Friday, May 23, 2014

Thursday May 22 Ag News

Johanns Supports Military, Veterans and Ag Approps Bills; Opposes Overall Spending Increases

U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today opposed a measure to increase federal spending allocations for appropriations bills for Fiscal Year 2015. He voted in favor of two appropriations bills that reduce spending: the Military Construction, and Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies bill; as well as the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies bill.

“Our mammoth debt and alarming annual deficits continue to be a drain on our economy,” Johanns said. “For this reason, I opposed increased spending levels, but will continue to support legislation that holds the line or reduces spending, as well as bills that accomplish the important task of supporting our troops.”  Highlights of the bills include:

Agriculture Appropriations Bill

·         Includes Johanns’ language to elevate and streamline trade issues at USDA; and
·         Continues to provide support for ag research and education through both land-grant institutions and extension services such as 4-H. 

Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill

·         Includes Johanns’ amendments that direct the Department of Veterans Affairs to look into ways to improve the VA construction process by:
          o   Further exploring the use of alternate solutions for funding VA construction projects; and
          o   Adding an extra layer of transparency to the VA by requiring an annual report on the process used to prioritize VA construction projects.
·         Allocates funds for the fourth stage of funding for construction of the new United States Strategic Command (STRATCOM) facility at Offutt Air Force Base near Bellevue;
·         Prohibits performance bonuses for senior officials at the VA until the Inspector General completes the audit on the unfolding “secret waitlist” controversy and submits its findings to Congress; and
·         Allocates additional resources to the office of the Inspector General to complete its VA audits.

Reinke Announced as Presenting Sponsor of the Nebraska Agriculture Experience

An impressive 137-foot pivot irrigation span will be the centerpiece of the Nebraska Agriculture Experience exhibit at the Nebraska State Fair, thanks to a presenting sponsorship from Reinke Manufacturing Company. 

Officials at the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska—Lincoln have announced that Reinke Manufacturing Company of Deshler, Nebraska, will be the presenting sponsor of the irrigation portion of the 25,000-square-foot agricultural exhibit in the new Nebraska Building on the grounds of the Nebraska State Fair. In addition to generous underwriting support for the Nebraska Agriculture Experience, Reinke has also donated a full-scale pivot irrigation unit along with the engineering and expertise to help create a unique interactive "variable rate irrigation" experience for visitors.

Variable rate irrigation is a new technology that is allowing farmers to improve yield by managing water more efficiently. Using data gathered through satellites and other means, farmers are able to control the water flow from each sprinkler head along the pivot span as it moves around the field—improving water efficiency and managing the amount of water applied to the crop.

Visitors to the Nebraska Agriculture Experience will be able to virtually program the operation of the Reinke pivot by selecting from a range of data including soil moisture maps, topography, soil type and yield maps. A series of fiber optic lights on each sprinkler along the pivot span will respond according to the program the visitor has selected, illustrating how the various sprinklers along the span are turned on and off to match the actual water requirements of the crop.

“We are extremely excited to be a part of this educational exhibit,” said Chris Roth, president of Reinke. “The Nebraska Agriculture Experience will be an excellent educational tool in communicating the importance of mechanized irrigation in water conservation, improved food production and sustaining agricultural growth."

Dr. Stephen Bateman, director of electrical engineering for Reinke, added, "The Reinke mechanized irrigation exhibit at the Nebraska Agriculture Experience will be designed to be a hands-on, interactive, educational experience for visitors. Imparting the knowledge of how these systems work, the technology that is involved and how these systems benefit growers world-wide, is our goal."

"We are very grateful to Reinke for their leadership in providing a presenting sponsorship at the Nebraska Agriculture Experience," said Dr. Charles Hibberd, dean of extension at the University of Nebraska—Lincoln. "From the very beginning of this project, we knew we wanted a pivot irrigation span to be one of the key visual and educational components—and Reinke has stepped up big time to make it happen. This will be a huge 'wow' factor as visitors will have the opportunity to get up close to incredible technology they typically only see from the highway."

The Nebraska Agriculture Experience is a 25,000 square foot interactive experience focused on where Nebraska agriculture is today and where it's headed. The exhibit will provide a comprehensive look at agriculture and food production in the state and how Nebraska is positioned for global leadership in feeding the world.

While the Nebraska Agriculture Experience will debut in the new Nebraska Building at the 2014 Nebraska State Fair, it will be available throughout the year by appointment for school groups, trade teams, and other visitors by appointment. A full-time UNL extension educator will be on-site year-round to manage the exhibit and work with visiting groups.

