Friday, August 19, 2022

Thursday August 18 Ag News

Rural Mainstreet Economic Index Falls Below Growth Neutral Again: Farm Equipment Sales Plummet to Lowest Level in Two Years
The Creighton University Rural Mainstreet Index (RMI) fell for the fifth straight month, sinking below growth neutral for a third consecutive month according to the monthly survey of bank CEOs in rural areas of a 10-state region dependent on agriculture and/or energy.      

The region’s overall reading for August slumped to 44.0 from 46.0 in July. The index ranges between 0 and 100 with a reading of 50.0 representing growth neutral. This was the fifth consecutive decline in the region’s overall reading.

“The Rural Mainstreet economy is now experiencing a downturn in economic activity. Supply chain disruptions from transportation bottlenecks and labor shortages continue to constrain growth. Farmers and bankers are bracing for escalating interest rates and falling farm commodity prices,” said Ernie Goss, PhD, Jack A. MacAllister Chair in Regional Economics at Creighton University’s Heider College of Business.

Bank CEOs were asked their assessment of the Inflation Reduction Act. On average, more than half, or 52.2%, expect spending and taxes related to the act to increase inflation and add to the federal deficit.

Farming and ranching: The region’s farmland price index for August declined to 60.0 from July’s 66.0, marking the 23rd straight month that the index has moved above growth neutral. August’s solid reading was the lowest index since February 2021.

Bankers were asked about Chinese ownership of farmland and food processing in the region.  More than nine of 10 bank CEOs, or 91.7%, regard Chinese purchases of farmland and food processing facilities in the region as a threat to the regional economy.

Farm equipment sales: The August farm equipment-sales index sank to 45.9 from 56.5 in July. After 20 straight months of advancing above growth neutral, the index unexpectedly dropped below the threshold to its lowest level since November 2020.

Below are the state reports:

Iowa: The August RMI for Iowa slumped to 40.1 from 45.1 in July. Iowa’s farmland-price index decreased to 63.5 from July’s 68.4. Iowa’s new-hiring index for August dropped to 55.9 from July’s 58.7. Over the past 12 months, USBLS data show that Iowa’s Rural Mainstreet Economy experienced a 3.6% increase in non-farm employment, while urban areas in the state gained 2.2% in non-farm employment.

Nebraska: The Nebraska RMI for August dropped below growth neutral to 47.8 from July’s 49.1. The state’s farmland-price index decreased to 63.3 from last month’s 68.9. Nebraska’s new-hiring index sank to 55.6 in August from 63.7 in July. Over the past 12 months, USBLS data show that Nebraska’s Rural Mainstreet Economy experienced a 4.1% gain in non-farm employment while urban areas in the state added 1.4% in non-farm employment.

The survey represents an early snapshot of the economy of rural agriculturally and energy-dependent portions of the nation. The Rural Mainstreet Index is a unique index covering 10 regional states, focusing on approximately 200 rural communities with an average population of 1,300. It provides the most current real-time analysis of the rural economy. Goss and Bill McQuillan, former chairman of the Independent Community Banks of America, created the monthly economic survey and launched it in January 2006.

IANR, CASNR mark big anniversaries with yearlong ‘Celebration of Innovation’

In 1872, 150 years ago, the University of Nebraska Board of Regents established what is now the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Over the years, the college has educated thousands of students from Nebraska and around the world in sciences related to food, energy, water and society systems, among other important fields.

Just shy of 50 years ago, in 1973, the Nebraska Legislature established UNL’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources with the passage of LB149. This legislation culminated more than 10 years of discussion by state leaders, university officials and agriculture interests in Nebraska to ensure that the prominence of agricultural research, education and extension at UNL was proportional to agriculture’s incredible impact on the state’s economy, success and identity.

CASNR and IANR will celebrate both important milestones during the 2022-23 academic year. The yearlong Celebration of Innovation commemorating 150 years of CASNR and 50 years of IANR will kick off with an Aug. 25 celebration on the East Campus Mall. The event, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., will feature lawn games, music, street tacos and more. The event is free and open to faculty, staff, post-docs, students, alumni, partners, and stakeholders.

