Thursday, February 6, 2014

Part 2 - Thursday February 6 Ag News

Beef Industry Scan Provides Insight and Research to Checkoff Programs

This week during the 2014 Annual Cattle Industry Convention, key checkoff leaders and investors from across the country heard about the recently conducted Beef Industry Scan. This scan provides current and compelling research and information to understand the trends and market characteristics – in place or developing – that beef producers must consider in setting priorities and planning programs for their checkoff investments in the following year.

This scan is provided through information from food and nutrition scientists, market representatives, and retail and food-industry operators and is coordinated with the Beef Industry Long Range Plan to ensure that the demand drivers in place year by year are reflected in that Long Range Plan in time to address them adequately. This year’s scan provided information that allowed the Long Range Plan Advisory Group to make the necessary refinements to that plan.

In her address to beef and dairy producers this morning, Polly Ruhland, Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB) CEO, reviewed some of the highlights of the scan:

    First, it emphasizes the importance of evidence to support our desired outcomes. Speculation or just reporting what we see from our view simply is not enough. Instead, we must rely on sound science and rigorous scientific standards to ensure the ongoing success of checkoff programs.
    That includes gaining acceptance for research and investing at a level that ensures consistent and sound results. No doubt, this is a difficult task given the strain on checkoff resources, but we really have to be resourceful and smart in making our research investments – because challenged research can negate efforts if it reduces confidence or makes our work appear biased. The Industry Scan emphasized the clear challenges and benefits of accomplishing this.
    Another critical piece of the puzzle is the need to identify and engage with our consumer target audiences in delivering our beef messages. That includes research that we have completed first to define millennials as our target audience and, second, to get to know everything we can about their behaviors and demands when it comes to marketing and making decisions about beef for their families.
    This will allow us to connect with them where they get their information – on digital platforms – and provide them with the information they need to understand the benefits of beef and the beef products they need to meet their very specific demands. For example, millennials bring very different attitudes than boomers when it comes to food, cooking and eating. Our research indicates that the most important quality millennials look for in their food is a combination of taste, convenience and health. They also are interested in trying new ways of preparing food, frequently try new cuisines from around the world, and are willing to pay more for food that meets their requirements…. That kind of information should be a tremendous help to you in your committee meetings tomorrow.
    In looking at application of this kind of research, you can understand, for example, why the Operating Committee decided in September to approve a consumer advertising and marketing program for 2014 that is moving us to a digital-only distribution platform for marketing beef to millennials. That’s because our research and experience with millennials tells us clearly that we must reach them where they live – and millennials live on their mobile devices and social networks.
    In fact, almost 70 percent of millennials say they go first to the Internet when they need information about anything – including beef. And the data corroborate that, when you learn that there are 2.5 million food-related posts online every day, and that consumers register 4.5 million daily views on top cooking sites and 5.5 million on food-related searches.

    To our benefit, millennials also are much more likely to SHARE what they learn and much more likely to buy a product or food that their friends recommend on social media. When I hear this, I can’t help but think of a quote from political commentator Matt Drudge, who said “All truths begin as hearsay.” Imagine how much that kind of sharing can help us spread our beef messages – that is, as long as we maintain a product that meets the demands of these important consumers. That goes right back to the importance of sound science. I think you’re probably getting the picture here….

    Yet another part of the Industry Scan looks at insight about demand drivers, including the Beef Demand Determinant Study that the checkoff commissioned and shared with all of you last spring and in numerous ways since then.

    In summary, that report by agricultural economists at Kansas State and Purdue universities identified seven key beef demand drivers, with price, food safety and product quality identified as the ones for which the beef industry should focus to have the most compelling effects on beef demand in the long term. Other key drivers they identified and that cannot be ignored are health, nutrition, social aspects and sustainability.

