Monday, April 30, 2012

April 30 Crop Progress and Condition Report

Another Productive Week for NE Crop Farmers

Agricultural  Summary: 
For  the  week  ending  April  29,  2012,  good  planting  progress  was made until late in the week when widespread precipitation stopped  fieldwork,  according  to  USDA’s  National Agricultural  Statistics  Service,  Nebraska  Field Office.  While precipitation  slowed  field  activities, the moisture was welcome.  Corn planted jumped to 44  percent  complete  with  4.6  days  suitable  for fieldwork.    Soybean  planting was  under way with  6  percent  complete  and  the  first  fields  of  sorghum had  been  planted.    Wheat  jointed,  at  67  percent, continued  two weeks  ahead  of  average with  heads starting  to  show.   Planting  of  oats  was  winding down  while  the  first  cutting  of  alfalfa  continued well  ahead  of  average.    Accumulated  growing degree days are ahead of normal.  

Weather  Summary:   

Temperatures  averaged  4  degrees  above  normal  across  the  state.    High temperatures  ranged  from  the  mid  90’s  in  the southern  half  of  Nebraska  to  lows  of  30  in  the Central District.  The highest levels of precipitation of  over  one  inch  fell  in  the  Panhandle,  North Central,  Central  and  Southwest  Districts.    Lesser accumulations fell across the remainder of the state.   Topsoil Moisture (%):  Very Short  1, Short   16, Adequate  78, Surplus  5.  Subsoil Moisture (%):  Very Short  7, Short  28, Adequate  64, Surplus 1.  GDD since April 15 (normal):  Concord  122  (118),  Elgin 125 (119), West Point 126 (122), Mead 141 (126). 

Field  Crops  Report: 
Corn  planting  advanced  to  44  percent  complete,  well  ahead  of  last  year’s  12 and six days ahead of 23 average.  Corn emerged stood  at  4  percent  compared  to  1  last  year  and average. 

Soybean planting was 6 percent complete, ahead of 1 last year and 2 average.

Sorghum planting was  just under way  at 1 percent completed.

Wheat  jointed  was  67  percent,  well  ahead  of  last year’s  21  and  26  average.    Wheat  headed  was 5  percent.    Rust  was  a  concern  in  parts  of  South Central  and Southeast Districts.   Wheat  conditions rated  3  percent  poor,  27  fair,  59  good,  and  11  excellent,  above  last  year’s  46  percent  good  to excellent and 62 average.  

Oats planted were at 93 percent, ahead of last year’s 77  and  85  average.   Oats  emerged  was  at  70  percent,  well  ahead  of  39  last  year  and  44  average.  Oats  conditions  rated  20  percent  fair, 77 good, and 3 excellent. 

The  first  cutting  of  alfalfa  was  12  percent completed.    Concerns  were  expressed  over  insect activity.    Alfalfa  rated  4  percent  poor,  30  fair,  53  good,  and  13  excellent,  below  last  year’s  77 percent good to excellent and 70 average.  
Livestock,  Pasture  and  Range  Report: 

Cattle conditions  rated  6  percent  fair,  73  good,  and  21  excellent.    Calving  was  94  percent  complete.  Calf  losses  rated  34  percent  below  average  and  66  average.   Pasture  and  range  conditions  rated  5  percent  poor,  33  fair,  56  good,  and  6  excellent, below last year’s 68 good to excellent and average.

Current Weather & Crops County Comments

Survey Date: 04/29/2012

We received much needed rain on Friday with some areas getting more than an inch and some areas of the county getting very little.

A flurry of activity went on for corn planting before the rain started on Friday. Isolated small hail was experienced but no real damage was done.

Welcome rain came toward the end of the week. Pastures are slow coming on. Producers continue to push to get the corn in the ground. Some producers are getting started on soybeans. Earlier planted corn acres have corn out of the ground.

Good planting progress was made this week with dry conditions. On Friday things really were drying out because of the strong winds. Some pivots were started to activate herbicides or incorporate fertilizer. What pastures we have show slow growth and if cattle are in them, it will be hard to recover if it doesn't rain soon.

Good rains on Sunday came slow and nice.

Wonderful rain was received late last week. Some early planted corn is emerging. Some insect damage in alfalfa has been reported.

Rapid progress last week with planting. Several producers are done with corn. Others planted soybeans before corn. Rain over the weekend will delay next week planting and give producers a break.

Dry weather last week allowed farmers to make significant progress on corn and soybean planting. Overall planting is ahead of schedule.

Good rains on Sunday came slow and nice.

Had nice moisture over the weekend. Planting is stopped until the soil dries out.

Click here for the latest progress numbers from USDA...

Iowa Gets Almost Five Solid Planting Days Last Week

Corn planting progressed rapidly in most areas as Iowa’s farmers took full advantage of dry fields early in the week. Corn planting advanced at least 25 percentage points in each district of the state. However, the weather became much cooler and wetter at the end of the week ending planting activities. 

There were 4.3 days suitable for fieldwork during the week, compared with just 1.8 days the previous week. Topsoil moisture levels improved to 1 percent very short, 7 percent short, 76 percent adequate, and 16 percent surplus. Subsoil moisture also improved and is now rated 7 percent very short, 21 percent short, 65 percent adequate, and 7 percent surplus.

Despite receiving rainfall late in the week, corn planting advanced 41 percentage points and now stands at 50 percent complete, compared with 7 percent at this time last year and the five year average of 32 percent. Five percent of the corn crop has emerged, 10 days ahead of normal. The State’s soybean planting is 3 percent complete with Southeast Iowa leading the way with 12 percent planted. Oat planting was 98 percent complete, ahead of last year’s 80 percent and the five-year average of 76 percent.  Seventy-six percent of the expected oat acreage has emerged, well ahead of last year’s 38 percent and the five-year average of 36 percent. Oat condition improved to 1 percent very poor, 2 percent poor, 23 percent fair, 63 percent good, and 11 percent excellent.

Sixty-seven percent of Iowa’s pasture and range land is now rated good to excellent, a 2 percentage point decrease from the previous week. Pasture and range condition rated 1 percent very poor, 4 percent poor, 28 percent fair, 47 percent good, and 20 percent excellent.


Provided by Harry Hillaker, State Climatologist, Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship

Iowa experienced a rather typical week of spring weather characterized by widely varying temperatures and occasional showers and thunderstorms.  The reporting week began on the cold side of normal with morning lows mostly in the 30’s on Monday (24th) with a freeze reported in a few northwestern locations.  A rapid warm-up commenced on Tuesday (25th) with afternoon highs ranging from the upper 60s northeast to upper 80s west.  Wednesday (26th) was the warmest day of the week in most areas with highs climbing into the low 90s at a few southwest Iowa locations.  Temperatures dropped to more seasonal levels on Thursday (27th) and were well below normal over the weekend with daytime highs mostly in the 50s.  Temperature extremes for the week ranged from Monday morning lows of 28 degrees at Battle Creek, Sibley and Spencer to a Wednesday afternoon high of 92 degrees at Red Oak.  Temperatures for the week as a whole averaged two to three degrees below normal across the east to three to four degrees above normal in the west with a statewide average of 0.6 degrees above normal.  Dry weather prevailed in most areas through Friday morning.  However, rain fell statewide from Friday afternoon into Saturday morning with rain amounts around one-half inch in most areas.  Rain also fell over the southeast three-fourths of the state on Sunday with greatest amounts of around an inch in parts of east central and southeast Iowa.  Weekly rain totals varied from 0.34 near Lake Park to 2.01 inches at Keosauqua.  The statewide average rainfall was 0.83 inch or just a little less than the weekly normal of 0.95 inch.  Soil temperatures as of Sunday (29th) were averaging near fifty degrees statewide.

Monday April 30 Ag News

Planting Soybeans Early Results in Increased Yield
Jim Specht, UNL Professor of Agronomy and Horticulture

Planters are rolling throughout the state and, given the size of today’s equipment, corn planting is rapidly progressing.

Based on UNL research, we would encourage you to consider planting your soybeans as soon as possible—preferably before the end of April for the southern two-thirds of Nebraska and or the first week of May for the northern third of Nebraska. While evening temperatures have been low, consider the percent risk of frost for emerged plants not planted seeds. The above recommendation considers a 10% risk of frost 7-10 days after planting, the time when soybeans would most likely emerge.

Why plant early? Five years of UNL small plot and on-farm research has proven that early planted soybeans yield more than late planted beans—regardless of whether the spring has been cold and wet or warm and dry. Soybeans are a photoperiod-sensitive crop so the goal is to allow the plant to use the sun’s energy to accumulate as many nodes as possible as day length decreases after June 21. Nodes are important because that’s where pods, seeds, and ultimately yield are produced.

Three years of on-farm research have resulted in an average of 3 bu/ac yield increase (with a range of 1-10 bu/ac depending on the year and the planting date range of early versus later planting). With today’s soybean prices, a 3 bu/ac yield increase adds up... a $30/acre advantage at $10 beans, $42/acre with $14 beans or $54/acre if beans were to hit $18/bu.  We do recommend a fungicide/insecticide seed treatment to reduce the risk of damping off diseases and bean leaf beetles which tend to feed on early-planted soybeans.

Scout Early Emerging Soybeans for Bean Leaf Beetles

Tom Hunt, UNL Extension Entomologist, Northeast REC, Haskell Ag Lab
Keith Jarvi, UNL Extension Educator, Dakota, Dixon, and Thurston counties

Accurately predicting spring bean leaf beetle infestations in Nebraska is difficult. You would think that the uncommonly warm winter we had would favor bean leaf beetle survival; however, persistent snow cover and moderate winter temperatures are most favorable for beetle survival.

Extremely warm, open winters can cause beetles to become active prematurely, resulting in increased metabolism and reduction of fat reserves, starvation, desiccation, or simply exposure to inclement weather. The best thing to do when we have very warm winters is to be vigilant and expect the unexpected.

Bean Leaf Beetle Biology
Bean leaf beetles have two generations a year in Nebraska. Because they overwinter as adults, three periods of beetle activity are seen in the growing season:
    Overwintering colonizers,
    F1 generation (offspring of the colonizers, the true first generation), and
    F2 generation (the generation that will overwinter).

