Saturday, July 27, 2019

Friday July 26 Ag News

Randy Pryor, Extension Educator, Saline County Extension

The 21st annual Soybean Management Field Days (SMFDs), scheduled for August 13-16, 2019, will focus on helping farmers stay competitive in a global marketplace. The field days will offer farmers research-based information to improve their soybean profitability.

The SMFDs will help soybean growers maximize productivity and profitability through smart decisions and efficient use of resources.  Meeting the world's growing food and energy needs starts right here in Nebraska at the 2019 Soybean Management Field Days!  Join us at a site near you. A complimentary admission and lunch included. CEUs are also available for Certified Crop Advisors.

The field days are sponsored by the Nebraska Soybean Checkoff in partnership with University of Nebraska Extension and are funded through soybean checkoff dollars. The efforts of the checkoff are directed by the United Soybean Board promoting progress powered by U.S. soybean farmers.

Locations are Sargent on Tuesday, August 13; Pilger on Wednesday, August 14; Plymouth on Thursday August 15; and Waverly on Friday, August 16. You can go to for more information and directions.

Learn how to profitably apply the products of technology and research at the farm level. This educational event is for you - the soybean grower and agronomic representatives supporting the soybean industry. Experts will share their knowledge and experiences as they relate to soybean production, marketing and management.

Topics that will be included at the 2019 SMFDs include:
•        Making Sense of Production Costs and Policy Changes
•        Soybean Insects & Cover Crops
•        Hail Damage Impact on Growth and Development of Soybeans
•        Management of Cover Crops and Soybean Insects and Pathogens
•        Soybean Weed Control and Cover Crops
•        Cover Crop - Pros and Cons Associated with Soybean Production
•        Soybean Production and Agronomic Topics Associated with Cover Crops – Planting Rates, Row Spacing, Planting Dates, Maturity Groups, Irrigation Management

By attending a SMFD, you will see your checkoff dollars at work bringing you leading technology and ideas. The event consists of four stops across the state, each with replicated research, demonstration plots, lunch and time for questions. You can get ideas and insight about the challenges you face in producing a quality crop at a profitable price in today's global economy.

Crop production, disease, and insect specialists will be available to address your questions. Participants can bring unknown crop problems for complimentary identification. The field days begin with registration at 9:00 a.m. and concludes at 2:30 p.m. Free registration is available the day of the event. The program will be held rain or shine.

For more information about the field days and maps to sites, visit, or contact the Nebraska Soybean Checkoff at 800.852.BEAN (2326) or your local Nebraska Extension office.

Southern Rust of Corn Confirmed in Southeast Nebraska

Tamra Jackson-Ziems, NE Extension Plant Pathologist

Southern corn rust  was confirmed on corn leaf samples from Fillmore and Nuckolls counties in southern Nebraska earlier this week. The disease had been confirmed in several states south and east of Nebraska during the prior weeks and has been active in deep southern states for several weeks.

The disease is currently at very low incidence in the fields from where samples were submitted. Warm, humid conditions may favor disease development, so fields in this area and elsewhere (especially in southern Nebraska) should be monitored frequently in the coming weeks for southern rust development.

Southern rust is caused by an aggressive fungus that can rapidly cause disease in susceptible corn hybrids under favorable weather conditions. The disease can cause significant yield loss in susceptible hybrids if it becomes severe, so producers and crop advisors should monitor closely for this disease. Disease development is strongly impacted by weather conditions and sometimes does not become widespread or severe.

Southern rust does not always require treatment, making scouting and disease monitoring critical. It may take two or more weeks under favorable weather conditions for the disease to become more severe and widespread. Severe disease that impacts a large percent of leaf area can impact yield and stalk strength (standability) at the end of the season.


