Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tuesday November 20 Ag News

Nebraska Soybean Day and Machinery Expo Offers 2013 Growing Season Information

The 2012 Nebraska Soybean Day and Machinery Expo Dec. 14 will help soybean producers in planning for next year's growing season.  The expo, which begins at 8:30 a.m. and ends at 2:30 p.m., will be in the pavilion at the Saunders County Fairgrounds in Wahoo, said Keith Glewen, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension educator.  The expo opens with coffee, doughnuts and the opportunity to view equipment and exhibitor booths. Speakers start at 9 a.m.  Presenters include UNL researchers and specialists, Nebraska Soybean Board representatives, soybean growers and private industry representatives.

This year's featured presentation is "Agriculture: What's Around the Corner and Down the Road" with David Kohl, professor emeritus, agricultural economics, Virginia Tech University and President AgriVisions LLC. Kohl is the president of a knowledge-based consulting business providing cutting-edge programs to leading agricultural organizations worldwide. Previously he served as professor of agricultural finance and small business management and entrepreneurship in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics at Virginia Tech for 25 years.

He has conducted more than 6,000 workshops and seminars for agricultural groups such as bankers, FSA and regulators, as well as producer and agribusiness groups. He has published four books and over 1,100 articles on financial and business-related topics in journals, extension, and other popular publications.

Other topics of the program include:
-    Passing The Land to the Next Generation – Do You Have a Plan?, David Goeller, deputy director, North Central Risk Management Center;
-    Research Report — Soybean Seed Treatments and Foliar Fungicide Performance, Loren Giesler, UNL Extension plant pathologist;
-    Seed Patent Expiration — What Intellectual Property Rights Does Seed Have?, Randy Schlatter, senior manager, Post Patent Program Office, Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., Johnston, Iowa; and
-    Discovering Production Answers On Your Farm, Keith Glewen, UNL Extension educator, Nebraska On-Farm Research Network.

The expo also will include an update on the Nebraska Soybean Checkoff update and association information.  Producers will be able to visit with representatives from seed, herbicide, fertilizer and equipment companies and view new farm equipment during a 30-minute break at 9:45 a.m.  Soy doughnuts will be cooked on site, and noon lunch will be served.  Registration is available the day of the expo at the door. For more information about the program or exhibitor information, call 800-529-8030. 

Don’t Neglect Stored Grain this Fall and Winter

Tom Dorn, UNL Extension Educator, Lancaster County

As most dryland corn producers know, you cannot assume that the 2012 corn in the bin has not been contaminated by molds, including mold species capable of producing mycotoxins. The only defense against mycotoxin contamination in corn is to manage the grain moisture content and grain temperature to minimize mold growth in the grain.

In fall and winter, grain next to the bin wall will be cooled while grain in the center of the bin will stay warmer. The difference in temperature can result in convection air currents migrating through the grain (Figure 1). The warmer air in the center of the bin rises and the grain next to the cold bin wall sinks. When the warm rising air encounters the colder air at the top of the bin, the escaping air can go below the dew point temperature of the rising air and deposit moisture on the grain. This can create a wet spot in the top-center of the bin.

If the grain is warm enough for microbial activity, a hot spot can form and molds can grow, even in winter. This includes molds that can produce mycotoxins.

Run the aeration fan(s) at least once a month when the humidity is low and the ambient air temperature is 30 to 35 degrees. To conduct a preliminary check on grain quality, start the aeration fan(s), then climb up and lean into the access hatch. If the air coming out of the hatch is 1) warmer than you expected, 2) has a musty order or 3) If condensation forms on the underside of the bin roof on a cold day, continue to run the fan(s) long enough to push a temperature front completely through the grain.

A rule of thumb is, the time (hours) to push a temperature front through a bin of grain is 15 divided by the airflow-cubic-feet per minute per bushel cfm/bu.

For example, a bin used for drying grain should be able to produce about 1.0 cfm/bu so it would take about 15 hours to push a temperature front through the grain (15/1 = 15). In another example, a bin equipped with a fan able to push only 0.3 cfm/bu could push a temperature front through in 50 hours (15/0.3= 50).

U.S. Meat Animal Research Center

(from NE Cattlemen Newsletter)

On November 6th and 7th a meeting of  the Beef  Focus Group was held at the Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center, Nebraska.    The Nebraska Cattlemen members that are serving on this focus group are Chuck Folken, Michael Kelsey, Bill Rishel and Craig Uden.  This group consists of  a very distinguished team of  individuals from across the country and we are very fortunate to have four Nebraska Cattlemen participating.

The purpose of  this group is to share Ideas and review many of  the research projects that are currently underway at the center.  The NC members said they were truly blown away by the sophistication of  the technology being used right here in Nebraska.  They heard presentations from several of  the nearly 45 scientists that work at the center.  The research ranges from cow development to food safety, from genetic reproduction to animal health and many things in between.  During the meetings, they also reviewed the ground water monitoring project that NC has been involved with during the past several years. 

