Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Tuesday June 18 Ag News

Beef Breakdown Workshop
Hannah Guenther, NE Extension Educator, Cuming County

In honor of May being Beef Month, Cuming County Feeders Association, ASC Lockers, and Nebraska Extension in Cuming County provided area students with an amazing opportunity to learn more about beef. Students were invited to ASC Lockers on Wednesday, May 29th to observe the processing of a beef animal to identify the various cuts of meat and to prepare it for sale. In this pilot educational program, 15 Cuming County students participated in this opportunity with the goal being for students to learn about where the beef they eat comes from so that they can better educate others about the industry as they go out into other parts of the state and country. With so much misinformation surfacing, it is important to educate youth about the truth behind the industry that feeds so many. 

Evelyn Wooldrik commented that, “Even though I’m from a rural community I have not been exposed to where the cuts come from and the whole meat process. I felt that it was a very humane process and I learned a lot!”

Participants started the day with hamburgers provided by ASC lockers and grilled up by the Cuming County Feeders. The tour began by walking through the facility and cooler. Students were then able to witness the breaking down of a corn fed Black Angus steer as well as a Holstein. Many stated that the comparison was eye opening! Chad Nelson, a USDA inspector, was also in attendance to go over grading and marbling in beef.

The questions asked by students was feedback enough in terms of success of the day but efforts were re-affirmed when Evelyn also said, “I’m happy that I jumped at the opportunity and learned so much. I thought it gave me a real life look at anatomy and ultimately made me realize how fascinating life and creation is!”

Karina Hasenkamp also shared that after picking up son, Landon, he requested steaks for dinner so he could share with his family what he had learned from the day.

We are now planning to extend this learning opportunity to adults. Stay tuned for more information about our Adult Beef Breakdown Workshop.

Nebraska Farm Bureau Criticizes NYC Mayor’s Plan to Combat Global Warming by Buying Less Beef

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to slash meat consumption in schools and other city facilities is being slammed in a letter by Nebraska Farm Bureau. De Blasio’s Green New Deal, a wide-ranging initiative, includes reducing purchases of beef by 50 percent at all city-controlled facilities, including schools, prisons and hospitals.

“This ‘strategic initiative’ aimed at reducing the city’s contribution toward climate change ignores both climate and nutritional science, and only serves to further divide urban and rural populations. As the largest agricultural organization representing the second largest beef producing state, we urge you to reconsider this initiative and help us tell the great story of beef sustainability,” Steve Nelson, Nebraska Farm Bureau president wrote June 13.

New York City also plans to phase out all processed meat products purchased by city agencies. The agricultural sector, and beef in particular, has become the focus of attention by activists who want to highlight the impact eating meat has on global carbon emissions.

“Unfortunately, one of the most harmful and erroneous myths that exist in public discourse today is that U.S. beef production is destroying the planet. The truth, which is backed by peer-reviewed science, is that U.S. beef producers are producing far more beef with fewer inputs and contribute fewer greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than what they are blamed for,” Nelson said.

According to a study recently published in the academic journal Agricultural Systems, beef cattle production only accounted for 3.3 percent of all U.S.GHG. By comparison, transportation, and electricity generation together produced 56 percent. It is also important to note that when compared to 1977, today’s beef producers produce the same amount of beef with 33 percent fewer animals.

“This improved efficiency has reduced the industry’s carbon footprint by 16 percent and has reduced the industry’s consumption of both water and feed as well. Outside of the environmental factors, it should also be noted that today’s beef industry contributes to rangeland health, medical, and pharmaceutical products/research, as well as being one of the most healthy and nutrient rich food products available,” he stated.

Farmers and ranchers are the original environmentalist. Advancements made in U.S. plant and animal technology, genetics, and nutrition have created the most efficient and environmentally friendly food system in the history of the world.

“Unfortunately, despite our success, many of those whose only connection to production agriculture involves three meals a day, seem to be the most vocal about what they perceive are the shortcomings in our industry. It is our hope you look beyond your own very large urban backyard and come visit the American farm and ranch families who devote their lives to producing the food, fiber, and fuel. We would be happy to host you in Nebraska at any time,” Nelson wrote.

Ricketts Blasts NYC Mayor’s “War On Beef”

Today, Governor Pete Ricketts issued a statement blasting a new initiative by New York City (NYC) Mayor Bill de Blasio that proposes to reduce beef consumption by 50 percent and end the use of processed meat in NYC’s municipal facilities.