Southern rust pustules are often numerous and tightly clustered in patches. They may appear tan to orange in color. Most spores are produced in raised rust pustules on the upper leaf surface. In contrast, common rust produces brick-red to brown spores on both the top and bottom of the leaves. Common rust has been found on corn samples from many areas across the state this year and sometimes has been more severe than in recent history due to favorable weather conditions during recent weeks. Some common rust pustules have obvious yellow haloes around them that are more common with southern rust. Symptoms also may appear similar to Physoderma brown spot. This is leading to some confusion in identifying rust in the field. Microscopic examination in the diagnostic laboratory can quickly determine whether rust spores are those of common rust or southern rust.

Favorable Weather

The rust pathogens do not overwinter here. Spores (urediniospores) must be blown into the area on winds from areas south of Nebraska. These fungi need moisture to germinate and infect, so high relative humidity, rainfall, and irrigation will hasten disease development. Warm temperatures also favor southern rust development, especially temperatures in the upper 70s to 80s F, which are optimal for the fungus, even if they occur during the overnight hours. Cooler and drying conditions will help slow disease spread. This was observed in 2018 when the disease was confirmed in Nebraska early in the growing season and failed to become widespread in most counties.


Most hybrids are susceptible to the southern rust fungus. Familiarize yourself with your hybrids’ anticipated reaction to the disease by reviewing hybrid ratings provided by the seed company.

Monitor disease in susceptible hybrids to determine which fields may need treatment. Foliar fungicides can effectively manage the disease. Most fungicides can provide protection of leaves from future infections for 21-28 days, so application timing is critical. Treating before disease develops may lead to loss of full product efficacy before the disease reaches a critical level. Treating too early can result in the need for reapplication later if the disease spreads and worsens after the time when the earlier fungicide application has worn off.  

The wide range of planting dates across Nebraska this year has resulted in a wide range of corn growth and reproductive stages in fields, some of which are still in the vegetative growth stages. Later planted fields that are earlier in their maturity are at the greatest risk for yield loss if the disease develops there soon. Sometimes southern rust can take from several days to several weeks to develop, if at all, once it’s identified in an area. Treatment may not be necessary in vulnerable fields, so scouting is critical. Spraying early may mean a second application is necessary later in the season to protect plants during later grain-fill stages if the disease increases in severity once the fungicide has worn off. Scouting corn often is recommended to monitor for this and other diseases and their spread.

Nebraska Corn’s statement on MFP announcement

The Nebraska Corn Board and the Nebraska Corn Growers Association issued statements today following the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) release of county payment rates for the Market Facilitation Program (MFP).

“With wet spring planting and growing conditions, ongoing trade disputes and the EPA’s destruction of the ethanol demand market, farmers have been in a state of uncertainty for many months,” said Dan Nerud, president of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association and farmer from Dorchester. “We’re hopeful USDA’s MFP 2.0 will greatly support our state’s corn farmers and provide relief during a time of uncertainty for ag markets.”

The $16 billion package was announced earlier this year, when President Trump called upon U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to develop a relief strategy for U.S. farmers impacted by trade disruptions and retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agricultural goods. While Nebraska Corn is hopeful the MFP will provide some relief for Nebraska’s corn farmers, the ultimate goal is fair and free trade.

“We continue to be in contact with the president’s administration as well as Nebraska’s congressional delegation to communicate the importance of the passage of the USMCA,” said David Bruntz, chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board and farmer from Friend. “Not only is this agreement important, as Mexico and Canada are extremely important markets, but we must also continue to explore and pursue agreements with other nations so we aren’t being left behind in global ag trade.”

Sign up for the MFP program begins Monday, July 29 and ends Friday, December 6. More information can be found by visiting

Nebraska Scientist Recognized with Distinguished Service Award

Dr. Gary Rohrer, acting research leader at the US Meat Animal Research Center (US MARC) in Clay Center, Nebraska, was recognized with the Charles Stanislaw Memorial Distinguished Service Award at the annual meeting of the National Swine Improvement Federation (NSIF). The meeting was held November 29-30 in Nashville.

