Monday, January 28, 2013

Monday January 28 Ag News

USTR Kirk and Ag Sec Vilsack Announce Agreement to Further Open Japan’s Market to U.S. Beef

United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk and United States Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the United States and Japan have agreed on new terms and conditions which pave the way for expanded exports of U.S. beef and beef products to Japan. Under these new terms, which enter into effect on February 1, 2013, Japan will now permit the import of beef from cattle less than 30 months of age, compared to the previous limit of 20 months, among other steps. It is estimated that these important changes will result in hundreds of millions of dollars in exports of U.S. beef to Japan in the coming years. This agreement also goes a long way toward normalizing trade with Japan by addressing long-standing restrictions that Japan introduced in response to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

“This is great news for American ranchers and beef companies, who can now – as a result of this agreement – increase their exports of U.S. beef to their largest market for beef in Asia,” said Ambassador Kirk. “This represents a significant and historic step in expanding U.S. beef trade with Japan and growing American exports and jobs here at home. We welcome Japan’s action.”

“Today’s announcement reflects another successful effort by the Obama Administration that boosts the bottom line for America’s agriculture. We are in the most successful period in history for America’s agriculture sector, with agricultural exports this year expected to set yet another record,” said Secretary Vilsack. “We will continue our efforts to break down barriers and expand access for high-quality, safe and wholesome U.S. food and agricultural products to Japan and around the world.”

The two governments also agreed to regular and ad hoc consultations to review progress under the agreement and address any issues that may arise. In an accompanying letter exchange, Japan also confirms its ongoing BSE risk assessment by its Food Safety Commission (FSC), which includes a consideration of raising the age limit above 30 months for beef and beef product imports from the United States, taking into account international standards. 


In December 2003, Japan banned U.S. beef and beef products following the detection of a bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE)-positive animal in the United States. In July 2006, Japan partially reopened its market to allow imports of some U.S. beef from animals aged 20 months or younger produced under a special program for Japan.

In December 2011, at the request of Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW), Japan’s independent Food Safety Commission (FSC) initiated a risk assessment to examine raising the maximum age of the cattle from which U.S. and certain other foreign beef and beef products could be exported to Japan, as well as revising the definition of specified risk materials (SRMs). (SRMs are certain cattle tissues that can carry the BSE agent.) Based on an FSC risk assessment released last October, Japan entered into consultations with the United States to revise the import requirements, including raising the age limit for U.S. cattle and adopting a revised definition of SRMs for U.S. beef and beef product imports that is closely aligned with international standards of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).


“We are pleased with today’s announcement that Japan has released a new beef export protocol.  The plan will expand access for Nebraska beef into one of our most valuable trading markets.

“Our beef processors have done a good job since 2006 adapting to the under‑20‑month-rule.  Because of this, Nebraska is positioned to be a leader as opportunities arise as part of the new under-30-month protocol.

“The Department will work in conjunction with agriculture industry partners to take advantage of the new opportunities that this announcement provides.  We will show Nebraska’s ongoing commitment to providing Japan with safe, wholesome beef.”

NCBA Statement on Japan's Easing of Trade Restrictions for U.S. Beef

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) has learned that as of Feb. 1, Japan will begin accepting beef and beef products from cattle under 30 months of age. The new terms and conditionsexpand market access from cattle under 20 months to cattle under 30 months. It is estimated that this change in protocol will result in hundreds of millions of dollars in additional exports of U.S. beef.

“This is great news for cattlemen and women and is a significant milestone in our trading relationship with Japan,” said NCBA President J.D. Alexander. “Japan is a great market for U.S. beef and we look forward to continuing to meet Japanese consumer demands. This move is an important step forward in paving the way toward greater export opportunities to one of our largest export markets.”

Through November 2012, Japan was the second largest export market for U.S. beef totaling $849 million and nearly 130,000 metric tons. Alexander added that this announcement is a shot in the arm to a market and producers facing continued drought, high input costs and increasing federal regulation.

Johanns Statement on U.S.-Japan beef trade agreement

U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) today issued the following statement after the U.S. and Japan announced an agreement that will allow American ranchers to export millions of dollars’ worth of beef to Japan:

“This is great news for Nebraska’s economy and cattle producers,” Johanns said. “Revising these restrictions on American beef recognizes our producers as some of the best in the world. Our farmers and ranchers have always produced the highest quality beef and our internationally renowned food safety system has protected consumers for decades.

