Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Wednesday January 30 Ag News

Johanns, Roberts Introduce Bill to Eliminate Costly and Redundant EPA Pesticide Permit Requirements

U.S. Sens. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) have introduced legislation to eliminate a burdensome, costly and redundant Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) permit requirement for applications of pesticides.

"Not only is EPA pursuing regulations that are economically crippling, they are also pursuing regulations that are clearly duplicative,” Johanns said. “The agenda being pushed by this Administration’s EPA amounts to more red tape, more roadblocks and more needless headaches. President Obama has repeatedly promised to eliminate duplicative regulations, but actions speak louder than words. That’s why we’re acting on an economically and environmentally responsible solution to this government-made problem.”

Roberts said, “This double layer of red tape is costly to the agriculture industry and consumers. It also takes aim at public health departments by requiring permits on top of existing permits for pesticide use. This creates confusion and the potential for significant penalties. Our bill eliminates this redundant permit requirement while at the same time ensuring proper pesticide use through existing law.”

At issue is the January 2009, Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals opinion in National Cotton Council v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, that requires pesticide applications to be permitted under the Clean Water Act. This National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit is now in addition to any label requirements or restrictions already placed on the use of a pesticide under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

Since early 2012, the EPA has enforced a now permanent rule in response to the Sixth Circuit Court ruling requiring approximately 35,000 pesticide applicators to get permits to cover about 500,000 applications per year. EPA estimates determined the permit rule will cost states, local entities and pesticide applicators $50 million and require one million hours to implement per year. Under the Clean Water Act, unlawful discharges are subject to $37,500 per day in fines.

This requirement is of particular concern for public health officials who are now restricted in their ability to control mosquitoes, and the spread of diseases like the West Nile virus. It is also a significant issue for agriculture.

The Roberts and Johanns bill, S. 175, ensures Clean Water Act permits are not needed for the applications of pesticides and amends FIFRA by stating that no permit shall be required for the use of a pesticide that is registered under FIFRA. Roberts introduced the same legislation in the last Congress where it was blocked from consideration on the Senate floor. Also in the 112th Congress, the House and the Senate Agriculture Committee passed similar legislation, H.R. 872, with strong bipartisan support.

The bill has the following original cosponsors: Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS), Roy Blunt (R-MO) John Barrasso (R-WY), John Thune (R-SD), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), David Vitter (R-LA), Michael Enzi (R-WY), James Inhofe (R-OK) and John Boozman (R-AR).

Farm Lending Soars at Commercial Banks

Jason Henderson, Omaha Branch Executive, KC Fed

Farm lending at commercial banks accelerated in the fourth quarter after solid gains in previous months. According to a November survey of U.S. commercial banks, bank lending for feeder livestock and current operating expenses rose sharply compared to last year. Escalating feed and livestock costs contributed to higher lending activity to livestock operations. In addition, high fuel costs during harvest and rising fertilizer and seed prices prompted crop producers to pre-pay for 2013 crop inputs. As a result, non-real estate loan volumes for current operating expenses, including crop inputs and feed, doubled year-ago volumes, and loan volumes for feeder livestock remained well above a year ago.

Banker survey respondents also reported a fourth-quarter spike in farm machinery and equipment loans. After picking up in the third quarter, lending for farm machinery and equipment surged as farmers made capital purchases prior to the expiration of accelerated depreciation at the end of 2012. In addition, lending for other intermediate loans for unspecified purposes also rose sharply during the quarter.

During the third quarter, farmland values climbed higher following an early harvest. The drought appeared to have little effect on the demand for farmland, especially in the Corn Belt and Central Plains where prices reached another record high. With a robust farmland market, commercial banks reported a surge in farm real estate loan volumes heading into the fourth quarter. Elevated farmland prices and potential changes in tax policies motivated more land owners to sell before the end of the year. As a result, most agricultural bankers expected gains in farmland values to moderate during the next year and level off at record high levels.

With ample funds for farm loans, strengthening loan demand fueled intense competition for agricultural lending activity among financial institutions. Farm interest rates fell to new lows, with some banks easing collateral requirements. Interest rates were the lowest at large banks that offered more loans with floating interest rates. Loan-to-deposit ratios firmed with higher loan volumes, and the average return on assets at agricultural banks reached a five-year high during the third quarter.  

To read the entire report, click here...  