“Agriculture is the foundation of Nebraska, and throughout their histories, IANR and CASNR have both sought to provide Nebraskans with the tools, technologies and workforce to build on that strong foundation,” said Mike Boehm, NU vice president and Harlan Vice Chancellor for IANR. “In celebrating these anniversaries, we’re really celebrating Nebraska’s farmers, ranchers and agricultural industry, as well as the natural resources that support Nebraska ag.”

Celebration of innovation events will be scheduled throughout the 2022-2023 academic year by IANR units and research, extension, and education centers, as well as during county fairs, field days, and other events in the summer of 2023. A calendar of events is available at and will be updated as new events are added. Also at the website, current and former IANR faculty, staff, post-docs, students and others can share stories of how IANR and CASNR have impacted them. Those stories, along with other stories about IANR and CASNR history, will be shared throughout the year.

 “CASNR alumni are doing great things in Nebraska, across the United States and around the world,” said CASNR Dean Tiffany Heng-Moss. “Our 150th anniversary is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate current and former students from Nebraska and around the globe who chose CASNR because they knew it would prepare them to do great things.”

UNL Dept of Animal Science Hosts U.S. Meat Export Federation Global Processing Workshop

The Department of Animal Science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln welcomed guests from throughout the Caribbean, Central and South America as part of a U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) Global Processing Workshop on August 9-10, 2022.

"This is the second time we've partnered with the university and animal science to bring this event to Lincoln after previously being here in 2019," said Travis Arp, Assistant Vice President of Export Services for USMEF. "Between the faculty expertise and the facilities, Nebraska has been a great partner with us for this event."

USMEF partners from meat processing companies in Mexico, Guatemala, Chile, Peru, Colombia and Jamaica traveled to Lincoln to attend sessions about technical topics ranging from industry economics and trends to packaging of ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook products. All sessions were led by Nebraska faculty, graduate students, and representatives from USMEF.

"This is a great opportunity for our Meat Science program, as well as the University of Nebraska as a whole," said Dr. Gary Sullivan, Associate Professor of Meat Science. "We are working with processors from the Western Hemisphere to demonstrate and develop ways to utilize and ultimately, add value to U.S. beef and pork."

The highlight of the event was a product development workshop held in the Loeffel Meat Lab. Groups developed a marinated ready-to-eat or ready-to-cook beef or pork product to be targeted to their own domestic markets. Products developed included Jamaican Jerk Beef, a Bacon Wrapped Pork Kabob, Peruvian Fajitas, and an Adobo Pork.

Headquartered in Denver, Colorado, USMEF increases the value and profit opportunities for the U.S. beef, pork and lamb industries by enhancing demand in export markets with market development activities in more than 80 countries. In addition to its headquarters in the U.S., USMEF has offices in Seoul, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Shenyang, Singapore, Taipei, Mexico City and Monterrey. USMEF also has special market representatives covering South America, South China, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Caribbean.


Nebraska is regularly the center of complex Great Plains weather conditions, and University of Nebraska–Lincoln scientists have long studied the dynamics shaping the state’s climate. An ongoing research project, involving Husker collaboration with multiple universities and research institutions, has expanded that knowledge by using an extensive set of sensors in southeast Nebraska to study how agricultural irrigation affects local weather conditions.   

The project, known as the Great Plains Irrigation Experiment (GRAINEX), collected data on a range of meteorological factors in a 3,600-square-mile region of southeast Nebraska during the 2018 growing season. Funded by a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation, GRAINEX compared weather dynamics over irrigated corn acres with those over non-irrigated cornfields.

Researchers recently published their preliminary findings on irrigation’s effects on wind, temperature and humidity in the academic journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Irrigation over the cornfields weakened an afternoon near-surface upslope wind that normally blows from east to west due to the higher slope of terrain as one moves westward across eastern Nebraska, the scientists reported.

“For the first time, we have collected this kind of extensive data that allowed us to investigate the mesoscale (local) wind circulation, and that has not been done before,” said climatologist Rezaul Mahmood, a professor in Nebraska’s School of Natural Resources and director of the High Plains Regional Climate Center.

The wind system created by the upslope winds “influences storm formation by forcing upward motion and transporting moisture,” Mahmood and his co-authors wrote. “Using the observations from GRAINEX and comparing to a weather model, we find that irrigation weakens this wind system, potentially affecting cloud and rain formation in this region.”