“These results are critical to planning efforts of the next few months – and years, for that matter,” says Ruhland. “When it comes to price, we quickly hit up against an oft-misunderstood concept of beef consumption vs. demand. You have probably heard reports lately that chicken consumption actually surpassed beef consumption for the first time in 100 years. I would ask that you keep in mind that consumption is not demand – consumption is simply equal to supply, because we use our entire beef supply.  Still, combined with positive consumer perceptions about chicken’s convenience and health advantages and a recent study that found that, when going head-to head, more consumers – and especially millennials – say they prefer chicken over beef for dinner, the price difference helps make fowl a formidable competitor.

“So while we are excited about how strong beef demand remains – with retail demand advancing more about 2 percent in 2013 and consumers saying at the beginning of 2014 that they are still willing to pay more for beef -- we must continue to offer consumers a great value or risk negatively impacting demand.”

Beef Producers Need Comprehensive TPP Deal

Beef producers from the four largest beef producing Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) member countries continue to advocate that any TPP agreement must deliver on the 2011 TPP Ministers’ position of eliminating tariffs and other barriers to trade.

Beef producers of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States, working in a coordinated partnership known as the Five Nations Beef Alliance (FNBA), issued a statement today expressing concern at the possibility that some TPP members may seek to exclude some so-called “sensitive” products from comprehensive, duty free access.

Granting a TPP member any such exclusion would result in other members seeking similar treatment, leading to a decline in the agreement’s level of ambition and the resulting economic growth that it would bring.

The alliance also called for each TPP member to provide equal market access to all other TPP members, including during the transition period, in order to ensure that competitive disadvantages are not created and also to set clear expectations of the level of commitment required from any potential future TPP members.

The beef producers also noted the importance of adopting science-based regulations and incorporating trade facilitative rules of origin in the TPP.

The FNBA comprises the Cattle Council of Australia, Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, Confederacion Nacional de Organizaciones Ganaderas, Beef + Lamb New Zealand and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. Together, FNBA represents producers from countries that account for one-third of global beef production and approximately half of global beef exports.

Texas, Missouri NCBA affiliates Earn New Holland Equipment for Membership Recruitment Efforts

The Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association and the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association each earned use of a piece of equipment from New Holland for their efforts to recruit new members to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. Each NCBA affiliate will get their choice of a one-year lease on a New Holland Roll-Belt™ 560 Specialty Crop round baler or a one-year lease on a New Holland T6 175 tractor. The organizations received their awards during the Best of Beef Breakfast at the 2014 Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show in Nashville Feb. 8.

TSCRA was the recruitment leader for the contest period, which lasted from Oct. 1, 2013 to Dec. 31, 2013. This automatically earned them the 1-year lease on a piece of equipment. The MCA earned their use of a baler or tractor through a drawing of 25 affiliates who met recruitment goals during the same time period.

“New Holland is proud to support state and national membership efforts in cattle industry organizations,” said Mark Hooper, New Holland Director of Marketing. “We know that it takes all of us working together to keep the cattle industry strong and viable for future generations of farmers and ranchers, and are honored to work with NCBA and its state partners on this important campaign to build a strong voice for beef producers in the United States.”

The top five state affiliates for NCBA membership recruitment were: Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, Pennsylvania Cattlemen’s Association, Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association and Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association.

Other states qualifying for the lease drawing were: California Cattlemen’s Association, Colorado Livestock Association, Georgia Cattlemen’s Association, Hawaii Cattlemen’s Association, Illinois Beef Association, Indiana Beef Cattle Association, Kansas Livestock Association, Michigan Cattlemen’s Association, Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association, Mississippi Cattlemen’s Association, Nebraska Cattlemen, New York Beef Producers, North Dakota Stockmen’s Association, Ohio Cattlemen’s Association, Tennessee Cattlemen’s Association, Texas Cattle Feeders Association, Utah Cattlemen’s Association, Washington Cattle Feeders Association and Wisconsin Cattlemen’s Association.

“Since 2003 New Holland has been proud to partner with NCBA to recognize grassroots membership achievement,” said Hooper. “Like New Holland, these state affiliates recognize that organizational growth is a smart solution to promote beef and protect a way of life.”

