Thursday, May 15, 2014

Thursday May 15 Ag News


As producers gear up to move livestock to pastures for spring and summer grazing, Nebraska State Veterinarian Dr. Dennis Hughes would like to remind producers of their responsibilities when moving animals across state lines.

“It is the producers’ responsibility to make sure they are following the import requirements of the destination state,” said Hughes.  “I would suggest that producers call ahead to ensure they are meeting the state’s animal health requirements, as well as federal animal disease traceability requirements.”

To make that process easier for branded cattle traveling between Nebraska and South Dakota brand areas for grazing, Hughes announced the two states have developed a cooperative interstate commuter / grazing agreement.

The agreement will allow producers to submit paperwork and receive a yearly permit to transport branded cattle between Nebraska and South Dakota brand areas.  The 2014 permit will be valid for 180 days, and will use the registered herd brand, as well as the individual farm tag information, as identification for the animals.  However, producers will not need to individually identify each animal on the Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI) for movement under this commuter grazing agreement.

According to Hughes, after January 1, 2015, producers will need to get a new permit and, it will be required that each animal have an official identification device that meets the Animal Disease Traceability (ADT) requirements.  Producers will still be able to move animals under a brand for grazing, but the official identification information will not be needed on the CVI.

“We understand that producers have struggled to meet the ADT compliance requirements,” said Hughes.  “We are hopeful that the agreement we have established for this year will assist producers during the grazing season, while allowing them an opportunity to prepare to meet the ADT requirements in 2015.”

Those interested in learning more about the permit process should contact the Nebraska State Veterinarian’s office at (402) 471-2351.

Reproduction Symposium at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln to be held On May 20

The University of Nebraska – Lincoln will host a reproduction symposium sponsored by NCERA-57 Regional Research Committee on Swine Reproductive Physiology, on May 20th. The symposium is designed to discuss reproductive topics important to the swine industry and acquire feedback to determine which topics would be beneficial for future symposia.

The title of the symposium this year is "Increased Litter Size and Environmental Effects on Piglet Quality" and will be offered via Adobe Connect to pork producers from other states.  The free symposium (including lunch) will be held in Room B101 of the Animal Science Building on the University of Nebraska campus on May 20th from noon to 5 p.m. For more information and to register for the event, click here...

Heineman Appoints 11 Individuals to Serve on the Nebraska Natural Resources Commission

Gov. Dave Heineman today announced 11 new members of the Natural Resources Commission expanding the commission from 16 to 27 members. This expansion was created with the passage of Legislative Bill 1098e. The appointees must have staggered terms of service.

The following new members will initially serve two-year terms beginning June 1: Brian Barels of Columbus, Water Resources Manager at Nebraska Public Power District; Joel Christensen of Omaha, Civil Engineer and Vice President of Water Operations at Metropolitan Utilities District (MUD); Steven Huggenberger of Lincoln, Assistant City Attorney specializing in water law; Tom Palmertree of Hebron, Director of Marketing at Reinke Manufacturing; and Scott Smathers of Lincoln, Executive Director at Backcountry Consulting.

The additional new members will serve four-year terms beginning June 1: Don Kraus of Holdrege, General Manager at Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District; Walter Dennis Strauch of Mitchell, General Manager at Pathfinder Irrigation District; Donald Batie of Lexington, Farmer and Cattleman; Henry (Hod) Kosman of Scottsbluff, President, CEO and Chairman at Platte Valley Companies; Lindsey Smith of Broken Bow, Assistant Manager for Gracie Creek Ranch; and Owen Palm of Gering, CEO at 21st Century Equipment.

The individuals who were appointed previously by Gov. Heineman will have a new term to comply with the law. Thomas Knutson of St. Paul, retired Twin Loups Reclamation District, and Mayor Stanley Clouse of Kearney will serve until May 31, 2016. Kearney farmer, Richard Mercer will serve until May 31, 2018.

The new Commission includes a diversity of water users in Nebraska, representing the following categories: Agriculture, Agribusiness, Irrigation District, Manufacturing Interests, Outdoor Recreation User, Public Power District, Public Power & Irrigation District, Range Livestock Owner, Wildlife Conservation Interests, metropolitan utilities district and a Lincoln representative who is interested in water issues.

Sustainable Beef Update

Ashley Nunenkamp, Director of Communications, NE Cattlemen

You have probably noticed in recent years the emergence of a new term, “sustainable beef.”  What this means and why we even need to discuss it are certainly topics for debate; however, major retail purchasers of beef in the U.S. have made declarations they will begin sourcing “sustainable beef” in the coming years.  This term also appears frequently in questions posed to beef producers by our consumers.  This means it will impact us whether we want it to or not.  And why not?!  Too often beef has let others define our story and when it comes to some of the key themes of sustainability the U.S. beef community has a great story to tell.

Several years ago NCBA joined a group of international organizations representing production, processing, retail and consumers called the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef.  ( This group’s goal is to move the world toward a more sustainable beef product.  Founding members include: Cargill, Elanco, JBS, McDonalds, Merck, World Wildlife Fund, Solidaridad, and Walmart.  NCBA is a producer member of GRSB and is represented on the GRSB Executive Committee by NCBA CEO Forest Roberts.