Pre-Registration Savings for Alfalfa Expo End at Noon on Friday, February 1st

If you're planning on attending the Mid-America Alfalfa Expo and Conference on February 5 & 6 in Kearney, Nebraska, you only have until this Friday to save 50 percent on the registration costs. Registration is available online at for just $10 until noon this Friday, February 1.  Registration at the door is $20 per person. Participants under the age of 18 are admitted at no charge.

Sponsored by the Nebraska Alfalfa Marketing Association (N.A.M.A.), the Mid-America Alfalfa Expo & Conference will be held at the Buffalo County Fairgrounds in Kearney, Nebraska, February 5 and 6, 2013. The event is designed especially for alfalfa producers, livestock/dairy producers and others who are involved in alfalfa production, purchasing, hay feeding or processing.

Registration includes admission to all presentations and programs, a Tuesday afternoon reception, dinner Tuesday evening, admission to the large alfalfa industry trade show and the opportunity to bid in the fundraising auction that takes place Tuesday afternoon. The auction features a wide range of items including seed, harvesting equipment, supplies and other valuable products and services.

Dr. Dan Undersander, professor of agronomy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is leading several sessions as part of an abbreviated Alfalfa Intensive Training Seminar, the full version of which was developed for the National Alfalfa and Forage Alliance. Material being utilized for the Alfalfa Expo & Conference, however, is being organized and focused more intently toward producers. Winter survival following a drought and how to best manage through that situation will be one of the key topics discussed.

A new event this year, the "Forage Olympics", will pit teams of alfalfa producers and other conference participants competing in timed events such as hay strapping, stacking square bales and rolling large round bales.

For more information, call 1.800.743.1649 or visit

Iowa Beef Industry Council Elects 2013 Officers

Scott Niess, cow-calf producer and cattle feeder from Osage, was elected chairman of the Iowa Beef Industry Council (IBIC) at the January board meeting. Niess will lead the group of cattle producers who oversee the Iowa beef checkoff program.

Roger Brummett, Bedford, will serve as vice-chairman with Scott Heater, Wapello, as secretary and Daryl Strohbehn, Boone, as treasurer. Steve Rehder, cow-calf producer and cattlefeeder from Hawarden, was seated as a new director on the Iowa Beef Industry Council (IBIC). Elected at the IBIC annual meeting in December, Rehder will serve a three-year term.

Other members serving on the IBIC Executive Committee are Bill Northey, Iowa secretary of agriculture; Wendy Wintersteen, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State University; and Joe Wright, Knoxville, representing the Iowa Livestock Market Association.

Seven cattle producers appointed to one-year terms include Dan Schmitt, Waukon; Tom Shipley, Nodaway; Dan Cook, New Providence; Terri Carstensen, Odebolt; Scott McGregor, Nashua; Elaine Utesch, Correctionville and Helen Wiese, Manning. Retiring IBIC directors include Ed Greiman, Garner; Nancy Couser, Nevada and Tom Hotz, Lone Tree.

The Iowa Beef Industry Council administers the Iowa portion of the national beef checkoff. The 2012-2013 Iowa budget will invest about $1.6 million in state and national beef promotion, research, consumer information, and industry information programs. In addition, Iowa forwards approximately $1.6 million to the National Cattlemen's Beef Board for national beef promotion programs to market beef domestically and internationally. For more information, contact the Iowa Beef Industry Council, P.O. Box 451, Ames, IA 50010, 515-296-2305.

ASA, FMC, NACHURS Announce Soy Booster Plot Program

The American Soybean Association (ASA) announces a new partnership with FMC Corporation and NACHURS—the 2013 Soy Booster Plot Program. ASA is seeking 125 growers across the soybean-growing region to enroll by the March 2 deadline and conduct a Soy Booster field trial on their farm during the 2013 production season.

ASA, FMC and NACHURS will work with the participating growers to conduct field trials utilizing FMC’s Capture LFR (Liquid Fertilizer Ready) insecticide and NACHURS HKW6 liquid starter fertilizer on soybeans. These trials will give individual soybean farmers the opportunity to observe and measure for themselves how the application of Capture LFR insecticide with HKW6 starter fertilizer will enhance profitable production on their farm.

