Friday, May 30, 2014

Friday May 30 Ag News


Recent confirmed cases of Vesicular Stomatitis (VS) on a horse farm in Texas have triggered the Nebraska Department of Agriculture’s (NDA) import requirements for all livestock entering Nebraska from Texas.

“Protecting the health and safety of Nebraska’s livestock herd is of utmost importance,” said State Veterinarian Dr. Dennis Hughes.  “Producers should follow importation requirements and remain vigilant in looking for signs and symptoms of Vesicular Stomatitis in their own herds.”

Vesicular Stomatitis is a viral disease that is characterized by fever and the formation of vesicles (blisters) in the mouth, nostrils, hooves and teats.  When blisters break, there is usually salivation, nasal discharge and anorexia.  In three to four days, the animal will recover.  The disease primarily affects horses, cattle, swine and occasionally sheep and goats.

Producers who are considering moving livestock from another state into Nebraska need to contact the NDA State Veterinarian’s office to learn about specific import requirements.  Staff can be reached by calling (402) 471-2351.  Import regulations can be reviewed online at  It also is advised that producers moving livestock from Nebraska into another state contact the destination state to learn its latest import requirements.

Nebraska Supreme Court Rules on Agriculture Case: Farmers Are Not Liable


The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled May 2 that a pair of Saunders County farmers were not liable for their 7-foot corn blocking the view at a rural intersection. The ruling ended a lawsuit brought by the widow of a man who was severely injured in a motor vehicle accident at the intersection. The man’s injuries led to his death three years after the Oct. 6, 2007, accident. But the ruling marked a victory for agricultural interests. The Nebraska Agricultural Legal Foundation had filed a friend of the court brief supporting the farmers in the case. Lancaster County District Court Judge Robert Otte dismissed the widow’s lawsuit against the farmers, saying that the drivers’ negligence caused the accident. Otte said the state law did not apply because neither the state Department of Roads nor any local authority had notified the Barteks that their corn created a hazard. Without that notice, a landowner cannot be held liable under that law, he said. The state high court affirmed the dismissal of the case. The court majority ruled that the farmers were not liable because either driver could have prevented the collision “by exercising reasonable care” when approaching and entering the intersection.

Nebraska Young Farmers and Ranchers Can Compete in Contests

Nebraska’s Young Farmers and Ranchers need to think about three contests that would be beneficial to their leadership development, says Cathy Day, director of events and programs for the Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture. The Young Farmers and Ranchers program includes both men and women between the ages of 18-35. Application deadline for all three contests is Aug 15.

“The objective of the Young Farmers and Ranchers program is to provide leadership in building a more effective Farm Bureau, to preserve our individual freedoms and expand our opportunities in agriculture. One way to develop leadership skills is through competition – earning recognition for your achievements in business excellence and leadership success,” Day said.

Achievement Award

The Farm Bureau Achievement Award Program is designed to recognize young farmers and ranchers who have excelled in their farming/ranching operations and honed their leadership abilities to superiority.

Contestants will be evaluated on a combination of their farming operation growth and financial progress of their operation, and their leadership within Farm Bureau and in other organizations, Day said.

“More specifically, the judges will be looking for excellence in management, growth and scope of the enterprise and self-initiative that has been displayed throughout the operation. A contestant’s participation in Farm Bureau and other organizations is a definite point-getter from the judges,” Day said.

Excellence in Ag

The Farm Bureau Excellence in Agriculture Award Program is designed as an opportunity for young farmers and ranchers to earn recognition while actively contributing and growing through their involvement in Farm Bureau and agriculture.

“Participants will be judged on their involvement in agriculture, leadership ability, involvement and participation in Farm Bureau and other organizations (i.e., civic, service and community). The ideal candidate for the Excellence in Agriculture Award is an individual or couple who do not have the majority of their income subject to normal production risk,” Day said.

Discussion Meet

The Discussion Meet contest is designed to simulate a committee meeting where discussion and active participation are expected from each participant.

“This competition is evaluated on an exchange of ideas and information on a pre-determined topic. The judges are looking for the contestant that offers constructive criticism, cooperation and communication while analyzing agricultural problems and developing solutions,” Day said.

Discussion Meet Questions

The following questions will be used at the 2014 Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting and at the 2015 American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting.
1. How would the condition of government-managed public lands change if they were managed privately? What are the pros and cons of government ownership of land versus private ownership?
2. Should farmers and ranchers be held liable for possible food-borne illnesses when the food item of concern can be traced back to their farms or ranches? Why or why not?
3. The farm bill crop insurance provisions offer a safety net for crop loss due to natural disaster and/or price risk. Should a safety net for livestock producers be developed, and what provisions might it include?
4. How can young farmers and ranchers work to encourage membership growth and member engagement for the county, state and national Farm Bureau organizations?
5. How should our nation’s policies balance concerns about food insecurity against concerns about the safety or environmental impact of modern agricultural technologies? What role should farmers have in discussing and debating these issues in our society and with our lawmakers?

This year the winners of the three competitions will win an all-expense-paid trip to San Diego, Calif., Jan. 10-14, 2015, to attend the American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Meeting and Convention and compete at the national level. The state winners will also receive $500 cash, an iPad and a plaque.  More information is available online at


Bruce Anderson, UNL Extension Forage Specialist

               Did you bale some first cutting hay a little tough due to high humidity and frequent rain showers? If so, your hay could mold, spoil, or suffer heat damage.

               Excessive heat can cause hay to be less digestible, especially the protein.  Heat damaged hay often turns a brownish color and has a sweet caramel odor.  Cattle often eat this hay readily, but because of the heat damage, its nutritional value might be low.

               Heat produced by a bale basically comes from two sources.  Some heat is produced by biochemical reactions from the plants themselves as hay cures.  This heating is relatively minor and rarely causes hay temperature to rise above 110 degrees.  Very little damage occurs to hay that gets no warmer than 110 degrees.

               Most heat in hay, though, is caused by the metabolic activity of microorganisms.  Millions of these microbes exist in all hay and they thrive when extra moisture is abundant.

               As the metabolic activity of these microbes increases, the temperature of your hay rises.  Hay with only a little excess moisture probably will get no warmer than 120 degrees.  Wetter hay, though, quickly can get as warm as 150 degrees.  Hay that gets this warm nearly always becomes discolored, and nutritional value can be very low.  If hay temperatures rise above 170 degrees, chemical reactions can begin to occur that produce enough heat to quickly raise temperatures over 400 degrees and cause fires.                      

               Everyone bales hay a little too wet from time to time.  Be wary of the fire danger with wet hay and store it away from buildings and other hay just in case.  Also, remember the lower feed value that is caused by heat damage in wet hay.  Get a thorough forage test and then use this hay accordingly.

NCTA flips the switch for new irrigation technology

North of the main campus on a college farm laboratory, agriculture students in a new irrigation technician training program at Curtis can now put their hands on the latest center-pivot technology.

     On Thursday, with a full complement of volunteers from various regional dealerships and cooperators, Reinke Manufacturing of Deshler, Neb., donated and installed an on-farm teaching tool at the University of Nebraska-Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture. It is the third pivot system at the NCTA field laboratory for student education.

     “The new system will be used to irrigate a 33-acre field near the campus, as well as train students in both the Irrigation Technician Concentration and agronomy division,” said Ken Goodall, Reinke director of sales-West Region. “This system is being equipped with the latest in technology in an effort to educate students and keep them on the cutting-edge while studying to become irrigation technicians – a career with many employment offers.”

     In addition to the irrigation system, Reinke is also donating supplies, parts and other equipment to supplement the NCTA-Reinke Irrigation Technician Concentration.

     Nebraska leads the nation in total irrigated crop land with more than 8.5 million acres irrigated by groundwater and surface applications.

     “Outputs from American agriculture have more than doubled in the past half-century while inputs have remained relatively constant,” said NCTA Dean Ron Rosati. “The center pivot irrigation system is one of the key technologies responsible for this significantly improved agricultural productivity.

     “We appreciate the ability to partner with Reinke, to train young men and women on how to properly keep this technology functioning in Nebraska, where it is so vital to our agricultural industries.”

     Students enrolled in the two-semester programs are required to take 34 credit hours of courses in electricity, welding, safety, mathematics and business communication. Program coordinator is Brad Ramsdale, who also is chair of NCTA’s horticulture and agronomy division. He teaches irrigation management, precision farming and agronomy courses.

     “The pivot will be utilized already this summer for our student interns in training how to operate and maintain the pivot,” Ramsdale said. “Agronomy students are trained in irrigation scheduling to maximize water use efficiency, and are taught how a pivot nozzle package is developed to match field and soil conditions.”

     Strong industry demand for skilled technicians across the U.S., and even globally, prompted NCTA to establish the new program in early 2014.

     When all applicants and scholarship recipients arrive on campus this fall, the program will have 13 students enrolled in technician or associate’s degree courses. Some graduates will be ready to work with irrigation companies in May, 2015, said Scott Mickelsen, NCTA associate dean.

     “It is great to forge this new partnership with a leading irrigation company,” Mickelsen said. “We are not only training technicians, but Reinke has stepped up with the pivot and tools. It is partnerships like the one between NCTA and Reinke that help make agriculture a bright future for all.”

