Friday, May 9, 2014

Thursday May 8 Ag News Recap

Bruce Anderson, UNL Extension Forage Specialist

               Weeds can be a major problem in spring seeded alfalfa.  Roundup Ready alfalfa varieties help overcome these weeds but Roundup isn’t the only good herbicide option for alfalfa.

               Alfalfa seedlings grow slowly.  Many weeds grow faster than alfalfa seedlings, robbing them of moisture, nutrients, and light.  Left uncontrolled, weeds can cause thin stands, weak plants, and lower yields.

               Cropping practices that reduce weed seed production during the years prior to planting alfalfa help reduce weeds when you finally do plant alfalfa.  And timely mowing reduces competition from many weeds.  But often the only way to fully control weeds is by using herbicides.

               Do you expect grasses like foxtail or crabgrass to be a problem in your new alfalfa?  Then before seeding use a pre-plant incorporated herbicide, like trifluralin, Balan, or Eptam.  These herbicides control grasses and many small-seeded broadleaf weeds like lambsquarter and kochia.  Some larger-seeded broadleaves like velvetleaf and sunflower will not be controlled, but you can mow those weeds later for good control.

               Maybe you can get your alfalfa started without any herbicides.  Great!  But if weeds arrive later, post-emerge herbicides like Buctril and 2,4-DB control broadleaves, Poast Plus and Select control grasses, and Raptor and Pursuit control a combination of weeds.  They can rescue your alfalfa as long as weeds are sprayed before they get very tall.

               As you know, always follow label directions for application rates and conditions.

               Roundup may make it easier to control weeds in seedling alfalfa.  But use these other herbicides correctly and your new alfalfa can get a good, clean, and fast start.

Study Shows 'Shift Up, Throttle Back' Technique Saves Tractor Fuel

The expenses for tractor fuel can add up quickly during spring field work. According to a study conducted at the Iowa State University Northeast Research and Demonstration Farm near Nashua a twenty percent or more fuel savings can be achieved by the ‘shift up, throttle back’ technique.

Using an auxiliary 12-gallon tractor fuel tank, the study measured diesel fuel consumption for different tractor gear and throttle combinations. Significant fuel savings were achieved using the ‘shift up, throttle back’ technique. 

“This strategy is especially helpful when the field operation doesn’t require all of the tractor’s engine power,” said Mark Hanna, extension ag engineer with Iowa State University. “When you’re behind the wheel, if your engine speed never drops below 2200 rpm, you may find that you’re burning more fuel than necessary for some operations.”

A new publication from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach illustrates the results of the tractor fuel case study in northeast Iowa. Tractor Fuel Consumption at Nashua (PM 3063A) is available to download from the Extension Online Store,

The study summarizes tractor fuel measurements for both spring and fall field work including field cultivation, strip tilling and stalk chopping. 

“The case study at Nashua illustrates a key point about on-farm energy management,” Hanna said. “Many opportunities for energy savings are tied directly to day-to-day activities such as driving a tractor. Using the simple ‘shift up, throttle back’ technique when you’re in the driver’s seat will reduce fuel consumption.”

For more tips on energy efficiency all around the farmstead, visit

Ethanol Supporters to Obama: Heed Own Warning on Climate Change

In a letter to President Obama today, the National Corn Growers Association and others urge the Administration to rethink its proposal to weaken the bipartisan Renewable Fuel Standard - a proposal that is at odds with the National Climate Assessment the White House released earlier this week.

In addition to NCGA, the letter is signed by Abengoa Bioenergy, the Advanced Ethanol Council, the Biotechnology Industry Association, DuPont, DSM, Growth Energy, Novozymes, the Renewable Fuels Association, and POET.

The companies and organizations write that the Administration's proposal to reduce the amount of renewable fuel in gasoline and diesel would "make us more oil dependent, effectively gut the bipartisan Renewable Fuel Standard, strand billions of dollars in private investment, and send emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants sharply higher."

The letter notes that the impact of the Administration's proposal would increase carbon pollution by an estimated 28.2 million metric tons in 2014 alone - which is equivalent to building 7 new coal-fired power plants or cancelling every wind farm project currently under construction in the Unites States.

"The question comes down to whether we want to rely more on foreign oil, or more on clean, renewable American made biofuels," said the authors of the letter. "We urge you to reconsider the EPA proposal and the methodology for reducing the volumes -- and allow the commonsense, bipartisan Renewable Fuel Standard to continue working as intended to create American jobs, promote American innovation, cut our reliance on foreign oil, and reduce harmful carbon pollution."