The Nebraska Agriculture Experience is a collaborative effort between the Nebraska State Fair, which is providing the building; the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, which is responsible for coordinating the efforts of the state's commodity groups; and the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources (IANR) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), which is developing and managing the 25,000 square foot educational experience area.

Fischer Supports WRRDA, Applauds Provisions to Protect NE Drinking Water & Provide Regulatory Relief

U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), member of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, voted today in support of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA), which passed the House and Senate with broad bipartisan support and now awaits the president’s signature. The legislation establishes priorities for the Army Corps of Engineers to manage the backlog of Corps projects, maintain navigable channels, reduce flood and storm damage, and restore aquatic ecosystems. In addition to funding critical infrastructure priorities, the legislation also eliminates $18 billion in wasteful spending.

Importantly, the bill contains provisions to advance stalled flood control projects, including authorization of the Western Sarpy-Clear Creek flood control project. The final conference report mirrors language offered by Senator Fischer to provide needed regulatory relief for Nebraska’s agriculture community.

“I am proud to support this important bill, which will go a long way in moving important projects forward to protect valuable water resources and metropolitan drinking supplies in Nebraska,” said Fischer. “I worked closely on this legislation with my colleagues on the EPW Committee, and I’m pleased the final product passed by Congress includes measures I fought for to prioritize the Western Sarpy-Clear Creek flood control project and prevent unnecessary regulatory overreach impacting Nebraska farmers and ranchers. This bipartisan bill is an example of Congress coming together to set responsible funding priorities by cutting wasteful government spending – exactly what Nebraskans sent me to Washington to do.”

Authorization of Western Sarpy-Clear Creek Project:

WRRDA authorizes necessary funding for the Western Sarpy-Clear Creek flood control project to proceed. Senator Fischer worked closely with three metropolitan area Natural Resource Districts to address needed changes to the law for this flood control project located along the banks of the Platte and Elkhorn Rivers in eastern Nebraska. The area has a significant, long-term flooding problem and levee improvements are needed to provide flood protection to portions of I-80 and Highway 6, hundreds of homes, Nebraska Army National Guard buildings, and drinking water supply infrastructure that supplies drinking water to 50 percent of Nebraska’s population –including the Lincoln and Omaha area.

Fischer Language Providing Relief from EPA’s Costly SPCC Rule:

A bipartisan amendment offered by Senator Fischer to address the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) misguided Oil Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) rule served as the basis for revised text in the final legislation. EPA’s regulation would affect any facility with a fuel storage capacity of more than 1,320 gallons, which includes a majority of Nebraska farms. The Fischer text provides an immediate 6,000-gallon exemption, with a study to review and determine the most appropriate level of exemption for a farm from all requirements of the rule. In addition, the legislation increases the oil storage threshold to determine whether a professional engineer must certify a facility’s SPCC plan from 10,000 gallons to 20,000 gallons.  

Note: WRRDA is the first water resources bill passed by Congress since 2007.

Johanns Applauds Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation to Improve Waterways Infrastructure

U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns (R- Neb.) today applauded the Senate’s passage of a bipartisan, bicameral waterways infrastructure bill, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act. The legislation will now go to the President’s desk for signature.

“Our waterways play an important role in transporting goods throughout the United States and around the world,” Johanns said. “This bill makes improvements to that system while improving Congressional oversight and helping our economy grow. Bipartisan, bicameral bills can be hard to come by in Washington these days, particularly during an election year. I’m pleased we took this opportunity to work together on meaningful legislation that makes real improvements to our infrastructure.”

Highlights of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act:

·         Includes important reform to stop EPA from trying to regulate farms like gas stations by requiring a spill containment plan for every fuel container larger than an oil drum;
·         Streamlines Army Corps of Engineers processes and reinforces Congress’ oversight; and
·         For the first time ever, is free of earmarks.

Statement by Steve Nelson, President - Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation, on Congressional Action on Water Resources Act and Oil Spill Control Rule

“We are very appreciative of the Senate’s action today and the House’s action earlier this week in passing the conference report of H.R. 3080, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA). The passage of WRRDA will keep American agriculture competitive domestically and abroad by providing much needed funding for construction and the dredging and repairs to our ports, locks and dams for the efficient transport of agricultural commodities to meet needs both domestically and abroad.”