One of the efforts of this group has been to work toward a definition of what sustainable beef means.  The broad definition that GRSB came up was this: “We define sustainable beef as a socially responsible, environmentally sound and economically viable product.”  In March, GRSB released a draft document outlining additional principles and criteria to expand on this definition and opened a 60-day public comment period that ends TOMORROW, May 16th.  Drafting these principles and criteria was done on a group and consensus basis and as such there are a lot of things that all parties like and many that individual groups do not like.  (READ THE DRAFT PRINCIPLES & CRITERIA HERE:

NC has been closely monitoring GRSB activities and providing feedback to NCBA as well.  NC also put together a working group of NC members that spent weeks analyzing these proposed draft principles and criteria in order to guide what comments NC would make.  To obtain a copy of NC’s comments contact Kristen Hassebrook at 402.475.2333 or

Primary themes in NC’s comments included:
·         Balancing economic viability, environmental stewardship and social responsibility is a fair characterization of beef sustainability, but economic viability of beef production is a most important indicator, without sustainable economics there can be no sustainable beef production.
·         Sustainability principles and criteria must recognize and respect the diversity of production practices, environmental and geographical factors involved in global beef production. 
·         That as a result of the great diversity in global beef production, any specific best management practices or benchmarking is most appropriately determined at a more local or regional level.
·         Lastly, sustainability efforts should be voluntary and market based, always respecting individual producers’ rights to make responsible production decisions.

GRSB will take comments, revise their draft and then work to encourage nations and regions around the world to establish regional roundtables to discuss how these global principles could be applicable there.  NC will consider being engaged and evaluate any proposals or opportunities to participate in a regional roundtable as they arise.

In the meantime GRSB wants to hear from anyone and everyone who cares to comment on the draft principles.  If you are interested in doing so you can fill out the comment form at the bottom of this web page and email it to GRSB directly.

Rural Mainstreet Economy Strengthens in May

After moving below growth neutral in February, the Rural Mainstreet economy has moved above the 50.0 threshold for three straight months, according to the May survey of bank CEOs in a 10-state area.   

Overall:  The Rural Mainstreet Index (RMI), which ranges between 0 and 100, with 50.0 representing growth neutral, increased to 55.6 from 53.2 in April.

“The overall index for the Rural Mainstreet Economy indicates that economic conditions of the areas of the nation highly dependent on agriculture and energy are improving.  Recent gains in agriculture commodity prices are boosting the farm/rural economy,” said Ernie Goss, Ph.D., the Jack A. MacAllister Chair in Regional Economics at Creighton University Heider College of Business.

Nebraska:  Nebraska’s RMI expanded to 55.3 from April’s 53.0. The farmland-price index for May advanced to a very weak 37.1 from 35.8 in April.  Nebraska’s new-hiring index dipped to a solid 55.4 from April’s 57.1.  Several bankers reported negative fallout from bad weather. For example, Larry Rogers, executive vice-president of First Bank of Utica said, “We have heard 120 pivots from Cordova to Seward will have to be replaced as a result of the Sunday tornados.  (It) will hurt our area economy.”

Iowa: The May RMI for Iowa expanded to 55.8 from April’s 53.5. The farmland-price index for May advanced to a weak 44.1 from April’s 41.4. Iowa’s new-hiring index for May dipped to 61.1 from 61.6 in April.

Farming and ranching: The farmland and ranchland-price index for May advanced to 46.7 from 42.9 in April. “This is the sixth straight month that the farmland and ranchland-price index has moved below growth neutral.  Stronger farm commodity and grain prices over the last several months should put a floor under farmland prices in the months ahead.  I expect the index to move above growth neutral before Labor Day,” said Goss.

Farm-equipment sales remained below growth neutral for the 11th straight month. The May index sank to 33.6 from April’s 36.7. “Propelled by rising farm income, farm equipment manufacturers in the region have experienced healthy growth since 2009. However agriculture equipment and implement dealers in the region are experiencing very weak sales to farmers in the region even as the farm equipment manufacturers are experiencing positive growth due to healthy sales abroad,” said Goss.

Banking: The loan-volume index advanced to a robust 75.4 from 73.1 in April. The checking-deposit index declined to 54.8 from April’s 65.1, while the index for certificates of deposit and other savings instruments dipped to 40.3 from April’s 42.0. 

Hiring: Rural Mainstreet businesses continue to hire at a solid pace. The May hiring index was unchanged from April’s very strong 64.0. “Currently the Rural Mainstreet economy is adding jobs at a pace well above the long-term average. Furthermore, the region’s employment has returned to pre-recession levels,” said Goss.

Confidence: The confidence index, which reflects expectations for the economy six months out, fell to 51.6 from last month’s 54.0. “International tensions and threats to agriculture exports reduced confidence among bankers for the month,” said Goss

Home and retail sales: The May home-sales index expanded slightly to 63.9 from 63.8 in April. The May retail-sales index rose to 51.7 from 50.0 in April. “Improving weather encouraged an upturn in home purchases and growth in an increase in the retail sales index,” said Goss. 

Bankers were asked three specific questions this month. First, did they support construction of the northern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline?  More than 90 percent were supportive of pipeline construction.

The second question asked for May: Was the lack of fast broadband access restraining business growth in their area?  Almost half, or 49.2 percent, indicated that this was a factor slowing business expansion.

The third select question for the month:  Do you expect the expansion of Vermont’s recently passed law requiring labeling of genetically modified food to other states to affect the Rural Mainstreet economy?  Slightly less than half, 49 percent, expect this action to have negative economic consequences for the Rural Mainstreet economy.