Follow-up study by the GRAINEX researchers will examine additional data sets to deepen understanding of the cloud-related ramifications.

Traditionally, “the observations required to study the mechanisms though which irrigation affects weather and climate are lacking,” Mahmood and his co-authors noted. The GRAINEX project helps fill in the data gaps with observational data on temperature, moisture and air pressure, taking the analysis beyond theoretical modeling.

Strengthening the scientific understanding of irrigation’s effects on climate is especially important because ag-related irrigation is expanding globally and irrigated cropland produces 40% of the world’s food, the GRAINEX researchers noted.  

In addition, the GRAINEX data confirmed previous weather modeling studies that irrigated farmland has a lower surface air temperature and higher dew point temperature compared with non-irrigated areas. The dew point temperature is a measure of mugginess.

“The air temperature can be slightly lower over irrigated areas and slightly higher over rainfed areas,” Mahmood said, “because most of the heating over irrigated areas is used for latent heat flux,” referring to the land-to-atmosphere energy partitioning as heat flows upward from the land.

It’s not surprising that an irrigated cornfield would have high humidity, since mature corn releases a major volume of water into the air during the tasseling season at the height of summer. This topic relates to recent news coverage of “corn sweat” — the moisture released into the air by corn plants through a process scientists call evapotranspiration.

The news coverage followed publication in The Washington Post of a column by Barb Mayes Boustead, an Omaha-area meteorologist, about how the large-scale planting of corn and soybeans across the Midwest intensifies humidity in the region as a result of evapotranspiration.

An acre of planted corn can release up to 4,000 gallons of water per day, Boustead noted.

Nebraska corn production involves about 10 million acres of farmland. The state’s soybean crop is harvested from about 5 million acres. Together, that cultivation involves a bit less than a third of Nebraska’s landmass.

In 2021, Nebraska produced 1.85 billion bushels of corn (third-highest in the nation) and 351 million bushels of soybeans (fourth-highest).

The increased local humidity associated with irrigated fields is a well-known aspect of meteorology, and data collected by the GRAINEX project confirmed the phenomenon, Mahmood said.

Past modeling by Husker scientists compared the level of evapotranspiration for natural grass to that of irrigated farmland and of non-irrigated farmland. The analysis, Mahmood said, found that irrigated fields can generate up to 36% more evapotranspiration than natural grass covering the same area. Non-irrigated farmland had 2% greater evapotranspiration.  

“Irrigation and increased humidity can really impact hot days, and that can definitely impact human health,” Mahmood said.

The GRAINEX project involves a partnership of six institutions: Nebraska, Western Kentucky University, the University of Alabama in Huntsville, the University of Colorado Boulder, the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the Center for Severe Weather Research. The researchers’ data collection covered two periods in the 2018 growing season: May 29-June 16 and July 17-30.

GRAINEX researchers drew on the resources of their partner organizations to assemble an extensive variety of weather sensors, on the ground and in the air, to monitor areas of southeast Nebraska from Merrick County on the northwest to Johnson County on the southeast.

Weather balloons were a significant component of the research. Every two daytime hours during the July study period, the researchers sent the devices aloft to collect data on the atmospheric pressure, temperature, humidity and wind speed. Over the course of the project, the scientists deployed 1,200 balloons.


– Jerry Volesky, NE Extension Pasture & Forage Specialist

Hay is a very valuable commodity this year.  So, as you bring in your round bales for winter storage and feeding, store them to minimize weather losses.

Hay stored outside will be damaged by rain, snow, wind, and ice this fall and winter.  The average round bale may lose up to one fourth of its original nutrients during storage, but these losses can be reduced to less than 10 percent or so.

For instance, do you usually line up bales for easy access so the twine sides touch each other?  Or do you stack your bales?  If so, extra spoilage will occur where these bales touch because rain, snow, and ice will gather in spots where bales touch instead of running off.  Research has shown that round bales stacked in a pyramid form will have greater dry matter losses compared bales butted end-to-end, cigar-like.

Does snow drift around your bales?  Bales placed in east-west rows often have drifts on the south side.  Hay next to fencelines or trees can get extra snow.  As snow melts it soaks into bales or makes the ground muddy.  Plus, the north side never gets any sun so it's slow to dry.  This year, line your bales up north-and-south for fewer drifts and faster drying as sunlight and prevailing winds hit both sides of the row.