“While I would prefer that all of our trading partners fully align their policies to meet international standards, this move by Japan was a significant step in the right direction and I applaud it. Japan is an important trading partner to the U.S. and I appreciate this strengthening of our trade relationship.”

USMEF Hails New Beef Agreement with Japan

A new agreement that will expand access for U.S. beef to Japan is being hailed by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) as a positive step for the American beef industry as well as the Japanese trade and consumers.

The change, which takes effect Feb. 1, will allow the United States to export beef from animals under 30 months of age to Japan with the exception of ground beef, which will be phased in after a surveillance period to ensure that the new export protocol is proceeding smoothly. In the aftermath of the discovery of BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) in the U.S. in December 2003, only beef from animals 20 months of age or younger has been eligible for export to Japan.

“This is an extremely positive development that successfully addresses one of the longest standing issues between our two governments,” said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. “The U.S. beef industry – from farmers and ranchers to exporters – will benefit from increased exports to this premium market. At the same time, the trade and consumers in Japan will see a wider variety of beef products and improved availability of U.S. beef in the retail and food service channels.

“We are grateful to the governments of Japan and the United States for their efforts to make this agreement a reality,” added Seng.

The U.S. beef industry is working closely with USDA to ensure the smooth implementation of the new agreement. Among the provisions of the agreement are that beef products produced before Feb. 1 must be accompanied by appropriate documentation and produced under the current export verification (EV) program. These products may not be comingled with products produced Feb. 1 or after, which must be produced under the new EV program and accompanied by the new export documentation.

Japan is currently the No. 2 market for U.S. beef exports in terms of value and No. 3 in volume (143,900 metric tons or 317.2 million pounds) valued at $969.8 million through the first 11 months of 2012 – expected to top $1 billion in value for the year for the first time since 2003.

USMEF forecasts that U.S. beef exports to Japan in 2013 as a result of expanded access to the market will increase roughly 45 percent in volume and value, reaching 225,000 metric tons (496 million pounds) and $1.5 billion.

Grandin to Headline 2013 Women in Agriculture Conference

            Nebraska women will learn how to care and plan for their farms, their communities, their families and themselves at the 28th Women in Agriculture Conference, one of the longest-running women's conference of its kind, Feb. 21-22 at the Kearney Holiday Inn.

            The theme of this year's conference is "Communicating in Challenging Times," and it features a variety of workshops, "funshops" and speakers, including renowned animal scientist Temple Grandin.

            Grandin, a professor of animal science at Colorado State University, is a world leader in the design of livestock handling and cattle processing facilities. Her designs emphasize reducing animal stress. Grandin also consulted with such companies as McDonald's, Cargill and Tyson. Along with her research in animal handling, Grandin has both written and spoken about her experience with autism, which she was diagnosed with as a child.

            Other speakers include Jolene Brown, a farmer and author from West Branch, Iowa, and Cheryl Burkhart-Kriesel, co-owner of Kriesel Certified Seed and University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension community development specialist.

            Brown will be the keynote speaker Thursday morning with her talk, "It's a Jungle Out There! Blazing New Trails for Agriculture." Burkhart-Kriesel will speak on how to draw residents to rural Nebraska communities. Grandin will close the conference with her speech at noon Friday.

            In between these lectures, conference-goers can choose from more than 30 workshops spread over five sessions during the event. Topics include livestock and grain marketing, crop insurance, family communication, business transition and beef nutrition.

            R.P. Smith, a cowboy poet from Broken Bow, will entertain for the Thursday evening program, followed by "funshops," opportunities to network and socialize in a low-pressure setting.

            Those interested can register online at They can also register by calling 1-800-535-3456 or by faxing their form to 1-402-472-0776. Hard copy registration forms can be sent to Women in Agriculture, UNL Agricultural Economics, 303 Filley Hall, Lincoln, Neb., 68583. The early-bird fee of $100 per person is due by Feb. 8. Following that date the fee is $120 per person. Fee includes workshop materials, registration and meals.

            The conference is sponsored by the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension and the Department of Agricultural Economics.

            Lodging is available at the Kearney Holiday Inn, 110 2nd Ave., 308-237-5971.

            For more information, visit

Experts to Discuss National Climate Assessment at Feb. 4 Meeting

            The University of Nebraska-Lincoln's School of Natural Resources will host a "town hall" forum that will examine the forthcoming National Climate Assessment and its implications for the Great Plains on Monday, Feb. 4.