Bean leaf beetles overwinter as adults in leaf litter (woodlots) and soybean residue. They become active fairly early in the year (April-May), and often can be found in alfalfa prior to soybean emergence. As soybeans emerge, the beetles quickly move to the seedling plants, feeding on cotyledons and expanding leaf tissue. These overwintered beetles, called colonizers, mate and begin laying eggs. Females live about 40 days and lay from 125 to 250 eggs. After egg-laying is complete, the colonizing population dwindles as the beetles die. A new generation of beetles (F1) will begin to emerge in late June to early July. The F1 beetles mate and produce a second generation of beetles (F2) that begin to emerge in mid- to late August.

Bean leaf beetles vary in color, but are usually reddish- to yellowish-tan. They are about ¼ inch long and commonly have two black spots and a black border on the outside of each wing cover. These spots may be missing, but in all cases there is a small black triangle at the base of the wings near the thorax.

Because they move to soybean fields so soon after seedling emergence, early-planted fields will usually have more beetles and suffer the most injury, particularly if they are the only beans up and available for the beetles to move into. Although the defoliation the beetles cause can appear quite severe, research in Nebraska and elsewhere has shown that it usually does not result in economic damage. Soybean plants can compensate for a large amount of early tissue loss, so it takes a considerable amount of beetle feeding to impact yield. Generally, soybeans planted during the normal soybean planting window in Nebraska are not colonized by enough beetles to cause economic injury.

Sampling seedling soybeans can be somewhat difficult. Wind, shadows, and movement often cause beetles to drop from the plant and hide under dirt clods or in cracks in the soil. We suggest walking carefully along 10-15 feet of row, being careful not to let your shadow cover the row, count beetles on or near the plants, and calculate how many you have per plant. If you can stay at least 3 feet to the side of the row, that would also be less likely to alarm the beetles. Sample at least five locations in the field.

Remember that early-planted, temporally isolated soybeans are the most susceptible. If economic thresholds are reached, many insecticides are available for bean leaf beetle control. All will do an adequate job if applied according to label directions. For those that plant early, regularly have economic levels of colonizing bean leaf beetles and /or have a history of bean pod mottle virus (a bean leaf beetle vectored disease), neonicotinoid insecticide seed treatments may be warranted.

Early Weed Control
If early season defoliation occurs, early season weed management may be necessary. For example, with no defoliation, weeds can remain in the crop up to the V4 stage (third trifoliate) without significantly affecting yield. However, at 30% and 60% defoliation, weeds require removal by the V3 and V1 stages, respectively.

Some producers treat bean leaf beetle on seedling soybeans to reduce the subsequent F1 and F2 generations; however, UNL Extension does not recommend this practice. There are many environmental factors that can impact beetle populations throughout the growing season, making it impractical to use spring beetle numbers to accurately predict if beetle populations will reach economically damaging levels in August.

Regular scouting and the use of the appropriate economic thresholds are the best way to manage late season bean leaf beetle in soybean. Late-season economic thresholds will be included in CropWatch later this summer.

Timely Fungicide Application May be Warranted in Wheat

Stephen Wegulo, UNL Extension Plant Pathologist, Lincoln

Stripe rust continues to develop in wheat fields, particularly in southern and eastern Nebraska. It was confirmed in Saunders and Lancaster counties on April 24 and there was an unconfirmed report of the disease in southwest Nebraska this week. Stripe rust assessment in a state wheat variety trial in Saline County on April 26 showed high levels of disease in some lines.

Warm, dry weather April 24-25 slowed development of stripe rust; however, the change to cool, wet weather toward the end of week should favor stripe rust. Regular scouting of wheat fields for stripe rust should continue and fungicide should be applied if the flag leaf is at risk of infection. The decision to spray should be based on
-    yield potential,
-    variety susceptibility, and
-    forecast weather conditions.

New Stripe Rust
There is evidence that the race of stripe rust this year may be new since some previously resistant varieties are showing susceptibility. Even if the variety planted is considered to be resistant, it is possible that the resistance may be overcome by the current race of stripe rust.

Leaf spot diseases (mainly tan spot) and powdery mildew are also present in wheat fields and should not be overlooked. Any fungicide applied to control stripe rust will also control these diseases.
Wheat Viruses
Wheat streak mosaic virus and Triticum mosaic virus have consistently been confirmed in samples submitted to the UNL Plant and Pest Diagnostic Clinic, and virus symptoms have been seen in surveyed fields with varying degrees of incidence and severity. There have been reports of some fields that have been severely affected by virus infections. Barley yellow dwarf has been seen at low levels in most fields and at significant levels in a few fields.

Little can be done during the current growing season to control virus infections. The wheat curl mite that transmits both wheat streak mosaic virus and Triticum mosaic virus survives best on wheat, but can also survive on grassy weeds. To reduce wheat virus problems in the next growing season:
♦ Control volunteer wheat and grassy weeds in the field before planting this fall.
♦ Plant resistant/tolerant varieties.
♦ Avoid early planting.
♦ Control weeds and aphids (the vectors of barley yellow dwarf virus).

NPPC Praises Domino’s For Rejecting HSUS Proposal

Domino’s Pizza shareholders last Wednesday rejected – by a majority vote of 80 percent – a resolution from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) requiring its pork suppliers to stop the use of gestation stalls. The National Pork Producers Council hailed the move as a vote for common sense.

Animal activist groups recently have influenced several prominent foodservice companies, including McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger King, to make poorly informed decisions on sow housing.

“The vote to reject the HSUS resolution was a vote for common sense,” said NPPC President R.C. Hunt, a pork producer from Wilson, N.C. “We appreciate Domino’s belief that America’s farmers, veterinarians and other animal agriculture experts are better suited than activist groups to determine what the best animal care practices are.”

U.S. pork producers care about their animals and rely on the experience and knowledge of animal care experts, including the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, when designing housing and handling their animals. These associations recognize both gestation stalls and group housing systems as appropriate for providing for the well-being of sows during pregnancy.

“Removing sow stalls has no demonstrable health or welfare benefits to animals,” said Dr. Liz Wagstrom, NPPC chief veterinarian. “In fact, the key factor that most affects animal well-being is husbandry skills – that is, the care given to each animal. There is no scientific consensus on the best way to house gestating sows because each type of housing system has inherent advantages and disadvantages.”

America’s pork farmers are committed to producing safe, affordable and healthy foods for consumers, using industry customs and practices that have been designed with input from veterinarians and other animal-care experts. Providing humane and compassionate care for their pigs at every stage of life is one of the We Care ethical principles to which U.S. hog farmers adhere.

A Positive Step Forward on the Farm Bill

Senator Mike Johanns
Last week, the Senate took a very positive step toward improving federal farm policy. An update of the farm bill passed overwhelmingly out of the Agriculture Committee, enjoying strong support from both Democrats and Republicans. This bill is an improvement for American agriculture: it's simple, it's straightforward, and it's more market-oriented. Better yet, it's fiscally responsible and will help to cut our country's troubling budget deficit.

Certainly the most pressing issue of our time remains our mounting debt, and the farm bill was drafted with this in mind. The bill saves more than $23 billion in farm and nutrition programs, while helping producers manage their risk and ensuring we continue to address hunger. Having a committee come together in a bipartisan way to cut spending in a responsible manner is a breath of fresh air.

I've met with many of you over the past year, often times at my Ag Policy Perspectives events, to discuss the new farm bill. Your thoughts and ideas are reflected in the legislation we crafted in the Agriculture Committee. The crop insurance program has been effective and popular, and it will continue to be a central risk management tool for farmers and ranchers. There has also been broad acknowledgement that direct payments must be made a thing of the past, and this farm bill steers us in that direction. The Adjusted Gross Income cap has also been reduced, further targeting government farm supports to producers who need it most.

I am pleased to report that several of my ideas and amendments are included in the bill. I've long been an advocate for policies which support beginning farmers and ranchers as well as returning veterans looking to start careers in farming. These proposals were roundly supported and included in the bill. It is critical that our federal farm policy keeps in mind the future generations of ag producers.

Another area I was glad the committee spent time discussing was trade. The bill also includes an amendment of mine to ensure USDA continues to prioritize trade. The recently enacted trade agreements with Korea and Colombia shouldn't be stopping points. We must keep working to level the playing field for our producers by lowering trade barriers around the globe. Having served previously as Agriculture Secretary, it's my opinion that trade policies at USDA can be better focused and coordinated, and my amendment will have the department evaluate improvements.

The farm bill is by no means perfect, but it is a positive turning point for American farm policy. It will benefit farmers and ranchers, it will benefit the American people, and it helps get our country back on a fiscally sustainable path. I was pleased to support it and look forward to its consideration in the full Senate.

Farm Bureau PAC Names Terry 'Friend of Agriculture'

NFBF-PAC, Nebraska Farm Bureau's political action committee, named Rep. Lee Terry a "Friend of Agriculture" and is endorsing him in his re-election race to represent Nebraska's Second Congressional District,  Chairman Mark McHargue said.

"Agriculture is the backbone of Nebraska and it's also crucial to Omaha's economic vitality. Congressman Terry understands this and has worked hard on behalf of farmers and all the citizens of the district," he said. McHargue is a hog farmer from Central City and first vice president of Nebraska Farm Bureau.

Congressman Terry has a solid record of supporting small businesses and promoting economic growth, McHargue said. "He's worked to help keep the U.S. and U.S. agriculture competitive in world markets and he stood with farmers in opposing onerous new regulations coming from the EPA."

"Congressman Terry's tireless work in trying to stop the EPA from implementing greenhouse gas regulations, duplicative Clean Water Act regulations as well as many others, help Nebraska farmers, rancher and business owners alike," McHargue said.

Farm Loan Volumes Rise and Agricultural Finances Strengthen

Jason Henderson, Kansas City Federal Reserve, Omaha Office

Non-real estate farm loan volumes rose in the first quarter, led by a surge in capital spending that boosted intermediate-term loan volumes. According to loan survey data from the week of Feb. 6, 2012, loans for farm machinery and equipment held at high levels with a sharp jump in the volume of intermediate-term loans made for unspecified purposes. With low cow inventories lifting feeder cattle prices, banks also made larger short-term loans to the livestock sector. However, strong farm income for crop producers kept operating loan volumes relatively flat heading into planting season. Farm loan portfolios at small and mid-sized banks increased by almost a third compared to last year, and farm loan portfolios at large lenders grew by more than 20 percent.