Growers will need to devote 20 acres treated with Capture LFR and NACHURS HKW6 liquid starter fertilizer and 20 acres untreated. Products for treatment will be provided free of charge and participants must be able to apply the starter fertilizer and liquid insecticide in-furrow to all row units as they seed soybeans.

“ASA is always working on behalf of U.S. soybean producers to increase profitability,” said ASA Vice President and Membership & Corporate Relations Committee Chairman Bob Worth. “We appreciate growers’ participation in this important research. ASA, FMC and NACHURS will partner to educate growers about the use of these tools and techniques.”

Growers who complete the Soy Booster plot program will receive a free 7” Kindle Fire HD, 16 GB with WiFi.

For more information about the Soy Booster Field Trial Program for Soybeans, go to

Soy Checkoff Welcomes Apps for 'See for Yourself'

This summer, 10 U.S. soybean farmers from across the country will get the chance to see how the United Soybean Board (USB) puts their soy checkoff investment to use. To find out who those 10 farmers will be, the national soy checkoff has begun accepting applications for its sixth annual See for Yourself program.

See for Yourself offers farmers the chance to see the checkoff in action and evaluate a wide range of checkoff activities. The 2013 See for Yourself session will take place July 21--27, 2013.

The soy checkoff invites all soybean farmers from around the country to visit and apply. The application deadline is April 1, 2013.

"See for Yourself is truly exceptional," said David Hartke, chair of the USB Audit and Evaluation committee, which sponsors See for Yourself. "Farmer-participants have the chance to see the activities of their checkoff up close, and draw their own conclusions at the same time. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

Selected farmer-participants will visit several sites that demonstrate the soy checkoff's efforts to improve the value of U.S. soymeal and oil; ensure soybean farmers and their customers have the freedom and infrastructure to operate; and meet the needs of U.S. soy customers.

Participants will first meet in St. Louis, headquarters of USB, to receive an overview of the organization and see how the checkoff works on behalf of soybean farmers domestically. The group will then travel to a location abroad to learn about the demand for U.S. soy internationally and to see some of the many uses for soy. Examples of what participants might see include the use of biodiesel at a major airport, the importance of soy to animal agriculture, and the use of soy by the food industry. USB will cover all travel, lodging, and meal expenses.

Weekly Production Numbers for 1/25/2013

According to EIA data, ethanol production averaged 770,000 barrels per day (b/d) — or 33.34 million gallons daily. That is down 22,000 b/d from the week before and is the lowest reported output since EIA began collecting data in 2010.  The four-week average for ethanol production stood at 793,000 b/d for an annualized rate of 12.16 billion gallons.

Stocks of ethanol stood at 20.5 million barrels. That is a 2.3% increase from last week.

Imports of ethanol showed 9,000 b/d, down significantly from last week and the lowest in 10 weeks.

Gasoline demand for the week averaged 357.0 million gallons daily.

Expressed as a percentage of daily gasoline demand, daily ethanol production was 9.06% — the lowest rate since late August 2012.

On the co-products side, ethanol producers were using 11.675 million bushels of corn to produce ethanol and 85,934 metric tons of livestock feed, 76,611 metric tons of which were distillers grains. The rest is comprised of corn gluten feed and corn gluten meal.  Additionally, ethanol producers were providing 4.01 million pounds of corn oil daily.

Russia Confirms Plan to Ban Meat Imports From US

The head of Russia's agriculture watchdog confirmed plans to ban imports of meat and meat products from the U.S. in February amid a dispute over the feed additive ractopamine, Russian news agency Interfax reported Thursday.

Chilled meat will be banned from Feb. 4 and frozen meat will be banned from Feb. 11, said Sergei Dankvert, head of Rosselkhoznadzor.

Russia has pressed the U.S. to guarantee that pork and beef exports contain no traces of ractopamine, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture has opposed the trade requirement and said it breaks Russia's commitments as a member of the World Trade Organization.

Russia is one of the top-10 importers of U.S. meat. U.S. beef exports to Russia totaled $254.5 million in the first 11 months of 2012, 21% higher than the previous year, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation. Pork exports for the period were valued at $267.8 million.

Rabobank Suggests Supply Discipline to Pork Industry

Rabobank has published a new research report on the global pork industry, in which the bank says that, as a result of continuing high feed costs, the key success factor for the industry will be supply discipline in 2013 and beyond.