Purpose of this award is “to recognize individuals for their record of distinguished service to the pork industry through involvement in creating, implementing, supervising and/or participating in genetic improvement programs”.

Dr. Rohrer grew up in Illinois and received his BSc in animal science from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and his MS and PhD in animal breeding and genetics from Texas A & M.

Since 1991, he has been research scientist at US MARC, where he has become a leader in the field of swine genetics and genomics. His lab is prominent in generating population and genetic resources, phenotypic and genomic data for understanding the role of genetics in explaining phenotypic variation in swine.

Dr. Rohrer’s recent contributions have crucial to the success of the novel field of swine genomics. Specifically, his major contributions include the development of the very first comprehensive genetic and physical maps of the pig, both essential in the process of sequencing the porcine genome. He was actively involved in the complex process of sequencing the swine genome, and he participated in the winding process of obtaining funds, development of strategies, scientific and data support, and interpretation and dissemination of the results.

Dr. Rohrer also participated in the development of the first high-density genotyping application designed for pigs (Porcine SNP60 BeadArray), a platform capable of simultaneously genotyping over 60,000 DNA markers per pig, with tremendous impact worldwide. In addition, his work has included discovery of DNA markers used routinely by industry to improve a wide variety of traits from growth and fertility to behavior and meat quality.

In his acceptance speech, Dr. Rohrer acknowledged his colleagues and mentors from US MARC, especially Dr. Dan Laster, former director of US MARC who provided support and guidance during his formative years.

Scientists and producers from Nebraska recognized with this prestigious award in the past have included Dr. Irvin Omtvedt (1982, University of Nebraska Lincoln), Dr. Gordon Dickerson (1988, US MARC & University of Nebraska-Lincoln), Dr. Rodger Johnson (1998, University of Nebraska-Lincoln), Dr. Jim Schneider (2008, US MARC) and Max Waldo (2009, Waldo Genetics).

Ricketts Detassels with Young Nebraskans, Meets with Seed Corn Companies

On Thursday, Governor Pete Ricketts and Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) Director Steve Wellman joined crews to detassel a field of seed corn during their July Ag Adventure near Seward. 

“Detasseling was great fun and very educational,” said Governor Ricketts.  “It is an awesome opportunity that helps provide over 7,000 jobs for Nebraskans every year and connects our next generation to opportunities in agriculture.”

Each summer, thousands of Nebraskans work as detasselers, performing indispensable seasonal labor for the seed companies operating in the state.  For generations, Nebraska’s teachers, college students, high school students, middle school students, and school bus drivers have welcomed the opportunity to work the fields.

Detasseling provides a welcome source of summer income that helps them save for college and pay family bills.  Given the desirability of these jobs, seed corn detasseling contractors in Nebraska have waiting lists of hundreds, if not thousands, of Nebraskans willing to step up and do this work.

After detasseling, Gov. Ricketts and Director Wellman addressed Bayer’s teams from Beaver Crossing and Waco, visited Corteva’s facility in York, and met up with another detasseling crew near York.

NE Nebraska Corn Board to meet

The Nebraska Corn Board will hold its next meeting Tuesday, Aug. 13 through Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019 at Younes Conference Center located at 416 W Talmadge Road, Kearney, Nebraska.

The Board will conduct regular board business and hold election of officers during the afternoon of Aug. 13.  During the mornings of Aug. 14 and Aug. 15, the board will hold a joint Nebraska Corn Growers Association and Nebraska Corn Board meeting.  The meetings are open to the public and will provide an opportunity for public discussion.  A copy of the agenda is available by writing to the Nebraska Corn Board, P.O. Box 95107, Lincoln, NE  68509, sending an email to or by calling 402-471-2676.

Farm Finance and Ag Law Clinics this August

Free legal and financial clinics are being offered for farmers and ranchers at six sessions across the state in August. The clinics are one-on-one meetings with an agricultural law attorney and an agricultural financial counselor. These are not group sessions, and they are confidential.

