Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Tuesday April 22 Ag News

No Allocation Restrictions for 2014 Irrigation Season in the Upper Big Blue NRD
Groundwater Levels Fell 2.10 Feet on the Average

During March and April 2014, the Upper Big Blue Natural Resources District (NRD) measured 495 observation wells throughout the District and then averaged the data of all these wells.  Observation wells are measured in the spring of each year, allowing the water table to rebound from the previous irrigation season.

Overall, the spring 2014 average measurement for the groundwater level change shows a decline of 2.10 feet from last spring.  The findings show that the spring 2014 average groundwater level is 0.93 feet above the “Allocation Trigger”.  As a result, there will be no allocation restrictions for the 2014 irrigation season.  However, flow meters must now be installed on all wells by January 1, 2016.

Through the conservation efforts of groundwater users, and because of an extended period of above average rainfall in the 1980s and 1990s, the average groundwater level in the Upper Big Blue NRD rose significantly to a level in the year 2000 that was approximately seven feet higher than the 1961 level (baseline), and fourteen feet higher than the low level of 1976 to 1981.

The District goal is to hold the average groundwater level to above the 1978 level.  In 2005, the District average groundwater level reached the “Reporting Trigger” initiating groundwater users to report annual groundwater use to the District and to certify their irrigated acres.  If the District average level falls below the 1978 level (“Allocation Trigger”), the use of flowmeters will be required and groundwater allocation will begin.

The Upper Big Blue NRD rules and regulations mandate that producers will be responsible for installing flowmeters on existing wells if the groundwater level hits the allocation trigger.  When the allocation trigger is reached and

producers and other users have not installed flowmeters by the next calendar year, then they will not be able to pump any amount of water until a flowmeter is installed.  Since March 1, 2004, all new wells and replacement wells require a flowmeter.

NeFU Opposes APHIS Regs Allowing Meat From Brazil

Nebraska Farmers Union (NeFU) filed official comments with USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to oppose proposed regulations that would relax restrictions on imports of livestock, meat, and animal products from a region of Brazil that has been affected by Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD).

"NeFU is opposed to this change because the imports from this region of Brazil because FMD poses an enormous unnecessary risk to the U.S. domestic cattle herd, and that very real risk far exceeds any potential benefits from Brazilian imports," said John Hansen, NeFU President.

NeFU stated in their written testimony:
"Based on estimates from a 2002 Purdue study, at a minimum, the U.S. beef industry would lose over $14 billion in 2002 dollars. In 2014 dollars, that would amount to $17.984 billion. We believe that study to be very conservative. For example, there is much more market place concentration the beef sector today than there was 12 years ago. Our domestic marketplace is more easily manipulated today than it was 12 years ago by virtue of additional concentration, and captive supply.

There is a reason Brazil does not have all of its states FMD free today. FMD is very hard to control and eradicate. And, for the very same reason that Brazil does not have all of its states FMD free is why the U.S. herd is at risk when beef products are introduced to the U.S. from Brazil. There is altogether too much slippage within Brazil relative to its own control and eradication efforts. There is also too much of an internal economic benefit to move cattle around so as to take advantage of the beef export market to assume that would not happen. Our livestock producers strongly believe that Brazil poses a significant threat to U.S. livestock herds.

A FMD outbreak in the U.S. would not only cause a major loss of consumer confidence in our domestic beef consumption market, it would raise havoc with our export market for years to come. There is not a compelling reason why we should unnecessarily put our domestic herd at risk by allowing meat imports into the U.S. from Brazil."

NeFU President Hansen concluded "We agree with the conclusions of LR413 passed last week by the Nebraska Legislature brought by Senator Al Davis of Hyannis that we supported in the Agriculture Committee that asks USDA to withdraw its proposed regulations until such time as all of Brazil is FMD certified free. That is the prudent and wise approach to take,"

Nebraska Cattlemen Foundation Announces Scholarship Recipients

The Nebraska Cattlemen Foundation (NCF) is pleased to announce it has awarded $30,000 in scholarships to students furthering their education goals in the 2014-2015 academic year.

“The Foundation strongly believes in the importance of a sound education for tomorrow’s industry leaders,” says Scott Langemeier, president of the Nebraska Cattlemen Foundation.  “Thanks to the generosity of many donors and participants of the Retail Value Steer Challenge, our primary fundraiser, we were able to award these 30 scholarships, the greatest number in the 46 year history of the Foundation.”