Global pork prices have started 2013 at historically strong levels, but in the report, Rabobank's global Food & Agribusiness Research and Advisory team says that it anticipates some weakness in prices in late Q1 and into Q2 due to pressures on production and limited growth in global consumption levels.

The bank forecasts that pork prices in 2013 will be impacted by swing factors including:
-- declines in European production due to sow pen regulations
-- China's appetite for import, and
-- whether U.S. production will continue to expand despite the spike in feed costs.

The pace of pork demand growth is the key unknown for industry margins in 2013, and is highly dependent upon economic growth in the developing world.

Strong Chinese demand ahead of the Chinese New Year in February supported global pork prices early in 2013. However, bank analysts say, price movements in China will be a key indicator for the year as we move into Q2; Rabobank says global pork prices may come under slight pressure because production growth in China, the U.S., Brazil, and Russia is expected to be higher than global consumption growth.

Higher prices for pork are expected and necessary for 2013, as the drought in the U.S. and Black Sea region last year has led to low inventories of feed crops, and adverse weather in pork-producing countries continues to limit production expansion. There is now no margin for error for world crop production, with pork production and pork pricing in the second half of 2013 highly dependent upon crop growing conditions. There is also uncertainty regarding the pace and magnitude of EU enforcement of the ban on sow crates, which Rabobank forecasts will reduce the sow herd, keeping EU pork prices high.

However, Rabobank predicts that global prices will be at a lower average level than previously forecast, since the expected consequence of higher feed costs - herd liquidation - has not occurred, as producers in the U.S. have managed their risk by using futures contracts.

Rabobank analyst David Nelson said, "Despite the higher feed input costs, the U.S. swine breeding herd has modestly expanded and large scale farming continues to develop at a rapid pace in China, Russia and Brazil. There seems to be limited opportunity for a significant increase in pork prices, given this expansion. Chinese hog supplies appear to be sufficient, but recovery in the Chinese economy could stimulate demand growth."

In developed pork markets, the challenge will come from managing soft demand and often excess capacity. As such, supply discipline will remain the key success factor for the pork industry's performance this year and beyond.

Oil Leak Cleanup Continues on MS River

VICKSBURG, Miss. (AP) -- With more than 50 vessels idled on the water for a fourth day Wednesday, authorities said they still do not know when they will be able to reopen a 16-mile stretch of the Mississippi River that has been closed due to an oil spill.

A plan to pump oil from a leaking barge onto another barge -- a process known as lightering -- had been approved but it was unclear how long that would take, Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Lally said Tuesday. He said the other barge was en route.

Severe weather that was expected to sweep through the area could shut down cleanup operations for a time, prolonging the process further, authorities said.

Crews have been working around the clock to contain and remove oil since the barge, owned by Corpus Christi, Texas-based Third Coast Towing LLC, struck a railroad bridge and began leaking early Sunday. The company has refused to comment on the incident.

Lally also noted that about 7,000 gallons of crude oil were unaccounted for aboard the barge. He said it's not clear if all of it spilled into the river or if some seeped into empty spaces inside the barge.

CWT Assists with 8.8 Million Pounds of Cheese and Butter Export Sales

Cooperatives Working Together (CWT) has accepted 30 requests for export assistance from Bongards,
Dairy Farmers of America, Darigold, Foremost Farms, Land O’Lakes, Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers
Cooperative, Michigan Milk Producers Association, United Dairymen of Arizona and Upstate
Niagara/O‐AT‐KA to sell 7.579 million pounds (3,438 metric tons) of Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese, 
1.160 million pounds (536 metric tons) of butter and 44,092 pounds of whole milk powder to customers in
Asia, Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and Oceania. The product will be delivered February through
June 2013.

Year-to-date CWT has assisted member cooperatives in selling 14.617 million pounds of cheese, 9.760 million pounds of butter and 88,185 pounds of whole milk powder to 23 countries on six continents. These sales are the equivalent of 347.7 million pounds of milk on a milkfat basis. That is the annual production of 16,500 cows.

Assisting CWT members through the Export Assistance program positively impacts producer milk prices in the short-term by helping to maintain inventories of cheese and butter at desirable levels. 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 Announces Important Updates on the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) Program

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Juan Garcia today announced that beginning Feb. 5, USDA will issue payments to dairy farmers enrolled in the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program for the September 2012 marketings. The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 extended the authorization of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (the 2008 Farm Bill) through 2013 for many programs administered by FSA, including MILC. The 2008 Farm Bill extension provides for a continuation of the MILC program through Sept. 30, 2013.

