EPA in Support of E15 Year-Round

Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor thanked 20 members of the House Biofuels Caucus, led by Co-Chairs Collin Peterson (D-MN), Rodney Davis (R-IL), Dave Loebsack (D-IA), and Roger Marshall (R-KS), who sent a bipartisan letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler in support of the year-round sales of E15. The lawmakers called on EPA to finish lifting outdated restrictions on the biofuel blend in time for this year’s summer driving season.

“We are grateful for the continued support of champions on both sides of aisle who are fighting for a strong rule that will ensure more biofuels reach consumers at the pump," said Skor. "The rural economy is at a breaking point, and it’s vital that EPA act by June 1 to uphold the president’s commitment to farm families and allow retailers to keep more homegrown fuel on the market this summer.”

Signers of the letter are: Reps. Collin Peterson (MN-07), Rodney Davis (IL-13), Dave Loebsack (IA-02), Roger Marshall (KS-01), Darin LaHood (IL-18), Steve King (IA-04), Cheri Bustos (IL-17), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Adrian Smith (NE-03), Don Bacon (NE-02), Dusty Johnson (SD-At Large), Cindy Axne (IA-03), Angie Craig (MN-02), Steve Watkins (KS-02), James Comer (KY-01), Abby Finkenauer (IA-01), Jeff Fortenberry (NE-01), Tom Emmer (MN-06), Pete Stauber (MN-08), and Sam Graves (MN-06).

Nebraska farmer to Senate Ag Committee: Climate solutions start on the farm

Matt Rezac, a fourth-generation corn and soybean farmer from Weston, Nebraska, said today in testimony to the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee that farmers’ commitment to future generations, paired with their willingness to embrace new technology, positions them to lead on climate solutions. Rezac was invited to testify as part of the Committee’s hearing entitled “Climate change and the agriculture sector.”

“When we talk about stewardship of the land, and doing what’s right for the land, there’s no one better than the American farmer,” Rezac said in his testimony. “In Nebraska and across the nation, farmers are constantly seeking ways to safeguard natural resources while also strengthening their business. As we continue to embrace innovation and technology in these conservation efforts, farmers can make a real difference in providing climate solutions.”

Rezac said that like many farmers, environmental stewardship is already core to his farm management, noting some of his 2,500 acres of corn and soybeans have been in the family for nearly 140 years. He named three core strategies to help farmers unlock even greater environmental and economic results in the coming years.

First, he said, farmers and their ag retailers must continually deploy the latest technology through “precision conservation.”

“On our farm we use variable rate fertilizer, moisture probes in the soil to manage water, and we are extremely precise about our nutrient management, making adjustments in-season,” said Rezac. “In addition, with precision conservation tools like Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN’s Truterra Insights Engine and help from our ag retail advisers at Frontier Cooperative, we’re able to highlight the financial opportunities for different field management systems. Technology is critical, and the future of agricultural conservation is precision.”

Second, enhanced collaboration between the public and private sectors will help farmers achieve more, with federal agencies like USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service working even more closely alongside local ag retailers.

“My stewardship journey is a one of relationships and collaboration. We could not have accomplished what we did on my farm without my District Conservationist and my local NRCS office that has worked with me to tailor conservation solutions to my own farm,” Rezac said. “Unfortunately, my local NRCS office is overworked, and truthfully, overwhelmed. To fill some of that void, I turned to my local co-op, Frontier Cooperative. Frontier has been a leader in sustainability, and they joined the Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN program when it launched in 2016. Frontier embraced bringing agronomists out to the farm, educating farmers about being more efficient.”

The result, he said, has been a stronger capacity to use analytics and data to focus and target conservation practices on the farm.

Third, Rezac reinforced that economics and environmental stewardship can, and must, go hand-in-hand as farmers strive to deliver climate solutions.