Information was presented on improvements being developed for the electronic grading system of  cattle.  Relating to food safety, a system is being developed to take more thorough samples of  trim combos in packing plants.  Also, there was much discussion about E. coli research and how they are trying to determine genetic markers of  E coli.  The use of  mechanical interventions in plants, as well as the effects of  different feeds and feedlot conditions was also discussed as a helpful way to control E coli.

The environmental management group and agricultural engineers have developed an innovative new shade system for feedlot cattle.  The system has been erected and is in place at the MARC feedlot.

The NC members also heard a presentation on a turning point breakthrough in Bacterial Genomics relating to BRD, Bovine Respiratory Disease, along with research relating to DNA testing.

Many animal health issues were discussed along with breeding heifer nutrition, feedlot nutrition and nutrition relating to drought conditions for cows.  A major concern out of  Washington is antibiotic use in farm animals, this is being addressed.

 As you can see, it was a very information packed couple of  days for our NC members.  They were able to witness the important research that is going on at the Meat Animal Research Center and are now able to share with others about the projects currently underway   In this time of  budget shortages and government cutbacks, it is crucial that we encourage our leaders not to abandon research projects that are so critical to the future of  agriculture.

Managing Palmer Amaranth to Manage Resistance

Robert Wilson, UNL Extension Weed Specialist

In early August, Panhandle producers observed a giant pigweed emerging above the corn canopy. With last summer's extremely high temperatures, Palmer amaranth had made the latest jump in its northward migration.

A troublesome weed in the southern U.S. for many years, Palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri) had been found in Nebraska south of the Platte River and west of Hastings for several years. This year it was also found from the Panhandle to the Sandhills to Antelope County in northeast Nebraska.

It should be of particular concern to Nebraska growers as Palmer amaranth has developed resistance to several major herbicides. It will need to be strategically managed to prevent the further development of resistance.

The Newest Pigweed in Nebraska

Pigweeds, like Palmer amaranth, have been growing in western Nebraska for many years and most growers are familiar with redroot pigweed. In recent years, redroot pigweed has not been as prevalent as in the past due to an increase in common lambsquarters, which emerges earlier in the spring and has more tolerance to glyphosate.

Palmer amaranth is native to the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas where cotton is an important crop. It was commonly found in the southern United States, and in recent years had expanded its range into Kansas.

Factors Affecting Its Spread

Temperature is the leading ecological factor determining which pigweed species will dominate. Palmer amaranth responds negatively to the low temperatures typical in the northern United States. Its ideal temperature range is between 85°F and 95°F and plant growth declines dramatically between 50°F and 60°F. Growth rate, biomass, and seed production of Palmer amaranth are greater than redroot pigweed at temperatures between 65°F to 95°F.

Palmer amaranth seed is moved via farm equipment, especially combines, or as a contaminant in crop seed or livestock feed. An interesting case in point occurred in 2011 when cottonseed cake used as a protein source for livestock was shipped north. Cotton fields infested with Palmer amaranth were harvested and as seed was removed from cotton fibers, Palmer amaranth seed was mixed in the seed cake. Cattle ate the protein and deposited the Palmer amaranth seed in an environment favorable for expansion.

Palmer amaranth has expanded its range into western and northern Nebraska for several reasons:
-    higher temperatures,
-    reduced use of herbicides at planting,
-    its ability to develop resistance to herbicides, and
-    a decrease in preplant tillage has provided an environment favorable to the weed.

Manage to Reduce Development of Herbicide Resistance

Palmer amaranth growing on your farm may already be resistant to some herbicide families. Triazine-resistant Palmer amaranth has already been identified in Nebraska and UNL researchers are testing for additional resistance development. As is always recommended, avoid relying on a single herbicide mode of action for weed control.
-    Use production practices that do not spread the weed.
-    Rotate herbicide modes of action to reduce the potential for resistance development.

In the south Palmer amaranth has developed resistance to the following herbicide families: dinitroanilines (Prowl, Sonalan), imidazolinones (Pursuit, Raptor), triazines (atrazine), PPO inhibitors (Reflex) and most recently EPSP synthetase inhibition (glyphosate).

Nov. 30 Heuermann Lecture Canceled

The Nov. 30 Heuermann Lecture at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has been canceled due to a conflict that arose for speaker Kym Anderson of Australia.

The lecture was jointly sponsored with the Clayton Yeutter International Trade Center Program funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration.

Heuermann Lectures in the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at UNL focus on providing and sustaining enough food, natural resources and renewable energy for the world's people, and on securing the sustainability of rural communities where the vital work of producing food and renewable energy occurs.