The attorney and financial advisor specialize in legal and financial issues related to farming and ranching, including financial and business planning, transition planning, farm loan programs, debtor/creditor law, debt structure and cash flow, agricultural disaster programs, and other relevant matters. Here is an opportunity to obtain an independent, outside perspective on issues that may be affecting your farm or ranch.

Clinic Sites and Dates

    Grand Island — Thursday, August 1
    North Platte — Thursday, August 8
    Lexington — Thursday, August 15
    Fairbury — Thursday, August 22
    Norfolk — Tuesday, August 27
    Valentine — Wednesday, August 28

To sign up for a free clinic or to get more information, call the Nebraska Farm Hotline at 1-800-464-0258.

Funding for this work is provided by the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, Legal Aid of Nebraska, North Central Extension Risk Management Education Center, and the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.


Bruce Anderson, NE Extension Forage Specialist

     It’s almost August and fall is just around the corner.  Could you use some extra pasture or hay in late September and October?  Oats might be your answer.

     Oats may be one of our most under-used fall forages.  That's right.  Plain old dull oats.  It grows fast, thrives under cool fall conditions, has excellent feed value, and can produce over 2 tons of hay or pasture yet this year.  Plus, it dies out over winter, so it protects soil without causing planting problems next spring.

     To plant oats, drill about 3 bushels per acre in early August for maximum yield potential.  Planting after Labor Day may not succeed well due to a short growing season.  A fully prepared seedbed usually is best, but you can plant oats directly into wheat stubble or other crop residues if weeds are killed ahead of planting.  Even flying oats onto corn or bean fields severely damaged by weather or to be chopped early for silage can work, although rye tends to work better for flown on seed.  Avoid fields with herbicide carryover, and topdress 40 pounds of nitrogen per acre unless the previous crop was heavily fertilized.

     With good moisture, oats will be ready to graze about 6 to 8 weeks after emergence.   Calves and yearlings can gain over two pounds per day.  Be careful to avoid grass tetany on lush oat pasture; ask your veterinarian if you should supplement with magnesium.  Also, don't suddenly turn livestock out on oat pasture if they have been grazing short or dry pastures.  Sudden respiratory problems can occur.

     For hay, cut oats soon after plants begin to dry out following a killing freeze, or cut earlier if plants reach a desirable growth stage.  Oats can accumulate nitrates, so test hay before feeding.

     If you have good soil moisture, give fall oats a try.  Some of your best forage growth may still be ahead of you.


     What comes to mind if I say forage rye?  What about ryegrass?  These words can mean half a dozen very different types of forage.

     The words rye and ryegrass cause much confusion.  Rye typically refers to the cereal or small grain plant.  As a forage, it can produce high tonnage but is relatively coarse and less palatable than some other forages.  Like wheat, rye varieties can be either winter ryes or spring ryes.  The more common winter varieties stay short and leafy during fall, but survive winter.  Then in spring they grow rapidly and can be grazed, cut for hay, chopped as silage, or produce grain. If spring types are planted in the fall, they grow tall, similar to oats, and then die over winter.

     In contrast, ryegrass is a very palatable, high quality grass.  There are several types of ryegrass with variety differences within each type.  For example, perennial ryegrass produces very high quality pasture but only lasts for a few years under most Nebraska conditions.

     The biggest confusion comes from annual ryegrass and Italian ryegrass.  Technically, they refer to the same plants but in the forage world they have acquired different meanings.  Annual ryegrass refers to varieties that are used for turf or as winter and spring forage in the Gulf-state region.  Fall plantings in Nebraska grow rapidly, produce good late fall grazing, and usually but not always die over winter.      Italian ryegrass, however, is more like a biennial and produces mostly leaves while growing throughout summer and fall if moisture is available.  Many Italian ryegrass varieties survive winter and then produce seedheads the following spring.

