Thursday, May 31, 2012

Thursday May 31 Ag News

No One-size-fits-all Solutions to Water, Food Security

Examples of how water use can be managed successfully to feed a growing world population can be found in locations as diverse as Nebraska and India, but there's no one-size-fits-all solution to the challenges ahead, said the director of the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska Wednesday.

Several speakers at the fourth annual global Water for Food Conference pointed out that changing what people eat will be a key component of solving the looming crisis.

Roberto Lenton, who became executive director of the Daugherty Institute in February, opened the conference, which is expected to draw more than 530 people from 26 nations to discuss the research, education and policy implications of feeding a world whose population is expected to grow from 7 billion to 9 billion by 2050, while using less water for agriculture.

Colin Chartres, director general of the Sri Lanka-based International Water Management Institute, defined the stark challenge this way: Based on current trends, by 2030 the world will need double the water it requires now.

"How we deal with water scarcity over the next 10 to 20 years will have a fundamental impact on food security, poverty reduction and the environment in years to come," Chartres said.

Lenton stressed that while the challenges are global, the solutions must be devised locally because of differences in water availability and technological and policy options. Lenton cited Nebraska and India as examples.

Nebraska, which leads the U.S. in irrigated acreage, will celebrate this year the 40th anniversary of creation of its unique natural resource district system that puts groundwater management in the hands of local units of government with locally elected boards and taxing authority.

"This was a landmark event," Lenton said, adding that even as irrigation has continued to increase, NRD management, as well as a University of Nebraska-Lincoln-created water management network, have helped the water table remain relatively stable.

In a region of India, meantime, it was urban dwellers' concern about water sanitation that drove changes in watershed management upstream and, ultimately, encouraged those upstream villages to come up with a system to divide water equitably and protect the watershed.

Lenton said water management means different things to different people, ranging from a household to a global perspective. For example, he noted, a farmer focuses on how to maximize yield with the water available to increase profits, while national policymakers consider how to ensure food security for citizens while minimizing water used by agriculture so other needs can be met.

"Most of us in this room generally think of one scale or maybe a couple," Lenton said. "We can't solve a global issue if we can't understand what's happening on other levels."

While this is Lenton's first Water for Food Conference, NU President James B. Milliken noted that the Water for Food Institute already is making important strides. He noted the establishment of several partnerships with both private and governmental entities from around the world and said more are to come.

The institute's mission is to educate not just scientists about the challenges, but also policymakers and citizens, beginning with the youngest, those in K-12 schools, Milliken said.

Another speaker, Malin Falkenmark, senior scientific adviser at the Stockholm International Water Institute, said good management of "blue water" and "green water" is critical. Blue water is drawn from aquifers, rivers and lakes and green water falls as precipitation.

By 2050, she warned, 46 percent of the world will live in areas with blue-water shortages. Falkenmark said managing diet expectations is important. Even with projected yield increases, there won't be enough water to support a diet of 3,000 kilocalories a day if 20 percent of those calories come from meat. She said there would be "just enough" for a diet with 5 percent of the calories coming from meat.

That would be a significant shift, not just for people in the developed world but for those in the developing world whose diets tend to include more meat as wealth rises.

In addition to a diet with less meat, Chartres said any solution to feeding more people with less water must include: a reduction in waste, both in production and consumption; encouragement of trade, with water-hungry crops grown in water-rich areas; and increased production.

These steps will require political leadership, new policies, regulation enforcement, reform of governments and institutions and more, Chartres added.

Collaboration Key to Water, Food Solutions

From the boardrooms and research plots of agribusiness companies and the halls of governments to the tiny farms of the developing world, collaboration is key to making progress toward the goal of feeding a world with a growing population and limited water.

"Some people describe this as a crisis," said Jeff Raikes, chief executive officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, at the global Water for Food Conference Thursday (May 31). But it's also "an opportunity to come together and really work in new ways that will produce … new approaches" to create more sustainable agriculture that uses less water.

Raikes spoke during the second day of the conference, hosted by the Robert B. Daugherty Foundation at the University of Nebraska and the Gates Foundation. By Thursday, 550 people from 28 nations had registered for the conference to discuss the research, education and policy implications of feeding a world whose population is expected to grow from 7 billion to 9 billion by 2050, while using less water for agriculture.

Representatives of some of the world's leading agribusinesses discussed how private industry, working with governments and producers, is helping address the challenges. The panel was presented by Global Harvest Initiative. These businesses are moving beyond their traditional purviews -- selling seed or agricultural equipment, for example -- to broader, systems-based approaches that aim to help even the smallest producers become better managers of their limited land, water and other resources.

Natalie DiNicola, vice president of sustainable ag partnerships for Monsanto, pointed to the recent G-8 summit, where 45 companies, half from Africa, signed an agreement with several governments to make substantial investments in improving agricultural production in sub-Saharan Africa, where the looming food shortage is most acute.

DiNicola said the tone at the summit was encouraging, a significant shift from past finger-pointing about the problem toward a focus on solutions and how both public and private entities have roles to play.

Graeme Jarvis, director of John Deere's Latin American Technology Innovation Center, said his company now is about more than putting its familiar green farm equipment in fields. Deere's new FarmSight initiative seeks to integrate technology and equipment in ways that help producers produce higher yields with fewer resources. One facet of this effort is to gather data and make it easily accessible to farmers in the field so they can make sound management decisions.

"A lot of information is going to be generated on the farm … but it'll be captured in a way that's easy to use," Jarvis said.

John Soper, vice president of crop genetics research and development at Pioneer Hi-Bred, acknowledged companies have a profit incentive to invest in the developing world, where today's subsistence farmer could be tomorrow's customer.

"It is a business opportunity and that's why we're interested in doing it," Soper said. But companies like his also are driven as good corporate citizens to help address the challenges.

"A lot of people assume large companies don't work with small farmers, and that's simply not true," he said. He noted Pioneer already has millions of customers in India and China and welcomes future growth in Africa.

The industry panelists also said the world's governments must establish and enforce free-trade policies and clear, long-term, science-based and business-friendly regulations, particularly protecting companies' intellectual property rights on their products. Soper said companies base their decisions on where they'll do business in part on the regulatory environment.

Raikes said up to 1.3 billion people in the world live on less than $1 a day, 75 percent of them in rural areas. Addressing their nutritional needs is about more than putting food in bellies. Adequately fed people have a chance to get good educations and better health care and live longer, better lives, he said.

Speaking to reporters at a media briefing, Raikes said he's confident the technologies to improve these people's lives can be created. The great challenge is to prove to small farmers they will work and convince them to adopt the practices and technologies.

Raikes and Simi Kamal, chief executive officer of the Pakistan-based Hisaar Foundation, said it's critical those efforts involve women. Women provide about 70 percent of agricultural labor in sub-Saharan Africa yet are not involved in management decisions, Kamal said at the briefing.

"What we are moving toward is building a very strong women's voice, especially in the decision-making process," Kamal said.

The conference will continue Friday (June 1) at the Cornhusker Hotel. This year's presentations focus on the conference theme, "Blue Water, Green Water and the Future of Agriculture."

NE Corn Board to Meet

The Nebraska Corn Board will hold its next meeting on Monday, June 18 and Tuesday, June 19, 2012 at the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture in Curtis, Nebraska.  The Board will conduct regular board business, consider funding requests and set the budget for Fiscal Year 2012-2013.   The meeting is open to the public.  A copy of the agenda is available by writing the Nebraska Corn Board, PO Box 95107, Lincoln, NE  68509, or calling either 402/471-2676 or 800-NECORN1.

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

ACE announces “Proud History, Bright Future” theme and topics for 25th annual ethanol conference

The American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) is releasing some new details about its upcoming 25th annual ACE Ethanol Conference which occurs August 8-10 in Omaha, Nebraska.  ACE Executive Vice President Brian Jennings says the theme of the grassroots organization’s silver anniversary event is “Proud History, Bright Future,” where timely and important topics will be covered.

“Our 25th anniversary conference will provide forward-looking previews on the policy and market development opportunities and challenges facing the U.S. ethanol industry,” said Jennings.  “Ethanol producers are feeling the effects of the E10 blend wall, we are in the midst of introducing E15 to the market, and expectations are high for progress on the advanced and cellulosic ethanol front,” continued Jennings.

Some of the general session topics to be covered at the ACE Conference include an outlook on the markets and policies that will impact ethanol profitability in the future, the role octane and vehicle technology innovations will play for ethanol demand, an update on E15 implementation, product and technology process innovations at ethanol plants, and an update on cellulosic and advanced ethanol.

Breakout sessions at the event will be particularly useful for ethanol plant board members and management, and titles for these sessions include the ABC’s of E15, Quality Assurance for Distillers Grain, Fiduciary and Governance Responsibilities for Ethanol Plant Board Directors, Feedstock Quality and Its Impact on Profitability, and an Energy Market Price Outlook.

“As we celebrate ACE’s 25th year, the conference will show how far we’ve come as an industry and how we as a grassroots organization are positioned to help the industry evolve, innovate, and succeed well into the future,” Jennings said.

Speakers will be announced soon.  To register to attend the upcoming ACE Conference or for more information, click this link:

What you need to know about TREATED SEED Left-over at end of Planting Season

The recent visit to Iowa by the Vice Premier of China helped to underscore the importance of China as the primary overseas market for U.S. soybeans.  However, the Chinese government has very strict rules forbidding the presence of any treated seed in commodity soybean shipments arriving at its ports.  Because Chinese officials have detected some treated seed within U.S.-origin commodity soybean shipments during the past year, this article will review the U.S. laws governing what must be done by farmers for proper and legal disposition of treated seeds remaining on farm after the planting season is over.  The United States Soybean Export Council (USSEC) and the Nebraska Soybean Board feel that U.S. farmer compliance is critical for avoiding disruption of U.S. soybean exports to China and other applicable overseas markets.  