“While addressing the transport of agriculture commodities is critical, the bill also takes significant steps to address a regulation that Nebraska Farm Bureau has battled for years. EPA’s Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) rule has been a thorn in the side of agriculture since EPA applied this rule to family farms and ranches in 2009. As people in farm country know, this rule was intended for the regulation of large scale oil storage facilities. While Farm Bureau and others have repeatedly encouraged EPA to revise the rule to be more workable for farmers and ranchers, we are very pleased by Congress’ action to force improvements.”

“Under the legislation advanced today, farm and ranch families will benefit from changes in the way oil and fuel containers are counted for purposes of determining their obligations under SPCC. Previous to this legislation, containers as small as 50 gallons were required to be counted towards a farmer’s aggregate fuel or oil storage, with a capacity of 1,320 gallons of aggregate storage triggering SPCC requirements. Thanks to this legislation, only containers of more than 1,000 gallons will be counted toward aggregate storage. Furthermore, the legislation raises the threshold triggering SPCC rule compliance to more than 6,000 gallons of aggregate fuel storage on an interim basis, until completion of a USDA and EPA study identifying an appropriate aggregate threshold. The legislation does stipulate the aggregate threshold for triggering SPCC requirements cannot be less than 2,500 gallons or more than 6,000 gallons. The study and recommendation is to be released in the next 18 months.”

“Due to the change in the size of containers counted toward the SPCC aggregate fuel storage threshold, many farmers and ranchers will no longer be affected by this costly and burdensome regulation. The changes are clearly a step in the right direction to helping bring common sense to SPCC regulation where agriculture has no significant history of oil or fuel spills warranting the excessive regulation sought by EPA.”

“It is our hope the President will follow suit in approving this measure to provide this important regulatory relief to Nebraska farm and ranch families.”

Congress Eases the Burden of the EPA’s SPCC Rule

Today, Congress passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act, which will become law with the President’s signature. Importantly for members of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, this bill contains a provision that will ease the burden of the EPA’s Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure rule.

The current EPA SPCC rule for farms requires compliance if an operation has 1,320 gallons, or more, of aboveground fuel storage and allows self-certification up to 10,000 gallons. This not only includes fuel storage but requires aboveground feed storage to be included in the total if it meets the broad definition of “oil” which includes the base of many liquid cattle feeds.

“The SPCC rule is yet another example of the EPA’s regulatory scheme threatening the economic viability of rural America and family farms and ranches,” said Bob McCan, NCBA president and Victoria, Texas, cattleman. “Cattlemen and women have been waiting too long for a permanent fix to the SPCC rule. Thanks to the efforts of Senators Inhofe and Pryor and Representative Crawford, this provision will ease the burden of this rule across the nation for many farmers and ranchers.”

Under the provision in the WRRDA legislation, the aggregate aboveground fuel exemption limit is raised to 6,000 gallons for operations with no history of spills and no single tank with a capacity of 10,000 gallons or more from having to develop a plan. The provision will require a self-certified plan for operations that have aggregate aboveground fuel storage above 6,000 and below 20,000 gallons with no history of spills and no single tank capacity of 10,000 gallons or more. Moreover, the legislation exempts fuel tanks with a capacity of 1,000 gallons or less and all tanks that hold animal feed ingredients from the aggregate calculations.

Those operations that do not meet these exemptions will require a Spill Containment Plan, certified by a professional engineer.

“This commonsense legislation will protect the majority of the nation’s cattle producers from the burden and cost of developing a spill containment plan,” said McCan. “Our operations are good stewards of their land and waters, and this provision recognizes our commitment to keeping our family and animals safe. Because we know the value in clean water, our producers have an excellent record in preventing fuel spills. This is a major regulatory victory for the majority of our members who live miles from town and store fuel or feed on their property.”

The legislation also calls for a study to be conducted by the EPA and the USDA within one year of the bill becoming law to determine whether the 6,000 gallon aggregate aboveground storage exemption level poses a significant risk of a discharge to waters of the U.S. by agricultural operations. Based on the results of that study, the exemption level may be lowered from 6,000 gallons, but cannot be lowered below 2,500 gallons.

“We expect the President to sign WRRDA shortly and look forward to this legislation becoming law,” said McCan.

ASA Hails Senate Passage of Waterways Bill Conference Report

The American Soybean Association welcomed today’s passage by the Senate of the conference report of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA). The report, which passed the House overwhelmingly earlier in the week, contains several of ASA’s key policy priorities.

“The Senate’s passage of the WRRDA conference report represents another important step toward improving and creating a more workable framework for increased investment in our waterways infrastructure. Soybean growers need a reliable and efficient waterways system to get our product to market and meet a growing global demand,” said ASA President and Iowa farmer Ray Gaesser. “Our waterways system helps take our soybeans from major growing regions to domestic processors and major exporting terminals, then on to valuable trading partners around the world, and is a big part of why soybeans lead the nation in agricultural exports. For too long we have ignored our infrastructure and this WRRDA is a strong step in the right direction.”