Each month, community bank presidents and CEOs in nonurban, agriculturally and energy-dependent portions of a 10-state area are surveyed regarding current economic conditions in their communities and their projected economic outlooks six months down the road. Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming are included. The survey is supported by a grant from Security State Bank in Ansley, Neb.

This survey represents an early snapshot of the economy of rural, agriculturally and energy-dependent portions of the nation. The Rural Mainstreet Index (RMI) is a unique index covering 10 regional states, focusing on approximately 200 rural communities with an average population of 1,300. It gives the most current real-time analysis of the rural economy. Goss and Bill McQuillan, former chairman of the Independent Community Banks of America, created the monthly economic survey in 2005.

NE Elections - Jenkins To Run for US Senate as an Independent

Jim Jenkins, Independent candidate for the U.S. Senate, said today that Nebraska voters will have an alternative to the far-right Tea Party candidate, Ben Sasse in November.

"Our campaign is different. I will focus on bringing people together not partisan bickering and division. I will work to unite Republicans, Democrats, and Independents who are committed to putting the interests of the country ahead of partisan self-interests,” Jenkins said.

Under Nebraska law, Jenkins – a registered non-partisan candidate – must gather 4,000 signatures from registered voters by September 1 in order to qualify for the November General election.

“While the other candidates had their primary on Tuesday, our Independent campaign for the U.S. Senate will qualify for the November ballot in a few weeks when we turn in our required signatures to the Secretary of State. We are on pace to turn in between 5,000 and 6,000 valid signatures in mid June,” Jenkins said.

“National organizations poured millions of dollars into our state to claim victory for their so-called ‘Tea Party’ candidate, Ben Sasse. After traveling the state border to border the past few months, meeting voters who are sick and tired of the gridlock and constant bickering in Washington, I believe strongly that the majority of Nebraskans are looking for an alternative to the usual ‘say-anything-to-get-elected’ politician, “ Jenkins said.

“I’m running for the United States Senate because, like most Americans, I understand the system is broken. Congress is not governing. If we truly want to change Washington, we have to change the rules by which Congress is elected and demand that Congress change its own rules to focus less on party power and more on the good of our country.”

“The first obligation of an elected official is to their country and community, and not to their political party. How bad does the gridlock and partisanship have to get before the American voter demands that political parties stop putting their own interest ahead of the country’s interest?

“Americans are not nearly as divided as cable TV and the political class would have us believe. The vast majority of us are somewhere in the sensible center. The majority of us want the same things: security from our enemies; education for our children; a reasonably fair playing field; infrastructure that supports our economy; the freedom to pursue our dreams; and a government that facilitates rather than impedes economic growth and freedom.”

“And yet that sensible center is not heard and is certainly not represented in Congress. I welcome Republicans, Democrats, and Independents, everyone who is fed up with the broken system in Washington, to join my campaign. It’s time for change. And Nebraska might just have the solution to once and for all end the partisan gridlock.” 

IA Elections - Sec of Ag Northey Endorses Jacobs for US Senate

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey today endorsed Republican U.S. Senate candidate and business leader Mark Jacobs. During an event in West Des Moines, Secretary Northey voiced his public support for Jacobs, citing the importance for Iowa agriculture of having a proven business leader in Washington.

“As the Secretary of Agriculture in Iowa, I consider it my job to promote agriculture and it’s businesses – including family farms, small town elevators, big city factories and the hundreds of smaller companies in between. In short, the business of agriculture pays a lot of bills in this state. And Mark Jacobs has the experience to help Iowa agriculture and the thousands of Iowa jobs related to farming. As a successful CEO, he protected jobs and made a payroll. That type of proven experience will be good for Iowa agriculture,” said Northey.

He added, “While there are many good candidates in the field, I have gotten to know Mark personally. He's a conservative and a man of principle. Mark has the integrity and a work ethic that would make any Iowan proud.”

Jacobs responded to Secretary Northey’s endorsement, saying, “I am honored to have the support of Secretary Northey. He has been and will continue to be a strong advocate for Iowa. I look forward to the opportunity to work with him to make sure Washington works for Iowa.”

Secretary Northey will be joining Mark Jacobs the remainder of this week on the “Real Solutions” Tour with stops in Cedar Rapids, Waverly, Cedar Falls, Dubuque, Mason City, Fort Dodge, Spencer, Sioux City and Council Bluffs.

Groups Studying Possible Feed Link to PEDv

The largest U.S. grain industry group said on Monday it will fund studies examining whether animal feed may be spreading a virus that has killed millions of pigs. The National Grain and Feed Association will donate $60,000 to the National Pork Board for research on how feed might be associated with Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus, according to Reuters.

The board is aiming to assess the risks of PEDv contaminating animal feed "at all steps within the feed processing and delivery chain" and to study treatments that could deactivate the virus if it is present in feed. Industry officials also want to develop procedures to test whether animals become sick after consuming feed that contains genetic material for PEDv.

The highly contagious virus, which does not affect humans or food safety, is known to be transmitted among pigs through feces. Many hog producers suspect it is also spread through pig blood products used in feed.

More research is needed to confirm a link, said David Fairfield, vice president of feed services at NGFA, which represents feed manufacturers and others in the farm industry.