The following scholarship recipients will be recognized during the Nebraska Cattlemen Midyear Meeting in Gothenburg, Thursday, June 12, at the Nebraska Cattlemen Foundation Lunch.
    Eilsabeth Loseke, Columbus - $1,000 Robert E. Lute II Memorial Scholarship
    Logan Kizer, Overton - $1,000 Frank and Shirley Sibert Scholarship
    Laura Gorecki, Farwell - $1,000 Bill Heller Memorial Scholarship
    Eilzabeth McDonald, Phillips - $1,000 Donavan Yoachim Memorial Scholarship
    Levi McPhillips, Columbus - $1,000 Cattlemen's Open Scholarship
    Bailey Hinrichs, Ayr - $1,000 Clarence and Lois Jean Hartmann Scholarship
    Ben Vrba, Schuyler - $1,000 Retail Value Steer Challenge Scholarship
    Maci Lienemann, Princeton - $1,000 Retail Value Steer Challenge Scholarship
    Jacob Sebade, Emerson - $1,000 Retail Value Steer Challenge Scholarship
    Cody Drudik, Ord - $1,000 Retail Value Steer Challenge Scholarship
    Larissa Wach, Wauneta - $1,000 Retail Value Steer Challenge Scholarship
    Brandon Nichols, Bridgeport - $1,000 Retail Value Steer Challenge Scholarship
    Cole Epley, Superior - $1,000 Retail Value Steer Challenge Scholarship
    Eleanor Wagner, Petersburg - $1,000 Retail Value Steer Challenge Scholarship
    Preston Nelson, Genoa - $1,000 Retail Value Steer Challenge Scholarship
    Justin McCullough, Berwyn - $1,000 Retail Value Steer Challenge Scholarship
    Morgan Rezac, Ceresco - $1,000 Retail Value Steer Challenge Scholarship
    Judson Hoffschneider, Arlington - $1,000 Retail Value Steer Challenge Scholarship
    Brittany Hilfiker, David City - $1,000 Retail Value Steer Challenge Scholarship
    Benjamin Barelman, Coleridge - $1,000 Retail Value Steer Challenge Scholarship
    Morgan Zumpfe, Friend - $1,000 Retail Value Steer Challenge Scholarship
    Maranda Kegley, Kearney - $1,000 Retail Value Steer Challenge Scholarship
    Matthew Grimes, Raymond - $1,000 Retail Value Steer Challenge Scholarship
    McKenzie Beals, Alexandria - $1,000 Retail Value Steer Challenge Scholarship
    Hannah Kesterson, Lincoln - $1,000 Nebraska Cattlemen Beef Pit Scholarship
    Blaine Petersen, Cozad - $1,000 Colonel Melvin Huss Memorial Scholarship
    Curtis Wetovick, Fullerton - $1,000 Bill Pullen Scholarship
    Kara Ostrand, Mason City - $1,000 Ron and Shirley Huss Scholarship
    Haley Harthoorn, Ainsworth - $1,000 Martin Viersen Range Management Memorial Scholarship
    Sydney Gehl, Ericson - $1,000 Vance Uden Memorial Scholarship

Established in 1968, the Nebraska Cattlemen Foundation’s mission is to advance the future of Nebraska’s Beef industry by investing in research and education programs.  The Foundation’s success and its ability to endow scholarships, to sponsor leadership and education programs, assist with research and infrastructure projects has been possible only because of the support from the Nebraska cattle producers and allied industries.  As the Foundation grows, expands and moves forward in its mission to raise funds for educational and scientific activities that benefit the state’s beef producers – the board asks you to consider investing in your industry through the Foundation.

To donate or for more information concerning the Nebraska Cattlemen Foundation, contact Lee Weide, Nebraska Cattlemen Vice President of Operations at 402.475.2333 or Jana Jensen, NCF Fundraising Coordinator at 308.588.6299.

The stage is set for World Pork Expo’s MusicFest

World Pork Expo takes a festive turn on Thursday, June 5, as the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) presents MusicFest. This year’s lineup of performers features country music newcomer Jake McVey, followed by GRAMMY® nominee Restless Heart. During the festivities from 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. along Grand Avenue on the Iowa State Fairgrounds, attendees can enjoy free roasted pork and refreshments, all of which is included in the Expo admission price.

“After a day of participating in seminars and viewing the trade show, MusicFest is a welcome change of pace,” says Alicia Newman, World Pork Expo’s general manager. “It’s a time for producers and exhibitors alike to interact in a fun, relaxing atmosphere. And whether people prefer the familiarity of hits from years past or the very newest country music, they’ll enjoy both of these well-recognized performers.”

High-energy country newcomer kicks off MusicFest

First on the MusicFest stage at 4:30 p.m. will be singer/songwriter Jake McVey, who grew up working on his parents’ Iowa farm. Once a designer and builder of custom guitars, McVey performs an average of 300 shows each year and was named a Top 10 Act to Catch by Billboard magazine in 2013. Known for songs like “I Want to Live Like That,” this skilled guitarist who just released his second album performs a high-energy stage show. When on tour, McVey often gives back to communities he visits by performing at nursing homes, hospitals, retirement communities, and centers for children and adults with special needs.

GRAMMY nominee is featured performer

Four-time GRAMMY nominee Restless Heart will step into the MusicFest spotlight at 6 p.m. Still comprised of the five original members, this Academy of Country Music Vocal Group of the Year has shared music with audiences for more than 30 years. The group is well-known for more than 25 singles that made the charts — including “I’ll Still Be Loving You,” one of six, consecutive No. 1 hits — and four gold-certified albums. Restless Heart has toured the world to perform for active-duty members of the U.S. Armed Services and hosts an annual Music with a Mission event to benefit the homeless.

