Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday March 30th Hogs and Pigs Report and other Ag News


Nebraska inventory of all hogs and pigs on  March 1, 2012, was 3.10 million head, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, Nebraska Field Office.  This was unchanged from March 1, 2011, but down 2 percent from December 1, 2011.  Breeding hog inventory, at 390,000 head, was up 5 percent from March 1, 2011, and up 1 percent from last quarter.  Market hog inventory, at 2.71 million head, was down 1 percent from last year, and down 2 percent from last quarter.  

The December 2011-February 2012 Nebraska pig crop, at 1.82 million head, was up 3 percent from 2011.  Sows farrowing during the period totaled 175,000 head, unchanged from last year.  

Nebraska hog producers intend to farrow 180,000 sows during the March-May 2012 quarter, down 3 percent from the actual farrowings during the same period a year ago.  Intended farrowings for June-August 2012 are 180,000 sows, unchanged from the actual farrowings during the same period the previous year.  

Iowa: Highest March 1 Inventory on Record 

On March 1, 2012  there were 19.7 million hogs and pigs on  Iowa  farms according  to  the USDA National Agricultural Statistics  Service  –Hogs  and Pigs  report.   The March  1  inventory was  up  4 percent  from  a  year  ago  and  became  the highest March 1 inventory on record.  The December 2011-February 2012 pig crop was 4.94 million head.   A  total of 480,000 sows farrowed with an average litter size of 10.3 pigs per sow.   As of March 1, producers planned to farrow 485,000 head of sows and gilts  in  the March-May 2012 quarter. Farrowing intentions for the June-August 2012 period were estimated at 480,000 as of March 1, 2012. 

United States Quarterly Hog Inventory up 2 Percent

United States inventory of all hogs and pigs on March 1, 2012 was 64.9 million head. This was up 2 percent from  March 1, 2011, but down 2 percent from December 1, 2011.  Breeding inventory, at 5.82 million head, was up 1 percent from last year, and up slightly from the previous quarter. Market hog inventory, at 59.1 million head, was up 2 percent from last year, but down 2 percent from last quarter.

The December 2011-February 2012 pig crop, at 28.7 million head, was up 3 percent from 2011. Sows farrowing during this period totaled 2.88 million head, up 1 percent from 2011. The sows farrowed during this quarter represented 50 percent of the breeding herd. The average pigs saved per litter was a record high 9.97 for the December-February period, compared to 9.80 last year. Pigs saved per litter by size of operation ranged from 7.30 for operations with 1-99 hogs and pigs to 10.00 for operations with more than 5,000 hogs and pigs.

United States hog producers intend to have 2.89 million sows farrow during the March-May 2012 quarter, down 1 percent from the actual farrowings during the same period in 2011, and down 1 percent from 2010. Intended farrowings for June-August 2012, at 2.88 million sows, are down 2 percent from 2011, and down 2 percent from 2010.

The total number of hogs under contract owned by operations with over 5,000 head, but raised by contractees, accounted for 47 percent of the total United States hog inventory, up from 46 percent last year.

NEFB Launches ‘Let Me Get My Hands Dirty’ Campaign

Nebraska Farm Bureau has launched “Let Me Get My Hands Dirty,” a year-long campaign for adults and children to voice their concerns over the Department of Labor’s proposed regulation dealing with children working in agriculture. The campaign's theme centers on the idea of allowing young people to continue to “get their hands dirty” on the farm because the rule greatly limits what children under the age of 15 could do on any farm or ranch.

“As I stand here today surrounded by hundreds of blue jacket-wearing Nebraska FFA students, I am here to say that Nebraska Farm Bureau will not stand by and allow the DOL to attack the core and heritage of Nebraska agriculture,” Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson said March 29 at the 2012 Nebraska State FFA Convention in Lincoln.

“This proposed rule is unbelievably restrictive and it will prevent young people from being able to get their hands dirty on farms and ranches across the state. FFA students would not even be allowed to follow their own motto, ‘Learning To Do, Doing To Learn, Earning To Live, Living To Serve,’” he said.

DOL’s proposed rule is written so broadly that it would prevent children who are working on a farm that isn’t owned by their parents from doing such basic tasks such as climbing on a ladder over six feet tall, working with livestock, or even operating a battery-powered flashlight or screwdriver. While children working on their parent’s farms and ranches would likely be exempt, the rule would still affect a large number of children.

“The safety of children working in agriculture is always our first priority. However, it simply does not make sense for the DOL to limit or restrict what children have historically been allowed to do on farms and ranches when all they are looking for is to gain agricultural experience or make money for college,” Nelson said.

Nebraska Farm Bureau is asking 4-H and FFA students, detasslers and anyone with an interest in agriculture to sign a paper handprint. The prints will be collected and eventually sent to DOL to illustrate how many people, both young and old, are opposed to the proposed rule.

“How can a child learn the proper way to handle livestock or the safe way to be around farm machinery if they are prevented from even being allowed to do these basic tasks? If we prevent children from doing basic chores on the farm or ranch, who will be there to feed you and your family?” Nelson asked.

Farm Bureau is also encouraging individuals to share their story about how this rule would affect the future success of agriculture. Visit and click on the “Let Me Get My Hands Dirty” logo to send your story to DOL.

“We hope these stories will help put a face on this issue for officials at the DOL and will clearly demonstrate how this misguided rule will do nothing but harm the future and well-being of American agriculture,” Nelson said.

Johanns Sponsors Legislation Permanently Repealing Death Tax

U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) is cosponsoring legislation to permanently repeal the federal estate tax, commonly referred to as the death tax. The Death Tax Repeal Permanency Act was introduced by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) and currently has over 30 cosponsors.

“The loss of a family member should not be a taxable event, and Americans should not be forced to sell the family business, farm or ranch just to pay it,” Johanns said. “Nebraskans who have worked to create a better life for their children should be able to pass down the fruits of their labor without penalty.”

This legislation would repeal the estate and generation-skipping transfer taxes, currently set at a 35 percent tax rate with a $5 million exemption.  Unfortunately, in 2013, the estate tax rate is scheduled to increase to 55 percent with a $1 million exemption.

According to a study by Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the former director of the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, repealing the death tax could create 1.5 million additional small business jobs and decrease the national unemployment rate by nearly one percent.

This legislation is identical to legislation introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas.


Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) Director Greg Ibach will lead a group of Nebraska agriculture leaders on a trade visit to South Korea March 31 – April 5.

“With the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement taking effect earlier this month, the timing was right for Nebraska to highlight our agricultural products and to lay the groundwork for future long-term trade cooperation,” said Ibach.

Joining the Director will be Steve Nelson, representing the Nebraska Farm Bureau; Scott Spilker, representing the Nebraska Pork Producers; Steve Hanson, representing the Nebraska Beef Council; Brent Robertson, representing the Nebraska Wheat Board; and Stan Garbacz, the international trade representative for NDA.

During their time in South Korea, the group will meet with meat and grain industry representatives, tour processing facilities and feed mills and participate in special events that will feature Nebraska beef and pork products.

“The Korean markets hold great potential for the Nebraska agriculture industry, especially for beef, pork and grains, all of which will see tariffs drop,” Ibach said. “We will be meeting with potential future customers during several activities and building relationships.”

The U.S. International Trade Commission estimated an increase in U.S. agricultural sales to Korea of $1.9 billion to $3.8 billion once the trade agreement is fully implemented. South Korea was Nebraska’s fifth largest trade partner in 2011, with imports of $331 million.

Nebraska corn farmers investing nearly $3 billion to plant 10.3 million acres 

Nebraska’s corn farmers intend to plant 10.3 million acres of corn this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said today. It takes about $270 per acre to get the corn crop planted and off to a good start, meaning Nebraska corn farmers plan to invest some $2.8 billion this spring.

“Farmers make this multi-billion dollar investment every spring in the hope of producing more corn per acre, as they strive to get better every year,” said Kelly Brunkhorst, the Nebraska Corn Board’s director of research. “USDA’s planting intention numbers today, if realized; show how farmers respond to market signals with the investment necessary to meet demand.”

Good prices are the market signal for more corn acres, yet planting numbers can change depending on springtime weather. Last year’s March estimate, for example, was higher than previous years’ planted acres and increased further, when USDA realized weather allowed greater opportunity for additional corn acres.  Last year’s 9.85 million planted acres was the largest since the 1930’s – and farmers intend to top that by 450,000 this year.

Nationally, USDA said farmers intend to plant 95.9 million acres this year, up 4 percent from last year’s 91.9 million acres. If realized it will be the most planted acres in the United States since 1937 when an estimated 97.2 million acres were planted.

“Unseasonably warm weather so far this spring, has allowed farmers in most Midwestern states to complete field work and fertilizer application, and for some begin planting already, but most farmers in Nebraska will hold off until mid-April because crop insurance coverage doesn’t take effect until then and there’s still the risk of frost,” Brunkhorst said.

Historically in Nebraska, farmers begin planting in mid-April and wrap up as quickly as possible in May.

On average, farmers spend about $270 per acre to get the crop in the ground and off to a good start, based on estimates calculated by the University of Nebraska Extension. Multiplied by the 10.3 million acres USDA estimates Nebraska farmers will plant this year; provides the $2.8 billion investment by the state’s corn farmers. That figure does not include land costs, labor or equipment – it’s purely inputs like seed and fertilizer.

“Those are the things farmers buy every year from their cooperative or other companies,” Brunkhorst said. “If you figure a 2.5 multiplier, the full economic impact of planting reaches some $7.0 billion. Yet the economic value of that crop is even greater, when harvested and that corn is converted to meat, milk and eggs, ethanol, distillers grains, bioplastics and more. Corn is the foundation for all of that, so getting the crop in the ground and off to a good start this spring is critical. Then it’s up to the weather through the growing season to harvest.”