In the United States, the world's biggest pork exporter, losses from PEDv could cut pork production by as much as 7 percent in 2014, according to Rabobank, a much steeper decline than government estimates for a 2 percent fall.

The National Pork Board said it has received more than $2.1 million in donations to study PEDv since the virus was first identified in the United States a year ago.

Pork Checkoff Research Provides a Predictable Return on Investment

In times of uncertainty, one thing that U.S. pork producers can bank on year after year is the investment they make through the Pork Checkoff in science- and technology-based research.

“Our long-term focus on research, education and the sharing of information has continued to pay off,” said Karen Richter, National Pork Board president and Montgomery, Minn., producer. “The ongoing investment in the Checkoff has provided us with solutions that contribute to a stronger pork industry.”

From a financial perspective, Checkoff funds allocated to research in science and technology don’t work alone. The investment draws outside funding from sources such as land-grant universities and allied industry.

A Multiplying Effect

To determine the return on investment in research made by America’s pork producers during a multi-year period, the Checkoff reviewed science and technology projects funded from 2006 to 2010, which is the latest time period available for analysis. The Checkoff contacted researchers who worked on the projects. More than 80 percent of the 267 who were reached offered feedback on 389 Checkoff-funded projects.

The results showed that for every dollar of Checkoff investment, nearly two additional dollars were drawn from outside sources to help find solutions to mutual challenges that face the industry.

Specifically, the $23.7 million invested in research from 2006 to 2010 directly resulted in more than $46.6 million of additional research – an increase of 97 percent in additional research value that benefited producers.

An Ongoing ROI

Sometimes the Pork Checkoff’s role in funding research projects isn’t readily apparent. This is especially true when research is applicable, scientifically sound and builds the foundation for research that results in production efficiencies.

Results from Checkoff research give vital information to help veterinarians, nutritionists, production managers and other specialists that provide services to producers every day. This is critical to finding solutions to new challenges.

“The ongoing flow of information and science-based data from Checkoff-funded research helps meet the demand for practical on-farm solutions,” Richter said. “At the end of the day, it’s about getting the maximum return on pork producers’ investment– and we’ve got a good track record of achieving that goal.”

Informa Ups Soybean Acres, Cuts Corn Acres

U.S. farmers will plant 82.1 million acres to soybeans and 91.6 million acres to corn, private analytical firm Informa Economics forecast in its May Acreage Review on Thursday.

Informa's soybean estimate is 580,000 acres higher than USDA's Prospective Planting estimate last March while the corn estimate is 110,000 acres lower. Informa based its latest estimates on a farmer survey conducted in May, economic signals and the planting conditions to date.

On corn, a bulk of the reduction came from the Western Corn Belt, but was partially offset by increases in Nebraska, the Eastern Corn Belt, Mid-South and other areas outside of the traditional Corn Belt.

Informa saw the largest soybean acreage increases in Illinois and Missouri, with both adding 400,000 acres. The largest reduction came from Nebraska. Informa estimates 5.8 million double-crop soybean acres.

Informa increased its estimate of prevented planting acres by 490,000, bringing the national total to 3.6 million acres. The adjustment comes mostly from a 500,000-acre increase in North Dakota.

Mandatory Labeling of Foods Would Increase Food Prices

(from NAWG newsletter)

Researchers at Cornell University confirmed this week that the mandatory labeling of foods with GMO ingredients would increase the cost of food for consumers across the state of New York if the state assembly were to pass the labeling law currently under consideration. In the study, Dr. Bill Lesser concluded that an average New York family of four would be forced to pay an additional $500 in food costs annually, in addition to the millions of dollars it would costs the state to implement and monitor labeling.

The study underscores the importance of The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, which would establish a voluntary federal labeling standard for foods and beverages made with genetically modified ingredients. The proposed legislation authorizes the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to require safety reviews of all GMO traits, as well as mandatory labels on such foods if they are found to be unsafe or materially different from foods produced without GM ingredients. In addition, the bill would eliminate the confusion and uncertainty of a 50-state patchwork of GMO labeling laws by affirming the FDA as the nation’s authority for the use and labeling of genetically modified food ingredients.

Water Project Bill Compromise Unveiled

(AP) -- House and Senate negotiators on Thursday unveiled a compromise bill that authorizes billions of dollars for water projects over the next decade, from flood protections in California to deepening Georgia's rapidly growing Port of Savannah.

Lawmakers released details of the Water Resources Reform and Development act a week after they announced a tentative agreement on legislation that blends House and Senate versions of the bill. The legislation will authorize 34 projects in virtually every region of the country. Lawmakers say it provides important investment in the nation's water infrastructure.

"This legislation is about jobs and our country's economic prosperity, and I look forward to bringing to back to the House for a final vote," said Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, who filed the bill Thursday.

The proposed investments include projects related to both expansion and flood protection.

The bill sanctions more than $748 million in federal funds for dredging and widening of the Sabine-Neches Waterway, an area billed as "America's Energy Gateway" because the roughly 80-mile waterway services oil and natural gas refineries in Texas and Louisiana. The legislation also authorizes as much as $800 million for a flood diversion project that would protect the Red River Valley region of North Dakota and parts of Minnesota, which have suffered major floods in four of the past five years.

The Senate passed its version of the bill roughly a year ago, with the House following suit in October. Since then, lawmakers have been working to thrash out differences between the two bills. The Senate's version would authorize about $12.5 billion over the next decade, while the House's version would cost about $8.2 billion. The compromise is expected to land somewhere in between the two, but a Congressional Budget Office estimate was not yet available.