“In today’s farm economy, we aren’t farming to rake in a profit. We’re not making money, and we’re farming to lose as little as possible. I’m speaking to you as a fourth-generation family farmer whose top priority is to make sure my farm is healthy and strong when my sons Jacob and Chase are grown up,” he said. “I know focusing on environmental stewardship also makes economic sense, when it’s done right.

Rezac thanked members of the Senate Agriculture Committee for focusing on how farmers can deliver climate solutions, while keeping their farms environmentally strong and economically healthy for future generations.

“With the right policy and the right incentives, farmers can keep improving across the board. We can produce an abundant food supply, safeguard resources for the future, maintain our businesses, and lead the way on climate solutions,” said Rezac.

Rezac Farms is a member of Land O’Lakes, Inc., America’s third-largest farmer-owned cooperative, and Rezac received the 2017 Outstanding Sustainability Award from Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN – a business launched by Land O’Lakes to support farmer-led, farmer-driven stewardship solutions. Rezac has also worked alongside Frontier Cooperative to bolster his on-farm stewardship efforts using the Truterra™ Insights Engine from Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN, an interactive, on-farm digital platform launched in 2018 to help farmers advance their stewardship goals and optimize their return-on-investment in real time, acre-by-acre.

Beef Cattle Industry Has Great Story to Tell On Climate

Testifying on behalf of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, Kansas cattle producer Debbie Lyons-Blythe delivered a clear message at a U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on climate change this morning.

“The U.S. cattle industry is proud of its history as stewards of our nation’s natural resources,” Lyons-Blythe testified at the Committee’s hearing on Climate Change and the Agricultural Sector. “The industry takes very seriously its obligation to protect the environment while providing the nation with a safe and affordable beef supply. Cattle producers are America’s original conservationists, and we work hard every day to ensure that we can pass our operations on to the next generation.”

Lyons-Blythe, who helps run Blythe Family Farms in the Flint Hills of Kansas, also pushed back against claims that beef cattle production in the United States is responsible for a disproportionate or even significant percentage of greenhouse gas emissions.

“The beef cattle industry has a great story to tell in the climate conversation and the facts support that,” Lyons-Blythe testified. “According to the Environmental Protection Agency, direct emissions from beef cattle represent two percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the country. A recent study published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that emissions from cattle ‘were not a significant contributor to long-term global warming.”

Lyons-Blythe also highlighted her work as a board member with the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, which recently released its landmark U.S. Beef Industry Sustainability Framework and encourages operations all along the beef value chain to measure key environmental metrics like water resources, air and greenhouse gas emissions, and land resources.

“The Roundtable is an example of ranchers leading the way on conservation,” Lyons-Blythe said. “Cattle ranchers took the initiative to identify their unique footprint in beef sustainability, demonstrating their positive contributions to landscapes, wildlife populations, rural communities, our nation’s economy, and a global food supply. But we also reflected on opportunities where we can improve. It demonstrates our commitment to doing right by the land, responsibly raising animals, caring for the people who raise beef, and making money to support our families and the next generation of beef producers.”

ACE elevates low carbon White Paper to Senate Ag Committee

American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) CEO Brian Jennings highlights the scientific and economic opportunities U.S. farmers and biofuel producers hold to support climate change mitigation and get the rural economy back on track in a letter to Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) as the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee hold a hearing on climate change and the agriculture sector today.

“As the committee begins this timely discussion about the role of agriculture in climate change, the current economic stakes intensify the need for policies which can provide a meaningful return on investment,” the letter stated. Jennings noted, U.S. farmers are under tremendous financial stress from collapsing net farm income, rising expenses, ongoing trade tensions, weather-related disasters, and the undermining of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) with demand destroying small refinery waivers.

As Congress tackles climate change, Jennings believes one way to thread that needle would be by providing “rural America with concrete benefits from climate-centered policies that outweigh potential negatives, such as recognizing the role agriculture can play to mitigate climate change and increasing the use of low carbon fuels.”

