Thursday, April 10, 2014

Thursday April 10 Ag News

Shortage of Ag Teachers in Nebraska Prompts New School Loan Assistance Program

The Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture unveiled an Agriculture Teacher Scholarship and Loan Assistance Program during the FFA State Convention in Lincoln April 10. The Foundation is supported by Nebraska Farm Bureau.

“Nebraska is facing a critical shortage of agricultural education teachers. The good news is that agriculture education and FFA is expanding in Nebraska. The bad news is that there is not enough agriculture teachers to keep up with the growth. Competition in the market is pulling many students who are potential agriculture teachers into other fields,” said Steve Nelson, president of Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture. “This new program will help entice students to go into the field of agriculture education and young teachers to stay on this career path. Hopefully, this will help address the shortage issue and keep school-based agricultural education programs strong, vibrant and expanding to more schools,” said Nelson.

At a time when Nebraska’s population is becoming increasingly urban and disconnected from agriculture, enticing qualified agricultural education teachers to stay teaching, is critical. While there are missed opportunities for growth, there is a tremendous risk of not having teachers to fill existing positions for the sake of maintaining the quantity and quality of Nebraska agricultural education.

“Since 2011, there have been nine instances of Nebraska schools advertising for an agriculture teacher in an effort to start programs in their schools and there were not enough teachers to fill those positions,” said Deanna Karmazin, executive director of the NFB Foundation for Agriculture.

Agriculture teachers often struggle to justify entering a career where their first year’s salary is less than their total student loan amount. The average starting base salary for Nebraska teachers is about $31,000. Nebraska agriculture teachers cumulatively possess more than $622,000 in student loans today, said Karmazin.

The Agriculture Teacher Scholarship and Loan Assistance Program would support both pre-service (student) teachers through a scholarship program and in-service (active) teachers through a loan assistance program.

The Student Teacher Scholarship Program is for students enrolled in University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Agricultural Education Teacher Education program. Students would be eligible to apply for a student teaching scholarship for the value of approximately one-half tuition, or $1,200 for the semester in which the student’s student teaching experience occurs, Nelson said.

The Teacher Loan Assistance Program is for current Nebraska agricultural education teachers who have existing student loans have been teaching between 1-5 years. The amount of loan assistance would increase over the course of the teacher’s first five years in the classroom, thus encouraging the teacher to remain in the profession, he emphasized.

“We are starting a Capitol Campaign for the Agriculture Teacher Scholarship and Loan Assistance Program with the goal to entice more students to stay in Nebraska and teach agriculture, and to keep agriculture as part of the curriculum in our Nebraska schools. Agriculture is the number one industry in the state and is responsible for one in four jobs. It’s important we encourage students to understand and value the hard work that goes into raising food in Nebraska,” said Karmazin.

Funding for the program will initially start at about $12,000 for applying students and teachers in August 2014. With a fundraising component built in, we hope to ramp this up to a $35,000 to $40,000 program during the next three years.

“Without agriculture teachers, there is no FFA in the school system. The future growth of FFA depends on the ample supply of teachers and we hope our NFB Foundation for Agriculture program can help,” Nelson said.

NFB Foundation for Agriculture Honors Fullerton, Palmyra Teachers as FFA Advisors of the Year

The Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture (NFB Foundation for Agriculture) along with the Nebraska Farm Bureau Ag Promotion Committee, selected the two recipients for the FFA chapter Advisors of the Year award: Kevin Wetovick of the Fullerton FFA Chapter and Ken Malone of the Palmyra FFA Chapter.

The teachers were chosen based upon their school and community involvement and accomplishments made with their FFA chapters.

“Both teachers are outstanding FFA advisors and spend countless hours working with their students to make them successful in all of their endeavors,” Deanna Karmazin, Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture executive director, said April 10.