USDA today also reported corn stocks, or the amount of corn in storage in Nebraska and across the country. Nationally, stocks as of March 1 were 6.0 billion bushels, down 8 percent from last year.

In Nebraska, there were 686.6 million bushels in storage as of March 1, 10.3 percent less than a year ago. Of that, 350.0 million bushels were stored on farms, and 336.6 million were stored off-farm.

Iowa Corn Farmers Respond To Planting Report

This morning the USDA released their 2012 perspective plantings report.  It indicated corn acreage across the U.S. will be up 4 percent from 2011 and 9 percent higher than 2010, to 95.9 million acres.  This will represent the highest corn acreage in the United States since 1937 when an estimated 97.2 million acres were planted. A record number of acres are planned for corn in 2012 in Iowa.

Iowa Corn Promotion Board (ICPB) Chair, Deb Keller from Clarion reported, “Today’s report is the first official indication that U.S. producers are responding to the market signals to expand their corn production area.”

It is important to note that the March intentions are just that, an intentions report and historically it could shift 15% as the planting season rolls on.  In actual practice, the May 15 plantings report from the USDA more closely correlates with the final acres planted.

“Iowa farmers currently have a plan on what they will be planting in their fields,” said Keller.  “The important thing to remember is that these planting intentions are dependent on what the weather is going to be like this spring and so far it has been ideal.”

Iowa Soybean Association Responds to USDA Crop Report

This morning, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its report of spring planting intentions.

Nationally, soybean acres are projected at 73.9 million acres, 99 percent of the 74.98 million acres in 2011, while corn is expected to be at 95.86 million acres, which is 104 percent of the 91.92 million acres planted to corn in 2011.

Iowa growers’ intentions for planting soybeans are projected at 8.8 million acres, 94 percent of the 9.35 million acres planted to soybeans in Iowa in 2011. Record Iowa corn acres acreage is expected in Iowa, with a projected 14.6 million acres, which is 104 percent of the 14.1 million acres planted to corn in Iowa in 2011.

Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) President Dean Coleman says, “We may see a shift to more bean acres as this report will improve the corn/soybean ratio.”

Having just returned from a trade mission to China and Thailand, Coleman and other ISA leaders expect Chinese demand for soybeans will continue to grow, driven by urbanization, and U.S. soybeans will take “a significant portion of a much larger market,” according to ISA CEO Kirk Leeds.

For instance, Leeds says, “Chinese officials tell us they expect China's hog production industry will 'only' grow 5 percent in 2012. But they have 650 million hogs. A 5 percent increase would be 30 million hogs."

While China also imports soybeans from South American growers such as Brazil and Argentina, reports of this year's South American soybean production continue to decline as more land is harvested.

Coleman concludes, “We will need more soybean acres, considering the drought in South America and the need to have the bushels available for our domestic and foreign partners.”

The USDA will issue a report in late June showing actual plantings.

The Beef Marketing and Production Environment

One of the important jobs of market research, other than just conducting checkoff-funded studies, is to scan the environment and look for issues and trends that can affect the marketing climate for beef. Rick McCarty, vice president of issues analysis and strategy for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, contractor to the beef checkoff, likes to quote Michael Kami, strategic planning expert:  “It’s important to keep your eyes on the things you can’t see.” Part of the function of market research is to determine the genesis of trends and how those trends are driving consumption and affecting consumer acceptance of beef.

He says, “We analyze how consumers are relating to beef; we analyze what they think is important in a food; and we analyze how well they think beef is performing on those attributes – taste, convenience, nutrition, safety and so forth. Are there changes in consumer’s perception of beef that are good that we need to try to reinforce; are there some that are not so good that we need to work on and communicate to consumers more effectively?”

McCarty says market research really helps drive all program areas of the checkoff, from culinary initiatives – do consumers know how to prepare a new product; to chefs – how would they take this new product and prepare it in the restaurant; to issues management – defending the reputation of beef. “If we protect that environment, everything works better: promotion programs work better, advertising works better. So we play a little offense in helping our promotion people promote our product; and we play some defense to help our issues management people protect the marketing environment for our product.” (:20 seconds)

A monthly snapshot of trends and issues is developed to help state beef councils and industry thought leaders keep current on what’s going on in the marketing environment for beef.  This snapshot also helps a trends advisory panel, made up of a group of industry experts, to set the editorial content of the Beef Issues Quarterly – the industry’s issues management journal. Some of the more recent topics in food trends are: snacking is on the rise, burgers are hot, social media is changing food culture and labels at retail are important. McCarty gives us an example of one of the trends that was picked up recently that has implications for beef.

McCarty says, “One of the trends was this desire for consumers to get health and wellness services at their supermarket – that’s a huge trend. Supermarket chains have registered dietitians on staff to help their customers choose healthful foods and of course you know beef needs to be in that mix – beef needs to be a player. These RDs who are helping consumers choose healthful foods need to understand the benefits of beef. So that’s an example of a trend that we picked up by sort of casting this wide net of issues and trends going on.”

Iowa Pork Producers embrace food safety, animal well-being programs

Iowa pork producers have reached a new milestone as 15,000 Iowa pork producers, employees and others with pork industry interests have been certified through the Pork Quality Assurance (PQA) Plus® program.

PQA Plus was launched in 2007 as a continuous improvement program outlining 10 good production practices in the areas of food safety and animal well-being. Individuals are first certified through an educational program. Following certification, producers invite PQA Plus advisors to conduct an objective assessment of practices on the farm and work with the advisor to implement improvements. Individual certification and site assessments must be completed every three years to maintain PQA Plus certification and site status.

A random sample of assessed sites is selected each year for third-party verification of the program. Data from this verification will be used to help determine necessary areas for improvement and increased education for producers.

More than 5,800 Iowa pork production sites also have completed the site assessment portion of PQA Plus. According to the National Pork Board, more than 80 percent of U.S. pork currently originates from a PQA Plus-assessed site.

Additionally, nearly 8,000 Iowa pig-handlers have completed the Transport Quality Assurance (TQA) training.

“PQA Plus helps show everyone we care about our animals and the safety of food we produce. It helps us continually educate our producers and employees and contributes to continuous improvement of our industry,” said Bill Tentinger, 2012 Iowa Pork Producers Association (IPPA) president. “By demonstrating their dedication to PQA Plus, TQA and other continuous improvement programs, Iowa pork producers have shown they take great pride in providing a safe, wholesome and healthy product for people around the world.”

Brazil: Infrastructure Investment Showing Results, New Shipping Patterns = More Competition for U.S.

Changes in Brazil's main corn exporting corridors could have implications for the nation's ability to compete with the United States, according to Alfredo Navarro, the U.S. Grains Council country representative.  Navarro, who tracks Brazil's export logistics and port use, already sees an evolving pattern in the 2001 to 2011 period.

"In 2001, no corn was exported through the North corridor ports of Manaus, Santarem and Sao Luiz," Navarro said. "By 2007, 1.1 percent of Brazil's corn was shipped through Manaus, and last year 8.4 percent of the corn shipped from northern ports.

In the first part of 2012, shipments from the northern ports were 31.7 percent of total volume, a sharp increase from the same period in 2011.

"That is small compared to the potential in the region and the number of hectares planted," Navarro continued, attributing the disparity to inadequate infrastructure for port access. "The government has not realized how much Brazil's poor transportation network affects competitiveness."

The data also shows a startling export shift to Brazil's southeastern ports of Espirito Santo and Sao Paulo, which shot from a 4.8 percent share of corn exports to 59 percent by 2011. Brazil's southern ports (Parana, Santa Catarina, and Rio Grande do Sul) dropped from a near monopoly (95.1 percent in 2001) to a 32.5 percent share of corn exports in 2011.

Navarro's tracking also looks at inland supply routes that access Brazil's ports, where he noted that funds allocated for improvements have not been spent as intended, and corruption has delayed key construction projects.

At the same time however, Brazil is seeing more private investments to improve infrastructure and export reliability.

Brits Favor Pork When Eating Out

The popularity of pork is growing when people in the United Kingdom are eating out of the home with bacon leading the way. New figures from NPD Group/Crest show that pig meat, including pork, bacon, sausages and ham, the most consumed red meat in the out-of-home market with 68.7 percent of all red meat servings.

It also experienced the greatest increase in servings in 2011 compared with a year ago. The figures show total pig meat servings increased by 8.1.

In the main this growth was driven by bacon, which saw servings grow by 29.5 percent and sausages, which grew by 21.3 percent. Ham has also moved up the charts, by 11.7 percent and pork saw an increase of 4.6 percent.

BPEX foodservice trade manager, Tony Goodger, says quality assured bacon is a fantastic ingredient for all types of menus.

"Sausages made from quality assured pork also continue to be one of the most popular foods eaten out of home, appealing to both adults and children alike," Goodger said. "Both are relatively low-cost proteins and, in the current climate when every penny counts, chefs are clearly recognising their profit potential."

USDA Works for Farmers, Sportsmen and the Environment

Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack

America’s farmers are among our first and finest conservationists. At USDA, we support their work to protect natural landscapes, improve water and air quality, and preserve wildlife habitat, forests and soil.

In addition to environmental benefits, this work helps drive economic growth and creates good, middle class jobs – particularly in rural communities. Farmers who help the environment improve their bottom line. Fishing, hunting, hiking, boating and other outdoor recreation adds $730 billion to our nation’s economy each year and supports millions of jobs.