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

As announced by FSA on Jan. 22, all dairy producers’ MILC contracts are automatically extended to Sept. 30, 2013. Eligible producers therefore do not need to re-enroll in MILC. MILC operations with approved contracts will continue to receive monthly payments, if available.

The payment rate for September 2012 is approximately $0.59 per hundredweight. The payment rate for October 2012 marketings is approximately $0.02 per hundredweight. The payment rate for November 2012 marketings is zero.

Before the October MILC payment can be issued, dairy farmers must complete a new Average Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) form for 2013. The new form, CCC-933 Average Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) Certification and Consent to Disclosure of Tax Information, must complete by producers before they can receive payments for a variety of programs administered by FSA and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. Producers may obtain CCC-933 at their local USDA Service Center or online at Specific detail about AGI may be found here.

Dairy operations may select a production start month other than October 2012. Producers who want to select a production start month other than October 2012 must visit their local FSA office between Feb. 1 and Feb. 28, 2013, also known as a relief period.

FSA will provide producers with information on program requirements, updates and signups as the information becomes available. For more information on MILC, contact a local FSA county office or visit the FSA website at

Potash Miners Settle Antitrust Cases

Three of the world's largest potash miners said Wednesday they agreed to pay just under $100 million to settle several, private class-action lawsuits that alleged their pricing of the fertilizer ingredient violated U.S. antitrust laws.

The firms, Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. (POT, POT.T), Minnesota-based Mosaic Co. (MOS) and Calgary-based Agrium Inc. (AGU, AGU.T), all denied the accusations contained in the suits. In separate statements, they said they agreed to settle and pay fines to avoid the costs of fighting the suits further.

"These allegations are completely without merit and we deny all of the claims asserted," said Potash Corp. Chief Executive Bill Doyle, in a statement. Potash Corp. and Mosaic said they had agreed to pay $43.75 million each in fines to plaintiffs in the suits, some of which date back to 2008. Agrium said that it agreed to pay $10 million to settle claims against it. All settlements are subject to court approval.

The mining of potash, a soil nutrient, long has been controlled by a relatively small group of big players. These three companies, along with two others, account for 66% of the world's potash production.

That group sells most of its output through just two international marketing groups. That allows the industry to function essentially like a cartel, some buyers of the product have alleged over the years.

The current settlements arose out of several lawsuits dating back to 2008, filed by chemical suppliers and agriculture-sales firms, alleging that large potash suppliers, including Potash Corp., Mosaic, Agrium and Russia's JSC Uralkali (URALL, URKA.RS) conspired to fix the price of potash sold in the U.S. from 2003 onwards. The suits were then consolidated into two class-action complaints.

Uralkali, the world's largest producer of potash by volume, settled its claims in September, agreeing to pay $12.75 million. Given that settlement, most analysts expected the North American producers to follow suit.

Stabenow Named Wheat Leader of the Year

The National Association of Wheat Growers presented its highest Congressional award to Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) on Tuesday, as wheat growers in her home state confirmed their affiliation with the national association.

Stabenow was named the 2012 Wheat Leader of the Year, an award given annually to one Member of Congress based on his or her demonstrated commitment to the well-being and goals of the wheat industry.

Stabenow was chosen to be so honored due to her diligence and leadership on farm bill legislation in the 112th Congress.

“Though a farm bill ultimately didn’t get done last year, our growers are confident that Chairwoman Stabenow did everything in her power to push it forward, and she has already shown her commitment to do the same in this new Congress,” said NAWG President Erik Younggren, a farmer from northern Minnesota. “We are happy to honor her in this way and hope to continue our close relationship with the Chairwoman and her office in the coming years.”

NAWG was also announces the Wheat Advocate Awards and Friend of Wheat Awards
The Wheat Advocate Award is given annually to Members of Congress who have demonstrated support for the wheat industry above and beyond the norm. Those receiving 2012 Wheat Advocate awards include:
    Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.)
    Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio)
    Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas)
    Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.)
    Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio)
    Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.)
    House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.)
    Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.)
    Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.)
    House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.)
    Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Pat Roberts (R-Kan.)
    Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.)