Included in the conference report are ASA-supported provisions that will free up significant funding within the Inland Waterways Trust Fund for additional waterways infrastructure projects; increase the level of Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund dollars that will be spent on port maintenance and dredging; streamline the Army Corps of Engineers’ project review process; increase Corps flexibility to maintain navigation during low water events; and promote the use of alternative financing and public-private partnerships to fund waterways infrastructure.

“Soybean farmers appreciate the work of Chairwoman Boxer and Ranking Member Vitter in helping to craft and pass legislation that will give our waterways infrastructure network the attention it needs,” added Gaesser. “We will continue to work with Congress and the Administration to implement the changes and improvements made in the WRRDA and seek the additional funding that will be needed to upgrade our infrastructure.”

NCGA Applauds Senate Passage of WRRDA, Urges Presidential Action

The National Corn Growers Association praised the U.S. Senate for its vote today passing the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 with a 91-to-7 vote. Now, NCGA urges the President to sign this final reauthorization bill into law and thus improve the reliability and efficiency of the U.S. inland waterways system.

“Today, our representatives in the Senate took a concrete step toward repairing and improving our inland waterways through a vote that again showed overwhelming bipartisan approval for WRRDA,” said NCGA President Martin Barbre. “We must improve our infrastructure, and we must do it now. Our locks and dams transport our cargoes today but were built in the 1920s and 1930s to accommodate far smaller loads and far less river traffic. For farmers in particular, it is crucial as more than 60 percent of the nation’s grain exports are transported by barge. The need is urgent; U.S. farmers and businesses rely upon this transportation channel to create economic opportunities at home and supply markets abroad.”

NCGA specifically thanks the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, notably Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Ranking Member David Vitter (R-Okla.), for bringing this negotiated bill to the floor of the Senate and for working to ensure its passage.

NCGA also hopes Congress will soon address a proposed increase to the diesel fuel user fee which would provide additional revenue to the Inland Waterways Trust Fund. By increasing this tax between six and nine cents per gallon of fuel, the industries using the waterways would be able to provide needed funds for the improvement and maintenance of the infrastructure on which they rely.


The National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) applauds Congress for their votes this week to pass the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 with an overwhelming 412-4 vote in the House and 91-7 vote in the Senate. NAWG now looks forward to President Obama signing the bill in law.

“NAWG is pleased with the passage of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014,” said NAWG President Paul Penner, a wheat farmer from Hillsboro, Kan., “The near unanimous support the bill received in both the House and Senate signals how vital our inland waterways system is; both to America’s wheat farmers, who export nearly half the wheat that is grown domestically, and to our nation’s economy as a whole.”

WRRDA seeks to increase funding for waterway development projects, such as deepening waterways and lock and dam repairs and upgrades. The bill is especially important to America’s wheat farmers, who rely on many inland waterways, such as the Columbia River system in the Pacific Northwest, to ship their wheat to port before being exported abroad.

Appropriations Bills Released

On Tuesday, the House and Senate Appropriations Committee Subcommittees on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies considered bills to fund the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The proposed legislation provided $20.9 billion in discretionary funding to USDA, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other agencies, which is equal to the FY 2014 enacted level. Including both discretionary and mandatory funding for various nutrition programs, the overall bill totals $142.5 billion, which is $1.5 billion below the President’s request and $3 billion below the FY 2014 enacted level. Discretionary funding alone in the bill is $20.9 billion, the same as the FY 2014 enacted level.

The House bill provides $2.65 billion for agriculture research programs, including $1.12 billion for the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and $1.274 billion for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, approximately equal to the FY 2014 enacted funding level.

The House bill provides $869 million for conservation programs – $43 million above the FY 2014 enacted level. For the text of the subcommittee draft bill, visit

The Senate bill provides total funding of $20.575 billion for Agriculture, Rural Development, FDA, and Related Agencies for FY 2015, including $100 million in disaster relief spending. Discretionary funding is $90 million below the FY 2014 enacted level but $228 million above the budget request. The bill provides $1.139 billion for ARS, which is $17 million above FY 2014 and $1.292 billion for NIFA, which is $15 million above FY 2014. This amount includes $325 million for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, $244 million for Hatch Act and $300 million for Smith-Lever funding. The bill also provides $11.7 million for the Emergency Conservation Program. These funds are provided out of the subcommittee allocation and will help producers rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters.