Kevin Wetovick’s students have seen him as a dedicated education professional who truly cares about each students’ success and will go out of his way to ensure that success with the Fullerton FFA Chapter. Chapter members feel his dedication to his students as he listens and works with his students after school to ensure positive achievements. His steady encouragement, dedication and hard work have made him a role model within his chapter and his community.

Ken Malone of the Palmyra FFA Chapter has a “kids first” attitude, is trustworthy, resourceful, vibrant and honest. It’s these qualities that qualifies him for the FFA Advisor of the Year award. His students have said time and time again that he pushes them to do the best they can and be the best they can be. Malone is not only an outstanding instructor, but is an integral part of the Palmyra Rescue Squad. He serves his community, inspires excellence and encourages personal growth for his students and their families.

The advisors were recognized during the Nebraska FFA Convention held in Lincoln, April 9. The winning advisors receive a plaque, $250 to be used toward their FFA chapter and receive a complimentary one year membership with Nebraska Farm Bureau.

“This year we had outstanding applications, and the selection committee had a very difficult time choosing the two winners. All of the advisors nominated are outstanding agriculture leaders in their community,” Karmazin said.

The nomination form for the 2015 award will be distributed via the FFA intranet in January. It will also be available at Applications must be postmarked by Feb. 1, 2015.

Nebraska Producers Could Increase Corn Yield by Increasing Seeding Rate

Many Nebraska producers could increase their corn yields and profits this year by increasing seed rates at planting, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension soils specialist says.

According to current Nebraska research in UNL NebGuide G2216, Row Spacing and Seedling Rate for Corn in Nebraska (, profitable yield increases are likely by increasing plant population at harvest beyond the U.S. Department of Agriculture-reported averages in Nebraska of 29,000 plants per acre  (30,450-31,900 seeds per acre) for irrigated production and 21,850 plants per acre (22,943-24,035 seeds per acre) for rainfed production, said Charles Wortmann, UNL Extension soils specialist.

Planting 34,000 seeds per acre for irrigated corn and 24,000 to 30,000 for rainfed corn, depending on expected yield, with 30-inch row spacing is expected on average to give the best net returns.

This NebGuide provides guidelines to determining row spacing, twin-row planting, and seeding rate for eastern and central Nebraska. It is based on findings of research conducted at UNL research centers and on farmers' fields.

Use of 30- and 15-inch row spacing and twin row versus single row planting are addressed. Guidelines to seeding rates consider seed cost and expected yield for maximizing profit per acre.

The NebGuide was written by Ross Barr, master’s degree graduate student; Stephen Mason, professor of agronomy and horticulture; Mitchell Novacek, former master’s degree graduate student; Jennifer Rees, UNL Extension educator and Wortmann.

For continued information this season about seeding rates this season, visit CropWatch, UNL Extension’s crop production newsletter, at

For western Nebraska rates, see UNL Extension NebGuide G2068, Recommended Seeding Rates and Hybrid Selection for Rainfed (Dryland) Corn in Nebraska at

A-FAN purchased Billboards to Support the Lincoln Food Bank

Earlier this year, the Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska (A-FAN) partnered with the Lincoln Food Bank to promote Nebraska’s effort to end hunger through positive billboard advertisements. The theme for the billboards is: “Brought to you by Nebraskans who grow your food.”

A large thank you goes out to all of those who helped support this effort! Because of your generous donations, Nebraska farmers and ranchers are being positively represented in three different, highly populated areas of Lincoln. The three billboards are located on West O St., South 15th and Cornhusker Highway. So, the next time you’re in Lincoln and drive by these signs, snap a picture and share it through your social media channels!

“Our goal is to continuously build trust with our consumers,” Willow Holoubek, executive director of A-FAN, stated. “These donations are helping us reach this goal.  Another objective of this project was to replace the PETA anti-agriculture message.”

Thanks again for all of the donations! Your involvement is greatly appreciated.