Most important is the bottom of your bales.  Always put bales on higher, well-drained ground so water drains away from them.  If necessary, use crushed rock, railroad ties, or even pallets to elevate bales to keep the bottoms dry.  This also will reduce problems getting to your hay or getting it moved due to snow drifts or mud.

So, for outside storage, a single row of bales end to end, along with consideration for row orientation and the ground surface drainage, will be the best storage method.

Get some help in the kitchen from the Nebraska State Fair

What can you do with a potato? Find out at the Nebraska State Fair! Everyone knows potatoes make great french fries, but the versatility of this garden staple will be the subject of two presentations by Vince Armada, executive sous chef for Potatoes USA. Armada will present “A Twist on Dips With America’s Favorite Vegetable” at 11 a.m. Thursday and Friday, Sept. 1 and 2, in the Raising Nebraska section of the Nebraska Building. He will present “Not Your Average Potato Salad” at 1 p.m. those same days. As the marketing organization for the nation’s 2,000 potato farmers, Potatoes USA provides culinary inspiration to cooks all over the country. A U.S. Navy veteran, Armada holds degrees in culinary arts and food service from Johnson and Wales University.
Other cooking demonstrations at the Nebraska State Fair will include:
    Home Canning — Live!; presented by Nebraska Extension; 11 a.m. and noon Monday, Aug. 29; Raising Nebraska
    Blue Ribbon Pie Co. — Pie Making Demonstration; presented by the Open Class Competitive Exhibits Foods Department; 3 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 31; Competitive Exhibits Stage (Fonner Park Concourse)
    Sorghum Treats, Provided by Nebraska Sorghum; free sorghum treats; 10 a.m. Thursday through Monday, Sept. 1-5; Raising Nebraska
    In the Kitchen With the Sorghum Army; presented by the Nebraska Grain Sorghum Board; noon Thursday and Friday, Sept. 1-2; 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 3; 11 a.m. Monday, Sept. 5; Raising Nebraska
    Food in the Field With Hannah Guenther; presented by Nebraska Extension; 2 and 4 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 1; Raising Nebraska
    Healthy Food Fast With Tara Dunker, MS, RD; presented by Nebraska Extension; 3 and 5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 1; Raising Nebraska
    Garden Recipes From A to Z; cooking with CommonGround Nebraska; 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 3; Raising Nebraska
    Beef Meals Made Easy; presented by the Nebraska Beef Council; noon and 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 3; noon, 2 and 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 4; noon Monday, Sept. 5; Raising Nebraska
    Chef Nader Farahbod: Deliciousness With Dairy and Pork; presented by Midwest Dairy and the Nebraska Pork Producers Association; 1 and 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 3; 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 4; 1 p.m. Monday, Sept. 5; Raising Nebraska

The Nebraska State Fair runs Aug. 26 through Sept. 5 in Grand Island. For more information, visit


During the first two weeks of September, growers of small grains around the country will be contacted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). The agency is taking a comprehensive look into the 2022 production and supply of small grains, which include wheat, oats, barley, and rye.

“The small grains industry is important to Nebraska agriculture and it is crucial for everyone to have accurate data about this key sector of the economy,” said NASS’ Northern Plains Regional Director, Nicholas Streff. “We will contact more than 2,200 producers in Nebraska to accurately measure 2022 acreage, yield, and production for small grains and the quantities of grains and oilseeds stored on farm. Responses to the survey will also be used in calculating county yields,” explained Streff.

“USDA uses county yield information from the survey to evaluate and administer vital farm disaster mitigation. Farmers who receive this survey should use this opportunity to assure their county is accurately represented in the calculation of Nebraska county yields.”

The data collected from this survey, along with additional information, will be used to help set small grain acreage, yield, and production estimates at the county level, which will be available this December in NASS’s Quick Stats database at

“NASS safeguards the privacy of all respondents and publishes only aggregate data, ensuring that no individual operation or producer can be identified,” stated Streff. “We recognize that this is a hectic time for farmers and ranchers, but the information they provide becomes useful data for decision-making on the farm, for federal farm programs, and the markets. I urge them to respond to this survey and thank them for their time and cooperation.”