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has made it clear agriculture can play an important role in mitigating climate change through soil carbon sequestration. “ACE believes unlocking the marketplace for low carbon fuels creates the economic driver to help farmers adopt practices that maximize atmospheric carbon sequestration in soil,” the letter stated.

To underpin the scientific and economic opportunity for ethanol use to increase via low carbon fuel markets, last year, ACE published a White Paper titled “The Case for Properly Valuing the Low Carbon Benefits of Corn Ethanol” that highlights how U.S. farmers and ethanol producers are improving efficiencies, investing in technologies, and adopting practices to dramatically reduce lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from corn ethanol.

The full letter is available here and ACE’s White Paper is available online by visiting https://ethanol.org/ethanol-essentials/low-carbon-benefits-of-corn-ethanol.

Committee Holds Hearing on Climate and Agriculture - Farmers Union Encouraged by First Step to Address Crisis

The U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry today held a hearing dedicated to the issue of climate change and the agricultural sector.

In written testimony, (National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson thanked the committee for addressing the deleterious effects of climate change on the agricultural industry and emphasized the need for federal policies that assist farmers with the implementation of practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, sequester carbon, and build resilience to extreme weather events.

“Climate change is not a future or hypothetical issue for family farmers and ranchers – they are already suffering its effects every day. Higher average temperatures, altered precipitation patterns, and more frequent and severe natural disasters have added several more layers of uncertainty to the already difficult job of food production. As the climate continues to change, we can only expect the challenges to multiply. This serious and immediate problem requires serious and immediate action – and we are glad that the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry is taking the first steps by holding this hearing.

“Though the agricultural sector is among the most directly impacted by climate change, it is also among the most capable of mitigating and adapting to its effects. Farmers and ranchers are not only able to cut greenhouse gas emissions on their operations, but they can also offset greenhouse gas emissions from other sectors by sequestering carbon in the soil, growing biofuels, and engaging in on-farm energy production. Many of the USDA’s existing conservation programs support these important efforts with financial and technical assistance. We encourage Congress to continue providing farmers with the tools they need by expanding and enhancing these programs. Additionally, we recommend robust investments in public agricultural research as well as the creation of market-based incentives for climate-smart practices.

“Farmers Union members understand the urgent threat that climate change poses to agriculture, and they want to do everything they can to lessen the damage. But this work isn’t free or easy – it often requires significant time, money, and expertise. We look forward to working with you to identify policies and solutions that help family farmers and ranchers achieve their sustainability goals.”

USDA Statement on Support for Farmers

From a USDA Spokesperson: “Details on the new farming support program will be forthcoming shortly, but we want to be clear that the program is being designed to avoid skewing planting decisions one way or another. Farmers should continue to make their planting and production decisions with the current market signals in mind, rather than some expectation of what a farming support program might or might not look like based on inaccurate media stories.”

R-CALF USA Asks Court to Declare Beef Checkoff Practices in 15 States Unconstitutional

Yesterday, R-CALF USA, through its attorneys, filed documents in the federal district court in Montana asking that its motion to declare the beef checkoff practices in 15 states unconstitutional be granted. Those states are: Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

The documents contend that in each of the 15 states, the state beef councils are private corporations that have been keeping half of all the mandatory beef checkoff assessments collected within their states to fund their private speech.

The group is challenging this practice on the grounds that the First Amendment prohibits the government from compelling cattle producers and other citizens to subsidize private speech.

The remedy to this constitutional violation, according to R-CALF USA, is to allow producers in those 15 states to choose whether or not to fund private corporations. If producers choose not to fund their private state councils, their money should go to the government to fund its work on behalf of ranchers, which the Supreme Court has held is constitutional. This now occurs in Montana where R-CALF USA was granted a preliminary injunction in June 2017.

