Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wednesday February 29 Ag News

How Local and National Regulations Affect Nebraska Farmers

Eight Nebraska producers gathered in Omaha last week to take part in the first See For Yourself educational mission to Washington D.C., hosted by the Nebraska Soybean Association and funded in part by the Nebraska Soybean Board. With the added challenge to produce more food on less land while sustaining natural resources, farmers are facing increased potential regulations, including the upcoming 2012 Farm Bill. It’s more important than ever for farmers to become educated on the potential impacts of regulation.

Immediately after arriving in Washington D.C., participants started digging into the current issues, and by the end of the first day, had a deeper understanding for where representatives in Washington D.C. stand in terms of the 2012 Farm Bill, current hot-topic issues being brought forth and where various organizations stand on each issue.

From the get-go, the participants realized just how important their trip out to Washington D.C. was, and how education is the first step to understanding farm regulations. “It is critical for us to hear messages and concerns from our nation’s farmers and local people. Reach out to your congressional staff when you are back home and invite them to your farms,” said Beau Greenwood, executive vice president of Government Relations and Public Affairs, CropLife America.

The most reoccurring issue throughout the mission was the 2012 Farm Bill. Participants heard over and over again how crucial it is for the agriculture industry to pass a bill this year. “You need to think about what issues are hindering your children from coming back to the farm. Those are the issues that are most important for this next farm bill,” stated Brandon Willis, deputy administrator for Farm Programs.

While many speakers were enthusiastic about a bill being passed, many were apprehensive and are giving it a 50/50 chance. Participants came back to Omaha with a deeper understanding for topics such as crop insurance, biodiesel initiatives, child labor laws and pesticide spray drift.

Participants heard from various organizations and speakers including, Krysta Harden, Chief of Staff, USDA; Doug O’Brien, Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development; Beau Greenwood, Executive Vice President of Government Relations and Public Affairs, CropLife America; and William Murphy, Administrator for the Risk Management Agency.

“I now have a deeper understanding of the current issues affecting agriculture, and with the education I received through this mission, I can stay abreast of all the issues directly affecting Nebraska farmers,” said Nathan Dorn, farmer from Hickman, NE. “We heard over and over again how important it is for us to reach out to our local government officials when we are back at home and I now realize the impact we could have with a simple visit.”

Nebraska Dairy Convention Features Dairy Economist

Dairy economist Marin Bozic has been added to the lineup of speakers for the Nebraska Dairy Convention March 13-14 at Divots Conference Center in Norfolk.  Bozic, an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota, will present a session titled “Managing Risk and Seizing Opportunities in 2012 and Beyond” at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 13.

Just before Bozic, Tom Trewhitt of the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality will provide an update on nutrient management regulations.  His appearance is scheduled for 4 p.m.

The Nebraska Dairy Convention carries a theme of “The Future…Is Now,” and begins with a trade show opening at 10 a.m., March 13, followed by a presentation titled “Managing Today’s Commodity Prices” by Archer Daniels Midland nutritionist Ron Linquist at 10:30 a.m.  Linquist will be followed by a session called “Open Cow Mystery,” presented by Dennis Hermesch DVM, Novartis Animal Health.

Midwest Dairy Association will present information on its child health and wellness initiative, Fuel Up to Play 60, at an 11:30 a.m. lunch. A 1:30 p.m. session, “Animal Welfare – the Next Challenge,” will be led by We Support Agriculture.  The trade show continues until 5:30 p.m. on March 13.

The annual meeting of the Nebraska State Dairy Association takes place from 12:30 – 2:30 p.m. on March 13, and the Nebraska Holstein Association will meet from 2:30 – 4 p.m. that day.   

The March 13 events draw to a close with a wine and cheese reception at 5:30 p.m.  Olympic bobsledder Curt Tomascevicz headlines the banquet at 6:30 p.m.  The new Nebraska Dairy Princess will also be crowned at that time. 

Board meetings for the Nebraska Division of Midwest Dairy Association and the Nebraska State Dairy Association will take place on convention’s second day, March 14.  The Nebraska Dairy Industry Development Board, Nebraska Dairy Industry Review Board will also meet that day.

The 2012 Nebraska Dairy Convention is free to all Nebraska dairy producers, families and guests.  Special room rates are available at the Norfolk Lodge and Suites by calling 1-800-230-4134.  Questions about the convention can be directed to Rod Johnson, Nebraska State Dairy Association, at 402-261-5482 or  Attendee and sponsorship registration forms are available at  While pre-registration is requested by March 2 for planning purposes, attendees are also welcome at the door. 

Nebraska Sustainable Ag Society Library Opens

The Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society's (NSAS) Memorial Library was officially launched during the recent annual conference. A majority of the books for the library were donated to NSAS on behalf of the Terry Gompert family and include the bulk of his collection. The library also has several donations from anonymous donors and several books have been donated by Acres USA and the Rodale Institute.

Each week the library will be highlighting a book or two from its collection. Books are available to check out. For information, contact William A. Powers, executive director of NSAS through email at, by phone at 402-525-7794, or by visiting him at 414 County Road 15 near Ceresco.

Highlights for this week are:
-- Developing and Extending Sustainable Agriculture; A New Social Contract. Francis, Poincelot, & Bird -- Developing and Extending Sustainable Agriculture: A New Social Contract explores the challenges faced by today's farmers and ranchers to provide practical strategies to develop a twenty-first century system of sustainable agriculture that is economically sound, environmentally compatible, and socially acceptable. This comprehensive look at the current state of farming and ranching presents leading authorities discussing concepts and approaches in sustainable agriculture such as crop rotations, integrated pest management, alternative sources of nutrients to maintain productivity, and rotational grazing systems.

Forage in Ruminant Nutrition. Minson -- For ranchers, veterinarians, and others concerned with the nutrition of cattle and other domestic ruminants, draws information from both plant and animal sciences to present a guide to more efficient foraging practices. Features; Considers those nutrients likely to be deficient in grazed and conserved forage; shows how these deficiencies may be identified; describes what management practices can be adopted to improve production; Draws on information from both the plant and animal sciences.

These and over 200 books are available in the library. The first attachment has the current list as of today of books available in the library. The second attachment has the check-out form and procedure. As a member of the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society, the library is being made available to members.

Statement from NCBA President JD Alexander Regarding Green House Gas Litigation

Oral arguments for the petition filed by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and other members of the Coalition for Responsible Regulation were heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Feb. 28 and Feb. 29. The litigation challenges the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) finding that greenhouse gases (GHG) endanger public health and welfare, its rule to limit GHG from passenger vehicles and its “timing” and “tailoring” rules that govern GHG permit applicability at stationary sources. NCBA President J.D. Alexander issued the following statement following the oral arguments.

 “The fact EPA decided to impose a backdoor energy tax by regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act is unacceptable and scientifically unfounded. We are hopeful the U.S. Court of Appeals will put a stop to the aggressive agenda-driven regulations that never should have been promulgated in the first place.

“Congress debated and rejected a cap and trade program for greenhouse gases. EPA’s regulations are an attempt to force greenhouse gas regulations down the throats of the American people without congressional approval. We challenged EPA in court to take power away from the agency’s unelected bureaucrats and put it back into the hands of the American people.

“Agriculture is an energy intensive sector of the U.S. economy. Any regulation that is designed to make gasoline and electricity more expensive will have a direct, negative impact on farmers’ and ranchers’ ability to be profitable while also providing safe and affordable food for a growing population.

“The livestock industry works hard every day to be good stewards of the land and environment. But imposing energy taxes through EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gases will mean fewer jobs, higher food costs and less growth and innovation. These are regulations we simply can’t afford and we hope the court will put a stop to EPA’s activist tactics.”

NCBA Supports House Decision to Protect Private Property Rights

The U.S. House of Representatives Tues., Feb. 29, 2012, sided with private property owners by passing The Private Property Right Protection Act of 2012 (H.R. 1443). The bipartisan bill, sponsored by Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), essentially prevents states from using eminent domain over property to be used for economic development. The bill would also strip federal funds to states that violate the law.

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President J.D. Alexander said private property rights are a constant worry for cattlemen and women, especially as land values continue upward. He said the legislation provides much-needed protection to farmers and ranchers vying to retain land for food production.

“Let me be clear. We aren’t against economic development. We are against the government forcing farmers and ranchers to give up private property that is being used to provide food for a growing global population. Land isn’t being taken for public use, like road construction. Land is being taken under eminent domain and then handed over to private developers to turn food producing farms and ranches into strip malls,” said Alexander. “Development is fine and necessary to sustaining rural communities but we must not forget that we need agriculture to sustain life on this planet.”

After a brief debate on the House floor, members passed the legislation by voice vote. H.R. 1443 overturns a 2005 Supreme Court decision (Kelo v. City of New London) allowing state government to take private property under the doctrine of eminent domain and hand it over to a private developer.

H.R. 1433 is the third official act in response to the 2005 Supreme Court decision taken by the House. In 2005, the House passed both a resolution of disapproval of the decision (H. Res. 340) and a bill (H.R. 4128) similar to H.R. 1433. The legislation will now move to the U.S. Senate.

'Ag Gag' Bill Clears Iowa Legislature

The Iowa House and Senate approved the so-called 'ag gag bill' that prosecutes animal-abuse whistleblowers.

A spokesperson with the Agribusiness Association of Iowa Foundation said they support the bill. Officials said it promotes truthfulness in the industry and said Iowans appreciate that.

Critics said the bill violated the constitution and went too far. But supporters say the measure focuses on employment. It states a person cannot enter a farm operation under false pretense or lie on an employment form.  Animal rights groups are outraged by the support. The group "Mercy for Animals" released a statement saying that 'Iowa has some of the weakest animal cruelty laws in the nation. Lawmakers should be focusing on strengthening these pathetic laws, not silencing whistle blowers who expose animal abuse or other serious issues involving the safety and security of the American food supply.'

Iowa Corn Announces Future of Agriculture Scholarship Recipients

Iowa Corn is proud to announce 10 scholarships to be awarded through the Iowa Corn Future of Agriculture Scholarship program to high school seniors and college students for the 2012-13 school year.

