Thursday, May 12, 2022

Wednesday May 11 Ag News


In health care, perhaps no word sends a more chilling message than “cancer.” Brain tumors, for example, prove especially resistant to current treatments. Only 5% of patients with that condition survive more than three years and the median survival time is 10 to 14 months.

But an innovative research project by University of Nebraska–Lincoln scientists offers the potential for a breakthrough. In a federally funded project, Janos Zempleni, a professor with the Department of Nutrition and Health Sciences, and Husker colleagues are pursuing a surprising way to use milk as the vehicle delivering cancer-fighting therapeutics to the brain.

The concept isn’t as fanciful as it might sound — it’s building on recent science. Preliminary findings in recent years show that it’s possible to manipulate the body’s genetic function to reduce the growth of tissues, including cancerous tumors. Scientists achieve that result by directing a type of gene regulator known as siRNAs to the targeted tissue. Genetic signaling carried by the siRNAs shuts down genetic function that enables new tissue growth.

But converting that preliminary finding into effective medical treatment has run into obstacles. So far, scientists have not been able to find an efficient way to deliver the genes consistently to the targeted area and in sufficient quantity.

Milk, it turns out, offers a good chance to solve the problem. Humans absorb siRNAs through food, recent research shows. And milk, Zempleni has found, stands out for its robust ability, once ingested, to help the genes accumulate naturally in the brain.

In their project, the Husker researchers will hone milk-focused techniques for effective gene delivery. Specifically, the project will use milk-transported siRNA genes to shut down the growth function of a gene known as IDH1, whose mutations result in brain tumors. The research also offers hope in addressing rare brain-centered genetic abnormalities affecting young children, said Zempleni, Willa Cather Professor of molecular nutrition and director of the Nebraska Center for the Prevention of Obesity Diseases.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has provided a $630,000 grant to support the project. Zempleni will lead the research, in collaboration with Forrest Kievit, assistant professor of biological systems engineering, and Jiantao Guo, associate professor of chemistry. USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture awarded the grant.

The long-term potential of this science is “enormous. It has not been realized yet at all,” said Zempleni, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences and winner of the Institute of Agricultural and Natural Resources’ 2015 Omtvedt Innovation Award.

Zempleni and his colleagues will use genetic science and chemistry to load exosomes, a natural nanoparticle in milk, with therapeutic material including siRNAs. Loading the material on cow’s milk exosomes would first require genetically modifying the cow, an enormously tricky task. So, the researchers instead will culture MAC-T cells (similar in genetic composition to cow’s milk cells) in the laboratory to produce exosomes, then direct them to brain tumors in mice.

The researchers aim to develop techniques that achieve two goals: Have the siRNAs effectively and consistently reach the tumors and have the siRNAs accumulate in sufficient quantity to reduce the tumor growth.

If this technology proves viable, large-scale production of exosomes will be needed to meet real-world patient demand. Laboratory cultures can supply only a small volume of exosomes. A cow, in contrast, can provide an ample number through its milk.

So, the Husker researchers aim, long term, to take a big step if their current research reaches its gene-delivery goals: They will seek to develop a genetically modified cow.

Such a cow, Zempleni wrote, would secrete “milk exosomes conducive to maximal delivery of RNA therapeutics to brain tumors in human cancer patients.”

The pharmaceutical industry is already using this general concept. It’s known as biopharming, meaning the use of animals in producing medical treatments. The drug Atryn, used to prevent blood clots in patients with a rare disease, is derived from the milk of genetically engineered goats.

“With our technology, you could actually use these milk exosomes, attach the appropriate feature and deliver a therapeutic to folks suffering from these rare diseases,” Zempleni said. “I think this could be a huge game changer if we get a funding agency to take the risk of developing these animals. That is a difficult task. With the MAC-T cells, it's relatively easy, but taking this to livestock, a goat or a cow, it's way, way complicated.”