Though loan volumes rose at both large and small agricultural lenders in the first quarter, the composition of their farm loan portfolios varied. Large banks made more intermediate-term loans that were typically rated as moderate risk. Small and mid-sized banks had a larger share of short-term operating and livestock loans that were generally rated as low risk. However, small and mid-size lenders also had a higher concentration of long-term farm real estate loans in their farm loan portfolios compared with large lenders, heightening their exposure to a potential correction in the farmland market. 

Agricultural banks ended 2011 with their best financial performance in three years. The return on assets at agricultural banks in the fourth quarter rose for the second straight year, and annual net income distributions strengthened. Producers paid down debt with elevated farm incomes, reducing delinquency rates and net charge-offs for both farm real estate and non-real estate loans. Bankers reported plenty of funds were available for farm loans at historically low interest rates.

Farmland values continued to climb even with more farmland for sale at year-end. As farmland values soared by as much as 40 percent compared to last year, an increasing number of landowners auctioned off their land holdings. While non-farm investor interest helped keep bidding brisk, farmers remained the main purchasers of farmland, particularly when prices reached record levels.

First Quarter National Farm Loan Data

A rise in capital spending and larger loans to the livestock sector expanded non-real estate farm loan portfolios in the first quarter. According to loan survey data collected Feb. 6-10, 2012, non-real estate loan volumes rose 26 percent compared with last year, driven by a spike in intermediate-term, large loans for unspecifed “other” purposes. In addition, first quarter loan volumes for farm machinery and equipment approached the peak levels seen last year. Average effective interest rates on farm machinery and equipment loans edged up to 4.8 percent in the frst quarter.

High feeder livestock prices boosted the volume of short-term loans made to the livestock sector in the first quarter. A steady decline in cow inventories limited supplies and supported higher prices for feeder cattle. With strong demand for meat, particularly from foreign markets, livestock feeders borrowed to maintain production levels. In fact, the average size of feeder livestock loans rose above $100,000 three out of the last four quarters. Average effective interest rates on feeder livestock loans increased to 5.2 percent in the frst quarter.

First quarter operating loan volumes remained below historical averages but were comparable to year-ago levels. Strong farm income during the past couple of years lessened the need for short-term operating loans to fnance production inputs. Average effective interest rates on operating loans held steady at 5.0 percent in the first quarter.

While loan volumes expanded at all commercial banks in the frst quarter, the composition and risk ratings of farm loan portfolios varied by lender size. Farm loan portfolios at large agricultural banks (more than $25 million in farm loans) had a higher concentration of “other” loans for unspecifed purposes. Operating loans represented the largest share of loan portfolios at small and mid-sized agricultural banks (less than $25 million in farm loans), with other loan categories more evenly spread. Large lenders classifed the vast majority, 85 percent, of rated farm loans as moderate or higher risk while most farm loans at small and mid-sized lenders carried a low or minimal risk rating. 

Fourth Quarter District Agricultural Conditions
Farmland values reached record highs in many crop-producing regions, even with an increase in the number of farms for sale. Since last year, the average value of nonirrigated cropland rose more than 30 percent in Nebraska and South Dakota and more than 20 percent in Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, northern Illinois and northern Indiana. Irrigated cropland also posted strong value gains, particularly in drought areas of the southern Plains, where supplemental water aided crop development. Bankers in the Kansas City District noted more farmland on the market compared with last year as record values enticed some landowners to sell. Still, robust demand for farmland, especially from farmers, drove prices higher. In fact, some bankers in the Chicago, Kansas City and Richmond Districts expected the upward trend in farmland values would continue into 2012.

Overall demand for farm loans remained weak in the fourth quarter despite additional capital spending at year-end. Bankers in the Chicago, Kansas City, Minneapolis and Richmond Districts noted increased capital spending at the close of 2011 as producers upgraded equipment and completed construction of farm buildings before tax depreciation rules expired. Still, most Federal Reserve Districts noted sluggish operating loan demand as many farmers paid cash for crop inputs. After falling in 2011, feeder cattle and dairy loans were expected to hold steady in the Chicago, Dallas and Richmond Districts. Interest rates for intermediate-term loans edged down, and interest rates on operating and real estate loans fell in all districts except Richmond.

Farm credit conditions strengthened further as farmers paid off loans in the fourth quarter. According to Federal Reserve surveys, loan repayment rates at agricultural banks continued to climb, most notably in the Chicago District. In the Kansas City and Dallas Districts, crop insurance and land lease revenues from mineral rights supported farm income and loan repayment rates in drought areas. In addition, loan renewals and extensions fell in all Districts but San Francisco. With weak loan demand, ample funds were available for farm loans and very few borrowers were referred to non-bank credit agencies. Bankers in the Chicago, Richmond and San Francisco Districts generally eased collateral requirements compared with last quarter, while slightly more bankers in the Dallas, Kansas City and Minneapolis Districts raised collateral requirements on non-real estate farm loans.

NEW Cooperative, Iowa Food & Family Project partner on agricultural advocacy

NEW Cooperative, Inc., Fort Dodge, Iowa, has joined the Iowa Food & Family Project as its newest food and agricultural advocacy partner.  “We welcome NEW Cooperative to the growing group of partners who are committed to sharing information with people interested in healthy food and the integrity of the farmers, processors and retailers who provide it,” says Aaron Putze, director of communications for the Iowa Soybean Association and coordinator of the Iowa Food & Family Project.

The goal of the Iowa Food & Family Project is to unite Iowans in conversations about food through personal engagement, advocacy and collaboration. It involves the support of more than 30 farm organizations, retailers, businesses and food-relief associations.  The Iowa FFP delivers on its mission by serving as Presenting Sponsor of the Iowa Games and supporter of Live Healthy Iowa. It engages Iowans by coordinating unique food and agricultural experiences at the Summer Iowa Games and Iowa State Fair. It also coordinates the FFA “Planting A Seed” Grant Program and “Special Delivery. Homes. Help. Hope. For Haiti.”

“NEW Cooperative members understand and value efforts that connect farmers and consumers and are eager to support the Iowa Food and Family Project and become involved in its activities,” says Brent Bunte, NEW Coop general manager. “We’re also hopeful our participation will encourage other coops across the state to join in supporting efforts that inspire greater awareness and trust of today’s farmers and their commitment to providing wholesome food for everyone.”

Putze says the Iowa FFP and NEW Cooperative, along with the other Iowa FFP food-advocacy partners, will work together to sponsor and conduct unique and timely communications and ag engagement programs across the state.

April Farm Prices Received Index Down 7 Points

The preliminary All Farm Products Index of Prices Received by Farmers in April, at 177 percent, based on 1990-1992=100, decreased 7 points (3.8 percent) from March. The Crop Index is down 5 points (2.4 percent) and the Livestock Index decreased 7 points (4.4 percent). Producers received lower prices for broilers, corn, cattle, and eggs and higher prices for soybeans, onions, hay, and oranges. In addition to prices, the overall index is also affected by the seasonal change based on a 3-year average mix of commodities producers sell. Increased monthly movement of cattle, strawberries, milk, and broilers offset the decreased marketing of soybeans, corn, wheat, and cotton.

The preliminary All Farm Products Index is up 1 point (0.6 percent) from April 2011. The Food Commodities Index, at 166, decreased 5 points (2.9 percent) from last month but is unchanged from April 2011.

All crops:
The April index, at 205, decreased 2.4 percent from March but is 2.5 percent above April 2011. Index decreases for feed grains & hay and food grains more than offset the index increases for oilseeds, fruits & nuts, and commercial vegetables.

Food grains: The April index, at 223, is down 1.8 percent from the previous month and 8.6 percent below a year ago. The April price for all wheat, at $6.87 per bushel, is down 32 cents from March and $1.14 below April 2011.

Feed grains & hay: The April index, at 265, declined 2.2 percent from last month but is 0.8 percent higher than a year ago. The corn price, at $6.14 per bushel, is down 21 cents from last month and 22 cents below April 2011. The all hay price, at $190 per ton, is up $47.00 from March and $9.00 from last April. Sorghum grain, at $10.40 per cwt, is 50 cents below March and down $1.30 from April last year.

Cotton, Upland: The April index, at 151, is up 1.3 percent from March and 5.6 percent above last year. The April price, at 91.6 cents per pound, is up 1.4 cents from the previous month and 4.9 cents from last April.

Oilseeds: The April index, at 247, is up 6.0 percent from March and 5.1 percent higher than April 2011. The soybean price, at $13.80 per bushel, increased 80 cents from March and is 70 cents above April 2011.

Livestock and products:
The April index, at 153, is down 4.4 percent from last month and 1.9 percent from April 2011.  Compared with a year ago, prices are lower for milk, eggs, and hogs. Prices for cattle, broilers, calves, and turkeys are up from last year.

Meat animals: The April index, at 163, is down 1.8 percent from last month but 3.2 percent higher than last year. The April hog price, at $62.60 per cwt, is down $2.60 from March and $5.20 lower than a year ago. The April beef cattle price of $125 per cwt is down $3.00 from last month but $6.00 higher than April 2011.

Dairy products: The April index, at 129, is down 2.3 percent from a month ago and 14 percent lower than April last year. The April all milk price of $16.90 per cwt is down 30 cents from last month and $2.70 lower than April 2011.

Poultry & eggs: The April index, at 159, is down 8.6 percent from March but 0.6 percent above a year ago. The April market egg price, at 64.2 cents per dozen, decreased 14.9 cents from March and is 24.5 cents below April 2011. The April broiler price, at 51.0 cents per pound, is 6.0 cents lower than March but 2.0 cents above a year ago. The April turkey price, at 73.4 cents per pound, is up 4.4 cents from the previous month and 7.7 cents from a year earlier.