“In the second year of the program, we received numerous outstanding applications, which made the committee’s decisions difficult and also assures me that agriculture has a bright future.” said Bob Hemesath, a farmer from Calmar and chair of the Iowa Corn committee that oversees the scholarship program.

The Iowa Corn Future of Agriculture Scholarship program awards five $500 first-year scholarships and five $500 upperclassman scholarships to individuals who are pursuing that will equip them to contribute to the agriculture industry in Iowa.  The program is sponsored by the Iowa Corn Growers Association and the Iowa Corn Promotion Board

Applications were judged by a selection committee and applicants were evaluated on their essays, applications, letters of reference, and their current grades and activities. Applicants are also members of the Iowa Corn Growers Association or a dependent of a member.

The following students will be awarded $500 scholarships and will be recognized at the Iowa Corn Annual Meeting in August.

High School Senior Scholarship Winners:
Adam Striegel, What Cheer
Nathan Ohms, Harlan
Kendra Wuthrich, Bloomfield
Dustin Lange, Alburnett
Alex Cohrs, Logan

College Scholarship Winners:
Bethany Olson,  Jewell
Rob Mensing, Greenfield
Brent Sexton, Rockwell City
Marcie Stevenson, Wheatland
Katherine Mittman, Nevada

February Farm Prices Received Index Declined 8 Points

The preliminary All Farm Products Index of Prices Received by Farmers in February, at 180 percent, based on 1990-1992=100, decreased 8 points (4.3 percent) from January. The Crop Index is down 8 points (3.8 percent) but the Livestock Index increased 1 point (0.6 percent). Producers received lower prices for milk, strawberries, celery, and lettuce and higher prices for soybeans, corn, broilers, and hogs. In addition to prices, the overall index is also affected by the seasonal change based on a 3-year average mix of commodities producers sell. Increased monthly movement of cattle, milk, broilers, and hogs offset the decreased marketing of corn, soybeans, wheat, and cotton.

The preliminary All Farm Products Index is up 9 points (5.3 percent) from February 2011. The Food Commodities Index, at 167, decreased 5 points (2.9 percent) from last month but increased 4 points (2.5 percent) from February 2011.

Prices Received by Farmers

All crops: The February index, at 204, decreased 3.8 percent from January but is 2.0 percent above February 2011. Index decreases for commercial vegetables, food grains, and potatoes & dry beans more than offset the index increases for oilseeds, feed grains & hay, upland cotton, and fruits & nuts.

Food grains: The February index, at 226, is 1.3 percent below the previous month and 2.6 percent below a year ago. The February all wheat price, at $7.09 per bushel, is up 5 cents from January but 33 cents below February 2011.

Feed grains & hay: The February index, at 263, is up 0.8 percent from last month and 13 percent above a year ago. The corn price, at $6.16 per bushel, is up 9 cents from last month and 51 cents above February 2011. The all hay price, at $176 per ton, increased $4.00 from January and is $60.00 higher than last February. Sorghum grain, at $10.90 per cwt, is 10 cents above January but unchanged from February last year.

Cotton, Upland: The February index, at 152, is up 2.0 percent from January but down 0.7 percent from last year. The February price, at 92.3 cents per pound, is up 2.0 cents from the previous month but 0.6 cent below last February.

Oilseeds: The February index, at 222, is up 3.7 percent from January but 2.6 percent lower than February 2011. The soybean price, at $12.30 per bushel, increased 40 cents from January but is down 40 cents from February 2011.

Livestock and products: The February index, at 157, is 0.6 percent above last month and up 9.0 percent from February 2011. Compared with a year ago, prices are higher for cattle, broilers, calves, hogs, and turkeys. Prices for milk and eggs are down from last year.

Meat animals: The February index, at 165, is up 1.2 percent from last month and 15 percent higher than last year. The February hog price, at $65.50 per cwt, is up $2.00 from January and $4.10 higher than a year ago. The February beef cattle price of $126 per cwt increased $1.00 from last month and is $18.00 higher than February 2011.

Dairy products: The February index, at 137, is down 5.5 percent from a month ago and 6.2 percent lower than February last year. The February all milk price of $17.90 per cwt declined $1.10 from last month and $1.20 from February 2011.

Poultry & eggs: The February index, at 159, is up 3.9 percent from January and 12 percent above a year ago. The February market egg price, at 66.9 cents per dozen, increased 0.2 cent from January but is down 10.7 cents from February 2011. The February broiler price, at 52.0 cents per pound, is up 3.0 cents from January and 8.0 cents above a year ago. The February turkey price, at 63.9 cents per pound, is down 1.8 cents from the previous month but up 6.1 cents from a year earlier.

Prices Paid Index Up 1 Point
The February Index of Prices Paid for Commodities and Services, Interest, Taxes, and Farm Wage Rates (PPITW) is 209 percent of the 1990-1992 average. The index is up 1 point (0.5 percent) from January and 12 points (6.1 percent) above February 2011. Higher prices in February for feeder cattle, diesel, concentrates, and gasoline offset lower prices for supplements, LP gas, potash & phosphate, and other machinery.

Ethanol Stocks Climb to 22M Barrels

Domestic ethanol inventories posted a build of 462,000 barrels (bbl), or 2.1%, to a fresh record high of 22.002 million bbl for the week-ended Feb. 24, putting total supply 15% higher than the level seen a year ago, according to data released Wednesday by the Energy Information Administration.

After rising for nine straight weeks, total U.S. ethanol stocks were unchanged at 21.54 million bbl during the week-ended Feb. 17 before resuming an uptrend last week. They have now risen by 4.944 million bbl, or about 29%, since Dec. 9, 2011, when the string of builds began.

Meantime, the EIA data showed ethanol production from domestic plants fell 23,000 barrels per day (bpd), or 2.5%, to 896,000 bpd last week while up 1.6% from a year ago.

Implied demand, measured by refiner and blender net inputs, surged 10,000, or 1.2%, to 823,000 bpd from the prior week and was little changed from a year ago.

Elsewhere, the EIA reported that implied demand for motor gasoline fell 265,000 bpd to 8.363 million bpd for the week while four-week average demand at 8.3 million bpd was down 6.7% from the level seen a year ago.

USDA Announces Equine Operations Now Eligible for Emergency Loans

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Bruce Nelson announced today that equine operations that breed, raise and sell certain types of horses are now eligible for loan assistance under FSA’s emergency loan program.

“To help keep American agriculture profitable, USDA immediately responds to disasters across the country—ranging from record floods, droughts and tornadoes—with direct support, disaster assistance, technical assistance, and access to credit,” said Nelson. “This policy modification will help certain equine operations when they face losses due to drought, flooding, other natural disasters or quarantine. A strong farm safety net, including emergency credit, is critical to sustain the success of American agriculture.”

Emergency loan funds may be used to:
Restore or replace essential property; Pay all or part of production costs associated with the disaster year (the calendar year in which the disaster occurred); Pay essential family living expenses; Reorganize the farming operation; and Refinance certain debts.

Emergency loans can be made to farmers and ranchers who own and operate lands in a county or contiguous county to a county declared by the President or designated by the Secretary of Agriculture as a disaster area. Producers can borrow up to 100 percent of actual production or physical losses up to a maximum of $500,000. Terms of the loans include an interest rate of 3.75 percent and repayment over a period of one to 40 years depending on the nature of the loss and the collateral available to secure the loan.

New Website Allows U.S. Grains Council to Share More Information, Market Data

The U.S. Grains Council, which develops export markets for U.S. barley, corn, sorghum and related products, has launched a significantly enhanced website at

The website, a component of the Council’s branding and communications initiative, presents the latest news and data relating to the U.S. and global grain trade. The site includes charts that present current FOB reference prices and market spreads for several commodities at port, as well as top U.S. export customers and additional information that is helpful for foreign buyers and those monitoring grain markets and exports.

“The U.S. Grains Council gathers a significant amount of information every week, and this new website helps us present that information to members and interested parties in a more timely and more organized fashion,” said Don Fast, USGC vice chairman and barley farmer from Glasgow, Mont. “We also highlight key issues and policy positions taken by the Council to make it clear what the Council and its members believe —  that open, liberalized trade of all goods and services is vital to the prosperity of the world economy.”

Included on the site are details from each of the Council’s 10 foreign offices, as well as a market overview, supply and demand information and market growth potential for more than 25 countries.

“News and information is integrated throughout the site and our new Word from the Ground post offers a place for our professional staff and consultants to provide additional insight on pressing issues on a daily basis,” said Fast.

A new members-only area will debut later this year. The My USGC member center, formally known as The GRAIN Center, will allow members to renew membership, update information, register for events and download members-only documents from the Council’s extensive resource library.

January Egg Production Down Slightly

United States egg production totaled 7.83 billion during January 2012, down slightly from last year. Production included 6.78 billion table eggs, and 1.05 billion hatching eggs, of which 972 million were broiler-type and 73 million were egg-type. The total number of layers during January 2012 averaged 338 million, down 1 percent from last year. January egg production per 100 layers was 2,319 eggs, up 1 percent from January 2011.
All layers in the United States on February 1, 2012 totaled 337 million, down 1 percent from last year. The 337 million layers consisted of 284 million layers producing table or market type eggs, 50.5 million layers producing broiler-type hatching eggs, and 2.97 million layers producing egg-type hatching eggs. Rate of lay per day on February 1, 2012, averaged 73.4 eggs per 100 layers, down slightly from February 1, 2011.

Crop Protection Industry Celebrates Twenty Years of Recycling

The crop protection and specialty pesticide industries are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Ag Container Recycling Council (ACRC), a voluntary group that collects and recycles pesticide plastic containers nationwide. ACRC promotes and funds programs in the U.S. for the recycling of high-density polyethylene (HPDE) plastic containers from crop protection, animal health and specialty pest control products, and its more than 50 members represent the manufacturers, formulators or packagers of these important products. Every ton of HPDE plastic recycled into new products, as compared to using new plastic, saves the equivalent of 450 gallons of gasoline. Since the program’s formation in 1992, ACRC has been responsible for recycling 125 million pounds of pesticide container plastic, and in recent years has been recycling an average of 8 million pounds annually.