Drought-Reduced Incomes Boost Farm Lending

Kansas City Federal Reserve, Jason Henderson, Omaha Branch Executive, and Nathan Kaufman, Economist

Drought cut District farm incomes in the third quarter, boosting demand for farm operating loans. Farm incomes fell sharply during the quarter as escalating feed and fuel prices pushed production costs higher. Shrinking incomes spurred demand for farm operating loans as corn and soybean farmers and cow/calf operators searched for funds to pay for rising input costs. Bankers also approved more loan renewals and extensions compared with the previous quarter, as loan repayment rates dipped slightly. Capital spending plummeted in the third quarter and bankers expected further declines in the next quarter.

Livestock enterprises faced the biggest shifts in farm income and loan demand. As drought conditions intensifed during the summer, pastures dried up, feed costs soared with grain prices and income at livestock operations slumped. Te sharpest income declines emerged in cattle feedlot and hog operations. Bankers expected high crop prices and crop insurance payments to support crop incomes. Nevertheless, bankers reported that corn and soybean incomes fell below last year’s highs due to elevated fuel costs and reduced yields. In contrast, incomes for District wheat producers rose, with a rebound in wheat production and high wheat prices.

The drought had little impact on District farmland markets. Bankers indicated that demand for quality farmland outpaced supply, even with more land being put up for sale. Bankers also reported that marginal cropland sold well in some areas. Both non-irrigated and irrigated cropland values remained well above year-ago levels, although the price gains began to slow. Meanwhile, interest rates for both real estate and non-real estate loans declined further in the third quarter, posting new record lows.

Bankers expressed some concerns about the efects of the drought extending into 2013. Te spike in feed costs forced some herd liquidations in the District. Bankers indicated that further liquidations may be warranted if grain inventories remain low and inadequate moisture levels persist.

Net farm incomes tumbled in the third quarter as prospects for a bumper harvest wilted. After remaining above year-ago levels for two straight years, farm incomes fell below year-ago levels during the quarter. Rising feed and fuel prices raised production costs, cutting into incomes, although crop insurance payments and higher crop prices should ofset some yield losses. Bankers expected further income declines in the fourth quarter as drought conditions were expected to linger throughout the District.

Dwindling farm incomes boosted demand for farm operating loans in the third quarter. District bankers reported the steepest quarterly increase in operating loan demand since the frst quarter of 2010. Surging feed and fuel costs in the third quarter forced many corn and soybean farmers and cow/calf operators to seek short-term fnancing. Bankers had adequate funds for new loans and ofered more loan renewals and extensions as loan repayment rates eased. Bankers expected loan demand to soften somewhat in the fourth quarter as crop prices and feed costs moderated in September and harvest neared completion.

In contrast, shrinking incomes curtailed farm spending on capital purchases. As with farm incomes, bankers reported lower capital spending compared with year-ago levels for the frst time since early 2010. Capital spending was expected to remain low in the fourth quarter, with some bankers commenting that farmers were awaiting election results and tax policy decisions before making signifcant purchases.

Livestock producers bore the biggest drought burden. Livestock incomes fell more sharply than crop incomes as surging feed prices and rapidly deteriorating pastures raised production costs. Farm incomes plummeted for cattle feedlot operators, but ranchers and hog producers also faced signifcant income declines. Bankers reported lower incomes from corn and soybean production, primarily in nonirrigated areas. Wheat incomes, however, were higher due to a solid harvest that preceded the drought and a subsequent run-up in wheat prices after the onset of the drought.

Rising input costs and lower income led to stronger loan demand for all sectors of the District’s agricultural economy. Livestock operators, though, exhibited the sharpest demand for operating loans. Approximately 40 percent of bankers indicated that the drought led to higher operating loan demand for cow/calf operations, and 30 percent of bankers reported higher operating loan demand for cattle feedlots. Bankers also noted increased operating loan demand for crop producers paying for rising harvest costs. Survey respondents expected lower repayment rates over the next quarter as a result of the drought. 

Bankers expressed concern that the drought could persist into 2013. Exceptional drought conditions continued to cover a large portion of the District, and current forecasts showed the drought persisting into next year. Subsoil moisture levels were extremely low in the District as winter wheat planting began. Some bankers noted that inadequate rain or snowfall over the winter months could cause crop prices to remain high, force additional herd liquidations, and possibly constrain next year’s crop growth.

Te drought did not appear to have signifcant impact on farmland markets in the third quarter. Farmland values rose further during harvest, though gains were more modest compared with the surge seen during the past two years. District cropland values moved nearly 3 percent higher in the third quarter and ranchland values edged up around 2 percent. Drought conditions had little efect on the demand for farmland, and bankers expected sales to remain solid even with a seasonal upswing in the number of farms for sale after harvest. Lenders continued to lower average interest rates on both farm real estate and farm operating loans to attract borrowers in an extremely competitive lending environment.

With additional gains during the third quarter, average farmland values once again set new records in many areas of the District. Nonirrigated cropland prices rose nearly 25 percent above year-ago levels in the third quarter, and irrigated land values remained more than 20 percent higher than 2011 levels. In addition, ranchland values appreciated an average of 14 percent during the past year. With farmland value gains slowing, however, about three-quarters of survey respondents felt that farmland values would stabilize at high levels heading into 2013.