“Bill de Blasio’s war on beef is anti-agriculture and anti-science,” said Governor Ricketts.  “Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers are the original conservationists, and they help raise the best beef in the world.  I know the people of New York City enjoy Nebraska beef, because the Department of Agriculture and I have worked to promote Nebraska beef in the city.  I urge the people of New York to reject this senseless plan.”

Green Plains Announces Suspension of Quarterly Cash Dividend

Omaha-based Green Plains Inc. today announced that its board of directors has decided to suspend its quarterly cash dividend in order to retain and redirect cash flow to the company’s Project 24 opex equalization plan, the deployment of high-protein technology and its stock repurchase program.

“As part of our capital allocation plan, we believe suspending our cash dividend enables us to expedite our investments into our Project 24 initiative, which is expected to significantly reduce our ethanol production operating costs, and support deployment of our high-protein feed technology across our production platform,” said Todd Becker, president and chief executive officer. “We are confident that by suspending our dividend, we can prudently direct this cash flow to opportunities within our business to create greater shareholder returns over the near and long term.”

“We intend to immediately deploy capital to repurchase stock pursuant to the remaining availability of approximately $80 million under the $100 million program authorized by the Board of Directors in August 2014,” added Becker.

Livestock Risk Protection (LRP) Insurance Update

Steve Neimeyer – NE Extension Educator

Several enhancements and improvements to the Livestock Risk Protection (LRP) insurance program will take effect on July 1, 2019. LRP is an insurance contract offered by the USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) to help livestock producers protect against unexpected down swings in market price.

One change is that LRP insurance coverage for fed cattle, feeder cattle, and swine is expanding to include all 50 states. Several other changes will be of particular interest to Nebraska cattle producers. 
·    LRP premium subsidies will increase from the current 13 percent for all coverage levels to a range from 20 percent to 35 percent based on the coverage level selected.
·    The per head limits will increase from the current levels of 1,000 head per coverage endorsement and 2,000 head per producer per year (July 1 to June 30) to new levels of 3,000 head per coverage endorsement and 6,000 head per producer per year.
·    Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) trading requirements are being updated to allow for more insurance endorsement lengths to be offered to producers to purchase. Currently, a daily volume of five traded contracts is required to offer LRP endorsements.
·    The Price Adjustment Factor for predominantly dairy cattle is being modified to 50 percent for both weight ranges of Feeder Cattle to more accurately reflect market prices. The current adjustment factors range from 80-85 percent based on weight class.

Price and market uncertainties pose a significant risk to cattle producers with a substantial amount of money invested in breeding livestock, land, and other infrastructure. Price protection through an insurance tool like LRP could be an important risk management tool for producers to protect that investment. Like most insurance products, producers should not purchase LRP hoping to collect on it. All else being equal, the preference is for good, strong market prices to prevail. However, it should be of interest to producers considering the need for market price protection to see how LRP has performed over the years.

LRP is available in many forms, terms of length, and coverage levels. For the purposes of this article, we analyzed the LRP feeder cattle contract for steer calves weighing less than 600 pounds from 2009-2018. We looked at a 13-week coverage endorsement taken out on August 6 (or the subsequent Monday if August 6 was on a weekend) of each year at the highest coverage price available. This resulted in an ending date of November 5-7 of each year. The premiums reported here are the producer premiums after the 13% subsidy was been paid by the USDA under the current policy rules.

Over the ten years analyzed, total producer premiums collected exceeded indemnities paid out by an average of $1.15 per cwt. The indemnity ratio over these ten years was 0.68 meaning that if a producer consistently insured the same quantity each year, each $1.00 in premiums paid into the program would have yielded $0.68 back in indemnities. Over the ten years, actual ending values were greater than expected six times and less than expected four times but in 2010 when it was less than expected it was not below the highest coverage level available and no indemnity was paid out. The last two rows in table 1, show what the results would have been had the new higher subsidy rates been in place. The increased subsidies would have reduced the producer premiums by an average of $0.63 per cwt. and increased the indemnity ratio to 0.83 over this ten year time span.

The primary purpose of LRP insurance is to provide producers with a tool to protect against unexpected downward price movements in the national market. In 2009 and in 2016, in particular, it did its job well. The hope is that prices are strong and it is not needed. However, for producers who are concerned about the markets moving against them, it can be a valuable tool that helps meet their risk management goals for protecting returns. With the upcoming changes to the program, it becomes a more affordable and available tool for producers to incorporate into their marketing programs.

For more information on the details of LRP insurance for cattle, readers are encouraged to consult two University of Nebraska-Lincoln NebGuides on LRP-Feeder Cattle and LRP-Fed Cattle.


Historic flooding and above-normal precipitation can have a major impact on the mosquito population. With that in mind, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) is encouraging horse owners to visit with their veterinarian about vaccinating their horses against mosquito-borne illnesses like West Nile Virus (WNV). WNV is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito.