Both the House and Senate bill fully funded the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development Program (FMD) at $200 million and $34.5 million, respectively. On food aid, both bills continue Food for Peace funding at the same level as last year ($1.466 billion), which is $66 million above the Administration's request.

Northwest Iowa Workshops Feature New Feedlot Software

Cattle producers and agribusiness staff are invited to workshops featuring the newly updated version of the Feedlot Monitoring Program software. The workshops will be Tuesday, June 10, at the Sioux County Extension and Outreach office in Orange City. ISU Extension and Outreach beef program specialist Beth Doran said the workshops will help both experienced users as well as those who've never used it to learn more about the software.

“The new program allows individual animal monitoring and projections, which are major changes from older FMP software,” she said. "Other new features include the tracking of drug inventories and treatment protocols, and the incorporation of environmental records to help an operation meet current reporting requirements."

Instructors are Garland Dahlke, computer specialist for the Iowa Beef Center, and Dan Loy, director of the Iowa Beef Center. The morning session, which runs from 9 a.m. to noon, is for those with limited to no experience with the FMP. The afternoon session, from 1 to 4 p.m., is designed for people who have moderate to extensive experience with a previous version of the FMP.

"All participants will use an Iowa State computer, but may bring their own computer if they wish to purchase and install the new version and transfer their existing data files into the new version," Doran said. "However, participants in either workshop are not required to buy the software in order to attend."

Cost to attend either session is $10 per person. Because there is a limit of 15 operations per session, reservations will be taken in the order received. Those who want to attend should preregister as soon as possible. To register, contact the Sioux County Extension Office at 712-737-4230 or email Doran at

New Genetic Selection Videos on Iowa Beef Center Website

No matter how complex the gamut of information on breeding decisions available to producers, a simple and timely review of the basics often can help provide better understanding of the tools and processes. That’s why the Iowa Beef Center has posted four new videos on a new webpage devoted to genetic selection topics, including expected progeny differences.

“Pre- and post- meeting evaluations on EPDs at recent bull selection clinics showed a significant portion of the audience still needed a refresher,” said Patrick Wall, Iowa State University Extension beef program specialist. “These videos should help clear up some of the confusion producers face before opening up that next sale catalog or attending that upcoming meeting on genomic-enhanced selection.”

The four new videos focus on specifically identified EPD basic information segments: calving ease, growth traits, maternal traits, and carcass traits, making it easy for viewers to find the subject they want, Wall said.

“People don’t need to watch segments on maternal EPDs if they are only interested in carcass traits,” he said. “Viewers receive narration of individual EPDs, interpretations of the definitions and units of measure, and explanations of some methods on how to avoid over-selection. Additional environmental scenarios are covered to help producers escape potential pitfalls in profitability.”

This new page is on the IBC website at Each video entry is linked directly to that specific video on the IBC YouTube channel.  Additional resources and links will be added as they’re available.

Commercial Red Meat Production Down 3 Percent From Last Year

Commercial red meat production for the United States totaled 3.98 billion pounds in April, down 3 percent from the 4.09 billion pounds produced in April 2013.

Beef production, at 2.04 billion pounds, was 4 percent below the previous year. Cattle slaughter totaled 2.59 million head, down 5 percent from April 2013. The average live weight was up 10 pounds from the previous year, at 1,306 pounds.

Veal production totaled 8.4 million pounds, 8 percent below April a year ago. Calf slaughter totaled 48,700 head, down 17 percent from April 2013. The average live weight was up 28 pounds from last year, at 294 pounds.

Pork production totaled 1.91 billion pounds, down 2 percent from the previous year. Hog slaughter totaled 8.85 million head, down 5 percent from April 2013. The average live weight was up 10 pounds from the previous year, at 287 pounds.

Lamb and mutton production, at 15.2 million pounds, was up 13 percent from April 2013. Sheep slaughter totaled 221,000 head, 15 percent above last year. The average live weight was 137 pounds, down 3 pounds from April a year ago.

January to April 2014 commercial red meat production was 15.7 billion pounds, down 3 percent from 2013. Accumulated beef production was down 5 percent from last year, veal was down 8 percent, pork was down slightly from last year, and lamb and mutton production was up 2 percent.