Nebraska and Kansas posted the strongest farmland value gains in the third quarter. Non-irrigated farmland values in Nebraska surged the most, rising 30 percent above year-ago levels. Kansas experienced the strongest irrigated farmland value gains with prices rising 25 percent annually. Ranchland values were around 15 percent higher in all District states except Missouri. Land value gains continued to accelerate faster than cash rents as annual rental rates increased an average of 12 percent for both cropland and ranchland in the third quarter.

Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy Released for Public Comment

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad today joined Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey and Director Chuck Gipp from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and John Lawrence from Iowa State University to announce the release of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy for public comment.

“Iowans care about our natural resources and want to protect them for future generations.” Branstad said. “This strategy keeps us at the forefront of using voluntary, science-based practices to improve water quality in our state, and is an important step forward.” 

The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy is a science and technology-based approach to assess and reduce nutrients delivered to Iowa waterways and the Gulf of Mexico. The strategy outlines voluntary efforts to reduce nutrients in surface water from both point sources, such as wastewater treatment plants and industrial facilities, and nonpoint sources, including farm fields and urban areas, in a scientific, reasonable and cost effective manner.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and Iowa Department of Natural Resources  worked with Iowa State University over a two-year period to develop the strategy. The resulting strategy is the first time such a comprehensive and integrated approach addressing both point and nonpoint sources of nutrients has been completed.

The Iowa strategy has been developed in response to the 2008 Gulf Hypoxia Action Plan that calls for the 12 states along the Mississippi River to develop strategies to reduce nutrient loading to the Gulf of Mexico.  The Iowa strategy follows the recommended framework provided by EPA in 2011 and is only the second state to complete a statewide nutrient reduction strategy.

“The strategy’s science assessment provides a research-based foundation to quantify the effectiveness of current practices for reducing nutrient losses from the landscape,” said John Lawrence, associate dean for extension and outreach programs in ISU’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and director of ISU Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension. “The assessment reflects two years of work to evaluate and model the effects of the practices by scientists from ISU, IDALS, DNR, USDA Agricultural Research Service, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and other institutions.”

Iowans are invited to review the strategy and provide feedback during a 45-day comment period that starts today and will end on Jan. 4, 2013.  The full report, additional information and place for comments can be found at www.nutrientstrategy.iastate.edu.

In addition, presentations will be made to farmers, certified crop advisors and others in the agriculture industry as part of ISU Extension and Outreach educational meetings beginning this fall. Thousands of people will learn of the strategy, where to find more information and how to provide comments about it.

Point Sources (DNR)

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources will be working with major facilities throughout the state to reduce nutrient discharges from point sources to Iowa’s waters with a goal of reducing total phosphorus by 16 percent and total nitrogen by 4 percent.

“The DNR has been working with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Iowa State for nearly two years and support this strategy document and the collaborative process that created it. Many Iowans enjoy our state’s natural resources and it is important we protect them for future generations,” Gipp said.

Nonpoint Sources

To address nutrient transport from nonpoint sources, the strategy uses a comprehensive, first of its kind scientific assessment of conservation practices and associated costs to reduce loading of nutrients to Iowa surface waters. The strategy identifies five key categories to focus the efforts in addressing nonpoint sources and identifies multiple action items within each category.

The five categories are: Setting Priorities; Documenting Progress; Research and Technology; Strengthen Outreach, Education, Collaboration; and Funding.

By harnessing the collective innovation and capacity of Iowa agricultural organizations, ag businesses and farmers, the strategy takes a significant step forward towards implementing practices to improve water and soil quality.

“This strategy provides the most up-to-date scientific information available to farmers as they seek to use the best practices available to reduce nutrient delivery from their farm,” Northey said. “The goal of this strategy is to get more conservation practices on the ground. This is not about rules or regulations, instead this strategy provides resources to farmers to help them improve water quality.”

NCBA Kicks Off Fall Membership Drive

This coming year, Congress will address many legislative issues that directly affect cattlemen and women including the farm bill, estate tax and environmental regulations. As the country’s oldest and largest organization representing the cattle industry, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) has a strong voice in Washington, D.C. and a great opportunity to represent the forceful, unified influence of America’s beef producers.

NCBA is urging more cattle producers to join in this fight. According to NCBA Policy Division Chair Don Pemberton, NCBA’s strong membership base ensures the voices of cattle producers are heard loud and clear.

“We need to come together as an industry and defend the ranching way of life,” said Pemberton. “Having our voices heard in Washington, D.C., and across the country is crucial to the success of our industry and the beef producers that NCBA serves.”

Pemberton went on to add that even though NCBA already has a strong membership base and many legislative and regulatory victories under its belt, the organization can become even stronger by increasing its membership.

“NCBA achieves amazing success when we come together as a collective voice for our members and as an association representing thousands of cattlemen and women,” he said. “NCBA has been actively working for over 100 years to defend ranchers against overreaching government regulations and policies that could negatively affect producers, and we will continue to work with our state partners to represent cattle producers in the halls of Congress.”