Expo offers much more

World Pork Expo features the world’s largest pork-specific trade show, with more than 375 commercial exhibits open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, June 4, and Thursday, June 5, as well as from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday, June 6. Expo also features business seminars and PORK Academy, as well as special luncheons with educational presentations. The swine shows begin on Tuesday, June 3, with breeding stock sales rounding out the week on Saturday, June 7, from 8 a.m. until they're completed (at approximately noon).

“World Pork Expo always offers many opportunities for pork producers, their employees and other professionals to see the latest developments in pork production, and exchange information and ideas,” says Howard Hill, NPPC president and Iowa pork producer. “But it’s also important to relax and reconnect with old friends, as well as meet new ones — and MusicFest is a great setting for that.”

To receive a $10 early registration discount, go to and select “Attendees” on the blue registration button. The website also has the latest details about room availability at the official Expo hotels and a schedule of activities. Regular updates are available when you connect with World Pork Expo on Facebook, follow World Pork Expo on Twitter (#NPPCWPX), or download the official app by searching for “World Pork” in the Apple Store, Android Market or Blackberry’s App World.

Nominations sought for Best Breaded Pork Tenderloin contest

The Iowa Pork Producers Association is seeking nominations for its 12th annual Best Breaded Pork Tenderloin Contest.

Pork tenderloin enthusiasts can submit nominations for their favorite beginning on May 1. Any café, restaurant or tavern that serves hand-breaded or battered pork tenderloins is eligible to be nominated. Restaurants must receive three nominations to enter the first round of judging. Restaurant owners and operators are prohibited from nominating their own establishment.

Nominations are limited to one per household. Forms are available at and in the May issue of the Iowa Pork Producer magazine. The deadline for nominations is June 9, 2014.

“We have made some much needed changes to our judging process this year and we are challenging ourselves to find the perfect tenderloin,” said IPPA Marketing and Programs Director Kelsey Sutter. “This contest is really a celebration of one of Iowa’s best kept secrets and we always look forward to showcasing an Iowa restaurant!”

One person who nominates the winning restaurant will win $100 from IPPA. The winning restaurant will receive $500, a plaque and banner to display in the establishment, statewide publicity and bragging rights for the year.

Representatives of the Iowa pork industry will judge the tenderloins on taste, appearance and physical characteristics. The judges will be looking for a juicy pork product that isn’t overpowered by breading and proportionally fits on a bun.

IPPA will announce the contest winner during October Pork Month.

The contest recognizes Iowa dining establishments that support the swine industry by putting pork on their menu.

The 2013 contest winner was River Rock Cafe in Mt. Pleasant.

Funds Available for Conservation Research, Demo Projects in Iowa

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey announced the State Soil Conservation Committee Research and Demonstration Fund has assistance available to support research or education/demonstration projects that explore sustainable agriculture and projects focused on reducing nonpoint pollution. Funds are available to collaborative teams of scientists, farmers, institutions, soil and water conservation districts and educators.

Applications must be submitted to the State Soil Conservation Committee by May 23, 2014 and funding decisions will be made in May with a July 1st projected start date.

"These funds are designed to help generate new techniques and conservation practices that can help landowners as they continue their work to better protect our soil and water," Northey said. "Landowners have many conservation tools available and this program is designed to help generate even more practices to reduce erosion and protect water quality."

There are two suggested priority areas, but proposals do not need to be limited to those and diverse projects are welcome. Proposals must address issues of nonpoint pollution control. Successful projects should be focused on sustaining and improving environmental quality or the natural resource base on which agriculture depends. Applications should also explain how the projects would enhance the quality of life for farmers, rural communities, and society as a whole.

Proposals should clearly explain expected outcomes for the project and how they will assist in working toward these objectives, how project outcomes will be evaluated, and the impact of projects.

"We are looking for projects that make a contribution to the greater good and help us continue towards our goal of better soil and water protection," said Jean Eells, a member of the State Soil Conservation Committee.

Funding level for the grant program is established by the State Soil Conservation Committee and it is anticipated that $500,000 will be available this year. Individual grants cannot exceed $75,000 total over a two year period.

More information about applying for assistance can be found at and then click on "Conservation" at the top of the page. Interested applicants can also contact Tarrita Spicer with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship at 515-281-5851.

Bridgewater cattle producers are nominees for environmental award

Nichols Farms LTD of Bridgewater is the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association’s nomination for the national Environmental Stewardship Award Program (ESAP). This family farm operation is managed by Dave Nichols, Phyllis Nichols and Lillian Nichols, and covers Adair, Adams and Cass counties.

As Iowa’s ESAP representative, Nichols Farms has been nominated for recognition at the regional level, which includes four other states. If it is successful in the regional competition, Nichols Farms will move on to the national level. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association initiated the environmental award program in 1991 to highlight exceptional work done by cattle producers to protect and enhance the environment. Since its inception, Iowa cattle producers have won 15 regional awards and three national ones.

Nichols Farms is known internationally for its innovative techniques in using genetic and production data from cattle to produce beef more efficiently. However, the farm operation has always been conservation minded since Dave Nichols’ parents purchased land in Adair County in the late 1930s. The family purchased farmland that had been highly eroded, and in some cases abandoned, and began the process of nursing it back to health. Dave Nichols says the philosophy used by the family is simple: “It needs to be better when you are done.”