That is why President Barack Obama launched his America’s Great Outdoors initiative to help re-connect Americans with the outdoors and create local partnerships focused on the long-term health of our nation’s landscapes. In the past months, as part of that effort, USDA took steps to work with landowners, farmers and ranchers conserving these lands while promoting outdoor recreation opportunities that create jobs and drive economic growth.

First, along with the Department of the Interior, USDA recently announced a new $33 million plan to use innovative approaches to restore and protect habitats for wildlife, including seven at-risk species and other vulnerable game species.

Working with sportsmen, this Working Lands for Wildlife partnership will help the economy by promoting abundant wildlife habitat that offers great opportunities for hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing and other types of outdoor recreation. To help raise a generation of Americans who are excited about spending time outdoors, USDA’s Forest Service provided funding to enhance outdoor children’s programs in 18 states.

Second, we are improving and strengthening the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), which currently enrolls 30 million acres of idled farmland to support farmer income, clean our water and preserve soil.

In the past months, USDA announced the opportunity for producers to enroll a total of 1.75 million acres of land in new CRP initiatives to preserve grasslands, wetlands and wildlife habitat. As crop prices remain strong and an estimated 6.5 million CRP acres expire later this year, this effort will help us target our resources to the most environmentally sensitive lands. It will improve farm income and job-creating recreation opportunities, encouraging producers to enroll in practices benefitting pollinators, ducks, upland birds and critical ecosystems, with an increased signing incentive. With this effort – alongside a broader ‘general’ sign-up for the program – we’ll continue to add to CRP’s 25-year legacy of addressing our nation’s most critical resource issues.

In the years to come, USDA will continue to build partnerships and strengthen our conservation programs to promote good farmer incomes, as well as opportunities for sportsman and outdoor recreation. Our nation’s lands provide us with abundant food, fiber and fuel. They are an essential piece of vibrant and diverse rural economies. Best of all, conserving farms, ranches, and forests also means a healthier environment for the next generation and a stronger economy in the decades to come.

USDA Prospective Plantings and Grain Stocks Reports March 30


Nebraska producers expect to increase acreage planted to corn, sorghum, dry edible beans, and oats, while decreasing acreage devoted to soybeans, hay, wheat (sown last fall), sunflowers, and sugarbeets, according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, Nebraska Field Office.  

Nebraska  corn  growers  expect  to  plant  10.3  million  acres  for  all  purposes  in  2012,  up  5 percent from 2011 and the largest acreage since 1933.  

Soybean producers intend to plant 4.7 million acres, down 4 percent from a year earlier.

Hay acreage for harvest, at 2.4 million, is expected to be down 3 percent from last year.  

Last fall, winter wheat was sown on 1.35 million acres, down 11 percent from 2011. This is the smallest winter wheat acreage planted in Nebraska since records began in 1909.

Sorghum growers expect to plant 165,000 acres, up 10 percent from last year.
Dry edible bean producers intend to plant 155,000 acres, up 41 percent from 2011. 

Oat planting intentions, at 75,000 acres, are up 15,000 acres from 2011.  

Sunflower planting intentions, at 50,000 acres, are down 9,000 acres from last year.

Sugarbeet plantings, at 50,000 acres, are down 4 percent from a year ago.

These  acreage  estimates  are  based  on  surveys  conducted  the  first  two weeks  of March.     This report  is  intended  to assist growers  in  finalizing  their acreage plans  for 2012.   Actual area planted may vary  from  that  indicated  due  to  farmer’s  final  assessment  of  planting  options,  effects  of  weather, availability of production inputs, and changes in price expectations for the coming crop year.

The annual Prospective Plantings report published by USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service  is based on the voluntary responses from nearly two thousand Iowa producers.  Data collection began February 28, with final interviews completed on March 19.  This report provides an indication of the acres farmers intend to plant.  Actual  plantings  will  depend  greatly  upon  weather,  economic  conditions  and  the  availability  of  production inputs at the time producers must make their final planting decisions.

Corn: As of March 1, Iowa farmers intend to plant 14.6 million acres of corn for all purposes in 2012.  This is up  500,000  acres  from  2011  and,  if  realized, would  be  the  largest  planted  acreage  on  record.   The  previous record, 14.4 million acres, was set in 1981.

Soybeans: Producers  intend  to  plant  8.80 million  acres  of  soybeans  in  Iowa  this  year,  down  6  percent  from 2011. If realized this would be only the second time in 18 years Iowa farmers will plant less than 9.00 million acres of soybeans.

Oats: Farmers  intend  to plant 130,000 acres of oats  for all purposes, up 10,000 acres  from  last year’s  record low.  If realized, this would be the second smallest acreage on record.

All Hay: Farmers in Iowa expect  to harvest 1.15 million acres of hay for the 2012 crop year, up 10,000 acres from  last year.  If  realized,  this will be  the  second  lowest  in  state history,  trailing only 1.14 million acres  last year.  

USDA Prospective Plantings

Corn Planted Acreage Up 4 Percent from 2011
Soybean Acreage Down 1 Percent
All Wheat Acreage Up 3 Percent
All Cotton Acreage Down 11 Percent

Corn growers intend to plant 95.9 million acres of corn for all purposes in 2012, up 4 percent from last year and 9 percent higher than in 2010. If realized, this will represent the highest planted acreage in the United States since 1937 when an estimated 97.2 million acres were planted.

Soybean planted area for 2012 is estimated at 73.9 million acres, down 1 percent from last year and down 5 percent from 2010. Compared with 2011, planted area is down or unchanged across the Corn Belt and Great Plains with the exceptions of Illinois, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

All wheat planted area is estimated at 55.9 million acres, up 3 percent from 2011. The 2012 winter wheat planted area, at 41.7 million acres, is up 3 percent from last year but down 1 percent from the previous estimate. Of this total, about 29.9 million acres are Hard Red Winter, 8.4 million acres are Soft Red Winter, and 3.5 million acres are White Winter. Area planted to other spring wheat for 2012 is estimated at 12.0 million acres, down 3 percent from 2011. Of this total, about 11.3 million acres are Hard Red Spring wheat. Durum planted area for 2012 is estimated at 2.22 million acres, up 62 percent from the previous year.

All cotton planted area for 2012 is expected to total 13.2 million acres, 11 percent below last year. Upland acreage is expected to total 12.9 million acres, down 11 percent from 2011. American Pima acreage is expected to total 270,000 acres, down 12 percent from 2011.


Corn stocks in all positions on March 1, 2012 totaled 687 million bushels, down 10 percent from March 1, 2011, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, Nebraska Field Office.  Of the total, 350 million bushels are stored on farms, down 8 percent from a year ago.  Off-farm stocks, at 337 million bushels, are down 13 percent from last year.

Soybeans stored in all positions on March 1, 2012 totaled 122 million bushels, up  37 percent from last year.  On-farm stocks are 32 million bushels, up 28 percent from a year ago.  Off-farm stocks, at 90 million bushels, are up 41 percent from 2011.

Wheat stored in all positions on March 1, 2012 totaled 38.8 million bushels, down  31 percent from a year ago.  On-farm stocks of 2.4 million are down 17 percent from 2011.    Off-farm stocks of 36.4 million bushels are down 31 percent from last year.

Sorghum stored in all positions on March 1, 2012 totaled 6.5 million bushels, down  4 percent from 2011 and the lowest level since 1957.  On-farm stocks are 1.3 million bushels, unchanged from last year.   Off-farm stocks, at 5.2 million bushels, are 6 percent below last year. 

Iowa  corn  stocks  in  all  positions  on  March  1,  2012  totaled 1.29 billion bushels, up 1 percent from last year according to  the USDA  National  Agricultural  Statistics  Service  –  Grain  Stocks report.  Of the total stocks, 57 percent were stored on-farm.  The December 2011  - February 2012  indicated disappearance  totaled 666 million bushels, 5 percent more than the 636 million bushels used during the same period last year.

Iowa  soybeans  stored  in all positions  on March 1, 2012  totaled 295 million bushels, up 20 percent from  the 246 million bushels on  hand March  1,  2011.    Of  the  total  stocks,  41 percent  were stored on-farm.  Indicated disappearance for the December 2011 - February 2012 period was 128 million bushels, 9 percent less than the 141 million bushels used during the same quarter last year.

Iowa oat  stocks  stored  in all positions on March 1, 2012  totaled 7.82 million bushels, up 15 percent from  the 6.78 million bushels on  hand  March  1,  2011.    Of  the  total  stocks,  14 percent  were stored on-farm.

USDA Grain Stocks

Corn Stocks Down 8 Percent from March 2011
Soybean Stocks Up 10 Percent
All Wheat Stocks Down 16 Percent

Corn stocks in all positions on March 1, 2012 totaled 6.01 billion bushels, down 8 percent from March 1, 2011. Of the total stocks, 3.19 billion bushels are stored on farms, down 6 percent from a year earlier. Off-farm stocks, at 2.82 billion bushels, are down 10 percent from a year ago. The December 2011 - February 2012 indicated disappearance is 3.64 billion bushels, compared with 3.53 billion bushels during the same period last year.

Soybeans stored in all positions on March 1, 2012 totaled 1.37 billion bushels, up 10 percent from March 1, 2011. Soybean stocks stored on farms are estimated at 555 million bushels, up 10 percent from a year ago. Off-farm stocks, at 817 million bushels, are up 10 percent from last March. Indicated disappearance for the December 2011 - February 2012 quarter totaled 998 million bushels, down 3 percent from the same period a year earlier.

All wheat stored in all positions on March 1, 2012 totaled 1.20 billion bushels, down 16 percent from a year ago. On-farm stocks are estimated at 217 million bushels, down 25 percent from last March. Off-farm stocks, at 983 million bushels, are down 14 percent from a year ago. The December 2011 - February 2012 indicated disappearance is 462 million bushels, down 9 percent from the same period a year earlier.