Husker research has been pioneering in identifying the importance of milk as a potential gene delivery mechanism. In 2014, Scott Baier — a doctoral candidate in Zempleni’s lab — proposed an initial research project on the subject, culminating in a Journal of Nutrition paper that he, Zempleni and other Husker colleagues co-authored. The article since has been cited academically almost 300 times. Baier received his doctoral degree in nutrition science from Nebraska in 2015 and now is senior director of medical strategy at Vaniam Group, a company focusing on transformative cancer therapies in Dallas.

Zempleni’s path to the scientific exploration of genetics and food science began in his teenage years in his home country of Germany.

“I loved biology but at that age, I loved to go fishing — I was very much into all these native species of fish from Germany,” he said.

In succeeding years, his interests broadened, gradually shifting “from fish to biology to science.”

“I was torn between biochemistry or nutrition science,” he said. “I think in hindsight I made the right choice going with nutrition science. It's a very comprehensive approach, and it allowed me to delve deeply into biochemistry and molecular biology. So, I think I've got the best of both worlds.”

UNL Meats Judging team muscles through beginning of season, earning 2nd in overall placings

For nearly 100 years University of Nebraska-Lincoln students have been evaluating the cuts of meat for differences in composition and quality as part of the Meats Judging Team.  

The UNL Meats Judging Team hit the ground running in that first year – 1926 -- winning the First International Livestock Exposition Meat Judging Contest. The success continued throughout the years as they received multiple team and individual awards at numerous contests. The team went through a recent slow spell, but is working to gain momentum again after hiring Brianna Buseman, youth meat animal extension assistant professor, as the head coach of the Meats Judging Team in 2020.

Buseman came to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with the mission of the Meats Judging Team in mind. It aims to introduce students to various meat industry opportunities through educational and internship experiences.

Students hone their meat judging skills through class curriculum, practices and workouts. Students are first introduced to meat judging through an introduction to meat evaluation, grading and judging class, where they learn how to evaluate beef carcasses, beef primal cuts, pork carcasses, pork primal cuts, and lamb carcasses through the application of U.S. Department of Agriculture Institutional Meat Purchase Specifications. Here, students receive strong exposure to information relating to meat quality through lectures and hands-on experiences with the use of product in the meat lab.  

Students who join the Meat Judging Team practice three days a week. Typically, one day is skill specific to work on specific areas students might be struggling in to try and improve. Another day is focused on reasons practice where students judge a class of meat and present a set of reasons on why they placed the cuts the way they did. The final practice of the week is a workout day where students get the chance to work with product in the meat lab, or travel to a processing facility to see some different cuts to practice their judging skills.  

The hours of practice by the team’s nine members have paid off as they have completed the first part of their season. This spring, the team placed 3rd in pork judging and 2nd in overall placings at the National Western Stock Show in Denver, Colorado. Sarah Dilley, sophomore animal science student, placed 1st in overall placings with a perfect day. At the Iowa State Contest in Ames, Iowa, the team placed 3rd in lamb judging, 3rd in summer sausage, 4th in placings and 5th in pork judging. Individually, Elizabeth Hodges, a sophomore agricultural and environmental sciences communication and animal science double major, placed 5th in lamb judging, and Laura Reiling, a junior animal science student, placed 9th high alternate.  

Looking toward the fall, the meats judging team hopes to continue garnering awards.  

“We know what areas we need to focus on, and I think coming into the fall we’re going to be excited and ready to go with it,” said Buseman.  

The lessons learned extend beyond involvement of the team. Students can learn the important skills of dealing with people, get travelling experience, and gain an insider perspective of the meat industry and the opportunities that lie within it. Numerous connections can also be made with students from other schools, potentially faculty from other universities, and industry professionals. These connections can be an asset for students in their future careers, or perhaps in their possible pursuit of graduate school.  

“I’m just thankful for the support from the university and I’m excited to see it continue to build because we’re definitely in a growing period, and I know that comes with some growing pains, but I think it’s pretty exciting to see where we can go,” said Buseman.  