Nebraska Cattlemen mourn the loss of NC Board Member, Robin Coulter Lapaseotes

Nebraska Cattlemen Taxation Committee Chairman, Robin Coulter Lapaseotes, Bridgeport passed away Tuesday in a tragic auto accident. Please join us in keeping the Lapaseotes family, in your thoughts and prayers.

A prayer service will be held Friday 6:30 pm MST at the Greek Orthodox Church in Bayard, Nebraska. A funeral service will be Saturday 2:30 pm MST at the Prairie Winds Community Center in Bridgeport, Nebraska.

Jeff Rudolph, Nebraska Cattlemen President, released the following statement:

"It's with a very heavy heart that we say goodbye to NC Board member Robin Coulter Lapaseotes. Robin was a strong leader and a true Nebraska cattlewomen. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family, especially her husband, children, and grandchildren during this difficult time.

"Robin was a successful and respected rancher, feed yard owner, and businesswoman who dedicated her life to serving the cattle industry.  Robin will be truly missed by all of us at NC. She has left a lasting impression on our association and even more so, the entire cattle industry."

Heuermann Lecturer Paarlberg to Address Culture War Over Food, Farming

            Modern industrial food and farming systems that dominate the U.S. commercial marketplace are under heavy attack in the cultural marketplace, and unless agricultural advocates make a better case for these systems' success, effects of that attack will be felt worldwide, says Robert Paarlberg, the Feb. 27 Heuermann Lecturer at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

            Paarlberg, the Betty Freyhof Johnson '44 Professor in the Department of Political Science at Wellesley College, and author of the book "Food Politics:  What Everyone Needs to Know," will speak at 3:30 p.m. in the Hardin Hall auditorium at 33rd and Holdrege.

            The free Heuermann Lecture, titled "Our Culture War Over Food and Farming," is preceded by a 3 p.m. reception.

            Some people "have concluded that our dominant food and farming systems are unhealthy, unsafe, environmentally unsustainable and socially unjust," Paarlberg said.

            "In place of large scale, highly specialized and highly capitalized farming systems, they want a return to smaller scale systems that integrate crop and livestock production," he added.  "In place of internationally traded foods they want local foods.  In place of genetically engineered food they want organic food, and in place of fast food they want slow food."

            At stake in this culture war, Paarlberg said, "is not just the future of food and farming in the United States, but also in the developing world."

            He noted that in many of the poorest communities in Africa and Asia, farms are still small and highly diversified, few chemicals are used and GMOs are not permitted, so the food system in place there is, in reality, organic, local and slow.

            "Productivity there is low," Paarlberg said. "The average income of farmers is only a bit more than a dollar a day, and one of three people is undernourished.  Moving away from these non-productive systems in poor countries will be more difficult if modern farming in the United States fails to make a better case for its success."

            Paarlberg's book "Starved for Science:  How Biotechnology is Being Kept Out of Africa," carries a foreword by two Nobel Peace Prize winners, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter,  and Norman Borlaug, often called the father of the Green Revolution.

            The co-author of one book and author of eight, as well as of numerous articles for both academic and popular publications, Paarlberg also is an adjunct professor of public policy at Harvard Kennedy School, and an associate at the Harvard University Weatherhead Center for International Affairs.  Most of his research and consulting is in the area of international food and agricultural policy, especially in Africa and the developing world.

            "Robert Paarlberg brings an important perspective to Heuermann Lecture participants," said Ronnie Green, University of Nebraska vice president and Harlan vice chancellor of the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at UNL, home of the Heuermann Lectures.  "His insights into how what happens in food and agricultural systems in the U.S. affects food production, poverty and malnourishment around the world offers much food for thought in our powerhouse agricultural state."

            Heuermann Lectures in IANR 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.

            The lectures are made possible through 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.