     Reinke is offering a $1,000 scholarship to match local Reinke dealership scholarships for tuition, room and board assistance. In turn, the student-turned technician will provide three years of employment after graduation.  Graduates may pursue Reinke PLUS (Proven Leaders in Unmatched Service) certification once employed with a dealer.

     Ten workers installed the pivot at NCTA, representing the following dealerships:  DSK Irrigation of Imperial, Electric Rain of Gothenburg; and Plains Equipment Group of McCook and North Platte locations. Holdrege Irrigation delivered the system to the field, and Nelson Irrigation, Walla, Walla, Wash., donated the sprinkler heads.

     A public ribbon cutting and program is slated for September 12 after students return to NCTA for fall classes.


Preliminary prices received by farmers for winter wheat for May 2014 averaged $7.50 per bushel, an increase of 35 cents from the April price according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

The preliminary May corn price, at $4.70 per bushel, increased 1 cent from the previous month.

The preliminary May sorghum price averaged $8.00 per cwt, a decrease of 15 cents from April.

The preliminary May soybean price, at $14.30 per bushel, was up 10 cents from last month.

The preliminary May dry edible bean price, at $46.00 per cwt, was up $8.70 from April.

The May alfalfa hay price, at $125.00 per ton, was down $2.00 from last month. The other hay price, at $94.00 per ton, was down $4.00 from last month.

The preliminary May oat price was withheld to avoid disclosing data for individual operations. 

Iowa Monthly Ag Prices

The preliminary May 2014 average price received by farmers for corn in Iowa is $4.70 per bushel according to the latest USDA, National Agricultural  Statistics  Service  – Agricultural Prices  report. This  is  down  $0.06  from  the April price, and $2.35 lower than May 2013.

The preliminary May 2014 average price received by farmers for soybeans, at $14.50 per bushel, is up $0.20 from the April price, but $0.40 lower than the May 2013 price.

The preliminary May oat price is $4.70 per bushel, down $0.11 from April, but $0.04 above May 2013. 

All hay prices in Iowa averaged $161.00 per ton in May, unchanged from the April price, but $86.00 per ton less than May 2013.   Alfalfa hay prices fell $95.00 per ton from one year ago,  to $180.00 and other hay prices were $62.00 per ton lower than last year, at $112.00.  

Iowa dairy farmers received an average of $25.80 per cwt for milk sold in May, down $0.40 from April, but $5.40 per cwt above one year ago.

USDA: May Farm Prices Received Index Down 1 Point

The preliminary All Farm Products Index of Prices Received by Farmers in May, at 114 percent, based on 2011=100, decreased 1 point (0.9 percent) from April. The Crop Index is up 1 point (1.0 percent) but the Livestock Index decreased 1 point (0.8 percent). Producers received lower prices for hogs, milk, eggs, and cattle. Prices were higher for broilers, oranges and strawberries. In addition to prices, the overall index is also affected by the seasonal change based on a 3-year average mix of commodities producers sell. Increased monthly movement of cattle, hay, sweet corn, and broilers offset the decreased marketing of soybeans, hogs, calves, and apples.

The preliminary All Farm Products Index is up 4 points (3.6 percent) from May 2013. The Food Commodities Index, at 124, was unchanged from last month but increased 14 points (13 percent) from May 2013.

All crops:

The May index, at 98, increased 1.0 percent from April but is 10 percent below May 2013. Index increases for fruit & tree nut production more than offset the index decreases for oilseeds & grains and vegetable & melon production.

Food grains: The May index, at 103, is 4.0 percent higher than the previous month but 2.8 percent lower than a year ago. The May price for all wheat, at $7.14 per bushel, is up 32 cents from April but 54 cents below May 2013.

Feed grains: The May index, at 79, is unchanged from last month but 32 percent below a year ago. The corn price, at $4.71 per bushel, is unchanged from last month but $2.26 below May 2013. Sorghum grain, at $8.25 per cwt, is 30 cents below April and $3.15 below May last year.

Oilseeds: The May index, at 114, is up 0.9 percent from April but 3.4 percent lower than May 2013. The soybean price, at $14.50 per bushel, increased 20 cents from April but is 40 cents below May 2013.

Livestock production:

The May index, at 131, is 0.8 percent below last month but up 17 percent from May 2013.  Compared with a year ago, prices are higher for cattle, milk, hogs, broilers, calves, and turkeys. The price for market eggs is down slightly from a year ago. 

Meat animals: The May index, at 129, is down 2.3 percent from last month but 19 percent higher than last year. The May hog price, at $83.60 per cwt, is down $5.20 from April but $15.00 higher than a year ago. The May beef cattle price of $147 per cwt is down $1.00 from last month but $21.00 higher than May 2013.

Dairy products: The May index, at 123, is down 2.4 percent from a month ago but 26 percent higher than May last year. The May all milk price of $24.70 per cwt is down 60 cents from last month but up $5.00 from May 2013.

Poultry & eggs: The May index, at 143, is up 1.4 percent from April and 5.1 percent above a year ago. The May market egg price, at 97.0 cents per dozen, decreased 12.0 cents from April and is 0.7 cents less than May 2013. The May broiler price, at 72.0 cents per pound, is up 3.0 cents from April and 4.0 cents above a year ago. The May turkey price, at 72.5 cents per pound, is up 3.8 cents from the previous month and 7.6 cents higher than a year earlier.

Prices Paid Index up 1 Point

The May Index of Prices Paid for Commodities and Services, Interest, Taxes, and Farm Wage Rates (PPITW) is 112 percent of its 2011 base. The index is up 1 point (0.9 percent) from April and 6 points (5.7 percent) above May 2013. Higher prices for complete feeds, feeder cattle, hay & forages, and potash & phosphate more offset lower prices in May for feeder pigs, concentrates, other services, and LP gas.

7th Annual Western Iowa No-till Field Day to Focus on Soil Health

The 7th Annual Western Iowa No-till (WIN) Demonstration Field Day, scheduled for June 17th at the Carstens 1880 Farmstead south of Shelby, Iowa, will address a wide variety of topics for local producers interested in learning more about the practical application of no-till production practices and management of soil heath and fertility. Registration opens at 8 AM with coffee and rolls available. Local agribusinesses will be on hand to visit with producers in the morning and showcase their services/equipment.

The field day program begins at 9 AM with a weather and market outlook from Bryce Andersen with DTN. At 10 AM, rotating breakout sessions will cover nitrogen rate calculation and the evolution of cover crops in corn production. The breakout sessions will be followed by a lunchtime discussion on understanding soil biology and improving soil health. After lunch, keynote speaker Barry Kusel will share his experiences using cover crops successfully in his row crop farm in Carroll County.

Anyone with an interest in the practical application and impact of no-till production, whether looking for ideas to begin adopting no-till practices or a long-time no-till producer looking to improve production results, is encouraged to attend this field day.  Nearly 200 ag producers and ag professionals attended the 2013 event, learning about effective soil stewardship strategies. In addition to the educational sessions at the 2014 WIN Field Day, there will be plenty of time for farmers to visit informational displays, vendor exhibits and network with other producers. 4 hours of CCA Credits have been applied for, and will be available at no cost for Certified Crop Advisors needing additional continuing education units this year.

There is no charge to attend this event, but pre-registration is requested by June 12th to ensure a lunch will be available. A free steak sandwich lunch with sides and dessert will be provided to all attendees, with steaks cooked by the Shelby County Cattlemen. Registration can be completed by e-mailing or by calling the Harrison County Extension Office at 888-644-2105. More information is available at many local ISU Extension and NRCS offices, or can be found online at

The field day is brought to you by NRCS, ISU Extension and the Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD) in Harrison, Pottawattamie, Cass and Shelby Counties, along with many local supporting agribusinesses. 2014 Business Sponsors include Farm Bureau in East & West Pottawattamie, Shelby, Cass & Harrison Counties, Brokaw Supply Company, Sorensen Equipment Co., HTS Ag, Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Corn Growers Association, Shelby County State Bank, United Bank of Iowa and Bartlett Grain Co.

USDA is an equal opportunity employer and provider.  USDA, SWCD and Extension programs are available to all without regard to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, or disability.  Persons with disabilities who require accommodations to attend or participate in meetings/events/functions should contact Dale DuVal at 712-644-2210, Ext 3, (Federal Relay Service at 1-800-877-8339) or by June 13.


Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey today announced that Randall Larson, DVM has been hired as the new Meat and Poultry Inspection Bureau Chief for the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.    He started with the Department on May 27.

“Dr. Larson’s experience on both the regulatory side as well in private practice makes him a great fit and I’m pleased he agreed to serve as the Meat and Poultry Inspection Bureau Chief,” Northey said.

Larson was a Regional Supervisor in the State of Illinois’ meat and poultry inspection program from 2006 through 2012, including serving as a food safety and humane slaughter auditor in the Illinois program.  Prior to his work in the Illinois meat inspection program, Larson practiced for 29 years as a veterinarian in a mixed (large & small animal) practice he co-owned in the Alpha, Illinois area.

The Iowa meat and poultry inspection program currently has 156 Iowa inspected establishments serving the people of Iowa.  This includes 69 “official establishments” that are able to directly sell their products, labeled “Iowa Inspected and Passed,” within the state.