Prices Paid Index Unchanged

The April Index of Prices Paid for Commodities and Services, Interest, Taxes, and Farm Wage Rates (PPITW) is 21 percent of the 1990 1992 average. The index is unchanged from March but 10 points above (4.9 percent) April 2011. Higher prices in April for complete feeds, concentrates, hay & forages, and supplements offset lower prices for feeder cattle, feeder pigs, feed grains, and LP gas.

CWT Assists with 2.4 Million Pounds of Cheese and Butter Export Sales

Cooperatives Working Together (CWT) has accepted 13 requests for export assistance from Dairy Farmers of America, Darigold, Foremost Farms, Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative and United Dairymen of Arizona to sell a total of 393 metric tons (866,417 pounds) of Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese and 712 metric tons (1.570 million pounds) of butter to customers in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South America. The product will be delivered May through July 2012.

In 2012, CWT has assisted member cooperatives in making export sales of Cheddar, Monterey Jack and Gouda cheese totaling 46.9 million pounds and butter totaling 40.8 million pounds to 26 countries on four continents. On a butterfat basis, the milk equivalent of these exports is 1.322 billion pounds, or the same as the annual milk production of 62,950 cows.

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

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

International Food Aid and Development Conference Scheduled for May 7-9, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced today that the 14th annual International Food Aid and Development Conference will be held in Kansas City, Mo., May 7-9, 2012. The theme of this year’s conference is “From Harvest to Basket: Weaving Together Agricultural Markets and Food Security.”

Special guest speakers include the Republic of Congo’s Minister of Education Rosalie Kama-Niamayoua, Angola’s Ministry of Education National School Feeding Coordinator Domingos Torres, USDA’s Acting Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse, USAID’s Assistant Administrator Nancy Lindborg, Pioneer Hi-Bred President Paul Schickler, and Chicago Council on Global Affairs Senior Fellow and Professor Emeritus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Dr. Robert Thompson.

The International Food Aid and Development Conference provides a forum to address policy and operational issues related to food aid and development, as well as ways to improve communication and cooperation among government, non-profit charitable and non-governmental organizations, and agricultural and transportation industry representatives. The conference also gives participants an opportunity to network with one another and discuss food security, nutrition, public-private partnerships, sustainable school feeding, commodity management, storage, and quality control, and food aid operations, programming, collaboration, monitoring, and evaluation.

EU Policy May Stop Soy Biofuel Imports

(Dow Jones) -- Imports of palm oil and soybean biofuels to the European Union could be stopped under two of three options that top EU policymakers will consider to ensure the use of the most climate-friendly biofuels, a document seen by Dow Jones Newswires showed.

The document will form the basis for discussions by the 27 EU commissioners Wednesday when they are expected to pick one option.

The Indirect Land Use Change caused by biofuels is among Europe's most controversial climate policies because the bloc's biofuels market, one of the most promising worldwide, is at stake. An EU target to have 10% renewable energy fuelling transport by 2020 -- likely to be met mainly with biofuels -- has triggered billions of investments in biofuel production and affected global trade patterns.

According to the document, two of three options proposed would effectively ban imports of palm oil and soybean biofuels because the biodiesels from them emit too many greenhouse gases. Argentina, Malaysia and Indonesia are the main exporters to the EU.

Rapeseed biodiesel -- of which the EU has a strong domestic production -- would be allowed. But its use would be discouraged under the option that's most likely to be selected because it provides a compromise among diverging positions within the commission.

The Indirect Land Use Change relates to CO2 emissions caused by displacement of crops to meet higher demand for biofuels. To grow more biofuel crops farmers are potentially encouraged to cut down forests and move into peat lands, both of which absorb high levels of carbon dioxide. Further deforestation and loss of peat land could occur as food crops would also be displaced by biofuels. As a consequence, an increased use of biofuels would actually raise CO2 emissions, according to this argument.

According to two of the options on the table, for a biofuel to count toward the 10% renewable energy target it would have to emit at least 60% less CO2 than fuels derived from conventional oil. While such a provision would be an indirect way of helping to counter reduced carbon capture due to change of land use and deforestation, it would still have an impact on which biofuels would be used in the EU.

"Biodiesels derived from palm oil and soy bean would fall considerably short of the revised 60% greenhouse gas saving threshold, meaning that imports of these biofuels would effectively be prevented," the document said.

Soy bean and palm oil fuels are used to produce biodiesel that is important in Europe where a large majority of cars run on diesel. Biodiesels are also generally considered to drive higher indirect emissions from land use change than other biofuels.

The paper points out that rapeseed -- the most popular crop for EU biodiesel, mainly produced in Germany, Spain, France and Italy -- would eventually meet the 60% threshold, thanks to improvements in its production.

CNH Global Releases Healthy Earnings Report

Farm and construction equipment maker CNH Global N.V. posted a quarterly profit that handily beat analysts' estimates on higher margins and the strength of the North American agriculture market. Rising prices of food commodities including corn, wheat and soybean have boosted farmers' incomes and they can afford to buy high-margin machinery, especially in North America.

CNH Global, the world's second largest maker of farm equipment after Deere & Co., also reaffirmed its full-year revenue growth of 5 percent. It expects global agricultural and construction equipment markets to remain positive in 2012.

First-quarter net income rose to $269 million, or $1.11 per share, from $138 million, or 63 cents per share, a year ago.  Sales rose 22 percent to $4.64 billion. Operating margin increased to 8.8 percent from 6.5 percent in the year-ago quarter.  Agricultural equipment sales rose 18 percent while construction equipment jumped 41 percent.

The company makes tractors, combines, planters, forklifts and sked steer loaders under the Case and New Holland brands among others.

Judge Denies MF Global Customer Bid to Block Insurance Funds

A bankruptcy judge shot down an attempt by an MF Global Holdings Ltd. (MFGLQ) commodities customer to block the firm's executives, including former Chief Executive Jon S. Corzine, from accessing millions of dollars in insurance proceeds.

Judge Martin Glenn of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan on Monday denied Sapere Wealth Management LLC's request for an injunction that would block MF Global's executives from drawing $30 million in available insurance funds while Sapere appeals their right to payment. The insurance covers the costs the executives may face defending themselves against "wrongful act" lawsuits.

Glenn has already shot down as "frivolous" a prior request from Sapere that the insurance funds instead be set aside for it and some 25,000 other commodities customers whose $1.6 billion in funds went missing from MF Global's segregated customer accounts upon its collapse last year. His order Monday says Sapere's latest request doesn't fall in line with well-established legal precedent.

"Settled case law in this circuit and elsewhere establishes that the individual insureds cannot be denied contractually provided insurance protection when their employers are insolvent because others may have claims on the insurance policies as well," Glenn wrote in his order.

The judge added that Sapere's request, filed Friday, "includes a number of misstatements and mischaracterizations" of his prior ruling regarding the insurance funds. Glenn declined to address those in his ruling against the request.

Sapere's attorney, John J. Witmeyer III, said Monday afternoon that the firm would ask a U.S. district court, where it will appeal the executives' right to tap the insurance policies, to block the payout while it's appeal is pending.

Sapere had argued it would suffer "irreparable harm" if the executives were allowed to draw the funds while it continues to fight their right to payment, arguing that there is a "substantial likelihood" that it would prevail.

"Every dollar that is spent funding the defenses of the various directors and officers is money that cannot be spent to compensate commodities customers for the cumulative $1.6 billion loss they have suffered from their segregated accounts," Sapere said in court papers.

Several weeks ago, Glenn agreed to free up some $375 million in insurance proceeds over the objections of Sapere and others. He capped executives' use of the funds at $30 million, though he said they could request more later.

"Although [MF Global] commodity customers have unquestionably suffered severe financial harm, accusations of misconduct provide no basis for denying the individual insureds insurance protection under the...policies," Glenn wrote in an opinion dated April 10.

Last week, Glenn denied an appeal by Sapere in its bid to jump ahead in the line of creditors waiting for payment in MF Global's bankruptcy case.

MF Global Holdings, the parent company of the brokerage, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Oct. 31. The brokerage isn't in bankruptcy protection but is being unwound under the Securities Investor Protection Act

Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday April 27 Ag News

USDA Grant to Fund New Agricultural Policy Research at UNL

All consumers are not the same. Neither are all agricultural producers. Yet ag policy analysis typically has assumed they are, which can result in ineffective or inefficient policies. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is leading a new research effort to change that approach.

UNL received a two-year $766,166 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to establish a new policy research group within its Center for Agricultural and Food Industrial Organization.

Traditionally, policy studies have imagined a "representative consumer" or "representative producer" in analyzing agricultural policy, said Konstantinos Giannakas, UNL agricultural economics professor who will lead this research.

However, there's really no such thing. Consumers respond to food policies in very different ways, driven by preferences, income and other factors. Producers' responses to ag policies vary, too, depending on factors including education, experience, location, management skills and available technology.

"We're not all the same. We make different decisions based on where we're coming from," said Peter Calow, research professor with UNL's Office of Research and Economic Development and part of the research team. "It's hard to take these differences into account. It's much easier to make the presumption that everybody is the same."

Calow said policy-makers long have understood that those differences exist, "but they presumed the variability wouldn't make a lot of difference in the end" in making policies about consumers' and producers' decisions.

USDA and others now believe those distinctions potentially make a huge difference, and UNL's research is aimed at developing a new policy-analysis framework that will take them into account.

Many market studies already account for these differences, Giannakas said, but policy studies are lagging.

As an example, Giannakas pointed out, one can look at consumers' reaction to initial introductions of genetically modified foods. European consumers were up in arms initially, while most American consumers were not.

"We'll be trying to get a handle on these variabilities through observing what people say and do in experimental situations, which is an area called behavioral economics. This is really cutting edge stuff," Calow said.

Giannakas agreed. "This is novel. This has not been done in ag policy analysis."

"Economics is about behavior and incentives. Policy is about the kind of incentives you're creating for people," Giannakas said. "The so-what question – why USDA is excited about this, why policy makers are excited about this – is this will enable us to take any policy and see how it will affect different consumer groups and different producer groups."

The research will build on work Giannakas and colleagues have been doing for a decade, which has focused on the market for organic products; the economics of innovation and intellectual property rights; the economic effects of the introduction of genetically modified products under different regulatory and labeling regimes; the role of cooperatives in the agri-food system; conservation compliance on highly erodible lands; the market and welfare impacts of country-of-origin-labeling; and consumer demand for quality-differentiated products.