     Still confused?  Then be sure to carefully describe to your seedsman when you want to plant and how you want to use your grass.  Then they can help you get the right kind of rye or ryegrass.

2019 Governor’s Charity Steer Show set for August 10

The 2019 Governor’s Charity Steer Show will mark the 37th consecutive year the beef industry has raised funds to help families who utilize the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Iowa.

This year, the show ring competition takes place Saturday, Aug. 10, at 4:00 p.m., in the Pioneer Livestock Pavilion at the Iowa State Fair. Celebrities will lead 25 steers around the ring, vying for the championship designation, showmanship honors, and the People’s Choice award.

Immediately following the competition, the steers will be sold at auction with proceeds going to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Iowa. Both the show ring event and the auction are open to the general public.

Since the Iowa Beef Industry Council and the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association began the Governor’s Charity Steer Show in 1983, the effort has raised more than $3.5 million for the Des Moines, Iowa City and Sioux City Ronald McDonald House Charities. The houses provide a “home away from home” for families of seriously ill children being treated in area hospitals and have served nearly 47,000 families.

Each of the 25 steers are owned by Iowa youth who have cared for the animals and participated in other shows with them. The youth prepare the animals for the show and assist a celebrity in the show ring. Sponsors reimburse the youth for the cost of the animal and choose the celebrity.

Youth participating in the 2019 Governor’s Charity Steer Show will also learn additional information about the beef industry on Thursday, and volunteer some time with the Ronald McDonald House Charities in Des Moines on Friday, Aug. 9.

A new website has been created to raise the awareness and impact of the Governor’s Charity Steer Show. Iowans interested in helping with the cause can donate online at and support the efforts of the beef industry.

Motorcade for Trade to Travel to Key Congressional Districts and State Agriculture Fairs throughout August to Support Passage of USMCA

Farmers for Free Trade, the nationwide, bipartisan coalition of ag commodity groups today announced that their Motorcade for Trade tour will roll through major agricultural state fairs during the August recess in support of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). The Motorcade for Trade tour includes a 12-foot RV that members of Congress from both parties have climbed aboard at stops across the country. The August recess tour will focus on summer state agricultural fairs in an effort to continue to build support among farmers, who have benefited greatly from NAFTA and will benefit further from USMCA.

“The only way to get USMCA over the finish line is with the vocal support of American farmers,” said Angela Hofmann, Co-Executive Director of Farmers for Free Trade. “Our August recess tour is more than just public education on the agreement. At every stop we encourage farmers to write, tweet, meet with or otherwise engage with their member of Congress. When a farmer in a member of Congress’s home district asks to put the future of their farm over partisanship or politics that really resonates.”

Since April, the Motorcade for Trade has made over 50 stops in over 20 states. The tour has included visits with over 30 members of Congress and their staff. Following the August recess tour, the Motorcade for Trade will travel to Washington D.C. for a rally in support of USMCA on September 12th.

Current August recess Motorcade for Trade stops are listed below. 

August 6-8, 2019
Event: Minnesota Farm Fest
Location: Morgan, MN 56266
Time: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Daily)

August 8-11, 2019
Event: Iowa State Fair 
Location: Des Moines, IA 50317
Time: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Daily)

August 13, 2019
Event: Illinois Ag Day (Illinois State Fair)
Location: Springfield, Illinois 62794-9427
Time: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Daily)

August 14, 2019
Event: Illinois State Fair -Democrat Day
Location: Crown Plaza Hotel- (Springfield, Illinois)

August 28-29, 2019
Event: Farm Progress Show
Location: Decatur, Illinois
Time: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

September 12, 2019
Event: Ag Rally for USMCA
Location: Washington D.C.
Time: 12:00-1:00

Additional dates and stops will be added. For more information on the tour or to participate in an event contact or      To learn more about Farmers for Free Trade visit:

Second Annual Dairy Experience Forum Pushes Industry to Think with the Mindset of the Next Generation to Drive Disruptive Innovation

Last week’s Dairy Experience Forum in St. Paul, Minn., brought together dairy farmers, industry experts and partners with the goal of sparking disruptive innovation to drive the industry forward. The second annual forum, hosted by Midwest Dairy and Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, built upon last year’s forum to continue important conversations around dairy innovation, sustainability and the consumer mindset of Generation Z.