The area where the Nichols both own and rent land is known as the Hungry Canyons area, which is identified with deep cut gullies and stream trenching. Over 70% of the farmland managed by the Nichols (some owned, some rented) has been designated as highly erodible. Typical for the area, row crops are grown on 64% of the land, with 29% in grassland and pasture production. Nichols Farms has 46% of the farmland in row crops, and 54% in grassland and pasture production.

“Managed livestock production is a crucial component to rebuilding highly erodible land that has been mismanaged,” Dave Nichols says. In the 1960s and’70s, Dave and his brother Lee outlined a plan to include livestock production which would hold soil in place and reclaim the land’s productivity.

“It took at least three to ten years of both commercial fertilizer and manure applications to get the land to be marginally productive,” Dave says. Between owned and rented farmland, Nichols Farms has 1,480 acres that has been in no-till for 34 years. There have also been 35 ponds and 50,860 feet of terraces built. There is also more than 2,700 acres of refurbished pastures.

Eventually, on the reclaimed land they could run a cow-calf pair on about half the acres needed by adjoining property that was not renovated or conserved.

Dave says the greatest challenge in maintaining the farm operation was when his brother Lee died in the early 1980s. Lee had been the leader on the crop production side of their cattle and crop farm. “After Lee’s death, I walked out to the machine shed and looked at seed corn stacked to the ceiling and a no-till planter that Lee had built (commercial planters were still scarce at the time), and I thought ‘I can’t do this.’”

The response from his wife Phyllis, and Lee’s widow Lillian, was strong commitment to moving the farm operation forward. “Their support, along with the support of four very committed employees, kept the farm operation alive. Together we formed a team,” Dave says.

It won’t be known until August whether Nichols Farms was selected as the ESAP Region 3 winner. If it is selected, it will compete for the national ESAP title with six other regional winners. The national winner will be announced during the Cattle Industry Annual Convention and Trade Show in San Antonio, TX, in February 2015.

ESAP is supported by the National Cattlemen’s Foundation, Dow AgroSciences, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Renewable Energy Group Achieves One Billion Gallon Milestone

Renewable Energy Group, Inc. (NASDAQ: REGI), has announced it has reached a new milestone, having sold a cumulative one billion gallons of advanced biofuel during its 17 year history.

“On behalf of the board of directors and employees of REG, I want to say thank you to all of our customers; vendors; investors; federal, state and local supporters; partners; and team members over the years without whom we could never have met this milestone,” said Daniel J. Oh, REG President and Chief Executive Officer.

REG achieved this milestone through investments in a fully integrated value chain including its manufacturing, sales & marketing, and supply chain management capabilities. The company also committed itself to research and development as well as continuous improvement, allowing it to streamline the production process and broadly expand the variety of raw materials used to make biodiesel.

“Since our inception we have endeavored to provide customers with a reliable and durable product that helps diversify the energy complex and increases energy security, improves our environment, and supports agriculture,” Oh said. “Our desire to continuously deliver quality products is a driving force behind REG reaching the billion gallon mark.”

“While we are a company that went from marketing 30,000 gallons of biodiesel in 1996 to more than 258 million gallons last year, we still remember what it took to get here and those who helped us,” said Jeff Stroburg, Chairman of the REG Board of Directors. “We remain committed to investing in our advanced biofuels and renewable chemicals capabilities.”

REG was formed and began operating as an independent company in 2006, as the successor to the biodiesel operations of West Central Cooperative in Ralston, IA, which first began producing biodiesel from a one million gallon per year batch plant in 1996. Private investors, including West Central, provided capital enabling the company to grow, both organically and through acquisitions in California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, New Jersey and Texas. In January 2012, REG became a publicly traded company listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange and trades under the ticker REGI.

USDA Cold Storage Highlights

Total red meat supplies in freezers were down 8 percent from the previous month and down 14 percent from last year. Total pounds of beef in freezers were down 1 percent from the previous month and down 21 percent from last year. Frozen pork supplies were down 12 percent from the previous month and down 11 percent from last year. Stocks of pork bellies were down 9 percent from last month but up 55 percent from last year.

Total frozen poultry supplies on March 31, 2014 were down 7 percent from the previous month and down 10 percent from a year ago. Total stocks of chicken were down 14 percent from the previous month and down 6 percent from last year. Total pounds of turkey in freezers were up 8 percent from last month but down 16 percent from March 31, 2013.

Total natural cheese stocks in refrigerated warehouses on March 31, 2014 were up slightly from the previous month but down 9 percent from March 31, 2013.  Butter stocks were up 9 percent from last month but down 30 percent from a year ago.

Total frozen fruit stocks were down 7 percent from last month but up 13 percent from a year ago.  Total frozen vegetable stocks were down 9 percent from last month and down 1 percent from a year ago.

EPA Cuts '13 Cellulosic Biofuel Mandate

The Environmental Protection Agency is slashing its 2013 cellulosic biofuel mandate from 6 million gallons to less than 1 million gallons based on actual production, the agency announced Tuesday.

EPA said the action follows the American Petroleum Institute and American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers petitions requesting reconsideration of the standard.