Once developed, this new framework will be used to analyze important policy issues such as the market potential and best regulatory response to food nanotechnology; producer behavior and design of policies related to downstream water pollution issues; least-cost policies to facilitate commercialization of biomass crops for energy; the impact of agricultural policies on entrepreneurship and the economic development of rural communities; and producer response to various risk management policies.

Policy analysis will be able to determine the effects of different policies on different groups of producers and consumers – for example, comparing consumers of nanofoods vs. consumers of conventional, genetically modified or organic products; low income vs. high income producers; more efficient producers vs. less efficient producers.

"We believe this will lead to improved policy design, enhanced efficiency, increased effectiveness and fewer policy failures," Giannakas said.

The research, which also will use behavioral and experimental economic methods in policy analysis and design, will involve about 11 faculty as well as graduate and post-doctoral students.

The grant is from USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

The Center for Agricultural and Food Industrial Organization is part of UNL's Department of Agricultural Economics within the university's Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Smith Presses USTR Kirk, USDA Secretary Vilsack to Stand Up for Pork Producers

Congressman Adrian Smith (R-NE) today sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack asking they work with the Colombian government to remove its unjustified sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) requirements on certain pork imports. This unscientific trade barrier would cause U.S. pork producers not to realize the full economic benefits possible under the recently-passed Colombia Free Trade Agreement.

“All too often, foreign governments unfairly have blocked U.S products based on arbitrary guidelines,” said Smith.  “The recently passed agreement with Colombia presents a huge opportunity for U.S. pork producers, but the country’s continuation of unscientific requirements on certain pork imports could cost tens of millions of dollars and nearly 1,000 direct jobs. It is vital science determines the import standards for all of our producers and I will continue to work with the Administration to reverse this harmful and baseless policy.”

Colombia requires all chilled pork imports to be tested for trichinae, even though it does not test its own domestically produced pork. According to the International Commission on Trichinellosis, there is a 1 in 300 million chance of finding trichinae in the U.S. commercial food supply. These tests place an unnecessary and burdensome cost on U.S. pork producers when the risk for exposure is negligible.

Smith was a key supporter of the recently passed trade agreement with Colombia. Smith is working with both governments to ensure the removal of the testing requirement before the implementation of the agreement on May 15th.  Smith serves on the Ways and Means Committee which has jurisdiction over trade policy in the U.S. House of Representatives.

House Bill Introduced to Stop EPA Manipulation of Clean Water Act

U.S. Congressmen John Mica (R-Fla.), Nick Rahall (D-W.V.), Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio) today, April 27, 2012, introduced legislation (H.R. 4965), which is strongly supported by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the Public Lands Council (PLC). The bill 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 would stop EPA’s intentional avoidance of the rulemaking process and Congress.

“The problem with EPA is 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, who is also a Nebraska cattleman. “This is a clear violation of the Administrative Procedures Act.”

The document that triggered this bipartisan legislation was the CWA jurisdictional 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 and many features not waters at all. 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 more 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 representatives 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. This legislation is subsequent to the Preserve the Waters of the United States Act, which is almost identical to H.R. 4965, introduced by U.S. Senators John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.) Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) March 28, 2012. 

Iowa Corn Checkoff Announces July Elections For Six Crop Reporting Districts

Corn growers in Crop Reporting Districts 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, and 8 will vote July 10 at their county extension offices for representatives to serve on the Iowa Corn Promotion Board (ICPB).    Each winner will serve a three-year term representing corn growers from their respective crop reporting districts.

Anyone who has produced and marketed 250 bushels of corn or more in Iowa in the previous year is eligible to vote in the election.  Producers unable to visit an extension office on July 10 may vote by absentee ballot.  Absentee ballots will be available from May 24 to June 27 by contacting the ICPB office at 515-225-9242.  All absentee ballots must be postmarked by July 10.

Current candidates are as follows:

Crop District #1 - Buena Vista, Cherokee, Clay, Dickinson, Emmet, Lyon, O’Brien, Osceola, Palo Alto, Plymouth, Pocahontas and Sioux
·         Kurt Harms from George in Lyon County
·         Gary Small from Rembrandt in Buena Vista County

Crop District #2 - Butler, Cerro Gordo, Floyd, Franklin, Hancock, Humboldt, Kossuth, Mitchell, Winnebago, Worth and Wright
·         Deb Keller from Clarion in Wright County
·         Chris Weydert from Algona in Kossuth County

Crop District #4 – Audubon, Calhoun, Carroll, Crawford, Greene, Guthrie, Harrison, Ida, Monona, Sac, Shelby and Woodbury
·         Larry Klever from Audubon in Audubon County
·         David Leiting from Carroll in Carroll County

Crop District #5 – Boone, Dallas, Grundy, Hamilton, Hardin, Jasper, Marshall, Polk, Poweshiek, Story, Tama and Webster
·         John Brockman from Melbourne in Marshall County
·         Kevin Rempp from Montezuma in Poweshiek County

Crop District #7 – Adair, Adams, Cass, Fremont, Mills, Montgomery, Page, Pottawattamie and Taylor
·    Doug Holliday from Greenfield in Adair County
·    Trevor Whipple from Northboro in Fremont County

Crop District #8 - Appanoose, Clarke, Decatur, Lucas, Madison, Marion, Monroe, Ringgold, Union, Warren and Wayne
·    Ray Cook from Seymour in Wayne County
·    Don Hunerdosse from Milo in Warren County

Other corn producers interested in running for the Board can get on the ballot by filing a nomination petition with the ICPB no later than 4:30 p.m. on May 14.  Completed petitions must be signed by 25 corn producers from the prospective candidate’s district and notarized.

Iowa growers elect 17 of their peers to serve on the Iowa Corn Promotion Board to oversee the investment of funds generated by the Iowa corn checkoff.  The Board’s primary activities include domestic and foreign market development, research into new and value-added corn uses, and education about the corn industry.  A portion of the seats on the board are up for election each year.

For more information on the ICPB or director elections, please contact the ICPB office at (515) 225-9242 or by mail at 5505 NW 88th Street #100, Johnston, IA 50131.

Update for Veterinarians Program May 30

Veterinarians who work with cattle are invited to sharpen their skills and learn the latest information on a variety of topics at a May 30 workshop in southern Iowa. The 19th annual "Update for Veterinarians" will focus on topics of specific interest to beef practitioners, according to Iowa State University (ISU) Extension and Outreach beef program specialist Joe Sellers who is organizing the event at the ISU McNay Research Farm near Chariton.

"All of our speakers are from Iowa State this year," Sellers said. "We created the program based on discussions with local practitioners about issues facing their clients."

Terry Engelken will present information on identifying fescue foot and other toxicity symptoms, and results of an Iowa-based cow internal parasite survey. Other speakers and topics are Mary Drewnoski with fescue management, Steve Ensley with updated impacts of pyrethroid application on bull fertility, Dan Loy with review of improving digestibility of low quality forages, Stephanie Hansen with results of a forage/mineral study, Grant Dewell with an update from ISU's Veterinary Diagnostic and Production Animal Medicine department, and Sellers with heifer development strategies and using the Iowa Beef Center's estrus synchronization planner.

"The Iowa Beef Center at Iowa State and ISU Extension and Outreach have put together a great program of current topics and presenters, and we've applied for six hours of continuing education credits," Sellers said.

Registration begins at 8:45 a.m. with the first of four morning speakers starting at 9:15 a.m. Four more speakers will follow lunch. Those who preregister by May 28 will pay $50 per person which includes the noon meal. Those who preregister after May 28 and those who register onsite will pay $70.

The brochure with registration form is available. For more information, contact Sellers by phone at 641-203-1270 or by email at

IGC: China Corn Imports Forecast Higher

China's corn imports may rise 50% to around 6 million metric tons in the next IGC marketing year that begins July 1, the International Grains Council said Friday.

The IGC kept China's corn import forecast unchanged for 2011-12 at 4.0 million tons.

The country's corn imports are forecast to rise for a fourth consecutive year due to strong domestic demand, high local prices and high transportation costs from northern growing areas to the south, making imports from the U.S. or Argentina cost effective, it said.

With local prices close to record highs and U.S. export prices lower, there is speculation that China may have already bought as much as 2.0 million tons of new crop U.S. corn that will be harvested from August, the IGC said.

Private importers in China may also have recently bought up to 700,000 tons of corn for near-term delivery, it said.

Earlier this month, old crop domestic corn was quoted around $385/ton in Dalian, and values further south in Guangzhou were around $406/ton, the IGC added.

U.S. corn for June shipment is currently being offered around $326-$330/ton, cost-and-freight, which is economically viable even after factoring in the 14% taxes, traders said.

The IGC also revised up its forecast for China's wheat imports in 2011-12 by 5% to 2.1 million tons, more than double the 1 million tons of actual imports in the previous year.

Rains across most of the North China Plain and northeast were beneficial for winter wheat in the reproduction stage and for the germination of spring wheat, but some areas, notably Sichuan province, remained too dry, the IGC said.

Based on average yields, the total wheat acreage is projected to be similar to last year at 24.3 million hectares, while production is forecast at 116 million tons in 2012-13, down from 117.9 million tons in the previous year.

IGC: S. American Bean Output Down

The International Grains Council Friday cut its estimate of South American soybean output for the sixth time since September, bringing the projected on-year drop to 15%, a decline that is expected to severely deplete global inventories.

South America is now expected to produce 115.9 million metric tons of soybeans in the 2011-12 marketing year due to severe drought and disease, the IGC said.

The figure is more than 20 million tons lower than the IGC's estimate in September and 3.6 million tons lower than its last estimate earlier this month.

The IGC cut its estimate for Brazil's soybean crop by 1.4 million tons to 65.6 million tons, which would be a decline of 13% from a record 75.3 million tons in 2010-11. Drought throughout the growing season has badly hurt the soybean crops in Brazil's Parana, Rio Grande do Sul and Matto Grosso do Sul regions, while a fungal disease in Matto Grosso also hit yields, the IGC said.