The Friend of Wheat Award is given annually by NAWG for superior action in support of the goals and policies of the wheat industry. This award is given to Congressional and administrative staff members who have demonstrated support for the wheat industry above and beyond the norm. The 2012 Friend of Wheat Awards were given to:
    Andrew Brandt - Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas)
    Jonathan Coppess - Senate Agriculture Committee Majority Staff
    Mike Dunlap - House Agriculture Committee Majority Staff
    Bart Fischer - House Agriculture Committee Majority Staff
    Max Fisher - Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.)
    Brandon Harder - Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.)
    Joel Leftwich - Senate Agriculture Committee Minority Staff
    Dr. David Marshall – USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
    Jim Miller - Senate Budget Committee Majority Staff
    Shaughnessy Murphy - Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.)
    Matt Schertz - House Agriculture Committee Majority Staff
    Joe Shultz - Senate Agriculture Committee Majority Staff
    Tara Smith - Senate Agriculture Committee Minority Staff
    Alexis Taylor - Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.)
    Emily Tully - Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio)

For his extensive service to the industry, the NAWG Board also recognized Oklahoma State University wheat breeder and professor, and National Wheat Improvement Committee (NWIC) chairman, Dr. Brett Carver, with a Friend of Wheat Award. This is an exception to policy that calls for all Friends to be employed directly by Congress or an administrative agency.

Representatives from NAWG’s member-states, in town for NAWG and U.S. Wheat Associates meetings and Hill visits, will deliver physical awards to all of the winners or they will be presented at a later date.

Brian O’Toole Elected USW Secretary-Treasurer

The U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Board of Directors elected Brian O’Toole of Crystal, ND, to serve as Secretary-Treasurer for 2013/14 at its meeting in Washington, DC, Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013.

The board elected O’Toole in a slate including Chairman Darrell Davis of Ipswich, SD, who will become Past Chairman, Vice Chairman Dan Hughes of Venango, NE, who will become Chairman and Secretary-Treasurer Roy Motter of Brawley, CA, who will become Vice Chairman. The new USW officers officially begin their one-year terms at the organization’s annual meeting, June 29, 2013, in Rapid City, SD.

O’Toole began his farming career after attending the State School of Science in Wahpeton, ND. He and his cousin Tom O’Toole operate O’Toole Farms where they produce hard red spring and hard red winter wheat, including seed wheat, dry beans, soybeans, corn and sugar beets. In 1996, O’Toole took over a seed cleaning and conditioning business started by his father Richard O’Toole.

“My father saw potential in wheat and that led him to start that seed business,” O’Toole said. “Now I am expanding it because like him, I still see potential in wheat. Running for this office is my commitment to get more involved in developing exports because I think no crop has more potential than wheat to feed the kids in this world.”

O’Toole is an experienced agricultural and community leader. He serves on the North Dakota Wheat Commission, on the board of the Wheat Marketing Center in Portland, OR and is Chairman of SBARE Wheat Granting Committee. He is also past president of the North Dakota Crop Improvement and Seed Association and past president of Crystal Farmers Elevator Co-op. O’Toole has received the Young Outstanding Farmer Award, Master Farmer Award and Friends of 4-H Award. Additionally, he and his wife, Sara, were Pembina County NDSU Harvest Bowl Honorees. They have four grown children, two of whom have returned to farming.

Darrell Davis operates a fifth-generation family grain and cattle operation and is a member of South Dakota Wheat Inc., the South Dakota Soybean Association, the South Dakota Corn Growers Association, and the South Dakota Cattleman’s Association. Davis is a board member and past president of North Central Farmers Elevator.

Dan Hughes is a third-generation wheat farmer in the southwest corner of Nebraska. His operation includes hard red winter wheat for domestic use and export, as well as hard white wheat grown under contract for ConAgra. He also is a commissioner of the Nebraska Wheat Board, and served as its Chairman from 2008 to 2010.

Roy Motter is managing partner of Spruce Farms, LLC, a diverse operation in California’s Imperial Valley that includes Desert Durum®, lettuce, cabbage, onions, sugar beets, sugar cane, alfalfa seed and hay, sudan grass, melons and tomatoes. He has been a member of the California Wheat Commission since 1998.