Durum wheat stocks in all positions on March 1, 2012 totaled 35.3 million bushels, down 37 percent from a year ago. On-farm stocks, at 17.4 million bushels, are down 51 percent from March 1, 2011. Off-farm stocks totaled 17.9 million bushels, down 13 percent from a year ago. The December 2011 - February 2012 indicated disappearance of 13.2 million bushels is up 10 percent from the same period a year earlier.

Barley stocks in all positions on March 1, 2012 totaled 93.7 million bushels, down 32 percent from March 1, 2011. On-farm stocks are estimated at 26.5 million bushels, 54 percent below a year ago. Off-farm stocks, at 67.2 million bushels, are 16 percent below March 2011. The December 2011 - February 2012 indicated disappearance totaled 45.3 million bushels, 7 percent above the same period a year earlier.

Oats stored in all positions on March 1, 2012 totaled 72.5 million bushels, 16 percent below the stocks on March 1, 2011. Of the total stocks on hand, 19.8 million bushels are stored on farms, down 27 percent from a year ago. Off-farm stocks totaled 52.8 million bushels, down 11 percent from the previous year. Indicated disappearance during December 2011 - February 2012 totaled 6.60 million bushels, down 55 percent from the same period a year ago.

Grain sorghum stored in all positions on March 1, 2012 totaled 108 million bushels, down 37 percent from a year ago. On-farm stocks, at 12.8 million bushels, are down 2 percent from last March. Off-farm stocks, at 95.1 million bushels, are down 40 percent from a year earlier. The December 2011 - February 2012 indicated disappearance from all positions is 43.0 million bushels, down 35 percent from the same period last year.

Sunflower stocks in all positions on March 1, 2012 totaled 910 million pounds, up 4 percent from March 1, 2011. All stocks stored on farms totaled 377 million pounds and off-farm stocks totaled 533 million pounds. Stocks of oil type sunflower seed are 732 million pounds; of this total, 298 million pounds are on-farm stocks and 434 million pounds are off-farm stocks. Non-oil sunflower stocks totaled 178 million pounds, with 78.7 million pounds stored on the farm and 99.5 million pounds stored off the farm.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Thursday March 29 Ag News

Governors Support Finely-Textured Beef

A coalition of governors is joining forces to support the U.S. beef industry and set the record straight about lean finely-textured beef.

Lean finely-textured beef is a 100 percent beef, 95 percent lean, nutritious, safe, quality and affordable beef product eaten by Americans for 20 years. The production and food safety technologies employed to make lean finely-textured beef are USDA-approved, and it is produced in USDA-inspected meat processing facilities.

Govs. Terry Branstad (Iowa); Sam Brownback (Kansas); Lt. Gov. Matt Michels, standing in for South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard, who is on a trade mission in China; Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman; and Rick Perry (Texas) Wednesday jointly issued the following statement:

"Our states proudly produce food for the country and the world - and we do so with the highest commitment toward product safety. Lean, finely textured beef is a product that is backed by sound science. It is unfortunate when inaccurate information causes an unnecessary panic among consumers.

"By taking this safe product out of the market, grocery retailers and consumers are allowing media inaccuracies to trump sound science. This is a disservice to the beef industry, hundreds of workers who make their livings producing this safe product and consumers as a whole.

"Ultimately, it will be the consumer who pays for taking this safe product out of the market. The price of ground beef will rise as ranchers work to raise as many as 1.5 million more head of cattle to replace safe beef no longer consumed because of the baseless media scare.

"We urge grocery retailers, consumers, restaurants and members of the media to seek the facts behind lean finely-textured beef. Science supports keeping the lean beef product on grocery store shelves for the benefit of American agriculture and consumers alike."

Already, more than 650 workers in Kansas, Texas and Iowa have been temporarily laid off. According to the National Meat Association, as many as 3,000 American jobs will be affected when suppliers are also factored in.

The coalition of governors and state leaders today toured BPI's South Sioux City, Neb. facility and later met with media.

Statement from NCBA President JD Alexander Regarding USDA, State Leaders Defending Safety of US Beef

After weeks of misleading media reports about lean finely textured beef, which has ultimately resulted in more than 650 individuals losing jobs in Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska, top elected leaders from Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, Texas and South Dakota joined forces with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Under Secretary for Food Safety Elisabeth Hagen to support the safety of this product and all U.S. beef. NCBA President J.D. Alexander issued the following statement to praise the leaders for their efforts.

“Cattlemen are delighted to see state leaders from Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and Texas saying enough is enough by clarifying the importance of beef in diets and its role in providing jobs and economic growth. The outspoken and visible support from Secretary Vilsack and Under Secretary Hagen represents a united effort to restore confidence in the beef I proudly produce and feed my own family.

“We have the safest beef supply in the world, but that didn’t stop the race for ratings and the misinformation overload scaring consumers and throwing the country into absolute chaos. This started out as yet another careless and irresponsible distortion of the facts that spiraled into real jobs and real families in already struggling economies being thrown aside.

“Irresponsible attacks will ultimately result in a domino effect from farm to fork. The wave of chaos has calmed a bit and now is the time to help dissect fact from fiction with our consumers here in the United States and abroad. I am honored to be a part of the beef community providing safe and nutritious beef for families around the globe.”

Smith Supports Nebraska & Entire U.S. Beef Industry

Congressman Adrian Smith (R-NE) released the following statement in support of the U.S. beef industry after a coalition of governors toured BPI’s South Sioux City facility:  “Beef production is critical to Nebraska’s economy,” said Smith. “Lean, finely textured beef is a nutritious, safe, and affordable product which is subject to a USDA-approved, science-based process. Instead of obscuring the facts, we should celebrate our producers whose priority is the long-term safety and security of our nation’s food supply.”

2012 On-Farm Research -" Upgrading the Ride"

Keith Glewen, UNL Extension Educator

As some of you have heard, we are upgrading the thrills associated with conducting on-farm research with UNL Extension. Starting in 2012 we are partnering with the Nebraska Corn Growers Association to expand on-farm research across the corn growing regions of Nebraska. Both the Quad Co. group in the York/Hamilton area and those of you in the Dodge/Saunders/Lancaster/Cass/Butler group will be merged into the new venture.

The good news is the Corn Board/Corn Growers will be covering the expenses associated with conducting the research. Additionally, we can focus on production topics critical to the profitability and sustainability of growing corn in Nebraska. Collectively generating data across multiple growing environments typically has more power than one or two growers addressing a topic on an annual basis per location.

The three topics we will focus on in the 2012 growing season are:
1. Irrigation - Water application management in corn production
2. Nitrogen Management in corn production, both irrigated and dryland
3. Corn populations study in irrigated and dryland.

Let me be the first to say that if you come to us with a topic to investigate which is more important to your operation than the three listed above, we won't turn you away. Also, we will honor the topics and protocols we have developed for all who Dave Varner and I met with during the January/February time frame. There are a few of you who have the precision ag. technologies in place to conduct on-farm research on the go. We encourage you to continue to do this and we welcome the opportunity to crunch the numbers with you as we have in the past. We still love soybeans so if you should need help with a on-farm study addressing that crop, please share your ideas with us as well.

As many of you know, Dr. Dave Varner has moved to the Southeast Research & Extension Center as Associate Director, and therefore, Gary Zoubek, Extension Educator in York County and myself will be coordinating day to day operations of the Nebraska On-Farm Research Network and the Nebraska Ag. Water Management Network.

We realize some of you don't have irrigation capabilities and your nitrogen was applied last fall, but the door is still open to conduct a corn population study.  Since many of you helped pioneer the first on-farm research effort, we welcome and encourage you to join us on this "new ride" as we move forward in discovering new production related answers.  I have attached a web link to our website which provides additional information:  

Groundwater Levels Generally Up Over Last Year

Groundwater levels rose or were unchanged throughout much of Nebraska over the past year, but over the past 30 years, there have been markedly different changes in eastern Nebraska compared to western Nebraska.

The latest statewide groundwater monitoring report by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Conservation and Survey Division shows mixed results, depending on where and over what period of time groundwater levels are measured, but over the past five years, and especially over the past year, the news for Nebraska's groundwater levels is generally good.

"The five-year period from spring 2006 to spring 2011 was characterized by groundwater level rises in almost all areas of the state except the Southwest and Panhandle Tablelands," CSD and UNL School of Natural Resources groundwater geologist Jesse Korus said.

From spring 2010 to spring 2011, 70 percent of the wells monitored for the report rose in groundwater levels, with 36 percent showing rises of more than a foot. Only 11 percent of monitored wells showed declines of more than a foot.

"The (groundwater level) rises over the past five years are a result of a combination of factors, including increased flows in streams and canals, decreased irrigation withdrawals and increased aquifer recharge compared to the several dry years prior to 2006," said SNR geoscientist Mark Burbach, who co-authored the report with Korus and CSD cartographer Les Howard.

"Nebraska Statewide Groundwater-Level Monitoring Report 2011" is the latest in a series of groundwater-level change maps and reports dating to 1954.

The 23-page illustrated report details and maps changes in Nebraska groundwater levels over the last year, over the past five and 10 years, from predevelopment of irrigation to spring 2011 and, new with this report, from predevelopment to spring 1981 and from spring 1981 to spring 2011. It also includes average daily streamflows in 2010 and other related information.

The report's authors chose to include maps comparing periods before and after 1981 because "several recorder wells in south-central Nebraska show markedly different patterns of groundwater level fluctuations during these two periods, and we wanted to investigate whether or not these patterns were consistent statewide," Korus said.