Below are recommendations garnered from the TREATED SEED DISPOSAL section of the Pesticide Environmental Stewardship website of the Center for Integrated Pest Management ( ). 

It states the following:
A.    “The best way to dispose of a small quantity of leftover seed that has been treated with a pesticide is to plant it in fallow or other non-cropped areas of the farm.  It would have value as a ‘green manure’ cover crop or wildlife food plot.  Note that treated seed may be hazardous to wildlife if it is not correctly planted (i.e., below surface of the soil).”
B.      “Other possible options include:
1. disposal in an approved municipal landfill (only permitted in some states; plus permits may be    required).
2. use as a fuel source for electrical power plants or cement kilns.
3. high temperature incineration by a waste management facility.
4. fermentation in an alcohol-producing process at an ethanol plant (but then the ethanol plant’s resultant mash or distillers grains must not be used as  feed).
However, the farmer must first contact the specific facility to determine if it can accept pesticide-treated seed.  This list of power plants utilizing biomass, municipal solid waste, or non-fossil waste as an alternative fuel is extracted from the EPA National Electric Energy Data System (NEEDS) v3.02 ARRA, available at:  Cement kilns can be located at”
C.    “For disposal of large quantities of leftover treated seed, the farmer must contact the pesticide manufacturer if the farmer needs more information than what is provided below (in the CIPM website).”
       NOTE:  If the seed treatment was applied by the seed company, the farmer should contact the seed company.
D.    “NEVER burn pesticide-treated seed in a wood or corn stove used in the home or shop, for any purpose (heating, cooking, etc.)”

UNL Launches Online Plant Breeding and Genetics Certificate Program

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln launched a new online educational program designed to meet the growing demand for plant breeding and genetics professionals.

The program can be taken by professionals for continuing education units or anyone working in or interested in working in agribusiness, seed production, plant biology or related fields, said Deana Namuth-Covert, distance education director for UNL's Department of Agronomy and Horticulture. It instills a superior understanding of the cutting-edge technologies and methods used today, she said.

"In 30 years, the world's population will reach 9 billion. The pressure is on to develop smarter, better ways to grow the food needed to feed all those people," Namuth-Covert said. "Currently, there are tremendous career opportunities for plant breeders and geneticists. It's one of those rare fields where both large and small employers, such as local seed industries clear to the world's largest food production companies, cannot find enough talent to fill open positions."

The program provides highly practical knowledge through courses such as:
-- Basic Genetics Principles
-- Advanced Plant Breeding Topics, such as Double Haploids and G x E Concepts
-- Plant Resistance to Abiotic and Biotic Stressors
-- Production of Specialty Grain Crops
-- Animal, Food and Industry Uses of Grain
-- Crop Genetic Engineering

Students can learn more about the program and register for classes at:

Developed by the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at UNL, the online Plant Breeding and Genetics professional certificate program is taught by the university's world-renowned plant breeders and best teaching faculty. An interdisciplinary approach is used to address production constraints and environmental issues related to agronomic and horticultural cropping systems.

Gov. Heineman Encourages Nebraskans to Visit Farmers’ Markets and Announces 2012 Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program

Gov. Dave Heineman today encouraged Nebraskans to visit their local farmers’ markets this season to purchase fresh, locally grown produce.

“Farmers’ markets help connect produce growers with residents of cities and towns, and provide growers with another outlet to market their fresh produce,” said Gov. Heineman. “Nothing compares to the freshness of the produce found at the farmers’ markets across our state. It  is great-tasting, and it’s good for your health.”

In the past 12 years, Nebraska’s markets have grown from 39 to over 75, located in 62 communities across the state. The number of produce growers listed with the Nebraska Department of Agriculture has increased to 607 from 78 in that same amount of time.

“Farmers’ markets continue to grow here in Nebraska. There is a great deal of appeal for consumers to have the opportunity to talk face to face with the people who grew the produce that ultimately ends up on their plates,” said Nebraska Department of Agriculture Director Greg Ibach.

“Fruits and vegetables are critical to good health and everyone should be eating more,” said Dr. Joann Schaefer, Chief Medical Officer and Director of Public Health for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. “We know a diet high in fruits and vegetables can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, stroke, some types of cancer, heart disease and hypertension.”

For the past12 years, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services have collaborated to operate the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program. The program provides low-income senior citizens with coupons to purchase fresh, locally grown produce at their local farmers’ markets. According to Director Ibach, $223,000 worth of coupons were redeemed last year alone by the nearly 5,400 low-income seniors participating in the program. The 2012 program kicks off on June 1st.   

Nebraska’s farmers’ markets generally operate between May and October, and offer visitors a wide variety of produce throughout the growing season. The Nebraska Department of Agriculture’s Guide to Nebraska Fresh Produce lists farmers’ markets, roadside stands and U-pick operations across the state. The guide also indicates what produce is in season each month, produce recipes, educational materials and gardening tips. For a copy of the guide, go to or call 800-422-6692.


The Nebraska Department of Agriculture’s (NDA) Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) has officially begun for the year.  In its 12th year, the program provides low‑income senior citizens with coupons to purchase, at no cost to them, locally grown fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs and honey from NDA certified produce vendors.

For the 2012 program, NDA received a $232,137 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

“This program is extremely beneficial, not only to the more than 5,000 low-income senior citizens that we expect to participate, but also for the over 500 growers that have been certified to accept the coupons,” said NDA Director Greg Ibach.  “The popularity of this program continues to grow each year.”

The SFMNP, established as a pilot program in 2000, and re-authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill, provides low‑income seniors with coupons that can be exchanged for fresh produce, honey and herbs at farmers' markets, roadside stands, and U-pick operations.  The program is intended to increase the consumption of agricultural commodities by expanding or aiding in the development of farmers' markets and other outlets.

EWG Releases Crop Insurance Subsidy Analysis

An analysis of over a million government records pertaining to federal crop insurance has found that in 2011 more than 10,000 individual farming operations have received federal crop insurance premium subsidies ranging from $100,000 to more than $1 million apiece. The analysis found that some 26 farming operations received subsidies of $1 million or more last year.

According to the Environmental Working Group, the records have never before been made public and were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

“Subsidized crop insurance premiums have become the primary farm program,” said Chuck Hassebrook of the Center for Rural Affairs. “And if one corporation farmed the entire Midwest, the government would pay over 60 percent of its crop insurance premiums on every acre.”

“It’s past time to put a cap on crop insurance premium subsidies and stop subsidizing mega farms to bid land away from smaller and beginning farmers, ” Hassebrook added .

A copy of the Environmental Working Group (EWG) release, along with links to the analysis and supporting data, can be viewed and downloaded at .

According to the EWG analysis, U.S. taxpayers pick up an average of about 62 percent of the crop insurance premiums for farm businesses. Their share of these premiums has soared from $1.5 billion in 2002 to $7.4 billion in 2011. The subsidies go to large operators with no conservation strings attached to protect water and soil, no means testing, and no payment limit on how much a farm business can collect (excerpted from EWG release).

Among the facts disclosed in the EWG analysis:
-    A single farm business in Florida received $1.9 million in subsidies for premiums to insure crops of tomatoes and peppers in five counties.
-    A Minnesota farm business insuring corn and soybeans in eight counties received $1.7 million in federal crop insurance subsidies.
-    In Texas, the 10 percent of farm businesses that received the greatest amount of insurance subsidies harvested 63 percent of all the crop insurance subsidies that went into the state last year.
-    The 10 percent of North Dakota farm businesses that received the greatest amount of insurance subsidies took in 45 percent of the subsidies going to all farms in the state.

Pay It Forward Statewide Pump Promotion with Andretti Autosport IndyCar driver Marco Andretti

Fans have the opportunity to meet 2011 Iowa Corn Indy 250 winner, Marco Andretti, at pump promotions in Mason City, Cedar Rapids, Sioux City, and Council Bluffs on June 4, 2012.

The pay it forward statewide pump promotions are a way to celebrate the IZOD IndyCar shift to E85 that Iowans can find at more than 170 flex fuel pumps across the state. Plus, Iowa Corn is partnering with Marco Andretti and Andretti Autosport™ in advance of the 2012 Iowa Corn Indy 250 race on Saturday, June 23, to promote the benefits of corn-based ethanol, specifically E-85 (85% ethanol). The partnership includes TV and radio advertising, and promotional materials as well as brand identification.

“It’s an awesome track and an awesome event,” said Marco Andretti. “I started 17th and was able to work my way to the front, which was a lot of fun. This year, we have one goal at Iowa: win again. This time, we’ll do it with the Iowa Corn logo on the No. 26 RC Cola car.”

In 2012, the Series will be showcasing E-85 at top-notch speeds at professional venues across the world. On June 23rd, fans can witness the power and performance first-hand at the Iowa Speedway for the Iowa Corn Indy 250, but leading up to the race, it only seems appropriate that the 2011 winner, Marco Andretti will be making appearances in Iowa prior to the race.

“On and off the track, Marco talks about choosing ethanol,” said Craig Floss, CEO for the Iowa Corn Growers Association and the Iowa Corn Promotion Board, collectively called, Iowa Corn. “Now Iowans can meet Marco and talk to him about how ethanol performs running over 200 miles an hour.”

Marco will be pumping fuel and signing autographs with fans at the locations listed below. E85 will also be sold for 85 cents per gallon during the promotional times. Limit 30 gallons per customer.
-  Cedar Rapids- Kum & Go, 30 SW Four Oaks Drive from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.
-  Mason City -Kum & Go, 1920 Federal from 9:45 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.
-  Sioux City- Kum & Go, 1925 South Lakeport from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.
-  Council Bluffs- Kum & Go, 4443 S. 84th St. from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.


