Friday, May 23, 2014

Friday May 23 Ag News

Bruce Anderson, UNL Extension Forage Specialist

               Memorial Day is a good time to examine the status of hay and forage programs for the year.

               Many hay and forage jobs should be completed, or at least started, by Memorial Day.  For example, all perennial grasses or legumes should be planted by now.  If you have planting still to do -- wait until August.

               Spraying for musk thistle needs to occur before Memorial Day.  Plants that have started to grow tall usually are not completely killed by spraying.  Digging is your best option now.

               Another job is fertilizing warm-season grasses with nitrogen.  Complete it by Memorial Day or soon afterwards.

               For high quality hay, your alfalfa should have been cut already if you are south of the Platte River and as soon as possible elsewhere. Later cutting might give hay that’s good enough for many livestock, but there is little chance of getting dairy quality hay any more this cutting.  And start planning now for any possible shortages.

               Memorial Day also marks the start of the planting season for summer annual grasses for many folks.  Sudans and forage sorghums can be planted now.  Millets should be planted in a couple of weeks.

               Memorial Day is a good time to estimate if your pastures will have enough moisture to produce the growth needed by your livestock this year.  If drought has caused reduced growth, adjust animal numbers now before it's too late.  Summer rains are not likely to allow you to catch up completely.  And if growth is abundant, maybe you can cut some for hay instead.

               Follow through with this Memorial Day evaluation and many hay and forage problems will be solved, or at least foreseen.

Nebraska Cattlemen pleased with passage of WRRDA

On May 22, Congress passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA). This bill contains a provision that will ease the burden of the EPA’s Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure Rule (SPCC) for farms and ranches.

The current SPCC rule requires compliance if an operation has 1,320 gallons, or more, of above ground fuel storage and allows self-certification up to 10,000 gallons. Under the provision in the WRRDA bill, the aboveground fuel exemption limit is raised to 6,000 gallons and will provide much greater certainty and clarity for farmers and ranchers to know when they are or are not covered by the SPCC rule.

Nebraska Cattlemen is extremely pleased with the passage of WRRDA and appreciative of the entire Nebraska Delegation for voting in favor of the bill.

Arbor Day Foundation, Prairieland Dairy Plan Roundtables in June

The planning and installation of Arbor Day Foundation's planted green roof will be the topic of a presentation during the Green Team Roundtable meeting on June 11. Participants will get a close look at the green roof during the lunch meeting at 211 N. 12th in downtown Lincoln. The following week, on June 18, a second Roundtable will offer a tour and discussion about the dairy and commercial composting operations at Prairieland Dairy, 13000 Pella Road, near Firth. Both meetings run from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and are open to all. Registration is required at Cost for each is $10 or $8 for WasteCap Nebraska members, and a zero waste lunch is provided.

Founded in 1972, the centennial of the first Arbor Day observance in the 19th century, the Foundation has grown to become the largest nonprofit membership organization dedicated to planting trees, with over one million members, supporters, and valued partners. Learn more at

Prairieland Dairy was created when the Eickhoff, Goossen, Obbink and Rice family farms joined together as one. Their mission was to create a new kind of dairy: one that was sustainable, open and transparent; one that served people, cows and the planet. For a video preview, visit

WasteCap Nebraska works with businesses and communities to eliminate waste, conserve resources, educate people and increase prosperity in Nebraska. For more information visit

Iowa Water Summary Update: Northwest Iowa Remains Dry

The drought monitor was unchanged this week for Iowa. This constitutes relatively good news for the state, as it reflects improvements shown in last week's drought monitor. However, conditions in part of Iowa are still a major cause for concern, according to the Water Summary Update published Thursday.

Despite the substantial improvement in most of Iowa, extreme northwest Iowa stayed abnormally dry, presenting the potential for serious problems to arise there. Problems could occur with both municipal and industrial water users.

The situation is evident in looking at shallow groundwater levels. Shallow groundwater levels in parts of northwest Iowa continue to be near record lows, especially the alluvial aquifers along the Rock, Floyd, Ocheyedan and Upper Little Sioux rivers. The lower groundwater levels are the result of both dry conditions and increased water usage.