In an effort to foster productive relationships and further the priorities and goals of the cattle industry, NCBA is also partnering with its state affiliates to increase membership within state organizations at the grassroots level. During this membership drive, NCBA is partnering with New Holland to reward states for their membership efforts. The state with the most new NCBA members before Dec. 31, 2012, will receive a one year lease on a New Holland baler or tractor. State affiliates that show an increase of NCBA membership by 15 percent or more will also be entered to win two additional one year leases. Winners will be announced at the 2013 Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show in Tampa, Fla. For complete information on the campaign, member dues/benefits and recruitment incentives, visit www.beefusa.org or call 1-866-BEEFUSA or 1-866-233-3872.

2013 Executive Committee Elected During USFRA Annual Meeting

The U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) recently held an election of officers during the USFRA Annual Meeting in New York. USFRA Board members elected by their peers to serve as the 2013 USFRA Executive Committee included:
·    Chairman – Bob Stallman, American Farm Bureau Federation
·    Vice Chairman – Weldon Wynn, Cattlemen’s Beef Board
·    Secretary – Bernard Leonard, U.S. Poultry & Egg Association
·    Treasurer – Dale Norton, National Pork Board
·    At-Large – Mike Geske, National Corn Growers Association
·    At-Large – Nancy Kavazanjian, United Soybean Board

The USFRA Board is comprised of 18 representatives of affiliate farmer and rancher- led organizations and agricultural industry partners.

Other events taking place during the USFRA Annual Meeting included the third in a series of Food Dialogues℠ featuring panel discussions on agricultural biotechnology, the use of antibiotics in farm animals and the impact of marketing and the media on consumer food choices.  The event was moderated by CNN Business Editor Ali Velshi and held at The TimesCenter.  More than 150 people participated in person and preliminary results show that another 2,256 viewed the event via Livestream (is this a term or a streaming service?). Additionally, the agricultural, media and food communities traded dialogue via Twitter during the event. The Food Dialogues twitter hash tag #FoodD was one of the most used and talked about topics on Twitter that day including 4,579 tweets with the hash tag #FoodD during the event, potentially reaching 11.3 million followers; of those tweets, 2,028 were retweets (49 percent).

Nine finalists for the USFRA “Faces of Farming & Ranching” program were introduced at the Food Dialogues℠.  This program is now in the public voting phase through December 15.  Anyone can vote for their favorite “Face” by going to www.fooddialogues.com, viewing the videos of each finalist, and voting their preference.  Each person can vote once per day.  The winners of the “Faces of Farming & Ranching” will be announced in January 2013.

Fertilizer Prices Steady Again

Retail fertilizer prices tracked by DTN remain fairly stable for the second full week of November. None of the eight major fertilizers tracked showed a significant move in either direction.  Three fertilizers were higher month-over-month, but these moves were fairly minute. DAP had an average price of $640/ton, MAP $679/ton and anhydrous $858/ton during compared to the second week of October. Other fertilizer categories were slightly lower compared to a month earlier. Potash had an average price of $618/ton, urea $587/ton, 10-34-0 $617/ton, UAN28 $380/ton and UAN32 $422/ton.

On a price per pound of nitrogen basis, the average urea price was at $0.64/lb.N, anhydrous $0.52/lb.N, UAN28 $0.68/lb.N and UAN32 $0.66/lb.N.

Only one of the eight major fertilizers is still showing a price increase compared to one year earlier. Anhydrous is now 5% higher compared to last year.  Five fertilizers are actually lower in price compared to November 2011. Urea is now 5% lower while both potash and UAN28 are 7% lower and both UAN32 and MAP are 9% lower.  Two remaining fertilizers are now down double digits from a year ago. DAP is now down 10% while 10-34-0 is now 25% less expensive from a year earlier.

Sorghum Silage Insurance Expanded

The Federal Crop Insurance Corporation board of directors approved Thursday, Nov. 15 expansion of the existing sorghum silage pilot program. This expansion will enable 59 additional counties in New Mexico and the Oklahoma and Texas Panhandles to insure irrigated forage sorghum acres for the 2013 crop year.

“NSP recognized a need to strengthen this program and provide more viable cropping options for farmers dealing with limited water,” said National Sorghum Producers board of directors Vice Chairman J.B. Stewart, a  sorghum producer from Keyes, Okla. “Sorghum silage is a more drought-tolerant crop that decreases water use while promoting sustainability, so not only are we appreciative of the growers and agents who helped provide information for this product, but we are also very grateful for RMA’s dedication to bringing this expansion to growers in 2013.”

National Sorghum Producers worked extensively with the Risk Management Agency to provide data from sorghum silage trials and from individual producers. The expansion will enable growers to insure a more water-efficient crop alternative in an area where there are many dairy and cattle feeding operations, and demand for silage is high.

Details of the expansion are being finalized by RMA, but NSP fully expects RMA to release the expansion materials before the end of the year for the 2013 growing season.