The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and the Iowa Corn Promotion Board today announced plans to conduct a referendum on July 10, 2012 to increase the corn checkoff by ¼ cent per bushel.  The checkoff is currently ¾ of a cent per bushel and if the increase is approved would be 1 cent per bushel.

Any producer who raised and marketed at least 250 bushels of corn from September 1, 2010 to August 31, 2011 is eligible to vote at any county extension office in the crop reporting district where they live from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on July 10.

Growers who wish to vote by absentee ballot may do so by contacting the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.  Producers may call 515-281-5321, email or visit the Henry Wallace Building, 502 E 9th St., Des Moines, IA 50319 to solicit an Absentee Ballot Request Form.

The Absentee Ballot Request Form must be signed and returned to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.  The producer will then be mailed an Absentee Ballot. Absentee Ballot Request Forms must be postmarked by June 27, 2012 and Absentee Ballots must be postmarked by July 10, 2012.

The corn checkoff was last increased in 2008 to the current rate of ¾ cent per bushel marketed.  The checkoff is collected on corn that enters commercial channels but not on grain used on-farm.  Producers are able to request a refund of their checkoff contribution and that will not be affected by the vote.

The Iowa Corn Checkoff was established by producer referendum in 1977.  The Iowa Corn Promotion Board, made up of farmers elected by their peers, invests checkoff dollars for research, education, promotion, and market development.  The maximum checkoff allowed under Iowa code is 1 cent per bushel.

For more information on how checkoff dollars are used contact the Iowa Corn Promotion Board at 515-225-9242 or find out more online at

Iowa hosts Soy Sustainability Farm Tour

A delegation of major food purchasers, including representatives from Kraft, Kellogg’s and Sodexo, recently made several stops in the heart of Iowa farmland. Their visit was the second leg of a three-state “Soy Sustainability Farm Tour,” organized by the United Soybean Board to help them learn about sustainability at the beginning of the food supply chain – from farmers who produce the raw materials.

Wes Newton, who directs soy procurement for Kellogg’s, was impressed by what he saw.

“The presentations, time on the farms, seeing the equipment and the planted fields was valuable learning,” he said. “It was especially beneficial to speak with producers about their operations and hear them discuss what they are doing to both optimize output and conserve resources.”

Newton and his industry counterparts, accompanied by Iowa Soybean Association’s Environmental Programs and Services (ISA EPS) staff and partners, traveled to the Boone River Watershed (BRW), where they saw firsthand the environmental benefits of farmer-led soil and water conservation efforts.

EPS Director Roger Wolf explained to the group, “Because it is 85 percent row-cropped, the Boone watershed has been identified as one of four ag key watersheds targeted by the Mississippi River Basin Initiative (MRBI) program, which offers incentives for farmers to implement qualifying conservation efforts that will help them achieve continuous improvement at field, farm and watershed scales.”

The tour stopped at the farms of ISA members Tim Smith of Eagle Grove and Arlo Van Diest, Webster City. They shared their experiences in implementing numerous practices on their farms to improve water quality, prevent soil loss and improve biodiversity.

For Smith, the tour provided an opportunity to showcase several new practices, particularly the cover crops he’s now using on the farm that has belonged to his family since 1881.

“I believe the cover crop may be the most important part of the process,” Smith says. “It adds plant matter to the soil, and keeps nitrogen from going into the tile line, making it available instead for my growing crop. In addition, the deep roots keep the soil from eroding, help hold moisture and are good for porosity.”

Of hosting the group, Smith says, “Knowing these folks were coming to see our world and what’s going on here, to take the message back, I wanted to share the process of where we’ve been and what we’re doing now.  It’s important to show our consumers we can produce soybeans in a manner that preserves and enhances our critical soil and water resources.”

A few miles away, Arlo Van Diest, an early adopter of many conservation practices, spoke about his two bioreactors, which help to denitrify the tile water leaving his farm, and pointed out his buffer strips. “But then I want to show you what I am most passionate about,” Van Diest said. “That is strip-till.”

He explained how strip till prepares a narrow area for seed, applying nutrients where they are most available for the plant and leaving the rest of the soil undisturbed.

Van Diest said, “The plant has an ideal bed; there’s a zone for water and the nitrogen is in the right place for the plant.”

The guests asked many questions about the process of crop production and what drives farmers to do what they do.

The group also learned from The Nature Conservancy in Iowa’s Director of Conservation Science Jen Filipiak about the value of a recently restored oxbow, the first of several planned for the watershed. They observed the water quality and biodiversity benefits of this simple improvement on non-productive land. Results are measured from water monitoring by ISA and TNC through a Fishers & Farmers Partnership project.

Wolf anticipates the successful tour will serve as a catalyst for additional visits by representatives of the food system. “We hope this will be followed by more opportunities to show to the food industry how Iowa soybean farmers are working to improve crop production while also enhancing their environmental performance.”

GROWMARK Lubricants Achieves ISO 9001:2008 Certification

The GROWMARK Lubricants manufacturing facility in Council Bluffs, Iowa, has achieved ISO 9001:2008 certification, signifying quality control of all business processes.

"The certification process looks at our entire business, from the moment an order is placed, through manufacturing, shipping, and final delivery," said Makayla Umphreys, inventory and production manager. "We now have a plan in place to make sure we meet customer expectations every step of the way."

The certification comes on the heels of a major renovation at the facility, which increased storage space and updated the laboratory with state-of-the-art equipment. An open house will be held later this summer.

"We have always had a commitment to running a quality operation and producing quality products," said Craig Stout, director of lubricant operations. "The ISO certification formalized the process to help us continue to improve on what we are already doing and will help us grow into new markets."

ISO (International Organization for Standardization) is the world's largest developer and publisher of International Standards. ISO is a non-governmental organization that forms a bridge between public and private sectors and seeks solutions that meet both the requirements of business and the broader needs of society.

USDA ERS:  FY 2012 Exports Forecast at $134.5 Billion; Imports at a Record $107.5 Billion

Fiscal 2012 agricultural exports are forecast at $134.5 billion, up $3.5 billion from the February forecast, but $2.9 billion below final fiscal 2011 exports.  Grain exports are forecast up from February indications, with increased values for wheat, rice, and feed and fodders more than offsetting a reduction for coarse grains.  Oilseeds are up on higher prices and volume, while cotton is up solely on volume.  Horticultural exports are up on strong tree nut exports. The forecast for livestock, poultry, and dairy is up $400 million on increased exports of dairy, poultry, pork, and variety meats.  Exports to the top three markets, Mexico, Canada, and China, are all raised.  Exports to the EU are down $1.5 billion due to increased grain and oilseed competition.

U.S. import demand continues strong, lifting estimated import value by $1 billion to $107.5 billion from the $106.5 billion projected in February.  Increases are forecast for vegetable oils, oilseeds, oilmeal, bulk grains, and beef and veal imports.  Larger imports of rapeseed oil from Canada are leading the vegetable oil gains.  These import increases were partly offset by projected declines for horticultural products and for sugar and tropical products.  Smaller import projections for sugar and rubber offset gains from coffee beans.

Given that the forecast for exports is up $3.5 billion, compared with the February forecast, while imports are rising only $1 billion, the trade balance for 2012 is a surplus of $27 billion, still lower than the record $43 billion in 2011.
Export Products

Fiscal 2012 grain and feed exports are forecast at $34.6 billion, up $600 million from the February forecast. Upward revisions in wheat, rice, and feeds and fodders more than offset lower corn values. Wheat is boosted nearly $500 million to $8.5 billion on sharply increased volume, although lower values are a dampening factor.  The rise reflects strong shipments expected during the fourth quarter. Competition from other exporters will be limited during the summer, giving the United States increased market opportunities for the new crop.  

The forecast export value for coarse grains is lowered $600 million to $13 billion, mostly due to corn.  Corn prices are expected to weaken in the face of a record crop and greater competition (especially from Brazil). Feeds and fodders are up $300 million (primarily corn gluten feed and meal) on both volume and value. Distillers dried grains (DDGS) are up slightly based on shipments to China in recent months.  Rice exports are up $200 million to $2.1 billion on the rapid pace of sales to Northeast Asia as well as South and Central America since March.  U.S. prices are higher on tighter stocks and reports of lower planted area as farmers switch to more profitable crops.

The fiscal 2012 forecast for oilseeds and products is raised $1.4 billion to $26.4 billion.  Significant crop losses in South America have strengthened U.S. unit prices and raised export prospects for soybeans and soybean meal.  Limited U.S. exportable supplies of soybean oil due to strong domestic demand, leaves the export forecast unchanged.  

The fiscal 2012 cotton export forecast is raised $200 million to $6.4 billion.  A slightly higher export volume is driven by stronger import demand by China, which is purchasing domestic supplies for the State reserve.  The expected average export unit value is unchanged. 

The fiscal 2012 export forecast for livestock, poultry, and dairy is raised over $400 million to a record $29.6 billion.  Gains in dairy, poultry, pork, and variety meats more than offset declines in other animal products.  Dairy products are raised $300 million on stronger global demand and larger exportable supplies. Poultry products are increased over $250 million, on higher sales of both broiler meat and other poultry products.  Pork exports are raised nearly $100 million as greater volumes more than offset a slight decline in unit values.  Growing pork shipments to East Asia and North America are supported by a relatively weak dollar and competitive prices.  Beef and pork variety meat shipments are higher by $100 million on  robust prices. 
Import Products

U.S. import demand continued strong in the second quarter of fiscal year 2012 (January to March), lifting estimated import value by $1 billion for the year to $107.5 billion from the $106.5 billion projected in February.  The forecast increase consists of an additional $1 billion worth of projected shipments of vegetable oils, oilseeds, and oilmeal, $400 million more of imported bulk grains, and $500 million more of beef and veal imports.  Larger imports of rapeseed oil from Canada are leading the vegetable oil gains.  These import increases were partly offset by projected declines of $800 million for horticultural products and $100 million from sugar and tropical products from the February forecasts.  Smaller import projections for sugar and rubber offset gains from coffee beans.