"Up to 1981 groundwater declines were generally equal in magnitude in eastern and western areas of the state," Korus said.

In general, the 30-year period after 1981 shows some significant increases in groundwater levels in the eastern half of the state, with equally significant declines in some areas of the Panhandle and Southwest Nebraska.

"Some but not all of these trends are reflective of statewide precipitation patterns compared to the long-term norms," Korus said. "The hypothesis is that the post-1981 recovery of groundwater levels in central and eastern Nebraska resulted from a combination of factors, including reduced (groundwater) withdrawals during several long periods of above-average precipitation, increased irrigation efficiencies, increasing rates of recharge and the aquifer equilibrating to the new conditions imposed on it by irrigation development decades earlier."

Overall, from predevelopment of irrigation to spring 2011, the "long-term groundwater level changes in Nebraska primarily reflect aquifer depletion in areas of dense irrigation development and increases in storage due to seepage from canals and reservoirs," Burbach said.

Predevelopment water levels are estimated, but generally occurred before the early to mid-1950s depending on when intensive groundwater irrigation began.

Average daily streamflows across Nebraska also got a considerable boost from above-average precipitation over much of the state in 2010.

"Average daily streamflows were higher than the 30-year average for most of Nebraska's streams in 2010," Korus said. Highest discharges occurred in some tributaries to the Republican, Elkhorn, North Platte, White and Little Nemaha rivers.

Groundwater level change maps included in the report can be downloaded free at the SNR web site at Maps from previous years, dating to 1954, also are archived there. Efforts to monitor the state's groundwater levels began in 1930.

Data for the maps, graphs and reports is based on recorded measurements from more than 6,000 observation wells taken by 27 organizations, including each of Nebraska's 23 Natural Resources Districts, U.S. Geological Survey, Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and CSD.

Groundwater level change maps rely on well readings recorded as close to April 1 as possible, before the start of the irrigation season.

The full report, "Nebraska Statewide Groundwater-Level Monitoring Report 2011," (Nebraska Water Survey Paper Number 79), can be purchased for $15 online at both or or at the Nebraska Maps and More store, first floor Hardin Hall, UNL East Campus, N. 33rd and Holdrege Sts., Lincoln.

'Early' Early-spring Weed Management

Bob Hartzler and Mike Owen, Department of Agronomy, Iowa State University

The unusually warm weather may create additional weed challenges this spring. Winter annuals in no-till fields will likely accumulate much more biomass prior to planting than normal and therefore use more soil moisture, tie up more nutrients and potentially interfere with planting and crop establishment. In addition, weeds such as horseweed (marestail) will grow more rapidly and reach growth stages that are difficult to control much sooner than in a “normal” spring.

Due to these potential problems, applications of burndown herbicides in early April may be beneficial and improve the control of winter annual and early spring annual weeds. An additional benefit of earlier application dates for the burndown is minimizing the risk of including 2,4-D at the higher rates (i.e. 2 pts/A of LV-4) in the program. Of course, there is the important assumption that planting dates are not moved proportionally earlier.

Many farmers will want to include preemergence herbicides with these early spring burndown treatments. While this may provide a clean seedbed at planting and crop emergence, the longevity of weed control is likely to be shortened significantly. The magnitude of this reduction will depend on the time period and weather encountered between application and planting, and the herbicide rate. The rates of many preemergence products have been reduced due to the reliance on postemergence products, primarily glyphosate. If applications are going to be made a few weeks earlier than normal, carefully evaluate the product rates in order to maximize the contribution of the preemergence herbicide(s) to residual weed control after crop emergence.

Preemergence herbicides are a key component of herbicide resistance management. But to be effective, they need to be used in a manner that results in significant control of the target species. Very early applications of preemergence herbicides or reduced rates will greatly reduce their effectiveness on late-emerging weeds such as waterhemp, or large-seeded species such as giant ragweed. Many products specify split applications where a portion of the product is applied early and a remainder is applied at, or shortly after planting. This approach could be beneficial this year where an extended period of weed control may be needed due to early applications resulting from prevailing weather conditions.

ASA Supports Efforts to Establish Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research

The American Soybean Association (ASA) applauds the leadership of Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) for their efforts to establish a Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), an organization designed to encourage greater investment in research, public/private research partnerships and other ventures that foster innovation in the industry. The senators are sponsoring a bill to establish FFAR that will be introduced to the Senate today. ASA President Steve Wellman, a soybean producer from Syracuse, Neb., offers the following statement of support:

“For so many years, American agriculture has met the challenge of producing better, healthier and more abundant food, feed, fuel and fiber, all while using fewer resources. Moving forward, our industry will be put to the stiff test of feeding a global population projected to pass 9 billion by 2050. Time and time again, our industry has met these challenges with creativity, innovation, and groundbreaking best practices that reach far beyond the farm. These advances depend on the continued investment of both the public and private sectors in agricultural innovation. ASA and soybean farmers across the country applaud Ranking Member Roberts and Chairwoman Stabenow for their foresight in proposing the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, and we look forward to working together to tackle the challenges on the horizon.”

ISA trade team returned from China & Thailand

Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) President Dean Coleman of Humboldt, President-elect Mark Jackson of Rose Hill, CEO Kirk Leeds and Director of Market Development Grant Kimberley, along with Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, returned earlier this week from an 11- day trade mission to China and Thailand.

The trade mission was particularly timely given China Vice President Xi Jinping’s visit to Iowa in February. While in China, the delegation was warmly received by the Vice President at a reception and meeting in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Highlights of the trip included:

1.    The delegation was recognized for the warm hospitality extended by Iowans to Vice President Jinping. At numerous meetings with high-ranking officials, the message was repeated of the importance of working as partners to improve food safety, increase food stability and enhance environmental sustainability.

2.    China is the world’s largest soybean importer, consuming nearly one of every four rows of U.S. soybeans. In 2011, U.S. farmers produced 3 billion bushels of soybeans. Iowa ranked first nationally with a soybean harvest totaling 466 million bushels.

3. The trade mission also included a visit to Thailand, where the goal was to engage previous customers in face-to-face communication, with hopes to regain market share for Iowa and U.S. soybeans. The Iowa delegation visited a large soybean crushing plant and soybean oil refining facility, and hosted a large, festive reception for past and potential customers.

4. Thai customers indicated they prefer to process U.S. soybeans, which are cleaner and have more consistent quality than South American soybeans. They do have concerns about protein content. That feedback resulted in good conversation about amino acid profiles and feed trial results. In addition, the discussion of transportation costs provided an opportunity to explain how AGP’s new export terminal at the Port of Grays Harbor in Aberdeen, Washington, reduces transit time for U.S. soybeans and results in significant savings in transportation costs.

5. Lt. Gov. Reynolds told a Thai audience, “Part of our mission on this trip is to re-introduce Iowa soybeans to you.” She invited Thai industry leaders to Iowa to “take advantage of the opportunity to visit an Iowa farm and visit an Iowa cooperative, so we can demonstrate to you that Iowa is a leader in soybean quality and can play an important role in your market.”

Vets applaud Veteran Farmers Project

Last week, 25 military veterans gathered in Ithaca, Nebraska at the Agricultural Research and Development Center, to attend a workshop designed to provide veterans interested in starting their own farms or ranches with advice and resources. Participating veterans applauded the workshop and the effort to assist veterans who want to farm or ranch in getting started.

“An event like the one the Center for Rural Affairs put on was exactly what we needed.  It was really encouraging to know that this information and these resources are available," said Daniel Apolius.  Daniel and his wife Cynthia, who also attended the workshop, are both veterans residing in Lincoln, Nebraska and want to start farming someday.

"The workshop provided not only education toward our goals but it was a great networking tool," continued Apolius. "A workshop like this that tries to reach out to returning veterans helps them know there really are career paths into farming and ranching.”

“I've already shared information I learned at the workshop with other veterans about FSA beginning farmer programs and the Center for Rural Affairs," Apolius added. “And we got a lot out of the farmers’ presentations as well as the Farmer-Veteran Coalition discussion.”

The full day workshop covered a great deal of information and introduced veterans to resources and programs for farm and ranch startup, followed by a tour of the activities at the University of Nebraska’s Ag Research Center.  Farmers Dave Welsch from West Blue Farm in Milford, Nebraska and Evrett Lundquist from Common Good Farm in Raymond, Nebraska shared information on how they grow and sell their crops, as well as how they got started in farming and suggestions for veterans in attendance about how to connect with established farmers to assist them with land access and potential mentoring opportunities.

“We had a great time and learned a lot about what is out there to help new farmers,” said Steven McDermott, a veteran from Lincoln, NE, who attended the workshop along with his partner Kerry Kubert. “I wish this would have been done a long time ago as I would have been doing my dream now instead of just getting to the point that we are, just getting the business plan in place.” The couple plan to start a specialty crop farm and value-added production business.

According to Kathie Starkweather of the Center for Rural Affairs, who is managing the Farmer Veteran Project, attendees were provided with resources to help them find financing and access to land.  The USDA Farm Service Agency shared information on their beginning farmer programs; AgrAbility talked about their program that helps disabled veterans get into farming; and Farmers Union spoke about crop insurance.

Michael O’Gorman discussed the work of the Farmer-Veteran Coalition. Veterans were also informed about Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture’s Combat Boots to Cowboy Boots program. Center for Rural Affairs staff presented materials on financing, federal farm and conservation programs that would apply to veteran and beginning farmers and ranchers, and land access including the Center for Rural Affairs’ Land Link program, which matches beginning farmers with landowners.

“The different programs that match farmers that are wanting to exit the field and those that want to get started is a great program,” continued McDermott.