“ACRC’s members are crucial to our organization’s success, and they demonstrate how industry stewardship works in an exemplary manner,” said Ron Perkins, ACRC Executive Director. “Industry collaboration and regulatory agency support have built a solid coalition across the country, and our members’ expertise was essential in the success of the ACRC recycling program. From container cleaning to ultimate recycling into new useful products, ACRC members created a seamless, safe and effective process.”

ACRC works with thousands of farmers, retailers and applicators nationwide to responsibly and ethically manage pest control containers throughout their lifecycle. The organization’s model has led to:
• Recycling programs in 42 states;
• Savings of more than 625,000 cubic yards of landfill space;
• Reduction of 88,430 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent;
• Energy savings equal to 25,863,000 gallons of gasoline, and the equivalent of 29,970 households’ annual energy consumption.

“ACRC is proud of what its members have helped to accomplish in the first 20 years of the organization,” said Bill Spencer of Arysta LifeScience North America and ACRC Executive Board Chair. “From collecting a record 125 million pounds to providing states and regulatory agencies with valuable input, ACRC has always focused on safety, sustainability and stewardship. I’m excited to see how the program will continue to grow.”

As part of ACRC’s 20th anniversary, the organization will host a reception on Capitol Hill, and celebrate this exemplary stewardship project with ACRC members, Congressional staff and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Joining in the celebration will be several leaders of allied industry associations, including Daren Coppock, Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) President and Chief Executive Officer.

“ARA commends ACRC and its member companies for their continued leadership in the area of crop protection container recycling and the benefits that it provides to ARA members and customers. Programs like this advance the nation’s public health and environmental protection goals, and demonstrate the ways in which all stakeholders in our industry can work together to achieve our shared principles of environmental stewardship,” said Coppock.

ACRC’s work is representative of the crop protection industry’s commitment to sustainable practices, responsible stewardship and regulatory agency collaboration. The program provided a sound model for California’s container recycling guidelines, and ACRC members provided valuable input to EPA for its Container and Containment Rule. With the support of nearly 95 percent of the crop protection industry, ACRC will continue to grow and pave the way for industry-wide stewardship initiatives.

More Opportunities to Save: Propane FEED Program Expands

The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) recently expanded its Propane FEED program, a demonstration initiative that tests the performance of new propane-fueled technology. The expansion gives farmers more opportunities to save money when they buy and fuel new propane equipment.

“Propane engines are more cost effective than diesel engines or electric motors,” said Kent Chrisman, a Nebraska farmer who has been a Propane FEED participant since May 2011. “The Propane FEED program is beneficial because the data collected will help enhance efficiency on future products. I’ve used propane engines my whole life, and because of minimal maintenance, I believe propane engines are more economical than other types.”

Propane engines are one of the eligible product categories for 2012. Provided below is a list of all products and manufacturers.

Irrigation engine
·         Buck’s 5.7-liter irrigation GM engine
·         Buck’s 8.0-liter irrigation GM engine
·         EDI 6.8-liter irrigation Ford engine
Grain dryer
·         Mathews Trilogy Series grain dryer
·         GSI X-Stream grain dryer
·         L.B. White SmartSense swine heater

With incentives of up to $5,000 for participation, the Propane FEED program encourages farmers to try new propane equipment and help PERC get valuable voice-of-customer data that can be used for product improvement.

“Our goal is to help farmers run a more productive operation with propane,” Mark Leitman, PERC director of business development and marketing, said. “The Propane FEED program helps us achieve that goal because it helps introduce new, efficient propane products into the agricultural marketplace.”

PERC’s vision is that the agricultural industry will embrace propane as a preferred energy source that offers cost-effectiveness, efficiency and productivity, reliability, portability, and environmental friendliness. For more information on PERC and its programs to promote the safe and efficient use of propane in agriculture, call 202-452-8975 or visit

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tuesday February 28 Ag News

EPA to Hold Public Meeting to Discuss Upcoming Inspection Activities at CAFOs

Region 7 of the Environmental Protection Agency will be hosting a public meeting to discuss its upcoming inspection and compliance activities at CAFOs.  According to Larry Howard, UNL Extension Educator in Cuming County,  the meeting will be at the Nielsen Community Center in West Point, Nebraska on March 13, 2012, from 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM.

The purpose of the meeting is to provide information to the producers and the general public that relates to EPA Region 7’s compliance and inspection program at CAFOs.  The meeting will consist of a series of presentations by EPA officials followed by a question and answer session.  The following topics will be covered by EPA.
·    How EPA selects facilities for inspection
·    EPA’s utilization of aerial overflights to assess CAFOs
·    What owner/operators can expect during an EPA inspection
·    Winter Feeding Areas
·    Medium CAFOs
·    Manure/Litter Stockpiling
·    Nutrient Management Plans

EPA Presenters will be Stephen Pollard, R7 CAFO Compliance/Enforcement Coordinator; Trevor Urban, Senior CAFO inspector; and Josh Svaty, Senior Agriculture Advisor to R7 Administrator.  Please contact Stephen Pollard,, (913-551-7582) or Larry Howard,,  (402-372-6006) if you have questions regarding this meeting.

Annual Nebraska LEAD Recognition Banquet March 9 in Lincoln

John Gale, Nebraska Secretary of State, will be the keynote speaker at the annual LEAD (Leadership Education/Action Development) Program recognition banquet March 9.  Gale’s address will provide insight on leadership development while addressing the need for quality leadership at all levels during the banquet honoring Nebraska LEAD Group XXX at the Nebraska East Union on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s East Campus.

Prior to the banquet, the Nebraska Agricultural Leadership Council will conduct its annual meeting at 4:45 p.m. The council will elect 2012-13 officers to its board of directors.  Social hour will begin at 5:30 p.m. followed by the 6:30 p.m. banquet.

Banquet reservations are $25 and may be made by calling the Nebraska LEAD Program office at 402-472-6810 no later than March 5.

Nebraska LEAD XXX Fellows in alphabetical order are: Jamie Bauman, Lincoln; Doug Beck, Grant; Kris Beckler, Seward; Dale Brandsterrer, Lincoln; Tami Campbell, Grand Island; Helen Cool, Gothenburg; Mary Eisenzimmer, Big Springs; Jennifer Engle, Fairmont; Daren Englund, Holdrege; Helen A. Feller, Wisner; Kevin R. Gutshall, Falls City; Loren Haselhorst, Randolph; David Hogsett, Lamar; Adam Howard, Nebraska City; Ryan Koinzan, Neligh; Jeff Kraft, Beatrice; Rebecca Kreikemeier, Bellwood; Janita R. Kube, Crofton; Chandler Mazour, Gothenburg; Darci McGee, Nelson; Deb Neidig, Madison; Scott Nelson, Newman Grove; Jason Perdue, Waco; Phil Ramsel, Grand Island; Aaron Raymond, Lincoln; Marvion Reichert, Elm Creek; Kelli Shaner, Ft. Calhoun; Matt Stockton, North Platte; and Connie Wichman, Pender.

The purpose of the Nebraska LEAD Program is to prepare and motivate men and women in agriculture for more effective leadership.

UNL Faculty Member, Alum Honored as Cattle Industry Leaders

A University of Nebraska-Lincoln faculty member and a UNL alumnus were named Top 10 Cattle Industry leaders by the Cattle Business Weekly.  Matt Spangler, an assistant animal science professor and UNL Extension beef genetics specialist, is involved in statewide and national programming in beef cattle genetics and research in beef cattle quantitative genetics. He is also in charge of the university's teaching herd, which is about 220 seedstock Angus and red and black SimAngus cattle.  One of Spangler's classes puts on the university's annual bull sale and he coordinates the Nebraska Youth Beef Leadership Symposium.

The other honoree is Erik Burken, a UNL graduate. Burken lives in Kaluga, Russia, overseeing the startup of the Angus Genetics of Russia cowherd owned by Sergei Nitsenko.  Today, the herd numbers 3,500 breeding females on three different farms, most of which have been imported from America within the last three years. Nitsenko's aim is to build a fully-integrated beef system, including two more farms, a feedlot and packing facility, to help re-establish Russia's beef industry.

NE Corn Board to Meet

The Nebraska Corn Board will hold its next meeting on Wednesday, March 14 at UNL East Campus to hear updates on proposed research projects and Thursday, March 15 at Embassy Suites. 

The board will address regular board business and consider funding requests.  The meeting is open to the public.  A copy of the agenda is available by writing the Nebraska Corn Board, PO Box 95107, Lincoln, NE  68509, or calling either 402/471-2676 or 800-NECORN1.

The Nebraska Corn Board is a self-help program, funded and managed by Nebraska corn farmers.  Producers invest in the program at a rate of ¼ of a cent per bushel of corn sold.  Nebraska corn checkoff funds are invested in programs of market development, research and education.

Registration Opens for Nebraska Ethanol Seminar

Online registration is now open for the Ethanol 2012: Emerging Issues Forum to be held April 19 and 20 at the Magnolia Hotel, Omaha.

An impressive line-up of national leaders in ethanol production, marketing, co-products, transportation, engineering, financing and environmental issues will be on hand to provide relevant and useful information on today's fast changing ethanol industry. The forum is designed to promote interaction between speakers and attendees. Topics will address emerging issues that are facing those involved in the ethanol industry at every level.

Reserve your room at the Magnolia Hotel before March 19 to get the special Ethanol Forum rate of $91. Call the Magnolia at 402-341-2500 to reserve your room.  View the agenda of guest speakers at the homepage at, or register now on the registration page.