“All of this precipitation around the state will likely mean higher levels of mosquito activity,” said State Veterinarian Dr. Dennis Hughes. “Higher numbers of mosquitoes don’t always correlate with higher incidence of disease, but it’s a possibility that we can prepare for.”

Hughes said typically Nebraska sees the most WNV cases in horses in August, so now is a good time for horse owners to consider vaccination. Mosquito season often runs through October.

“The vaccine to prevent West Nile Virus in horses is highly effective and should be administered at least three weeks prior to exposure to mosquitoes carrying WNV,” said Hughes. “Vaccination helps prevent horses from contracting the virus, and if they do get it, improve their chances of survival.”

Horse owners are also encouraged to remove mosquito breeding points by eliminating any pools of standing water. If possible, animals also should be moved indoors during dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active. Other preventative measures include: avoid turning on lights inside the stable during evening and overnight; remove birds that are in, or close to, the stable; and use mosquito repellants.

Clinical symptoms in WNV-infected horses may include a loss of appetite, depression, lethargy/drowsiness, muscle twitching, lack of coordination, weakness of the limbs or partial paralysis.

More information on WNV can be found at www.nda.nebraska.gov. Search for West Nile Virus. To report suspected cases of WNV, contact a local veterinarian, NDA at (402) 471-2351, or the U.S. Department of Agriculture/APHIS/Veterinary Services at (402) 434-2300.

Independent Cattlemen to discuss international trade

M. Brian O’Shaughnessy, the Chairman of Revere Copper Products, will be the first of two international businessmen to discuss trade with Nebraska’s Independent Cattlemen Friday at their annual convention in Broken Bow.

O’Shaughnessy’s company was founded by Paul Revere in 1801. It is the oldest basic manufacturing company in the United States.

O’Shaughnessy has testified before Congress as an expert on international trade, and on energy before the US Senate Energy Committee, as well as before the International Trade Commission.

He has spoken around the country on trade issues and their impact on manufacturing and ranching for more than 10 years.

His presentation -- What You Don’t Know About Trade & It's Impact on Your Country & Your Cattle -- is designed to explain the mechanics of trade and what works and does not work.

Brian also serves as the Vice Chairman of the Coalition for a Prosperous America, or CPA -- a nonpartisan coalition of domestic manufacturing, ranchers and farmers as well as organized labor -- working together to change the trade policies of the USA to promote domestic production of products mined, made, grown or serviced in the USA.

CPA interacts weekly with US trade representatives and the White House on trade issues.

Brian’s company, Revere Copper, produces copper sheets, strips and coils as well as bus bars. These products are shipped to manufacturing companies domestic and foreign.

Since 2000, more than 30% of the facilities Revere ships product to in the USA have shut down as production was moved offshore mostly to China and Mexico.

The other businessman to speak about international trade experience will speak Friday, June 21 is Michael Yanney of Kearney, who has a broad range of business experience both in the U.S. and internationally.

Yanney has conducted business in 15 countries, including the Soviet Union, since 1976. (see previous news release for more about Michael Yanney.)

ICON’s 14th annual meeting and convention will be held Friday, June 21 from 1:30–8:30 p.m. (CST) at the Cobblestone Hotel in Broken Bow.

State issues that affect Nebraska’s ranchers are also on the convention’s agenda.

Registration is just $25 and includes supper plus entertainment by Cowboy Poet RP Smith.

Registration Open for Second Pig Welfare Symposium

The National Pork Board has announced that its second Pig Welfare Symposium will take place Nov. 13-14 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The biennial forum, which debuted in 2017, is designed to help improve the well-being of pigs by disseminating recent research findings and recommendations, raising awareness of current and emerging issues and identifying potential solutions.

“We’re pleased to be building on the initial success of the 2017 symposium,” said Sara Crawford, assistant vice president of animal welfare for the Pork Checkoff. “We will continue to make the sharing of ideas and information about animal well-being the focus of this meeting. We expect and encourage producers, veterinarians, academia, packers and processors and allied industry partners to attend.”

The symposium will provide presentations from experts on past, current and future animal welfare issues, including looking at the evolution of animal welfare in the supply chain and understanding consumer choices. The speakers will offer their perspectives on how the pork industry can continue to evolve to meet the needs of animals, producers and consumers.

“The Pig Welfare Symposium doesn’t just ‘talk’ about pig welfare, it provides hands-on experiences to take back to the farm,” said Ashley DeDecker, director of production research with Smithfield Foods and chair of the Pork Checkoff’s Animal Welfare Committee. “The symposium also brings difficult, but important topics to the forefront of conversation, making it a must-attend event.”