Streamflow levels are normal (or higher) for the majority of the state. However, the problem in northwest Iowa is also reflected in streamflow levels. The lowest streamflow conditions are in the Little Sioux, Floyd, Soldier and Boyer river basins. With the exception of northwest Iowa, streamflows across the state have improved since the last water summary update. The situation is further revealed in year-to-date precipitation: The far northwest is more than 4 inches below normal, while north central portions of the state are at 3 inches or more above normal.

As the drought improves across most of Iowa, DNR will continue to carefully monitor the situation in northwest Iowa.

For a more thorough review of Iowa's water resource trends, go to

The report is prepared by the technical staff from the Iowa DNR, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, IIHR--Hydroscience and Engineering and the U.S. Geological Survey, in collaboration with The Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Department.

Farmers urged to fight Palmer Amaranth before problem grows in Iowa

                Farmers still have a fighting chance to stop Palmer Amaranth, a tough yield-robbing weed, from spreading in Iowa.

                The Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach are working together to provide information to keep the weed at bay. Native to the southwestern United States, Palmer was first officially identified in Iowa last September. There’s now documented cases in Harrison, Page, Muscatine, Fremont and Davis counties. Herbicide resistance, primarily to glyphosate, is an issue.

                “We’re at a point that we can really restrict how quickly it spreads,” said Mike Owen, ISU weed specialist. “If we ignore it, in the next 10 years it could be infesting half the (row crop) acres in Iowa.”

                That will decimate yields and the bottom line.

                Experts say Palmer outbreaks in the South have caused complete crop failures.  A mild to moderate infestation can result in soybean yield losses of up to 30 percent, with a potential revenue hit of more than $200 per acre.

                Early identification and action is paramount to mitigate the spread of Palmer, which resembles waterhemp, in the state.

                “There’s increasing importance to know what weed species you have in order to figure out better prescriptive control methods,” said Dr. Ed Anderson, ISA senior director of Supply and Production Systems.

                ISU weed specialists are available to help identify Palmer Amaranth, which is vital for appropriate planning. Late May is the time to start scouting for Palmer, but it will germinate throughout the growing season.

                Recommended control strategies for Palmer include soil-applied, residual herbicides and multiple effective modes of action. Group 3, 15 and some group 14 products work well. Post-emergent products are limited due to herbicide resistance, and should be used sparingly. Cover crops and spot cultivation are also effective measures.

                Waterhemp is a “relatively wimpy weed” and can be controlled with weaker herbicide doses unlike Palmer, which makes identification so important.

                For more take-action tips to manage Palmer Amaranth, go to

IA Governor Proclaims June Dairy Month in Iowa June 9 at Capitol

Governor Terry Branstad is joining local milk companies and dairy farmers to bring attention to nutrition and hunger-relief efforts in support of The Great American Milk Drive, the first-ever national program to help deliver highly desired and nutrient-rich gallons of milk to hungry families who need it most.

On June 9th from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m, attendees can sample milk from local milk companies AE Dairy and Hiland Dairy, and learn how to get involved as . Branstad and dairy industry representatives discuss the Healthiest State Initiative and The Great American Milk Drive, proclaiming June “Dairy Month” in Iowa.

The Great American Milk Drive allows people to donate fresh milk to local food pantries via texting the word ‘milk’ to 27722 or online at

According to Feeding America®, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, milk is one of the items most requested by food bank clients, yet there is a nationwide shortage because it is rarely donated. That can change with Iowa’s support of The Great American Milk Drive.

Beef Producers Demand a High Quality TPP Deal

Beef producers from four Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) member countries have again demanded that any TPP agreement be a high quality deal that eliminates all tariffs on beef.

Members of the Five Nations Beef Alliance (FNBA)* from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States, urge all participants involved in the TPP negotiations to re-commit to securing a comprehensive, non-discriminatory outcome – one which eliminates tariffs and importantly addresses behind the border trade barriers.

FNBA is concerned that TPP members have not been able to craft a tariff-eliminating deal for beef, and unless all parties step up to the plate and reaffirm their commitment to a trade liberalizing outcome, countries could begin to drift away from the goal of achieving a 21st century agreement.

FNBA producers expect an accord which addresses commercial impediments rather than assigning them to the ‘too hard basket’.  Above all, a TPP agreement must make it easier to do business - it must facilitate and enhance trade.