Nebraska Dairy Updates

Doug Temme, president of the Nebraska State Dairy Association, Deb Eschliman, vice chairman of the Midwest Dairy Nebraska Division board, and I took part in the 24th Annual Governor’s Ag Conference and breakfast with the Governor. Deb presented a statement to the entire group of more than 20 ag organizations as well as the Governor and Department of Ag representatives. Here is an excerpt from her comments:
“Dairy farmers are very committed to their product and the programs of their checkoff, investing nearly $30 per animal per year to the checkoff…programs include “From Farm to Food to You,” helping to educate youth and adults about where their milk and dairy products come from, and ”People Behind the Product,” promoting consumer confidence in how dairy farmers care for their animals, the environment and the product they provide. Another major program is “Fuel Up to Play 60.” In 2011,65 schools applied for and received $227,000 in funding from Midwest Dairy Association for their Fuel Up to Play 60 efforts...We want to again thank Governor Heineman for being the first Governor in the nation to sign a Certificate of Support for the Fuel Up to Play 60 program.”

The 2012 NE State Dairy Convention will be in Norfolk on March 13. This will be an opportunity to learn more about the dairy checkoff activities.

Fuel Up to Play 60 in Nebraska
Nineteen additional schools in Nebraska have applied for the current round of Fuel Up to Play 60 funding. Although this round will be more competitive than previous ones, it’s wonderful to learn about the great work schools are doing with Fuel Up to Play 60!

Midwest Dairy - NE Division is preparing for the Fuel Up to Play 60 Student Reward Summit on March 15 at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln. Sixty-eight schools were invited to the summit as a reward for their hard work implementing the program. In addition to hearing from dairy producers Lowell Mueller and David Crook, students will get a warm welcome from Tom Osborne.

Did you know that Nebraska is ranked 47 out of 50 in terms of school breakfast participation? Because of this, Midwest Dairy is a partner in a statewide School Breakfast Challenge that began in October. Elkhorn School District received funding in December through Fuel Up to Play 60 and will use the majority of their funds to purchase equipment needed to start a breakfast program at all 12 of their schools this week. Elkhorn is is one of seven districts in Nebraska to start a school breakfast program since the beginning of the school year. 

2011 Dairy Exports Hit Record
U.S. dairy suppliers capitalized on strong global markets to achieve record export sales in 2011. With these gains, a growing and significant proportion of the U.S. milk supply is now sold overseas, notes the U.S. Dairy Export Council, which receives some of its funding from the dairy checkoff. Exports were equivalent to 13.3 percent of U.S. milk solids production, up from 12.8 percent in 2010 and 9.3 percent in 2009. The ratio of milk powder, whey proteins, lactose and cheese sold offshore was the highest ever.

Shamrock Shake to go National

McDonald’s will be offering the popular Shamrock Shake until March 25 in all 14,000 U.S. locations, the first time the shake has been offered nationwide. While the Shamrock Shake has been around since 1970, only about half the franchises in the U.S. choose to offer and promote it; McDonald's estimates that there will be a 7,000-plus increase in the number of restaurants who will offer the shake this year versus 2011. The Shamrock Shake is the first of several shakes that will be offered this year, all now topped with real whipped cream.  The introductions are part of McDonald’s commitment to dairy-friendly desserts and snacks using the dairy checkoff’s expertise in reformulation.

CattleFax Names 2012 Officers, Board Members

 Kent Bamford of Haxtun, Colo., has been elected president of CattleFax, a member-owned, member-directed cattle market information and research organization. Kevin Hughes, Boise, Idaho, was named president-elect.

 Bamford is owner of Bamford Feedyard, a Colorado operation that includes a 15,000 head feedyard and diversified farm, both irrigated and dryland, as well as a trucking company. He is a past president of the Colorado Livestock Association, a board member and treasurer for the Colorado Beef Council, and a board member for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). Bamford also serves as the Intermountain Regional Director for CattleFax. He is a graduate of Colorado State University.

 Hughes is a cattle feeder and president of Agri Beef Risk Management Co., a division of Agri Beef Co., a vertically integrated ranching, cattle feeding and processing company based in Boise. A native of Arizona and graduate of the University of Arizona, he is a past member of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), trading in the live cattle futures and options market as an independent floor trader. He served on the CME live cattle marketing and advisory committees and currently serves on the NCBA marketing committee. He serves as the CattleFax Northwest Director.

 Named new directors on the organization’s Board were Todd Allen, Newton, Kan. (Central Director); Tom Jensen, Omaha, Neb. (Finance Director); and Dale Smith, Amarillo, Tex. (Southwest Director).

 Allen is president of Cargill Cattle Feeders. He served as chairman of the Kansas Livestock Association (KLA) Cattle Feeders Council in 2005 and on the Kansas Beef Council Executive Committee since 1994. He has been on the KLA Board of Directors since 1998 and the KLA Executive Committee since 1999, and served as the organization’s president in 2009. He has also been active on numerous national committees through NCBA, serving on that organization’s Executive Committee since 2006. He has been on the NCBA Board since 1997.

 Jensen is senior vice president of the First National Bank of Omaha, heading up the Agribusiness, Correspondent Banking and Renewable Fuels Departments. Managing a portfolio of over $1 billion, Jensen and his teams help build long-term relationships with customers and energize their entrepreneurial spirit. He joined First National Bank in 1984 as a senior administrative representative, was promoted to senior agricultural lender in 1993 and department manager in 2002. Jensen has played an instrumental part in increasing the bank’s agribusiness portfolio from $55 million in 1987 to more than $850 million today.

 Smith is a partner and president of McLean Feedyard Ltd. and a managing partner in Corsino Cattle Co., which runs a commercial cow/calf herd in the Texas Panhandle and a stocker operation in Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Mississippi. Smith also is involved in several other Panhandle ranching operations, including Adobe Walls Cattle Co., JA Cattle Co. and JJOB Ltd. He is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and of the Texas Christian University Ranch Management Program. Smith is a member of NCBA, the Texas Cattle Feeders Association and the Texas Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA), serving on the Boards of NCBA and TSCRA.

 CattleFax is a member-owned and member-directed market information, analysis, research and educational service organization, serving beef producers in all segments of the industry.  A subsidiary, CF Resources, provides research services, educational programs and economic data for agri-business companies serving the beef industry.

USDA Chickens and Eggs 2011 Summary

United States Average Number of Layers Down 1 Percent:
Layer numbers during 2011 averaged 338 million, down 1 percent from the year earlier. The annual average production per layer on hand in 2011 was 271 eggs, up 1 percent from 2010.

United States Egg Production Up Slightly:
Egg production during the year ending November 30, 2011 totaled 91.9 billion eggs, up slightly from 2010. Table egg production, at 79.0 billion eggs, was up 1 percent from the previous year. Hatching egg production, at 12.8 billion eggs, was down 1 percent from 2010.

United States December 1 Inventory Numbers:
The total number of chickens on hand on December 1, 2011 (excluding commercial broilers) was 447 million birds, down 2 percent from last year.

United States Total Value:
The total value of all chickens on December 1, 2011 was $1.70 billion, up 4 percent from December 1, 2010. The average value increased from $3.59 per bird on December 1, 2010, to $3.80 per bird on December 1, 2011.

Iowa .........:  [54,253  -  53,040]  -  (269 -  273)  -  {14,614 - 14,467}   
Nebraska ..:   [9,419  -   9,192]   -  (292 -  293)   -  {2,751  -  2,697}
[layers in 1,000 - 2010, 2011]; (eggs per bird 2010, 2011); {total egg production in millions 2010, 2011}


Organizers of the “Special Delivery: Homes. Help. Hope. For Haiti” campaign are now accepting direct gifts of grain from Iowa farmers wanting to support the humanitarian effort providing relief to Haitian earthquake victims.

The campaign, coordinated by the Iowa Food & Family Project (, is co-chaired by Iowa’s Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and Ag Secretary Bill Northey.

It encourages Iowans, businesses and organizations to donate to the Global Compassion Network (GCN) based in Laurens, Iowa. The goal of the campaign is to purchase 48 storm resistant homes to be constructed on the Village of Hope. The 11-acre village, established last year by the GCN, provides transitional housing for families and children displaced by the January 2010 earthquake.

Tim Wittmaack, GCN treasurer, says farmers can donate to the campaign by downloading a gift-of-grain form from the “Special Delivery” website ( and taking it with them to their local elevator or grain terminal.

With the form, the farmer designates the number of bushels of corn, soybeans or other grain to gift to the GCN. The elevator or terminal is then directed to sell the grain at the day’s market price and send the proceeds to GCN.

“Gifting grain is a convenient and easy way for farmers to support this unique campaign that’s providing assistance to the neediest of the needy,” Wittmaack says.

“Iowa farmers are the best in the world at growing soybeans and corn and a gift of grain to the Special Delivery campaign is the perfect way for them to share the result of their expertise,” adds Aaron Putze, Iowa Soybean Association director of external relations and coordinator of the Iowa Food & Family Project.

The homes, designed by Sheffield-based Sukup Manufacturing Co., are ideal for Haiti. They measure 18-feet wide by 14-feet tall and are made entirely of metal, making them resistant to termites and moisture. Each home can sleep 10 or more and features a double-roofed system that displaces heat, two windows that can be locked from within and a water collection system. The cost of each unit is $5,700, has a life expectancy of 75 years, can withstand strong winds and can be assembled on-site with simple hand tools.

The Iowa Soybean Association is also providing $1,000 per donated home (up to $48,000) towards Meals from the Heartland to provide much-needed food for the Haitian earthquake victims. Each soy-based food package feeds six people and costs just $1.20. The meal package contains soy protein, rice, vitamin powder and dried vegetables.

Since the announcement of “Special Delivery. Homes. Help. Hope. For Haiti” last December, nearly 30 homes have been pledged with contributions for both homes and meals totaling more nearly $175,000.  

“Special Delivery” runs through June 1, 2012. Contributions can also be made by logging on to or send to: GCN, Attn: Special Delivery, 1066 440th St., Linn Grove, IA 51033.

Biodiesel supporters ask legislators to help Iowa stay #1

In a dreary economy, Iowa biodiesel is a vivid example of how energy policy can drive economic development. Iowa's biodiesel industry is delivering on its promise of creating green-collar jobs while reducing reliance on foreign oil.

Members of the Iowa Biodiesel Board showcased the industry’s many contributions to the state with legislators today during the group's annual Day on the Hill. They asked legislators to continue pursuing policies that have helped Iowa become the nation’s leading biodiesel producer.