Aside from the main speaker agenda, the two-day symposium also will offer optional hands-on interactive workshops for an additional fee. Participants will have the opportunity to learn more about low-stress pig handling, foreign animal disease preparation, day-1 pig care and other topics. For the first time, a Spanish-only pre-event, Improving Pig Welfare on Farm, also will be offered.

Symposium attendees will have the chance to visit with experts at various technical exhibits and to interact with the professionals and students who will participate in the event’s poster sessions.

For an early-bird registration discount, register by Aug. 8. After that, the cost will increase from $150 to $200 per person. A reduced student rate and virtual attendance options also are being offered. For more information, go to pork.org/pws.

NBB Welcomes Proposed Three-Year Extension of Biodiesel Tax Incentive

The National Biodiesel Board (NBB) thanks House Ways and Means Select Revenue Measures Subcommittee Chairman Mike Thompson (D-CA) for introducing legislation to extend expired tax incentives, including the biodiesel tax incentive. NBB further thanks House Committee on Ways & Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) for moving quickly to mark up the legislation this Thursday June 20. The proposal would provide U.S. biodiesel producers certainty through 2020 and incentivize investment and growth in domestic production capacity.

“Biodiesel and renewable diesel producers across the United States thank Subcommittee Chairman Thompson for proposing a multiyear, forward-looking renewal of the tax incentive,” said Kurt Kovarik, NBB’s Vice President of Federal Affairs. “The industry has been very vocal in asking for policy certainty that has proven successful in supporting industry growth over the years.”

NBB continues to work with Congressional champions of the biodiesel industry to highlight the urgency for renewing the tax incentive. NBB hosted a May 1 rally and press conference on Capitol Hill with Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Reps. Abby Finkenauer (D-IA), Cheri Bustos (D-IL), Darin LaHood (R-IL), Dave Loebsack (D-IA), and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), who are among the 53 co-sponsors of the Biodiesel Tax Credit Extension Act of 2019 (HR 2089). NBB also led 12 other trade groups representing farmers, rural lenders, crop and biobased oil producers, and biodiesel producers in a May 22 letter to leaders of the House of Representatives and Senate, asking them to quickly extend the biodiesel tax incentive to improve the economic outlook for rural economies.

The U.S. biodiesel market grew from about 100 million gallons in 2005, when the tax incentive was first implemented, to more than 2.6 billion gallons in 2018. The biodiesel tax incentive was last renewed in February 2018, but retroactively only for 2017; the credit lapsed as soon as it was renewed. While the biodiesel blenders tax credit has applied in each year from 2010–2016, it has only been in effect at the start of the calendar year in 2011, 2013 and 2016, while other years it has been applied retroactively.

May Milk Production down 0.1 Percent

Milk production in the 24 major States during May totaled 18.1 billion pounds, down 0.1 percent from May 2018. April revised production, at 17.6 billion pounds, was up 0.5 percent from April 2018. The April revision represented an increase of 195 million pounds or 1.1 percent from last month's preliminary 23-State production estimate.

Production per cow in the 24 major States averaged 2,062 pounds for May, 11 pounds above May 2018.

The number of milk cows on farms in the 24 major States was 8.79 million head, 55,000 head less than May 2018, but 5,000 head more than April 2019.

Milk production in Iowa during May 2019 totaled 452 million pounds, down less than 1 percent from the previous May according to the latest USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service – Milk Production report. The average number of milk cows during May, at 217,000 head, was the same as last month but down 3,000 from last year. Monthly production per cow averaged 2,085 pounds, up 25 pounds from last May.

Trump's $16 Billion Farm Bailout Criticized at the WTO

The European Union joined China and five other World Trade Organization members in criticizing the Trump administration's $16 billion assistance program for U.S. farmers, indicating the bailout may violate international rules.

USDA's latest farmer assistance program could exceed America's WTO subsidy commitments and unduly influence U.S. planting decisions, according to a document published on the WTO website.

Last month the USDA said it authorized as much as $16 billion in agriculture assistance programs in order to respond to the "impacts of unjustified retaliatory duties on U.S. agricultural goods." The U.S. administration said last year that it would deliver as much as $12 billion to farmers after Beijing retaliated against U.S. agricultural products.

"The new U.S. farm subsidy package will throw a dark shadow over efforts to negotiate fairer WTO rules," said Jonathan Hepburn, a Geneva-based independent policy analyst.

Over the past two years some of America's largest trading partners have leveled tariffs on billions of dollars worth of agricultural goods to retaliate against President Donald Trump's duties on steel, aluminum and other goods.