USDA Releases Final Coexistence Report

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21stCentury Agriculture (AC 21) yesterday released a final set of recommendations on enhancing coexistence among different crop production methods. Over the course of the last year, AC 21 committee members focused on identifying ways to improve successful coexistence and made recommendations to the USDA emphasizing education, stewardship and good neighbor-to-neighbor communications. The National Corn Growers Association commends AC 21 committee members for developing innovative and effective tools that help balance risks and rewards for all farmers.

"During meetings, the conversations I had with other growers were the most helpful," AC 21 committee member and NCGA Past President Darrin Ihnen said. "Farmers have one thing in common. We all want to choose what is right for our farms. We agree that the best situation is when good stewardship and neighbor-to-neighbor communications lead to effective coexistence on the local level."

The report states that technological innovations and market diversity have become key drivers of increased productivity and product quality for all forms of American agriculture. In 2012, biotech acres made up 88 percent of all corn planted in the United States.

"All of agriculture must work together to meet the needs of customers around the world," Ihnen said.  "That is a big challenge and in this case, we showed that there is a role for all farmers, no matter what type of seeds they plant."

Weekly Outlook: Pork Producers Did Not Panic

Pork producers were facing a drought-driven crisis late last summer. December corn futures had risen as high as $8.49 per bushel, December soybean meal futures had reached $540 per ton. But according to Purdue University Extension economist Chris Hurt, they didn't panic.

"Markets anticipated a fairly rapid period of sow liquidation which depressed the December lean hog futures price to $70 per hundredweight," Hurt said. "The bleak outlook called for losses of as much as $50 to $60 per head in the final quarter of this year. A panic response might have been to cover substantial amounts of feed needs at record-high prices, to forward price lean hog futures before the outlook worsened, or just sell out altogether.

"Now that the damage from the 2012 drought is better known, those who did not panic are facing much smaller losses than was feared at the height of the crisis," Hurt said. He explained that feed prices tend to reach peak prices around, or slightly after, the peak of the drought and then move irregularly lower through the marketing year. That pattern has been evident this year with December corn futures now near $7.40 per bushel and December soybean meal closer to $425 per ton. Lowering corn prices by $1 a bushel and meal by $100 per ton lowers hog production costs by about $12 per head.

Lower feed prices are important to the reduction in anticipated losses, Hurt continued, but improved lean hog prices have been even more significant. "December lean hog futures are currently above $80, which represents at least a $10 increase over drought-induced liquidation fears in early September," he said. "A $10 increase in lean hog prices means more than a $20 reduction in anticipated losses. Since early September, anticipated losses have been reduced by at least $30 per head with about 40 percent of the improvement coming from lower feed prices and about 60 percent from higher hog prices."

What happened to the feared sow liquidation and the size of the breeding herd?

"Weekly sow slaughter began to increase in early July and remained above year previous levels until mid-October," Hurt said. "During this 14-week period, sow slaughter averaged 4 percent larger than for the same weeks of 2011 and likely resulted in a reduction of about 2 percent of the sow herd. In the weeks since mid-October, sow slaughter has dropped below year previous levels as optimism for a much improved outlook in 2013 was unfolding. These reduced sow numbers seem consistent with a 2 to 3 percent reduction in farrowing intentions this fall and winter," he said.

According to Hurt, a return to profitability may be on the not-to-distant horizon by the spring of 2013. There still are losses to sustain for the rest of this year and the first quarter of 2013 when losses are estimated at about $15 per head. But live hog prices are expected to increase enough to reach breakeven by early May 2013 and provide for positive returns of around $10 per head in the second and third quarters. Lower feed prices late next summer are expected to sustain a profitable industry into the fall of 2013 and winter of 2014.

"If United States and world crop yields are closer to normal in 2013, the pork outlook should brighten and thoughts of expansion will begin in the late summer of 2013," Hurt said. "Some producers may want to 'jump the gun' and get expansion started in the spring of 2013. However, one glance at the current 'Drought Monitor' tells us that normal yields in the United States for 2013 are far from assured. This uncertainty should keep most producers from expansion fever until the crops are more nearly assured in late July and August."

Hurt said that while pork producers are beginning to feel that the worst is behind them, the 2012 losses will leave an imprint in the form of reduced equity. "Estimated losses for 2012 are about $17 per head," Hurt said. "The most severe losses of nearly $30 per head came in the last half of the year as drought drove feed prices upward and weakened hog prices. Pork producers who entered the drought in weak financial condition have had to rely on cash infusions from lenders. To their credit, lenders have generally supplied that capital and recognized that this downturn would be intense, but short.

"The era of high feed prices has been difficult for all of the animal production industries including pork producers who lost money in three of the last five years: 2008, 2009, and again in 2012. For those that did not panic, it now appears the sun will rise again and the dawn of profitability will once again return," Hurt said.