The Renewable Fuel Standard mandates renewable fuels be blended into petroleum-based fuels each year, increasing to 22 billion gallons by the year 2022.

Based on data from the EPA, production of cellulosic biofuel fell vastly short of volume the RFS mandated for obligated parties, including oil refiners, blenders and importers. API and AFPM are oil and gas industry trade groups.

The total RFS volume requirement for 2013 was originally set at 16.55 billion gallons, or 9.74% of the projected demand for petroleum-based fuels this year. Of that total, 1.28 billion gallons, or 1.13%, of the RFS mandate must be satisfied with biomass-based diesel. Advanced biofuels constitute 2.75 billion gallons, or 1.62%, of the total, with cellulosic biofuels one of the advanced biofuels nested categories, accounting for 6.0 million gallons, or 0.004%, of the 2013 RFS mandate.

"The volume of cellulosic biofuel actually produced in 2013 was 810,185 ethanol-equivalent gallons," EPA said Tuesday. "In today's action, EPA is using that volume to set a percentage standard for cellulosic biofuel for 2013 of 0.0005%. EPA originally set the 2013 cellulosic biofuel percentage standard based on a projected volume of 6 million ethanol-equivalent gallons."

"On reconsideration, section 211(o) of the Clean Air Act directs EPA to base the standard on the lower of projected production of cellulosic fuel in 2013 or the cellulosic biofuel target established in the statute," EPA said. "Since data are available to show actual production volumes for 2013, EPA's revised projection and final standard in this rule are based on actual cellulosic biofuel production in 2013," EPA continued.

USDA Awards Research Grants to Address the Impact of Climate Change on U.S. Agriculture Production

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded $6 million to 10 universities to study the effects of climate on agriculture production and develop strategies to provide farmers and ranchers with the solutions they need to supply the nation with quality food. Vilsack made the announcement during remarks at "The Frontier of Climate Change: State and Local Action in the Heartland" conference held at Drake University.

"With longer growing seasons and an increased number of extreme weather events, climate-related changes are increasingly posing new challenges and risks for America's producers," said Vilsack. "Every day, farmers and ranchers see the impact that changes in climate patterns have on their operations, and they are contending with drought, floods or extreme temperatures. The discoveries these grants will lead to will be invaluable for American farmers whose livelihoods directly depend on the nation's land and water resources."

NIFA made the awards through its Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) funding opportunity in the Climate Variability and Change challenge area. NIFA's climate work is focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing carbon sequestration in agricultural and forest production systems and preparing the nation's agriculture and forests to adapt to changing climates.

The fiscal year 2013 awards announced today include:
    University of Colorado, Boulder, Colo., $900,000 - This study will provide an integrated social and biophysical assessment of vulnerability and adaptation to climate change and variability in the Blue Mountains ecoregion of Oregon.
    Florida International University, Miami, Fla., $250,000 – This project will study the mechanism of Ochratoxin-A toxicity in wine-musts (freshly pressed grape juice for wine making) which is predicted to intensify in winemaking regions because of the increased prevalence of the toxin producing fungi in warmer climates, and create an inexpensive and simple method of detoxification.
    Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, $550,000 - The goal of this research is to examine factors that either facilitate or hinder climate adaptation, while assessing the role of human-made infrastructure and policies that protect natural resources, grassland and wetlands. .
    Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich., $975,000 – This project will seek to define the effects of hot and cold temperatures on turkey growth and development and develop management practices to mitigate these effects.
    University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minn., $25,000 – This is a conference grant to support the National Extension Climate Science Initiative Conference, which will empower Extension professionals and collaborators with the latest in climate science research and delivery methods.
    Montana State University, Bozeman, Mont., $800,000 – This project will determine what effects a climate-induced rise in water temperature will have on rainbow trout gut microbial communities and fish metabolism.
    Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., $600,000 – This project will evaluate the resiliency of rice production with increasing climate uncertainty by developing models integrating historical rice yield data at the county and farm level, weather variables, and genotypic parameters.
    Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Okla., $1,000,000 - The project will provide some of the first climate adaptation tools for beef production systems in the form of water management resources and lead to the development of beef cattle that are adaptable to climate change induced drought.
    Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pa., $750,000 – This project aims to strengthen farm operators' capacity to manage cropping system's adaptation to climate change by providing real time online decision making tools.
    West Virginia University, Morgantown, W.V., $150,000 – This project will study the effect of climate change on interactions among solitary pollinator bees, bee parasites and crops.

AFRI is NIFA's flagship competitive grant program established under the 2008 Farm Bill and supports work in six priority areas: 1) plant health and production and plant products; 2) animal health and production and animal products; 3) food safety, nutrition and health; 4) renewable energy, natural resources and environment; 5) agriculture systems and technology; and 6) agriculture economics and rural communities.

Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, NIFA focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people's daily lives and the nation's future. More information is available at:

DTN Retail Fertilizer Trends - Prices March Higher

Retail fertilizer prices tracked by DTN for the third week of April 2014 continue to march higher. This marks the ninth consecutive week all retail fertilizers' prices advanced and may be a sign of delivery bottlenecks in some parts of the country.