This includes asking for their support of federal energy policy that led the national industry to surpass the 1 billion gallon mark last year. The IBB is asking state legislators to reach out to the Obama administration in support of growing the biodiesel volumes under the Renewable Fuel Standard.

"I'm proud to be in a state that is on the cutting edge of blending cleaner burning biodiesel into our nation's energy supply, and I’m asking our legislators to keep that momentum moving forward," said IBB Chair Mark Cobb.

Cobb is vice president of Iowa Renewable Energy, based in Washington, Iowa. The biodiesel plant employs 23 people and has the capacity to produce 30 million gallons of biodiesel a year. He's also president of Cobb Oil, a petroleum distributor based in Brighton, Iowa.

Iowa is home to 13 biodiesel plants. In 2011, the state produced about 175 million gallons of biodiesel, an impressive 17 percent of the nation's biodiesel.

The current plan in the state legislature to improve Iowa's roads and bridges would also boost the use of biodiesel. The proposed motor fuel tax legislation exempts biodiesel blends of 10 percent (B10) and higher from the increase.

"Iowa-made biodiesel should increasingly become a solution to our nation’s energy needs," said Randy Olson, executive director of the Iowa Biodiesel Board. "Consumers should be encouraged to buy their fuel from the farm fields of the Midwest rather than the oil fields of the Middle East."

An increase in economic activity generated by biodiesel production supports 7,350 full-time equivalent jobs in all sectors of the Iowa economy, according to a new study released in January by the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association.

During the Day on the Hill event, IBB presented State Senator Jack Kibbie, D- Emmetsburg, with the Biodiesel Champion award. Kibbie, who is President of the State Senate but will soon be retiring, was instrumental in leading legislation that has helped Iowa become the top biodiesel producing state. This legislation included an incentive for fuel retailers to blend biodiesel, as well as a producer’s credit. He has also been a strong voice for supporting the RFS.

"The role I've played in moving our state's biodiesel industry forward is something I'm deeply proud of, and I hope my colleagues will continue to defend it and help it grow," Kibbie said.

NCGA Seeks a Few Good Growers

The National Corn Growers Association invites farmers to become a part of the change they desire by actively honing their leadership skills through the Leadership At Its Best Program, sponsored by Syngenta.  Applications for this best in the industry leadership training program are due to NCGA by March 30.  Interested members are urged to contact their state associations today and be nominated to participate in the program.

"Since the first class in 1986, Leadership At Its Best has helped train strong, confident volunteers who have helped shape the industry through their subsequent work at the state and national level," said NCGA President Garry Niemeyer.  "This year, we again ask that farmers come forward and act upon their desire to give back to their peers. NCGA depends upon grassroots leadership and, I personally can attest that the time and effort dedicated are repaid in full through the incredible relationships built with like-minded individuals."

Open to all NCGA members, Leadership At Its Best provides training to interested volunteers of all skill levels.  The first session addresses personal communications skills, public speaking, media training and association management.  The second session addresses public policy issues, working with the Hill and parliamentary procedure.  Through this program, participants build the skill set needed to become confident leaders of their associations and eloquent advocates on behalf of their crop and communities.

Since 1986, the National Corn Growers Association, the state corn associations and, most importantly, the U.S. corn industry, have benefited tremendously from the Syngenta sponsored Leadership At Its Best Program.  Over 550 growers have gained invaluable media relations, communications, association management and public policy knowledge and skills over the lifetime of the program.

As a measure of the impact of this program and its importance to NCGA and its current effectiveness as an organization, one only need consider the Class of 2002.  Those 20 growers include 5 current or former Corn Board members-including two past presidents-and five action team members.  Leadership At Its Best has been a vital leadership incubator for honing the skills of state leaders on "the way up" and stimulating further involvement in and greater commitment from state growers to NCGA.

Fertilizer Waiting Game Continues

Weekly retail fertilizer prices tracked by DTN once again show prices are extremely steady. This marks the sixth week in a row fertilizer prices have not moved significantly.  All eight major fertilizers fell compared to a month earlier, the survey for the third week of February found. However, these changes were again minuscule. DAP had an average price of $654 per ton, MAP $708/ton, potash $658/ton and urea was at $553/ton.  Starter fertilizer, 10-34-0, had an average price of $810/ton, anhydrous $774/ton, UAN28 $384/ton and UAN32 $430/ton.

On a price per pound of nitrogen basis, the average urea price was at $0.60/lb.N, anhydrous $0.47/lb.N, UAN28 $0.69/lb.N and UAN32 $0.67/lb.N.

Just three of the eight major fertilizers are still showing double-digit increases in price compared to one year earlier. Leading the way higher is 10-34-0. The starter fertilizer skyrocketed in price last year but has fallen back some in recent months. It is now is 22% higher compared to the third week of February 2011.  Potash has jumped 14% while urea has increased 13% from a year ago.

Three fertilizers have seen just slight price increases compared to a year earlier. UAN28 has now climbed 8%, anhydrous is up 5% and MAP has risen 1% compared to last year.

Two fertilizers, DAP and UAN32, are now actually lower compared to one year ago. DAP is now 3% below 2011 prices while UAN32 is 1% less expensive.

USDA to Tap Veterans and Transitioning Service Members for Careers in Agriculture

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and The American Legion National Commander Fang Wong today signed a Memorandum of Understanding which will help our Nation's veterans and transitioning military service members find positions that promote agriculture, animal and plant health, food safety, nutrition, conservation and rural communities. With this partnership, USDA and the American Legion will leverage existing resources to expand opportunities for veterans while promoting USDA programs and services in communities throughout the country.

"At President Obama's direction, USDA and the rest of the federal government are working to make sure our veterans in rural areas receive the medical care, training and employment support they deserve," said Vilsack. "And that's why this partnership with the American Legion is so critical. America's veterans are leaders across rural America and we want to help them pursue their dreams by prioritizing innovative new approaches, attracting capital and forming partnerships like this to continue economic development in rural communities."

Today, about 6.1 million veterans live in rural communities – a higher concentration than anywhere else in the country. Over 5,300 American Legion posts are located in counties with populations under 40,000 and one-third of the Legion's membership call rural America home.

The American Legion has long been committed to helping transitioning military and America's veterans find jobs and through its vast networks, USDA will actively recruit veterans and transitioning military servicemen for employment while promoting greater awareness of USDA programs.

Specifically, USDA and the American Legion have agreed to promote USDA vacancy announcements; share information about activities in newsletters; provide information about USDA programs and vacancies through established networks as well as the on the Web; and promote veteran owned business participation in USDA contracts.

USDA also will provide information about the opportunities and support it offers, so that service members who want to start their own rural business, farm or ranch are aware of USDA programs, grants, loans or small business contracts. USDA education, training, outreach and mentoring programs, such as will help encourage our Nation's young, hard-working veterans to be the next generation of America's farmers and ranchers.

On November 9, 2009, President Obama signed executive Order 13518, Employment of Veterans in the Federal Government; and, as a result USDA created the Veterans Employment Program Office. Through strategic recruiting and effective marketing of USDA to transitioning service members and veterans, USDA increased the percentage of veterans in the total workforce, including permanent and temporary positions, from five percent in fiscal year 2009 to six percent in fiscal 2010 to nearly eight percent in fiscal year 2011. Disabled veterans are a subset of veterans and are a subject of special emphasis in hiring. USDA increased disabled veteran hiring from just over one percent of total persons hired in fiscal year 2009 to nearly two percent in fiscal year 2010 to over two percent in fiscal year 2011.

Additionally, USDA increased its hiring of veterans in the permanent workforce from 17.5 percent in fiscal year 2009 to 20.3 percent in fiscal year 2010 to 23.9 percent in fiscal year 2011. Disabled veteran hiring for permanent positions also increased from nearly six percent in fiscal year 2009 to over seven percent in fiscal year 2010 to over eight percent in fiscal year 2011. According to data from the National Finance Center Report Center, as of February 19, 2012, USDA rate of hire of veterans in the total workforce is 12.8 percent and disabled veterans is just over five percent. The rate of veterans hired in the permanent workforce is 25.6 percent and disabled veterans is 12.2 percent.

USDA continues to make steady progress in hiring veterans in light of the strong competition it faces with career offerings at the Departments of Defense (DoD), Veterans Affairs (VA) and Homeland Security (DHS). According to the Employment of Veterans in the Federal Executive Branch report dated June 2011, DoD, VA and DHS account for 80 percent of the veterans hired in the Federal government in fiscal year 2010. In order to be more effective at hiring veterans, USDA can promote agricultural careers through veterans service organizations such as, the American Legion.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Monday February 27 Ag News

NE Temps, Precip Above Normal in February

Agricultural Summary: 
For the month of February 2012, temperatures averaged 4 degrees above normal for the eastern half of the state and near normal for the western half.   Heavy precipitation in the form of rain and snow fell early in the month.   Overall,  precipitation  for  the month was  above  normal  for most  of  the  state,  according  to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, Nebraska Field Office.  Moisture accumulation was greatest across the South East District with over 2 inches received.  Elsewhere, one half to one and a half inches were common.  At the end of the month, snow depth was  limited mainly  to  the Northeast District with  near  2  inches  of  snow  cover.   Strong winds  have  dried  soils leaving soil moisture mostly adequate to short.  During the last week of the month, soil temperatures ranged from 32 to 37 degrees.   The  coolest  soils were  in  the northern half of  the  state  and  increased moving  to  the  south.   Hauling grain  to market, preparation  for spring planting, and  livestock care were  the main activities during  the month.  Wheat condition continued well above year ago levels.   Producers have not had to do as much supplemental feeding of cattle due to mild conditions.   Most  feed  supplies  are  adequate.    Cattle  and  calves  are  in  good  to  excellent  condition  and  calving was progressing well with the mild weather.

Weather Summary: 
Average snow depth at the end of February averaged less than one half inch statewide.  By region, the heaviest snow depth was across the northern third of the state.  Temperatures averaged above normal at the beginning and end of  the month but below normal for  the second week.  Average  temperatures for  the month got warmer moving from north to south across the state.  