            The National Climate Assessment Great Plains Regional Town Hall Meeting is expected to attract more than 100 participants – from climate change experts to leaders in government, business and industry. The day-long event will be at UNL's Hardin Hall, the corner of 33rd and Holdrege streets, beginning at 8:45 a.m.

            Participants will learn about the National Climate Assessment, how to contribute to the report's review process, meet report authors, share knowledge about local and regional efforts related to climate change and discover ways communities can participate in the process.

            Speakers include Gene Takle, the lead author of the report's agricultural chapter; Shannon McNeeley of the North Central Climate Science Center; Mark Swoboda of the National Drought Mitigatoin Center at UNL; Doug Kluck, the central region climate services director at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and Tala Awada, interim director of UNL's School of Natural Resources.

            Panel discussions and small group meetings will cover an overview of the National Climate Assessment, and present early findings from a draft of the 2013 report with a specific focus on the Great Plains – Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming.

            The report is expected to be released in 2013, but a draft will be available for regional town hall meetings. The last climate assessment report was issued in 2009.

            The National Climate Assessment is a product of the U.S. Global Change Research Program, created by Congress in 1990. The program is supposed to release a report to Congress and the president every four years that details current scientific knowledge about the climate and its impacts globally, nationally and regionally.  Among the stated goals are: To increase "understanding of what is known and not known about climate change," and help guide "climate science priorities."

            The report is expected to evaluate a wide range of climate impacts on the country and study how it affects specific regions within the United States. The report is expected to cover everything from human health and biodiversity to agriculture and energy supply and use.

            UNL's town hall is the only planned meeting in the Great Plains. It is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Climate Change Program Office,  the U.S. Global Change Research Program, UNL's Office of Research and Economic Development; UNL's School of Natural Resources, UNL's Agricultural Research Division at the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources; UNL Extension; the National Drought Mitigation Center and UNL's High Plains Regional Climate Center.

Heuermann Speakers to Discuss 'Tomorrow's Table' Feb. 12

            Co-authors of the book "Tomorrow's Table: Organic Farming, Genetics, and the Future of Food" are the Heuermann Lecturers at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 12, in the Hardin Hall auditorium on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's East Campus, 33rd and Holdrege.

            The title of the book is the title of the public lecture by Pam Ronald and her husband, Raoul Adamchak. Ronald is a professor in the Department of Plant Pathology and the Genome Center at the University of California, Davis, and serves as director of Grass Genetics at the Joint BioEnergy Institute.

            Adamchak is market garden coordinator in the Agricultural Sustainability Institute at UC Davis, where he teaches organic agriculture and manages the UC Davis student farm, a 5-acre market garden.

            "Tomorrow's Table" was selected as one of the best books of 2008 by Seed Magazine and the Library Journal.  In 2012, "Tomorrow's Table" was selected by The New Earth Archive as one of the 25 most powerful and influential books with the power to change the world. Bill Gates calls the book "a fantastic piece of work."

            In their book Ronald, a geneticist, and Adamchak, an organic farmer, discuss one of the greatest challenges of our time: how to feed the world's growing population without further destroying the environment.

            They'll describe what organic farmers and geneticists are doing to address this challenge.

            The book is for consumers, farmers and policy decision makers who want to make food choices and create policy that will support ecologically responsible farming practices, Ronald said, adding it also is for anyone who wants accurate information about organic farming, genetic engineering, and their potential impacts on human health and the environment.

            "We are very much looking forward to the Heuermann Lecture by Pam Ronald and Raoul Adamchak," said Ronnie Green, Harlan vice chancellor in the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, home of the Heuermann Lectures.  "Feeding the world's growing population while sustaining the environment is a huge challenge we face in the coming years."

            Ronald's laboratory has genetically engineered rice for resistance to diseases and tolerance to flooding, serious problems for rice crops in Asia and Africa. Her research has been published in Science, Nature and other leading peer-reviewed scientific journals, and has been featured in such publications as the New York Times, Forbes Magazine, the Wall Street Journal and more.

            She and her colleagues received the USDA 2008 National Research Initiative Discovery Award for their work on flood-tolerant rice. In 2011, Ronald was selected as one of the 100 most creative people in business by Fast Company Magazine. In 2012, Ronald was awarded the Louis Malassis International Scientific Prize for Agriculture and Food and the Tech Award for innovative use of technology to benefit humanity.