Lawmakers have expressed a pent up demand for a water projects bill. Congress last authorized a bill in 2007 and many lawmakers have said they feared the U.S. was falling behind in its water infrastructure.

Congress would have to pass separate legislation to pay for all of the projects included in the bill.

The House is expected to vote on the bill as early as Tuesday, with the Senate following suit. Both versions of the bill easily passed previously. With the estimated cost of the bill expected to rise, though, there is some concern that more conservative Republicans might vote against it. Outside groups, including Heritage Action, have said the bill does not do enough to rein in spending.

But businesses groups -- and many lawmakers -- have called both versions of the bill a potential jobs engine, citing the investment in infrastructure. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has also lobbied lawmakers in both houses to pass the bill, saying it will ensure that American businesses stay competitive.

"Legislation to improve the nation's marine transportation system is long overdue and will grow jobs, boost international trade ... and strengthen America's competitive edge," said Janet Kavinoky, the executive director transportation and infrastructure with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

One effort to try to keep conservative lawmakers on board is preserved in the compromise. Addressing past concerns that water projects bills were loaded with favors for lawmakers' districts and states, the compromise legislation eliminates roughly $18 billion in dormant projects that were authorized prior to 2007.

The bill also sets specific time and cost limits for studies on potential projects, eliminates duplicative reviews and includes language that speeds up the environmental review process for projects.

The compromise legislation will also increase spending from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, which will be used to fund improvements to ports and creates a five-year pilot program to provide loans and loan guarantees for various water projects.

Yearly Survey Shows Better Results for Pollinators, but Losses Remain Significant

A yearly survey of beekeepers, released today, shows fewer colony losses occurred in the United States over the winter of 2013-2014 than in recent years, but beekeepers say losses remain higher than the level that they consider to be sustainable. According to survey results, total losses of managed honey bee colonies from all causes were 23.2 percent nationwide. That number is above the 18.9 percent level of loss that beekeepers say is acceptable for their economic sustainability, but is a marked improvement over the 30.5 percent loss reported for the winter of 2012-2013, and over the eight-year average loss of 29.6 percent.

More than three-fourths of the world's flowering plants rely on pollinators, such as bees, to reproduce, meaning pollinators help produce one out of every three bites of food Americans eat.

"Pollinators, such as bees, birds and other insects are essential partners for farmers and ranchers and help produce much of our food supply. Healthy pollinator populations are critical to the continued economic well-being of agricultural producers," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "While we're glad to see improvement this year, losses are still too high and there is still much more work to be done to stabilize bee populations."

There is no way to tell why the bees did better this year, according to both Pettis and Dennis vanEngelsdorp, a University of Maryland assistant professor who is the leader of the survey and director of the Bee Informed Partnership. Although the survey, conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Maryland Bee Informed Partnership shows improvement, losses remain above the level that beekeepers consider to be economically sustainable. This year, almost two-thirds of the beekeepers responding reported losses greater than the 18.9 percent threshold.

"Yearly fluctuations in the rate of losses like these only demonstrate how complicated the whole issue of honey bee heath has become, with factors such as viruses and other pathogens, parasites like varroa mites, problems of nutrition from lack of diversity in pollen sources, and even sublethal effects of pesticides combining to weaken and kill bee colonies," said Jeff Pettis, co-author of the survey and research leader of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency.

The winter losses survey covers the period from October 2013 through April 2014. About 7,200 beekeepers responded to the voluntary survey.

A complete analysis of the bee survey data will be published later this year. The summary of the analysis is at

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also announced today that it will hold a summit this fall aimed at addressing the nutrition and forage needs of pollinators. The summit will take place in Washington D.C. on October 20-21 and will be attended by a consortium of public, private, and non-governmental organizations. Attendees will discuss the most recent research related to pollinator loss and work to identify solutions.

Additionally, today USDA launched the People's Garden Apiary bee cam at the USDA headquarters in Washington, D.C. as an additional effort to increase public awareness about the reduction of bee populations and to inform Americans about actions they can take to support the recovery of pollinator populations. The USDA "Bee Watch" website ( will broadcast honey bee hive activity live over the Internet 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. Created in 2010, the People's Garden Apiary is home to two beehives. The bees are Italian queens, the most common bee stock and the same used in many honey bee colonies throughout the United States.

In March of 2014, Secretary Vilsack created a Pollinator Working Group, under the leadership of Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden, to better coordinate efforts, leverage resources, and increase focus on pollinator issues across USDA agencies. USDA personnel from ten Department agencies (Agricultural Research Service, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Farm Services Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Economic Research Service, Forest Service, Agricultural Marketing Service, Risk Management Agency and Rural Development) meet regularly to coordinate and evaluate efforts as USDA strives toward improving pollinator health and ensuring our pollinators continuing contributions to our nation's environment and food security.

Earlier this year, USDA made $3 million available to help agriculture producers in five states (North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan) provide floral forage habitats to benefit pollinating species on working lands. The Honey Bee Pollinator Effort is intended to encourage farmers and ranchers to grow alfalfa, clover and other flowering habitat for bees and other pollinators.