The U.S., which has not officially notified the WTO of the program, will have the opportunity to respond to the various questions at the WTO's June 25-26 agriculture committee meeting in Geneva.

The EU asked the U.S. for details on the timing and eligibility criteria for the U.S. subsidies and questioned whether the U.S. measures would qualify as WTO-permitted subsidies or subsidies that distort international trade.

Strap In: Environmental Pressure is Accelerating

Conversation about the environment is growing and so is the scrutiny applied to consumption of natural resources. If you think it’s intense now, hold on tight because every indication is pressure will intensify by multiples and agriculture will be pressed like never before to go farther faster in reducing its carbon footprint, according to Terri Moore with The Center for Food Integrity (CFI).

"As the original stewards of the land, farmers should be smack dab in the middle of that conversation," she said. "They have an impressive story to tell."

Moore points to the following statistics:
-    Dairy farmers since the 1940s have reduced the carbon footprint of every gallon of milk by two-thirds.
-    While the amount of pork produced has risen substantially over the last 50 years, producers are using 75 percent less land, 25 percent less water and seven percent less energy.
-    Since 1980, U.S. wheat farmers have increased wheat yields by more than 25 percent and now produce the same amount of wheat on 28 percent less land, with 47 percent less soil erosion, using 12 percent less irrigation water.

Yet, the public dialogue is happening around them, about them, but largely without them, she said.

"The number of producers actively engaging, particularly online, is growing, but remains relatively small. By contrast, the price for silence has been large, as critics of agriculture have energetically engaged to raise concerns in well-connected online networks," said Moore.

Profit over Public Interest

The land and its gifts are the lifeblood of agriculture no matter the size and scale, the crop grown or the livestock raised. But many of those on the outside looking in aren’t particularly convinced.

Trust research from CFI shows that only 30 percent strongly agree with the following statement: “Do U.S. farmers take good care of the environment?” More than half – 60 percent – are ambivalent.

"They’re just not sure farmers are doing enough," said Moore.

So, why are so many doubtful?

First, the “big is bad” bias is likely at play.

"As the size and scale of farming grow, the public doesn’t trust that large farms have the public’s best interests at heart," she said.

Only one in five respondents believe small farms will put the farm’s interests ahead of the public good, but that number doubled when we asked about large farms. There’s a perception that profit is the overriding motive on large farms and that efficiencies simply make farmers more money at the expense of people and the planet.

The sentiment is heard in the CFI Street Talk series when respondents were asked: “Do farmers protect the environment?”
  - “I think they’re hurting our environment at an alarming rate.”
  - “Some do, some don’t. I think it’s about 50/50.”
  - “It’s hard to protect the environment when there’s so much strain on them to produce so much food.”
  - “Those huge commercial farms – I don’t think they’re doing anything to protect the environment.”

Despite this bias, when we separate the farmer from the farm, it’s crystal clear that most Americans have a great deal of trust in farmers. In fact, the research shows that when it comes to food-related issues, farmers are trusted more than dietitians, university scientists, state and federal regulators and animal and environmental advocacy groups.

The Golden Opportunity

Agriculture has a golden opportunity to move the needle with the general public and those who influence conversations that impact agriculture’s future, said Moore. In fact, a majority of respondents in our survey (65 percent) say they are hungry for information about agriculture.

So, how do farmers demonstrate that they’re continually finding ways to do things better – incorporating the latest technology to produce food in a way that sustains the environment for generations to come? By engaging, said Moore, including:
-    Taking advantage of local public speaking opportunities.
-    Pitching stories to the media about seasonal milestones on the farm (planting, harvest, etc.) – and incorporating messages about environmental sustainability and the benefits of biotechnology.
-    Engaging on social media channels by posting pictures with great captions and short videos created on your phone. The simpler the video, the more authentic.
-    Taking advantage of Facebook Live to give “on-the-spot” reports about what’s happening on your farm.
-    Engaging in those critical day-to-day conversations to better understand what’s important to your neighbors and community, and having meaningful dialogue.
-    Sharing and liking others’ posts that convey agriculture’s values to broaden their reach.

"Farmers have a trust halo. Now is the time to leverage it to demonstrate a commitment to continuous improvement, as pressure intensifies to achieve greater environmental outcomes more rapidly than ever before," said Moore.

The public is listening. Critics of agriculture are talking. Monumental environmental mandates are on the horizon. Farmers can help shape future farm stewardship practices, but not from the sidelines, she said.

To learn more about CFI research and trust-earning approaches contact CFI at learnmore@foodintegrity.org.

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