“It was an honor for us to give something back to these young men and women who served their country,” said Starkweather. “It was exciting to  hear the questions that came up and to watch as veterans connected with established farmers and speakers to learn more about their experiences.  We look forward to assisting veterans achieve their dreams of farming or ranching and returning to rural areas.

“And we cannot give enough thanks to our partners - Farmer-Veteran Coalition, Nebraska Farmers Union, AgriAbility Project, the Farm Service Agency and of course, USDA’s Risk Management Agency for providing funding for the project,” added Starkweather.

A free lunch for workshop attendees was sponsored by Nebraska Farm Bureau, Nebraska Veterans of Foreign Wars and Farm Credit Services.

Additional information on the workshop agendas and later farm tours is online at

'Healthy Farms, Healthy Kids Nebraska' Funded

The Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society (NSAS) youth program, "Healthy Farms, Healthy Kids Nebraska!" has been funded. The goal of "Healthy Farms, Healthy Kids Nebraska!" is to increase the capacity and opportunity for youth interested and involved with sustainable and organic agriculture in Nebraska.

"This program will continue to lay the foundation for the next generation of farmers and those interested in supporting farmers, by affording youth the opportunity to be an active participant in where, why and how their food is produced," said William Powers, executive director of NSAS.

A major part of the program is funding for the growing youth program at the annual NSAS Healthy Farms Conference. During the conference in February, youth were able to participate in numerous workshops including; beekeeping and native pollinators, the Tree Adventure at Arbor Day Lodge, history of root vegetables and many more. Another part of the program is taking youth and youth groups to area farms that are utilizing sustainable and organic principles on their farms. One of the farms youth will have the opportunity to visit is a certified organic dairy farm and participates in a pasture walk and learn about rotational grazing as well as value-added opportunities in dairy. Another farm specializes in pastured poultry as well as vegetable and fruit production.

The funding for "Healthy Farms, Healthy Kids Nebraska!" comes from a SARE Youth Educator Grant. For more information about SARE Grants please visit, If you are interested in participating in the program or have a group interested in participating please contact William Powers at or 402-525-7794.

US Ethanol Stocks, Production Dip

Domestic ethanol inventories were drawn down 85,000 barrels (bbl) to 22.628 million bbl for the week-ended March 23, according to fresh data from the Energy Information Administration, although stocks are up 12.6% from a year ago.  Total U.S. ethanol stocks have risen by 5.57 million bbl, or about 32.6%, since Dec. 9, 2011, when a string of supply builds began.

Meantime, ethanol production from domestic plants declined 4,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 889,000 bpd last week, and is down 1.5% from the year-ago level.  The 4-week average for ethanol production stood at 895,000 b/d for an annualized rate of 13.72 billion gallons.

Implied demand, as measured by refiner and blender net inputs, rose 3,000 bpd to 807,000 bpd from the prior week. Refiner and blender net inputs represent a major portion of implied demand for ethanol.

Elsewhere, the EIA reported that implied demand for motor gasoline rose 331,000 bpd to 8.71 million bpd for the week-ended March 23 while four-week average gasoline demand at 8.4 million bpd was down 6.1% from the level seen a year ago. Expressed as a percentage of daily gasoline demand, daily ethanol production was 10.21%.

On the co-products side, ethanol producers were using 13.479 million bushels of corn daily to produce ethanol and 100,056 metric tons of livestock feed, 90,271 metric tons of which were distillers grains. The rest is comprised of corn gluten feed and corn gluten meal. Additionally, ethanol producers were providing 4.09 million pounds of corn oil daily.

Natural Gas Price Drops to 10-Year Low

Natural gas prices tumbled to a 10-year low Thursday after a surprising jump in U.S. supplies.

The futures price dropped sharply in New York after the government reported that natural gas inventories expanded well beyond what analysts expected. The country's total supply grew by 57 billion cubic feet last week to a level that's now 59 percent above the five-year average.

There's enough gas in storage to supply all the country's needs for more than a month, and analysts say storage facilities across the U.S. will be pushed close to capacity in coming months.

The U.S has enjoyed a bounty of natural gas for the past few years thanks to advances in well drilling that have allowed energy companies to tap vast, petroleum-soaked layers of shale rock. The boom in production wasn't as noticeable at first because of unseasonably warm summers and cold winters that forced homeowners to use more gas.

Bill Blocking E15 Lawsuits Eyed

Gas-station owners wouldn't be liable for problems caused by certain blends of ethanol fuel under a bill a pair of Republican lawmakers is preparing to introduce as early as Thursday, according to people familiar with the draft legislation.

The bill is designed to block lawsuits related to E15, a gasoline blend with 15% ethanol.

The Environmental Protection Agency has said E15 can, if used properly, be used in cars with model years 2001 and later. But older engines may not be able to handle the fuel without malfunctioning.

The auto and gasoline industries worry that they could be held liable if E15 was put in the wrong engine, damaged a gas station storage tank or caused some other harm because it was misused.

March Farm Prices Received Index Up 5 Points

The preliminary All Farm Products Index of Prices Received by Farmers in March, at 186 percent, based on 1990-1992=100, increased 5 points (2.8 percent) from February. The Crop Index is up 8 points (3.9 percent) and the Livestock Index increased 3 points (1.9 percent). Producers received higher prices for soybeans, corn, broilers, and cattle and lower prices for milk, strawberries, snap beans, and lettuce. In addition to prices, the overall index is affected by the seasonal change based on a 3-year average mix of commodities producers sell. Increased monthly movement of soybeans, strawberries, broilers, and milk offset decreased marketings of corn, cattle, cotton, and wheat.The preliminary All Farm Products Index is up 13 points (7.5 percent) from March 2011. The Food Commodities Index, at 173, increased 5 points (3.0 percent) from last month and March 2011.

Prices Received by Farmers

All crops: The March index, at 213, increased 3.9 percent from February and is 7.6 percent above March 2011. The index groups with the largest contributions to the increase were feed grains & hay, oilseeds, commercial vegetables, and fruits & nuts.

Food grains: The March index, at 230, is 1.8 percent above the previous month but 1.3 percent below a year ago. The price of March all wheat, at $7.24 per bushel, is up 14 cents from February but 31 cents below March 2011.

Feed grains & hay: The March index, at 276, increased 3.0 percent from last month and is 20 percent above a year ago. The corn price, at $6.48 per bushel, is up 20 cents from last month and 95 cents above March 2011. The all hay price, at $181 per ton, is $5.00 higher than February and $55.00 higher than March 2011. Sorghum grain, at $11.30 per cwt, increased 50 cents from February and 70 cents from March last year.

Cotton, Upland: The March index, at 154, is up 1.3 percent from February and 11 percent above last year. The March price, at 93.6 cents per pound, is up 1.2 cents from the previous month and 9.2 cents above last March.

Oilseeds: The March index, at 235, increased 6.8 percent from February and is 3.1 percent higher than March 2011. The soybean price, at $13.10 per bushel, increased 90 cents from February and is 40 cents higher than March 2011.

Livestock and products:
The March index, at 161, is 1.9 percent above last month and 5.9 percent higher than March 2011. Compared with a year ago, prices are higher for cattle, broilers, eggs, calves, hogs, and turkeys. The price for milk is down from last year.

Meat animals: The March index, at 169, is up 1.8 percent from last month and 12 percent higher than last year. The March hog price, at $65.70 per cwt, is up 20 cents from February and $2.80 higher than a year ago. The March beef cattle price of $130 per cwt is up $3.00 from last month and $15.00 higher than March 2011.

Dairy products: The March index, at 133, is down 2.2 percent from a month ago and 15 percent lower than March last year. The March all milk price of $17.40 per cwt is 30 cents lower than last month and down $3.00 from March 2011.

Poultry & eggs: The March index, at 174, is up 8.1 percent from February and 16 percent above a year ago. The March market egg price, at 79.1 cents per dozen, increased 12.2 cents from February and is 13.9 cents above March 2011. The March broiler price, at 57.0 cents per pound, is up 4.0 cents from February and 8.0 cents above a year ago. The March turkey price, at 68.5 cents per pound, is up 3.5 cents from the previous month and 8.6 cents from a year earlier.

Prices Paid Index up 1 Point

The March Index of Prices Paid for Commodities and Services, Interest, Taxes, and Farm Wage Rates (PPITW) is 210 percent of the 1990-1992 average. The index is up 1 point (0.5 percent) from February and 9 points (4.5 percent) above March 2011. Compared with February, higher prices in March for diesel, gasoline, feed grains, and concentrates offset lower prices for nitrogen, potash & phosphate, feeder cattle, and supplements.

USDA Announces Milk Income Loss Contract Program Payment Rate for February Production

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Bruce Nelson today announced the February payment rate for the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program. The February MILC payment rate is $0.3895043 per hundredweight. This is the first time there has been a payment for MILC since April 2010.

“Dairy producers are affected by the market price for milk and the price of feed to sustain their herds,” said Nelson. “While milk prices have remained above the $16.94 base used in the MILC calculation, the increase in feed prices has triggered payments because of the feed ration component.”

MILC payments are triggered when the Boston Class I milk price falls below $16.94 per hundredweight, after adjustment for the cost of dairy feed rations. MILC payments are calculated each month using the latest milk price and feed cost.

The 2008 Farm Bill authorized MILC through Sept. 30, 2012. Producers must meet the Average Adjusted Gross Income requirement and provide marketing data to the FSA County Office in order to qualify. New dairy producers can apply for program benefits anytime through Sept. 30, 2012, at local FSA offices.

Additional information about the MILC program can be found at, or by visiting a local FSA Service Center.