By State  (million pounds, % of April 2013)

Nebraska ..:      584.6             98      
Iowa .........:      556.6             99      
Kansas .....:      425.4             96      

USDA Cold Storage Highlights

Total red meat supplies in freezers were up slightly from the previous month but down 18 percent from last year. Total pounds of beef in freezers were down 1 percent from the previous month and down 21 percent from last year. Frozen pork supplies were up 1 percent from the previous month but down 17 percent from last year. Stocks of pork bellies were up 4 percent from last month and up 47 percent from last year.

Total frozen poultry supplies on April 30, 2014 were up 3 percent from the previous month but down 16 percent from a year ago. Total stocks of chicken were down 2 percent from the previous month and down 15 percent from last year. Total pounds of turkey in freezers were up 12 percent from last month but down 18 percent from April 30, 2013.

Total natural cheese stocks in refrigerated warehouses on April 30, 2014 were up 2 percent from the previous month but down 8 percent from April 30, 2013.  Butter stocks were down 3 percent from last month and down 44 percent from a year ago.

Total frozen fruit stocks were down 7 percent from last month and down slightly from a year ago.  Total frozen vegetable stocks were down 10 percent from last month and down 6 percent from a year ago.

April Hired Workers Down 7 Percent, Wage Rates Increase 1 Percent From Previous Year

There were 688,000 workers hired directly by farm operators on the Nation's farms and ranches during the week of April 6-12, 2014, down 7 percent from the April 2013 reference week. Workers hired directly by farm operators numbered 540,000 during the week of January 12-18, 2014, down 9 percent from the January 2013 reference week.

Farm operators paid their hired workers an average wage of $12.00 per hour during the April 2014 reference week, up 1 percent from the April 2013 reference week. Field workers received an average of $11.01 per hour, an increase of 1 percent. Livestock workers earned $11.35 per hour, down 10 cents. The field and livestock worker combined wage rate, at $11.11 per hour, was up 4 cents from the 2013 reference week. Hired laborers worked an average of 40.2 hours during the April 2014 reference week, compared with 40.5 hours worked during the April 2013 reference week.

Farm operators paid their hired workers an average wage of $12.23 per hour during the January 2014 reference week, up 2 percent from the January 2013 reference week. Field workers received an average of $11.10 per hour, up 2 percent, while livestock workers earned $11.36 per hour compared with $11.39 a year earlier. The field and livestock worker combined wage rate, at $11.20 per hour, was up 13 cents from the January 2013 reference week. Hired laborers worked an average of 38.9 hours during the January 2014 reference week, compared with 38.7 hours worked during the January 2013 reference week.

Ebbs and Flows in South Korean Pork Market

Jihae Yang, Director, U.S. Meat Export Federation-South Korea

Volatile is one way to describe the pork market in South Korea. For the past several years, U.S. pork exports to this country have experienced peaks and valleys driven, to a great extent, by changing market conditions within Korea.

The first quarter of 2014 has been promising, with U.S. pork sales to Korea climbing 15 percent in volume and 21 percent in value to 40,143 metric tons (88.5 million pounds) valued at $116.2 million. March was a strong month, with growth of 73 percent in volume and nearly 83 percent in value.

The United States share of the pork export market to Korea also has grown, from 34.4 percent last year at this time to 36.7 percent this year. That is a positive development that is being supported by new USMEF initiatives in Korea, but conditions within the country will make it challenging for all imported pork products in the months ahead.

The mid-April ferry disaster off the southern coast of Korea, which claimed 276 lives and left several dozen people still unaccounted for, has led to a national state of mourning. That single event has created a domino-like series of effects that continues to affect the pork industry as well as the overall economy.

In the aftermath of the accident, the Korean Government canceled national festivals while the country mourns. In parallel developments, local festivals have been canceled, all school field trips have been halted by the Ministry of Education and many company outings and events have been canceled.

The increase in pork purchases in Korea in the weeks leading up to the spring event season are largely sitting in cold storage, which will put a damper on near-term purchases. The overall downturn in economic activity has been attributed to “vicarious trauma,” and the government is looking at steps to invigorate consumption, particularly to support the small and medium-size businesses that are being affected. On the positive side, a cluster of three holidays in the first week of May has helped boost retail and food service purchases.

The ferry disaster is not the first event to impact the Korean pork market this year. There is a lingering PED virus issue – which has affected the Korean industry for a number of years – that has resulted in an estimated 5.1 percent of piglets lost during the first quarter of 2014. By all indicators, the virus peaked in February and has declined sharply since then but, as in other countries with PEDV, there is always a risk of reoccurrence.

According to the Korea Rural Economic Institute (KREI), domestic pork production is down 4 percent from 2013 levels, a decline considered “not significant.” The Korean Government has allocated funds to support the cost of PEDV vaccines for local farmers, but many have complained that the vaccine has not been effective.