The President's fiscal year 2015 budget proposal provides $71 million for pollinator health activities through multiple USDA agencies. This includes an increase of $40 million in combined mandatory and discretionary funds to advance efforts, in consultation with the Environmental Protection Agency and other Federal partners, to respond to the decline in honey bee health and ensure their recovery. This coordinated effort is focused on targeted research that addresses multifactorial stressors, their interaction, and identification and implementation of measures to improve and increase habitat available to pollinators on Federal and private lands. In addition, this initiative will help prevent introductions of invasive bees, bee diseases, and parasites; document the status of honey bee health factors associated with bee losses and honey bee production; and work with stakeholders on best management practices. A coordinated communication strategy, including outreach and education, will engage the public to help solve this important challenge.

DASH Eating Plan Taps Lean Pork as Menu Item

Adults following the well-documented Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH, eating plan can also include lean pork to help lower blood pressure. According to new research funded by the Pork Checkoff, people with high blood pressure can benefit from a DASH eating plan that uses nutrient-rich lean pork as the predominant source of protein.

"This new Pork Checkoff-funded study further validates the important role of lean pork in a balanced diet," said Karen Richter, president of the National Pork Board and a pork producer from Montgomery, Minn. "Lean, nutrient-rich pork has many beneficial qualities that make it easy to incorporate into any healthy diet."

Purdue University researchers found that when adults ate lean pork instead of chicken and fish as their main protein source, the blood pressure benefits were the same. Regardless of the protein source, study participants' systolic blood pressure dropped about eight to nine points and their diastolic number decrease about four to five points after six weeks. Participants had their blood pressure consistently checked through a 24-hour blood pressure monitoring system.

"The DASH diet has been recognized by government and health organizations as an eating pattern that can promote health and help decrease the risk of chronic diseases," said study lead author Dr. Wayne Campbell, nutrition science professor at Purdue University. "While the traditional DASH diet includes chicken and fish, our research suggests that lean pork may also be a part of this healthy eating pattern."

The study included 19 overweight or obese older adults - 13 women and six men - all with elevated blood pressure. Participants were randomly assigned to consume the DASH diet for two six-week periods, which included either chicken and fish or lean pork as the major protein source, or about 55 percent of their total protein intake. The DASH diet emphasizes increased consumption of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and typically, fish and chicken, along with reduced intakes of sodium and red meats.

For the latest pork nutrition information, recipes and more, visit

U.S. Congress Demands That U.S. Defend Common Food Names and Reject EU's Aggressive Abuse of Geographical Indications

Today, 177 members of the U.S. House of Representatives joined the call for U.S. negotiators to push back on the European Union's (EU) efforts to hamper U.S. production and exports by confiscating common food names, an abuse of the geographical indications (GIs) program. The House echoes similar statements made recently by U.S. Senators on the subject, demonstrating a unified effort to protect common cheese names such as "parmesan" and "feta", and meat names such as "bologna".

"This type of barrier to trade and commerce defies the fundamental goals of a trade agreement, and we urge you to work aggressively against the EU's efforts in this respect in order to preserve both domestic and export opportunities for these products," the House members state in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

"We thank these Representatives for this strong letter, which helps create a forceful, unified U.S. front against this flawed EU strategy to continue to erect even bigger, more significant agricultural trade barriers," said Jaime Castaneda, Executive Director of the Consortium for Common Food Names.

"This is nothing other than an effort to shut out competitors and block fair trade," said Castaneda. "The members of the Consortium are not against GIs, but we emphatically reject the EU's abusive policy of pocketing common food names under the guise of fake geographical indications, plain and simple."

In the letter, the House members urge the U.S. Administration to defend common food names, especially as U.S. negotiators work with the EU on the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The Congressional Dairy Farmer Caucus co-chairs, led by Representatives Reid Ribble and Peter Welch, spearheaded the message to the Administration.

The EU's efforts are directed not just at the U.S. but also at dozens of other nations around the globe. In country after country, the EU has been using its free trade agreements (FTAs) to persuade trading partners to impose barriers to trade through restrictions on common food names.

For example, Canada agreed as part of its recently concluded FTA with the EU to impose new restrictions on the use of "feta" and other common cheese names. The EU has instigated similar trade barriers throughout Latin America, and is expected to pursue such restrictions in its negotiations with many Asian countries.

"We need to remind Europe that they do not own 'parmesan' and 'feta'," said Castaneda. "Many nations outside the EU have made award-winning parmesans, fetas and other cheeses for decades. In fact, some U.S. cheeses have beat out Europe's in international cheese competitions. And sometimes it is because of the dedication and marketing of food producers outside the EU that these products have become popular around the world."

When food producers are unable to use common food names in either domestic or international trade, it severely hampers their ability to compete in established markets. These actions also confuse consumers by removing available products from the market and suggesting that there is only one place to get a given product, when in reality many choices exist.

New Report Shows GM Crop Use Continues to Benefit Environment

On May 6, PG Economics Ltd in Dorchester, United Kingdom, released its ninth annual installment on the global economic and environmental impacts of crops derived from biotechnology. According to the report from the firm that provides advice and consultancy services to agriculture and other natural resource-based industries, biotech crops allowed farmers, in both developed and developing countries, to grow more and better crops with less impact on the environment.

In the report, PG Economics stated, “During the last 17 years, this technology has made important positive socio-economic and environmental contributions. These have arisen even though only a limited range of GM [genetically modified] agronomic traits have so far been commercialized, in a small range of crops.”