Field Crops Report:  
Wheat conditions statewide rated 1 percent very poor, 5 poor, 29 fair, 59 good, and 6 excellent, well  above  40  percent  good  to  excellent  last  year.   Hay  and  forage  supplies  rated  1  percent  very  short,  5  short,  92 adequate and 2 surplus, near year ago levels.

Livestock, Pasture, and Range Report: 
Cattle and Calves condition rated 0 percent very poor, 1 poor, 8 fair, 74 good, and 17 excellent, above last year.  

Current Weather & Crops County Comments

Survey Date: 02/26/2012

Weather has been mild, starting to snow today so will probably have a little snow cover this weekend.

We had rain and snow this past week. Warmer temperatures melted much of the snow that did fall. Favorable conditions for calving.

Cattle are still picking up feed in open stubble fields. Some amount of supplemental feeding has been needed over the past month. Winter has remained open here for a wide spectrum of outside work to be done including grading, shaping, excavation, construction, etc.

Hauling grain to town and putting lime on fields are the main activities. With snow about gone, cattle continue to graze stalks.

Primary activities have been grain marketing, tax preparation, review of crop insurance options, care of livestock, and preparation for spring fieldwork.

Nebraska Beef Council Announces 2nd Annual “Best Burger” Contest

Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers along with the Nebraska Beef Council have announced the launch of the 2nd annual “Nebraska’s Best Burger” contest. Nominations for the award will be accepted March 1 through March 31, 2012.

Participants wishing to nominate their favorite burger may do so by visiting and completing the online form. The top prize last year went to Cellar Bar & Grill of Kearney for their Western Burger.  Past contest winners are not eligible to win in consecutive years meaning a new “Best Burger” winner will be announced in April.

“We had a great response to this contest last year” said Adam Wegner, Director of Marketing for the Nebraska Beef Council. “We’re looking forward to showcasing more of the great beef burgers served throughout the state.”

For a full list of rules, contest details or to submit a nomination, visit or contact the Nebraska Beef Council at 308-236-7551.

2012 Junior Show Results from NE Cattlemens Classic
278 Juniors, 247 Breeding Heifers, 142 Market Steers, 53 Market Heifers, 25 Classic Heifers

Breeding Heifers – Overall Results
Supreme Breeding Heifer
1.    Commercial Breeding Heifer – Allee Maronde from York, NE
2.    ChiAngus Breeding Heifer – Hannah Esch from Unadilla, NE
3.    Chianina Breeding Heifer – Kelsey Rutt from Minden, NE
4.    MaineTainer Breeding Heifer – Mollie Wilken from Bloomfield, NE
5.    Reserve Commercial Breeding Heifer – Elizabeth Spencer from Gibbon, NE
6.    Polled Hereford Breeding Heifer – Jesse Hoblyn from York, NE
7.    Simmental Breeding Heifer – Rylee Stoltz from Pierce, NE

Market – Overall Results
Supreme Market Animal
1.    Crossbred Market Steer – Beau Bremer from St. Edward, NE
2.    Reserve Crossbred Market Steer – Samantha Schneider from Cozad, NE
3.    Simmental Market Steer – Tejlor Strope from O’Neill, NE
4.    Market Heifer – Brody Wulf from Guide Rock, NE
5.    Charolais Market Steer – Jesse Hoblyn from York, NE
6.    Chianina Market Steer – Brody Wulf from Guide Rock, NE
7.    Reserve Market Heifer – Skyler Weber from Albion, NE

Senior Showmanship
1.    Kelsey Rutt from Minden, NE
2.    Samantha Yonkers from McCook, NE
3.    Quinn Rutt from Minden, NE
4.    Kaisha Jurgens from Miller, NE
5.    Aaron Aldana from Nebraska City, NE
6.    Atlanta Maronde from York, NE
7.    Alex Meduna from Colon, NE

Intermediate Showmanship
1.    Savannah Schafer from Nehawka, NE
2.    Abby Nelson from Valparaiso, NE
3.    Taylor Heim from Plattsmouth, NE
4.    Dane Hubbard from Elm Creek, NE
5.    Tejlor Strope from O’Neill, NE
6.    Brendon Hauxwell from McCook, NE
7.    Riley Eisenhauer from Farnam, NE

Junior Showmanship
1.    Korynn Clason from Beaver City, NE
2.    Jaclyn Heinrich from Hickman, NE
3.    Jace Stagemeyer from Page, NE
4.    Malina Lindstrom from Elm Creek, NE
5.    Lauren Hope Trauernicht from Wymore, NE
6.    Stevie Johnson from Imperial, NE
7.    McKenna Hubbard from Elm Creek, NE

Breeding Heifer Results -

Horned Hereford Heifer
Champion – Aaron Aldana from Nebraska City, NE
Reserve – Jefferson Keller from St. Paul, NE

Polled Hereford Heifer
Champion – Jesse Hoblyn from York, NE
Reserve – Jackie Lewis from Burwell, NE

Red Angus Heifer
Champion – Kellan Heavican from Rogers, NE
Reserve – Riley Eisenhauer from Farnam, NE

Angus Heifer
Champion – Jaclyn Heinrich from Hickman, NE
Reserve – Allee Maronde from York, NE

Simmental Heifer
Champion – Rylee Stoltz from Pierce, NE
Reserve – Katie Trail from Nebraska City, NE

Foundation Simmental Heifer
Champion – Kelsey Rutt from Minden, NE
Reserve – Sydney Williams from Wisner, NE

Charolais Heifer
Champion – Jeht Stateler from Hoskins, NE
Reserve – Megan Amos from Stapleton, NE

Composite Charolais Heifer
Champion – Beau Bremer from St. Edward, NE
Reserve – McKenna Jedlicka from Schuyler

Limousin Heifer
Champion – Korynn Clason from Beaver City, NE

LimFlex Heifer
Champion – Megan Amos from Stapleton, NE

Gelbvieh Heifer
Champion – Kaisha Jurgens from Miller, NE
Reserve – Jake Lammers from Lexington, NE

Balancer Heifer
Champion – Elizabeth Spencer from Gibbon, NE
Reserve – Levi Farr from Moorefield, NE

Shorthorn Heifer
Champion – Cody Schulz from Pierce, NE
Reserve – Silas Plate from North Loup, NE

Shorthorn Plus Heifer
Champion – Derick Vogt from Elmwood, NE
Reserve – Anna Kastens from Otoe, NE

Maine Anjou Heifer
Champion – Katlyn Ahrens from West Point, NE
Reserve – Jade Hill from Falls City, NE

MaineTainer Heifer
Champion – Mollie Wilken from Bloomfield, NE
Reserve – Reed Stoltz from Pierce, NE

Chianina Heifer
Champion – Kelsey Rutt from Minden, NE
Reserve – Cody Harms from Grand Island, NE

ChiAngus Heifer
Champion – Hannah Esch from Unadilla, NE
Reserve – Tyler Shaw from Kimball, NE

Commercial Heifer
Champion – Allee Maronde from York, NE
Reserve – Elizabeth Spencer from Gibbon, NE

Classic Heifer – Heifers Purchased During the 2012 Classic Sales
Premiere Classic Heifer – Elizabeth Spencer from Gibbon, NE
25 Classic Heifers Entered

Market Results

Market Heifer
Champion – Brody Wulf from Guide Rock, NE
Reserve – Skyler Weber from Albion, NE

Chianina Steer
Champion – Brody Wulf from Guide Rock, NE
Reserve – Korynn Clason from Beaver City, NE

ChiAngus Steer
Champion – Sam Goering from Syracuse, NE

MaineTainer Steer
Champion – Haley Ehrke from Orleans, NE
Reserve – Isabelle Schultz from Cairo, NE

Maine Anjou Steer
Champion – Ashley Wallander from Bertrand, NE
Reserve – Brendon Hauxwell from McCook, NE

Shorthorn Plus Steer
Champion – Cale Went from Monroe, NE
Reserve – Tyler Fear from Sutherland, NE

Shorthorn Steer
Champion – Tejlor Strope from O’Neill, NE
Reserve – Bailey Schroeder from Beatrice, NE

Limousin Steer
Champion – Josh Peterson

Charolais Steer
Champion – Jesse Hoblyn from York, NE
Reserve – Ty Dybdal from Newcastle, NE

Composite Charolais Steer
Champion – Tessa Shaw from Kimball, NE
Reserve – Connor Wright from Alliance, NE

Foundation Simmental Steer
Champion – Brody Wulf from Guide Rock, NE
Reserve – Alyssa Schneider from Cozad, NE

Simmental Steer
Champion – Tejlor Strope from O’Neill, NE
Reserve – Dylan Beller from Leigh, NE

Angus Steer
Champion – Savannah Schafer from Nehawka, NE
Reserve – Emily Dethlefs from North Platte, NE

Hereford Steer
Champion – MaKayla Rutt from Minden, NE
Reserve – Trevor Schultz from Columbus, NE

Crossbred Steer
Champion – Beau Bremer from St. Edward, NE
Reserve – Samantha Schneider from Cozad, NE

Iowa Legislature Goes Through First Funnel
from Iowa Cattlemen's Association

The first funnel week in the Iowa Legislature was this past week. It is a self-imposed deadline that helps legislators narrow down the number of bills that are eligible for debate. During the first funnel, a bill must be passed out of committee in the originating chamber in order to continue to move through the process.

The second funnel week is Mar. 12-16. At that time, a bill must have moved through committee in the second chamber to stay alive for debate.

While the funnel applies to most legislation, there are certain types of bills that are exempt from the funnel. They include tax and spending proposals and bills sponsored by legislative leaders.

Bills that did not survive the funnel, can always be resurrected through an amendment to an eligible bill. Thus, a bill may technically die in the funnel, but the issue itself can still remain alive and be proposed in a variety of other ways.

Until legislators go home for the year, there is never a guarantee that any particular issue is dead.

This year, legislation was introduced that would make changes to Iowa's partition fence law. SF2102, introduced by Senator Pam Jochum (D- Dubuque) would not require an adjoining landowner to contribute to a partition fence if that landowner does not keep livestock. Essentially, the bill gives the landowner keeping livestock sole responsibility for the fence.