Free Bilingual Dairy Training Resources Available in Iowa

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach has recently partnered with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Dairy Extension and Alltech to develop a free, online dairy training program that is available in both English and Spanish. “The Bilingual Training and Education Program to Improve Practices That Affect Milk Quality” has been designed to help dairy farm employees better understand the how’s and why’s of handling and milking cows.

“The employees who manage the milking should thoroughly understand the milk production cycle, the milking procedure, and the importance of bedding material and animal hygiene to improve milk quality and udder health,” said Jennifer Bentley, dairy specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach. “Results from previous surveys indicate that employees are more successful in their jobs and employee retention is higher if the training is (offered) in their native language. This milker training resource will provide producers and employees with the tools needed to make positive changes in milk quality and cow health and well-being.”

After completing each training module by viewing the short accompanying videos and resource materials, participants will complete a quiz to receive a certificate of completion for each module. Each training module includes videos presented in Spanish with English subtitles. The quizzes are offered in both English and Spanish, and the Spanish quizzes include audio translation. The videos include demonstrations of on-farm practices to emphasize key milking and management techniques.

“The dairy industry is dependent on an immigrant labor force that needs to be educated so they can be efficient in their jobs,” said Jorge Delgado, the on-farm dairy specialist responsible for Alltech's Training, Talent Development and Retention Program. “Better education and training also help increase employee retention. Education satisfies an employee’s drive to comprehend and is critical for dairy employees to be capable of doing their jobs correctly. No matter the experience level, proper training improves skills and reduces mistakes or actions based on either misinformation or a general lack of information.”

The online training is a free resource

“By utilizing this resource, farms have the potential to increase employee retention and motivation while also reducing turnover and increasing employee efficiency and dairy profitability,” said Delgado.  

Informing Conservation Practice Decisions with Data-Driven Platform

The Iowa Learning Farms conservation webinar taking place May 18 at noon CDT will feature Emily Zimmerman, assistant professor in the Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management and global resource systems in the Department of Horticulture at Iowa State University.

Zimmerman’s research focuses on the innovative application of geospatial data and tools to identify opportunities to improve agricultural conservation practice outcomes to enhance environmental benefits, as well as estimating related economic outcomes. Through her work with models such as the Agricultural Conservation Planning Framework, a non-prescriptive analysis and planning tool in use throughout the U.S. Corn Belt, she enables stakeholders to assess practice implications in their decision-making processes.

Iowa Learning Farms is an Iowa State University Extension and Outreach conservation and water quality education program.

In the webinar, “The Agricultural Conservation Planning Framework: Applications and Recent Updates to Enhance Conservation Planning,” Zimmerman will highlight the ACPF as an innovative tool in use by producers and landowners, as well as local, state and federal stakeholders, to apply science and data to agricultural conservation planning at field and small watershed scales.

She will also cover how ACPF utilizes publicly available, high-resolution geospatial data to identify opportunities for in-field, edge-of-field and downstream conservation practices to address soil and water quality needs.

In addition, Zimmerman will discuss recent ACPF innovations, which examine economic costs and environmental outcomes associated with each scenario suggested by the platform.

“The ACPF is a powerful tool which can offer innovative insights regarding where conservation practice implementations can deliver the most environmental and economic benefits,” said Zimmerman. “This publicly accessible and cost-free planning tool provides conservation planners, landowners and farmers, and other stakeholders with a menu of potential practices tailored to the field or area of interest.”

Participants in Iowa Learning Farms Conservation Webinars are encouraged to ask questions of the presenters. People from all backgrounds and areas of interest are encouraged to join.
Webinar access instructions

To participate in the live webinar, shortly before noon CDT May 18:
-    Click this URL, or type this web address into your internet browser:
-    Or, go to and enter meeting ID 364 284 172.
-    Or, join from a dial-in phone line, dial +1 312 626 6799 or +1 646 876 9923, with meeting ID 364 284 172.