“Last year’s forum challenged us to dive deep into how we can put the consumer above everything else and provide an excellent dairy experience,” said Lucas Lentsch, CEO of Midwest Dairy. “This year’s forum was designed to take that discussion to the next level and equip us with insights and tools to pave the way for disruptive dairy innovation. Our hope is that attendees take what they learned and bring it to their local/industry groups, boards, co-ops, and other partners to challenge the status quo thinking.”

Nearly 400 dairy farmers, processors and partners attended the three-day event held at the Saint Paul RiverCentre July 16-18, 2019. Speakers and panelists included industry leaders from Amazon, Ben & Jerry’s, General Mills and Taco Bell, as well as U.S. Dairy Export Council president and CEO, Tom Vilsack.

Among the highlights of the event was a live Generation Z consumer focus group of eight young adults ages 18-21 that discussed how their generation’s personal values and perceptions of food impact how they make purchasing decisions. During the discussion it became apparent that while Generation Z (born between 1996-2010) has some similarities to the millennials who proceed them, they are also very different. Overall, the group identified themselves as skeptics, career-focused, more protective of their social media exposure, concerned about equality and driven to make the world a better place. Given their on-the-go-lifestyles, convenience is a top priority, which provides numerous untapped opportunities for dairy to innovate and create products that will fit consumers’ ever-changing needs.

“It is essential that we think about the values of Gen Z now in order to establish trust and brand loyalty among a generation that will have huge buying power in the years to come,” said Lentsch. “As an industry, we need to pay attention to what they care about and be proactive in creating innovative products that meet their needs, instead of being reactive and missing opportunities. Gen Z is setting the trends today that other generations will follow tomorrow, so it is essential that dairy is part of that conversation.”

Building off the discussion of proactive and disruptive innovation, Lentsch hosted an Innovation Panel, which reinforced that in order to truly innovate, the dairy industry needs to tap into the consumer mindset and establish a type of brand love for dairy. During this panel, marketing and product development leaders from Associated Milk Producers Inc. (AMPI), General Mills and Sartori Cheese discussed the need for consistent and spontaneous innovation in order to spark brand love. As an industry, dairy has always been very consistent – providing a fresh, nutritious product produced by farmers. However, there is opportunity for dairy to be more spontaneous by creating products that disrupt the category and meet consumers’ needs in new and unexpected ways.

When discussing an example of disruptive innovation, General Mills Director, Dairy Platform Supply Chain Leader Erika Thiem shared the story of a recent journey her team took after seeing a loss of market share in the traditional yogurt segment. They knew they needed something different – even if it meant possibly cannibalizing some of their own sales.

“We needed to find out why consumers were firing traditional yogurt products in the category,” said Thiem. “Falling in love with what the problem was, led us to create a new French-style yogurt which fulfills the need of a consumer who’s looking for a calm moment to relax. Taking the time to understand the job the product needed to do for the consumer really helped us follow the innovation path.”

Another hot topic of the forum was a discussion about e-commerce and how it is both changing the way consumers shop for their food and also how they discover new products. With online food sales expected to grow 20 percent by 2023, there is opportunity for dairy as consumers will continue to seek out foods that are fresh, local, convenient and align with their values. While the process for discovering these foods might look different in the future, e-commerce is very exciting as it allows niche products to reach an even larger audience much faster and to build brand loyalty much more quickly than traditional brick-and-mortar stores. Research shows once a consumer buys your product online, they are likely to purchase it time and time again.