There are also 80 “custom exempt establishments” that slaughter and process livestock, poultry and wild game for the owner’s exclusive use and are labeled NOT FOR SALE. Custom exempt establishments are also allowed to purchase inspected products for further processing and sale to the household consumer.  In addition, 9 plants are able slaughter poultry, either on a custom basis for the animal’s owner or as an official establishment where they can offer it for sale.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s Meat and Poultry Inspection Bureau licenses and inspects these facilities to ensure the products are safe and the plants are following all mandatory requirements.


Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey today announced that five watershed demonstration projects have been selected to receive $1.7 million in funding through the Iowa water quality initiative over the next three years.  In addition to the state funds, the eight projects will provide an additional $2.2 million in matching funds to support water quality improvement efforts as well as other in-kind contributions.

“We are excited to get these five new water quality demonstration projects going so they can continue to the momentum we are seeing on improving water quality,” Northey said.  “These projects serve help us learn what works and show farmers how water quality practices can work on their land and within their farming operation.”

The five projects are within the large priority watersheds prioritized by the Iowa Water Resources Coordinating Council (WRCC), which include the East and West Nishnabotna, Floyd, and Skunk watersheds.

The demonstration watersheds selected cover 345,449 acres.  The projects will implement and demonstrate the effectiveness and adaptability of a host of conservation practices including, but not limited to: cover crops, nutrient management, wetlands, terraces, bioreactors, buffer strips, no-till, strip-till, nitrogen inhibitors, extended rotations, conservation cover, drainage water management and manure management.

More than 30 partners from agriculture organizations, institutions of higher education, private industry, the local, state and federal government, and others, are working together on these projects with the Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD) serving as the project leaders.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship received a total of eight project applications for this round of funding.  The selected projects will join eight water quality demonstration projects selected to receive $4.1 million in funding last December.

All applications were reviewed by a committee including representatives from the Department, Iowa State University, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, University of Northern Iowa, and the University of Iowa.  The committee made recommendations that were used by the Department in selecting the projects to be funded.

Another round of funding for new watershed demonstration projects may be available later this year depending on funding availability.

A short summary of each of the projects follows here...

Bluegrass & Crabapple – East Nishnabotna Watershed Project
Grant award: $325,000
Total project: $1.2 million
Project leaders: Audubon SWCD
Partners: Iowa DNR, Agriland FS, Aspinwall Co-op, West Central Co-op, Crop Production Service, Brinkman Ag Solution, DC AG, C3 Technologies, Cole Christensen Consulting, City of Audubon, Iowa Rural Water Association
Project details: The Audubon Soil and Water Conservation District will expand on existing partnerships and foster a peer-to-peer network to help promote and spread adoption of nutrient reduction practices in the Bluegrass and Crabapple watersheds.  An advisory group made up of partners and farmers has helped develop this project and help shape watershed-wide demonstrations.

Cedar Creek Partnership Project
Grant award: $288,000
Total project: $837,650
Project leaders: Wapello SWCD
Partners: Keokuk SWCD, Jefferson SWCD, Pathfinders RC&D, ISU Extension and Outreach, Golden Furrow Fertilizer
Project details: The Cedar Creek Partnership Project looks to build on past efforts in the area to help spread adoption of practices into watersheds that haven’t had similar focus levels in the past.  The Cedar Creek project has developed multiple partnerships to help deliver a clear, consistent message and leverage resources to reach a broader audience.

Deep Creek Water Quality Initiative Project
Grant award: $315,000
Total project: $522,300
Project leaders: Plymouth SWCD
Partners: USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), ISU Extension and Outreach, Plymouth County Farm Bureau, Plymouth County Pheasants Forever, Plymouth County Pork Producers, Le Mars Agri-Center, Remsen Farmers Coop, Farmers Coop, Iowa Corn Growers, Iowa Soybean Association
Project details: Through partnerships with both public and private agricultural entities, the project intends to reach an expanded audience.  Like much of northwestern Iowa, this area contains a large amount of livestock production.  Practices demonstrated with this project will have a special emphasis on those that are most relevant to livestock producers.

Lower Skunk Water Quality and Soil Health Initiative
Grant award: $368,450
Total project: $588,950
Project leaders: Henry SWCD
Partners: Jefferson SWCD, Lee SWCD, Van Buren SWCD, Pathfinders RC&D, USDA NRCS, Iowa Soybean Association, Chem Gro Inc.
Project details: Henry SWCD along with Jefferson, Van Buren and Lee SWCDs, will showcase the importance of nutrient reduction practices as system, pairing the best in-field management with edge of field practices.  A complementary theme of improving soil health will be a component of this project to help demonstrate the effectiveness of these practices to foster long-term acceptance.

Walnut Creek Watershed Project – Subwatershed of the Nishnatbotna River WQI
Grant award: $480,000
Total project: $1,082,880
Project leaders: Montgomery SWCD
Partners: United Farmers Mercantile Coop, Green Cover Seed, Pheasants Forever, E. Pottawattamie SWCD, ISU Extension and Outreach, USDA NRCS,
Project details: The Walnut Creek Watershed Project will build a network of producers, local agribusiness representatives, and agencies to promote and demonstrate conservation practices detailed in the Nutrient Reduction Strategy.  These partnerships will ensure the best information is used to help present a regional focus on management and implementation of these practices.

Join pork professionals from 32 countries at the 2014 World Pork Expo

Nearly 20,000 pork producers and related professionals from 32 countries will attend World Pork Expo, June 4-6, at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa. Presented by the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), Expo features the world’s largest pork-specific trade show with some 375 commercial exhibits in more than 310,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor exhibit space.

“World Pork Expo is a showcase of pork production; it’s where producers get together and share ideas,” says Howard Hill, NPPC president and Iowa pork producer. “It offers a great opportunity for pork producers to get a crash course in what’s new.”

The trade show will display the latest products, services and technologies available to pork producers 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 7. The Agriculture Building will mark its second year of exhibits, featuring the America’s Best Genetics display and the International Visitors Center.

New this year is the World Pork Expo Universe Passport — a program that offers a daily chance to win $500. Expo-goers can pick up a passport in the registration area, located in the Animal Learning Center.

“As attendees travel around World Pork Expo, they can get their passports stamped at the booths of participating companies,” says Alicia Newman, World Pork Expo general manager. “Then they can bring their completed passports to the NPPC booth in the Agriculture Building, get a prize and be entered into the daily drawing.”

Expo is the place to gather useful information on a wide range of topics from manure handling or exports, to sow-herd management and swine health. Throughout Wednesday and Thursday, a series of business seminars and PORK Academy will present more than 15 free, educational seminars, all of which will take place in the Varied Industries Building. Pork producers, their employees and families are sure to find helpful insights to take back home.

Swine shows eclipse all records

Youth education programs, judging contests and pig shows are part of the World Pork Expo Junior National, which set another record this year with 2,947 entries from across the nation. To accommodate this growing event, the Junior National starts earlier this year — on Tuesday, June 3, with competitions taking place in the Swine Barn each day of Expo.

The open shows will take place on Friday, June 6, with more than 1,000 entries representing some of the country’s best genetics. A sale will follow on Saturday, June 8, beginning at 8 a.m.

While Expo’s days are filled with business activities, MusicFest is a time to relax and have some fun. MusicFest will kick off Thursday at 4:30 p.m. with singer/songwriter, and Iowa native, Jake McVey. Headlining the show is four-time GRAMMY®-nominated Restless Heart with its energetic country music.

Also on Thursday, NPPC, Hog Slat and Vinny’s BBQ will collaborate to set another record for the world’s largest pork burger (previously set at the 2012 World Pork Expo). Expo-goers can watch the assembly of this mammoth burger at 5 p.m. and try a sample. A significant portion of the burger will be donated to Youth Emergency Services & Shelter in Des Moines.

Mouth-watering pork is a vital part of Expo, including the ever-popular Big Grill. Located next to the Agriculture Building, attendees can enjoy a free pork lunch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. all three days of Expo.

“World Pork Expo is not just for primary owners of pork operations,” says Hill. “Everyone should encourage their staff to attend. Whether they are breeding technicians, farm managers, supervisors or people who work in the environmental area — there’s a lot of information at Expo for anyone who works in pork production.”

For more information download the official app by searching for “World Pork” in the Apple Store, Android Market or Blackberry’s App World. Because each year’s Expo app is unique, you’ll need to download the 2014 version. It will provide up-to-date schedules, interactive exhibitor maps and listings, and event locations.

USGC Annual Meeting Speaker to Focus on Geopolitical Impacts on Trade

Geopolitical risks are on the raise, whether it be the crisis in Ukraine, the protests in Venezuela or the Australian dollar going wild. Discover the impacts that this could have on agriculture, especially grains, with Gary Blumenthal, World Perspectives president, at the U.S. Grains Council’s 54th Annual Board of Delegates Meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, July 28-30, 2014.

“International markets are vital for U.S. farmers,” said USGC Chairman Julius Schaaf. “With 31 percent of U.S. gross farm income coming directly from exports, any change in the international market affects a farmer’s bottom line.”

World Perspectives is a Washington, D.C., based agricultural consulting firm that provides daily and monthly analytical reports on markets and policy, plus a wide range of specialized services including market, policy and investment analyses, program audit and evaluation work, as well as other proprietary services. The company has published more than 10,000 daily reports and more than 300 monthly reports that drill deeper into specific topics. Blumenthal will bring these interesting facts and figures with his own insights to the Council’s annual summer meeting to present his perspective on issues that may affect the United States status as the leader of global agricultural trade.

