Friday, November 15, 2013

Friday November 15 Ag News

Farmers Seize Opportunity with Trans-Fat Solution
High oleic soybeans deliver innovation in every pod harvested. It’s innovation that provides solutions to some of U.S. soy’s biggest customers and helps build demand for U.S. soybean oil.

Many years ago, the soybean industry had the foresight to prepare soybean-oil solutions that eliminate trans fats, especially timely with the Food and Drug Administration’s recent trans-fat-ban announcement. High oleic soybeans help protect soybean-oil demand and have the potential to expand markets for U.S. soybean farmers.

“The benefits for our end-use customers really interested me,” says Gregg Fujan, United Soybean  Director, who farms near Weston, Ne. “These varieties help provide the oil our food customers need and help create sustainable demand for U.S. farmers.”

High oleic soybean oil provides much needed functionality for some food customers, without the negative health effects of trans fats. It also adds demand from potential industrial markets.

“These varieties open up markets in lubricants and engine oils that weren’t previously available,” adds Fujan. “As soybean farmers, we have to try new things and open new markets to increase our profitability.”

High oleic soybean varieties are currently being bred to move into expanded soybean growing regions. Farmers in areas of Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia can grow them now. To find out more about high oleic soybeans, visit

IFBF Offers Grants to Bring Agriculture to the Classroom

The Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) is proud to announce the application process is now open for the Teacher Supplement Grant program, a successful 10-year program that helps teachers find ways to bring the innovation of agriculture to their students.

The Teacher Supplement Grant program, established in 2003, awards $200 for use in classroom programs that promote agricultural literacy. With Iowans two to three generations removed from the family farm, IFBF's program works to help today's students learn about the diverse and dynamic nature of agriculture. The 2014 subject areas for the grant applications are language arts and science.

"We've awarded nearly $100,000 to teachers in the last three years of the grant program and we're impressed with the creative ways teachers have integrated the cultural and economic benefits of agriculture in their classrooms," says Barb Lykins, IFBF director of community resources.

"Success in farming today involves an array of skills from the farmer and agronomist in the field to the scientist at the seed company, the sales person at the local implement store and the local veterinarian. With the emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) in our state, we've selected language arts and science as key. Keeping agriculture sustainable and innovative taps into advancements in many areas of science, which ensure environmental sustainability and food safety. That opens up many possibilities for teachers to weave agriculture issues into the curriculum they already have by talking about food safety, improvements in seed genetics that make crops drought or pest resistant, or environmental practices that improve the land or watershed; all could fall within the focus areas of the 2014 Teacher Supplement Grant," says Lykins.

With one of six Iowa jobs related, indirectly or directly, to agriculture, there's a great need to bring creative ag education to Iowa's elementary schools to help today's youth understand how farming is part of their everyday lives.

To apply, visit and click on the corresponding rotating window. Applications will be accepted until Feb. 12 and grants will be awarded in March. For more information, contact Lykins at 515-225-5460.

Feds Say Farmland Values Cooling

A multiyear run-up in the value of farmland in the U.S. Midwest may be running out of steam, according to the Federal Reserve.

Agricultural bankers expect average cropland prices across the Farm Belt to slide as 2014 approaches because big harvests this fall have driven grain and soybean prices sharply lower, according to separate reports released Friday by the regional Fed banks in St. Louis and Kansas City.

"[B]ankers expect a further erosion in District quality farmland values over the next three months," St. Louis Fed analysts wrote in their report, which identified a 6% decline in farmland values in the third quarter from the second quarter for their region, which includes parts of the Midwest and Southeast.

While the average price of irrigated cropland in states surveyed by the Kansas City Fed edged 1% higher from second-quarter levels, some bankers' downbeat forecasts for the remainder of the year suggest that a years-long surge in the price of the most fertile Midwestern soil may be slowing.

Increased demand for corn and soybeans, coupled with poor weather, drove crop prices to historic highs in recent years and catapulted land values higher. Farmland values surged so rapidly that some analysts raised concerns about a bubble.

This year, better growing conditions set the stage for what is expected to be a record corn crop and among the biggest soybean harvests in history. U.S. corn prices have fallen nearly 40% this year .