            Adamchak has farmed organically for 25 years. He worked for eight years as an organic farm inspector for the California Certified Organic Growers, and has served as president of the growers' board. He also has been a member of the board of the Organic Farming Research Foundation.

            Heuermann Lectures are made possible by a gift from B. Keith and Norma Heuermann of Phillips, long-time university supporters with a strong commitment to Nebraska's production agriculture, natural resources, rural areas and people.

            The lectures 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.  A 3 p.m. reception precedes the lecture.

            Heuermann Lectures stream live at, and are archived at the site shortly after the lecture.  They are broadcast on NET2 World at a date following the lecture.

Iowa Corn Legislative Priorities for 2013

Governor Terry Branstad gave his 18th Condition of the State Address focusing on education reform and property tax relief for Iowans. Governor Branstad recognized agriculture's contribution to the state's fiscal health with mentions about new fertilizer plant construction and international attention with Vice President Xi Jinping's visit and world-wide participation in the World Food Prize activities.

"Agriculture has kept Iowa financially stable and Governor Branstad recognizes the contribution and is committed to working with farmers and agribusiness in 2013," stated Bruce Rohwer, Iowa Corn Growers Association President and a farmer from Northwest Iowa. "I think he stated it correctly in his address that Iowa is not only feeding the world, it is feeding the world economy."

As the 2013 Legislative session begins, the ICGA will be working with lawmakers to promote policies and programs important to Iowa corn growers and to monitor any policy that could negatively affect farmers. In late August, grassroots representatives from the Iowa Corn Growers Association (ICGA) reinstated expiring policies and adopted new resolutions at the ICGA's annual policy conference in Des Moines.

The following issues will be key ICGA state legislative priorities in 2012:
-- Budget: Funding for Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship/support IDALS budget requests (state vet, conservation funding)
-- Conservation: Implement 'Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy' by increasing conservation/water quality funds
-- Ethanol: Support new funding for E15 from renewable fuels infrastructure, oppose diversions to other fuels, such as natural gas
-- Livestock: Support for the livestock industry and the existing laws regulating livestock operations
-- Regulation: Support efforts to reduce or revise unnecessary/unworkable regulations for agriculture
-- Research: Support funding for Agriculture-related research at Iowa State University (Ag State Proposal)
-- Tax: Property Tax - Legislative: maintain agriculture productivity formula and Property Tax - Iowa Department of Revenue: oppose shifts to row-crop farm land
-- Transportation: Increased funding, including fuel tax increase for roads and bridges

"Our goal will be to work with legislators to reduce unnecessary regulations as well as provide support for initiatives to increase funding for transportation and ethanol infrastructure." said Rohwer. "To repeat Governor Branstad- This is our opportunity. This is our Iowa."

The complete 2012-13 Iowa Corn Growers Association state and federal policy resolution book can be found online at

Iowa Soybean Association announces 2013 legislative policy priorities

Improving Iowa’s rural roads and bridges, supporting the state’s voluntary State Nutrient Reduction Strategy and championing ag research are among the Iowa Soybean Association’s (ISA) 2013 legislative priorities.

The ISA board of directors established the priorities during their annual winter meeting held Jan. 23-24 in Ankeny.

Transportation of grain and equipment is a major concern for Iowa farmers, says ISA President Mark Jackson.  An increase in the fuel tax to fund the maintenance and repair of rural roadways and bridges is critical to expediting agricultural commodities from farm to market and beneficial to the safety of all Iowans.

“It’s unusual for farmers to encourage legislators to raise taxes. But the fact that the fuel tax is constitutionally protected for road construction appeals to our members,” says Jackson, a farmer from Rose Hill. “This source of funding has not been raised since 1989 and yet modern agriculture has nearly doubled production in this time frame. Safe, reliable roads are critical and this source of funding is key to this coordinated effort as we fund the much overdue repairs for rural infrastructure.”

ISA also supports the proposed State Nutrient Reduction Strategy and its voluntary approach to water quality improvements. Many ISA members have been active in watershed projects and on-farm research projects working to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus losses.

“This State Nutrient Reduction Strategy is the first coordinated effort at managing non-point source nutrients and includes practices and techniques that have been used successfully by farmers participating in our environmental programs,” says Jackson. “We hope legislators will provide the funding to successfully launch this effort.”