USDA: Crop Survey Response Rates Down

The response rate among farmers to key government crop surveys has gradually fallen in recent years, a U.S. Department of Agriculture official said Wednesday.

Farmer response rates in recent rounds of the agency's quarterly agricultural surveys have been around 75% to 80%, down about five percentage points from a decade ago, said Joe Prusacki, director of the statistics division at the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service.

The survey is used by the federal government to determine how many acres farmers will plant with key crops such as corn and soybeans. The USDA also surveys farmers quarterly to determine how much grain is in storage.

Possible reasons for the decline in participation include growing anti-government sentiment among farmers and difficulty getting them to answer their phones if they have caller ID and don't recognize the number, Prusacki said. The USDA also collects data for the survey online and through other means.

The USDA surveys more than just farmers for its grain storage reports. Response rates are generally higher--around 90%--for non-farm sites such as mills and elevators that store grains or oilseeds, Prusacki said.

The falling farmer response rate has "not really" affected the accuracy of the USDA reports, Prusacki said, adding that the agency tracks trends in its data.

USDA Explores Feasibility of Alternative Energy Production at Airports

A recent study conducted by researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) highlights the potential for alternative energy production at airports. The study findings were published in an article titled "Airports Offer Unrealized Potential for Alternative Energy Production" in Environmental Management and indicates that airports may want to consider converting to alternative fuels where it is both economically and environmentally beneficial.

"Some available grasslands at airports have the potential to spur the type of innovation we need to build American-made, homegrown biofuels and biobased products that will help to break our dependence on foreign oil and move our nation toward a clean energy economy," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "Converting airport grasslands to biofuel, solar or wind production not only provides more environmentally-sound alternative energy sources for our country, but may also increase revenue for airports and reduce the local abundance of potentially hazardous wildlife to aircraft. Such efforts may be particularly beneficial for rural economic development, as many rural airport properties contain expansive grasslands that potentially could be converted to biofuel crops or other renewable energy sources."

While federally obligated airports have restrictions on how land may be used, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is committed to working with airports interested in pursuing the potential for changes in land use to support alternative energy production.

Researchers at the USDA-APHIS National Wildlife Research Center (NWRC) note that many airport properties are already managed to reduce wildlife abundance and habitat quality as part of efforts to avoid wildlife collisions with aircraft. Once biofuel crops are identified for airport use that have low wildlife-strike risks compared to existing airport landcovers, converting grasslands to these land uses could produce renewable energy and also provide airports with an additional source of revenue.

Ongoing and future NWRC research hopes to identify renewable energy practices, including specific types of biofuel crops, which limit use by wildlife hazardous to aircraft and are compatible with safe airport operations. NWRC researchers and collaborators are currently studying wildlife use of solar arrays and adjacent airport grasslands in Arizona, Colorado and Ohio, as well as wildlife use of experimental plots containing switchgrass and mixed warm-season native grasses in Mississippi. Researchers note the economic profitability of biofuel, solar or wind production will vary markedly, but will depend primarily on yield, establishment and maintenance costs, opportunity costs of land (i.e., land rental or revenue from other commodities), and processing or utilization costs. For many airports where land is currently available, the benefits may outweigh the costs. For related photos, please see

The USDA-APHIS National Wildlife Research Center is the research arm of the wildlife services (WS) program. NWRC's field station in Sandusky, Ohio, is dedicated to providing a scientific foundation for WS and FAA programs that reduce wildlife collisions with aircraft. NWRC research is focused on understanding the nature of wildlife hazards on and near airports, developing management tools to reduce those hazards, and providing WS, airport personnel, and the FAA with information on the latest strategies for controlling wildlife hazards.

Mosaic Reports Third Quarter Results

The Mosaic Company, Plymouth, Minn., reported third quarter fiscal 2012 net earnings of $273 million, compared to $542 million a year ago. The decline was primarily driven by lower potash volumes and higher phosphate raw material costs. Earnings per diluted share were $0.64 in the quarter compared to $1.21 in the quarter last year. In the 2012 quarter, earnings per diluted share were negatively impacted by notable items totaling $0.08, primarily foreign currency transaction losses. Mosaic's net sales in the third quarter of fiscal 2012 were $2.2 billion, flat with the same period last year, as growth in phosphate sales was offset by declines in potash sales.

"We are continuing to make significant strategic progress for long-term success even as we work through seasonal and cyclical market factors, and we feel very good about our business momentum," said Jim Prokopanko, president and CEO of Mosaic. "Our potash expansion initiative remains on track and on budget, as we bring several major projects to completion this calendar year. Our innovative premium phosphate product, MicroEssentials, continues to win an increasing share of North American sales, and we will have new capacity in fiscal 2013.

"During the third fiscal quarter, we reached two important agreements to resolve matters that created uncertainty for investors. We reached an agreement on our potash tolling dispute, which will result in 1.3 million tonnes of peaking capacity for Mosaic beginning in January 2013, and we reached a settlement agreement to allow us to return to full operation at the South Fort Meade phosphate mine. We also demonstrated both the strength of our balance sheet and our commitment to shareholders by increasing our annual dividend by 150 percent."

Mosaic's gross margin for the third quarter of fiscal 2012 was $522 million, or 24 percent of net sales, compared to $854 million, or 39 percent of net sales, a year ago. Third quarter operating earnings were $414 million, a decrease of 46 percent compared to $771 million a year ago. The decreases in gross margin and operating earnings were driven primarily by lower potash volumes and higher phosphate raw material costs.

Wednesday March 28 Ag News


Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) Director Greg Ibach is reminding livestock producers to follow the state’s importation requirements when moving animals into Nebraska.

“The importation requirements are in place to help protect the health of Nebraska’s animals,” said Ibach.  “When people disregard the importation orders, they put the viability of all Nebraska livestock owners at risk.”

“They also put at risk Nebraska’s reputation as one of the top livestock and meat production states in the nation,” Ibach said.  “These are risks our state cannot afford.”

Ibach said NDA began increasing livestock importation surveillance last year, after the state dealt with bovine tuberculosis cases from 2009 to 2011 and after the state experienced an influx of cattle from the drought-stricken South in 2011.  The increased surveillance includes random livestock vehicle stops near the state borders, as well as additional detailed review of livestock health certificates as they come into the NDA offices.  NDA also is conducting a review of its existing import orders and regulations.

Several violations of importation requirements have been detected by the additional surveillance work.  Since September, NDA investigators have issued 35 quarantines of animals that were being improperly imported into the state.

“There are a number of diseases of concern to Nebraska’s livestock industry that recently have gained increasing attention nationwide.  Among these are brucellosis, tuberculosis and trichomoniasis,” said State Veterinarian Dr. Dennis Hughes.  “It is important for those importing animals into Nebraska to follow the most current import regulations and orders.”

Hughes said, “It is the responsibility of the NDA to help protect our state’s livestock herd, but producers must share that responsibility and do the right thing by following all import regulations.”

Producers who are considering moving livestock from another state into Nebraska need to contact the NDA State Veterinarian’s office to learn about specific import requirements.  Staff can be reached by calling (402) 471-2351.  Import regulations and orders also can be reviewed online at  It is also advised that producers moving livestock from Nebraska into another state contact the destination state to learn their latest import requirements.

Summer Fairs Go Green with Soy-Based Products

With soy biodiesel powering trams and carnival rides, soy-based paint freshening up show barns and soy-based cleaning products getting the fairgrounds ready, 13 fairs will be a little greener this year with the help of the United Soybean Board (USB) and the soy checkoff.

“U.S. soy feeds the animals that provide the meat we eat, but soy does a lot more than that,” says Geno Lowe, a soybean farmer from Hebron, Md., and USB farmer-director. “U.S. soy is increasingly popular as a ‘green’ ingredient in everything from biofuel to paint to cleaning products and more.”

Lowe and his fellow USB farmer-directors selected the 13 fairs as part of a competitive application process. Through the Green Ribbon Fairs reimbursement program, now in its second year, the checkoff works with fairs across the country to promote the use of soy-based products such as biodiesel, paint, cleaners, hand sanitizers and more. The following fairs will use soy-based products and help educate fairgoers by participating in the 2012 Green Ribbon Fair Reimbursement Program:
-- Saunders County Fair (Nebraska)
-- Delaware County Fair (Iowa)
-- South Dakota State Fair

-- Barton County Fair (Kansas)
-- Dutchess County Fair (New York)
-- Dyer County Fair (Tennessee)
-- Houghton County Fair (Michigan)
-- Indiana State Fair
-- Minnesota Fairs
-- North Carolina State Fair
-- Ohio State Fair
-- State Fair of West Virginia
-- St. Mary’s County Fair (Maryland)

Cattlemen Support Senate Bill on Permanent Estate Tax Repeal

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), representing generations of farming and ranching families across the nation, strongly supports legislation introduced today, March 28, 2012, that will fight for full, permanent repeal of the estate tax. Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) introduced the Death Tax Repeal Permanency Act (S. 2242) to abolish the federal estate tax, which according to NCBA President J.D. Alexander, is an unnecessary tax on small businesses and farm and ranch families across the country. The bipartisan legislation is identical to the bill (H.R. 1259) introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Kevin Brady (R-Texas).

“By once again introducing legislation to repeal this onerous tax, lawmakers on both sides of Capitol Hill have demonstrated an understanding and appreciation for the immense burden this tax places on American cattle producers who are hoping to pass their operation on to the next generation,” said Alexander. “The death tax is detrimental to the farmers and ranchers who live off the land and run asset-rich, cash poor family-owned small businesses.”