The uneven pace of quarterly growth of the U.S. economy accounts for some of the downward adjustments in projected import values for the commodity groups.  Furthermore, lower crude oil prices in recent months have helped reverse the upward trends of many agricultural commodity prices, such as coffee and cocoa beans, coconut and palm oils, natural rubber, and raw sugar.  Another factor behind lower commodity prices is weaker demand from large importing countries, such as the EU and China as their economic growth has weakened and exports have slowed. World food and beverage prices have come down from their recent peak in the second quarter of 2011.  Nevertheless, current global food and beverage prices are still higher than in 2010, in part due to the still relatively high petroleum prices and relatively weak exchange value of the U.S. dollar.

The average price for coffee beans from Brazil is down from $2.44 per pound in 2011 to $2.12 in February 2012, a 13-percent drop.  Cocoa bean prices are down even more sharply—from $3,000 per metric ton in 2011 to $2,350 thus far in 2012, or by 22 percent.  Coconut oil price from the Philippines is down 19 percent through February 2012 from 2011.  Natural rubber prices are down 20 percent thus far from last year.  And the price of sugar from Caribbean producers fell from 26 cents per pound in 2011 to 24 cents in March 2012.  Collectively, these lower commodity prices reduced the projected import value of sugar and tropical products by only $100 million for fiscal 2012 from the preceding estimate because of larger volume of shipments.

For imports of horticultural crops and products, half of the $800-million smaller estimate is due to a $400-million projected decline in processed fruits, $300 million of which is from fruit juices.  The balance comes from $100-million corrections for fresh fruits, tree nuts, fresh vegetables, and wine.  Part of these corrections is due to lower prices and anticipation of spring and summer domestic produce harvests.  Behind the smaller fruit juice import value are lower volume of shipments of apple juice from China due to reduced supply and higher prices of Chinese juicing apples. In addition, the bigger Florida orange crop means greater domestic orange juice production and lower juice imports from Brazil, which were also adversely affected by carbendezim contamination early this year.

U.S. bulk imports of wheat are the reason behind the $400-million projected increase in imported grains and feed value.  Compared with fiscal 2011, wheat imports are up 560,000 metric tons from October 2011 to March 2012.  These shipments are dependent on the supply of high quality grains from Canada.  The Canadian wheat crop in available in fiscal 2011 had extensive quality problems due in large part to excessive rains during harvest in 2010.  The most recent wheat crop in Canada is bigger and shipments to the U.S. are returning to normal levels.

Projected imports of livestock and meats are raised to $9.7 billion from $9.4 billion in February.  The increase in beef imports is due to tighter domestic supplies and ample beef supplies from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Mexico.  Improved pasture conditions in Australia and New Zealand have boosted carcass weights and production in those countries.  On the other hand, bigger domestic pork production from domestic productivity and farrowing gains is behind reduced pork imports.  Despite larger pork shipments from Canada and the EU in the first half of fiscal 2012, shipments in the second half are projected to be lower.  Smaller shipments of cattle in the second half of the year are expected to reduce total projected imports of cattle and calves. Canadian producers continue herd rebuilding and are retaining females for breeding. Imports from Mexico are expected to decline, reflecting  cattle inventories.


Statement from Agriculture Secretary Vilsack on Newest Forecast for U.S. Farm Exports

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made the following statement regarding USDA’s third-quarter forecast released today showing U.S. farm exports reaching the second-highest level on record at $134.5 billion in fiscal year 2012:

“With the release of today’s most recent export forecast, we can expect American agriculture to remain a bright spot in our nation’s economy in the months to come, supporting more than 1 million American jobs in communities across our country. Since 2009, our farmers and ranchers are set to deliver three of the four highest levels of U.S. agricultural exports in our nation’s history. In fiscal year 2012, the latest forecast sees $134.5 billion in U.S. farm exports, the second highest level ever and $3.5 billion greater than the previous forecast. The reason for this success is the productivity of our farmers and ranchers, as much as President Obama’s leadership on trade.

Since 2009, USDA has aggressively worked to expand export opportunities and reduce barriers to trade, helping to push agricultural exports to historic levels year after year. Last year, the President insisted that we get the agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama done right, forging better deals for America’s workers and businesses that led to strong bipartisan support in both houses of Congress. Today, the agreements with South Korea and Colombia are in effect, delivering greater returns for U.S. businesses. In 2010, the President committed to double U.S. exports in five years and, two years later, we are on pace to meet that goal.

In the latest forecast, the overall pace of exports is surging, led by a 5.1-million-tons increase in the volume of bulk exports over the February forecast. Consumer-oriented products in particular are soaring through the first six months of the fiscal year, up 15 percent over the first 6 months of 2011. While wheat and soybeans are expected to perform well, it is American-grown high-value products that are performing the best, with the forecast increasing again for horticultural products (particularly tree nuts) and livestock products. Moreover, exports to Canada and Mexico are both forecast up this quarter to new records, respectively, while exports to China are up $1.5 billion due to demand for cotton, pork, dairy, poultry, and tree nuts.

“These figures indicate how demand for the American brand of agriculture continues to soar worldwide, supporting good jobs for Americans across a variety of industries such as transportation, renewable energy, manufacturing, food services, and on-farm employment. And as American agriculture continues to achieve a nearly unparalleled level of productivity, this success story will continue, helping to strengthen an American economy that’s built to last.”

The latest export forecast data is available at under the Quarterly Agricultural Export Forecast link.

FDA Denies Request to Authorize “Corn Sugar” as an Alternate Common or Usual Name for High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
(from FDA letter to Corn Refiners Association)

This letter responds to your citizen petition filed on September 14, 2010, as supplemented on July 29, 2011. After careful review of your citizen petition and for the reasons described below, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is denying your petition.

In your petition, you asked us to authorize “corn sugar” as an alternate common or usual name for high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Specifically, you requested that we amend (1) the generally recognized as safe (GRAS) affirmation regulation for HFCS (21 CFR 184.1866) to designate “corn sugar” as an optional name for HFCS; (2) the standard of identity for dextrose monohydrate (21 CFR 168.111) to eliminate “corn sugar” as an alternate name for dextrose; and (3) the GRAS affirmation regulation for corn sugar (21 CFR 184.1857) to replace all references to “corn sugar” with “dextrose.

According to the FDA, the petition does not provide sufficient grounds for the agency to authorize “corn sugar” as an alternate common or usual name for HFCS. 

Read the entire letter here...   

Reaction from Sugar Association

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today denied a Corn Refiners Association (CRA) petition to rename high-fructose corn syrup “corn sugar,” saying the action would only serve to confuse U.S. consumers and could even pose a health risk to those suffering from fructose intolerance.

The FDA ruling, issued in a letter to Corn Refiners Association President Audrae Erickson following 20 months of review, rejected all three arguments made in the CRA’s petition, which was filed on September 14, 2010. The CRA had asked the FDA to implement a name change after launching a multi-million dollar advertising and marketing campaign that argued that sugar and HFCS were identical.

Those actions set off more than a year of litigation initiated by U.S. sugar farmers and refiners, who are trying to stop the CRA’s campaign. That lawsuit is pending in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

“The FDA’s ruling represents a victory for American consumers,” said Dan Callister, an attorney for the plaintiffs in the ongoing litigation. “It reaffirms what most consumer advocates, health experts and policy officials have been saying all along: only sugar is sugar. HFCS is not sugar. The next step is for the federal court to end the CRA’s misleading propaganda campaign.”

According to the FDA letter announcing its denial of the petition, “the use of the term ‘sugar’ to describe HFCS, a product that is a syrup, would not accurately identify or describe the basic nature of the food or its characterizing properties.”

Second, the FDA stated, “We are not persuaded by the arguments in the petition that consumers do not associate ‘corn sugar’ with dextrose. The term ‘corn sugar’ has been used to describe dextrose for over 30 years.”

The FDA decision went on to say that granting the CRA petition could endanger consumer health. “Corn sugar has been known to be an allowed ingredient for individuals with hereditary fructose intolerance or fructose malabsorption, who have been advised to avoid ingredients that contain fructose,” Michael M. Landa, Director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said in the letter to Erickson. “Because such individuals have associated ‘corn sugar’ to be an acceptable ingredient to their health when ‘high-fructose corn syrup’ is not, changing the name for HFCS to ‘corn sugar’ could put these individuals at risk and pose a public health concern.”

Reaction from Corn Refiners Association President Audrae Erickson

The Corn Refiners Association works every day to educate consumers about high fructose corn syrup, particularly that it is nutritionally equivalent to other sugars. The Food & Drug Administration denied our petition to use the term corn sugar to describe high fructose corn syrup on narrow, technical grounds. They did not address or question the overwhelming scientific evidence that high fructose corn syrup is a form of sugar and is nutritionally the same as other sugars.

The fact remains–which FDA did not challenge–that the vast majority of American consumers are confused about HFCS.  Consumers have the right to know what is in their foods and beverages in simple, clear language that enables them to make well-informed dietary decisions. In light of the FDA’s technical decision, it is important to note that the agency continues to consider HFCS as a form of added sugar, and requires that it be identified to consumers in the category of sugars on the Nutrition Fact Panel on foods and beverages.