Iowa Corn Receives U.S. Patent for Nitrogen Gene

The Iowa Corn Promotion Board is the recipient of a newly issued patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. This is the first U.S. patent that the Iowa Corn Promotion Board has received for its work in nitrogen use efficiency in corn and related to transgenic plants that have increased nitrogen use efficiency, and/or increased yield using a patented gene. Specifically, patent 8,692,070, Plants with Improved Nitrogen Utilization and Stress Tolerance demonstrates Iowa Corn's commitment to improving farmer productivity even to the gene level.

"The Iowa Corn Promotion Board collaborated with Strathkirn Inc. and Athenix Corp. to develop improved corn plants that are more efficient in using nitrogen fertilizer," said Larry Klever, a farmer from Audubon and chair of the Iowa Corn Research and Business Development Committee. "This new trait could result in improved economics on the farm, reduced impact on the environment and reduced energy requirements to grow a corn crop."

The objectives of the research are either to increase yield without increasing the amount of nitrogen fertilizer or obtain the same yield with less fertilizer. Data indicates this patented gene assimilates more nitrogen and increases kernel number, which could translate to greater yields for Iowa farmers.

By patenting this technology, the Iowa Corn Promotion Board is able to provide protection for partners who would like to license this technology. "The goal is to get this trait licensed and commercialized by seed companies for commercialization so that farmers, like me, can benefit," said Klever.

The Plants with Improved Nitrogen Utilization and Stress Tolerance patent number is 8,692,070 and was issued on April 8. A patent for this technology has also been awarded to the Iowa Corn Promotion Board by South Africa. Patents for this gene in other countries are still pending approval of the respective patent offices.

ASA Meets with White House and FDA on PHO Proposal

American Soybean Association Chairman Danny Murphy, ASA CEO Steve Censky and National Oilseed Processors Association President Tom Hammer met with the White House Domestic Policy Staff and FDA to discuss ASA’s concerns with the FDA’s proposal to withdraw Generally Regarded As Safe (GRAS) status for partially hydrogenated oils (PHO).  ASA shared projections for high oleic soybean production ramp up provided by QUALISOY, emphasizing that not only is more time required, but that the withdrawal of GRAS, even if postponed to 2018 or 2020, will have the immediate effect of driving food companies to substitute highly-saturated palm oil since no company wants to have an ingredient in their product for multiple years that the FDA says is “unsafe.”

ASA emphasized this would be a bad development for both consumers and American farmers.  ASA also emphasized that there has already been a 70 percent reduction in trans fat intake since labeling for trans fats was mandated beginning in 2006, and that the easy switches have already been made.  FDA seemed interested in whether the food/soy industry might be able to develop a standard of identity for soybean oil that limited the amount of trans fats contained in it.  ASA will explore this concept with industry and the soy family.

ASA Testifies Regarding Rail Service Issues at Surface Transportation Board Public Hearing

The American Soybean Association (ASA) emphasized the importance of addressing rail service issues and their negative impacts on soybean growers, at a public hearing before the Surface Transportation Board on Thursday.

ASA Director Lance Peterson, a soybean farmer from Underwood, Minn., represented ASA at the hearing in Washington D.C., highlighting the great impact the railways have on soybean farmers who rely on the transportation to get their crop to the growing world population.

“Soybeans are especially impacted by transportation costs, as over 50 percent of U.S. soybeans are exported and soybeans and soy products are the leading U.S. agricultural export, with an export value of over $28 billion in 2013,” Peterson said. “Many in the world rely on U.S. soybean farmers to meet their protein and vegetable oil demands. U.S. farmers, in turn, rely on trucks, rail, and barges to move our products to those markets.”

Peterson said that while a great deal of discussion has taken place in the last few months in regards to inadequate rail movement in the upper Midwest, centered on slow shipments due to cold weather—warmer weather may not fix the problems.

“The real issue is the shifting of rail assets to the rapidly expanding oil industry. This is occurring at the expense of long standing shippers who rely heavily on rail movement to conduct their business he said. “As an agricultural producer in Western Minnesota I am faced with a direct and substantial financial impact. Inadequate rail service directly drives up the cost per rail car by thousands of dollars. This is reflected in the price I am paid locally.”