“The e-commerce panel reminded us that while shopping for your food online will only increase over the years, it doesn’t mean that traditional grocery stores will go away – we will just need to think differently about how we bring our products to market in each of these avenues,” said Allen Merrill, Midwest Dairy chairman of Midwest Dairy’s board of directors. “For example, future consumers may buy all their groceries online, but they will still visit their local grocery store to explore and discover new products and brands. This offers a tremendous opportunity for new dairy innovation, and that is very exciting.”

Former U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council also shared insights about today’s global consumer and the opportunity for dairy to meet the needs of consumers around the world, which is essential as the world’s population continues to grow at a rate of 1.07% a year, equaling roughly 82 million people.

“Roughly 95-97 percent of the world’s population lives outside the U.S. and that is a population that continues to grow,” said Vilsack. “It’s a younger population in developing and developed countries where incomes are rising, the middle class is expanding, and cities are growing. There is a tremendous demand for dairy protein. So, in addition to having so many consumers for our products, the world needs and wants dairy.”

Lastly, sustainability continues to be an important driver for consumers, and the Generation Z focus group participants, as well as several speakers, discussed how farmers are the solution for sustainability issues – not the problem. On the front lines and with a deep investment in animal and land stewardship, dairy farmers can address root sustainability issues like water usage, greenhouse gas emissions, caring for the earth and animal welfare. While this is an everyday mission for farmers, speakers challenged farmers to proactively share the stories about how they are caring for the world in tangible ways in order to better connect consumers with the truths about dairy farming and sustainability.

Next year’s forum will continue to build on these important conversations. For more information on this year’s forum, visit

FCC Prepares to Launch Precision Agriculture Connectivity Task Force

The Federal Communications Commission is forming a new task force to advise the commission on how to ensure farmers and ranchers have the connectivity they need to use and benefit from precision agriculture.

The task force will work with USDA to develop policy recommendations to promote the rapid, expanded deployment of broadband internet service on unserved agricultural land, with a goal of achieving reliable capabilities on 95 percent of agricultural land in the U.S. by 2025.

Many of the latest yield-maximizing and environmentally friendly farming and ranching techniques require broadband connections for data collection and analysis performed both on the farm and in remote data centers, American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall wrote in a letter last year urging lawmakers to support the Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act of 2018, which was ultimately incorporated into the 2018 farm bill to become law.

“Today’s farmers and ranchers are using precision agricultural techniques to make decisions that impact the amount of fertilizer they need to purchase and apply to the field, the amount of water needed to sustain the crop, and the amount and type of herbicides or pesticides they may need to apply,” Duvall wrote.

While FCC data shows that 39 percent of rural Americans lack access to minimum broadband speed service (25 Mbps/3 Mbps), compared to only 4 percent of urban Americans, there is no information about connectivity on cropland and rangeland.

The Task Force for Reviewing the Connectivity and Technology Needs of Precision Agriculture in the United States will:
-    Identify and measure current gaps in the availability of broadband internet service on agricultural land;
-    Develop policy recommendations to promote the rapid, expanded deployment of broadband internet service on unserved agricultural land, with a goal of achieving reliable capabilities on 95 percent of agricultural land in the U.S. by 2025;
-    Promote effective policy and regulatory solutions that encourage the adoption of broadband internet service on farms and ranches and promote precision agriculture;
-    Recommend specific new rules or amendments to existing FCC rules to achieve the goals and purposes of the policy recommendations described in the second bullet;
-    Recommend specific steps the FCC should take to obtain reliable and standardized data measurements of the availability of broadband internet service to target FCC funding for the deployment of broadband internet service to unserved agricultural land; and
-    Recommend specific steps the commission should consider to ensure the expertise of the USDA secretary and available farm data are reflected in future FCC programs dedicated to the infrastructure deployment of broadband internet service and to direct available funding to unserved agricultural land.