Survey results will be published in several reports, including the annual Small Grains Summary and the quarterly Grain Stocks report, both to be released on September 30. These survey data also contribute to USDA’s World Agricultural Outlook Board’s monthly World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates. All NASS reports are available online at For more information call the NASS Nebraska Field Office at 800-582-6443.

EPA Reaches $1.7 Million Settlement over Alleged Toxics Release Inventory Reporting Violations with The Andersons Marathon Holdings LLC

Today, the US Environmental Protection Agency announced a $1.7 million settlement with The Andersons Marathon Holdings (Andersons Marathon) LLC to resolve alleged Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) reporting violations of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) at four facilities in Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, and Ohio. EPA’s Region 7 and Region 5 offices coordinated their investigations of Andersons Marathon’s failure to file, failure to file timely, and failure to file accurate annual EPCRA TRI Forms for several chemicals from its fermentation vapor stream.

“EPA is committed to protecting people from pollution and taking action to ensure facilities are reporting releases in an accurate and timely fashion as required by law,” said Acting Assistant Administrator Larry Starfield, for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “This settlement ensures the communities surrounding the four facilities have the best available information that they deserve and empowers them to act at a local level when necessary.”

The company has agreed to pay a total penalty of $1,731,256 between two Consent Agreements and Final Orders (CAFO), the largest EPCRA TRI penalty ever obtained by the Agency.

Andersons Marathon manufactures ethanol at four facilities located in:
    Logansport, Indiana
    Albion, Michigan
    Greenville, Ohio
    Denison, Iowa

Region 5’s action resolves 99 violations and assess a $1,522,015 civil penalty and Region 7’s action resolves 32 violations and assess a $209,241 civil penalty. Andersons Marathon has since filed its 2015 - 2020 EPCRA Toxic Chemical Release Forms and corrected its 2015 – 2020 data quality errors for chemicals including benzene, ethylbenzene and toluene and the chemicals discussed below. EPA and Andersons Marathon also agreed as to how Andersons Marathon will report its future manufacture, process, or other use of fermentation chemicals (acetaldehyde, methanol, acrolein, formaldehyde and formic acid). As a result of the action and for future reporting, Andersons Marathon has adjusted measurements and releases of n-hexane and ammonia at its facilities.

EPCRA increases the public's knowledge and access to information about chemicals at individual facilities, their uses, and releases into the environment. States and communities, working with facilities, can use the information to improve chemical safety and protect public health and the environment. All four facilities are located in vulnerable or overburdened communities and the settlement advances the Biden Administration’s commitment to deliver environmental justice.  

2022 Harvest Safety Week: Heat Injury and Illness

National Grain & Feed Association

Earlier this year, OSHA launched a new enforcement program to address heat hazards in the workplace, including in grain handling facilities. Throughout Harvest Safety Week 2022, you’ll be receiving email reminders and new resources available from NGFA to help protect your employees from heat-related hazards. Members and non-members! Ensure you are signed up to receive NGFA emails to receive daily resources during the week and register ahead for the webinar on Aug. 25.

Kickoff and welcome video
Make sure everyone on your team is signed up and ready to receive Harvest Safety Week emails. Make a plan for how your organization will observe Harvest Safety Week.
OSHA Heat Injury and Illness NEP Presentation
In this recorded presentation representatives from OSHA’s Directorate of Standards and Guidance and Directorate of Enforcement Programs will discuss the status of the Heat Injury and Illness National Emphasis Program. Then Jess McCluer, NGFA’s vice president of safety and regulatory affairs, will summarize OSHA’s pending heat injury and illness standard.
NGFA Member Best Practices Discussion
In this recorded panel discussion, NGFA members Jason Eardley, ADM; Paul Gooch, CGB; Brian Grimm, Bartlett and Company; and Rob Grabowski, George’s Inc., will discuss their companies’ heat-related policies and best practices.
LIVE Legal Expert Webinar with Q&A
Aaron Gelb, Conn Maciel Carey LLP, will conduct a webinar at 2 p.m. ET with a presentation on OSHA’s Heat Injury and Illness National Emphasis Program (NEP). Register here
Closing and list of Harvest Safety Week resources.