Anhydrous alone jumped 11% compared to a month earlier in DTN's latest survey. The nitrogen fertilizer had a national average retail price of $685 per ton.  The phosphorus fertilizers were also higher once again. MAP prices were up 10% compared to a month earlier while DAP was up 8%. MAP had an average price of $617/ton and DAP was at $586/ton.  Urea was also higher compared to a month earlier. The nitrogen fertilizer gained 6% compared to a month ago and had an average price of $552/ton.

The remaining four fertilizers' prices were higher, but the shift to the high side was fairly insignificant. Potash had an average price of $475/ton, 10-34-0 $525/ton, UAN28 $354/ton and UAN32 $401/ton.

UAN32 was above the $400 per ton level for the first time since the second week of August 2013. That week the UAN32 price was $412/ton

On a price per pound of nitrogen basis, the average urea price was at $0.60/lb.N, anhydrous $0.42/lb.N, UAN28 $0.63/lb.N and UAN32 $0.63/lb.N.

While fertilizer prices have moved higher in recent months, all remain less expensive than year-ago levels.  Urea has slipped 4%, DAP is 5% lower and MAP 6% less expensive. UAN32 is now 11% lower while UAN28 is 12% less expensive and 10-34-0 is down 14%. Potash is 19% less expensive and anhydrous is 20% lower than a year earlier.

CWT Assists with 5.3 Million Pounds of Cheese, Butter and Whole Milk Powder Export Sales

Cooperatives Working Together (CWT) has accepted 15 requests for export assistance from Dairy Farmers of America, Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Association, Michigan Milk Producers Association, Northwest Dairy Association (Darigold), O-AT-KA/Upstate-Niagara, and Tillamook County Creamery Association to sell 198,416 pounds (90 metric tons) of Cheddar cheese, 4.184 million pounds (1,898 metric tons) of 82% butter and 936,965 pounds (425 metric tons) of whole milk powder to customers in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and North Africa. The product will be delivered April through September 2014.

Year-to-date, CWT has assisted member cooperatives in selling 46.330 million pounds of cheese, 38.348 million pounds of butter and 5.141 million pounds of whole milk powder to 33 countries on six continents. These sales are the equivalent of 1.321 billion pounds of milk on a milkfat basis, well ahead of the year-to-date increase in U.S. milk production through March of 565 million pounds.

Assisting CWT members through the Export Assistance program, in the long-term, helps member cooperatives gain and maintain market share, thus expanding the demand for U.S. dairy products and the U.S. farm milk that produces them in the rapidly growing world dairy markets. This, in turn, positively impacts U.S. dairy farmers by strengthening and maintaining the value of dairy products that directly impact their milk price.

CWT will pay export assistance to the bidders only when delivery of the product is verified by the submission of the required documentation.

The Cooperatives Working Together (CWT) Export Assistance program is funded by voluntary contributions from dairy cooperatives and individual dairy farmers. The money raised by their investment is being used to strengthen and stabilize the dairy farmers’ milk prices and margins. For more information about CWT, visit

Brazil Soybean Harvest 91% Complete

Brazil's soybean harvest nears its completion with field work progressing quickly in the southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul, AgRural, a local farm consultancy, said.

The 2013-14 harvest was 91% complete as of last Thursday, six percentage points ahead of last week and 11 points ahead of the five-year average, said the consultancy.

Field work was 82% complete in Rio Grande do Sul, well ahead of the 49% registered this time last year. In neighboring Parana, efforts were 93% complete with the outstanding work to be done in the south of the state.

Dry weather has allowed the southern harvest to run smoothly of late, but forecast rain in Rio Grande do Sul this week will likely slow efforts.

The north and northeast is the only region with significant volumes of soybeans left to harvest. The region had collected 66% of the crop as of Thursday, down from 77% last year.

AgRural pegs Brazil's 2013-14 crop at 85.6 million metric tons (mmt), which is at the low end of the range of forecasts.

Rabobank's Mexico Agribusiness Outlook 2014

Rabobank has published a new report on the outlook for Mexican agribusiness this year.

In the report, the bank's analysts say that Mexico's economic growth is gradually improving, but food consumption remains vulnerable to income and price effects. The Mexican economy is expected to recover gradually in 2014, after a slow 2013, with Rabobank forecasting 2.9% growth, mostly occurring during the second half of the year.

However, sector-specific challenges will continue to affect agribusiness:
-- Grain and oilseed production is expected to be driven by declining prices and margins.
-- Animal and meat prices and margins are expected to increase, although disease is expected to threaten both hog and poultry production.
-- The sugar and beverages sectors are expected to face a difficult year.

"We identify five factors that will drive Mexico's growth this year," explains Rabobank analyst Pablo Sherwell. "Resumption of exports to the U.S., increased competitiveness of the Mexican manufacturing sector, higher government expenditure, timely public expenditure, and approval of important legislation allowing for structural reform in key sectors. We also anticipate the peso will appreciate slowly but surely, and current pressures on consumer prices will ease, over the course of the year."