To prepare its analysis, PG Economics tracked data on input applications for both conventional and biotech crops from 1996 to 2012 using an environmental impact quotient to determine the broader impact on the environment. They found that direct benefits from biotechnology include yield improvements, reduced production risk and decreased use of insecticides. As a result, farmers improved productivity while practicing improved farming methods, including conservation, minimum and no-tillage systems.

Highlights from the report include:
-    In 2012, 17.3 million farmers worldwide planted biotech crops on 160 million hectares, equal to 45 percent of global plantings for soybeans, corn, cotton and canola. 
-   Due to less fuel use and reduced tillage, biotechnology reduced greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural practices. In 2012, this was equivalent to removing 27 billion kg of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, comparable to removing 11.9 million cars from the road for one year.
-    Biotech crops reduced pesticide spraying by 8.8 percent (503 million kg) from 1996 to 2012, equal to the total amount of pesticides applied to arable crops in the European Union for nearly two crop years.
-    To maintain global production levels without biotech crops, farmers in 2012 would have needed additional acreage equivalent to 9 percent of the arable land in the United States or 24 percent of the arable land in Brazil.

To read the full report, visit

Corn Grower Addresses Economic Opportunities Made Possible by Corn Production

This week, New York Corn and Soybean Growers Association President Steve Van Voorhis testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Small Business's Subcommittee on Health and Technology during a hearing on the benefits of partnership in small agriculture business development. During his testimony, Van Voorhis told the story of how growth in corn and soybean production has benefitted not only New York's family farmers but also the state's overall economy.

"What do the corn and soybean industries mean for New York's economy?" said Van Voorhis. "In 2012, the direct value of corn was over $600 million, and the direct value of New York's soybean crop was $195 million. This makes corn the second most valuable commodity, only following to dairy in New York, and soybeans come in at number six. Add in the indirect value of equipment purchases, fertilizer, seed, labor and more, and the value of these grains multiplies exponentially.

"Given the fact that farmers are planting more and more corn and soybeans in addition to the value of the crops in dollars, one can see just how large-and important-the grain and soybean industry in the state has become."

In his comments, Van Voorhis clearly outlined the many uses for both corn and soybeans which benefit the public while also benefitting the state's farmers as production of the two crops most widely grown across the country gain acreage in New York. Speaking of corn uses, he addressed the benefits of increased corn acreage in that it provides both silage and distillers dried grains (DDGs) used by the livestock industry. Noting that DDGs stand in direct opposition to false food versus fuel arguments, he detailed the many benefits ethanol provides New York noting that "ethanol for NASCAR comes right out of Sunoco's Fulton, New York facility."

The hearing was called to examine the new phenomenon of small agriculture producers entering into contracts and other supply arrangements with large processors and retailers. Testimony spoke to the arrangements made to enable small and large agricultural entities to enter niche markets while offering additional opportunities for small producers to access wider markets.

Multigenerational farmers exemplify time-honored commitment to sustainability

The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy®, established under the leadership of dairy farmers, announced the winners of the third annual U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards on May 14, 2014, at a special ceremony in Washington, D.C. The program recognizes dairy farms, businesses and collaborative partnerships that are committed to stewardship and sustainability, delivering exceptional results that are good for business, good for the environment and good for the community.

“The award winners embody the dairy industry’s pledge to provide a healthy future for the next generation through nutritious foods and beverages, community development and innovative business practices,” said Barbara O’Brien, president of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. “This pledge was recently corroborated by the White House’s reference to the voluntary actions and continuous improvements of dairy farms and companies in its announcement of a Biogas and Energy Roadmap.”

The winners were selected based on results as measured by economic, environmental and community impact, also known as triple-bottom-line success. An independent panel of judges — which included experts from academic institutions, government, dairy science organizations, nongovernmental organizations and media, as well as environmental and dairy industry leaders — also assessed the potential for adoption by others, demonstrated learning, innovation, improvement and scalability.

“As farmers, we feel a strong sense of responsibility to our communities, the land and our animals, and we want to pass along a strong business to the next generation,” said Paul Rovey, an Arizona dairy farmer, member of the judging panel and chair of Dairy Management Inc™. “We are always looking at how others innovate and implement better practices. By sharing the winners’ stories, we can all learn and improve.”

The 2014 U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards Winners include:

Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability

Maddox Dairy, Riverdale, California: The pioneer spirit of the Maddox family has led to opened doors for the dairy industry. The total mixed ration feeding method, the use of drive-through freestall barns and galvanized self-locking stations — standards in today’s industry — are techniques trailblazed by Maddox Dairy. Recent projects have resulted in reduced costs, lower environmental impact, and healthier, more productive livestock for the dairy; and cleaner air and energy for the surrounding community.

McCarty Family Farms, Rexford, Kansas: In its quest to conserve water, McCarty Family Farms partnered with Dannon to construct a condensed milk processing plant that extracts more than 14 million gallons of water from milk each year. The water can be used for animal and crop care. McCarty Family Farms also is working to create sustainable communities, bringing more than 100 new jobs to the area, which translates into more children in the local school districts, increased housing demand, and tax revenues for the county and state.