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

ISA names Patrick Reeg as On-Farm Network director

Patrick Reeg has been named director of On-Farm Network® for the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) Research Group.

As a member of the ISA Research Leadership Team, Reeg provides strategic and tactical leadership to the On-Farm Network team and serves as the point of contact with ISA staff, research advisory council and ISA board members; as well as ISA partners, collaborators and farmer stakeholders.

“Pat has contributed a great deal to the success of the On-Farm Network and to our efforts to build closer integration and partnership within ISA and with our farmer, industry and university partners,” said Ed Anderson, ISA senior director of supply and production systems. “I am confident that Pat will apply great vision, expertise and passion in leading our On-Farm Network team in conducting and communicating collaborative work that will improve soybean farmers’ productivity.” 

Reeg grew up near Bellevue, raising crops and livestock with his family on their Century Farm. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Business and a Master of Science degree in Agronomy from Iowa State University.  Prior to joining ISA in 2005, Reeg was the precision farming specialist with AgVantage FS, Inc.  He is a Certified Crop Advisor (CCA) and past chair of the Iowa CCA board. Most recently, Reeg served as ISA operations manager – agronomic research for the On-Farm Network.

“I am extremely excited to have such an incredible opportunity with the Iowa Soybean Association and look forward to serving the research needs of Iowa soybean farmers as On-Farm Network director,” said Reeg. “The volume of data farmers can collect on their fields continues to increase with advancing precision agriculture technologies. The On-Farm Network continues to be a valuable unbiased resource in filtering through this data to help farmers make important decisions related to profitability and the environment.”

The On-Farm Network will host its annual conference in Ames Feb. 19-20. Featured topics include managing herbicide resistant weeds, unmanned aerial vehicles, cover crops, planting rates, high-yield management for soybeans and what’s new in precision ag tools.

In addition, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey will provide a progress update on the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy and farmer and landowner responsibilities regarding this historical effort to improve environmental performance.

The On-Farm Network conference is presented by the Iowa Soybean Association. Registration cost is $100. Online registration closes Feb. 14, but walk-ins will be welcomed. Registration fees are waived for 2013 On-Farm Network program participants. The student fee is $35. Continuing Education Units for certified crop advisors will be available for all conference sessions. To register, go to

The Farm Bill Passed Congress; President to Sign Friday

In a 68-32 vote Tuesday, the Senate passed The Agriculture Act of 2014, known to most as the farm bill. The next step is the President’s signature, which is scheduled to take place Friday at Michigan State University in the home state of Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).

This farm bill was a long time coming. The agriculture community first tried to get the bill through during the “super-committee” process in the fall of 2011. In a press release following the Senate vote Chairwoman Stabenow stated, “Many people said this would never happen in this environment, but Congress has come together to pass a major bipartisan jobs bill.” House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) was successful in getting the bill through the House last week. Following the Senate vote he expressed his praise for the Senate passage stating, “We worked together to give certainty and sound policy to our agriculture producers; deliver taxpayers billions of dollars in savings; and provide consumers the affordable and reliable food supply they have grown accustomed to.”

The focus will now turn to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Secretary Tom Vilsack, who designated Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden to take the lead in overseeing implementation of the new bill. The National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) and its members are “beyond excited” that the process of passing a farm bill is now complete, and we look forward to working with USDA on implementation. 

QR Codes Showcase We Caresm Videos

Consumers are more interested than ever in knowing where their food comes from. To bring the farm to consumers, the Pork Checkoff is creating new connections through quick-response (QR) codes printed on pork labels.

QR codes are small boxes containing an array of black or white squares. When scanned with a smartphone or computer tablet, QR codes direct the mobile device to display a video, text or other information. In this case, the QR codes on pork labels in participating grocery stores are highlighting the pork industry’s We CareSM principles.

“We wanted to find the best way to share this information with consumers,” said Angela Anderson, food chain outreach manager for the Pork Checkoff. “We decided that short videos were the quickest, most effective way to catch people’s attention and articulate the We Care principles.”