The court documents state R-CALF USA and its members are injured by the state council’s private speech because rather than promote consumption of domestically produced beef, which R-CALF USA believes will benefit its members, the councils promote beef regardless of how or where it was raised. The injury arises because the councils are not accountable to the public, meaning R-CALF USA cannot employ traditional lobbying techniques to advocate for change.

Another of the group’s objections is that the state beef councils send checkoff money to third-party entities that are likewise not publicly accountable and that use the money to support the consolidation of the cattle and beef industry, another outcome R-CALF USA opposes. In 2018, the Texas Beef Council, for instance, gave $2 million to the private Federation of State Beef Councils and U.S. Meat Export Federation. Other councils have donated to political advocacy groups like the Wisconsin Livestock Identification Initiative.

“The beef checkoff is eliminating opportunities for U.S. cattle producers to remain profitable by promoting foreign beef as if it were equal to domestic beef and by supporting corporate efforts to consolidate and control our industry. Our members said enough is enough and our plan is to put producers back in control of the checkoff, which our lawsuit helps accomplish,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard.    

“The court should grant this motion and bring relief to ranchers in these fifteen states. Independent producers of beef are currently being compelled to subsidize the speech of multinational corporations regardless of their wishes,” said Public Justice Food Project Senior Attorney David Muraskin, who represents R-CALF USA.

“Hopefully the unfettered misuse of U.S. cattle producer’s checkoff dollars by the state beef councils, many of which are closely associated with NCBA affiliated state cattlemen’s associations that fought to repeal country of origin labeling for beef, will be a thing of the past,” said J. Dudley Butler.

Attorneys for R-CALF USA include lead counsel David Muraskin, a Food Project Attorney at Public Justice, J. Dudley Butler of Butler Farm and Ranch Law Group, PLLC, and Bill Rossbach of Rossbach Law, P.C. in Missoula, Montana.


All layers in Nebraska during April 2019 totaled 8.62 million, up from 7.76 million the previous year, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service.  Nebraska egg production during April totaled 207 million eggs, up from 192 million in 2018. April egg production per 100 layers was 2,405 eggs, compared to 2,471 eggs in 2018.


Iowa egg production during April 2019 was 1.40 billion eggs, down 2 percent from last month but up 5 percent from last year, according to the latest Chickens and Eggs report from the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.  The average number of all layers on hand during April 2019 was 59.3 million, up slightly from last month and up 3 percent from last year. Eggs per 100 layers for April were 2,366, down 2 percent from last month but up 2 percent from last year.

April Egg Production Up 5 Percent

United States egg production totaled 9.34 billion during April 2019, up 5 percent from last year. Production included 8.18 billion table eggs, and 1.17 billion hatching eggs, of which 1.08 billion were broiler-type and 87.1 million were egg-type. The average number of layers during April 2019 totaled 403 million, up 3 percent from last year. April egg production per 100 layers was 2,318 eggs, up 2 percent from April 2018.
All layers in the United States on May 1, 2019 totaled 402 million, up 2 percent from last year. The 402 million layers consisted of 339 million layers producing table or market type eggs, 59.4 million layers producing broiler-type hatching eggs, and 3.59 million layers producing egg-type hatching eggs. Rate of lay per day on May 1, 2019, averaged 77.2 eggs per 100 layers, up 2 percent from May 1, 2018.

Egg-Type Chicks Hatched Up 3 Percent

Egg-type chicks hatched during April 2019 totaled 60.7 million, up 3 percent from April 2018. Eggs in incubators totaled 55.1 million on May 1, 2019, down 2 percent from a year ago.  Domestic placements of egg-type pullet chicks for future hatchery supply flocks by leading breeders totaled 295 thousand during April 2019, up 44 percent from April 2018.

Broiler-Type Chicks Hatched Up 2 Percent

Broiler-type chicks hatched during April 2019 totaled 817 million, up 2 percent from April 2018. Eggs in incubators totaled 701 million on May 1, 2019, up 1 percent from a year ago.  Leading breeders placed 8.04 million broiler-type pullet chicks for future domestic hatchery supply flocks during April 2019, up 5 percent from April 2018.