FNBA also calls for each TPP member country to provide the same market access arrangements to all other members, in order to ensure that competitive disadvantages are not created and trade subsequently distorted.  This in turn will set clear parameters around the obligations required by future TPP aspirants.

Despite the inherent challenges, TPP members must ensure any agreement delivers the open trading environment originally envisaged.

In so doing, the TPP will be widely viewed by commercial entities as a worthwhile initiative.

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

Agricultural Economist Breaks Down Record High Meat Prices

If you're cooking out this Memorial Weekend, plan on spending some extra money for your food, says a Kansas State University agricultural economist.

Glynn Tonsor, associate professor, says beef and pork prices are at an all-time high. Beef, which costs about $5.50 a pound, is 13 percent more compared to last year. Bacon and pork chops have increased by 15 percent.

Tonsor says several factors are contributing to the increased prices, such as the drought, the historically low number of cattle and recent animal health diseases.

"There are new animal health concerns in 2014," Tonsor said. "We simply are producing less pork and that's showing up as less pork on the retail shelf. Couple that with strong demand, and we have notably higher pork prices."

Prices are steadily increasing in 2014. Meat prices in April were 3 percent higher than in March. Tonsor believes they will continue to increase for the rest of the year.

But despite the higher prices, consumers are still snatching burgers and bacon off the shelves.

"The public is willing to pay higher prices," Tonsor said. "They value the convenience, the freshness, the qualities that are in these meat products."

It could be awhile before beef prices come down.

"We have ongoing concerns with the drought and then a long biological lag for cattle," Tonsor said. "Even though we're trying to expand production, it takes multiple years. It's probably going to be 2016 before we see more pounds on the shelf in the beef complex."

Tonsor suggests comparing prices of meat products and consider buying alternate products, like bone-in instead of boneless, to save some money.

Did You Know ...  More Facts About US Beef Demand Worldwide

(from Cattlemen's Beef Board)

Australian beef may be popular in Taiwan, but the checkoff is helping give chefs and hotel meat buyers there reasons to buy American – resulting in growing U.S. beef sales. A recent seminar in Taipei, funded in part by the beef checkoff, introduced 75 restaurant and hotel foodservice professionals to U.S. beef cuts and educated them about food safety, product handling and business operations. A combination of such efforts is winning Taiwanese converts to the taste and value of American beef! To learn more about your beef checkoff investment, visit

The checkoff recently helped fund a sizzling American Steak Week in South Korea’s finest restaurants, during which participating restaurants prominently displayed point-of-sale materials about U.S. beef and offered prizes to diners. The “steak culture” is a growing phenomenon in South Korea, and American Steak Week promotion involved a full spectrum of restaurants – from Italian steakhouses and dry-aged beef steakhouses to mid-priced trendy restaurants and owner-chef steakhouses. The event helped extend positive messages about U.S. beef throughout the country, as well, thanks to heavy coverage by Korean bloggers, as well as a popular newspaper and Luxury magazine. To learn more about your beef checkoff investment, visit

Egyptians import more U.S. beef liver than consumers in any other country, but to expand exports of other beef cuts in the country, a recent checkoff-funded seminar brought top Egyptian chefs together for a hands-on U.S. beef demonstration. The seminar taught the 25 chefs from nine five-star Egyptian hotels about the quality and versatility of U.S. beef muscle cuts, including the shank, ribeye and tenderloin.

To learn more about your beef checkoff investment, visit

Dairy Situation and Outlook - May 19, 1014

Bob Cropp, University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension

USDA’s milk production report for the month of April shows production continuing to increase above year ago levels at a relatively slow pace of 1%. Milk cow numbers are also increasing at a slow pace. Milk cow numbers increased by 10,000 head from last month and by just 23,000 head since numbers began increasing last December. Forage quality and the effect of a very cold winter appear to continue to negatively impact milk production in the Upper Midwest. Compared to April a year ago milk production was down 1% in Iowa, 2.7% in Minnesota and 0.3% in Wisconsin. The West experienced higher April production than a year ago with increases of 1.5% for California, 1.1% for Idaho, 3.2% for Arizona and 8.7% for Texas. But, New Mexico’s production was down 1.4%. In the Northeast small increase were experienced by New York up 0.3% and Pennsylvania up 0.1% with Michigan up 2.6%. But, Ohio’s production was down 3.4%. Other states with relatively strong April production increases were Colorado up 8.5%, Kansas up 4.9% and South Dakota up 4.9%.