The Checkoff developed a mobile website with four short We Care-related videos focusing on animal nutrition, animal well-being, feed additives and antibiotics. After scanning the QR codes, consumers can watch the videos to learn how pork producers provide safe, nutritious food.

Putting Messages to the Test

Before the QR codes and videos were implemented, the Pork Checkoff developed a test round of pork labels. These were distributed on the West Coast through a large retail chain to gauge consumers’ response.

“The results showed that we needed to give consumers an incentive to scan the QR codes and watch the videos,” said Jarrod Sutton, assistant vice president of channel marketing for the Checkoff. After adding the chance to win a $500 gift card from select retailers, the Pork Checkoff redistributed the labels in grocery stores across the country. This has increased the number of scans by consumers.

Moving in the Right Direction

Retailers who have used the QR codes have been impressed with the results. “The program was outstanding, and I was encouraged by how many customers at Hannaford supermarkets participated,” said Rick Wilson, pork category manager for Delhaize America Shared Services Group, LLC. “I look forward to partnering with the Pork Checkoff on other consumer education opportunities.”

The Pork Checkoff plans to survey select consumers who participated in the QR code promotion. The feedback will help fine-tune the content of future promotions with QR codes.

“We have so many ideas on how to develop the program further,” Sutton said. “The pork industry is headed in the right direction by being transparent and helping consumers learn more about the farm-to-fork connection.”

New Partnership Focused on Helping Farmers Enhance Soil Health

The importance of soil health for farmers and the environment took center stage recently as a new Science Advisory Council convened to kick off the Soil Health Partnership, formed by the National Corn Growers Association with support from the Walton Family Foundation and Monsanto.

“The health of a farm depends on the health of its soil, and that’s what makes this new program an important one for our organization,” said NCGA President Martin Barbre, a corn grower in Illinois. “We developed the Soil Health Partnership with our partners to help our growers be the best farmers they can be, and ensure that their farmland remains valuable and productive for future generations.”

The mission of the Soil Health Partnership is to catalyze enhanced agricultural sustainability and productivity by demonstrating and communicating the economic and environmental benefits of improved soil health. The initial objectives of the program include building a network of demonstration research farms in key corn states; developing recommendations to farmers on a variety of soil management practices aimed at improving productivity, profitability and environmental outcomes; increasing adoption of those recommendations beyond the network of demonstration farms; and increasing the visibility and importance of sound soil management.

In addition to the Science Advisory Council, the Nature Conservancy and the Environmental Defense Fund are providing technical support to the Soil Health Partnership as it kicks off in 2014.

“We look forward to helping demonstrate and measure how different conservation practices can improve soil health and simultaneously lead to increased yields, profitability and environmental performance,” said Sean McMahon, The Nature Conservancy's North American Agriculture Program Director. “We hope that this innovative partnership will help lead to widespread adoption of conservation practices that improve soil health and ultimately improve water quality at a watershed scale.”

A key part of the success of the Soil Health Partnership is the Science Advisory Council, Barbre said, the experts who will advise the partnership about the identification, measurement and evaluation of best practices that can improve soil health while boosting yields and improving environmental outcomes.

Members of this advisory council include Doug Karlen, Ph.D., Supervisory Soil Scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment; C. Wayne Honeycutt, Ph.D., Deputy Chief for Science and Technology of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service; Jerry Hatfield, Ph.D., Lab Director at the USDA-ARS National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment; Charles W. Rice, Ph.D., University Distinguished Professor of Soil Microbiology at Kansas State University; Mike Plumer, Ph.D., Consultant with Conservation Agriculture and Coordinator of the Illinois Council on Best Management Practices; Daren Harmel, Ph.D., Supervisory Agricultural Engineer at the USDA-ARS Grassland Soil and Water Research Laboratory; Eileen J. Kladivko, Ph.D., Purdue University Department of Agronomy; Peter C. Scharf, Ph.D., Professor in the Division of Plant Sciences at the University of Missouri; and Harold M. Van Es, Ph.D., Professor, Crop and Soil Sciences at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University.