ISU Extension and Outreach to Offer Delayed and Prevented Planting Webinar on May 24

Wet conditions have made planting a challenge for farmers across Iowa. According to the United States Department of Agriculture-National Agricultural Statistics Service, 70% of Iowa’s expected corn crop has been planted and 27% of the expected soybean crop, as of May 20.

With June around the corner, farmers have questions about late planting or prevented planting options. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach will host a webinar on May 24 at 9 a.m. to address these concerns and questions. ISU Extension and Outreach field agronomists Virgil Schmitt and Rebecca Vittetoe will discuss late planting options and considerations for both corn and soybean. The webinar will also include a discussion on crop insurance and prevented planting policies and considerations by ISU Extension and Outreach farm management specialist Ryan Drollette. The webinar can be accessed through the following link: https://connect.extension.iastate.edu/lppp/.

The webinar is free and open to the public. No pre-registration is required. The webinar will be recorded and uploaded online to https://iastate.box.com/v/delayed-prevent-plant-webinar for those unable to join the webinar live.

For more information or questions, contact Drollette at 319-337-2145 or drollett@iastate.edu; Schmitt at 563-260-3721 or vschmitt@iastate.edu; or Vittetoe at 319-653-4811 or rka8@iastate.edu.

May Is Beef Month in Iowa, But Producers Face Spring Challenges

Ranked fourth for cattle and calves on feed, and 10th for the number of beef cows, Iowa’s beef industry plays a major role in the state’s economy. Iowans have nearly 4 million head of beef cattle on inventory, and market more than 1.8 million head a year.

The state’s beef industry contributes more than $6.3 billion annually to the state’s economy, and supports more than 32,000 jobs, according to a May Beef Month proclamation signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds.

Cattle in field by davidhewison/stock.adobe.com.While Iowans certainly have a lot to celebrate this month, many are also facing the challenges of a cool, wet spring, and the continuous challenge of being profitable amid high feed and input costs.

To help producers overcome these challenges, the Iowa Beef Center and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach have published a number of resources this spring that address common problems, including flooding and grain storage, pasture management, pasture renovation, and grazing and silage options.

In late April, the Iowa Beef Center published a six-tip guide to managing pastures, called “Spring Pasture Management Tips for Cattle Producers.” The guide covers such things as scouting, testing soils and rotating paddocks.

In an article called “Step Two in Flood Recovery — Pasture Renovation,” ISU Extension and Outreach experts discuss what’s involved with renovating damaged pastures.

For cattle and sheep producers who are considering adding forage crops, or grazing to their operation, ISU Extension and Outreach published an article called “Weathering the Weather – Options for Haying, Grazing and Silage.”

Upcoming events

Looking ahead, Iowa beef producers also have a few educational opportunities to put on their calendar. Cattle Feeder’s Day will be held June 13, at the Wallace Foundation Learning Center, and will cover disease detection, nutrition management and the production of high quality beef.

Speaking of “quality,” producers have multiple upcoming opportunities to earn their Beef Quality Assurance certification. Training can be done in person or online. For a list of upcoming trainings, visit the Iowa Beef Quality Assurance Program webpage, at www.iabeef.org/cattlemens-corner/iowa-bqa.

For more information about beef events at Iowa State University, visit the Iowa Beef Center.

Additional information is available through the Iowa Beef Industry Council and the Iowa Beef Checkoff.

Iowa’s beef cattle standing

Here is a look at where Iowa stands for beef cattle production, in the state and in the nation. Information provided by the Iowa Beef Industry Council, ISU Department of Economics and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Census, 2017.