“The world market place is so inter-connected now,” Schaaf said, “and it gets more so every day. Blumenthal will help us take a look at how international events can affect us, even when on days when we don’t leave our farms.”

ASA Calls for Extension of Comment Period on EPA’s Waters of the U.S. Rule

In a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers this week, the American Soybean Association (ASA) joined more than 70 other food and agriculture stakeholder groups in requesting more time to comment on EPA’s proposed interpretive rule on Waters of the United States.

“This rule has the potential to impact a large majority of the things we do as farmers each day within our operations,” said ASA President and Iowa farmer Ray Gaesser. “These comments aren’t something we can rush through. We have to look at the many different ways the rule could affect the way we operate, and integrate those into our comments. To do that, we need a little more time.”

Citing the complexity of EPA’s draft rule, the groups maintain that comprehensive comments that represent the best interests of soybean farmers and other publics involved will require “deep and substantial review of lengthy and complex documents… and careful consideration and thought into the potentially significant changes to the historical relationship enjoyed between the agricultural community and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”

The groups also pointed to the need for farmers to discern what the rule would mean for them on the ground level. “The key step in all this is the middle one: farmers and ranchers working out in the field and on their farms to determine what these proposed policies mean,” wrote the groups. “Unfortunately, the timing of this proposed rule and the 90-day comment period coincides exactly with the absolutely busiest period in the farm calendar. Our farmer members during this period are preparing soil for planting, planting and replanting seed, applying crop nutrients and crop protection products, and harvesting hay and winter wheat crops. All of this work is taking place this spring and early summer, and that necessarily limits their ability to review and understand the proposal and the Interpretative Rule and how they may apply to them on their farms, and then provide meaningful comments.”

Proposed Water Rule Could Hurt Farmers, Ranchers

The National Pork Producers Council and 71 national and state agricultural organizations are requesting extensions of the comment periods on a proposed regulation and accompanying agricultural exemptions rule related to changes in the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) that could negatively affect farmers and ranchers.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in April issued a proposed rule that would greatly expand the agencies’ authority under the CWA over various waters. Currently, that jurisdiction includes “navigable” waters and waterways with a hydrologic connection to navigable waters.

The rule would redefine “waters of the United States” to include intermittent and ephemeral streams, which could potentially affect agriculture. Application of manure on lands near such streams, for example, could be considered a discharge and require a CWA permit.

In requesting the extensions, the agricultural groups pointed out that an EPA study of the connection between intermittent waters and wetlands and larger bodies of water has yet to be completed. They also said the timing of the comment period and stakeholder public meetings coincide with one of the busiest times for farmers, who are “preparing soil for planting, planting and replanting seed, applying crop nutrients and crop protection products, and harvesting hay and winter wheat crops.”

“For most farmers and ranchers,” said NPPC President Howard Hill, a veterinarian and hog farmer from Cambridge, Iowa, “more than two-thirds of the comment period for the proposed rule occurs when we are in the fields round the clock, not sitting at our computers reading regulatory proposals.”

The agricultural groups also raised in their request concerns that EPA has made during stakeholder meetings statements on the rules that it then has contradicted in public pronouncements, complicating the groups’ ability to develop meaningful comments.

The organizations are asking for an additional 90 days beyond the July 21, 2014, deadline for submitting comments on the proposed rule, or 90 days after EPA releases its “Connectivity Report,” which is supposed to serve as the scientific basis for any expansion of CWA jurisdiction. For the agricultural exemptions rule, the groups are requesting that the comment deadline coincide with the closing date for the proposed rule but be at least an additional 45 days beyond the current June 5, 2014, deadline.

NMPF Asks EPA to Allow More Time to Consider Science Behind Regulation of Waters of the U.S.

The National Milk Producers Federation today urged the Environmental Protection Agency to allow more time to examine a controversial draft regulation expanding the waterways subject to regulation under the federal Clean Water Act.

“It is imperative that the EPA go about this effort in the right way, in light of the potential impact of this measure on dairy farmers,” NMPF’s President and CEO, Jim Mulhern, wrote in a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Assistant Secretary of the Army. “It would be a disservice to farmers to rush this proposal through the review process without sufficient scientific support or time to better understand the complexities of the issue.” [A copy of the letter is attached to this email]

NMPF, which represents dairy farmers producing most of the nation’s milk supply, asked that the public comment period on the draft regulation be extended at least 90 days.

Unveiled in March, the draft regulation expands the waterways covered under the 1972 Clean Water Act to nearly all those connected to U.S. navigable waters. Opponents, many of whom have urged EPA to withdraw the regulation, argue it would have a devastating impact, particularly on agriculture.

NMPF cited two reasons for requesting more time to consider the regulation:  First, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers have not completed the report providing the scientific underpinning for the regulation; and second, many of the key concepts discussed in the draft are unclear or subject to interpretation by government regulators.

“In order for dairy farmers to understand, assess and adequately comment on the proposed changes, the science behind the WOTUS proposal must be clear and conclusive,” NMPF wrote.  But the proposal relies on the scientific conclusions of a draft EPA report still under review by the agency’s Science Advisory Board (SAB).

Where the matter of key concepts is concerned, the proposal uses terms such as “neighboring,’’ ‘‘riparian area,’’ ‘‘floodplain,’’ ‘‘tributary,’’ and ‘‘significant nexus.”

“These terms are as clear as muddy water, and, therefore, will create confusion for dairy producers,” Mulhern said.  Additionally, the proposed rule heavily relies on “best professional judgment” in application of these and other terms, potentially creating a great deal of uncertainty both for regulators and those regulated.

“Dairy farmers are committed to protecting U.S. waters both voluntarily and under the Clean Water Act,” said Mulhern in the letter sent Friday.

“Given the scope and complexities of the proposed rule and its supporting documents, NMPF requests an extension of the comment period, either to 90 days beyond the current deadline, or 90 days beyond EPA’s release of the final connectivity report” providing scientific basis for the regulation, the organization said.

Horse Slaughter Amendment Added to House Ag Appropriations Bill

The House Agriculture Appropriations Committee has voted to block federal spending on horse slaughter inspections, a move which would effectively ban the killing of horses for human consumption on U.S. soil. The committee voted 28-22 to approve the amendment, offered by a Virginia Democrat, Rep. Jim Moran, to the 2015 agriculture spending bill.

The Senate earlier approved an identical amendment, offered by Senators Mary Landrieu and Lindsey Graham last week. The House and Senate versions of the spending bills will now go to a conference committee, with the anti-horse-slaughter provision in both bills.

The measure is likely to be retained in the final bill sent to President Barack Obama for his signature.

Meanwhile, Democrats attempted to remove a provision from the agriculture appropriations bill that will give certain schools a waiver on compliance with nutrition standards. After an hour of debate, the amendment introduced by the subcommittee's ranking member, U.S. Rep. Sam Farr, to remove the waiver was rejected in a 29-22 vote.

USMEF Product Showcase Creates International Connections

The 120 international meat buyers who descended on the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) product showcase last week in Kansas City to meet with 21 U.S. processors and exporters didn’t come to make small talk. They came to buy U.S. beef, pork and lamb. And that’s just what they did.

“Now I can give more choices to my sales people,” said Romagle Bastidas, trade manager for Grupo Alonzo, which operates 24 companies in the Dominican Republic and imports anywhere from 10 to 40 containers per month of U.S. products, including beef, pork and lamb. “I have learned about many different cuts and different ways to come up with new center-of-the-plate items. Now I can think outside of the box.”

Grupo Alonzo, which operates the largest abattoir in the Caribbean along with a value-added sausage plant, provides red meat products to virtually every hotel in the Dominican Republic in addition to selling at retail. Grupo Alonzo’s Bastidas took advantage of the week-long USMEF-organized trip to the United States to visit feedlots, meat processing plants, the National Restaurant Association show, and Kansas State University for a one-day program designed to familiarize participants with details about the U.S. meat grading and production system. Funding for the week-long program was provided through the USDA Market Access Program (MAP), Beef Checkoff Program and Pork Checkoff.

Bastidas is clear about her motivation. 

“Our consumers prefer U.S. product,” she said.

For some buyers, this was their first time to the United States. It opened their eyes to different ways that fresh and frozen meat can be packaged and how they can offer their customers more options.

“This trip changes the way I buy (meat),” said Ana Maria Ordonez, manager of commercial perishable purchasing for UniSuper supermarkets in Guatemala. “Understanding the different types of retail packages that are available means that I can now buy mixed containers, which will make it easier to sell more product.”

For others, such as Carlo Mangravita of Macello, SA, in Panama, the U.S. visit and USMEF product showcase showed them that there are different production models than those they have seen in their home countries.

“We don’t have (meat processing) plants like this,” said Mangravita. “We don’t have new machines like this. The future of Central American meat processing is here right now. For me, this is a very good experience to develop new suppliers.”

The reaction from the 21 U.S. companies with displays was even more enthusiastic.

“This is probably the best small show for business leads I have been to in the last 15 years,” said Michael Warne, regional sales manager for Daniele Foods in Rhode Island. “It has been outstanding. We have managed to reach target markets that we’ve been looking to export to. These are quality buyers, and we have the products they’re interested in.”