"While most bankers surveyed expected farmland values would hold steady, some indicated farmland values could begin a gradual decline as 2014 approaches, particularly if income from crop production weakens further," wrote Nathan Kauffman, executive of the Kansas City Fed's Omaha branch, in the bank's report.

About one-fifth of agricultural bankers surveyed by the Chicago Fed for a report released Thursday anticipated a decrease in farmland values in the fourth quarter.

While more Midwestern bankers anticipate land prices to head lower, the U.S. farm economy has proven resilient in recent months despite earlier predictions that values would fall.

The price of irrigated land in the states surveyed by the Kansas City Fed, including Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri, climbed 22% in the third quarter of 2013 versus the same period a year ago. Farmland prices in the states surveyed by the St. Louis Fed in the third quarter were 9% higher than in the prior-year period.

Rising farmland prices have drawn notice from top U.S. central bankers, including St. Louis Fed President James Bullard, who said in an interview last week that "I do worry about" the rate of increase and what it could mean.

Mr. Bullard, however, said he doesn't think the gains have become great enough that if there were a collapse it would threaten the broader financial stability of the nation's financial system. Strong fundamentals in farming do go some way toward justifying farmland price gains, he said.

"You have a pretty good story to tell" in farming," Mr. Bullard said.

Informa: Record 2014 Bean Acreage, Lower Corn Acres

U.S. farmers remain on track to plant more winter wheat and soybeans, while dialing back slightly on corn, private analytical firm Informa Economics said in its November spring acreage update Friday.

Winter wheat seedings are projected to total 43.1 million acres, up about 280,000 acres from Informa's October estimate and about 16,000 above last year.

Informa said corn acreage is projected to total 91.5 million acres, down 134,000 from the firm's October projection and "would be well below last year's actual plantings of 95.3 million and even further below 2013 prospective plantings (if one considers how many corn acres would have been planted absent adverse planting conditions)," Informa said.

Soybean acreage is projected to total a record-setting 83.8 million acres, down 90,000 from last month's projection.  Total acreage, however, still would be 7.3 million above last year, according to Informa.

Corn's net revenue premium over soybeans is about $25 per acre. That compares to last year at this time when corn's "net revenue premium was $180 per acre larger than that of soybeans."

Group Alleges USMEF Unlawfully Using Checkoff to Fight COOL

In a strongly worded complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and USDA Office of Inspector General (OIG), R-CALF USA accuses the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) of unlawfully using Beef Checkoff Program funds to lobby Congress to weaken or eliminate country of origin labeling (COOL).

United States cattle producers are federally mandated to contribute $1 to the Beef Checkoff Program for every head of cattle they sell. This generates approximately $81 million each year and the USDA is responsible for ensuring that producers' mandatory contributions are lawfully expended for research and promotion of beef. The law prohibits Beef Checkoff funds from being used 'in any manner" to lobby Congress.

The USMEF, a major recipient of Beef Checkoff Program funds, however, sent a letter to congressional leaders urging them to change the COOL statute.

The complaint states that the majority of USMEF's annual funding is provided by the federal government, including more than $39 million from the Beef Checkoff Program, other commodity checkoff programs, and USDA grant programs.

Attached to the group's complaint is an Oct. 29, 2013 letter that the USMEF and other groups that oppose COOL sent to congressional leaders of both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House agriculture committees. The USMEF letter urges the members of the 2013 Farm Bill Conference Committee to change the COOL law.

According to R-CALF USA, the prohibition against Beef Checkoff Program funds from being used "in any manner" means checkoff funds cannot be used to subsidize any expenses, including the salaries of any USMEF employee that was involved in first formulating the decision to lobby against COOL and then in the execution of that decision as manifested by the letter that directly lobbied Congress to change the COOL statute.

The complaint further states: "The attached letter is dispositive proof that USMEF - a recipient of Beef Checkoff Program Funds, other commodity checkoff funds, and other USDA grants - is directly involved in lobbying Congress for the purpose of weakening or eliminating the COOL statute - a statute widely supported by U.S. cattle farmers and ranchers and U.S. consumers. We believe the USMEF's action is not only a clear conflict of interest, but also a clear violation of the law.