Total cattle inventory in Iowa            3.95 million head
State rank all cattle and calves        Eighth
Cattle on feed in Iowa                      1.32 million head
State rank cattle/calves on feed       Fourth
Number of beef cows                       950,000 (ranked 10th)
Number of cattle operations             25,367
Number of dairy cows                      220,000

Beginning Farmer Tax Credit Creates Opportunities for Landowners and New Producers

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig released the following statement in response to Gov. Kim Reynolds signing HF768, the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit bill, into law today.

“I want to thank Gov. Reynolds for signing and legislature for passing this important legislation that supports farmers who are just starting out,” said Secretary Naig. “The new law expands the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit to allow more individuals to participate. This is a great opportunity for existing landowners to earn tax credit and help new farmers establish their own operations.”

About the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit
-    Under Chapter 16 of Iowa code, a “beginning farmer” is an individual, partnership, family farm corporation or family farm LLC with a low or moderate net worth that engages in farming or wishes to engage in farming.
-    Cash rent, commodity share and flex leases to beginning farmers qualify for the credit, which is equal to 5 percent and 15 percent, respectively, of the lease payment.
-    Up to $12 million in tax credits will be available each year to landowners who lease to beginning farmers.
-    The average Iowa farmer is 57 years old, there are more than 86,000 farms in Iowa, and we have less than 15,000 young producers, according to the 2017 Census of Ag

FFAR Awards MSU Grant to Enhance Milk Production

Feeding the 9 million US dairy cows requires millions of acres of crops and accounts for more than half of total dairy farm costs. The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) awarded Michigan State University a $1 million grant to improve dairy cow feed efficiency, which could improve farmer profitability and substantially reduce the greenhouse gas footprint of the dairy industry. The Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding (CDCB) provided matching funds, for a total award of $2 million.  Collaborating institutions include the University of Wisconsin, Iowa State University, University of Florida, and USDA Animal Genomics Improvement Laboratory.

Dairy farmers could significantly reduce their expenses by selecting cows with the highest feed efficiency, which are the cows that produce the same or more milk while consuming less feed. In 2010, Michigan State researchers participated in a US Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)-sponsored study that found breeding for more feed-efficient cows could save the U.S. dairy sector $540 million a year with no loss in milk production.

The major challenge to achieving this goal has been collecting enough data on enough cows to develop reliable genomic breeding values for feed intake.  This project will measure feed intake, milk production, body weight, and other information on 3,600 dairy cows to add to the existing database created as part of the earlier USDA NIFA project.  In addition, the research team, led by Dr. Michael VandeHaar, will use new sensor technologies to monitor dairy cows’ body temperature, feeding behavior, and locomotion, along with milk spectral data, to predict feed intake and gather data from thousands of cows to further improve the ability of farmers to select the most efficient cows. The researchers also will evaluate whether their genetic predictions can be used to decrease methane emissions from dairy cattle.

“I am excited about this project. We have a great group of geneticists and nutritionists working together to collect intake and sensor data on 3,600 cows from 5 locations,” said Dr. VandeHaar. “Our project will enhance the reliability of feed intake breeding values and enable inclusion of feed costs as a trait in Net Merit. We also expect that our predicted feed intake index can be used for making culling and breeding decisions.”

The Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding plans to provide genomic evaluations for residual feed intake in 2020, so that dairy producers worldwide can include better predictors of feed efficiency in their genetic selection and management decisions.

Additionally, this project will help improve the sustainability of milk production. Feed production is responsible for about 20 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions for every gallon of milk, according to the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. Reducing the amount of feed dairy cows consume will reduce this footprint and could also reduce emissions associated with manure and digestion.

“Breeding cows for enhanced feed efficiency reduces rising feed costs on dairy farms, which could increase dairy farmers profitability and improve the competitiveness of the U.S. dairy industry,” said Sally Rockey, FFAR’s executive director. “Improving dairy cows feed intake will reduce greenhouse gas emissions while producing more feed-efficient cows, more profitable herds and a more sustainable dairy sector that is prepared to meet global food demands.”

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