Farm milk prices remain at record levels due to milk production increasing at a rather slow pace thus far this year, domestic dairy product sales holding up and continued record dairy exports .The April Class III price set a new record at $24.31, $6.71 higher than a year ago, and the April Class IV price was $23.34, $5.24 higher than a year ago. The April U.S. All Milk Price set a new record at $25.50, $6.00 higher than a year ago. Dairy product prices have soften some since then which means prices will be a little lower in May with both the Class III price and Class IV prices near $22.55.

Cheese prices have been above $2 per pound all year up until May 13th. On the CME cheddar barrels were $2.2575 per pound mid-April and are now $1.96. The 40-pound cheddar blocks were $2.28 per pound mid-April and are now $1.9975. Nonfat dry milk prices were well above $2 per pound all year through April and are now $1.87. But, dry whey prices remain strong at $0.67 per pound. Butter which was $1.895 per pound on April 24th is now surprisingly at $2.16.

Dairy exports through March continue to set records. Compared to March a year ago increases in exports were as follows: butter and milkfat 100%, cheese 37%, nonfat dry milk 31%, dry whey 32%, whey protein concentrate 28%, and lactose 25%. On a total solids basis dairy product exports were equivalent to 17.7% of U.S. milk production. But, good recovery in milk production in Oceania and the EU-18 is putting some downward pressure on world milk prices. Since the beginning of the year Europe butter has declined from $2.56 per pound to $2.15, skim milk powder from $2.06 per pound to $1.87, and dry whey from $0.64 per pound to $0.62. Oceania cheddar cheese has declined from $2.22 per pound to $2.09. At these lower prices U.S. prices are not as competitive on the world market and world buyer interest in U.S. products may soften which will put some downward pressure on U.S. prices. But, world dairy stocks will remain fairly tight until at least the second half of the year. There is some uncertainty whether China will continue its aggressive imports and what impact the Ukrainian situation may have on dairy trade. Nevertheless, U.S. dairy exports could still set another record for the year.

Good domestic sales and strong exports have reduced dairy stocks. March 31st stocks compared to a year ago were: Butter down 30%, American cheese down 8%, total cheese down 9%, dry whey down 21% and nonfat dry milk down 2%.

We can expect the growth in milk production to pick up as we move through the year. Average returns over feed costs for April were $13.85 per 100 pounds of milk compared to $6.09 a year ago (calculated with 2014 Farm Bill margin protection formula). These favorable margins encourage feeding cows for higher milk production. We will likely see a slow increase in the number of milk cows as we move through the year both from adding cows and keeping some cows that normally would be culled. Thus far this year the number of slaughtered dairy cows is more than 10% lower than a year ago. Also, as new and better quality forages become available we can expect milk per cow to improve, particularly in the Midwest states.

With expected stronger growth in milk production and some softening of dairy exports milk prices will slowly decline but remain at a good level historically. The Class III price could fall below $20 by August or September and be in the mid $18’s by December. If this holds true, the average Class III price for the year will be near $21 compared to $17.99 for 2013 and the U.S. All Milk Price will average near $23 compared to $20.05 for 2013.

ACE informs motorists that most new model vehicles are eligible for E15 blends

The summer driving season is now hitting the United States, and the Senior Vice President for the American Coalition for Ethanol, (ACE) Ron Lamberty says many motorists might not realize it, but they could be eligible to get a little extra savings at the pump.

“Once the federal government gave the approval for E15 blends to be sold in retail stations, automakers started building cars designed and warrantied for E15 fuel. For the last two years nearly every new vehicle sold in the US is ‘‘E15 compatible,’’ under even the strictest definition of that term. Along with flex-fuel vehicles and Ford’s earlier switch to E15 according to sales data, about 50 million vehicles on the road today have warranties that include E15.  And that number will grow by almost 15 million every year. While ACE continues to encourage drivers of cars and light trucks built in model year 2001 and newer – the vehicles EPA tested safe for E15 use - to try E15, no one can argue about the safety of E15 in this group of newer vehicles.”