Ethanol Stocks Build; Plant Output Down

Domestic ethanol inventories climbed 110,000 barrels (bbl), or 0.5%, to 21.508 million bbl during the week-ended May 25, marking the second straight week of stock builds, according to fresh data from the Energy Information Administration.

Total ethanol supply now stands 6.3% above the level seen a year ago.

Meantime, ethanol production from domestic plants fell last week after rising for three straight weeks prior. Production was down 17,000 barrels per day (bpd), or 1.8%, to 902,000 bpd last week while 0.8% lower compared with a year ago.

Implied demand, as measured by refiner and blender net inputs, rose last week after easing in the prior week, up 16,000 bpd, or 1.9%, to 857,000 bpd in the week-ended May 25, while up 4.3% from the year ago level.

Elsewhere, the EIA reported that implied demand for motor gasoline rose last week after falling in the prior week, surging 299,000 bpd to 8.931 million bpd for the week-ended May 25. Four-week average gasoline demand at 8.85 million bpd was down 2.6% from the level seen a year ago.

May Farm Prices Received Index Declined 2 Points

The preliminary All Farm Products Index of Prices Received by Farmers in May, at 176 percent, based on 1990-1992=100, decreased 2 points (1.1 percent) from April. The Crop Index is down 3 points (1.4 percent) and the Livestock Index decreased 1 point (0.7 percent). Producers received lower prices for cattle, corn, milk, and wheat. Higher prices were received for broilers, grapefruit, 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 broilers, sweet corn, wheat, and grapes offset the decreased marketing of corn, cattle, milk, and soybeans.

The preliminary All Farm Products Index is up 1 point (0.6 percent) from May 2011. The Food Commodities Index, at 164, decreased 1 point (0.6 percent) from last month and decreased 1 point (0.6 percent) from May 2011.

All crops:
The May index, at 204, decreased 1.4 percent from April but remained slightly above May 2011. Index decreases for feed grains & hay, food grains, and potatoes & dry beans more than offset the index increases for fruits & nuts, upland cotton, and commercial vegetables.

Food grains: The May index, at 216, is 4.4 percent below the previous month and 15 percent below a year ago. The May all wheat price, at $6.60 per bushel, is down 51 cents from April and $1.56 below May 2011.

Feed grains & hay: The May index, at 269, is down 1.1 percent from last month but 1.1 percent above a year ago. The corn price, at $6.22 per bushel, is down 12 cents from last month and 10 cents below May 2011. The all hay price, at $199 per ton, is up $9.00 from April and $28.00 higher than last May. Sorghum grain, at $10.10 per cwt, is 50 cents below April and $1.50 below May last year.

Cotton, Upland: The May index, at 157, is up 4.7 percent from April and 15 percent above last year. The May price, at 95.1 cents per pound, is up 4.2 cents from the previous month and 11.9 cents above last May.

Oilseeds: The May index, at 245, is unchanged from April but 3.4 percent higher than May 2011. The soybean price, at $13.70 per bushel, is unchanged from April but is 50 cents above May 2011.

Livestock and products:

The May index, at 151, is 0.7 percent below last month and May 2011. Compared with a year ago, prices for milk and hogs are down from last year. Prices are higher for cattle, broilers, calves, turkeys, and all eggs.

Meat animals: The May index, at 158, is down 2.5 percent from last month but 4.6 percent higher than last year. The May hog price, at $61.60 per cwt, is down $1.20 from April and $7.00 lower than a year ago. The May beef cattle price of $121 per cwt is down $3.00 from last month but $9.00 higher than May 2011.

Dairy products: The May index, at 126, is down 2.3 percent from a month ago and 16 percent lower than May last year. The May all milk price of $16.40 per cwt declined 40 cents from last month and is $3.20 lower than May 2011.

Poultry & eggs: The May index, at 163, is up 2.5 percent from April and 5.2 percent above a year ago. The May market egg price, at 59.4 cents per dozen, decreased 4.8 cents from April and is 2.8 cents below May 2011. The May broiler price, at 53.0 cents per pound, is up 2.0 cents from April and 3.0 cents above a year ago. The May turkey price, at 73.8 cents per pound, is up 0.1 cents from the previous month and up 5.9 cents from a year earlier.

Prices Paid Index Down 1 Point

The May Index of Prices Paid for Commodities and Services, Interest, Taxes, and Farm Wage Rates (PPITW) is 212 percent of the 1990-1992 average. The index is down 1 point (-0.5 percent) from April but 8 points (3.9 percent) above May 2011. Lower prices in May for LP gas, diesel, feeder pigs, and feeder cattle offset higher prices for nitrogen, concentrates, complete feeds, and hay & forages.

USDA Targeting Six Additional Strains of E coli in Raw Beef Trim Starting Monday

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) next week will begin instituting a zero-tolerance policy for six additional strains of E. coli that are responsible for human illness. Beginning Monday, FSIS will routinely test raw beef manufacturing trim, which is a major component of ground beef, for the six additional strains of E. coli. Trim found to be contaminated with these pathogens will not be allowed into commerce and will be subject to recall.

Illnesses due to E. coli serogroups other than O157:H7, which caused a high-profile illness outbreak in 1993, outnumber those attributed to O157:H7. FSIS declared O157:H7 an adulterant in 1994.

"These strains of E. coli are an emerging threat to human health and the steps we are taking today are entirely focused on preventing Americans from suffering foodborne illnesses," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "We cannot ignore the evidence that these pathogens are a threat in our nation's food supply."

The additional strains that will be treated as adulterants beginning today are Shiga-toxin producing E. coli (STEC) serogroups O26, O45, O103, O111, O121 and O145. Like E. coli O157:H7, these serogroups can cause severe illness and even death, and young children and the elderly are at highest risk.

Today's action is in addition to other significant public health measures FSIS has put in place during President Barack Obama's Administration to date to safeguard the food supply, prevent foodborne illness, and improve consumers' knowledge about the food they eat. These initiatives support the three core principles developed by the President's Food Safety Working Group: prioritizing prevention; strengthening surveillance and enforcement; and improving response and recovery. Some of these actions include:
-    Test-and-hold policy that will significantly reduce consumer exposure to unsafe meat products, should the policy become final, because products cannot be released into commerce until Agency test results for dangerous contaminants are known.
-    Labeling requirements that provide better information to consumers about their food by requiring nutrition information for single-ingredient raw meat and poultry products and ground or chopped products.
-    Public Health Information System, a modernized, comprehensive database with information on public health trends and food safety violations at the nearly 6,100 plants FSIS regulates.
-    Performance standards for poultry establishments for continued reductions in the occurrence of pathogens. After two years of enforcing the new standards, FSIS estimates that approximately 5,000 illnesses will be prevented each year under the new Campylobacter standards, and approximately 20,000 illnesses will be prevented under the revised Salmonella standards each year.


As the economics of corn drive more farmers to move toward corn-on-corn production, they are often faced with additional challenges not typically encountered in a traditional corn-soybean rotation. In order to maximize the potential for high yields in corn-on-corn, farmers need to focus on several agronomic factors.

“While a traditional corn-soybean rotation is often the best way to minimize agronomic challenges, many factors encourage farmers to cultivate corn-on-corn, and the number of acres has risen dramatically in recent years,” says Ty Vaughn, Monsanto’s corn product management lead. “However, there are a number of consequences to this practice, and increased attention to agronomic practices is required in growing corn on corn.”

This summer in heavy corn rootworm pressure areas Monsanto plans to host a number of corn-on-corn clinics focusing on some of the agronomic factors associated with corn-on-corn production. Agronomic factors that need to be considered in corn-on-corn production include, but are not limited to, residue management, seedbed preparation, soil fertility, weed control, disease pressure and insect pressure.

“Because every field is unique, we encourage growers to carefully evaluate the emergence scores, disease tolerance and insect protection component of each corn hybrid when making selections for corn-on-corn acres,” says Vaughn.

Hybrids incorporating Bt proteins for insect protection and traits to provide herbicide tolerance have been shown to help alleviate the stresses that the environment places on corn-on-corn production. Healthier plants can withstand greater environmental stress, which typically results in higher yields.

Insect control is particularly key, and a critical pest in corn-on-corn production is corn rootworm.

“Farmers who choose to plant corn-on-corn need to ensure they understand the importance of integrated pest management practices when managing high corn rootworm populations on-farm,” says Luke Samuel, Monsanto’s corn insect product development manager. “History has shown us that hard-to-control weeds and insects may require a combination of practices to help manage them, but the end result is to increase effectiveness and yields.”

Scouting is an integral part of insect management, according to Samuel. Because adult corn rootworm beetle counts help estimate the extent of corn rootworm larval damage a farmer might expect the next year, Monsanto recommends field scouting for adult corn rootworm beetles during the key months of July and August when peak corn rootworm flight activity occurs.

 “If a farmer is experiencing heavy pressure and unexpected feeding, the best choice is to rotate to soybeans next season,” says Samuel, “but that may not be a choice farmers can or are willing to make given the economics. Planting pyramided products, like Genuity® SmartStax® RIB Complete™ corn blend, using an insecticide on single mode of action products or even considering an adult program to limit the amount of egg-laying females later in the season are all potential tools in heavily infested areas.”

Making the Most of In-Season Nitrogen Applications

The early spring and accompanying early planting, together with last fall's dry conditions in many areas, may present unique management challenges to growers planning nitrogen (N) applications, according to agronomic experts at Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont business. These conditions can mean nitrogen loss and impact corn yields.

          "For a successful corn crop, it's important to factor in the uncertainties of weather and the dynamic nature of the nitrogen cycle," says John Shanahan, Pioneer agronomy research manager. "After all, a sound corn nitrogen plan sets the stage for a high-yielding crop."