When tabulated for the thousands of farm operations across the upper Midwest, the losses will be in the hundreds of millions and potentially over one billion dollars.

“This is making lenders hesitant and could make it difficult for farmers to get operating loans to finance their business. A restriction on operating loans would have a devastating impact on farmers and on the rural economy,” Peterson said. “And the impact to agricultural producers is not just on the shipping of harvested commodities to market, but also in getting inputs, such as fertilizer, to the farm to produce a crop in the first place. For many of us, that time is now or is rapidly approaching.”

Another issue Peterson presented was the fact that the demand for soybean rail shipments is expected to continue growing in key states where rail service issues are already having trouble keeping up today.

Most forecasts indicate that soybean shipments will be increasing and the rail network needs to accommodate this growth along with the growth in crude oil shipments

For our part, to address demand over the long-term, ASA will continue to carry the message to Congress and the Administration in support of policies that encourage or provide direct investments in expanding transportation capacity, including rail, trucks and waterways. These would include a tax credit applied to new rail infrastructure, l, funding for waterways infrastructure, and increased truck weight limits that will expand transportation capacity and increase transportation service competition. Steps to improve and expand energy infrastructure could also alleviate rail demand by providing alternative ways to accommodate the growing domestic oil and gas production.

ASA Endorses Letter to Encourage Full Market Access for Agriculture Products in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)

The American Soybean Association (ASA) recently joined several agriculture groups in signing on a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack praising previous efforts to expand market access with Japan, but seeking assurances that the U.S. will not close Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations with Japan’s participation, unless Japan agrees to eliminate tariff and non-tariff trade barriers to agriculture.

TPP negotiations set an important standard for future trade agreements, and a positive outcome could mean billions in future exports and thousands of American jobs, but only if all 12 participating countries agree to address trade barriers comprehensively.

The groups stated their concerns for the possible outcomes of the negotiations with Japan.

“While we support such endeavors, we are concerned Japan, a member of TPP, has not yet made a comprehensive offer on market access as it relates to agriculture products,” the groups state in the letter. “This success will only be realized, however, if Japan and other U.S. trading partners agree to address trade barriers comprehensively, without broad exclusions for sensitive products such as those submitted by Japan.”

The letter continued, that “not only would special treatment for sensitive agriculture products be inconsistent with U.S. requests in previous trade agreements and assurances provided when Japan was invited to join TPP, but also could undermine the careful balance of concessions the other eleven economies have achieved.  If Japan is allowed exemptions, other TPP countries could demand similar treatment and the entire agreement would be at risk of unraveling.”

The groups concluded by asking for assurance that the U.S. will not close TPP negotiations with Japna unless the country agrees to eliminate tariff and non-tariff trade barriers to agriculture.

NFU's Johnson Testifies Before STB on Rail Access

Today National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson testified before the U.S. Surface Transportation Board (STB) at a public hearing on service problems in the U.S. rail network. South Dakota Farmers Union member DuWayne Bosse is also scheduled to testify, and Montana Farmers Union and North Dakota Farmers Union submitted written testimony to the STB.

“The protection of captive shippers is one of the issues at the core of NFU’s creation more than 100 years ago,” said Johnson. “Access to rail transportation continues to be one of the most important factors in the prosperity of rural America.”

The upper Midwest in particular has experienced a significant rail car shortage for transportation of agricultural commodities, due largely to a rapidly growing energy sector and the prioritization of oil, coal and container shipments over grain. This shortage has led to costly delays and penalties for late shipments that grain elevators then pass on to farmers. The cost of shipping delays amounts to approximately $0.40 to $1.00 per bushel of wheat, which translates to a loss of $9,600 per average farm, at minimum.

Johnson listed three actions for the STB to take to address these problems: holding railroads responsible for losses due to delayed delivery of rail cars, requiring rail companies to guarantee a certain portion of shipments are dedicated to agricultural products, and ensuring there is increased future investment to compensate for the increased demand.