Grupo Alonzo’s Bastidas agreed.

“This is the best trip,” she said. “Before, I just used to buy primal cuts (for further processing in the Dominican Republic), but after visiting the meat plants and seeing how the U.S. industry handles production, now I can buy sub-primals to open new markets. Now I can give new choices to my sales people.”

The positive response on both sides did not go unnoticed by USMEF’s producer members.

“The presence of all the international visitors from literally around the world is awesome and deeply appreciated by us who produce livestock because of what the export market is doing for the price,” said North Dakota cattle producer Jerry Effertz.

“One of the primary missions for USMEF is to bring buyers and sellers together in an effort to create value,” said Dan Halstrom, USMEF senior vice president for global marketing and communications. “While we only hold the worldwide product showcase every other year, we do hold regional showcases."

Monsanto Confirms Data Breach

Monsanto Co. confirmed Thursday that a security breach in one of the seed company's servers left exposed some customer credit-card information and Monsanto employee data.

The breach occurred in late March, affecting about 1,300 farmers who are customers of Monsanto's Precision Planting division, which makes specialized seed-planting equipment, according to a spokeswoman. One or more external parties hacked into the server, she said, adding that a company investigation suggests they weren't seeking to take customer data.

The breach comes at a sensitive time for Monsanto, which is making a big push into selling data services to farmers to augment its revenues from genetically-engineered seeds and pesticides. The services rely on commitments from farmers to share crop information, and some farm groups have expressed concerns about the security and management of data.

"We believe this unauthorized access was not an attempt to steal customer information and are not aware of any misuse of the information impacted by the incident," said Christy Toedebusch, a spokeswoman for Climate Corp., a Monsanto unit that manages its farm-technology products and manages the Precision Planting business.

The breach didn't affect farming data collected by Precision Planting equipment, such as information on specific farmers' crop yields or planting practices, Toedebusch said.

In a letter from Monsanto's Precision Planting division to customers dated May 14, the company apologized for the breach and said it "started an investigation and took steps to contain the incident." The company is offering to pay for a year's worth of credit monitoring for these customers.

Monsanto -- whose websites have drawn attacks by hacker groups -- is increasing "security safeguards" in response to the breach and has hired a forensics firm to investigate the issue, Toedebusch said. Monsanto has also contacted legal authorities.

Weekly Column: Supporting Cutting Edge Conservation

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack

This week, USDA and its partners launched a new conservation initiative, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), a program that goes beyond traditional government support for conservation and allows businesses and other for-profit partners to invest in regional conservation projects. RCPP takes conservation off the farm and out of the forest and moves it into the board room.

The RCPP will competitively award funds to conservation projects designed by local partners and specifically tailored to local needs. Eligible partners include private companies, universities, non-profit organizations, local and tribal governments and others joining with agricultural and conservation organizations and producers to invest money, manpower and materials to their proposed initiatives.

USDA will invest $1.2 billion in funding over the life of the five-year program, including $400 million this first year. With partners investing alongside us, we hope to leverage an additional $1.2 billion for a total of $2.4 billion invested in conservation projects that improve soil health, water quality and water use efficiency, wildlife habitat, and other related natural resources on private lands.

In addition to supporting local conservation goals, conservation investments brought by RCPP will also propel growth in communities. Conservation work involves building terraces in fields, restoring wetlands, which means new local jobs. A 2013 study commissioned by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation estimates that last year, conservation activities supported more than 660,000 jobs across the country. The resulting cleaner water and enhanced wildlife habitat also expand opportunities for hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation in local communities. The outdoor recreation economy supports 6.1 million direct jobs, $80 billion in federal, state, and local tax revenue, and $646 billion in spending each year.

We can’t achieve these goals without partners of all kinds at the table. Establishing new public-private partnerships through RCPP allows USDA to have an impact that's well beyond what we could accomplish on our own. Together, we will forge a new era of conservation partnership that will both keep our land resilient and water clean and promote tremendous economic growth in our communities. For more information, visit

Thursday May 29 Ag News

Buffett to Discuss Ag Industry's Role in Global Food Security

According to Howard G. Buffett, "There's no reason we can't put hunger out of business." Buffett, a renowned philanthropist and author of 40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World, will be the keynote speaker at the U.S. Grains Council's 54th Annual Board of Delegates Meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, on July 28-30.

Buffett will delve into his foundation's commitment to agricultural improvement as a key means of improving the standard of living and global food security for the world's most impoverished and marginalized populations. The foundation focuses on three core areas related to agricultural production: food security, water security, and conflict mitigation.

"The growing global population challenges agricultural producers around the world to produce more with less," said USGC Chairman Julius Schaaf. "This population growth offers exciting opportunities but also comes with daunting challenges for our industry. Attendees should gain a refreshed perspective from Buffett on agriculture's role in the fight to end world hunger."

An Omaha native, Buffett has been active in agriculture, business, conservation, philanthropy, photography and politics. Currently, he spends the majority of his time managing his foundation.

He oversees a 1,500-acre family farm in central Illinois and farms in Nebraska with his son. He also manages three foundation-operated research farms: more than 1,525 acres in Arizona, 4,400 acres in Illinois, and 9,200 acres in South Africa.

"Buffett's background in agriculture and his foundation's work to develop agricultural resources in the most vulnerable and under-resourced communities gives him a unique perspective on global food security," Schaaf said. "His insights into improving global food security will be invaluable."

Register for the Council's annual meeting at

Aventine Starts Sugar Ethanol

Aventine Renewable Energy Inc. said in a news release Thursday it shipped its first railcar of ethanol produced at its Aurora West facility in Aurora, Neb., a 113 million gallon per year plant, using sugar-based only feedstock.

"This marks an important milestone in Aventine's continuing story of innovation and demonstrates our leadership in the ethanol industry," said Mark Beemer, Aventine's president and CEO.

The company has hired 52 employees to date, and expects to hire 18 more in the next two months, for an annualized payroll of $4.6 million.

"We have already injected $10.6 million into the local Aurora economy through expenditures on operational needs," said Beemer.

Aventine Renewable Energy, based in Pekin, Ill., is a producer and marketer of industrial and fuel ethanol and related co-products, including corn gluten feed and meal, corn germ, condensed corn distillers grain, corn oils and yeast.

NRCS and partners usher in a new era in conservation

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced the launch of what he calls “a new era in American conservation efforts” with a historic focus on public-private partnership.

“This is an entirely new approach to conservation,” Vilsack said. “We’re giving private companies, local communities and other non-government partners a way to invest in what are essentially clean water start-up operations.”

The new conservation program, called the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), was authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill and will benefit areas all across the nation.  The RCPP will competitively award funds to conservation projects designed by local partners specifically for their region.

Eligible partners include private companies, universities, non-profit organizations, local and tribal governments and others joining with agricultural and conservation organizations and producers to invest money, manpower and materials to their proposed initiatives.  The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will be accepting pre-proposals from all eligible partners until July 14, and full proposals are due Sept. 26.

Craig Derickson, NRCS state conservationist in Nebraska said, “Local decision making is empowered through this program– bringing together conservation groups, cities and townships, sportsmen groups, universities, agricultural associations and others – to design conservation projects that are tailored to our needs here in Nebraska.”

With the help of participating partners, USDA’s $1.2 billion in funding over the life of the five-year program will leverage $2.4 billion for conservation. Through RCPP, partners propose conservation projects to improve soil health, water quality and water use efficiency, wildlife habitat, and other related natural resources on private lands.

“This is an example of government at its best - streamlining multiple programs into one more effective effort, providing flexible tools, and connecting local citizens and organizations with resources that best address their priorities, protect and improve their quality of life, and propel economic growth,” Vilsack said.

The RCPP has three funding pools:
    35 percent of total program funding directed to critical conservation areas, chosen by the agriculture secretary;
    40 percent directed to regional or multi-state projects through a national competitive process;
    25 percent directed to state-level projects through a competitive process established by NRCS state leaders.

Vilsack named eight critical conservation areas, which received 35 percent of the program’s overall funding. All of Nebraska is included in one of these, called the Prairie Grasslands Critical Conservation area.

According to Derickson, one of the most threatened ecosystems in North America is the native prairie and grasslands contained within the Prairie Grasslands region.

“This area is essential habitat for a number of wild game and threatened species, including the lesser prairie chicken and sage grouse. The region also encompasses the Ogallala Aquifer – an area facing critical conservation needs on working lands due to prolonged drought and aquifer decline. With this Critical Conservation Area designation, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service will build on existing strong partnerships to accelerate conservation efforts and address these water resource and habitat issues. For example, in the Ogallala, partners will accelerate irrigation efficiency and water conservation work,” Derickson said.

For proposals in Nebraska, priorities include: Air Quality Impacts, Degraded Plant Condition, Excessive/Inefficient water, Inefficient Energy Use, Livestock production limitation, Soil Erosion, Soil Quality degradation, Water Quality degradation. More information is available on the NRCS website.

“This program is a prime example of how government can serve as a catalyst for private investment in rural America,” Derickson said.

To learn about technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs, visit or a local USDA service center. For more on the 2014 Farm Bill, visit

Regional Conservation Partnership Program delivers conservation assistance to Iowa farmers, landowners

Collaboration and innovation are at the heart of a new five-year, $2.4 billion program announced this week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture aimed at improving water and soil quality.

The Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), authorized in the latest Farm Bill, promotes coordination between the Natural Resources Conservation Service and its partners to deliver conservation assistance to farmers and landowners. American Soybean Association President Ray Gaesser of Corning said it will usher in a new era of more effective voluntary conservation that will benefit farmers and communities.

“This is not business as usual,” said Gaesser, a long-time soybean leader who farms with his son Chris in southwest Iowa. “It represents a new way of implementing the Farm Bill to target resources through public-private partnerships to priority watersheds where funding is most needed.”

These priority regions, known as Critical Conservation Areas, include the Mississippi River Basin, Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay. The RCPP will help address resource challenges in those regions and over time, help improve water quality within those watersheds.

U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack said the department will invest $1.2 billion over the life of the five-year program, including $400 million in the first year, and leverage an additional $1.2 billion from participatory partners. Business, communities, universities, agricultural associations, conservation groups and other entities are eligible to participate.

Iowa farmers and communities stand to benefit from the program as a result of the Mississippi River basin’s priority status, said Roger Wolf, director of Environmental Programs and Services for the Iowa Soybean Association.

“Soil and water quality are the primary concerns addressed by this program, just as they are with the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy implemented last year,” Wolf said. “This alignment is meaningful and timely, with the RCPP providing additional funding that will bolster not only the success of the RCPP, but local, state-based efforts like the strategy.”

The RCPP will competitively award funds to conservation projects designed by local partners to improve soil health, water quality and water use efficiency. Projects will be tailored for specific regions.

That’s appealing to Steve Hershner, utilities director for Cedar Rapids.

“We look forward to working with upstream partners in the Cedar River watershed to implement nitrate control projects that could improve source water quality for our 130,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers,” he said.

The USDA is accepting proposals for the program. Pre-proposals are due July 14 and full proposals due Sept. 26. For more information, go to and keyword search “Regional Conservation Partnership Program.”

Vilsack on Updated Forecast for U.S. Agricultural Exports

The U.S. Department of Agriculture today released its Outlook for U.S. Agricultural Trade report. USDA projects that Fiscal Year 2014 agricultural exports will reach $149.5 billion, an estimated $6.9 billion higher than previous estimates and, if realized, a new record for American agricultural exports. Today's report indicates that the record growth is due not just to rising prices, which have driven export numbers in the past, but also to an increase in the volume of U.S. agricultural exports, which is projected to increase by 31 percent between Fiscal Years 2013 and 2014.

Last Fiscal Year, agricultural exports reached $140.9 billion and supported nearly one million jobs here at home. Fiscal Years 2009 to 2013 represent the strongest five years in history for agricultural trade, with U.S. agricultural product exports totaling $619 billion over those five years.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made the following statement on this report:

"American farmers and ranchers are on track for another year of record exports, which builds on the past five years of the strongest agricultural trade in our history. This report indicates that the volume of U.S. agricultural exports has increased, which demonstrates an increasing global appetite for high-quality, American-grown products.

"USDA will continue to focus its efforts on tapping into new markets for what is grown and made in rural America. Today, only one percent of U.S. companies export, and yet 95 percent of the world's consumers live outside the borders of the United States, creating significant opportunities for U.S. food and agriculture. Thanks to resources in the 2014 Farm Bill, USDA is able to continue support for trade promotion and market expansion for U.S. agricultural products overseas—programs that return $35 in economic benefits for every dollar invested. In addition, the Administration's Made in Rural America initiative, launched by President Obama at the 2014 Farm Bill signing, will further these efforts by helping rural businesses and leaders access federal resources to help them connect with new customers and markets abroad.

"Collectively, these efforts will ensure that America's farmers and ranchers are well positioned to capitalize on emerging export markets and continue to drive economic growth in rural America."

Beef Checkoff’s Digital Marketing Campaign Gets Off to Solid Start

The new digital “Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner” (BIWFD) advertising campaign is off to a tremendous start, with exciting new creative elements and more information to reach the important millennial consumer.

The idea of “social” plays a big role in meal inspiration, instruction and sharing, with more than 300 million social media posts per month. That’s why the millennial influence and explosion of digital media led your beef checkoff to develop five new BIWFD recipe videos on the website. These “no-recipe recipe” videos offer millennial consumers – who are just beginning to learn how to cook with beef – easy yet delicious ways to fit beef into their lifestyles. The website also features new tips and techniques for preparing winning beef meals and an update about beef’s “Power of 10” essential nutrients.

“No matter what incarnation beef takes – a lean burger, stir fry, within a salad, etc. – it ties the meal together," said Claire Thomas, video director. "These videos are all about simple meals, and the clever, easy strategies to make them great.”

Using digital media means customizing the right information at right time to the right consumers. For the older generation, that may feel like advertisers are intruding on their privacy. On the other hand, research indicates that the millennial generation, which is beef’s primary target for the new ad campaign, is asking that the information to be delivered to them, when they want it, how they want it. They actually feel that advertisers are making it more personal.

The integrated media strategy for the campaign, including Facebook and Twitter, generated about 65 million impressions during the campaign’s first three weeks. The BIWFD Facebook page now has more than 825,000 “fans,” providing a strong community for beef-loving consumers to share recipes and information.

Partnerships with other websites reaching millennials and interested in food have generated about 9 million high-quality impressions. These websites include,,, and others.

PEDv Outbreak Appears to be Slowing Down

The wild spread of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus appears to be slowing.

The American Association of Swine Veterinarians announced 187 positive tests for the disease in the week ending May 17.

According to Pork Network, the latest figure brings the total number of confirmed cases to 6,804, but the weekly number of cases continues to decline--the lowest since early January.

Veterinarians have long expected accession numbers to fall this spring as temperatures rise and as the number of naïve herds continues to decline.

USDA Awarding $6 Million to Prepare Farmers for New Farm Bill Programs

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is awarding $6 million to universities and cooperative state extension services to develop online decision tools and other materials and train experts to educate producers about several key farm bill programs. The new Web tools will help farmers and ranchers determine what participation in programs established by the 2014 Farm Bill will mean for their businesses.

The University of Illinois (lead for the National Coalition for Producer Education [NCPE]), along with the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) at the University of Missouri and the Agricultural and Food Policy Center (AFPC) at Texas A&M (co-leads for the National Association of Agricultural and Food Policy [NAAFP]), will receive a total of $3 million to develop the new online tools and train state-based extension agents who can in turn help educate farmers.

"Helping farmers and ranchers understand new Farm Bill programs and what the programs mean for their families is one of USDA's top priorities," said Vilsack. "With the resources we're providing, university experts will help ensure farmers and ranchers are highly educated as they make critical decisions about new programs that impact their livelihoods. The new tools that will be developed will empower farmers and ranchers to select the plan that best fits their unique needs."

The new resources will help farmers and ranchers make an educated choice between the new Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) program and the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program. Using the new online tools, producers will be able to use data unique to their specific farming operations combined with factors like the geographical diversity of crops, soils, weather and climates across the country to test a variety of financial scenarios before officially signing up for the new program options later this year. Once a producer enrolls in the ARC or PLC program, he or she must remain in the program through the 2018 crop year.

New tools will be provided for other programs as well. Sign-up for the newly established Margin Protection Program for Dairy (MPP) begins late this summer and enrollment for "buy-up" provisions under the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) will begin early next year. An online MPP tool will be available when sign up begins and the NAP buy-up provision resource will become available to producers in the fall for the 2015 crop year.

The University of Illinois, as well as FAPRI and AFPC will develop ARC and PLC Web tools. The University of Illinois will also develop the online resources for the MPP and NAP programs.

USDA will also award $3 million to state cooperative extension services—a nationwide network of experts based at land-grant universities—for outreach and education on the new Farm Bill programs. Funds will be used to conduct public education outreach meetings where producers can speak with local extension agents and Farm Service Agency (FSA) staff. Outreach meetings will begin late this summer to help farmers and ranchers understand the new programs and their options.

While universities work to create new online tools, producers now have access to a preliminary website that gives them a chance to begin familiarizing themselves with the new programs and the type of information they will need to consider when deciding which program options work better for them. At this site, farmers and ranchers can view ARC and PLC projected payments, ARC guarantees, and PLC payment rate projections. These tables are available on the FSA website.

Today's announcement was made possible through the 2014 Farm Bill, which builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit

Partners to Develop Web-based Decision Tools:

For the NCPE, University of Illinois as lead: Michigan State University, Montana State University, Watts & Associates, Delaware State University, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, North Carolina A&T University, University of Wisconsin, Cornell University, Pennsylvania State University, Ohio State University, and University of Minnesota.

For the NAAFP, FAPRI and AFPC as co-leads: Texas Tech University, University of Missouri, Iowa State University, University of Nebraska, Kansas State University, Mississippi State University, Oklahoma State University, Tennessee State University, University of Georgia, and Fresno State University.

Implementation Time Line for Selected Farm Bill Programs

Mid-Summer - 2014 - Producers receive letters notifying them of current bases and yields and 2009 to 2012 planting history.    
Late Summer - 2014 - MPP, ARC and PLC online tools become available. MPP enrollment for 2014 and 2015 begins. MPP owners have opportunity to update yields and reallocate bases for ARC/PLC purposes.
Fall 2014 - NAP buy-up online tools become available NAP buy-up sign-up starts..
Winter 2014 - ARC/PLC one-time selections occur.    
Early 2015 - ARC/PLC sign-up for 2014 and 2015 starts.