          Last fall's dry soil conditions led to anhydrous ammonia applications on many of the acres in the Corn Belt. In the spring, excessive rain can threaten these soil nitrogen reserves and hinder resupply by ground equipment. Excessively dry conditions in the spring also can prevent applied nitrogen from moving from the point of application to the root zone of plants. Temperature and moisture conditions also can impact the amount of nitrogen mineralized from the organic matter fraction of soils.

          These highly variable weather conditions make it difficult for growers to estimate optimum nitrogen rates accurately.

Evaluating Nitrogen Levels

          That said, there are many ways to estimate nitrogen needs as well as nitrogen loss. These include:
-    N-rate calculator - Crop advisors in several top corn-producing states have embraced the process of N-rate determination for corn. The Maximum Return to N (MRTN) approach provides generalized or regional N-rate recommendations using a database compiled from a network of multiyear and multi-location N-rate field trials.
-    Soil tests - Take soil samples to evaluate nitrogen levels in fields. Testing soils at least 12 inches deep can help indicate the amount of nitrogen currently available to the corn plant.
-    Scouting fields - Check low areas of fields to see if there is water standing. If temperatures are cooler for 10 days and the soil is 55 to 60 degrees, growers can expect up to 25 percent of nitrogen applied might be gone in these areas. If it warms up to 75 to 80 degrees, nitrogen loss could be up to 96 percent.
-    Optical sensors - Sensors mounted on nitrogen application equipment emit modulated light of the appropriate wavelength onto plants to measure how much is reflected back to the sensor. This measure of "crop greenness" correlates with the plant chlorophyll content. Estimated chlorophyll content also estimates crop nitrogen status.
-    Aerial view - If growers have access to an airplane, they can see areas of fields that are more yellow than others are, with observations being instantaneous and no need to wait for lab results.
-    Estimation - In lieu of soil testing or crop sensing, nitrogen loss can be estimated by answering key questions, including when nitrogen was applied, what form was used, how much was applied, what the field conditions were following the application.

          "To determine which approach is best for a particular farming operation, growers should carefully consider the pros and cons of each approach, likely using a combination of strategies to maximize potential profit while minimizing risk," Shanahan says.

Nitrogen Application/Management Tips

          To meet nitrogen level needs while avoiding weather-related pitfalls, growers can spread risk by applying nitrogen at multiple times. Nitrogen may be applied in the fall, early spring (preplant), at planting and in-season (sidedress).

          "The ideal circumstances are to do a split application," Shanahan says.

          This time of year - in-season - nitrogen applications allow for adjustments to planned nitrogen supply based on weather variations.

          If wet spring conditions result in nitrogen losses, sidedress rates can be increased. If warm temperatures and moderate rainfall results in high nitrogen mineralization and an N-sufficient crop, sidedress rates can be reduced. (Determining these needs can be done using the evaluation tools noted above.)

          In-season nitrogen applications can supply nitrogen to the crop near the time of maximum plant uptake. However, if wet conditions develop, sidedress applications may be delayed beyond the optimum application date. Very dry conditions can result in a delay in availability of sidedressed nitrogen to the plant.

          Because of the risks associated with in-season nitrogen application, the practice should be managed carefully. Soil fertility specialists often recommend only one-third of total crop supply be targeted for sidedress application. In addition, growers should be prepared to apply sidedress nitrogen as quickly as possible when the window of opportunity appears. Finally, a backup plan should be in place for in-season application to help avert significant nitrogen deficiency and yield loss in case of weather issues.

          "To make the most of nitrogen applications, growers need to evaluate the type of equipment and nitrogen sources available," Shanahan says. "They also need to assess the weather and adjust based on conditions to ensure an nitrogen strategy that delivers."

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wednesday May 30 Ag News

Senate Farm Bill’s ARC Program Ensures Equitable Treatment of Program Crops

The Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) program established in the Senate Agriculture Committee’s recently-approved Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 will treat program crops like corn, wheat, rice, peanuts and soybeans equitably, that according to a report issued today by the Food and Agriculture Policy Institute (FAPRI) at the University of Missouri in Columbia. In its report, FAPRI examined the potential impacts of key aspects of the proposed legislation, more commonly known as the Farm Bill.

“According to the FAPRI analysis, benefits to soybean farmers under the ARC program will amount to 1.9 percent of total market receipts, slightly below the average of corn, wheat and sorghum and slightly above that of peanuts and rice,” said ASA President Steve Wellman, a soybean farmer from Syracuse, Neb. “This is a good indicator that the Senate version of the Farm Bill treats most commodities equitably.”

Contained in the FAPRI report is the below table, which illustrates the benefits to various crops under the revenue programs established in the Senate Farm Bill.

“In addition to its relatively evenhanded treatment of crops, the ARC program reflects the realities of what farmers actually are planting and provides a measure of revenue protection to farmers should yields and prices drop significantly,” added Wellman. “Farmers from all regions of the country have been planting more soybean acres for years in response to market signals and the planting flexibility first introduced in farm programs in 1996. Last year, farmers planted 75 million acres of soybeans not only on acres technically classified under previous farm bills as ‘soybean base acres’, but also on acres that have been technically classified as wheat, corn, cotton, and other commodity base acres. FAPRI’s analysis reflects these planting decisions that have been made by farmers and is consistent with the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of the Senate Farm Bill released earlier.”

The Farm Bill now awaits time on the Senate floor, where it is currently second on the chamber’s schedule upon return from recess next week.

“We’re looking forward to passage by the full Senate next week, in hopes that we can get this critical legislation on to the House and passed before it expires on September 30,” said Wellman.

For a full transcript of the FAPRI report, please click here...   

Legislative Session Wrap-Up for Iowa Ag Department

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey Tuesday said that the 2012 Iowa legislative session was a success for the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and thanked the bipartisan support for restoring some funding to the Department after significant cuts in recent years.

The Department received a $584,000 increase in the general fund appropriation and a $550,000 increase to administer soil conservation programs through the Environment First fund. The Department also received an additional $350,000 for conservation cost share, which is matched by landowners to build conservation practices, $1.55 million for agriculture drainage well closure and $1 million for the Water Improvement Review Board (WIRB). Governor Branstad signed the appropriations bills last Friday evening.

"The Department has dealt with significant cuts in the last few years and I greatly appreciate the support of the Legislature and the Governor to restore some funding to the Department," Northey said. "We still have work to do to stretch each of these dollars as we work to deal with increased costs and other challenges, but I know it was an extremely tight budget year and understand the hard work by legislators to provide these funds."

The Department's general fund appropriation has been cut from $21.2 million in fiscal year 2009 to $16.5 million in the current fiscal year, or a 22 percent reduction. As a result, the Department lost a total of 70 employees over that time period and is at the lowest staffing levels in 25 years.

The $17.5 million general fund appropriation for the Department for fiscal 2013 will be used to backfill some of the losses in the Department's Weights and Measures and Animal Industry Bureaus. Funds would also be used to meet mandatory salary and health insurance costs facing the Department.

The Department's Environment First funding has been cut from $15.8 million in fiscal year 2009 to $12.4 million in fiscal year 2012, which is a 21.5 percent reduction.

The $550,000 increase for soil conservation administration will help the Department begin to address the twenty-one field offices are currently without a state secretary and fourteen technicians that have been lost in the last two years.

The additional funds for cost share, ag drainage well closure and WIRB will support program that provide assistance to farmers and landowners to install conservation practices and do other work to prevent soil erosion and improve water quality.

This session the legislature also passed and the Governor signed SF 2311, which was a technical bill that will modernize and update language in Iowa code to allow the Department to become more efficient and eliminate unneeded requirements and outdated practices. The bill also included an additional objective of the department to encourage, promote, and advance biofuels.

Iowa Farm Environmental Leader Awards Announced

Gov. Terry E. Branstad, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and Sec. Bill Northey, Tuesday, announce the establishment of the Iowa Farm Environmental Leader Awards to recognize the environmental efforts of Iowa's farmers.

The governor, lt. governor and secretary are currently seeking nominations of farmers that have taken significant steps to serve as local leaders in environmental stewardship on their farms utilizing a variety of techniques and best management practices. Nominee's actions should merit recognition for leadership in advancing water quality and soil sustainability measures in Iowa agriculture.

"The governor and I are excited to have the opportunity to honor Iowa farmers who are true stewards of the land," said Reynolds. "It is important for Iowans to take proactive conservation methods to protect our great state so that future generations reap the benefits of Iowa fields. Agriculture is a tremendous asset to our state's economic environment and we must protect it."

This award seeks to not only recognize farmers for their responsible choices, but also to encourage other farmers to follow in their footsteps by building success upon success.

"Iowa farmers take great pride in caring for the land and protecting Iowa's waters," Northey said. "I'm excited to join with the Governor to recognize farmers who are leaders in environmental stewardship and conservation."

An appointed committee of representatives from both conservation and agricultural groups will annually review the nominations and select the winners. This year's recipients will be recognized at the 2012 Iowa State Fair on Friday, August 17.

Nominations are open until June 30.

EPA Issues Notice of Data Availability on Grain Sorghum

On May 25, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a notice of data availability (NODA) concerning renewable fuels produced from grain sorghum under the RFS program.

EPA’s analysis shows grain sorghum, when used to make ethanol at facilities that use natural gas, has a greenhouse gas emissions reduction (GHG) of 32 percent. According to EPA, when grain sorghum is used to make ethanol at facilities that use biogas digesters in combination with combined heat and power technology, it achieves a lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions reduction of 53 percent, qualifying it as an advanced biofuel under the Renewables Fuels Standard.