The webinar will also be recorded and archived on the ILF website, so that it can be watched at any time.

A Certified Crop Adviser board-approved continuing education unit has been applied for. Those who participate in the live webinar are eligible. Information about how to apply to receive the CEU will be provided at the end of the live webinar.

In Visit to Illinois Farm, Biden Commits to Helping Growers

Appearing on an Illinois family farm, President Biden announced today that his administration would be giving farmers additional tools and resources to boost crop production and maintain global food security.

The announcement comes as the administration is working to help farmers, American consumers and food insecure communities around the globe who are feeling the effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  

“American corn growers continue to feed and fuel the world even as they face challenges stemming from the war in Ukraine and high input costs,” said National Corn Growers Association CEO Jon Doggett, who attended the announcement. “We’re appreciative of the efforts that President Biden and USDA are making to help farmers navigate these challenges, and the recognition of the key role farmers play in providing solutions.”  

During his announcement, Biden committed to:
-    Increase the number of counties eligible for double cropping insurance, which will allow farmers to plant a second crop on the same land in the same year, helping boost production without relying on farmers to substitute crops or cultivate new land.
-    Cut costs for farmers by increasing technical assistance for technology-driven precision agriculture, resulting in less fertilizer usage without reducing yields.
-    Double the previously announced funding for domestic fertilizer production to ensure accessibility of this critical input for growers.
Today’s announcement is the latest in a series of efforts by the administration to help lower costs for farmers and American consumers. In April, the president visited an Iowa ethanol production facility to announce the administration’s extension of full market access for higher ethanol blends through the summer months, increasing the fuel supply through greater use of low-cost and low-emissions ethanol.

Soy Farmers Welcome Biden Announcement on Double Cropping Insurance Expansion, Technical Assistance for Precision Ag, Domestic Fertilizer Support

President Biden’s three-pronged announcement to address food affordability and farmer costs amid the Russia/Ukraine conflict is one that America’s soybean farmers can get behind.

Brad Doyle, soybean and wheat farmer from Weiner, Arkansas, and American Soybean Association (ASA) President said, “The president is improving access to double cropping insurance coverage and technical assistance for precision agriculture and nutrient management, and he is investing more into domestic fertilizer production. We applaud this announcement and look forward to soybean farmers realizing these benefits.”

As the supply chain experiences complications during the current global environment, U.S. soybean farmers are proud to contribute high-quality protein to vulnerable populations worldwide and bolster our national security through food security. ASA appreciates the administration considering farmers’ role in the world economy and aiming to protect their profitability here at home.

AFBF Recognizes First Steps to Address High Food Prices

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall commented  today on  President Joe Biden’s plan to address production costs and the affordability of food.

“AFBF appreciates that President Biden took time to visit a farm and recognize the hard-working families who grow crops and tend to the animals each and every day. We agree with the President’s description of the American farm as the ‘breadbasket of Democracy.’

"America’s farmers take seriously their responsibility to stock America’s pantries and help feed the rest of the hungry world. This effort to create greater opportunities and reduce barriers is welcomed, recognizing that this alone will not solve the multiple challenges we face.

“Removing the disincentives for double cropping has the potential to increase near term production in areas suitable for the practice and for farmers who have the financial capacity to do so. Similarly, the proposal to increase domestic fertilizer production is an acknowledgement by the administration of the extraordinarily high cost of supplies for farmers and ranchers, but it could take years to realize the benefits.

“There is no magic bullet to reduce food costs. It will require addressing all the factors contributing to higher costs, including record high fuel and fertilizer prices that are bearing down on farmers. We will continue working with the administration, Congress and the private sector to get the supply chain moving again and find solutions that will enable farmers to keep store shelves filled with groceries that America’s families can afford.”