“I hope that the STB will take this issue seriously so that family farmers and ranchers can benefit from immediate and long-term solutions to current rail problems,” Johnson said.

AFBF to Hold Meeting on Data Privacy

The American Farm Bureau Federation organized a meeting with several agricultural technology providers and farm groups, which was held today, in an effort to increase confidence between farmers and companies using their data. Mary Kay Thatcher, AFBF's senior director of congressional relations, said she would like to see some kind of standard privacy contract, so producers wouldn't have to worry about different privacy rules with different providers.

Thatcher said 13 groups and tech providers, including AFBF, will be represented at the meeting, and that the forum could be opened up to more groups in the future.

The meeting is a "turning point" for how AFBF will approach the process going forward, she said at the annual meeting of North American Agricultural Journalists in Washington on Monday.

The most common concerns among farmers are how the information is used, who will be able to see it, and if the data can be removed.

AFBF decided to take the lead on the issue because several farmer members said they were confused by the privacy standards in the contracts they signed, according to Thatcher.

CARB’s ILUC Analysis Out of Date, Out of Step with Current Independent ILUC Studies

The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) has submitted comments to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) pertinent to CARB’s draft indirect land use change (ILUC) analysis.

Geoff Cooper, RFA’s senior vice president, notes in his submission that RFA is greatly concerned by many aspects of the draft.

Cooper writes, “….several of the assumptions and methodological approaches chosen for CARB’s draft analysis run counter to the recommendations of the Expert Work Group (EWG). In particular, the values selected by CARB for key GTAP elasticities are in conflict with values recommended by EWG and well-known agricultural economists. More generally, CARB’s draft analysis lacks sufficient justification for certain judgment calls made by staff with regard to important model parameters.

“… the results of CARB’s draft analysis are in conflict with the results of recent independent ILUC studies. As described in a recent letter to CARB Chair Mary Nichols from 14 scientists and researchers (including CARB-appointed Expert Work Group members), the corn ethanol ILUC results from CARB’s draft analysis are significantly higher than estimates from recent peer-reviewed scientific analyses…. We believe CARB should explain and justify the divergence of its draft results with estimates from other recent studies.”

RFA’s comments contain thorough technical analysis and recommendations related to key modeling parameters in CARB’s analysis, such as crop yield elasticities and emissions factors, which would help CARB bring the current draft up to speed with current ILUC science.

Price yield elasticity is perhaps the single more important factor for CARB to correct in its draft. Not only does CARB ignore the recommendations of its own expert working group, its range “is inconsistent with recently estimated long-run elasticity values from the literature, confuses short-term versus long-term responses, and ignores the effect of double-cropping. Additionally, CARB appears to misrepresent the results from some price-yield elasticity studies.”

RFA believes “a range of 0.14-0.53 is scientifically justified, properly recognizes that the price-yield effect occurs primarily over the medium or long term, and appropriately incorporates the effect of double-cropping.”

Brazil Agriculture Ministry Raises 2013-14 Soy Estimate

Brazil's Agriculture Ministry Thursday raised its forecast for the 2013-14 soybean crop to 86.1 million metric tons (mmt) from 85.4 mmt last month.  The figure, compiled by the ministry's crop supply company, or Conab, is 5.6% higher than last year and brings the government number in line with private forecasts issued over the last couple of weeks.  The increase was due to an adjustment in forecast planted area. Conab added 514,000 acres to its April number, taking area to 74.1 million acres.  Drought, pests and disease hurt production in the south, while rain delayed the harvest but did not significantly affect yields in the top soybean-producing state of Mato Grosso.

Brazilian corn output was pegged at 75.5 mmt, slightly higher than the March number of 75.2 mmt but down 7.4% from last year.  The summer crop was pegged 8.9% lower than last year at 31.5 mmt due to dry weather in the southeast and a significant decline in planted area in the southern state of Parana.  The outlook for the second crop is for a 6.4% drop in production to 43.9 mmt. The crop has benefited from ample rain over the last month in Parana, the No. 2 second corn state, and is developing well.