“In recent days two states have passed legislation that should lead towards an increase in stations offering E15 blends in the near future. It is time for groups that bill themselves as advocates for drivers to highlight the price advantages of E15, and to help drivers find retail fuel stations that are offering cost-effective high-octane E15 fuel. Groups like AAA were unfortunately a very effective pawn in Big Oil’s campaign to smear E15 and maintain the fuel monopoly that has doubled American drivers’ fuel expenditures over the past five years. Now they need to step up and advocate on behalf of drivers’ right to use the best fuel for their cars, and encourage oil companies to stop blocking station owners from offering E15,” said Lamberty.

US Egg Production Up 2 Percent

United States egg production totaled 8.01 billion during April 2014, up 2 percent from last year. Production included 6.96 billion table eggs, and 1.04 billion hatching eggs, of which 967 million were broiler-type and 75 million were egg-type. The total number of layers during April 2014 averaged 352 million, up 2 percent from last year. April egg production per 100 layers was 2,273 eggs, up 1 percent from April 2013.
All layers in the United States on May 1, 2014 totaled 352 million, up 2 percent from last year. The 352 million layers consisted of 295 million layers producing table or market type eggs, 53.5 million layers producing broiler-type hatching eggs, and 3.19 million layers producing egg-type hatching eggs. Rate of lay per day on May 1, 2014, averaged 75.8 eggs per 100 layers, up 1 percent from May 1, 2013.


Egg  production  in  Iowa  during  April  2014  was  1.25  billion eggs, down fractionally from last month, but up 1 percent from last year, according to the latest Chickens and Eggs release from USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. 

The  total  number  of  layers  on  hand  during  April  was 54.2 million, unchanged from last month and up 2 percent from the 53.2 million  in April  last year. Eggs per 100  layers  for  the month of April were 2,298; down fractionally from  last month, and down 1 percent from 2,325 last year.

Weekly Column: Caring for Our Forests, Protecting Our Families and Our Communities

Tom Vilsack, USDA Secretary

Over the past several years, we have seen the spread and occurrence of wildfires increase significantly. Deadly wildfires threaten our homes and communities and turn lives upside down.

USDA continues to do all that we can to protect people, homes and our forests in the face of fire. Just this week, we announced four new airtanker additions to the U.S. Forest Service’s next-generation firefighting fleet, which brings the total amount of aircraft to 21 large air tankers (with opportunities to add additional aircraft, if needed) and more than 100 helicopters. These new aircraft will enter service in the coming weeks and support over 10,000 firefighters during this year’s wildfire season.

We also announced new tools to help states combat insect and disease infestations that weaken forests. National forest areas in 35 states received an official designation that will provide USDA, working collaboratively with our partners, additional tools and flexibility to more efficiently treat areas impacted by insects and disease and reduce the incidence and severity of future wildfires.

These resources are critical to helping USDA and our partners better combat wildfires. Yet, the cost of wildfires continues to grow—from 13 percent of the Forest Service budget 10 years ago to over 40 percent in 2014.

A recent report shows that the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of the Interior are projected to exceed its annual firefighting budget to fight wildfires this season, much like it has in the past several years. In fiscal year 2012 and fiscal year 2013, the Forest Service had to transfer $440 million and $505 million respectively from other accounts to pay for fire suppression. Over the last 12 years, a total of $3.2 billion was shifted from other programs that accomplish important forest health objectives.

When that happens, we are forced to engage in what's known as "fire transfer," where funding for fire suppression is taken away from critical forest management activities—an equally essential part of our efforts to protect our nation’s forests, our families and our communities.

That is why it is so critical that Congress approve the Administration’s 2015 budget proposal that creates a special disaster relief cap adjustment for use when the costs of firefighting exceeds the budget.

The new budget proposal would solve the recurring problem of having to transfer money from forest restoration and other Forest Service accounts to pay the costs of fighting wildfires. While USDA is committed to spending the necessary resources to combat wildfire, this new proposal would allow us to perform the critical restoration work needed to prevent future fires and better protect people, homes and our forests in the long run.

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