Online Modules Now Available for Calf Care and Quality Assurance Program

Farmers and ranchers raising calves now have access to the free Calf Care and Quality Assurance (CCQA) program online at CCQA promotes a way of thinking that prompts calf raisers to approach management decisions with thoughtfulness and an appreciation for the responsibility they have to their animals, consumers, the environment and the broader cattle industry in the United States.

“Healthy calves are the cornerstone of every beef, dairy and veal facility,” said Trey Patterson, Wyoming rancher and chair of the Beef Quality Assurance Advisory Group. “Committing to calf health management is the right thing to do for calves, producers and consumers, and completing CCQA’s online modules is an easy way to demonstrate that commitment.”

The program was developed with an understanding of the diversity of calf-raising enterprises, being science and outcomes based while maintaining facility type and size neutrality. While the practices identified in the animal care reference manual are not the only practices that can meet the desired outcomes, the program provides a framework that serves as a resource for anyone working in the calf-raising industry. In addition to the manual, online modules and self-assessment tools, CCQA will release an audit tool later this year. Completion of the CCQA online modules provides certification equivalent to Beef Quality Assurance certification.

Certification through CCQA helps ensure optimal calf health and welfare and is the first, collaborative educational tool that provides guidelines for calf raisers. The CCQA program is a joint initiative led by NCBA’s Beef Checkoff-funded Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program and the National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) program, managed by the National Milk Producer’s Federation (NMPF) with support from the Dairy Calf and Heifer Association, and the Beef Checkoff-funded Veal Quality Assurance (VQA) program.

“Certification programs such as CCQA establish guidelines and standards that help earn the public’s trust, demonstrating that beef and dairy producers share their values and are committed not only to quality animal care, but also to ensuring safe, wholesome meat and milk,” said Patterson.

For more information, visit

Weekly Ethanol Production for 5/6/2022

According to EIA data analyzed by the Renewable Fuels Association for the week ending May 6, ethanol production scaled up by 21,000 barrels per day (b/d), or 2.3%, to 991,000 b/d, equivalent to 41.62 million gallons daily. Production was 1.2% more than the same week last year and 4.7% above the five-year average for the week. The four-week average ethanol production volume decreased 0.2% to 967,000 b/d, equivalent to an annualized rate of 14.82 billion gallons (bg).

Ethanol stocks built by 1.1% to 24.1 million barrels. Stocks were 24.5% higher than a year ago and 9.0% above the five-year average. Inventories increased in the Gulf Coast (PADD 3) and West Coast (PADD 5) but thinned across the other regions (notably, stocks in the Midwest declined to a low for the year).

The volume of gasoline supplied to the U.S. market, a measure of implied demand, tapered by 1.7% to 8.70 million b/d (133.40 bg annualized). Demand was 1.1% less than a year ago and 1.8% below the five-year average.

Refiner/blender net inputs of ethanol rose 1.0% to a nineteen-week high of 904,000 b/d, representing the highest share of gasoline supplied in nearly a year and equivalent to 13.86 bg annualized. Net inputs were 1.8% more than a year ago and 2.7% above the five-year average.

There were no imports of ethanol for the fifteenth consecutive week. (Weekly export data for ethanol is not reported simultaneously; the latest export data is as of March 2022.)

Retail Fertilizer Prices Inch Higher

Retail fertilizer prices continue to be mostly higher compared to last month, according to prices tracked by DTN for the first week of May 2022.  Seven fertilizers were more expensive, although none were up significantly, which DTN designates as a price move of 5% or more.

DAP had an average price of $1,057/ton (all-time high), MAP $1,081/ton (all-time high), potash $881/ton, 10-34-0 $906/ton, anhydrous $1,534/ton (all-time high), UAN28 $631/ton and UAN32 $730/ton (all-time high).  MAP set a new all-time high last week, continuing the streak of record-breaking movements in the fertilizer segment. According to DTN's 13-year data set, only potash and 10-34-0 have yet to break historical records.