This is significant in allowing the domestic production of advanced biofuels from grain sorghum as envisioned in the 2007 Energy Bill. National Sorghum Producers has worked closely with EPA for 25 months to establish a biofuels pathway for grain sorghum-based ethanol in the RFS.

“We are pleased we are finally to this point in getting a pathway approved for grain sorghum as an advanced biofuel,” said NSP Chairman Terry Swanson, a sorghum grower from Walsh, Colo. “We have not yet crossed the finish line, but this is an important step in the right direction. NSP thanks EPA for their work in moving this process forward, and we would also like to thank Growth Energy for their support in this effort.”

The NODA will have the customary 30-day comment period. NSP will be providing comments to EPA while coordinating with our membership. To view the full announcement from EPA, visit

Fertilizer Prices Steady Once Again

Fertilizer prices are again relatively steady for a second consecutive week after many weeks of moving higher, according to retail fertilizer prices tracked by DTN for the fourth week of May 2012.

Five of the eight major fertilizers were higher compared to a month earlier, but none were up significantly. Urea had an average price of $770 per ton, 10-34-0 $779/ton, anhydrous $770/ton, UAN28 $432/ton and UAN32 $489/ton.  Three fertilizers had lower retail prices compared to the fourth week of April, but again these price moves lower were fairly minor. DAP had an average price of $634/ton, MAP $692/ton, and potash $662/ton.

On a price per pound of nitrogen basis, the average urea price was at $0.84/lb.N, anhydrous $0.47/lb.N, UAN28 $0.77/lb.N and UAN32 $0.76/lb.N.

Half of the eight major fertilizers are still showing double-digit increases in price compared to one year earlier. Leading the way higher is urea. The nitrogen fertilizer is 52% higher compared to last year while both UAN28 and UAN32 have jumped to 15% higher and potash is now 10% more expensive compared to the fourth week of May 2011.  One fertilizer has seen just slight price increases compared to a year earlier. Anhydrous is now 4% more expensive.  The three remaining fertilizers are now actually lower compared to one year ago. DAP is now 7% lower, 10-34-0 is 5% less expensive and MAP has decreased 2% in price.

CWT Assists with 2.5 Million Pounds of Cheese and Butter Export Sales

Cooperatives Working Together (CWT) has accepted 14 requests for export assistance from Darigold, Foremost Farms, Land O’Lakes, Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative and United Dairymen of Arizona to sell a total of 397 metric tons (875.235 pounds) of Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese and 755 metric tons (1.664 million pounds) of butter to customers in Asia, North Africa, Central America and the Middle East. The product will be delivered May through November 2012.

In 2012, CWT has assisted member cooperatives in making export sales of Cheddar, Monterey Jack and Gouda cheese totaling 54.7 million pounds, and butter and anhydrous milk fat totaling 44.7 million pounds, to 27 countries on four continents. Totals of both were adjusted due to cancellations. On a butterfat basis, the milk equivalent of these exports is 1.480 billion pounds, or the same as the annual milk production of 70,460 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.

USDA: U.S. Food Poses No Pesticide Residue Safety Concerns

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service has posted data from the 2010 Pesticide Data Program Annual Summary. The 2010 PDP report confirms that food does not pose a safety concern based upon pesticide residues.

In May of 1991, USDA initiated the PDP to test commodities in the U.S. food supply for pesticide residues. Since passage of the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act, one of PDP's focuses has been on testing foods that are most likely consumed by infants and children.

AMS partners with cooperating state agencies to collect and analyze pesticide residue levels on selected foods.

In implementing the FQPA, the EPA uses data from the PDP to enhance its programs for food safety and help evaluate dietary exposure to pesticides.

Each year, USDA and EPA work together to identify foods to be tested on a rotating basis.

In 2010, surveys were conducted on a variety of foods including fresh and processed fruit and vegetables, oats, eggs, catfish, baby food, groundwater, and treated and untreated drinking water.

Similar to previous years, the 2010 report shows that overall pesticide residues found on foods tested are at levels well below the tolerances set by the EPA.

The report does show that residues exceeding the tolerance were detected in 0.25 percent of the samples tested.

USDA's MyPlate Celebrates Its First Anniversary

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan today joined local officials, educators, and students to highlight the first anniversary of the MyPlate food icon and announced a month of nutrition events and promotions to mark the occasion. In June 2011, First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack unveiled MyPlate, the federal government's primary food group symbol, to serve as a reminder to help consumers make healthy food choices consistent with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. MyPlate is a new generation icon with the intent to prompt consumers to think about building a healthy plate at meal times and to seek more information to help them do that by going to

"A year ago First Lady Michelle Obama and I joined together to launch MyPlate and to encourage people to think about their food choices in order to lead healthier lifestyles," said Merrigan. "Today we celebrate the great strides we are making from our local schools to the dinner table as Americans embrace MyPlate and find practical ways to apply it to their daily lives."

USDA's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP) estimates that about 90 percent of nutrition professionals are familiar with MyPlate and are using the resources and messages that support MyPlate in client counseling. Since it was released, there have been over 7 million downloads of MyPlate graphics and other materials. CNPP and the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) have distributed educational tools to those who have requested materials including schools, churches and youth groups, gym and fitness centers, clubs, and others. Currently, over 6,000 Community Partners have joined along with 90 National Strategic Partners all committed to promoting the recommendations found in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). In the first quarter of this year, there were 34 million page views at the website and over 700,000 registered users of the MyPlate SuperTracker, the web based tool to gauge one's diet and physical activity.

Development of MyPlate came as a result of a 2010 report of the White House Childhood Obesity Task Force. The report challenged USDA to design a new generation symbol as a cue to inspire consumers to choose healthier foods at mealtimes – something simpler and more direct than the Food Pyramid.

The MyPlate icon shows a plate with the five food groups on a placemat that is suggestive of proportions; i.e., to make half your plate fruits and vegetables. Integral to its design is the incorporation of the website address where consumers can apply the recommendations of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans in a personal way. The ChooseMyPlate website provides the public, particularly school children, with the practical 'how-tos' to put the Guidelines recommendations of getting more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy foods into action in their own lives.

During the month of June, CNPP will be celebrating the first anniversary of MyPlate with special blog postings on its website, daily Tweets on healthy eating, recipes, partner images, a resource for having healthy celebrations, and MyPlate Happy Birthday coloring pages for kids, among other user-friendly resources. In addition, the quarterly MyPlate message for May through June will be "Drink Water Instead of Sugary Drinks" to highlight that thirst quenching water can be "dressed up" with a squeeze of lemon, lime or orange as a great way to round out a healthy plate.

USDA has been in the food guidance business for well over 100 years dating back to 1894 with the publication of food buying guides and graphic images representing the Basic Seven in the 1940's, the Basic Four during the 1950s through the 70s, the Food Guide Pyramid in the 1980s and 1990s, and MyPyramid in 2005. However, never, until the launch of MyPlate in June 2011, has USDA taken a more pro-active, comprehensive approach to reaching all consumers – kids, parents, and educators --with practical ways to apply the Dietary Guidelines wherever they learn, play, shop and prepare foods. Public acceptance over the last 12 months of the MyPlate food icon suggests that USDA's new vision for healthy eating will be a popular and useful image for years to come.

USDA Poultry Plan Violates Federal Law, Union Contends

The Agriculture Department's proposal to largely outsource poultry inspections functions and drastically speed up the visual inspection process violates federal law and must not be allowed to proceed, the nation's largest federal employee union said in official comments on the proposal.

The American Federation of Government Employees, which represents thousands of federal meat and poultry inspectors, submitted comments to USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service on Friday, May 25. More than 2,000 comments were submitted before the comment period ended May 29.

The USDA's budget-cutting proposal would allow poultry companies to inspect their own chickens and turkeys, leaving a single federal inspector responsible for examining up to 175 birds per second as they speed down the line.

"It exceeds the bounds of logic and common sense to reasonably contend that one person can carefully examine more than 80,000 chickens per workday when the carcasses are whizzing past the inspector at a rate of 3 chickens per second," AFGE Assistant General Counsel Matthew Milledge wrote in the union's official comments.

Contrary to the agency's assertion that these changes would improve food safety, Milledge wrote that the proposal "will ensure that increased numbers of adulterated poultry enter the marketplace thereby endangering the health and safety of the American consumer."

The proposal violates the 1957 federal law that established the current poultry inspections process, which requires federal inspectors to perform a "careful examination" of the carcass of every bird processed to determine its fitness for purchase, Milledge wrote.

Not only will federal inspectors be physically incapable of examining every carcass, the proposal eliminates the current requirement that federal inspectors examine the internal organs, or viscera, of each bird. Many of these parts are sold for human consumption, including chicken livers and giblets.

"Under this new system, poultry parts will be sold to the public that have never been inspected by a federal inspector in violation of federal law," Milledge wrote.

AFGE and other concerned consumer groups have denounced the proposed regulations and organized petition drives and other protests. More than 16,000 people have signed a petition on the White House website urging the Obama administration to withdraw the proposed rule.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 625,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.

Genscape Launches RIN Integrity Program

Genscape announced the launch of its biodiesel Renewable Identification Number integrity auditing network Wednesday morning.

The RIN Integrity Network(TM) will serve biodiesel producers and obligated parties such as petroleum refiners, marketers and blenders in meeting their obligation under the Renewable Fuels Standard, Genscape said.

The RFS mandates that at least one billion gallons of biomass-based diesel be blended into petroleum-based diesel this year. RINs are the credits used by obligated parties to show they are meeting the annual RFS mandate.

The RIN auditing program was introduced in response to three large biodiesel RIN fraud cases being investigated by the Environmental Protection Agency. As a result of the fraud, small biodiesel producers have had trouble selling RINs since last fall, with 2012 RINs from large producers at a 20-cent premium to those produced by small producers, trade sources explain.