USDA to Mail Additional Pre-Filled Applications to Producers Impacted by 2020, 2021 Disasters

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced another installment (phase) in assistance to commodity and specialty crop producers impacted by natural disaster events in 2020 and 2021. More than 18,000 producers will soon receive new or updated pre-filled disaster applications to offset eligible crop losses. Approximately $6.4 billion has already been distributed to 165,000 producers through USDA’s Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) Emergency Relief Program (ERP).

“We knew when we announced ERP in May that we would have additional applications to send toward the end of the summer as we received new information, and we came to know of producers who were inadvertently left out of the first data set we used,” said USDA Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation Robert Bonnie. “I am proud of our team's continued effort to capture additional insurance records to enable over 18,000 producers to receive new or updated pre-filled disaster applications to provide much needed financial relief.”  

FSA will begin mailing pre-filled applications in late August to producers who have potentially eligible losses and:
    Received crop insurance indemnities for qualifying 2020 and 2021 disaster events after May 2, 2022.
    Received crop insurance indemnities associated with Nursery, Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO), Stacked Income Protection Plan (STAX), Enhanced Coverage Option (ECO) and Margin Protection (MP) policies.
    New primary policyholders not included in the initial insured producer Phase 1 mailing from May 25, 2022, because their claim records had not been filled.
    Certain 2020 prevent plant losses related to qualifying 2020 disaster events that had only been recorded in crop insurance records as related to 2019 adverse weather events and, as such, were not previously provided in applications sent earlier this year.
    New Substantial Beneficial Interest (SBI) records, including SBIs where tax identification numbers were corrected.

Producers are expected to receive assistance direct deposited into their bank account within three business days after they sign and return the pre-filled application to the FSA county office and the county office enters the application into the system. 

Before applying any program payment factors or eligibility criteria, it is estimated that this next installment (phase) may generate about $756 million in assistance.

Emergency Relief Payments to Date

This emergency relief under ERP complements ERP assistance recently provided to more than 165,000 producers who had received crop insurance indemnities and Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) payments for qualifying losses. USDA has processed more than 255,000 applications for ERP, and to date, has made approximately $6.4 billion in payments to commodity and specialty crop producers to help offset eligible losses from qualifying 2020 and 2021 natural disasters. Also, earlier this year, staff processed more than 100,000 payments through the Emergency Livestock Relief Program (ELRP) and paid eligible producers more than $601.3 million for 2021 grazing losses within days of the program announcement.

Phase Two

The second phase of both ERP and ELRP will be aimed at filling gaps and provide assistance to producers who did not participate in or receive payments through the existing risk management programs that are being leveraged for phase one implementation. USDA will keep producers and stakeholders informed as program details are made available.    

Organic Dairy Farming Can Store Carbon and Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions, According to New Study in Journal of Cleaner Production

A new study in the August issue of the Journal of Cleaner Production reveals that it is possible for farms to sequester carbon and reduce their overall greenhouse gas emissions. A University of Wisconsin Madison research group unveiled a dairy lifecycle assessment conducted on Organic Valley farms that shows small organic dairy farms, which focus on grazing and organic production techniques, are low greenhouse gas champions.

The peer reviewed study uses a breakthrough methodology that includes accounting for the carbon sequestration benefit of grazed pastures. Led by Dr. Horacio Aguirre-Villegas, Scientist III at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the research team conducted a first-of-its-kind study in the U.S. that considered the positive carbon sequestration results of cows spending time out on pasture.

"The study proposes a method to include carbon sequestration not only in organic but all dairy farm-related LCA studies. This method is based on the amount of carbon staying in the soil from above ground residue, below ground residue, and manure," Aguirre-Villegas said. "The effect of management practices affecting the carbon stock are also considered, such as tillage, land use regime, management, and input of organic matter into the soil based on farm and region-specific variables such as the level of activity and temperature."

The modeling assessment was done with farm-specific input provided by Organic Valley and reflects the nature and style of production common within the co-op's dairy membership. Other factors contributing to the low greenhouse gas emission results included the avoidance of synthetic crop inputs and use of organic crop amendments, the longevity of cattle, and prevalent use of manure as a fertilizer source.

"This LCA represents the baseline carbon footprint of our dairy member farms today. The science proves out what we all intuitively knew was the case, when you have pasture-based systems and organic crop production you have a smaller carbon footprint," said Nicole Rakobitsch, director of sustainability at Organic Valley. "We are proud that farms in our cooperative average the lowest known carbon footprint of any U.S. dairy supply, but we are not going to rest on that outcome.