Tips to prepare the herd for spring and summer grazing

Late spring and early summer pastures provide essential nutrients to the cow herd, as the cow cares for herself, the calf at her side and her developing fetus. During this period, pasture management is especially important as pasture forages can provide highly variable nutrient levels.

That’s according to Doug Hawkins, Ph.D., beef cattle consultant for Purina Animal Nutrition. Hawkins says that pasture management beginning in early spring can directly impact the body condition score (BCS) of the cow, the growth of the calf at her side and conception rates post-calving. “Beef producers are most often familiar with supplementing pasture during late summer, as supplementation consumption rates are often highest then. However, taking steps to offer supplements in late spring and early summer, can help the cow perform consistently and help prevent imbalances before forage quality declines,” he says. “Adding a proactive management program during this timeframe will promote consistent cow performance through summer.”

Following are four tips to keep in mind this spring.

1. Design a plan for fly and pest control

“Flies and parasites can tie up nutrients; meaning the cow may consume nutrients but still fall behind in BCS and performance,” Hawkins says. “The goal should always be to eliminate the problem before it begins.”

Horn flies, which can consume up to one-half pound of blood per cow per day,[1] can be prevented through a feed-through fly control supplement that includes Altosid®.  Altosid® is an insect growth regulator available in Purina’s Wind and Rain® Storm® Formula Minerals. By using Altosid® in the mineral, the fly’s reproductive cycle is permanently delayed before reaching maturity.[2]

Most successful fly control programs in the upper U.S. include prevention beginning at least 30 days prior to fly emergence in early spring. The process should then continue through 30 days after the area’s first kill frost. Typically prevention is needed March through October, depending on the area’s climate. Warmer areas should consider a year-round fly control program.

2. Provide continuous access to fresh, clean water

“Water consumption is very critical through all seasons, but especially as temperatures begin to increase,” Hawkins says. “In the summer the cooler the water, the better.”

Providing access to fresh, clean and cool water in early spring and summer will help cows meet their increasing nutrient requirements. Research from the University of Nebraska estimates that water consumption should equal approximately 1 gallon per 100 pounds of body weight during cold weather and will double to nearly 2 gallons of water per 100 pounds of body weight during the hottest weather.[3]

Regardless of season, lactating cows also require nearly twice as much water compared to dry cows.

“To keep water cool and fresh, place the water source in the shade and use concrete troughs rather than plastic troughs,” Hawkins advises. “If feeding out of ponds, make sure the water is fresh. Water consumption impacts feed consumption, so more water can equal more feed and greater performance potential.”

3. Create a flexible supplementation program

“Forage quality is always changing as grasses mature,” Hawkins says. “It’s very difficult to adjust protein and mineral supplementation levels each day, so create a flexible supplementation program.”

One way to fill potential pasture voids in nutrients without over-supplementing is to use products with Intake Modifying Technology®. This technology is formulated to help the cows consume supplements at the rates they need, when they need them to maintain a consistent BCS.

“We’re seeing a lot of ranches going to a 12-month cow care program with year-round supplementation to try and maintain the cow at a 5.5 to 6 BCS at all times,” Hawkins says. “Using supplements with Intake Modifying Technology® allow flexible supplementation for consistent production.”

4. Introduce supplements early

“Traditionally, supplements have been added to pastures in late summer when cows have already begun to slip in body condition,” Hawkins says. “This can be an expensive practice as you’re then working to regain condition rather than maintaining.”

For consistent conditioning, Hawkins recommends introducing supplement to the herd when cows have good BCS and when the pasture is still producing high-quality forage.

“Acclimate the herd to the supplementation program early,” he says. “This way, when the forage starts to decline in late summer, the cows are less likely to over-consume the supplement. It’s all about getting ahead of the 8-ball.”

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