Sensenig Dairy, Kirkwood, Pennsylvania: In order to ensure their farm would be viable for the next generation, Cliff and Andrea Sensenig implemented a methane digester. Three years of planning and collaboration with consultants and neighbors led to a digester that now processes manure from 200 dairy animals, 2,000 hogs and 30,000 chickens from neighboring farms, along with local food waste. Each year the digester reduces greenhouse gas emissions by an amount equivalent to removing 206 cars from the road, while delivering environmental and financial benefits for the dairy.

Outstanding Dairy Processing & Manufacturing Sustainability

Joseph Gallo Farms, Atwater, California: Sustainability is simply a new word for an age-old concept at Joseph Gallo Farms, where energy-efficient equipment and cutting-edge technology in its cheese plant help to conserve energy and at least 2.9 billion gallons of water each year, in addition to accepting as much as 10 million gallons of stormwater and wastewater each day from local communities to use for irrigation. Joseph Gallo Farms is now one of the largest employers in its county and is creating green collar jobs, proving that when sustainability helps businesses succeed, it’s the communities that win.

Outstanding Achievement in Energy Efficiency

Marshik Dairy, Pierz, Minnesota: In 2010, this fifth-generation 155-cow family farm implemented a new, technologically advanced and energy efficient barn that included robotic milking facilities, energy efficient lighting and ventilation, and renewable wind and solar power. Robotics automation increased cow comfort, and improved their lifestyle and that of future generations on the farm. Their success proves that these technologies can be implemented on any size dairy.

Outstanding Achievement in Renewable Energy

Vander Haak Dairy, Lynden, Washington: An unprecedented collaboration between Vander Haak Dairy, Washington State University and Andgar Corporation built Washington’s first dairy digester as a test bed for technology development and monitoring. Vander Haak explored the potential of adding food waste to the digester. Now, in addition to creating renewable energy and additional revenue streams for his farm, Vander Haak is helping food processors repurpose their waste to help grow more food.

The U.S. Dairy Sustainability Commitment and the Sustainability Awards program are supported by gold- and silver-level sponsors. This year’s gold-level sponsors include the Center for Advanced Energy Studies, DeLaval, DVO Anaerobic Digesters, Elanco Animal Health, HDR, InSinkErator, Tetra Pak Inc., the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, World Wildlife Fund and Zoetis. Silver-level sponsors include Dolphin WaterCare, Organic Solution Management, Skip Shapiro Enterprises, LLC and Syngenta.

The awards program is part of the U.S. Dairy Sustainability Commitment, an industrywide effort to measure and improve the economic, environmental and social sustainability of the dairy industry. In 2013, more than 600 dairy industry, academic, government and nongovernment professionals contributed their expertise and an estimated 21,500 hours — which totaled nearly $2.5 million in business value — to support Innovation Center-led sustainability efforts.

To learn more about the U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards, the winners and the best practices in place at their operations, visit

Virtual Farm Tours to be Presented at World Dairy Expo 2014

Virtual Farms Tours give World Dairy Expo attendees the opportunity to experience a wide variety of farms and management styles, all from the comfort of a chair. These tours are presented by the owners and managers from the operations and include a half-hour pictorial overview of their operation, including general operation information and highlights of exceptional management practices. Time for questions and discussion will follow. This year’s operations excel in the areas of water conservation, genetic advancement, adaptation of technology, productive life, robots, environmental awareness, community involvement and sustainability.

The free tours will be presented daily, Tuesday, September 30 through Saturday, October 4 in the Mendota 1 meeting room in the Exhibition Hall. The presentations will be available for viewing on World Dairy Expo’s website after the show. AgStar Financial Services, American Jersey Cattle Association, DuPont Pioneer, Kansas Department of Agriculture, Lely, Livestock Water Recycling, Inc., Quality Liquid Feeds, Inc. and Zoetis are sponsors of the 2014 Virtual Farm Tours. Full summaries and details can be viewed at

2014 Virtual Farm Tour Schedule

Tuesday, September 30, 2 p.m.
Hosted by: Milk Source – Hudson Dairy, Hudson, Mich. 
3,000 Milking/Water Conservation
Sponsored by: Livestock Water Recycling, Inc.

Wednesday, October 1, Noon
Hosted by: Rokeyroad Holsteins, Sabetha, Kansas
114 Milking/Genetic Advancement
Sponsored by: Kansas Department of Agriculture                               

Wednesday, October 1, 2 p.m.
Hosted by: Sugar Creek Farms, New London, Wis.
1,200 Milking/Adopters of Technology
Sponsored by: Zoetis

Thursday, October 2, Noon
Hosted by: Lyon Jerseys LLC, Toledo, Iowa
400 Milking/Productive Life
Sponsored by: American Jersey Cattle Association

Thursday October 2, 2 p.m.
Hosted by: Lepples’ Ridge-View Farm, Inc., Beaver Dam, Wis. 
130 Milking/Robots
Sponsored by: Lely

Friday, October 3, Noon
Hosted by: Wanner’s Pride-N-Joy Dairy, Narvon, Penn. 
772 Milking/Environmental Stewards
Sponsored by: Quality Liquid Feeds, Inc.

Friday, October 3, 2 p.m.
Hosted by: Johnsons’ Rolling Acres Partnership, Peterson, Minn.
1,050 Milking/Community Involvement
Sponsored by: AgStar Financial Services

Saturday, October 4, Noon
Hosted by: Twin Birch Dairy, LLC, Skaneateles, N.Y.
1,240 Milking/Sustainability
Sponsored by: DuPont Pioneer

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