The 15-member task force, which has yet to be announced, will include farmers and ranchers from a variety of geographic regions and farm sizes, as well as farmers representing tribal agriculture. Also represented on the task force will be internet service providers, the electric cooperative and satellite industries, precision agriculture equipment manufacturers, state and local governments, and people with relevant expertise in broadband network data collection, geospatial analysis and coverage mapping.


There is a severe shortage of labor in the pork industry both on farm and in packing plants, and that's why NPPC is actively advocating for reform of the H-2A visa program, National Pork Producers Couincil Vice President and Counsel, Global Government Affairs Nick Giordano wrote in a "Meat of the Matter" published this week. Despite growing opportunities for employment and rapid wage growth, the pork sector struggles to find workers. Our production is a year-round endeavor and due to its seasonality component, pig farmers are unable to secure their workforce needs through the H-2A visa program. Agricultural visa reform is clearly needed. Agricultural visa programs should be designed with the flexibility to meet the needs of all agricultural producers—from fruit and vegetable farmers to dairy and pig farmers. Year-round labor needs should be a primary focus of any H-2A reform or the foundation of any new program. NPPC has been working closely with other agricultural stakeholders to stress the importance of agricultural visa reform to both the Trump administration and Congress.


The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved legislation Wednesday that would ensure the safe and secure trade of agricultural goods across our nation's borders by authorizing U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to hire additional agricultural inspectors to fully staff America's airports, seaports and land ports of entry. The legislation, Protecting America's Food & Agriculture Act of 2019, was introduced earlier this month by Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).


The White House announced on Wednesday that U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin will travel to Shanghai, China, next week to continue trade talks. The trade talks will begin July 30 and will cover a range of issues, including agriculture and non-tariff barriers. "There'll be a few more meetings before we get a deal done," Mnuchin told reporters, CNBC reported. "I wouldn't expect that we'll resolve all the issues. But the fact that we're back at the table at the direction of the two presidents is important." Bloomberg recently reported that the Chinese government has suggested waiving tariffs on certain U.S. agricultural exports including pork. If actually implemented for pork, this would be a very significant development.

Déjà Vu All Over Again: Feinstein, Toomey Seek to Prop Up Big Oil

Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) have once again introduced legislation to gut the Renewable Fuel Standard, this year called the Restore Environmental Sustainability to Our Renewable Energy (RESTORE) Act. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) is also an original co-sponsor of the ill-conceived legislation. Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, released the following statement:

“Perhaps Senators Feinstein and Toomey are confused about the RFS. There is no ‘corn ethanol mandate’ under the program and there never has been. Yet, the senators are again seeking to bolster the fossil fuels industry by trying to kill one of the most successful environmental and climate policies ever enacted by Congress. We are confident that, as with past attempts, this legislation will go nowhere.

“It is particularly ironic today that the senators would dare suggest this legislation would ‘restore environmental sustainability’ when in fact it would force more petroleum into our nation’s fuel supply. Whether it’s oil spills in the Gulf, increased carbon emissions, or earthquakes in fracking country, what is environmentally sustainable about today’s oil industry?

“On the contrary, renewable fuels like ethanol reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40-50% compared to gasoline, while also slashing harmful tailpipe pollutants like particulate matter and carbon monoxide. Economically, ethanol supports jobs in rural America and brings down the cost of gas for consumers around the country. Renewable fuels are a win-win for the environment and consumers, and we invite the senators to visit an ethanol plant in their state to learn more.”

Cooper also pointed out that corn ethanol has played a significant role in achieving the goals of the Low Carbon Fuels Standard in Sen. Feinstein's home state of California. According to the California Air Resources Board, ethanol use is responsible for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the California transportation sector by 18.8 million metric tons from 2011-2018. That’s equivalent to removing 4 million cars from the road for an entire year or eliminating the annual GHG emissions from five coal-fired power plants.

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