Funding for agricultural and bioeconomy research is also included in the ISA’s priorities this year. The association seeks continuing support for the On-Farm Network, an ISA program that uses precision agriculture tools and technology to collect information used to determine best practices that help farmers be more efficient and economical.  The Governor’s proposed budget also supports funding for “Leading the Bio-Economy,” a new initiative proposed by Ag-State, a coalition made up of Iowa State University, ISA and several commodity groups.

In addition, the ISA will also continue to defend Iowa’s livestock industry against detrimental legislation. Statewide, Iowa’s livestock and poultry farmers’ work contributes nearly $1.1 billion to household income and generates 43,324 jobs in Iowa.

Iowa Environmental Excellence Awards Apps Open

Iowa businesses, organizations and citizens are invited to apply for the Governor's Iowa Environmental Excellence Awards. To download an application, go to; applications are due April 12.

These awards are the premier environmental honors in Iowa, recognizing leadership and innovation in the protection of Iowa's water, land and air.

For 2013, organizations are encouraged to submit their applications electronically to reduce paper waste. Complete instructions are included in the application packet.

"The Environmental Excellence Awards allow us to showcase and share the creative efforts businesses and organizations in Iowa are utilizing to protect our natural resources as well as grow jobs in our state," said Gov. Terry Branstad.

In addition to rewarding important efforts to improve Iowa's natural resources, Gov. Branstad noted that highlighting success stories benefits other businesses and organizations in the state.

Innovation is one of the key components needed to reaching important state goals of creating 200,000 new jobs, increasing personal income by 25 percent in the state and promoting Iowa's Healthiest State initiative, Branstad said.

The awards program is coordinated by the Iowa Governor's Office, the Department of Natural Resources, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the Iowa Department of Economic Development, the Iowa Department of Education, the Iowa Department of Public Health and the Iowa Waste Reduction Center.

For more information and to download an application, go to or contact Emily Bainter at 515-242-5955 or

Alltech Feed Survey Findings: World Increases Production to 959 Million Tons; Significant Growth in Africa and Aquaculture

The world is producing 959 million tons of feed and has increased its production by at least four percent in the last year, according to the 2013 Global Feed Tonnage Survey released today by Alltech. Alltech assessed the compound feed production of 134 countries in Dec. 2012 through information obtained in partnership with local feed associations and Alltech’s sales team, who visit more than 26,000 feed mills annually.

“The 2013 publication of the annual year-end assessment by Alltech is being released as an industry outlook resource for the new calendar year and will hopefully allow governments, non-governmental organizations and the greater public to appreciate the value that the feed industry is generating globally,” said Aidan Connolly, vice president of Alltech and director of Alltech’s annual Global Feed Tonnage Survey.

Among the 134 countries assessed in Alltech’s survey, China was reaffirmed as the chief producer of feed at 191 million tons and an estimated 10,000 feed mills. Consistent with late 2011 assessments, the United States and Brazil followed with 179 million tons produced by 5,251 feed mills and 66 million tons produced by 1,237 feed mills respectively. Overall, a 26 million ton increase was observed in BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) year to date.

Asia continues to be the world’s number one producing region at 350 million tons. However, Africa exceeded Asia in percent growth over 2011 results, increasing its tonnage nearly 15 percent from 47 million in 2011 to 54 million in 2012.

Globally, the survey identified 26,240 feed mills, with North America and Europe serving as home to more than half of them. The Middle East was estimated to have the largest feed mills, with an average of more than 63,000 tons produced per mill. Sixty percent of feed produced globally is pelleted, with percentages particularly high in Europe.

When analyzed by species:
-    Poultry continues to dominate with a 43 percent share of the feed market at 411 million tons, likely due to religious and taste preferences as well as cost. It grew by approximately 8 percent over 2011 estimates. Sixty percent of all poultry feed tonnage is dedicated to broilers, with the rest fed to egg layers, turkeys, duck and other fowl.
-    The pig feed sector matched poultry’s 8 percent growth, moving to 218 million tons globally.
-    The ruminant feed market, comprising dairy, beef and small ruminants, grew more than 13 percent between late 2011 and December 2012, and now requires 254 million tons.
-    Equine feed tonnage increased almost 17 percent to 10.8 million tons. 
-    Aquaculture is the fastest growing species sector by tonnage with growth greater than 55 percent since 2011.
-    Pet food represents 20.5 million tons, 40 percent of which are produced in the United States, but Brazil continues to make considerable advances in this sector.