Argentina is now expected to produce 42.9 million tons in 2011-12, 2.1 million tons lower than previously estimated and a decline of 12% from the previous year.

Brazil's soybean exports of the previous crop have surged even as drought has afflicted its current crop. The IGC estimated that its exports in the marketing year ending Sept. 30, 2012, will total 35.7 million tons, an increase of 19%.

Argentina's exports for the year are forecast at 8.3 million tons, down from 9.2 million tons in 2010-11.

The IGC said U.S. soybean plantings may be higher than the government's preliminary projection of 29.9 million hectares due to the recent rise in soybean prices relative to corn prices. A tight supply of nitrogenous fertilizer, a crucial input in corn production, may also encourage farmers to switch to soybeans, it said.

Changes to the U.S. Grain Standards Proposed
(from US Wheat Assoc. newsletter)

USDA’s Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS) proposed changes to the U.S. Grain Standards, specifically to the definitions of “Contrasting Classes” and “Shrunken and Broken Kernels in a Federal Register announcement April 11, 2012. USW and other industry stakeholders submitted comments on the standards during FGIS’s periodic review beginning in November 2009.

Growers and country elevator operators likely will welcome the proposed definition for contrasting classes in hard white (HW) wheat. For grading HW, the current system considers all red wheat as contrasting classes. The revision would instead treat hard red spring (HRS) and hard red winter (HRW) wheat as “Wheat of Other Classes.” By changing the definition, the proposed standard would allow U.S. No. 1 HW to contain up to 3 percent HRS or HRW and U.S. No. 2 HW up to 5 percent. This would be considerably less stringent the than the current standard, in which U.S. No. 1 and U.S. No. 2 HW may contain no more than 1 percent and 2 percent, respectively, of red wheat. Because HRW and HRS are similar to HW in milling and end-use properties, small admixtures of these classes do not affect HW functionality. 

Many country elevators have been reluctant to handle HW because of the risk that red wheat admixtures, which are very difficult to avoid entirely when handling both red and white wheat classes, would downgrade HW. Many HW varieties also produce a small percentage of red kernels due to backcrossing with red parents to improve disease and sprout resistance. 

These concerns likely restricted HW production because many growers did not want to risk downgrading of their crop and had difficulty finding elevators willing to handle HW. The proposed standards should help expand HW by reducing the grade risks for both growers and handlers. Growers could then better respond to domestic and international market demand for high quality, whole-grain products made from HW wheat.

FGIS is also proposing that the shrunken and broken kernel limits for U.S. No. 1 and U.S. No. 2 grades be revised to reduce the current limits of 3 percent and 5 percent to 2 and 4 percent, respectively. USW suggested this revision in response to customer concerns that some U.S. cargoes had higher shrunken and broken kernel levels compared to Australian and Canadian cargoes.

Shrunken and broken kernels, defined as any wheat kernel or part of a kernel that passes through a 1.626 mm by 9.545 mm oblong hole sieve, negatively influence flour yield in the milling process. For several years, domestic millers and overseas buyers have recommended limiting amounts for the top two grades. FGIS reviewed shrunken and broken kernel levels in more than 100,000 samples of export cargoes from 2005 to 2009 to evaluate the potential impact of tighter standards. The review showed that under the proposed standard only 5 percent of the samples grading U.S. No. 1 would have been assigned a lower grade and there would be no impact on samples grading U.S. No. 2. Thus FGIS concluded that the revision would have limited impact on the grades wheat growers would receive (although the effect may be greater for individual crop years or growing areas). 

Under federal law, FGIS must solicit final public comment on the proposed changes. Read more at Comments may be submitted on or before June 11, 2012.

USW thanks FGIS for their thoughtful consideration of the proposals submitted for revision of the U.S. Grain Standards.

USDA Dairy Products 2011 Summary

Total cheese production, excluding cottage cheeses, was 10.6 billion pounds, 1.5 percent above 2010 production. Wisconsin was the leading State with 24.9 percent of the production.

Italian varieties, with 4.56 billion pounds were 3.3 percent above 2010 production and accounted for 43.0 percent of total cheese in 2011. Mozzarella accounted for 78.1 percent of the Italian production followed by Provolone with 7.7 percent and Parmesan with 6.1 percent. California was the leading State in Italian cheese production with 31.0 percent of the production.

American type cheese production was 4.27 billion pounds, 0.5 percent below 2010 and accounted for 40.3 percent of total cheese in 2011. Wisconsin was the leading State in American type cheese production with 18.6 percent of the production.

Butter production in the United States during 2011 totaled 1.81 billion pounds, 15.7 percent above 2010. California accounted for 34.4 percent of the production.

Dry milk powders (2011 United States production, comparisons with 2010)
Nonfat dry milk, human - 1.51 billion pounds, down 3.1 percent.
Skim milk powders - 446 million pounds, up 75.7 percent.

Whey products (2011 United States production, comparisons with 2010)
Dry whey, total - 1.01 billion pounds, down slightly.
Lactose, human and animal - 1.00 billion pounds, up 10.1 percent.
Whey protein concentrate, total - 431 million pounds, up 0.7 percent.

Frozen products (2011 United States production, comparisons with 2010)
Ice cream, Regular (total) - 900 million gallons, down 3.1 percent.
Ice cream, Lowfat (total) - 440 million gallons, up 5.8 percent.
Sherbet (total) - 45.0 million gallons, down 8.7 percent.
Frozen Yogurt (total) - 60.7 million gallons, up 21.2 percent.

UPDATE: DOL drops Youth in Ag Regs; BSE Update...

Labor Department statement on withdrawal of proposed rule dealing with children who work in agricultural vocations

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­The U.S. Department of Labor today issued the following statement regarding the withdrawal of a proposed rule dealing with children who work in agricultural vocations:

“The Obama administration is firmly committed to promoting family farmers and respecting the rural way of life, especially the role that parents and other family members play in passing those traditions down through the generations.  The Obama administration is also deeply committed to listening and responding to what Americans across the country have to say about proposed rules and regulations. 

“As a result, the Department of Labor is announcing today the withdrawal of the proposed rule dealing with children under the age of 16 who work in agricultural vocations.

“The decision to withdraw this rule – including provisions to define the ‘parental exemption’ – was made in response to thousands of comments expressing concerns about the effect of the proposed rules on small family-owned farms.  To be clear, this regulation will not be pursued for the duration of the Obama administration.

“Instead, the Departments of Labor and Agriculture will work with rural stakeholders – such as the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Farmers Union, the Future Farmers of America, and 4-H – to develop an educational program to reduce accidents to young workers and promote safer agricultural working practices.” 

Smith Hails Labor Department’s Decision to Abandon Misguided Youth Ag Rule

Congressman Adrian Smith (R-NE) released the following statement after it was reported the Department of Labor would abandon its proposal to limit youth involvement in agriculture:

“This is a major victory for farmers and ranchers in Nebraska and across the country,” said Smith. “Just as it seemed like the Labor Department would move forward with its terribly misguided rule, common sense has prevailed. Rural families can breathe a little easier knowing it won’t be illegal for their kids to be involved in agriculture, the lifeblood of Nebraska’s economy.”

On September 2, 2011, the Department of Labor published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking which dramatically would alter current child labor laws as they relate to agriculture.  On December 16, 2011, Smith signed a bipartisan letter along with 152 bipartisan Members of Congress urging Labor Secretary Hilda Solis to re-evaluate the proposed rule which would place burdensome restrictions on youth participation in agriculture. In October, Smith signed a bipartisan letter with 77 other House Members which secured an extension of the public comment period on the rule.

Smith serves as co-chairman of the Congressional Rural Caucus and as co-chairman of the Modern Agriculture Caucus.

Johanns Statement on DoL's Withdrawal of Youth in Ag Rule

Senator Mike Johanns says of the Department of Labor deciding against moving forward on a proposal that would affect youth involvment in Agriculture...  “Withdrawing this illogical rule is good news for families involved with agriculture and future generations of farmers and ranchers,” Johanns said. “It took a while, but I'm glad common-sense finally prevailed. I hope this isn't an isolated incident and will carry over to other overly burdensome regulations proposed by this Administration.”

Proposed Child Labor Regulations Withdrawn, Reaction from NE Cattlemen

Late in the day on April 26th the U.S. Department of Labor withdrew proposed regulations of Child Labor in Agriculture. Nebraska Cattlemen submitted comments in opposition to the proposed regulations last fall when they were first introduced.  These comments were among thousands that the Department of Labor received.

Nebraska Cattlemen also organized a coalition of agriculture associations and agriculture supporters to sign an open letter to the Secretary of Labor opposing the proposed Child Labor in Agriculture regulations. Nebraska Cattlemen opposed these regulations because rather than trying to understand agriculture and work to find safety solutions; the Department of Labor was opting, by regulation, to effectively prohibit young workers from being employed in agriculture at all.

“The withdrawal of the proposed child labor regulations comes as a relief to the farmers and ranchers in Nebraska because now they can continue to teach their children about the importance of agriculture through first hand experiences,” states Jim Ramm, Nebraska Cattlemen President.

Nebraska Cattlemen continued to work on this issue through the winter and spring by supporting federal legislation that would have halted the implementation of these regulations. Nebraska Cattlemen also encouraged the Nebraska Congressional delegation to communicate with the Department of Labor just how unreasonable the regulations were.

Reaction from NCBA
Citing concerns raised in “thousands of comments,” the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced yesterday evening, April 26, 2012, it will withdraw its proposed rule regarding youth in agriculture. National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) President J.D. Alexander commended the administration’s action and said farmers and ranchers made their voices heard on the proposed rule, which could have restricted, and in some instances totally prevented, America’s youth from working on farms and ranches.

“This is a victory for farm and ranch families throughout the country. This ridiculous rule would have prevented the next generation of farmers and ranchers from acquiring skills and passion for this very noble profession. It also would have restricted urban kids from working on farms and acquiring a solid worth ethic and enthusiasm for this very diverse industry,” said Alexander. “We absolutely have to have a sensible regulatory environment in Washington, D.C. We should not have to worry about negligent rules being promulgated by out-of-touch regulatory agencies. We encourage the administration to venture off the city sidewalks and learn more about where their food comes from.”