"The evidence shows that the USMEF is exploiting hard-working, independent U.S. cattle producers by unlawfully using producers' dollars to enhance USMEF's reputation thereby enabling USMEF to more effectively lobby against the producers' interests and for the USMEF's self-interests. The USMEF has demonstrated not only a wanton disregard for the law, but also a callous contempt for hard-working U.S. farmers and ranchers."

In its complaint, the group asks the U.S. Department of Justice, USDA and USDA OIG to:
-- Immediately investigate the USMEF's unlawful use of Beef Checkoff Program funds to lobby against COOL.
-- Suspend the USMEF as a contractor of the Beef Checkoff Program.
-- Officially notify the 2013 Farm Bill conferees that an investigation is underway regarding the unlawful lobbying against COOL by the USMEF.
-- Prosecuted, to the fullest extent of the law, the USMEF for exploiting U.S. cattle farmers and ranchers and for violating their trust.

Sorghum U Returns in 2014

Sorghum U is back by popular demand and will be expanding to four events in 2014, reaching new geographical areas. The farmer-focused event hosted by the Sorghum Checkoff and High Plains Journal provides resources to help producers make informed production decisions and highlights how grain sorghum can contribute to operation profitability. This day-long event is a balanced mix of new and experienced grain sorghum producers.

The first event is set to take place at the Mallet Conference Center in Levelland, Texas, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. The second will be heading to a new location in South Texas on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, with an event at the Robert M. Bouchard Regional Fairgrounds in Robstown. On Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014, Sorghum U heads to the Heartland Events Center in Grand Island, Neb., and on Thursday, Jan. 23, in Hays, Kan., at the Fort Hays State University Memorial Union.

Industry insiders are set to present information on a wide variety of topics ranging from marketing opportunities, basic and advanced agronomics, irrigation management, and other farm-level practices that will help increase producer profitability. To register for the event visit or call 1-855-422-6652. There is no charge to attend Sorghum U and lunch is included.

FSA Advises Producers to Anticipate Payment Reductions Due to Mandated Sequester

USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) is reminding farmers and ranchers who participate in FSA programs to plan accordingly in FY2014 for automatic spending reductions known as sequestration. The Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) mandates that federal agencies implement automatic, annual reductions to discretionary and mandatory spending limits. For mandatory programs, the sequestration rate for FY2014 is 7.2%. Accordingly, FSA is implementing sequestration for the following programs:

Dairy Indemnity Payment Program; Marketing Assistance Loans; Loan Deficiency Payments; Sugar Loans; Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program; Tobacco Transition Payment Program; 2013 Direct and Counter-Cyclical Payments; 2013 Average Crop Revenue Election Program; 2011 and 2012 Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program; Storage, handling; and Economic Adjustment Assistance for Upland Cotton.

Conservation Reserve Program payments are specifically exempt by statute from sequestration, thus these payments will not be reduced.

“These sequester percentages reflect current law estimates; however with the continuing budget uncertainty, Congress still may adjust the exact percentage reduction. Today’s announcement intends to help producers plan for the impact of sequestration cuts in FY2014,” said FSA Administrator Juan M. Garcia. “At this time, FSA is required to implement the sequester reductions. Due to the expiration of the Farm Bill on September 30, FSA does not have the flexibility to cover these payment reductions in the same manner as in FY13. FSA will provide notification as early as practicable on the specific payment reductions. ”

NAFTA Set to Mark Two Decades of Success for Agricultural Trade

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) came into effect Jan. 1, 1994, which makes Jan. 1, 2014, the 20th anniversary of the landmark trade agreement that has served as an example for many trade deals that followed.

In the years since NAFTA took effect, Mexico grew to become the second largest market for U.S. corn, the top market for U.S. sorghum and the premier market for distiller's dried grains with solubles (DDGS). Growth in demand for feed grains continues to be driven by a steady expansion in livestock and poultry production in the country.

"NAFTA paved the way for Mexico's agricultural trade," said Julio Hernandez, U.S. Grains Council director in Mexico. "In the beginning, Mexico brought in new technologies that helped improve their efficiencies to become more profitable. With the support of the Council's office in Mexico, Mexican importers became more efficient grain buyers, through direct contacts with U.S. suppliers and as livestock production practices improved, the Mexican consumer benefited from cheaper and better quality meat, milk and eggs which in turn stimulated rapid growth of the Mexican livestock industry."