Reducing the tax burden on ranchers has always been a top priority for NCBA and the beef cattle community. For decades, NCBA has urged full and permanent repeal of the estate tax.

“Our priority is to keep families in agriculture and this tax works against that goal,” said Alexander. “The appraised value of rural land is extremely inflated when compared to its agricultural value. Many cattle producers are forced to spend an enormous amount of  money on attorneys or sell off land or parts of the operation to pay off tax liabilities. This takes more open space out of agriculture and usually puts it into the hands of urban developers.”

In December 2010, Congress passed temporary estate tax relief effective through December 31, 2012. For now, estates worth more than $5 million per individual, $10 million per couple are taxed at a rate of 35 percent. Unless Congress acts to provide permanent relief, the estate tax will revert back to pre-2001 levels where estates worth more than $1 million will be taxed at a rate of 55 percent. The Death Tax Repeal Permanency Act would completely stop the federal government from considering death as a taxable event.

Legislation Introduced to Curtail Obama Administration’s Land Grab

U.S. Senators John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) today, March 28, 2012, introduced the Preserve the Waters of the United States Act. The legislation, which is strongly supported by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the Public Lands Council (PLC), would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) from using their clean water guidance to expand the regulatory regime under the Clean Water Act (CWA). NCBA President J.D. Alexander said the legislation puts up a roadblock to EPA’s intentional end-run around the rulemaking process and Congress.

“EPA has an obsession with avoiding accountability. This administration has made clear its preference to use guidance documents as opposed to going through the rulemaking process. This allows the activists turned government officials to avoid public scrutiny and bypass the consideration of legal, economic and unintended consequences,” said Alexander. “This is a clear violation of the Administrative Procedures Act.”

The document that triggered this legislation was the CWA jurisdiction guidance. The draft, which was proposed by EPA and the Corps April 26, 2011, is expected to be finalized soon. The guidance essentially attempts to give EPA and the Corps jurisdiction over all types of waters under the CWA. The guidance claims to provide clarity and certainty to landowners. According to PLC President John Falen, if the guidance is finalized, the only thing livestock producers can be clear and certain about is that any wet or dry stream, ditch and pond on their land could easily be subject to federal regulation and costly permits.

“This is a direct hit on the private property rights of farmers and ranchers across this country,” said Falen, who is a Nevada rancher. “We will fight hard against this administration’s ongoing efforts to curtail the private property rights of farmers and ranchers by regulating them to the brink of bankruptcy. We commend the senators for standing up for private property rights and the preservation of American agriculture.”
Alexander said despite three Supreme Court rulings and a letter from 170 members of Congress opposing the guidance, EPA and the Corps have “crowned themselves kings” of every drop of water in the country. He said this bill is the best path forward in preventing the guidance from becoming reality.


The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) praised U.S. Senators John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Jeff Sessions, (R-Ala.) and 26 other Senators for introducing the “Preserve the Waters of the U.S. Act” (S. 2245). The legislation seeks to prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) from issuing their “Final Guidance on Identifying Waters Protected by the Clean Water Act” (Final Guidance).

The final guidance document, issued in draft form by EPA and the Corps in May 2011, would significantly change and expand the scope of federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act (CWA). If finalized, it has the potential to make it more difficult for Americans to build in their backyards, grow crops, manage livestock, expand small businesses and carry out other activities on private lands.

S. 2245 was introduced just days after the Supreme Court’s decision in Sackett v. EPA, a ruling that supports the rights of property owners to challenge EPA compliance orders that are found to be arbitrary and capricious.  In 2007, the Sackett family was told by the Agency that the property they had recently purchased in Idaho to build a home was a wetland covered under the Clean Water Act. Although the Sackett’s attempted to prove that their property was not a wetland, EPA proceeded to issue a compliance order that if not obeyed would result in fines of up to $75,000 a day. The case eventually ended up before the Supreme Court which ruled in favor of the Sacketts last week.

“The Fertilizer Institute believes the Supreme Court’s decision in Sackett v. EPA is a victory for land owners throughout the country,” said TFI President Ford B. West. “We are pleased that the legislation introduced by Senators John Barrasso, Dean Heller, Jim Inhofe and Jeff Sessions seeks to prevent additional situations where EPA may be overstepping and infringing on the rights of property owners, including farmers and other land use stakeholders.”

In related efforts on this issue, TFI joined sixty other organizations in sending a letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) earlier this week to express serious concerns with EPA and the Corps’ draft guidance. The letter also urged OMB to conduct a thorough review of the Final Guidance, noting that the coalition believes EPA significantly underestimated the costs associated with implementation.

NMPF Assumes Management of REAL® Seal for Dairy Products

The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) will now manage the licensing and use of the REAL® Seal , one of the most iconic and recognizable product integrity logos used in the food industry, NMPF announced today.

Effective March 15, 2012, the management of the REAL® Seal program was transferred from the United Dairy Industry Association to NMPF. This change was the result of an agreement between the two organizations that the transfer was the best opportunity to place a renewed emphasis on highlighting the importance and value of American-made dairy foods.

“The REAL® Seal was created more than 30 years ago to help consumers distinguish between real and artificial cheeses, as the pizza category was really taking off,” said Jerry Kozak, President and CEO of NMPF. “Today, a generation later, we still see a need to differentiate American-made dairy products from imports, and real dairy foods from those made with soy or rice or even hemp. Our management of this labeling program will benefit consumers, as well as the farmers who have a direct stake in how their milk is marketed.”

One of NMPF’s primary missions “is protecting the integrity and overall value of U.S. dairy products. NMPF has expertise in food labeling requirements and the regulatory process affecting dairy product standards,” Kozak noted. “With NMPF’s link to dairy producers and its dedication to protecting dairy product integrity, NMPF will be able to provide valuable insight that will allow for growth of the program,” he said.

While the program will not undergo any immediate changes, Kozak said the process has begun to determine how to make the REAL® Seal an even more effective marketing tool for dairy product manufacturers, dairy product processors, food processors and food service providers.

“Consumers continue to express an interest in food quality and integrity, through the choices they make at grocery stores and restaurants,” Kozak said. “Labeling is an integral part of creating and maintaining a dialogue with them.”

As a result of this change in management, “the program will now strive to educate new generations of dairy consumers about the significance of the REAL® Seal, revitalizing the brand and talking to them about the good taste, nutritional value, and wholesomeness associated with dairy foods and dairy food ingredients made from milk produced in the United States,” he said.

Reclassification Opens Pathway to Easier Export for Corn Gluten Products

Last week, a key working group of the International Maritime Organization recommended approval of a U.S. proposal that corn gluten feed and corn gluten meal be reclassified in the official IMO code to make transport of these quality feed ingredients simpler, by eliminating a requirement that these cargoes be loaded on vessels with specialized fire suppression equipment.

The proposal was based on the results of tests organized by the U.S. Grains Council, of which the National Corn Growers Association is a founding member, in cooperation with a number of U.S. producers, marketers and shippers of CGF and CGM.

"For corn gluten to be loaded with these specifications, it would have significantly raised the cost of exporting U.S. corn gluten feed and corn gluten meal," said Erick Erickson, USGC director of programs and planning. "This would reduce the attractiveness of these products to feed manufacturers."

In 2010, the U.S. Grains Council organized an industry group to address this problem. With samples donated by various shoppers, the Council arranged for combustibility testing at several U.S. labs. Based on the outcome of those tests, the U.S. Coast Guard issued a letter of exemption in December 2010, allowing CGF and CGM to be loaded in U.S. ports as "low fire risk" cargoes.

"The exemption letter only extends to the limits of U.S. Coast Guard jurisdiction and is not binding on non-U.S. ship owners and arrival ports," Erickson said. "The IMO task force action this week sets into motion a process that will officially re-classify CGF and CGM in the IMO code over a period of three years. In the meantime, the U.S. Coast Guard exemption letter and public knowledge of the IMO decision will facilitate the continued competitiveness of U.S. CGF and CGM in export markets."

US Organic Growers Appeal GE Lawsuit

A group of U.S. family farmers said on Wednesday it is appealing its lawsuit against Monsanto Co to challenge the company's patents on technologies for genetically modified seeds.

The group of organic farmers and seed dealers says its industry is at risk from Monsanto's growing market dominance.

"Farmers are under threat. Our right to farm the way we choose, and to grow pure organic seed and healthy food on our farms for our families and for our customers is under assault," said Maine organic seed farmer Jim Gerritsen, president of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, lead plaintiff in the case.

The group sued Monsanto in March 2011. U.S. District Court Judge Naomi Buchwald, for the Southern District of New York, threw out the case last month, criticizing the groups for a "transparent effort to create a controversy where none exists".

The group of more than 50 organizations filed its notice of appeal o n W ednesday, seeking review by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

The lawsuit challenges the company's patents on its genetically modified seeds and seeks to prohibit Monsanto from suing the farmers or dealers if their organic seed becomes contaminated with Monsanto's patented biotech seed germplasm.

Wendy's Commits to Gestation-Stall-Free Pork

Wendy's has been working with its chicken and pig suppliers to broker new improvements in the treatment of animals, the food service chain said.

Under the changes, the company said one of its chicken suppliers has installed a low atmospheric pressure system, called LAPS, that permanently knocks a chicken unconscious before handling, replacing what it said is the industry's standard practice of electrically stunning chickens.

"We've studied the LAPS system and agree that it's a major improvement to industry practices," said Dennis Hecker, Wendy's senior vice president of quality assurance. "We encourage all chicken producers to embrace this practice."

Wendy's also said it is continuing its work with pork suppliers to eliminate the use of sow gestation stalls, now requiring all of its U.S. and Canadian suppliers to provide their plans to phase out the use of gestation stalls.