National Grange President calls for fiscal responsibility, Farm Bill, agriculture education at all levels

On Tuesday, Nov. 13, National Grange President Ed Luttrell delivered his annual address, laying out priorities for the nation as viewed by the 145-year-old agriculture and rural America advocacy organization.

In his speech, given to a crowd of nearly 175 people gathered for the opening of the 146th Annual National Grange Convention, Luttrell focused on seven major topics.

Luttrell focused on issues of the financial health of our nation, expanding regulations that cost taxpayers money and create a business environment that cannot take risks.

Luttrell expressed the need for a Farm Bill, as well as continued safety testing for genetically modified crops but no need to label GMO products.

He also called for a re-evaluation of assumptions about education and inclusion of agriculture and vocational training at all levels.

Luttrell said the Grange opposes reductions of Postal Service to rural America and in a related rural access issue, said the Grange continues to support the expansion of broadband into rural areas.

In his speech, Luttrell stressed the need for Congress to get to work immediately to save us from the "fiscal cliff" and initiate measures of fiscal responsibility.

"It is long past time for our elected officials to wake up, to realize their fiscal responsibility to every American, especially our children and grandchildren," Luttrell said.

Luttrell said it is imperative that elected officials follow "four fundamental truths": living within our means is necessary for the nation to prosper; free markets work best to find solutions and provide the best services; Congress should do away with publicly-funded pension programs for elected officials, programs that encourage people to become career politicians; and economic markets hate instability, especially created by continuously fluctuating taxes and regulation.

Luttrell said the nation will "begin its journey back to fiscal health and prosperity" when politicians make decisions based on these truths.

Fiscal health also requires scrutiny of expanded regulation, Luttrell said, noting the "increase of economically significant regulations, on top of massive regulations already in place, is larger than the GDP of many countries."

"The high cost arising from these regulations is too often passed onto the states," Luttrell said. "However, it is often the consumer who bears the burden of any costly regulations."

Luttrell said the Grange supports "necessary regulations needed to provide reasonable safety and peace of mind to American workers, families and inventors. However, we opposed any regulation that seeks a zero tolerance of risk."

"Our great nation was founded by men who took risks because they understood that without risk, there can never be success," Luttrell said.

"While regulatory agencies continue to move to sterilize our environment and lives, Congress has failed to ensure the health and well-being of American agriculture by allowing the September 30 deadline to come and go without the passage of a 2012 Farm Bill," Luttrell said.

"Agriculture should never become a partisan football, as every American depends on agriculture."

He urged all Grange members and those concerned about agriculture to contact their elected representatives "in order to encourage them to pass the 2012 Farm Bill during the lame duck session."

Luttrell said much of the tension between consumers and producers, including the need for both large and small producers and the concept and practice of genetically modified foods, is the lack of education related to agriculture.

"In order to spread the truth of agriculture, the Grange continues to call for wide-scale basic agriculture education at the primary levels and in post-secondary education related to agriculture production, research and policy," Luttrell said.

Luttrell said research is critical in regards to the safety and efficacy of genetically modified organisms, but labeling of such would be "misleading" and would falsely imply "differences where none exist."

Luttrell also called on schools to teach financial literacy and parents and students not to forget the value of vocational programs and need for trained tradespeople.

Luttrell said, "It is difficult for graduates to become contributing members of society while they are dragged down by a lifetime of financial struggle," by way of student loan debt and an economy that isn't creating jobs for many new graduates from four-year programs.

"Grange members stand in support of programs that teach basic skills in agriculture, metalwork, mechanics, construction and technology in practical ways," Luttrell said.

Because rural customers rely so heavily on mail delivery, Luttrell said it is imperative that Congress work to save the USPS by either eliminating the prepayment requirement for future employee retirement health benefits or by releasing USPS from congressional oversight so they may make decisions based on market conditions.

"A sustainable and prospering U.S. Postal Service is a must for rural America," Luttrell said.

Finally, Luttrell stressed the need for equitable access through rural broadband and noted that the Grange will work with legislators to ensure Universal Service Funds be used to bring that broadband to homes and businesses in rural America.

Egg Producers File Suit Against California's Proposition 2

California's egg farmers filed suit Friday in Fresno County Superior Court seeking a determination that Proposition 2--a law regulating egg-laying hen enclosures--is unconstitutionally vague. The suit claims the law's lack of clarity in size and density requirements prevents egg farmers from modifying their housing facilities in time to comply with the January 1, 2015, implementation date.

"California's egg farmers have spent the last four years attempting to gain a clear understanding of how to comply with Proposition 2 but, unfortunately, we are no closer today to knowing how to comply than we were when the law first passed in 2008," said Arnie Riebli, president of the Association of California Egg Farmers. "Given the ambiguity in Proposition 2 and the risk of criminal prosecution for violating it, egg farmers have no choice other than to challenge the validity of the law."