Sector outlooks more in-depth include:

-- Grain: Mexico's grain production recovered from severe weather events during the past two years, but corn production remains constrained. Rabobank expects domestic grain prices to retain a bearish fundamental tone in 2014/2015. Declining prices and margins will be the main drivers for grain and oilseed production.

-- Animal Protein: The animal protein sector is likely to show positive margins as animal and meat prices are expected to be on the upside, while feed costs will remain constrained. Due to health issues, such as PEDv in North America, a severe contraction in hog supplies is expected. Poultry market expansion is likely but could be threatened by the return of avian influenza. Beef production remains constrained due to continued contraction of the herd.

-- Sugar: The Mexican sugar industry continues to suffer low prices and tight margins. As sugar production increases and consumption weakens relatively, exports will become the wild card for domestic prices. However, as supplies remain ample in the U.S. (Mexico's primary and preferred market for sugar exports) and the rest of the world, exports will remain a challenge.

-- Beverages: The soft drinks market will go through a challenging year, with sales expected to weaken as a result of an income and price effect. The slowdown of the economy in 2013 and the slow recovery in 2014 suggests that volume sales will be sluggish; in addition, sugared soft drink prices have increased due to a new tax.

Lilly Announces Agreement to Acquire Novartis Animal Health

Eli Lilly and Company (NYSE:LLY) today announced an agreement to acquire Novartis Animal Health for approximately $5.4 billion in an all-cash transaction that will strengthen and diversify Lilly’s own animal health business, Elanco. Upon completion of the acquisition, Elanco will be the second-largest animal health company in terms of global revenue, will solidify its number two ranking in the U.S., and improve its position in Europe and the rest of the world.

With a presence in approximately 40 countries and 2013 revenue of approximately $1.1 billion, Novartis Animal Health is focused on developing better ways to prevent and treat diseases in pets, farm animals and farmed fish. Lilly will acquire Novartis Animal Health’s nine manufacturing sites, six dedicated research and development facilities, a global commercial infrastructure with a portfolio of approximately 600 products, a robust pipeline with more than 40 projects in development, and an experienced team of more than 3,000 employees.

Deal Terms

Under the terms of the agreement, Lilly will acquire all assets of Novartis Animal Health for a total purchase price of approximately $5.4 billion, including anticipated tax benefits. Lilly plans to fund this acquisition with approximately $3.4 billion of cash-on-hand and $2.0 billion in debt to be issued. No other financial terms of the transaction are being disclosed. The transaction is expected to close by the end of the first quarter of 2015, subject to clearance under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act, similar requirements outside the U.S., and other customary closing conditions. The transaction is not subject to any financing conditions.

Financial Expectations

By improving efficiencies and reducing costs across both Elanco and Novartis Animal Health, Lilly expects to achieve estimated cost savings of approximately $200 million per year within three years of deal closing, equating to more than 10 percent of operating expenses from the combined animal health businesses. Excluding the amortization of intangibles, Lilly expects the combined entity to achieve EBIT as a percent of revenue in the mid-20 percent range by 2018. The company expects the transaction to be accretive to earnings on a cash basis beginning in 2016, excluding integration costs. The timing of accretion on a GAAP basis is dependent upon final purchase accounting. The acquisition is not expected to change the company’s dividend policy or current share repurchase program.

John C. Lechleiter, Ph.D., Lilly’s chairman, president and chief executive officer said that the acquisition of Novartis Animal Health validates Lilly’s commitment to Elanco as a key component of Lilly’s business going forward.

“Animal health continues to represent an attractive growth opportunity for Lilly. We intend to keep Elanco and to take advantage of the substantial synergies between our animal health and human health businesses,” noted Lechleiter. “Significant investments in our animal health business in recent years have enabled Elanco to double its revenue since 2008, leading the industry in growth. Global trends suggest continued sustained demand for animal health products in the years ahead. Through this acquisition, which moves Elanco to top-tier in the industry, we intend to create value for our shareholders by adding to our promising pipeline of innovative animal health assets, increasing sales through a larger commercial footprint, and improving efficiencies and lowering costs.”

Benefits of the Transaction

The acquisition will greatly expand and complement Elanco’s product portfolio, R&D and manufacturing capabilities, and commercial presence in key geographies. In particular, it provides Elanco with a greater commercial presence in the companion animal and swine markets, expands Elanco’s presence in the equine and vaccines areas, and creates an entry into the aquaculture market.

“This deal creates a global animal health leader able to deliver even more innovation and value to our customers,” said Jeff Simmons, senior vice president of Eli Lilly and Company and president of Elanco Animal Health.  “Combining these two great companies will enable us to provide more diversified brands, reach more market segments, expand our global footprint, and strengthen our pipeline, capabilities and expertise.  Best of all, it will enable Elanco to better fulfill our important mission of enriching people’s lives through safe, nutritious, affordable food and healthier pets.  And that directly supports Lilly’s mission to make life better for people around the world.”

“Lilly emerged from our competitive process as the clear best buyer for Novartis Animal Health and a good home for our employees,” said Joseph Jimenez, CEO of Novartis. “We look forward to a smooth transition of the business over the next several quarters.”