“Helping farmers understand what management practices help build healthy soils is a priority for this partnership, and important for everyone in the long run,” said Purdue’s Dr. Kladivko. “I’m happy to be able to offer expertise to help farmers  become even better stewards of the environment.”

Dr. Honeycutt of the USDA agreed about the importance of grounding conservation practices in sound science.

“Enhancing soil health is one of the most important things we can do for this and for future generations,” Honeycutt said.  “That’s because enhancing soil health allows us to simultaneously address so many of our most pressing natural resource needs.  It allows us to address water quality, farm profitability, resilience to extreme weather, economic risk, wildlife needs, and many others.  The Soil Health Partnership will provide a platform to measure and demonstrate these benefits,  building on what is known from academic research and connecting it directly to on-farm management approaches.”

U.S. Ethanol Exports Top 620 Million Gallons in 2013 While Imports Fall, Distillers Grains Exports Set New Record

According to government data released today, U.S. ethanol exports totaled 621.5 million gallons (mg) in 2013, the third-highest annual total on record. Canada was by far the leading export market for the year, receiving 322 mg—or 52% of the total. The Philippines ranked second with 51.5 mg of imports, while Brazil (43.9 mg), United Arab Emirates (39.5 mg), and Mexico (23.6 mg) rounded out the top five. Of total export shipments, 67% were classified as denatured for fuel use, 31% were undenatured for fuel use, and 2% were denatured and undenatured for non-fuel, non-beverage purposes.

“U.S. produced ethanol is the world’s lowest cost liquid transportation fuel. As such, we anticipate that export opportunities will continue to grow as countries across the globe recognize the air quality, high octane and superior performance of renewable ethanol,” said Bob Dinneen, President and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association.

Meanwhile, U.S. ethanol imports tallied 395.2 mg for the year, down 27% from 2012 and well below the levels envisioned by EPA (600-800 mg) for the purposes of meeting the Renewable Fuel Standard’s (RFS) advanced biofuel requirements. Instead, those requirements were largely satisfied with domestically-produced biodiesel. Brazil accounted for 341.5 mg (86%) directly, while re-exports through the Caribbean Basin countries of Jamaica, Costa Rica and El Salvador accounted for the remainder.

The United States was a net exporter of 226.3 mg in 2013, roughly a 24% increase over 2012 net exports.

December ethanol exports totaled 64 mg, the second-highest monthly total of the year. Canada (29.2 mg) was the top destination in December, followed by Brazil (14.3 mg), India (4.9 mg), and the Philippines (3.7 mg). Peru, Tunisia, and South Korea were other leading markets in December. Imports slowed to a trickle in December, with just 4.5 mg coming in from Brazil.

Exports of distillers grains—the animal feed co-product manufactured by ethanol dry mills—set a new record of 9.7 million metric tons (mmt) in 2013. The total was up 31% from 2012 and eclipsed the previous record of 9.0 mmt set in 2010. China was the leading destination for U.S. distillers grains, receiving 4.49 mmt, or 46% of the total. Mexico ranked second with 1.28 mmt, while Canada was third with 474,495 metric tons (mt). For the month of December, exports totaled 990,331 mt, down slightly from November’s record. China (551,443 mt) was the month’s top importer, followed by Mexico (86,807 mt) and South Korea (46,768 mt).

Dinneen noted, “Belying the food vs. fuel canard is the fact that U.S. ethanol companies also produced 35.5 million metric tons of high-quality feed in the most recent marketing year—enough to feed the beef cattle to make 45 billion quarter-pound hamburger patties or six patties for every person on the planet. There is a growing demand for high protein feed across the globe. We’re ready to supply it!”