Alexander said this is not the first time the administration has proposed rules impacting agriculture before fully evaluating the consequences of the regulations. He said agency officials should reach out to farmers and ranchers prior to proposing a rule that could jeopardize the future of their profession.

“Rather than strapping our hands behind our backs and preventing American youth from learning the ropes of food and fiber production from today’s farmers and ranchers, the administration should work with farmers and ranchers to ensure the rules on the books are workable,” Alexander said. “Rules and regulations, including those related to America’s youth working on farms and ranches, need to ensure safe working conditions. But the original proposal simply went too far. Cattlemen’s voices were heard.”

Alexander said the administration’s action to withdraw the rule showcases the importance of farm and ranch families being engaged in decisions being made inside the Beltway. He said NCBA will work with the beef community, regulatory agencies and policymakers to ensure a similar rule does not resurface in the future.

ASA Welcomes Labor Decision to Withdraw Proposed Child Labor Rules

In response to significant feedback from the agriculture industry, the U.S. Department of Labor announced late Thursday that it would withdraw its proposed rule that would have tightened restrictions on children under the age of 16 working on farms. The American Soybean Association (ASA) repeatedly voiced its opposition to the proposed regulations, and ASA First Vice President Danny Murphy, soybean farmer from Canton, Miss., releases the following statement in support of Thursday’s announcement:

"Thursday’s reversal by the Department of Labor of its onerous proposed child labor regulations is a victory for soybean farmers and farm families across the country. These rules would have significantly hindered the ability of youth to work on family farms and gain agricultural experience, and we are happy to see the administration make a practical and much needed course correction on this issue.

"I learned how to farm from my father, who learned from his father, and with that knowledge, we’ve kept our farm in the family since 1944. The strength of our industry is built on that understanding of the land, passed down from grandparents to parents to children. The families that comprise the soybean industry know that on-farm experience is the best teacher and part of the rural tradition and work ethic that has made our country’s farm economy strong.

"Nobody values on-farm safety more than farmers, and each of us strives daily to ensure that safety remains our top priority. ASA supports efforts to ensure that children are kept out of potentially hazardous situations on the farm, so we are pleased to hear of the administration’s pledge to work with our farm leadership organizations to develop farm safety programs, and we look forward to working with our public and private partners to ensure that these programs are practical and effective."

National Milk Producers Federation Statement on Department of Labor Child Labor Announcement

Jerry Kozak, President and CEO

"Yesterday, the Department of Labor (DOL) withdrew its contentious proposed rule restricting the work that children could do on farms. In a statement issued by the DOL, it was made clear that the proposed rule would not be pursued 'for the duration of the Obama Administration.'

"The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) is encouraged by the Department’s recognition that the path it was on with this proposal was an affront to millions of family members on farms and ranches across America. Many of them had objected to what the Labor Department was planning to do, and they voiced their concerns to the DOL, as well as to Congress. The withdrawal of the proposal is a victory for common sense.

"This proposed child labor rule would have changed the definition of the 'parental exemption,' changed the student learner exemption, and significantly redefined what practices would be acceptable for youth under the age of 16 to participate in. These changes drew objections from NMPF, along with all the other major agricultural organizations, because of the significant impact the change would have had on rural communities and families. Instead, the DOL says it will work with rural stakeholders to develop education programs to reduce accidents to young workers and promote safer agricultural working practices.”


Update from USDA Regarding a Detection of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in the United States
USDA and FDA Continue to Assure Consumers That Existing Safeguards Protect Food Supply; Reiterates Safety of Consuming Beef and Dairy Products

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service today released the following update on the BSE detection announced earlier this week:

On April 24, USDA confirmed the nation’s 4th case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in an animal that was sampled for the disease at a rendering facility in central California. This animal was never presented for slaughter for human consumption, so at no time presented a risk to the food supply, or to human health in the United States. As the epidemiological investigation has progressed, USDA has continued to communicate findings in a timely and transparent manner.

As a result of USDA’s ongoing epidemiological investigation, more information about the history and age of the animal is now available.

The animal in question was 10 years and 7 months old and came from a dairy farm in Tulare County, Calif. The animal was humanely euthanized after it developed lameness and became recumbent. The animal’s carcass will be destroyed.

It is important to reiterate that this animal was never presented for slaughter for human consumption, did not enter food supply channels, and at no time presented any risk to human health.

USDA is continuing its epidemiological investigation and will provide additional information as it is available.

The positive animal was tested as part of targeted BSE surveillance at rendering facilities. Samples were sent to the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory for testing and forwarded to the National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) on April 20th for confirmatory testing. APHIS announced the confirmed positive finding April 24th.

The United States has a longstanding system of three interlocking safeguards against BSE that protects public and animal health in the United States, the most important of which is the removal of specified risk materials – or the parts of an animal that would contain BSE should an animal have the disease – from all animals presented for slaughter in the United States. The second safeguard is a strong feed ban that protects cattle from the disease. The third safeguard—which led to this detection— is our ongoing BSE surveillance program that allows USDA to detect the disease if it exists at very low levels in the U.S. cattle population and provides assurances to consumers and our international trading partners that the interlocking system of safeguards in place to prevent BSE are working.

USDA’s Chief Veterinary Officer on the Recent BSE Case

By Dr. John Clifford 

On April 24, USDA confirmed the nation’s 4th case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in an animal that was sampled for the disease at a rendering facility in central California.  This animal was never presented for slaughter for human consumption, so at no time presented a risk to the food and milk supply, or to human health in the United States.

We have a longstanding system of interlocking safeguards against BSE that protects public and animal health in the United States.  The most important is the removal of specified risk materials – or the parts of an animal that would contain BSE should an animal have the disease – from all animals presented for slaughter in the United States. USDA inspectors at slaughter facilities also prevent cattle that are nonambulatory or are displaying signs of neurological disease or central nervous system disorders from entering the human food supply.

A strong feed ban protects cattle from the disease.  In 1997, the FDA implemented regulations that prohibit the feeding of most mammalian proteins to ruminants, including cattle.  This feed ban is the most important measure to prevent the transmission of BSE to cattle.

Scientific evidence shows that the safeguards we and many countries around the world have in place against BSE are highly effective.  Last year, only 29 cases of BSE were detected worldwide.  This is a greater than 99 percent reduction in the number of cases since the height of the disease in 1992.

We found this particular case through our ongoing BSE surveillance program.  The surveillance program allows USDA to detect the disease if it exists at very low levels in the U.S. cattle population and provides assurances to consumers and our international trading partners that the interlocking system of safeguards in place to prevent BSE are working.

We test for BSE at levels ten times greater than World Animal Health Organization standards.  We take samples from approximately 40,000 animals each year, focusing on groups where the disease is more likely to be found.  The targeted population for ongoing surveillance includes cattle exhibiting signs of central nervous disorders or signs associated with BSE, nonambulatory animals, and dead cattle. The samples come from locations like farms, veterinary diagnostic laboratories, public health laboratories, slaughter facilities, veterinary clinics, and livestock markets.

In this case, the samples came from a rendering facility in California.  The samples were initially sent to the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory, then on to USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa for further testing.  USDA confirmed the animal was positive for atypical BSE, a very rare form of the disease not generally associated with an animal consuming infected feed.  We are reaching out to international laboratories with more experience with this atypical form of BSE to assist us with our investigation.

Our investigation is ongoing.  But here are a few things that we do know for a fact.  It is perfectly safe to eat beef and drink milk without concern for BSE.

The animal’s carcass was held at the rendering facility and then destroyed.  It was never presented for processing for human consumption.  At no time did it present a risk to the food supply.  And scientific research indicates that BSE cannot be transmitted in cow’s milk, even if the milk comes from a cow with BSE.  The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that tests on milk from BSE- infected animals have not shown any BSE infectivity. Milk and milk products, are, therefore considered safe.

As our investigation progresses and we learn more, we will provide updates.  You can visit our BSE information center at to learn the latest and get more details about BSE in general.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

April 26 - Senate Ag Committee Marks Up Farm Bill

Johanns' Remarks At Farm Bill Mark-Up

U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) today, along with the rest of the Senate Agriculture Committee, began work on a mark-up of the farm bill.  A transcript of his remarks can be found here...  Below are excerpts from Johanns' remarks:

·         "I'm in the camp of saying 'Let's move forward.' I'm going to support your efforts today because I do believe it's a great first step and we need to move this process along."

·         "We all recognize, including our farmers and ranchers, that our nation's budget situation is more daunting than ever. With our country's total national debt over $15 trillion the government is now borrowing about 42 cents of every dollar [spent]. This farm bill though, like no other committee that I'm aware of, has taken on the responsibility of providing deficit reduction, and as you and the Ranking Member have pointed out, this farm bill saves at least $24.7 billion. You can only imagine if other committees would accept the same responsibility how big a step we would take in dealing with our deficit issues."

·         “What I have heard and what I think members of this Committee have heard is the crop insurance plan offers the best opportunity to go to a more market-oriented farm bill… I think it's a significant step in the right direction for farm policy."

Johanns Statement Following Ag Committee Passage of Farm Bill
Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) today issued the following statement after the Senate Agriculture Committee passed a draft of the farm bill:  "This farm bill is a positive step toward simple, responsible, and more market-oriented ag policy. I'm pleased that the Agriculture Committee has taken steps to reduce the deficit, and with the example it sets in how a committee can come together in a bipartisan way. Specifically, moving away from direct payments while bolstering the crop insurance program is good for our farmers and ranchers and good for American agriculture."

ASA Commends Senate Ag Committee on Completing Farm Bill Mark-Up

By a vote of 12-4, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry passed its version of the 2012 Farm Bill, referring the legislation to the full Senate. The American Soybean Association voiced its support for the bill late last week, and ASA President Steve Wellman, a farmer from Syracuse, Neb., had this to say about the Committee’s action today:

“ASA is very pleased with the Senate Agriculture Committee’s work today, and throughout the Farm Bill process. As passed by the Committee, this legislation will serve the needs not only of soybean farmers, but of the entire farming community. The dedication shown by Chairwoman Stabenow, Ranking Member Roberts, and the entire Committee is recognized and appreciated by the soybean industry, and has resulted in a bill that not only provides important risk management tools and funding for export promotion, energy, biobased products and research, but also helps agriculture do its part to address the nation’s budget deficits.