While the United States and Canada had an important and close trade relationship for many years prior to the agreement, NAFTA significantly changed trade with Mexico.

NAFTA chartlogo"Since NAFTA came into effect, we've seen nearly a 200 percent growth in corn sales, sorghum, barley and related co-products, including corn gluten and DDGS, to Mexico," said Julius Schaaf, USGC chairman. "It's just incredible, and Council programs on everything from animal nutrition to grain transportation and storage have helped that market develop and grow over the last two decades. We will continue supporting that market into the future. I want to congratulate the vision and persistence of the Council and our member organizations 20 years ago; we are reaping the benefits of their foresight today."

NAFTA traces its roots back to the mid-1980s and early work that established the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. That deal was signed by President Ronald Reagan and took effect in 1988. Soon after, Mexico confirmed its interest in joining a trade agreement and talks on NAFTA began. The agreement was signed by President H.W. Bush in December 1992. NAFTA was then passed by Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton in December 1993, creating the largest free trade area in the world.

"NAFTA was certainly a difficult trade agreement to negotiate and pass, but as tariffs and duties phased-out on schedule, with all remaining restrictions being eliminated in 2008, agriculture trade grew and blossomed," Schaaf said. "An important goal of NAFTA was to increase regional cooperation, and we've seen that over the years not only in agriculture but across numerous sectors and economic interests important to all three countries."

Kansas State University, Merck Animal Health partner to open diagnostic lab at Olathe campus

Kansas State University Olathe is the site of the new Microbial Surveillance Lab, a partnership with Merck Animal Health. The lab will be a second site for the K-State Veterinary Diagnostic Lab, which is based on the Manhattan campus.

Merck Animal Health provided a donation for the development of the Microbial Surveillance Lab at K-State Olathe. The lab will provide diagnostic support services that will initially meet the unique needs of Merck Animal Health, followed by other animal health industry partners.

The lab also will create high-quality student educational and training programs utilizing a specialized caseload, and increase the regional and national visibility of the university's Veterinary Diagnostic Lab within the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor. Current laboratory capabilities include microbiology culture, identification and antimicrobial susceptibility testing.

"Merck Animal Health is a valuable partner to K-State through the College of Veterinary Medicine and K-State Olathe," said Kirk Schulz, president of Kansas State University. "By supporting the Microbial Surveillance Lab, Merck will help advance diagnostic education and training, as well as help propel K-State toward our goal of becoming a Top 50 public research university by 2025."

The partnership with Merck Animal Health extends beyond the lab walls. The company supports a cohort of students in the veterinary biomedical sciences graduate program at the Olathe campus, who will benefit from research opportunities at K-State Olathe.

"We at Merck Animal Health are proud to support and invest in scientific research as it is vital to the future of the animal health industry and veterinary medicine," said Rick Sibbel, D.V.M., director of technical services, Merck Animal Health. "This partnership provides us with an opportunity to contribute to the education and real-world experiences of students who are pursuing a related degree, as well as impact advances in animal medicine."

The lab is fully accredited by the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians, and has been established to provide microbiology diagnostic support to animal health pharmaceutical and biological companies. Through value-added partnerships and an entrepreneurial business model, the Microbial Surveillance Lab provides an excelling environment of support for teaching and research, and connectivity to the nation.

"Thanks to Merck, this offers a new platform for us to more easily provide diagnostic services and professional expertise to the Kansas City region, Animal Health Corridor and beyond," said Ralph C. Richardson, dean of Kansas State University's College of Veterinary Medicine. "With the additional benefit of enhancing professional and graduate-level educational opportunities through our K-State Olathe campus, this is a win-win-win situation for all involved."

Olathe Microbial Surveillance Lab services are provided by contract only. Routine diagnostic submissions should continue to be directed to the K-State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory on the Manhattan campus.

Cost of Classic Thanksgiving Dinner Down for 2013

The American Farm Bureau Federation’s 28th annual informal price survey of classic items found on the Thanksgiving Day dinner table indicates the average cost of this year’s feast for 10 is $49.04, a 44-cent price decrease from last year’s average of $49.48.