Canal Expansion Hits a Bump: Talks Break Down Between Panama Canal Authority and Construction Consortium

The project to expand the Panama Canal was in doubt this week after talks between the canal administrator and a Spanish-led building consortium fell apart and work ground to a halt.

Group United for the Canal (GUPC), a conglomerate led by Spanish builder Sacyr, is requesting the Panama Canal Authority pay an additional $1.6 billion in cost overruns. Originally slated to cost roughly $5.25 billion, new projections place the actual cost at nearly $7 billion.

Disputes over the expansion of the Canal began soon after GUPC won the bid in 2009. Officials and diplomats expressed concerns over the consortium's ability to complete the project because its bid was $1 billion lower than the nearest competitor.

"The Panama Canal Authority has taken a firm stance that GUPC must honor its contract," said Kurt Shultz, U.S. Grains Council regional director of the Americas. "The U.S. grain industry has high expectations for an expanded Panama Canal; we urge both parties to quickly agree on a resolution and move forward."

Already six- to nine-months behind schedule, further construction delays are expected if the dispute continues. Some analysts warn there could be an additional two- to three-year interruption if GUPC is released and a new construction company is retained.

"Delays do not benefit anyone and I expect the expansion to come to fruition," Shultz said. "International pressure on both parties will increase until a solution is found."

The next key deadline is Feb. 20, when Zurich American Insurance, which holds a $400 million performance bond, will decide if the Panama Canal Authority has just cause to void to contract with GUPC and if it will release the bond to the Authority.

U.S. Calls on Russia to End Olympic-Size Games Being Played over Dairy Exports

The U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) are calling on Russian authorities to end its country’s three-year embargo of U.S. dairy products. The groups’ call for action follows Russia’s refusal to accept a New York company’s Greek yogurt for consumption by U.S. athletes at the winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. “This is yet another example of how Russia’s blockade of U.S. dairy products is harming U.S. companies,” says Tom Suber, USDEC president.

Media reports have indicated that a large shipment of yogurt from Chobani was refused entry into Russia, even though the company is a major sponsor of the U.S. Olympic team. “Russia has turned a cold shoulder to many U.S. businesses trying to ship dairy products to Russia, despite our ample efforts during the past three years to prove their safety and quality. Reopening this market on a permanent basis would be a great benefit for U.S. companies and Russian consumers,” says Suber.

Jim Mulhern, NMPF president & CEO, concurs: “With Russia’s membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO), it’s incumbent on them to live up to WTO trading obligations on fundamental food safety requirements. There is no rational reason why safe, wholesome dairy products consumed by millions of Americans on a regular basis would not be equally healthful for Russians. It’s a shame they want cultural exchanges like the Olympics, but fear cultured dairy products. They’ll welcome our Olympians but not their food.”

In September 2010, Russia closed its market to U.S. dairy products due to changes in what it demanded on a health certificate, the official U.S. government-issued statements that have long accompanied product shipments in international trade and provide assurances regarding product safety. Russia and its Customs Union partners, Kazakhstan and Belarus, have not sufficiently engaged with the United States in laying out a reasonable path that would lead to a long-term solution.

USDEC and NMPF declare that it is time for Russia and its Custom Union partners to finally provide opportunity for U.S. athletes in the Olympics, as well as Russian consumers, to enjoy safe and nutritious U.S. dairy products. Both organizations urged Russian officials to work with the U.S. government to negotiate a breakthrough.

Forage Fertility Program Impacts Cattle Performance

Productive and high quality forage underpins stocking rates, conception rates, calf production, rate of gain and more. No other input has a more direct effect on cattle nutrition and performance.

Weather in recent years has taken a toll on pasture and hay meadows. Droughty weather has reduced both forage yield and quality in many locations. Extreme cold and repeated freeze/thaw cycles this winter may also thin stands. This comes at a time when cattle producers are looking to expand their herds.