Caterpillar Reports Record Sales and Revenues and Profit for 2012; Inventory Reduced $2 Billion in the Fourth Quarter
Despite economic and political uncertainty in the United States, continued economic turmoil in much of Europe and slower growth in China, Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE: CAT) today announced record 2012 sales and revenues of $65.875 billion, an increase of 10 percent from $60.138 billion in 2011.  Profit per share of $8.48 was also an all-time record, including the impact of the previously announced goodwill impairment charge of $0.87 per share related to Siwei.  The 2012 profit per share of $8.48 was up 15 percent from $7.40 in 2011.  Profit was $5.681 billion, an increase of 15 percent from $4.928 billion in 2011.

Fourth-quarter 2012 sales and revenues were $16.075 billion, down $1.168 billion from $17.243 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011.  The impact of changes in dealer new machine inventories lowered sales by about $1.4 billion as dealers reduced inventories about $600 million in the fourth quarter of 2012, compared with an increase of about $800 million in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Fourth-quarter 2012 profit was $697 million compared with $1.547 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011.  Profit was $1.04 per share in the fourth quarter of 2012 compared with profit per share of $2.32 in the fourth quarter of 2011.  Fourth-quarter 2012 profit was negatively impacted by the previously announced goodwill impairment charge of $580 million, or $0.87 per share.  Lower sales and revenues and the cost impact from sharply lower production and the $2 billion decline in Caterpillar inventory also had a negative impact on fourth-quarter profit.  Those impacts were partially offset by a $300 million positive impact related to the settlement of prior-year tax returns.

“From an operational standpoint, 2012 was a very successful year with record sales and profit in a tough economic climate.  Considering the weak economy in the United States, along with much of Europe in recession and China slowing, we had a solid year.  Our incremental operating profit pull through was very good, we made progress adjusting inventory levels, and our quality and safety indicators continued to improve,” said Caterpillar Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Doug Oberhelman.

“I'm extremely pleased with our performance on reducing inventory $2 billion in the fourth quarter.  As the world economy began to soften at mid year, we increased our focus on reducing inventory.  Cat dealers also worked to lower their inventories, and, as a result, reduced their order rates during the second half of 2012.  The result was a substantial reduction in our production levels and inventory.  The reductions had a significantly negative impact on fourth-quarter sales and profit.  The $2 billion inventory reduction in the fourth quarter was a remarkable effort, but we're not done.  Reduced production levels are likely to continue at least through the first quarter of 2013 until inventories and dealer order rates move back in line with end-user demand,” Oberhelman added.

2013 Outlook

The outlook for 2013 is sales and revenues in a range of $60 to $68 billion and profit per share of $7.00 to $9.00.

“The range of our 2013 outlook reflects the level of uncertainty we see in the world today.  We're encouraged by recent improvements in economic indicators, but remain cautious.  While we expect some improvement in the U.S. economy, growth is expected to be relatively weak.  We believe China's economy will continue to improve, but not to the growth rates of 2010 and 2011.  We also remain concerned about Europe and expect economies in that region will continue to struggle in 2013," said Oberhelman.  

“If the recent improvement in economic indicators continues, 2013 could be another record year for Caterpillar.  We expect the first half of 2013 will be weaker than the first half of 2012, with better growth in the second half.  However, if, like the last two years, growth and confidence decline in the second half, 2013 could be a tough year.  Either way, as we demonstrated with inventory reductions in the fourth quarter, our team is prepared to execute and deliver,” Oberhelman added.

Monsanto Buys Assets From Agradis

Monsanto Co. has bought assets from a California-based company that uses microbes to improve crop production.

Monsanto also said that it made an equity investment in Synthetic Genomics Inc. and that the two companies reached a multiyear agricultural research agreement

The purchase of assets from Agradis, which Synthetic Genomics co-founded in 2011, includes the collection of microbes as well as the company's name. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

The assets build upon Monsanto's agricultural biological platform, called BioDirect, launched last year. Agricultural biologicals generally refer to seed or crop treatments derived from natural materials.

Agradis has said its work includes research for corn and wheat to develop products that promote growth and protect against pests.

"Agradis' collection of plant associated microbes will support Monsanto's efforts to provide farmers with sustainable biological products to improve crop health and productivity," said Steve Padgette, head of Monsanto's research and development investment strategy.

Agradis assets not bought by Monsanto include castor and sorghum technologies, as well as a new product used to prevent fungus on fruits and vegetables.

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