Visit or the local FSA office for information about FSA and the 2014 Farm Bill programs.

ASA Welcomes USDA Announcement of Funds for Web Resources on Farm Bill Program Options

The American Soybean Association welcomed today’s announcement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that the agency will award $6 million to universities and state cooperative extension services for the development of web-based tools to assist farmers in choosing new programs within the Agricultural Act of 2014. ASA President and Iowa farmer Ray Gaesser issued the following statement on USDA’s announcement:

“As farmers in many parts of the country move ahead with planting soybeans, our minds are on the many different options we have under the new farm bill. The investment by USDA today will help farmers establish which of the new and complex program options will work for their operations. These programs will be in effect through the life of this farm bill—at least through 2018—so it is imperative that farmers have all the information available to make informed decisions.

“It’s important that farmers in geographically-diverse parts of the country have analysis from experts in their region to help them decide on the appropriate program, and the diverse institutions represented by the two consortia that will receive the funding will accomplish just that. This approach will provide farmers with tools developed by economists familiar with their specific crops, practices and growing regions. ASA supported this approach, and we are heartened to see that approach taken in today’s announcement.

“Moreover, while the bill’s Price Loss Coverage option will be familiar to many growers due to its similarity to the expired Counter Cyclical Payment program, the Agricultural Risk Coverage option is entirely new.

“ASA looks forward to helping our land grant partners and the state cooperative extension services providing our farmers with the tools they need to make these very big decisions in the months ahead.”

Nearly 120 Companies Ask Obama to Boost Biodiesel Standard

One hundred seventeen biodiesel companies and affiliated businesses from 41 states called on President Obama Wednesday to stand behind his past support for the U.S. biodiesel industry by continuing sustainable growth under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

Highlighting Obama’s strong position on biodiesel going back to his days as a U.S. senator and as a candidate for president, the companies and organizations sent Obama a letter outlining the extensive damage that would result from the EPA’s current RFS proposal, which would set a biodiesel standard of 1.28 billion gallons – far below actual 2013 production of nearly 1.8 billion gallons. The letter can be found here.

“As entrepreneurs and business leaders representing thousands of employees, we have followed signals from this Administration and invested billions of dollars in developing a U.S. biodiesel industry that has successfully delivered more than 5 billion gallons of EPA-designated Advanced Biofuel under the RFS since you took office,” the letter states. “We are extremely concerned that you could be retreating on your previously unwavering support for biodiesel in a way that would have severe consequences for the industry’s future.”

The companies and other organizations signing the letter represent thousands of employees in states across the country, from California to Minnesota to Rhode Island. They specifically referenced legislation introduced by then-Sen. Obama in 2006 (“The American Fuels Act”) that called for an ambitious standard of 2 billion gallons of alternative diesel fuels by 2015.

“Thanks to American innovation, the hard work of our employees, and strong, consistent federal policy under the RFS, the biodiesel industry almost reached that goal last year by producing nearly 1.8 billion gallons under the RFS. With stable policy, it is very likely that the industry will – a mere decade later – indeed reach your stated goal of 2 billion gallons by 2015,” the letter states. “This is a success story of which you and your Administration should be proud: A clean, renewable energy industry meeting a challenging goal that you envisioned 10 years ago. Yet with this EPA proposal, this Administration is retreating. We urge you not to.”

Biodiesel – made from a variety of resources including soybean oil, recycled cooking oil and animal fats – is the first EPA-designated Advanced Biofuel to reach commercial-scale production nationwide. With plants in nearly every state in the country, the industry had a record U.S. market last year of nearly 1.8 billion gallons supporting more than 62,200 jobs.

The EPA’s RFS proposal remains pending, with the Administration planning to finalize it in June.

A recent survey of biodiesel producers conducted by National Biodiesel Board found that nearly 80 percent of U.S. biodiesel producers have scaled back production this year and more than half have idled production at a plant altogether. Additionally, two-thirds of producers said they have already reduced or anticipate reducing their workforce as a result of the downturn, which they attribute to the weak RFS proposal and the expiration of the biodiesel tax incentive.

Ethanol Stocks Hit 13-Month High

U.S. ethanol inventories rebounded last week from a four-week low and spiked to a 13-month high as production increased slightly, the Energy Information Administration reported Thursday.

The EIA's data showed total inventories increased nearly 500,000 barrels (bbl), or 2.9%, to 17.5 million bbl for the week-ended May 23, the highest since early April 2013, boosting the year-over-year surplus to 1.4 million bbl, or 9.0%.

EIA showed ethanol production at U.S. plants rose for the second week straight, up 2,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 927,000 bpd last week while 7.4% higher than a year earlier. Four-week average production at 917,000 bpd was up 6.7% from a year earlier.

Blender inputs, a proxy for ethanol demand, increased 9,000 bpd or 1.0% to 895,000 bpd for the week profiled, while also up 3.7% from a year earlier. Four-week average inputs were up 3.2% from a year earlier.

Expressed as a percentage of daily gasoline demand, daily ethanol production was 9.96%.

EIA reported no foreign ethanol came into the country last week after 11,000 bpd were imported the prior week, received along the East Coast.

On the co-products side, ethanol producers were using 14.056 million bushels of corn to produce ethanol and 103,456 metric tons of livestock feed, 92,232 metric tons of which were distillers grains. The rest is comprised of corn gluten feed and corn gluten meal. Additionally, ethanol producers were providing 4.83 million pounds of corn distillers oil daily.

Latest anti-ethanol claims are as real as Godzilla

Ron Lamberty, Senior Vice President for the American Coalition for Ethanol called a new anti-ethanol study released today “ridiculous.”

“This study takes a couple of real things, connects them in an imaginary scenario, and then multiplies over time, to create a big, scary conclusion. A couple of weeks ago, that same “study” process was featured in the release of the latest “Godzilla” movie,” Lamberty said. “The truth is, there is no Godzilla, and there is no way that burning more oil is better for the environment than replacing it with more ethanol – even after you add some of the fictitious elements that have been added to the ethanol story over time.”

“This latest ethanol hit-piece says ‘more than eight million acres of grassland and wetlands were converted for corn alone,’ while the latest USDA Census of Agriculture shows farm acreage dropping by nearly eight million acres from 2007 to 2012, the first five years of the Renewable Fuel Standard. These people expect us to believe farmers were spending time and money to drain wetlands and plow marginal land while they quit farming productive cropland. That’s ridiculous.   Not only that, the law they want to overturn specifically outlaws that practice,” said Lamberty.

The Energy Independence and Security Act, which authorized the RFS, required that corn and other feedstocks used to produce renewable fuels may only be sourced from land that was actively engaged in agricultural production in 2007, the year of the bill’s enactment. Under the law, feedstocks grown on land converted to cropland after 2007 do not qualify as “renewable biomass,” and therefore biofuels produced from these feedstocks would not generate credits for the RFS. Also, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required to annually evaluate whether the RFS is causing U.S. cropland to expand beyond the 2007 level of 402 million acres (the year the RFS was expanded). Each and every year since then, the EPA has found that cropland has been below the 2007 baseline; and the 2012 cropland total was at its lowest point (384 million acres) since the EPA began this annual analysis.

EWG Ethanol Study Seriously Flawed

National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson issued the following statement on the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) recent publication, “Ethanol’s Broken Promise: Using Less Corn Ethanol Reduces Greenhouse Gas Emissions”:

“EWG’s finding that corn ethanol creates more greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than regular gasoline is simply wrong. This publication is more of a political statement than a scientific analysis.

“The U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory found that corn ethanol reduces GHG emissions by 34 percent compared to gasoline. This includes a robust lifecycle analysis taking hypothetical indirect land use change emissions into account.

“Unfortunately, EWG bills itself as an environmental organization but is advocating for policies that will do more harm to the environment. It is laughable to claim that gasoline that is derived from petroleum is more environmentally friendly than ethanol produced from a renewable resource.”

Strong Renewable Fuel Standard Means Strong Advanced Biofuels Industry

The Fuels America coalition sponsored Politico’s Morning Energy for the second week in a row this week, underscoring that gutting the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) would pose an enormous threat to America’s emerging cellulosic ethanol and advanced biofuel industry.

“Caving to oil industry pressure and reducing the market for renewable fuels would undercut the industry’s ability to make investments in advanced biofuels,” Fuels America’s text pointed out. “Especially if the administration’s rationale for the reduction is the fact that the oil industry is refusing to provide the infrastructure to sell renewable fuels in spite of a law requiring them to do so.”

Fuels America’s Morning Energy sponsorship follows a May 15 letter from DuPont, Abengoa, Novozymes, Poet DSM and 30 other advanced biofuel leaders to President Obama explaining that they had invested “billions of dollars in the development and commercial deployment of ultra-low carbon biofuels … based on the expectation that when [they] succeed, the RFS will be maintained as a mechanism to open the market for our fuels.” They went on to warn that the "current proposal would break that promise by allowing incumbent fuel producers, who want to see the program fail, to limit the distribution of renewable fuels and thereby define future RFS blending obligations.” Fuel’s America’s text concluded with a link to that letter.