Higher pork prices have encouraged pork producers to increase the swine herd once again – as they did in the aftermath of the 2010-2011 FMD outbreak – which likely will contribute to another domestic oversupply situation. We will continue to watch that closely.

In the meantime, there are niches in the Korean pork market that we continue to aggressively pursue for U.S. pork exports. Those include:

    Chilled pork – the U.S. has an advantage over the European Union, which cannot provide chilled product because of transportation challenges. Chile has not been a substantial player in this segment, and Canada has lost half of its volume year-over year, in great part because it does not have a free trade agreement with South Korea. While dealing in smaller numbers – about one-quarter the size of U.S. chilled pork exports – Mexico has seen its chilled sales jump 63 percent in the past year.

USMEF is working closely with Korean retailers, such as Home Plus, to expand chilled pork sales to year-around. Branded pork sales remain a target on the horizon. Korea follows behind the Japanese retail market in this regard, but it will be a focus in the future.

    Collar butt steak – this thick-cut pork steak is gaining popularity in Western-style and family-style restaurants. When paired with vegetables and a starch, and served in a large pan, it is a very satisfying and affordable meal.

Processors Agree: Higher Quality Increases Soybean Value

For a customer of U.S. soy, it’s what’s inside the bean that counts. The more protein and oil farmers can pack into their soybeans, the greater the demand for them will be. And higher demand often leads to a better price through basis.

Iowa farmer Laura Foell recently heard about the importance of protein and oil content from a group of soybean processors from Taiwan.

“We have to select for more than yield to be competitive in the global marketplace,” says Foell, who serves as United Soybean Board Meal Action Team chair. “The Taiwan crushers I met were pleased with the higher protein content of U.S. soybeans this year. Better composition means better feed for their animals, and that has an impact on our soybean prices and profitability, whether we recognize it or not.”

If you’re still not sure that growing soybeans with higher levels of protein and oil can improve demand and increase the price you receive, take it from a couple representatives of the soy-processing industry.

• Sam Huenefeldt, marketing manager at ADM’s plant in Quincy, Illinois
“If we can provide the highest-quality soybean meal in the world, we can command a higher value for our meal. This will translate to higher demand for soybeans here at our plant and therefore higher values for the farmers that produce soybeans in this area.”

• Tom Kersting, CEO of South Dakota Soybean Processors in Volga, South Dakota
“Whether farmers realize it or not, quality impacts basis. While never completely spelled out for soybean farmers, processors and feed companies buy soybeans based on their anticipated crush value. Processors target areas with better quality soybeans and will pay more for those soybeans. That affects bottom lines throughout the country.”

• John Wright, vice president of strategic planning and development at Owensboro Grain in Kentucky
“High protein and oil levels keep demand for soybeans strong because that’s what my customers want. If processors can’t sell their product, they discount it. If the soybean meal falls below the quality standards customers are looking for, the market discounts the lower-protein soybean meal. When they do that, they can’t offer farmers as much at the elevator.”

Farmers can put themselves in position to get more value from their soybeans by selecting high-quality seed. Use the soy checkoff’s Soybean Quality Toolbox to see test plot data in your area showing which varieties produce greater protein and oil content without sacrificing yield.

Russia 2014 Grain Harvest Revised Up

Russia's agriculture ministry said Thursday it expects this year's grain harvest to total 100 million metric tons, up from its previous estimate of 95 million-98 million tons, as weather conditions this year have been better than last year.

The ministry said the new estimate doesn't include the harvest in the Crimea Peninsula, which recently joined Russia, whereas the previous estimate included 2 million tons of grain expected to be harvested in Crimea this year. Including Crimea, Russia's total grain harvest this year is estimated to be 102 million tons.

In 2013, Russia harvested 89.3 million metric tons of grain in clean weight, 30% more than in 2012, when 68.7 million tons was harvested because crops were damaged by drought.

EDF, Smithfield Foods Launch Initiative with Feed Grain Farmers to Reduce Fertilizer Runoff, Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) today announced a collaboration with Smithfield Foods and its livestock production subsidiary, Murphy-Brown LLC, that will help farmers optimize fertilizer application to grain grown for animal feed. Efficiently applying fertilizer reduces water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, while maintaining crop yields and lowering farm input costs.

Fertilizer is needed to grow crops, but excess nitrogen fertilizer not absorbed by crops can run off the land and pollute lakes, streams and drinking water. Excess fertilizer also emits significant amounts of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas (GHG) 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Agriculture is the fifth largest source of GHG emissions in the United States.