"We are committed to helping our farmers and all of dairy continually lessen our GHG emissions. It's the right thing to do and consumers are looking for food that is good for the planet and their health."

The study of Organic Valley milk is ongoing and the remaining 40% of Organic Valley's milk supply will be assessed by the end of 2023. Organic Valley is also launching a new carbon insetting program which purchases carbon reduction from its farmers and helps producers implement site-specific projects like agroforestry, enhanced manure management, and on-farm renewable energy.

The research team measuring and analyzing the carbon impact at UW-Madison includes Dr. Rebecca Larson, associate professor at UW-Madison; Dr. Erin Silva, UW-Madison associate professor and Extension specialist in Organic Agriculture; Dr. Michel Wattiaux, UW-Madison professor in Dairy Systems Management; and Rakobitsch.

Building Brand Trust with the Story of On-Farm Innovation

At a time when sustainability is driving the choices of several stakeholders – consumers, customers, investors and others – food companies can help build their sustainability success story by starting at the farm gate. According to Roxi Beck, consumer engagement director at The Center for Food Integrity (CFI), touting the technology and sustainable practices used on today’s farms can build credibility and trust. This is true when companies are sourcing meat, milk, eggs, grains and spices, as well as sourcing feed for livestock, poultry and farmed fish.  

Are You Sustainable Enough?

“Our CFI consumer research has shown time and time again that consumers trust farmers and want to hear from them,” said Beck. It’s also reinforced by a recent Gallup poll showing farmers and agriculture top the list of trustworthy business and industry sectors. “Implementing communication strategies that highlight farmer innovation focused on sustainability will engage audiences that want transparency about where their food comes from, how it’s being produced, who’s producing it and how it impacts their health and our planet.”

It’s especially important to Millennials and Gen Z, who are much more open to technology as a way to solve global challenges, she said.  

Particularly for larger food brands, earning trust can be an uphill climb. It's part of the “big is bad” bias where consumers believe companies are motivated solely by profit and not the public’s best interest.  

“With that in mind, it’s important to assess whether you’re ready to answer questions from more curious and skeptical consumers about whether your business is sustainable and whether they can trust you to do the right thing,” said Beck.

Sustainability and On-Farm Innovation

The food industry often talks about the disconnect between consumers and their food, which can perpetuate misinformation and unfounded fears. We also see a food industry and farmer gap. Whether food companies source from farmers directly or indirectly, they may not be fully aware of what’s happening on today’s farms to consistently produce more food, more sustainably, said Beck.      

“Seed varieties are continually refined through genetic modification and gene editing, which reduces herbicide applications, decreases weed and insect pressure, increases yields and decreases the amount of water needed” said Cindy Pulskamp, who along with her husband Neal, grows soybeans, wheat and sugar beets near Hillsboro, North Dakota. “Biotechnology can also enhance nutrition. For example, through gene editing, we now have a heart-healthy high-oleic soybean oil. Gene editing can also address allergens in crops.”  

Jim Douglas a soybean farmer from Flat Rock, Indiana, uses GPS, monitors and sensors on his family farm to track crop yields and inputs like seed and crop protection products.  

“With these variable rate technologies, I can change seeding and application rates more precisely, ensuring I’m applying the right amounts of seed and fertilizer,” Douglas said.     

On soybean farms and beyond, farmers are incorporating regenerative farming practices like no-till and crop rotation to build and maintain organic matter and improve soil health.   

As a result of these efforts, soil on U.S. farms stores 100 times more carbon than the U.S. emits each year. According to the 2021 U.S. Soy Sustainability Overview from the United Soybean Board (USB), between 1980 and 2020, conservation efforts by U.S. soybean farmers have improved:
    Land use efficiency by 48% per bushel
    Irrigation water use efficiency by 60% per bushel
    Energy use efficiency by 46% per bushel
    Greenhouse gas emissions efficiency by 43% per bushel
    Soil conservation by 34% per acre
    Soy production by 130%, using roughly the same amount of land

When it comes to livestock, many producers house animals in modern facilities where they are provided with carefully formulated feed and continuous access to water. They also use software that monitors the amount of food and water consumed and the climate of the barns. Manure from those barns is used as fertilizer for crops, which often are used to feed the animals in a sustainable, circular fashion. An increasing number of farmers are using methane digesters to convert manure into fuel or alternative energy that provides power to local utilities.  