The bill was not considered by the full Senate State Government Committee prior to the legislative funnel deadline.

There was no companion legislation in the House.

Legislation regarding the issue of stray voltage continues to be discussed in both the House and the Senate. The companion bills, SF 2072 and HSB 558, have been amended significantly from their original form. Under the amended versions of the bills, a farmer would be required to notify the utility of a stray voltage claim at least 90 days prior to filing a lawsuit.

Once a stray voltage claim is made, the landowner must let the utility or an independent third party conduct testing for the existence of stray voltage. Additionally, either party can ask the Iowa Utilities Board to conduct such testing to determine where stray voltage may exist.

Although both bills have been approved by their respective Commerce Committees, legislators have acknowledged that problems remain with the bill and have expressed willingness to address concerns raised by the Iowa Cattlemen's Association and other opponents.

Voting for 2012 FFA Chapter Challenge ends Wednesday

Competitive events, educational tours, leadership workshops, concert-like general sessions and a massive career and trade show could become a reality for one hard-working FFA chapter when closing for the 2012 FFA Chapter Challenge ends Wednesday.

That’s because the winning chapter will receive an all-expenses paid trip for six FFA members and an advisor to join more than 54,000 fellow FFA members at October’s 2012 National FFA Convention & Expo in Indianapolis.

And even for the 840 chapters who signed up for the FFA Chapter Challenge in 12 states and don’t win the grand prize, plenty of great rewards are in sight. Ten FFA chapters in each state will receive $2,500 to use for FFA supplies or costs associated with FFA members attending national leadership conferences.

The premise of the FFA Chapter Challenge is simple: Members from local FFA chapters build relationships with local farmers and, in turn, those farmers visit the Chapter Challenge website ( and vote for their favorite chapter. The opportunity gives FFA members a chance to learn about different aspects of local agricultural life while building community awareness of their FFA chapter. Voting ends at 6 p.m. EST Wednesday.

Monsanto sponsors the program as a special project of the National FFA Foundation.

“The mission of FFA goes beyond farming but its heart will always be in creating new generations of leaders who understand agriculture and small communities,” said Linda Arnold, Monsanto customer outreach lead. “Monsanto is proud to partner with the National FFA Foundation to help local chapters create that bond with the people who grow our food and build our communities.”

Voting for the 2012 FFA Chapter Challenge began Jan. 16 and recorded an impressive 16,506 votes. The second-year program expanded to 12 states this year, including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas.

Many of the farmers who have voted for a local chapter have been able to rekindle a passion for both FFA and agricultural education that they had as high school students.

“My sisters and I were able to wear our father’s FFA jacket as our own,” said Mary Brubach, a voter from Garden Prairie, Ill. “I can even look up awards won by my family members and see our names on those same awards.”

Today, Brubach is an ambassador for agriculture at her family farm, where she runs Susie’s Garden Patch farm market in addition to helping in the fields and greenhouses.

“I enjoy educating visitors about farming,” she said. “I love seeing little children come out of the strawberry patch covered in red juice or watching their reaction when a calf sucks on a bottle. I want others to be able to experience just a little bit of the country life.”

More stories about farmers who voted in the 2012 FFA Chapter Challenge are available online...

The top 200 FFA chapters that make the most connections and receive the most farmer votes by Wednesday will be awarded between $1,000 and $2,500 in FFA credit to be used for chapter supply purchases or registration fees for national leadership conferences.  As a sponsor of the program, Monsanto is providing more than $300,000 in incentives.

The National FFA Foundation is the fundraising arm of the National FFA Organization, which provides agricultural education to 540,379 student members in grades seven through 12 who belong to one of 7,489 local FFA chapters throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Farm bill conservation funds fuel water quality improvements

While Congressional committees debate the fate of farm bill conservation programs, Iowa farmers are putting those program funds to work, achieving documented results in improved water quality.

One striking example is the Brushy Creek watershed project in Carroll County, Iowa. Once the site of multiple fish kills in the Upper Brushy Creek and deemed unfit for recreation, due to high bacteria levels, the stream is now safe for swimming, kayaking and canoeing.

This success is the result of a three-year project organized with state Watershed Improvement Review Board (WIRB) funds through the leadership of Des Moines Water Works (DMWW), Iowa Soybean Association (ISA), several state agency and ag retailer partners and local farmers. Watershed farmers leveraged $433,110 in USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Environmental Quality Improvement Project (EQIP) cost share and Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) payments with $782,166 of their own investments to implement such practices as grass waterways, vegetated strips, terraces and open-air hoop building cattle confinements. This not only prevented manure transport during rainstorms, but improved animal health, as well.

Extensive water monitoring conducted by Agriculture’s Clean Water Alliance (ACWA), an association of 13 ag retailers committed to improving water quality, helped identify specific water quality problems, target resources to improve outcomes, and document progress and eventual success.

ISA Environmental Scientist Chris Jones, Ph.D., who led project design and coordination while supervising the DMWW lab, says, “Density of E. coli in the stream at Dedham, the lower end of the project area, declined throughout the project. Data from 2011 indicate the stream is now safe for recreation. This is a huge achievement.”

Opportunities to verify water quality improvements like this one from farm bill conservation program investment are rare, due to the cost and logistical challenges of conducting quality controlled monitoring over the necessary time frame. ACWA has invested in monitoring for more than a decade, partnering with ISA and DMWW.

The Nature Conservancy’s North America Agriculture Program Director Sean McMahon says, “The Nature Conservancy is partnering with ISA, NRCS and others to help growers improve agricultural productivity and environmental performance. Farmers are improving their bottom lines and water quality at the same time. It’s a win-win for everybody.”

Thanks to collaboration of farmers, farm organizations, ag businesses, private conservation organizations like TNC, and government agencies, Iowa farmers are expected to have access to an estimated $25 million infusion of EQIP funding over four years in Iowa’s Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watershed Initiative (MRBI) watersheds. An additional $17.5 million in statewide EQIP projected for 2012 and other conservation cost share programs will help them implement multiple targeted conservation practices and measure their performance, with the hope that Brushy Creek will be one of many documented successes.

“We recognize downstream water resource concerns and hope the nonfarm public supports the farm bill conservation programs that help us address them,” says Jim Andrew, Iowa soybean farmer and ISA Environmental Advisory Council chair. “Iowa farmers, agribusiness, agencies and taxpayers can take pride in the cost effective and environmentally sound practices they are developing and implementing to help clean up Iowa’s water.”

Farmers Get $10B From Crop Insurance

U.S. farmers collected a record $10 billion in crop insurance indemnities for their 2011 crops, said a trade group on Monday, calling insurance a sound safety net as Congress prepares to overhaul crop subsidies.

Five percent of claims on 2011 crops are outstanding, so the pay-out is likely to climb above the current $10.08 billion, said National Crop Insurance Services (NCIS). The payment record was $8.67 billion in 2008.

"The ability of U.S. agriculture to sustain more than $10 billion in insured losses and seamlessly finance itself for the 2012 crop season should not be taken for granted," said NCIS president Tom Zacharias.

Drought in the U.S. Plains, spring flooding along the Mississippi River and crop-damaging freezes in the South were factors in claims on 2011 crops.

A handful of farm groups want to use crop insurance as a model for a 2012 farm law that protects grower revenue against adverse market prices or yields.

The Senate Agriculture Committee scheduled a hearing for March 14 to discuss potential change to the crop subsidy system. The $5 billion a year "direct payment" subsidy is unpopular and a target of reformers. It accounts for the bulk of payments to grain, cotton and oilseed growers.

Crop insurance is subsidized and regulated by the federal government. The cost of the program has more than doubled in a decade, due in part to record-high commodity prices and the popularity of revenue policies.

Fifteen companies are approved by the Agriculture Department to provide coverage this year.

USDA Takes Next Step to Modernize Department as Part of Blueprint for Stronger Service

As part of a continuing effort to build a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that meets the evolving needs of a 21st century agricultural economy, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today informed Congress that in 90 days he plans to approve consolidation of 131 Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices with other USDA service centers, consistent with provisions of the 2008 Farm Bill. Under the Blueprint for Stronger Service announced on January 9, Vilsack laid out USDA's plans to modernize and accelerate service delivery while improving the customer experience through use of innovative technologies and business solutions. The Blueprint included USDA's plan to close 259 domestic offices, facilities and labs, including the proposed closure of 131 FSA offices, and seven foreign offices.

Consistent with provisions of the 2008 Farm Bill, FSA held public meetings in every county in which an FSA office was proposed for consolidation. Members of the public were invited to make public comments at the meetings, and/or to submit comments in writing for up to 10 days following the public meeting. All comments were reviewed and considered prior to the issuance of the Secretary's notification letters to Congress.

USDA followed two steps in identifying FSA offices to propose for closure. First, USDA fulfilled its obligation under the 2008 Farm Bill to propose first for consolidation, to the maximum extent practicable, all offices that are located within 20 miles of another office, and which employ two or fewer permanent full-time employees. In addition, FSA identified all offices that currently have zero employees, regardless of location.

By proposing to consolidate 131 offices nationwide, FSA is striving to balance budget reductions, staff reductions, and increasing workloads while focusing the efforts of our staff on continuing to provide high quality service from the remaining 2,113 office locations. The agency's goal is to strengthen service, notwithstanding reduced budgets and fewer workers. And the Blueprint for Stronger Service helps to achieve FSA's goal.

The Blueprint is based on a Department-wide review of operations, in which USDA took a hard look at all USDA operations, from headquarters to field offices. The end result is a plan that creates optimal use of USDA's employees, better results for USDA customers, and greater efficiencies for American taxpayers.

When fully implemented, these office consolidation actions, along with other recommended changes, will provide efficiencies valued at about $150 million annually and ensure that USDA continues to provide optimal service to the American people within available funding levels.