“ASA is encouraged that the bill includes a revenue-based risk management program that is equitable between crops, and will partially offset losses incurred at either the farm level or the county level. Other key features of the bill include its consolidation of multiple conservation programs, targeting of conservation funding toward conservation measures on working lands versus land retirement, authorization and funding for the new Foundation for Food and Agriculture, full funding of the Foreign Market Development Program (Cooperator) and Market Access Program (MAP), and mandatory funding for ASA’s two Energy Title priorities, the Biobased Market Program and the Biodiesel Education Program.

“ASA again expresses its full support and commends the Committee for its work on this important legislation. We look forward to continuing to work with the Senate Agriculture Committee to enact an effective farm bill for American soybean producers in 2012 as the bill now moves to the Senate floor.”

Center for Rural Affairs applauds amendment of Senate Farm Bill

Today, the Center for Rural Affairs praised the Senate Agriculture Committee for closing loopholes in the farm payment limitation.

“We applaud the Senate Ag Committee for passing a Farm Bill that for the first time in a generation closes the gaping loopholes that have made a mockery of the farm program payment limitation,” said Chuck Hassebrook of the Center for Rural Affairs. “Most of all, we thank Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) for his tireless advocacy for reducing subsidies for mega farms to drive family farms out of business.”

According to Hassebrook, closing the loopholes is a critical step. And the next step is to apply those limits to uncapped premium subsidies for federal crop insurance, the most expensive element of the farm program. “If one corporation farmed every acre in America,” said Hassebrook. “The federal government would pay 60 percent of its crop insurance premiums on every acre, every year.”

“Crop insurance subsidies are highest in times of high prices - when they are needed least. That’s because it costs more to insure $6 corn than $4 corn. Crop insurance costs have doubled in the last 5 years and quadrupled in the last 10 years,” Hassebrook continued.

The Center for Rural Affairs also praised Senators Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) for working to fund rural development programs through the farm bill. “If passed as it now stands,” said Hassebrook, “this farm bill will be the first in a generation to include no funding for rural development.” Brown and Nelson are pressing to change that before the bill comes before the full Senate.

The Center also praised Senators John Thune (R-SD), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Mike Johanns (R-NE) for winning a sodsaver provision that will reduce federal crop insurance subsidy premiums for breaking out erosion prone native grasslands for crop production.

NCGA Appreciates Efforts to Pass Farm Bill out of Senate Ag Committee

National Corn Growers Association President Garry Niemeyer released the following statement in response to the Senate Agriculture Committee’s passage of the 2012 farm bill:

“The National Corn Growers Association appreciates the efforts by the Senate Agriculture Committee to pass the 2012 farm bill.  We realize a lot of hard work was put in by committee members and staff over the past several days and we are pleased to see an agreement was reached.  While no legislative product is perfect, we believe the bulk of the legislation passed by the committee is consistent with corn growers’ policy.”

“We look forward to working with Senate Ag Committee members and the entire Senate to get a bill passed on the floor in the month of May.”

AEC Applauds Reauthorization of Critical USDA Energy Title Programs

Today, the Senate Agriculture Committee marked up the 2012 Farm Bill, including an amendment to reauthorize mandatory funding for a number of critical energy title programs designed to spur the development of homegrown, renewable energy in rural America. The Advanced Ethanol Council issued the following statement:

“The Advanced Ethanol Council (AEC) applauds the leadership of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and specifically Chairwoman Stabenow and Senators Conrad and Lugar, in assuring continued mandatory funding for critical USDA energy title programs. There is no more urgent need in this country today than creating new jobs and reducing our dependence on foreign oil. The programs reauthorized and streamlined today are doing just that, and will continue to help the United States create jobs and replace foreign oil with homegrown, renewable energy production when signed into law. While it is very important to also address the tax piece for advanced biofuels by the end of the year, this is a critical first step toward providing continuity for American farmers and advanced biofuel producers while exceeding the committee’s goals for deficit reduction.”

Senate Agriculture Committee Passes Dairy Reform in 2012 Farm Bill

John Wilson, DFA Senior Vice President

“On behalf of Dairy Farmers of America, Inc.’s (DFA) Board of Directors and management, we commend Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Sen. Pat Roberts and all the members of the Senate Agriculture Committee for their effort to improve federal dairy programs for U.S. dairy farmers.  By including provisions of the Dairy Security Act in the Agriculture, Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 (Farm Bill), the committee has taken an important first step in truly reforming the dairy safety net, providing producers the tools they need to remain competitive in the global market and facilitate the industry’s growth and long-term sustainability.

Since the devastating dairy economy crash of 2009, dairy farmers, industry organizations and cooperatives – including DFA – have worked to develop a new system that better protects the interests of producers in a highly volatile industry.

The dairy provisions included in the Farm Bill provide producers options to protect their margins and the ability to strengthen exports, both of which will be instrumental in maintaining the vitality of the U.S. dairy industry. We appreciate the support of the committee and look forward to fighting for the bill’s passage on the Senate floor.”

25x'25 Commends Senate Agriculture Committee for Providing Mandatory Funding for Farm Bill Energy Programs

The National 25x'25 Alliance today commended members of the Senate Agriculture Committee for voting to provide mandatory funding for energy programs in the 2012 Farm Bill proposal being marked up this week.

The Alliance is particularly grateful to Sens. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and Richard Lugar, R-Ind., for drafting the amendment, which gained the support of many other senators from both sides of the aisle. By adopting language in the Energy Title of the new farm bill that would assure funding is available for a number of key farm energy programs, the Senate Agriculture Committee is encouraging the development of advanced biofuels and promoting other renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in rural America.

The Conrad-Lugar amendment would set mandatory funding totaling $241 million over five years for Rural Energy for America Program and $193 million for Bioenergy Crop Assistance Program. Another $216 million would be required over the life of the new farm bill for the Biorefinery Assistance Program, $130 million, while $15 million would be allotted for the Biobased Markets Program, and $5 million for a Biodiesel Education Program.

However, the Alliance calls on all renewable energy advocates to maintain their support throughout the legislative and appropriations process, noting that the continued existence of these farm energy programs is far from guaranteed. The measure still faces a Senate floor vote, and House members are expected to come up with a far different energy title.

Without mandatory spending, Congress could authorize little to no money for programs that have helped revitalize rural America, allowed new agricultural markets emerge and reduced the need for direct payments to farmers. The programs, which have no authorization beyond the end of the current farm bill Sept. 30, are zeroed out under Congressional Budget Office baseline estimates.

Senator Proposes New Livestock Risk Management Tool

Recognizing the global footprint of the U.S. pork industry and its associated risks, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., today got included in the Senate Agriculture Committee’s 2012 Farm Bill a provision that will look at protecting hog farmers should foreign markets close.

Klobuchar’s amendment, cosponsored by Senator Grassley from Iowa and part of a package of riders offered as a manager’s amendment to the farm legislation, calls for a study on setting up catastrophic risk-management insurance for pork producers to cover input costs lost because of an animal disease or event that stops exports of U.S. pork.

“The U.S. pork industry thanks Sen. Klobuchar for her leadership and is grateful to her for sponsoring this much-needed study,” said R.C. Hunt, a pork producer from Wilson, N.C., and president of the National Pork Producers Council. “The increased presence of disease, along with increasing international travel and trade that move diseases around the world, have created an unprecedented risk to the U.S. pork industry. Producers need risk-management tools that can protect them should our export markets close. We applaud Senator’s Klobuchar and Grassley for supporting our industry and helping to ensure our jobs are not jeopardized.”

The U.S. pork industry in 2011 exported more than $6 billion of product, which accounted for about 27 percent of total production and supported more than 50,000 jobs. But with that success comes additional risk, according to NPPC. Indeed, U.S. pork exports fell in 2009 after 16 years of record exports because of an outbreak in humans of the H1N1 flu virus that was misnamed “swine flu.”

“We need a program that will protect producers from another H1N1 situation,” Hunt said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture already has a pilot insurance program for hog producers called Livestock Gross Margin (LGM), but it has a $3 million limit on spending that restricts the number of pigs that any one producer can insure. Additionally, the program now is available only for a six-month period.

The Klobuchar amendment would require USDA to study how a catastrophic event insurance program for pork would be structured.

Senate Agriculture Committee Approves Dairy Policy Reforms in Farm Bill

The Senate Agriculture Committee today approved a farm bill draft that contains critically-needed improvements in dairy programs, according to the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF). The bill passed by a vote of 16 to 5, and now will proceed to the full Senate for consideration.

The Senate legislation includes a new, voluntary margin protection program, endorsed by NMPF, to better safeguard farmers against disastrously low margins, such as those generated by the low milk prices and high feed costs that cost dairy farmers $20 billion in net worth between 2007 and 2009.

"The Senate has taken a huge step in the right direction by including the dairy reforms modeled after NMPF's Foundation for the Future program," said Jerry Kozak, President and CEO of NMPF.  "We commend Senators Stabenow and Roberts for their leadership and diligence in shepherding the farm bill past this point."

Kozak said the dairy title contains a better safety net for farmers in the form of the Dairy Production Margin Protection Program, which offers them a basic level of coverage against low margins, as well as a supplemental insurance plan offering higher levels of protection jointly funded by government and farmers. Those who opt to enroll in the margin program will also be subject to the Market Stabilization program that asks them to reduce milk output when margins are poor.

The Committee approved two amendments to the dairy title of the farm bill:  one, offered by Sens. Johanns (R-NE) and Casey (D-PA), that authorizes a review of the Market Stabilization program at the end of the five-year farm bill lifespan; and a second, offered by Sen. Gillibrand (D-NY), that extends the MILC program through June 2013, at a reduced rate, so there is a safety net in place while the USDA implements the new dairy margin insurance program. The bill was not amended in any way that diminishes the value of the margin protection or market stabilization elements, according to Kozak.

"We're very appreciative that members of the Agriculture Committee have preserved the carefully-crafted economic and political compromises that went into the creation of Foundation for the Future. We look forward to working with the full Senate as it considers this legislation later this spring," Kozak said.