“As we look to the demands of the future, chiefly the feeding of 9 billion people by 2050, these survey results should stir optimism and resolve within our feed and food industries,” said Dr. Pearse Lyons, president of Alltech. “Our global feed industry is rising to the challenge, and we’re seeing growth across the board. Moreover, we’re seeing it in some particularly key areas– BRIC, Africa and aquaculture.”

Global feed production has traditionally been difficult to quantify because many countries lack a national feed association. For this reason, Alltech began in late 2011 to leverage its global presence to obtain a finer estimate of the world’s feed tonnage. The results of the annual year-end assessment are announced in January as an industry outlook resource for the new calendar year.

Connolly presented the 2012 Alltech Global Feed Tonnage Survey findings at a joint meeting of the International Feed Industry Federation and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Oct. 2012.  The meeting identified the need to collect more detailed information, a request to which Alltech responded, engendering a deep appreciation for what the feed industry is delivering worldwide.

Proposed Bill Would Reform CRP Program

A bill filed last week by Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL) would allow more farmland to be used for production rather than lay dormant in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Conservation Reserve Program. The Preserving Marginal Lands and Protecting Farming Act, H.R. 349, reforms the CRP by restricting the increasingly-frequent practice of paying landowners to let fertile cropland go unplanted for years.

The CRP was originally implemented to prevent erosion and protect sensitive farmland by providing funding to landowners who convert it into a vegetative cover such as grass or timber.

Recently, however, the program has tended to enroll high-quality and otherwise highly-productive land, all at a time when farmland is becoming more scarce.

"We need to apply smart erosion prevention and conservation techniques on marginal lands, but using taxpayer money to encourage landowners to let quality cropland lay dormant doesn't make sense," Rep. Roby said. "This legislation restores common sense to the Conservation Reserve Program and saves taxpayers' money."

Rep. Roby's bill would reduce the overall number of acres held in CRP nationwide by 24 million acres over four years; end payments for non-farming of the most fertile and least sensitive lands; and save taxpayers millions in federal spending annually.

The legislation would not affect a landowner's right to convert private land to timber or grasslands for conservation purposes if he or she chooses to do so.

In a letter sent to House Committee on Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK), National Grain and Feed Association President Randy Gordon urged passage of the Preserving Marginal Lands and Protecting Farming Act.

Barge Accident Closes Part of River

(AP) -- Cleanup crews with booms skimmed oily water from the Mississippi River a day after a barge with more than 80,000 gallons of oil struck a railroad bridge near Vicksburg, Mississippi, spreading a sheen of light crude that kept part of the waterway shut to ship traffic Monday, authorities said.

It remained unclear Monday morning how much oil had leaked into the river, according to the Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers.

The spill backed up at least 24 tugboats, barges and other vessels on the normally bustling corridor, said Kavanaugh Breazeale, spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Vicksburg. The river was closed to traffic for 16 miles -- eight miles north and eight miles south of Vicksburg.

Breazeale said the damaged barge had eight tanks and each tank could hold 80,000 gallons of oil. He said the investigation had shown that one tank was pierced above the water line.

2013 FFA Chapter Challenge begins; $300,000 in incentives provided by Monsanto available up for grabs by FFA chapters in 15 states

FFA members in 15 states can now register for the 2013 FFA Chapter Challenge presented by Monsanto.

The 2013 FFA Chapter Challenge, a third-year program now available to more than 3,800 FFA chapters and 265,000 FFA members and sponsored by Monsanto, challenges FFA members to make meaningful connections with local agriculturists with a new twist.

FFA chapters will now compete in one of two contests with the FFA Chapter Challenge: option one requires FFA members to interview and document local agriculturists who then vote for a chapter, and option two requires FFA members build a portfolio of agriculturist and community member interviews, develop a social media plan and film a video promoting agricultural awareness. Two FFA chapters, one from each contest area, will win the grand prize to attend October’s 86th National FFA Convention & Expo in Louisville, Ky. 

Before FFA chapters are eligible for the program, they must register online. FFA members in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin are eligible in 2013.

Other prizes will be awarded to each state’s top ten FFA chapters in either category for the FFA Chapter Challenge. Those prizes, a line of credit for use on FFA expenses such as supplies or national convention registration fees, range from $2,500 to $100.  As a sponsor of the program, Monsanto will provide more than $300,000 in incentives.