The sponsorship by the Fuels America coalition comes as a final 2014 RFS rule draws closer and just on the heels of significant announcements from President Obama regarding the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions. The Administration’s proposal to weaken the bipartisan RFS, however, would represent an increase in carbon emissions worse than cancelling every wind farm now under development in the United States. And as Fuels America explains in this week’s Morning Energy, a weakened RFS will seriously undercut investments in America’s low carbon advanced biofuels, which represent reductions in lifecycle CO2 emissions of 88-108%.

Washington Cattleman Tells Congress EPA’s Land Grab will Kill Conservation Participation

The EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers’ proposed definition of “Waters of the U.S.” has raised grave concern from cattle producers across the country. Today, Jack Field, cattle rancher and Washington Cattlemen’s Association executive vice president, testified before the House of Representatives Small Business Committee to discuss the overregulation and impeding impacts of the rule for rural America. 

“First and foremost, the cattle industry prides itself on being good stewards of our country’s natural resources,” said Field, who owns and operates a cattle operation in Washington. “We maintain open spaces, healthy rangelands, preserve wildlife habitat, and provide the country with the juicy ribeyes we all love to throw on the grill. However, to provide all these important functions, cattlemen must be able to operate without excessive federal burdens.”

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association believes the proposed definition of “waters of the United States” expands the federal jurisdiction to include essentially all waters across the country, subjecting landowners to increased regulation and fines of up to $37,500 per day.

The increase in liability will chill landowner participation in conservation activities by making the Natural Resources Conservation Service a regulatory compliance agency. Field testified that the EPA and the Corps' interpretive rule would make NRCS standards mandatory for all conservation activities, despite whether they are voluntary or cost-shared. 

“This didn’t have to be the result,” said Field. “All the agencies had to do was engage stakeholders early on in the process, incorporate our suggestions and we would be much farther along in crafting a rule that actually clarifies the scope of Clean Water Act jurisdiction. There was zero outreach to the agriculture community before the rule was proposed and before the interpretive rule went into effect. We are now left with a proposal that doesn’t work for small businesses, doesn’t work for cattle ranchers, and doesn’t work for the environment.”

NCBA strongly opposes EPA and the Corps’ definition and encourages producers and small business owners to submit comments to the EPA. The comment deadline is July 21, 2014.

Brazilian Wheat Importers Set to Examine SRW, HRW Crops

Five executives representing the largest flour mills in Brazil will be in the United States June 1 to 7 to learn more about the condition of the U.S. soft red winter (SRW) and hard red winter (HRW) wheat crops as well as the wheat supply system. The team is well timed as Brazilian millers, including the companies represented on this team, are the second largest importers of U.S. wheat this marketing year, purchasing nearly 158 million bushels (4.3 million metric tons).

The trade team visit is sponsored by U.S. Wheat Associates (USW), the Maryland Grain Producers Utilization Board, the Virginia Small Grains Board and Kansas Wheat. 

“We are very pleased to bring these millers to the United States because we have a unique window of opportunity to build demand for U.S. wheat in this market,” said Osvaldo Seco, USW assistant regional director for South America, who will travel with the team.

Argentina normally supplies most of Brazil’s imported wheat but could not supply enough to Brazil in 2012 and 2013. These millers have now had success milling HRW and SRW, so this trade team visit was planned to demonstrate why they should continue importing more U.S. wheat in the future. 

Brazil imports on average around 260 million bushels (7.1 million metric tons) of wheat, putting Brazil in the list of the world’s top wheat buyers. Before the early 1990s, Brazil originated most of that wheat from the United States. However, the Mercosur free trade agreement allowed millers to import Argentine wheat duty free and established a 10 percent tariff on wheat from non-Mercosur countries like the United States. When Argentina severely restricted wheat export licenses in 2013, USW helped Brazilian millers successfully petition their government to temporarily suspend that tariff. That opened a big opportunity for USW to promote the value of U.S. wheat. 

By visiting farms in Maryland and Kansas, meeting with commercial elevator managers and seeing the USDA grain inspection system, these executives will go back to their mills with a greater knowledge of how to specify for the best quality and value from the U.S. HRW and SRW supply, Seco said. In turn, he added, they will have the confidence to consider buying more U.S. wheat even when more Argentine wheat is available, in part because the demand for higher quality wheat foods, including whole wheat products, is growing in Brazil.

USW is the industry’s market development organization working in more than 100 countries. Its mission is to “develop, maintain, and expand international markets to enhance the profitability of U.S. wheat producers and their customers.” USW activities are made possible through producer checkoff dollars managed by 19 state wheat commissions and cost-share funding provided by FAS. USW maintains 17 offices strategically located around the world to help wheat buyers, millers, bakers, wheat food processors and government officials understand the quality, value and reliability of all six classes of U.S. wheat.


Rabobank has published a new report on the global fertilizer industry, continuing its bearish outlook through Q2 2014.    In the report, the Rabobank Food & Agribusiness Research and Advisory group looks at supply, demand and pricing for urea, phosphate, and potash in key international markets.

The report finds there is a deteriorating trend in the price of fertilizers, and Rabobank expects this to continue in the coming quarter. China has exported significant volumes in its high tax season, and phosphate and urea prices will feel downward pressure as China exports even more in its low tax season.  Fertilizer prices in the U.S. will be under downward price pressure from fading demand; prices in Q1 were elevated due to supply chain bottlenecks and a compressed application window. For urea, there could be a limited upside originating from Ukraine if market sentiment is impacted by a rationed supply from the country.

Regional Outlooks

•  United States: Increased side-dressing demand and supply chain filling ahead of the autumn application will not be enough to provide significant upside to global fertilizer prices in Q2. While demand could induce producers to direct volumes to the domestic market, impact on exports is likely to be limited.

•  EU: Nitrate and urea prices have found price support in recent weeks due to supply bottlenecks and early demand, but as demand enters its lull season, prices are set for downward correction.

• Brazil: Even out of season, Brazil has a role to play in the global fertilizer arena. Potash producers are keen to secure volumes in the country. Higher prices in Brazil are supported by the expectation of ongoing depreciation of the Brazilian Real and high demand coming from farmers incentivized to increase yields.

• India: Indian demand remains under pressure with the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers struggling to pay out subsidies. A potentially weakening rupee and disappointing monsoons could impact fertilizer demand further.

•  China: With the domestic application season mostly finished in China, the demand for phosphates and potassium fertilizers is weakening going into Q2. An upside in prices appears limited, despite the export window opening in mid-May for phosphates and in July for urea.

• Ukraine: The future of Ukrainian production remains uncertain, as potentially increased gas prices, political instability and especially lower world prices could force the country to halt production. To date, the impact mainly been felt in the already tight ammonia markets.

Tyson Offers $6.1B for Hillshire Brands

Tyson Foods Inc. offered $6.1 billion to buy Hillshire Brands Co., setting up a battle between meatpacking heavyweights for the maker of Jimmy Dean sausage and Ballpark hot dogs.

The offer of $50 a share comes just two days after rival Pilgrim's Pride Corp., owned by Brazilian meat processor JBS SA, unveiled an unsolicited bid for Hillshire worth about $5.5 billion, or $45 a share.

Both offers aim to top Chicago-based Hillshire's planned $4.3 billion purchase of packaged-foods company Pinnacle Foods Inc., announced less than three weeks ago.

All the companies involved are trying to diversify the breadth of their supermarket products. Hillshire's portfolio includes its brand-name prepared meats, like its namesake lunch meats and Aidells sausages, as well as Sara Lee desserts.

Acquiring Hillshire would enable Tyson, the largest U.S. meat processor by sales, to bolster its lineup of branded packaged foods, which carry higher profit margins than fresh or minimally processed meats.

It would also deny JBS, among Tyson's biggest global rivals, a beachhead in U.S. supermarkets. Winning Hillshire would provide Pilgrim's Pride and JBS a range of branded food products neither company currently has, and a base from which to expand further into grocery-store aisles.

Ardent Mills Now Operating

Ardent Mills, a joint venture by ConAgra Mills, Cargill and CHS, began operating as the nation's largest flour milling company on Thursday, following approval by the U.S. Justice Department.

Ardent Mills, which will be based in the Denver area, combines the resources and facilities of ConAgra Mills and Horizon Milling, a previous joint venture of Cargill and CHS. It has 40 flour mills, three bakery mix facilities and a specialty bakery in the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada. It will also have satellite offices in Omaha and Minneapolis.

Some watchdog groups opposed the venture fearing it could lower prices paid to wheat farmers and raise prices for consumers. Last week, anti-trust regulators at the Justice Department said it would require Ardent Mills' parent companies to sell four mills to keep prices competitive for customers, including industrial bakers and food service companies, in the Los Angeles, Dallas, Minneapolis and San Francisco areas.

Ardent Mills CEO Dan Dye, formerly the president of Horizon Milling, said the sales to Minneapolis-based Miller Milling, a subsidiary of Japan's Nisshin Seifun Group, have been completed.

Despite the size of the new venture, Dye said it will have to offer competitive prices to succeed both with consumers and farmers. Ardent Mills can now provide products more efficiently and it can offer growers of wheat and other grains growing in popularity like ancient grains and rye better access to the market, he said. Ultimately, he said the company needs to make sure farmers are paid enough to keep planting those crops.