One fertilizer was slightly lower compared to last month, but nothing noteworthy. Urea was slightly less expensive looking back to last month and had an average price of $1,001/ton.

On a price per pound of nitrogen basis, the average urea price was at $1.09/lb.N, anhydrous $0.94/lb.N, UAN28 $1.13/lb.N and UAN32 $1.14/lb.N.

Most fertilizers continue to be considerably higher in prices than one year earlier. 10-34-0 is 47% more expensive, MAP is 53% higher, DAP is 67% more expensive, UAN28 is 76% higher, UAN32 is 83% more expensive, urea is 95% is higher, potash is 102% higher and anhydrous is 115% more expensive compared to last year.

Delayed Cargo Arrivals Boost China's Soybean Imports

China's soybean imports in April climbed from a month ago, helped by the arrival of cargoes previously delayed by poor weather and slow harvests in South America, customs data showed on Monday.

China, the world's top soybean importer, brought in 8.08 million tonnes of the oilseed in April, up 27% from 6.35 million tonnes in March, according to data from the General Administration of Customs. The figures were also up from 7.45 million tonnes in the same month a year earlier.

According to Reuters, in the first four months of the year, China imported 28.36 million tonnes of soybeans, down 0.8% from 28.59 million tonnes in the previous year, according to the data.

Bad weather in Brazil delayed harvest and exports from China's top soybean supplier, leading to lower arrivals in the earlier months of the year.

Soymeal prices in China soared to record highs due to tightening bean and meal supplies, coming down as more cargoes arrived.

Chinese crushers bring in soybeans to make soymeal for feed for the country's massive livestock sector and to produce cooking oil.

China is expected to need 7 million to 8 million tonnes of soybeans each month through August, traders said.

While demand in May was mostly covered, Chinese crushers were slow to buy soybeans for June-August shipments as poor crush margins curbed their appetite, Reuters reported in late April.

‘Lab Meat’ Industry is Big Ag in Disguise

Press Release

The ‘lab meat’ industry is dominated by many of the same corporate powerhouses that exert substantial control over the processed foods and meat industries, according to new research from the national advocacy organization Food & Water Watch.

The group’s report (“Lab Meat Won’t End Factory Farms — But Could Entrench Them”) shows that the plant-based meat sector is dominated by just four companies, including Kellogg and  Conagra. Kellogg alone accounts for nearly half of all sales of plant-based meat alternatives, thanks to its acquisition of Morningstar Farms.

The industry is also seeing substantial investments from meat giants such as JBS, Smithfield and Tyson. This is not surprising; U.S. sales of plant-based meat rose 37 percent between 2017 and 2019, and plant-based dairy has seen even more impressive growth.

As a whole, the lab meat industry (plant-based meat and so-called ‘cultured meat’) seeks to attract health conscious consumers by closely mimicking meat products while promising substantial environmental benefits. But on the whole, the marketing of plant-based meats deserves further scrutiny. Many products are ultra-processed and rely on additives like saturated fats to mimic the flavors and textures of meat. And government oversight can range from inconsistent to non-existent, and often relies on industry-supplied safety studies. And the ecological and climate benefits touted by the industry remain dubious, given the reliance on processed materials and inputs like corn and soy.

The report finds that so far, lab meat seems to be complementing — not replacing — meat consumption, which raises questions about whether Americans can truly ‘shop their way’ to a more sustainable food system. This is all the more true when considering the array of federal policies and economic incentives that support the heavily polluting factory farm model.

“Consumers may think they are ’voting with their dollar’ by choosing plant-based meats, but most of that dollar lines the pockets of agribusiness giants, including the largest meat companies,” says Amanda Starbuck, Food & Water Watch Research Director. “Plant-based meats are not true alternatives if they prop up the existing system that fuels climate change and ecological degradation.”

The report calls for sweeping changes to U.S. farm policy, including banning factory farms and boosting support for organic, regenerative farming. This will only be achieved if we fight back against corporate power that currently holds a stranglehold on our food system.

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