“The cost of this year’s meal, at less than $5 per serving, remains an excellent value for consumers,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman, a rice and cattle producer from Texas. “America’s farm and ranch families are honored to produce the food from our nation’s land for family Thanksgiving celebrations,” he said. “During this holiday season, many farmers and ranchers will be reaching out to consumers in-person or through social media, to answer questions about the food that they grow or the poultry and livestock they raise,” he added.

The AFBF survey shopping list includes turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a relish tray of carrots and celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and beverages of coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10. There is also plenty for leftovers.

The big ticket item – a 16-pound turkey – came in at $21.76 this year. That was roughly $1.36 per pound, a decrease of about 3 cents per pound, or a total of 47 cents per whole turkey, compared to 2012. The whole bird was the biggest contributor to the final total, showing the largest price decrease compared to last year.

“This year we can be thankful that Thanksgiving Dinner, a special meal many of us look forward to all year, will not take a bigger bite out of our wallets,” said John Anderson, AFBF’s deputy chief economist. “Most Americans will pay about the same as last year at the grocery store for a turkey and all the trimmings. Slightly higher turkey production for much of the year coupled with an increase in birds in cold storage may be responsible for the moderate price decrease our shoppers reported,” he said.

Strategic shoppers may pay even less for frozen tom turkey compared to AFBF’s 167 volunteer shoppers who checked prices at grocery stores in 34 states.

“Special sales and promotions on turkey and other holiday food items will continue right up to Thanksgiving,” Anderson explained. “If you have the patience to wait until the last minute to buy a turkey you might come home with an exceptional bargain,” he said.

In addition to the turkey, other items that declined in price included a dozen brown-n-serve rolls, $2.18; one pound of green peas, $1.54; a 14-ounce package of cubed bread stuffing, $2.67; fresh cranberries, $2.42; a half pint of whipping cream, $1.85; and two nine-inch pie shells, $2.49.

Items that showed a moderate price increase from last year included three pounds of sweet potatoes, $3.36; one gallon of whole milk, $3.66; and a 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix, $3.10.

In addition, a combined group of miscellaneous items, including coffee and ingredients necessary to prepare the meal (onions, eggs, sugar, flour, evaporated milk and butter) increased to $3.20. A one-pound relish tray of carrots and celery increased to 81 cents.

The average cost of the dinner has remained around $49 since 2011. Further, Anderson noted that despite retail price increases during the last year or so, American consumers have enjoyed relatively stable food costs in general over the years, particularly when adjusted for inflation.

The stable average price reported this year by Farm Bureau for a classic Thanksgiving dinner tracks closely with the government’s Consumer Price Index for food eaten at home (available online at, which indicates a 1 percent increase compared to a year ago.

Farm Bureau volunteer shoppers are asked to look for the best possible prices, without taking advantage of special promotional coupons or purchase deals, such as spending $50 and receiving a free turkey. Shoppers with an eye for bargains in all areas of the country should be able to purchase individual menu items at prices comparable to the Farm Bureau survey averages. Another option for busy families without a lot of time to cook is ready-to-eat Thanksgiving meals for up to 10 people, with all the trimmings, which are available at many supermarkets and take-out restaurants for around $50 to $75.

Nitrogen Fertilizer for Soybeans?

Soybeans have high protein content, which is rich in nitrogen (N), so the crop’s need for N are high, explains John Schmidt, DuPont Pioneer research scientist. Unlike corn, wheat and most other row crops grown in North America, soybeans are able to obtain their own N through the process of N-fixation, achieved through an intricate biological relationship between soybeans and a particular species of soil bacteria, Bradyrhizobium japonicum.

N-fixation combined with the uptake of residual and mineralized N from the soil are usually sufficient to supply most of the N needs of a soybean crop. Traditionally, soybeans have been grown successfully without addition of N fertilizer. N management has been limited to providing sufficient rhizobia inoculation of fields new to soybeans.

However, some soil fertility experts are now suggesting that N fertilizer applications may be needed to reach extremely high soybean yield levels. An N “budget” developed from numerous research studies shows that soil and fixed N are generally sufficient to supply N needs at yields up to 60 bushels per acre. As yields increase to 80 bushels per acre and higher, an N deficit may result. So as higher soybean yields become more common due to improvements in genetics and management practices, N additions may be needed to maximize potential yields.

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