“Monsanto is thrilled to partner again with the National FFA Foundation and support this year’s exciting new changes to the Chapter Challenge competition,” said Elizabeth Vancil, Monsanto customer advocacy outreach manager. “It’s a fantastic opportunity for local FFA chapters to not only learn from those within the agriculture community, but also to develop an outreach plan that will help champion agriculture’s message to those who are part of our broader community.”

“FFA and Monsanto are both delighted to bring the FFA Chapter Challenge in 2013,” said Rob Cooper, executive director of the National FFA Foundation. “This program encourages FFA members to better understand local agriculture, see a variety of potential careers and exhibit the great qualities of FFA members everywhere to the public.”

Winners will be announced in early April.

National FFA Organization accepting applications for 2013 New Century Farmer Conference July 14-20

The National FFA Organization is now accepting applications for its 2013 New Century Farmer Conference, a free event for selected students July 14-20 in Johnstown, Iowa.

This exclusive, highly competitive conference is open to college agriculture students who intend to pursue careers in production agriculture. Students picked to attend the conference will be among the first in the nation to learn about the latest technological developments in the agriculture industry will receive business management advice from top industry leaders. The program will also help students develop a nationwide network of industry professionals and colleagues.

The deadline to submit applications to the 2013 New Century Farmer Conference is 5 p.m. EST March 15.

The top 50 applicants will be chosen to participate. Potential participants can learn more about the program and download an application.

The conference is sponsored as a special project of the National FFA Foundation by Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont business; Case IH; CSX Transportation; and Farm Credit with media partner Successful Farming.

CHS Acquires Ohio River Terminal From the Mosaic Co.

CHS Inc., an energy, grains and foods company and the nation's leading farmer-owned cooperative, announced that it has acquired a crop nutrients river and rail terminal on the Ohio River at Melbourne, Ky.

"This facility will allow us to expand our services to customers in the eastern region through direct access to the river system," said Cheryl Schmura, CHS vice president of Crop Nutrients. "It will also provide additional storage and rail capabilities that will help us expand our customer base in the region."

The 60-acre facility, formerly owned by The Mosaic Company, the world's leading producer of concentrated phosphate and potash crop nutrients, is located at mile 457 on the Ohio River near Cincinnati, Ohio.

It includes 27,000 tons of on-site fertilizer storage, barge unloading, and rail and truck loading facilities and equipment. Schmura said CHS will invest in modernizing and upgrading the facility over the next several months.

Details of the transaction were not disclosed.

Fastac EC insecticide from BASF registered for use

Growers looking for an effective pyrethroid now have a new option with Fastac™ EC insecticide from BASF Crop Protection. The new insecticide, which recently received Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registration, will be available for use for the 2013 season. Fastac EC insecticide is a Restricted Use Pesticide.

“Fastac EC insecticide is an effective new tool for growers looking to proactively manage a broad spectrum of insect pests,” said Luke Bozeman, Technical Market Manager, BASF. “Additionally, as a pyrethroid, Fastac EC insecticide provides residual control to manage key pests in many crops.”

The active ingredient in Fastac EC insecticide, alpha-cypermethrin, targets the nerve impulses of insects, which leads to effective control. Fastac EC insecticide controls a broad-spectrum of piercing-sucking and chewing pests, including aphids, beetles and stink bugs.

Combined with its low-dose rate and broad-crop label, which includes soybeans and cotton, Fastac EC insecticide is a welcome addition to the growing portfolio of crop protection products from BASF.

Fastac EC insecticide is an excellent tank-mix partner for BASF disease control and Plant Health innovations, including Priaxor™ fungicide for soybeans. The combination of Fastac EC insecticide and a BASF fungicide can add consistency to a grower’s yield potential.

Recent research from BASF demonstrates the benefits of a comprehensive pest, disease and weed control program. In field trials from 2011 and 2012, soybean fields treated with Fastac EC insecticide, Priaxor fungicide and a BASF residual weed control program averaged an additional 6.0 bu/A yield increase when compared to a two-pass non-residual glyphosate-based program.

“BASF is committed to providing growers with safe and effective products to help increase yield potential and promote Plant Health,” said Paul Rea, Vice President, U.S. Crop Protection, BASF. “BASF is dedicated to innovation, research and development, and the introduction of Fastac EC insecticide is another step BASF is taking to help growers get the most out of every acre.”

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