"Producers join the service through a rigorous auditing process recommended by the National Biodiesel Board RIN Integrity Task Force and continue promoting their integrity through ongoing validation," Genscape said.

"We are confident that producers and obligated parties will see the value in Genscape's comprehensive auditing and real-time monitoring program," said Joe Jobe, CEO of NBB, the biodiesel industry's trade group.

"Recognizing the sense of urgency for biodiesel producers to promote their integrity in the wake of devastating fraud, the RIN Integrity Network is being implemented with a fast-to-market, two-phase approach," Genscape said.

The initial launch of the service showcases audited plants on a dashboard map with details of audit compliance that are desired by obligated parties.

Genscape said dozens of producers are in the process to be added to the dashboard. In parallel, ongoing monitoring is being configured for producers that have registered for the service.

"Genscape's seen a fantastic response from the industry during the development of the RIN Integrity Network," said Robert Barton, COO of Genscape.

He said Genscape has had more than 70 registrations from producers pre-launch and currently has commitment from 15 obligated parties.

"Genscape understands the sense of urgency for an industry solution and has pushed hard to meet our May launch date commitment," Barton added.

Genscape is a global provider of energy information for commodity and financial markets.

Fiat Industrial Proposes CNH Farm Business Merger

(AP) -- Fiat Industrial Chairman Sergio Marchionne is seeking a full merger with U.S.-based CNH farm and construction vehicle business, in a move that would shift the company's capital center to the U.S. and drop the Fiat name.

But Marchionne, who is also CEO of the Fiat and Chrysler carmakers, cautioned Wednesday against considering the deal a blueprint for a future merger of the two automakers, which are in a three-year partnership.

Under the Fiat Industrial-CNH proposal, the combined company's shares would be traded on the New York Stock Exchange with a secondary listing in Europe — but not Milan where it is currently traded.

The merged Fiat Industrial and CNH would likely not carry the Fiat name, Marchionne told analysts. But he wrote in a letter to Fiat Industrial employees that the operational structure will not change.

Marchionne argued in a four-page letter to the CNH board that a merger with Fiat Industrial would unlock value in both companies, while also creating a competitor to the major North American capital goods companies both in terms of market appeal and business scale.

Fiat Industrial is the third-largest global player in the capital goods market, behind Caterpillar and Volvo. But Marchionne said its "cumbersome" corporate structure has left it undervalued in the markets and it is trading at a significant discount compared with its peers.

Fiat Industrial owns 88 percent of CNH, which is based in the Chicago suburb of Burr Ridge, Illinois. CNH said in a separate statement that it had no immediate position on the proposal.

The new company would be registered in the Netherlands. Shareholders must approve the deal.

CNH Global N.V. sells farm and construction equipment under the Case and New Holland brands in 170 countries.

Beyond its farm and construction business, Fiat Industrial makes trucks, commercial vehicles and buses under the Iveco brand along with related engines and transmissions. It has been expanding its business into emerging markets through joint ventures.

Monsanto Raises Full-Year View; Sees 3Q Above Expectations

Monsanto Co. raised its earnings outlook for the fiscal year and forecast higher-than-expected fiscal third-quarter profit as the company reported strong seed sales in North and South America.

The St. Louis seed producer's updated guidance resolves questions about its strong second-quarter, which came amid an unusually early planting season. The company's chief financial officer said in April it was unclear to what extent the strong second-quarter sales were a matter of timing, and whether that would detract from third-quarter sales.

With greater clarity on the U.S. and European planting seasons, "it's clear our performance reflects an even greater component of business strength and momentum versus timing," Monsanto Chief Executive Hugh Grant said Wednesday.

The company said it would exceed initial U.S. sales targets for its high-end corn seed, and that premium soybean seed sales would be at the high end of its projected range.

The world's largest seed company said a strong performance in its seed and traits business was complemented by better-than-expected sales in its herbicide business and lawn and garden segment.

Grant said at an investor conference in New York on Wednesday that Monsanto expects continued earnings growth next year--estimated in the midteens on a percentage basis. 

For the fiscal year, Monsanto now expects per-share earnings of $3.65 to $3.70, up from its prior view for $3.49 to $3.54.

For the fiscal third quarter, the company projected per-share profit of $1.57 to $1.62, above analysts' recent estimates of $1.29.

Monsanto in April reported that its second-quarter earnings jumped 19% over a year ago, due in large part to its corn seed and traits business.

FFA, RMEF Launch Relationship for Conservation

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has formed a new relationship with the National FFA Organization and the National FFA Alumni Association that opens the door for more than 500,000 students of agriculture to learn more about elk, habitat, hunting and conservation.

Through a gift made to the National FFA Foundation, RMEF will support two major FFA events in 2012—as an exhibitor in October’s 85th National FFA Convention & Expo in Indianapolis, Ind., and July’s National FFA Alumni Development Conference in Bozeman, Mont. Together these events offer a chance to engage thousands of young and continuing leaders in the strong connections between sustainable agriculture and sound wildlife conservation.

“A partnership between these two organizations is exciting because it has the power to help both of us serve our respective members and missions more directly, and in the near term as well as the future,” said Steve Decker, vice president of marketing for RMEF.

RMEF was founded in 1984 to help ensure the future of elk, other wildlife and their habitat. Its 184,135 members are 95 percent hunters fueling a conservation effort that has protected or enhanced more than 6 million acres across public and private lands.

FFA, formerly known as the Future Farmers of America, was founded by a group of young farmers in 1928. Their mission was to prepare future generations for the challenges of feeding a growing population. They taught that agriculture is more than planting and harvesting—it’s a science, it’s a business and it’s an art.

FFA continues to help the next generation rise up to meet those challenges by helping its members to develop their own unique talents and explore their interests in a broad range of career pathways. Today, FFA membership nationwide stands at 540,379 in 7,489 chapters. Eighty-nine percent of FFA members are in grades 9-12, while 70 percent live in rural areas. The 85th National FFA Convention will be held in downtown Indianapolis, Oct. 24-27.

The National FFA Alumni Association acts as a support arm for FFA, agriculture and agriculture education, with an unwavering commitment to supporting and sustaining both FFA and agricultural education. The association was founded in 1971, and today boasts 52,555 members from 1,394 local affiliates in 44 states. The FFA Alumni Development Conference, held July 11-14 in Bozeman, Mont., allows participants to explore ways to strengthen their own personal skills and their local FFA Alumni affiliates through workshops, speakers, and group interaction.

RMEF also will be involved in the National Association of Agricultural Educators. By communicating with over 10,000 agriculture teachers, RMEF hopes to become a teaching resource and integrate elk-country conservation lessons into appropriate curriculums.

NCGA Reminds Growers to Minimize Machinery Fire Risks

With reports of equipment fires cropping up in dry, windy areas across the Midwest, the National Corn Growers Association reminds farmers to carefully follow proper safety procedures that minimize the possibility of a farm machinery fire, much like those taken during last year's harvest.  Even if the weather has not been warm and dry, fuel sources such as leaves, stalks, husks, dust, oil and fuel come into constant contact with potential sources of ignition from farm equipment, such as exhaust, bearings and electrical wiring presenting an ever present fire risk.

"Equipment fires are not only dangerous but are often extremely costly for farmers," said NCGA Production and Stewardship Action Team Chair Dean Taylor. "During this busy season, a fire can halt work in an instant causing property damage and consuming valuable time.  Building risk management practices into your schedule could end up saving both time and money."

First, keep farm equipment clean, particularly the engine compartment as 75 percent of all machinery fires start there.  Using either a pressure washer or high pressure air, remove all caked-on grease, oil and crop residue.  Cleaning the engine thoroughly will allow it to run cooler, operate more efficiently and will greatly reduce the risk of a fire.

Once the equipment has been cleaned, make sure to keep it clean.  Frequently blow dry chaff, leaves or other material off of the machine with compressed air or a portable leaf blower.  Then, remove wrapped plant materials on or near bearings, belts and any other moving parts.

At the beginning of each day, check engine fluid levels, particularly coolant and oil levels, in all equipment that will be used.  While doing so, look for any possible leaking fuel or oil hoses, fittings or metal lines.  Often, areas that may rub from wear, such as the pressurized oil supply line, may breach causing an oil leak. Should a leak be found, repair it immediately.

Next, eliminate heat sources that could increase fire risk.  Most commonly, exhaust system surfaces containing flammable material ignite fires in this fashion.  To minimize this risk, check to ensure the exhaust system, including the manifold, muffler and turbocharger, are in good condition and free of leaks.  Again, should damage be found, repair it immediately.

As arcing electrical wires generate extremely high temperatures in farm machinery, make sure to scan for signs of wiring damage or deterioration daily.  Replace any worn or malfunctioning components properly.  Notably, frequently blowing fuses or intermittent circuit disruptions often signal a short or loose connection in that system.

Much like damaged wiring, worn bearings can also reach extremely high temperatures which can cause any rubber belt coming into contact with this intense heat to ignite.  Make sure to inspect for worn bearings, belts and chains frequently.

Despite the most vigilant care, farm equipment fires can still occur.  It is essential that each machine carries a working, fully charged fire extinguisher mounted in the cab and still within reach from the ground.

Should a fire break out while you are operating a machine, shut off the engine, grab the extinguisher and immediately exit the vehicle.  Then, use either a cellular phone or two-way radio to signal that professional assistance is required as quickly as possible.

As fires are dangerous, flaring up dramatically if doors, hatches or other entry points are opened, it is crucial to maintain a safe distance from the vehicle at all times.  Using the flexible hose on the extinguisher, spray the base of any visible flames continuously to cool the fire and prevent a reflash until help arrives.