Sustainability successes abound across agriculture. Dairy farmers used 30% less water from 2007 to 2017 and achieved a 19% reduction in the carbon footprint per gallon of milk. Between 1961 and 2018, U.S. beef produced nearly 60% more beef while lowering its greenhouse gas emissions per pound of beef by more than 40 percent. And pig farmers used nearly 75% less land and 25% less water from 1960 to 2015.  

Ambitious sustainability goals have been set including the U.S. pork industry committing to reducing GHG emissions by 40% by 2030 (from a 2015 baseline) and the U.S. cattle industry committing to carbon neutrality by 2040. The U.S. dairy industry has committed to becoming greenhouse gas neutral by 2050.

Tip of the Iceberg  

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Beck. “Modern practices on today’s farms allow farmers and ranchers to produce more food using fewer resources than at any time in the past.”

It’s these kinds of achievements and continuous improvement that consumers are looking for to feel assured that those growing, raising and producing food are doing so with integrity and care for our natural resources.  

“It’s a story food companies can leverage when communicating their sustainability journeys,” said Beck. “The key is to foster stronger food industry and farmer relationships for a broader understanding of the innovation taking place across American agriculture.”  

Learn more during a Mon., Sept. 26, webinar “The Key to Building Brand Trust: Sharing the Story of On-Farm Innovation.” Register via the "Webinars" link at  

MAIZALL Mission to Mexico Focuses Efforts on Trade and Food Security Issues

 A MAIZALL delegation visited Mexico, Aug. 13-18, where they met with government representatives and industry stakeholders to discuss the country’s 2020 Presidential Decree that will ban the use of genetically modified (GM) corn for human consumption by 2024. The delegation also raised concerns about the likely impact of the lack of authorizations by Mexico of new GM corn events for import since May 2018.

MAIZALL, the International Alliance of Maize Growers, includes members from Abramilho in Brazil, MAIZAR in Argentina and the National Corn Growers Association and the U.S. Grains Council in the United States. Farmers from these countries, that produce 50% of the world’s corn and 81% of corn exports, compete in the global marketplace but work together to address common international market access issues.

“MAIZALL recognizes the cultural and historical importance of maize in Mexico,” said MAIZALL President Federico Zerboni. “It may indeed want to maintain its decision to only grow non-GM maize for its own reasons, but it was important for our growers to outline the GM adoption rates (more than 95%) in our countries and the many economic, social and environmental benefits of GMO cultivation.”

Mexico’s annual import of 17 million metric tons of GM corn could be jeopardized by the combination of the presidential decree and the lack of authorizations of new GM events for import. Since it is very unlikely that such volumes of non-GM corn will be available in international markets in 2024, Mexico’s current policy will lead to food insecurity and affordability of many of its staple foods, such as corn tortillas.

“The trading relationship between our countries and Mexico continues to be positive for grains and grain products, and MAIZALL works closely with the grain, feed and livestock industries in Mexico that value the commodities we provide,” Zerboni said, “but implementing the ban and withholding the authorization of new GM events for imports would be detrimental to Mexico’s food security – making more non-GM supplies harder to find - and counterproductive to food prices for Mexican consumers and the competitiveness of Mexico’s livestock industry. The pandemic and the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine have demonstrated that feed security and affordable food cannot be taken for granted.”

The mission’s members emphasized the importance of a science-based, transparent and a proportionate regulatory approach to policy pertaining to agriculture and food production.

“In our countries, GM crops are evaluated by leading independent scientists as part of a rigorous process to ensure all approvals guarantee environmental and food safety,” said John Linder, a farmer from Ohio, who was part of the MAIZALL mission and is a MAIZALL director representing the United States. “Biotechnology helps farmers increase yield, reduce the use of plant protection products and conserve the quality and biodiversity of the soil and the environment – all key aspects in sustainable food production.”

MAIZALL and its members will continue to work closely with the Mexican grain, feed and livestock industries, and with the Mexican authorities to work toward solutions to avoid the negative impact of its current policy.

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