ACEF's members support the goal of providing appropriate space to egg laying hens and have worked to establish a national standard for egg laying hen enclosures. Last year, ACEF joined with the Humane Society of United States and the United Egg Producers to support congressional efforts to establish national standards on egg laying hen enclosures, including dimensions and other key elements that are not found in Proposition 2.

Since the passage of Proposition 2 in 2008, ACEF has advocated the use of housing systems that provide 116 square inches of space per hen compared to 67 square inches of space in a conventional cage. But the HSUS - the author of Proposition 2 - says that Proposition 2 requires anywhere from 200 square inches of enclosure space per bird to a cage free environment. However, HSUS has never explained how they reached either interpretation.

The State Department of Food and Agriculture commissioned a study at the University of California at Davis which concluded that the law is unclear. As a result, ACEF has no choice but to reluctantly seek invalidation of this poorly drafted proposition."

If California egg farmers decide it is easier to relocate to another state to produce eggs rather than risk trying to comply with an uncertain law and be found in violation, a reduction in locally-produced eggs will have many ramifications for California consumers. Not only will egg prices to consumers substantially increase, but jobs will be lost, adding to increased costs to taxpayers for required social services. There will also be more truck traffic on roads to transport eggs from other states, further adding to pollution and impacted roadways.

Ethanol Saves Americans $29.13 on Average Thanksgiving Trip

Ethanol is helping reduce the cost of the Thanksgiving holiday for the average American family.  More than 39 million Americans will take to the road for their Thanksgiving holiday, traveling an average distance of 588 miles, according to AAA.  That means the average American family traveling by automobile this holiday will save $29.13 on gasoline purchases because of ethanol.*

In May, the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) released a  study by economists at the University of Wisconsin and Iowa State University finding that in 2011, ethanol reduced wholesale gasoline prices by $1.09 per gallon nationally. Those savings have a very real impact on the average household budget.  Ethanol reduced the average American household’s spending on gasoline by more than $1,200 last year, based on average gasoline consumption data.  Since 2000, ethanol has helped save $39.8 billion annually in excess gasoline costs – roughly $340 per household per year.

“Thanks to ethanol, hardworking American families will get a break as they drive to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with loved ones.  The average American family will save $29.13 because ethanol helps lower the price of each and every gallon of gasoline.  Ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) are also helping to reduce this country’s dependence on foreign oil, thus creating a stronger country and a stronger economy.  Ethanol is a product made by Americans for Americans and we are proud that on this most American of holidays that we can offer a solution to sky-high gas prices,” said Bob Dinneen, President and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association.

Dinneen continued, “Now, you will hear some squawking from livestock and poultry producers who oppose the RFS and ethanol.  Don’t let their scare tactics ruin your holiday.  The fact is turkey prices are lower this year than the last two years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.    The bottom line is ethanol production has nothing to do with the price of Thanksgiving dinner.  Food costs are driven by energy costs.  Only 14 percent of the food bill goes to raw agricultural ingredients like vegetable oils, dairy products, corn and other grains and commodities.  Meanwhile, 86 percent of your grocery bill pays for energy, processing, packaging, marketing, labor and other costs.  Don’t let Big Food fool you into believing anything different.”

To read more about Thanksgiving turkey prices and real driving forces behind food costs, click here for RFA’s white paper: “This Thanksgiving, Avoid Big Meat’s Baloney”.

• Turkey prices are lower this year than in 2011 and 2010. The U.S. city average price for turkey is $1.66/lb., down slightly from the previous two years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

• USDA projects 2012 turkey hen prices will be just 3.8 cents/lb. higher than 2011 prices, while 2013 prices could decrease by nearly 5 cents/lb.

• Turkey production is projected to hit a five-year high in 2012, followed by strong output again in 2013.

• Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people will be $0.80 lower this year in Virginia and $0.61 lower in North Carolina, according to the same Farm Bureau sources.

• The groups decry that “food prices have spiked nearly 18% since 2005,” the year the first RFS was passed by Congress. That’s an average of just 2.57% per year, which is right in line with the 20-year average for annual food inflation.

• Additionally, 2010 saw the lowest year-over-year food inflation in nearly 50 years. Meanwhile, the ethanol industry produced a record amount of fuel that year.

• If there was any truth to the myth that retail food prices have increased abnormally since 2005, it would be mostly because of surging energy prices.  In fact, 86% of the average household’s food bill pays for energy, transportation, processing, packaging, marketing, and other supply chain costs. Just 14% pays for the raw agricultural ingredients in our groceries.

• Contrary to Big Food’s rhetoric, ethanol is helping reduce the cost of the Thanksgiving holiday for the average American family. Recent economic analysis from Louisiana State University, the University of Wisconsin and Iowa State University demonstrate that ethanol significantly reduces gasoline prices.  According to AAA, 39.1 million Americans will travel by automobile an average distance of 588 miles this Thanksgiving holiday. That means the average American family traveling this holiday will save $29.13 on gasoline purchases because of ethanol.*

*Assumes average mileage of 22 miles per gallon and ethanol savings of $1.09/gallon (Du & Hayes, 2012)

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