“Commercial fertilizer is an often overlooked and significant opportunity to combat climate change and improve water quality," said David Festa, EDF Vice President, Ecosystems. “Our initiative with Smithfield is an important part of a comprehensive effort underway at EDF to ensure agricultural production meets human needs for food and contributes to the resilience of our environment. By working with farmers and engaging all points along the food supply chain, we can significantly reduce fertilizer runoff, safeguard our environment and ensure farm productivity.”

Smithfield is a major supplier of pork products sold to Walmart, which is asking suppliers who use commodity grains like corn, wheat and soy in their products to develop plans that reduce fertilizer loss on farms. Out of 15 fertilizer optimization plans submitted to Walmart by its major suppliers, Smithfield’s plan, which features its work with EDF, was selected as “best in class” by the company.

“Smithfield and Murphy-Brown believe that this project will demonstrate how innovative fertilizer application practices will benefit farmers while providing additional environmental protection. Through this collaborative effort with EDF, we will be able to reach out to the local grain farmers with whom we do business and leverage the economic and environmental benefits for all involved,” said Dennis H. Treacy, Executive Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer.

The new program will help farmers who sell grain to Murphy-Brown learn to use new tools and practices that more precisely match fertilizer application with their crops' needs and improve soil health. The company, which raises hogs in North Carolina, says the goal is to have 75 percent of its Southeast grain-sourcing acres participate in a fertilizer optimization and soil health program by 2018. The program will roll out in North Carolina, Virginia and South Carolina this year. It will expand to grain Smithfield buys from Midwest farmers in 2015.

EDF estimates that the collaboration with Smithfield will reduce excess nitrogen fertilizer on over 450,000 acres and reduce GHG emissions from agriculture by over 60,000 tons. This emissions reduction is equivalent to taking approximately 13,000 cars off the road.

The collaboration with Smithfield and Murphy-Brown is the latest initiative undertaken by EDF to reduce fertilizer runoff and cut GHG emissions. EDF's Sustainable Sourcing Initiative works with farmer networks to identify and reduce environmental impacts of agriculture in the supply chain. The program has helped reduce fertilizer loss by an average of 20 percent on a half million acres, while maintaining or increasing crop yields. Meeting the challenge of feeding a growing population will require increased crop yields while reducing the environmental impacts of crop production.

Diversified Management Practices Aid Weed Control

The best advice weed scientists can give to growers who are not currently challenged with weed resistance is this: don’t rely on a single herbicide weed-control program.

Mark Jeschke, agronomy research manager at DuPont Pioneer, says following this advice is important: “The easiest way to work another mode of action into weed-control management is often to apply a preemergence product.” As soybean planting wraps up in much of the Midwest along with the opportunity to apply a preemergent herbicide, growers can still take proactive steps to manage weed resistance.

Targeting weed escapes should be a top priority when looking for herbicide-resistant weeds and Jeschke says scouting is key to staying on top of resistant weed populations. “Field edges and entrances are often where resistant weed populations gain a foothold,” he says.

Pioneer agronomists recommend growers not only scout their fields, but also adopt a diversified approach toward weed management focused on preventing weed seed production and reducing the number of weed seed in the soil. Integrated management practices can help minimize risk while providing a more consistent, effective weed control program. In addition to preemergence herbicides, weed control can be heightened with crop rotation, cover crops, tillage practices and cleaning tillage and harvest equipment.

"Weed seeds carried by machinery can spread from field to field,” Jeschke says.“An additional recommended practice is to clean tillage and harvest equipment when moving between fields.”

Midwest corn growers need to be aware of a handful of herbicide-resistant weed species on scientists’ radar. Palmer amaranth, typically a southern weed, seems to be naturally extending its range northward. Closely related to waterhemp, it has similar biology but a more rapid growth rate.

“Weed management should be a proactive effort for growers,” Jeschke says. “If you aren’t on top of it right away, you can wind up with a very challenging weed control problem."

Other herbicide-resistant weeds—such as marestail or horseweed—are easily disseminated by the wind and spread rapidly. Meanwhile, giant ragweed (with larger seeds, yet fewer seeds per plant) is a competitive species but does not spread as rapidly as pigweeds and marestail. Proactive control of giant ragweed is likely to have a positive impact on herbicide-resistant infestations.

“Resistant weed populations explode quickly,” Jeschke says. “The discovery of a few resistant weeds one year can lead to real challenges with your herbicide program in just a few years.  Resistant weed populations can grow extremely fast.”

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