In addition, USDA is implementing a series of other changes that will save taxpayers' money while eliminating redundancies and inefficiencies. The Blueprint for Stronger Service details 133 recommendations that affirm processes already in place, as well as 27 initial improvements, and other, longer-term improvements. The initial improvements include the following:
-    Consolidate more than 700 cell phone plans into about 10;
-    Standardize training and purchases of cyber security products; and
-    Ensure more efficient and effective service to our employees by moving toward more centralized civil rights, human resource, procurement, and property management functions, creating millions of dollars in efficiencies without sacrificing the quality of our work.

Proposed Closings in Nebraska:
Natural Resource Conservation Service Office in Scotts Bluff County

Proposed Closings in Iowa:
Farm Service Agency Offices - 3 counties - Appanoose, Decatur, & Union
Natural Resource Conservation Service Office in Jefferson County

Find more information here:

CWT Assists with 5.5 Million Pounds of Butter and Cheese Export Sales

Cooperatives Working Together (CWT) has accepted 20 requests for export assistance from Dairy Farmers of America, Darigold, Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative, Michigan Milk Producers Association and United Dairymen of Arizona to sell a total of 1,129 metric tons (2.489 million pounds) of Cheddar, Gouda and Monterey Jack cheese and 1,385 metric tons (3.053 million pounds) of butter to customers in Asia, Central America, the Middle East and North Africa. The product will be delivered February through June 2012.

In 2012, CWT has assisted member cooperatives in making export sales of Cheddar, Gouda and Monterey Jack cheese totaling 26.9 million pounds and butter totaling 23 million pounds to 16 countries on four continents.

Assisting CWT members through the Export Assistance program positively impacts producer milk prices in the short-term by reducing inventories that overhang the market and depress cheese and butter prices. In the long-term, CWT’s Export Assistance program helps member cooperatives gain and maintain market share, thus expanding the demand for U.S. dairy products and the farm milk that produces them.

CWT will pay export bonuses to the bidders only when delivery of the product is verified by the submission of the required documentation.

Brazil Harvest Roars Ahead

Brazil's soybean harvest continues to run well ahead of schedule, helped by drier weather across most producing regions.  Farmers had collected 29% of their estimated 72.0 million-metric-ton crop as of last Friday, compared with 19% at the same point last year and a five-year average of 15%, Celeres reported Monday.  Fieldwork is running quickest in the top-producing center-west region, where almost half of the estimated 6.85 million-hectare planted area has been harvested.

Harvesting has been quick, and concentrated, this year for a couple of reasons. The first is that uniform rains fell across the center-west at the start of October, allowing farmers to get soybeans in the ground relatively early. Meanwhile, attractive prices for winter corn prompted farmers to plant more short-cycle soybeans early.

According to Celeres, soybean harvesting will likely continue ahead of schedule as 60% of the Brazilian crop has reached or past the maturation stage, compared with 52% at the same point last year.

With the size of the soybean harvest still uncertain, Brazilian farmers remain cautious when selling the crop. Some 55% of the crop had been sold up till last Friday, two percentage points ahead of last week and one percentage point ahead of the same time last year.

U.S. Still Weighing Japan's Bid to Join Pacific Trade Agreement

The United States government is still considering whether to support Japan's bid to join talks on a trans-Pacific regional free trade agreement, three months after Tokyo announced interest in the negotiations.

"Both governments agreed to continue the consultative process, with additional meetings to be arranged at a later date," the office of the U.S. Trade Representative said in a statement after two days of talks with Japanese officials.

"The meeting was an opportunity for the United States to continue the assessment of Japan's readiness" to make significant market-opening reforms, USTR said.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda announced Tokyo's interest in joining talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) back on Nov. 11, prior to joining President Barack Obama in Honolulu for a meeting of Asia Pacific leaders.

According to Reuters, the two sides had senior level talks earlier this month and followed that with technical level talks this week.

Detroit-based U.S. auto manufacturers have objected to Japan joining the TPP negotiations, saying they do not believe Tokyo is prepared at this time to dismantle "non-tariff" barriers that they blame for low U.S. auto sales in Japan.

Japan, whose tariff on U.S. autos is already zero, says Detroit's claims are exaggerated and the real problem is that the automakers do not make cars suited to the Japanese market.

U.S. trade officials have said the decision on whether Japan will be allowed into the negotiations will be made in consultation with the eight other countries currently involved in the TPP talks - Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Chile and Peru.

Canada and Mexico have also asked to join the negotiations and are awaiting a decision as well.

Monsanto Prevails in Suit

Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Against Seed Giant Brought by Organic Growers

A federal judge has ruled in favor of global seed giant Monsanto Co, dismissing a lawsuit brought by a consortium of U.S. organic farmers and seed dealers who said their industry is at risk from Monsanto's growing market strength.

U.S. District Court Judge Naomi Buchwald, for the Southern District of New York, threw out the case brought by the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) and dozens of other plaintiff growers and organizations, criticizing the groups for a "transparent effort to create a controversy where none exists."

The Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) filed the suit last March on behalf of more than 50 organizations challenging the agricultural giant's patents on its genetically modified seeds. The group wanted a ruling that would prohibit Monsanto from suing the farmers or dealers if their organic seed becomes contaminated with Monsanto's patented biotech seed germplasm.

But Judge Buchwald said Monsanto had not sued or even started the process of suing anyone of the plaintiffs or anyone in "similar stead."

"We're disappointed. We think the judge erred in her ruling," said Jim Gerritsen, spokesman for the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association.

Daniel Ravicher, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said farmers stop growing certain crops to avoid being sued by Monsanto and the court's refusal to protect those farmers was a mistake.

"Her decision to deny farmers the right to seek legal protection from one of the world's foremost patent bullies is gravely disappointing," said Ravicher. "Her belief that farmers are acting unreasonable when they stop growing certain crops to avoid being sued by Monsanto for patent infringement should their crops become contaminated maligns the intelligence and integrity of those farmers."

Monsanto is the world's largest seed company and a leader is development and marketing of genetically altered soybeans, corn and other crops. The company has developed a reputation for zealously defending its patents on its genetically altered crops, which include patented "Roundup Ready" soybeans, corn and cotton. The crops are favorites of U.S. farmers because of their ability to withstand herbicide treatments.

Monsanto has filed 144 patent infringement lawsuits against farmers between 1997 and April 2010, and won judgments against farmers they claimed made use of their seed without paying required royalties.

Many U.S. farmers have claimed that their fields were inadvertently contaminated with Monsanto's biotech seeds without their knowledge, and the issue has been a topic of concern for not only farmers, but also companies that clean and handle seed.

But the court ruling said there was no likelihood that Monsanto would pursue patent infringement cases against the organic farmers, who have no interest in using the company's patented seed products.

"This decision is a win for all farmers as it underscores that agricultural practices such as ag biotechnology, organic and conventional systems do and will continue to effectively coexist in the agricultural marketplace," said Monsanto general counsel David Snively.

"This ruling tore down a historic myth, which is commonly perpetuated against our business by these plaintiffs and other parties through the internet, noting that not only were such claims unsubstantiated but, more importantly, they were unjustified."

Monsanto has said that it is committed to never suing farmers over the inadvertent presence of biotechnology traits in their fields.

Broad Group Signs on to Oppose 'Ag-Gag' Laws

Twenty-seven national groups representing a wide spectrum of public interests have signed on to a statement opposing proposed "ag-gag" legislation that is being considered in states around the country. These bills seek to criminalize investigations that reveal animal abuse and could suppress critical information about the production of animal products on agricultural facilities.

The statement, which is being provided to lawmakers who are currently reviewing ag-gag legislation, was organized by a coalition of national animal welfare organizations that have come together to collectively combat these harmful proposals. These organizations include the ASPCA (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), Compassion Over Killing, Farm Forward, Farm Sanctuary, The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), In Defense of Animals and Mercy For Animals (MFA).

The statement reads in part:

"These bills represent a wholesale assault on many fundamental values shared by all people across the United States. Not only would these bills perpetuate animal abuse on industrial farms, they would also threaten workers' rights, consumer health and safety, and the freedom of journalists, employees and the public at large to share information about something as fundamental as our food supply. We call on state legislators around the nation to drop or vote against these dangerous and un-American efforts."

In addition to the aforementioned animal organizations, the following groups representing civil liberties, public health, food safety, environmental, food justice, legal, workers' rights and First Amendment interests signed on to the statement: A Well-Fed World; Brighter Green; Center for Constitutional Rights; Center for Science in the Public Interest; The Cornucopia Institute; Earth Policy Institute; Earth Save; Food and Water Watch; Food Empowerment Project; Government Accountability Project; National Freedom of Information Coalition; National Press Photographers Association; Natural Resources Defense Council; Organic Consumers Association; Slow Food USA; T. Colin Campbell Foundation; United Food and Commercial Workers International Union; Whistleblower Support Fund; and Youth for Environmental Sanity.

In a recent poll commissioned by the ASPCA, it was revealed that 71 percent of Americans support undercover investigative efforts by animal welfare organizations to expose animal abuse on industrial farms and 64 percent oppose making such efforts illegal. Additionally, 94 percent of Americans feel that it is important to have measures in place to ensure that food coming from farm animals is safe for people to eat, and 94 percent agree that animals raised for food on farms deserve to be free from abuse and cruelty.

Some of the horrific cruelties committed on industrial farms have been exposed by investigators from such animal welfare groups as The HSUS, MFA and Compassion Over Killing. These include newborn piglets screaming in pain at breeding facilities in Oklahoma, workers kicking and stomping on turkeys at a Butterball facility in North Carolina, dairy calves being stabbed repeatedly with pitchforks on an Ohio dairy farm, and ducks being tortured at the nation's largest foie gras factory farm.

Undercover farm investigations have also led to the disclosure of crucial health and welfare information and many groundbreaking reforms, including a ban on cruel confinement systems in California, the closure of a massive slaughterhouse that was shipping meat from sick animals to public schools, and the development of humane slaughter protocols.

This year, ag-gag legislation is being considered in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York and Utah. Ag-gag proposals were also being considered as part of two bills in Florida, but lawmakers in January decided to remove the controversial language after pressure from constituents and animal protection groups. In addition to industrial farms, these bills have the potential to shield slaughter plants and puppy mills from legitimate investigations.