Fertility management of forages has a big effect on beef performance, according to Vanessa Corriher-Olson, assistant professor and forage extension specialist with Texas A & M, Overton, Tex. “When you apply nitrogen and get a rain, the grass practically jumps out of the ground. The amount of nitrogen in a pasture or hay meadow also directly impacts the crude protein content of the forage. Phosphorus and potassium are important, too. They impact water use efficiency, drought tolerance, disease resistance and nutrient use efficiency,” she says. “Having a good forage base is the first step to providing nutrients for healthy maintenance and growth of cattle.”

Research shows nitrogen can play a dramatic role in enhancing forage quality and tonnage, but it can be subject to environmental loss. Cattle producers can protect the value of their nitrogen investment and strengthen their forage nutrition programs with NutriSphere-N® Nitrogen Fertilizer Manager. NutriSphere-N reduces nitrogen loss from volatilization, denitrification and leaching. It keeps more nitrogen in the readily-available ammonium form for plants.

“Any surface application of a fertilizer with urea or liquid UAN has the potential for significant losses from volatilization. In addition, nitrogen is subject to further loss on sandy soil from leaching or on heavier soils from denitrification,” explains Barney Gordon, professor emeritus Kansas State University. “When we tested NutriSphere-N treated urea and UAN on bromegrass, we significantly increased both the yield and quality of the forage by keeping more nitrogen available for the crop. If you lose nitrogen, both forage yield and quality suffer.”

Reggie Underwood, SFP’s national sales manager, says NutriSphere-N protects applied nitrogen fertilizer in pastures and hay meadows. More nitrogen available for plant uptake enhances rhizome and root growth, stimulates more rapid regrowth, improves crude protein content and extends stand longevity. “Producers use NutriSphere-N to protect early spring nitrogen applications from weather events and they use it in weed and feed programs to protect nitrogen from volatilization until a rain occurs to move the nitrogen into the soil,” he says.

Corriher-Olson recommends producers start with a soil sample to determine nutrient needs. “Nitrogen can be applied at the beginning of the season and between cuttings or grazing to promote regrowth. It’s important to manage fertility and control weeds in forages every year because that creates a stand that can better withstand extreme weather conditions,” she says. 

Clariva Complete Beans manages SCN and improves yield in 2013 trial results

Clariva™ Complete Beans nematicide/insecticide/fungicide, an on-seed application of separately registered products, continues to produce consistently higher soybean yields than insecticide/fungicide seed treatments, as proven with 2013 results. Clariva Complete Beans builds on the market-leading insect and disease protection from CruiserMaxx® Beans with Vibrance® insecticide/fungicide seed treatment by adding a revolutionary nematicide with direct, season-long protection against soybean cyst nematode (SCN).

The annual damage from SCN is greater than that of the next three most destructive soybean pests combined. “Its ability to reproduce quickly has made SCN a widespread pest throughout the Midwest,” said Dale Ireland, Ph.D., technical product lead at Syngenta. “Their ability to feed on resistant SCN varieties—especially on the widely used PI88788 source of resistance—makes some SCN populations even more difficult to control.”

To tackle the lack of season-long management options for this damaging pest, Syngenta conducted Clariva Complete Beans trials with SCN-resistant varieties from 2010 to 2013. When used in fields with moderate-to-high SCN pressure, Clariva Complete Beans consistently improved yields by an average of 4.1 percent compared to an insecticide/fungicide check. In the same trials, Poncho®/VOTiVO® insecticide/fungicide offered a mere 0.3 percent average yield increase. 

Furthermore, SCN populations across the Midwest have shown increased reproduction in varieties using the PI88788 source of resistance. In fields with these so-called “HG Type 2” SCN populations, Clariva Complete Beans produced an average 4.4 percent yield increase versus an insecticide/fungicide check over the last three years. This underlines the potential for Clariva Complete Beans to offer growers additional effective SCN protection and to help them manage resistance.

Planting soybeans treated with Clariva Complete Beans will protect high-value seeds against SCN, early-season insects and diseases. This enables plants to start strong so farmers can grow more soybeans.

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