Clear, Crisp In-Season Imagery Helps Farmers Grow and Protect Healthy Crops

In the midst of a busy growing season, farmers need immediate information about crop conditions across their fields. Now, the R7® Tool by WinField has even greater satellite imagery and mapping capabilities, allowing farmers to swiftly detect in-season issues with nutrient deficiencies, pests or disease to help protect yield potential.

Powered by GEOSYS® technology, the R7® Tool is newly enhanced to provide imagery from three times the number of satellite imagery providers it had in 2013, targeting to deliver approximately 3,000 images (up from approximately 700 last year) and up to 20 cloud-free maps per field from April through August (versus an average of 12 maps per field in 2013.) Cloud-free maps are targeted to be delivered through the R7 Tool within 72 hours of satellite acquisition.

An interactive, web-based platform that performs detailed field-by-field analysis, the R7® Tool is the industry’s only provider of on-demand, in-season satellite imagery. This bird’s-eye view helps farmers identify emerging crop nutrition and agronomic problems, giving them and their local agronomists the best opportunity to find potential solutions that could help optimize return on investment.

“By working with a specially trained agronomy expert, farmers can use the R7® Tool to get the information they need to detect crop nutrition, disease and pest issues, which allows them to correct factors that could limit crop performance and compromise yield potential,” said Dave Gebhardt, director of agronomic data and technology, WinField. “The cutting-edge technology provided by the enhanced R7® Tool empowers farmers to make informed, data-driven agronomic decisions during the season to help them get the most out of every acre at harvest.”

Farmers who are interested in using the R7® Tool by WinField for their in-season crop management practices should visit with the R7® specialist at their local cooperative. These in-season images work in conjunction with the NutriSolutions® analysis, which uses tissue sampling to provide customized plant nutrient recommendations. Additional information on the R7® Tool and NutriSolutions® tissue sampling and analysis can also be found at

DuPont Pioneer Announces New innovation to help corn plants better withstand drought stress

DuPont Pioneer announced its scientists have made a significant advancement in developing corn plants that successfully withstand drought stress.  In an upcoming edition of the scientific publication, Plant Biotechnology Journal, Pioneer scientists reveal a new finding that higher yielding corn plants succeed under drought conditions when naturally occurring ethylene stress hormone levels in the plant are reduced through a transgene. The study, “Transgenic Alteration of Ethylene Biosynthesis Increases Grain Yield in Maize under Field Drought-Stress Conditions” by Jeff Habben and colleagues is the most in-depth research effort of its kind reported to date in peer-reviewed scientific literature.

 “This advancement is particularly crucial at a time when the U.S. is experiencing a historic drought in places like California, and much of the world is worried about the continued availability of water to grow food crops, ” says Jerry Flint, vice president for Biotech Affairs and Regulatory at DuPont Pioneer. “The new advances in drought tolerant corn reflect the DuPont Pioneer commitment to identifying sustainable solutions to increase food availability to meet the needs of the people today, without compromising the ability of future generations to do the same.”

Drought advancements like these are critically important as drought remains the leading cause of crop yield loss and the effects of drought reverberate far beyond agriculture communities, causing global food prices to increase.  Already, the California Farm Water Coalition estimates that the drought in California has cost $5 billion as of February.  Estimated crop losses from a widespread drought in 2012 reached $40 billion in lost crops and livestock and U.S. crop prices hit historic highs due to the drought according to the National Climatic Data Center.
Study findings

The Pioneer research spanned testing in multiple locations in numerous genetic backgrounds over two years. Jeff Habben, scientist and lead author of the article explains that corn breeders at Pioneer have been developing hybrids that are productive under drought stress conditions for more than 80 years, starting its first drought-specific breeding program in York, Neb. in the mid-1950s.  This effort has been very successful in generating germplasm with improved drought tolerance and scientists are now achieving a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms that contribute to this productivity.

Importantly, the identified transgenic approach has the additional benefit of enhanced nitrogen use efficiency, resulting in another potential management tool for farmers. Renee Lafitte, a fellow author, who has evaluated tropical corn states, “It’s not just about improving productivity for farmers, we also need to maintain and improve sustainability of our land and water resources.  We believe that transgenes, in combination with superior hybrids and agronomic management, are the tools that can help farms be more sustainable and productive.”

Habben further discusses the study’s findings by noting that ethylene is a stress hormone prevalent in almost all plants, but in highly variable levels depending on plant type, plant tissue, and stress conditions. “We’ve always believed that corn plants are too conservative in their response to drought and readily terminate kernels or only partially fill the ear when drought hits,” states Habben, “so we are working to help the crop get through critical developmental stages by modulating ethylene levels to maintain improved yield stability.”

Pioneer leads the industry in on-farm testing using year-round managed stress environments.  The advancements made in understanding ethylene biology have potential applications for other crops and could enhance the already strong Pioneer brand Optimum® AQUAmax® hybrid line-up developed through a native trait approach.  Optimum® AQUAmax® hybrids are expected to be planted on more than 10 million acres in 2014.

The challenge of feeding a projected 9 billion people by 2050 is daunting, but developments like this have the potential to enable farmers to grow more food on a fixed amount of arable land, with limited resources, to meet the needs of a growing global population.

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