Connecticut Legislature Defends Family Farmers

America’s pork producers today expressed gratitude for the Connecticut General Assembly’s fortitude in standing with local family farmers and defeating legislation that would have banned the use of gestation stalls, a safe and humane form of housing pregnant sows.

The vast majority of the country’s independent hog farmers use gestation stalls to house pregnant sows because they allow for individualized care and eliminate aggression from other sows. The housing method is approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians.

As Connecticut family farmers stood up for their right to farm, the misguided legislation failed on multiple fronts, including in the legislature’s Environment Committee, which removed stall ban language from a bill that would create a livestock care board. Farmers across the state rallied for their right to farm, attending hearings and submitting comments. Animal-rights groups hired out-of-state volunteers to lobby the assembly.

“Wealthy animal-rights groups appear to have a bumpy road ahead of them after so many failed legislative attempts to criminalize farmers for using humane farming practices,” said Dr. Howard Hill, a veterinarian and pork producer from Cambridge, Iowa, who is president of NPPC. “The outlook for their future state-level crusades against local family farmers, thankfully, is grim.”

The defeat in Connecticut is just one in a series of state-level failures for animal-rights groups, which have pushed gestation stall bans in states with little agriculture production, spending exorbitant amounts of their donors’ contributions.

“The legislative power of animal-rights groups is waning as state after state has stood up in favor of local farmers,” said Hill. “These groups are introducing the same legislation in the same states and being served defeat after defeat.”

Vt. Governor Signs GMO Food Label Law

(AP) -- As hundreds cheered, Gov. Peter Shumlin signed a law Thursday that puts Vermont on the path to be the first state to require labeling of genetically modified foods and promptly announced an online fundraiser to battle expected legal challenges from the food industry.

The Vermont law takes effect in mid-2016, but opponents said shortly after the bill signing that they would file a lawsuit. The Grocery Manufacturers' Association said government has no compelling interest in warning consumers about GMO foods. And another obstacle to the state law looms in Congress as Republicans work on a bill that would forbid states from passing and enforcing laws requiring GMO labeling.

Critics of GMO foods consider them environmentally suspect and a possible health threat. But many in the food industry say the food is safe, the technology boosts food production, and its use is less environmentally harmful than traditional farming methods.

In signing the legislation, Shumlin asked for support Internet-wide, announcing the launch of a new website to help the state raise funds toward a court battle with agribusiness or biotech industries.

"We are asking people all across America, and all across the great state of Vermont, to go to (the website) and make a donation, so that we can win the Vermont food fight fund fight not only for Vermont, but for America," Shumlin said.

Meanwhile, the Biotechnology Industry Organization said in a statement that scientists and regulators worldwide recognize that foods made from genetically modified crops are safe. "And these same GM crops have enabled farmers to produce more on less land with fewer pesticide applications, less water and reduced on-farm fuel use," BIO Vice President Cathleen Enright said.

In Congress, a House bill proposes voluntary labels on GMO foods. The bill would require the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to create the guidelines for the labels.

About 300 people gathered on at the Statehouse to celebrate Vermont's decision to take on big industry. After speeches by state officials and others, there was live music and Vermont-made Ben & Jerry's ice cream.

"I'm so proud of the state I live in," said 11-year-old Brigid Ambrust of West Hartford, who started a letter-writing campaign to persuade legislators to pass the law. "I feel like this is a wonderful step toward a healthier world and I'm so glad Vermont is the first to take it."

Maine and Connecticut have previously passed laws requiring labels on GMO foods, but their laws don't take effect unless neighboring states follow suit.

United States Challenges Indonesia’s Ongoing Import Restrictions on Horticultural Products, Animals, and Animal Products

United States Trade Representative Michael Froman today announced that the United States is requesting new WTO dispute settlement consultations with Indonesia to address Indonesia’s import licensing restrictions on horticultural products, animals, and animal products.  The United States previously requested consultations on prior versions of Indonesia’s trade restrictive measures.  The United States is now requesting additional consultations to address recent modifications to Indonesia’s import licensing restrictions.  Our co-complainant New Zealand, with whom we have been coordinating, is also filing a consultations request today.

“Indonesia revised its import licensing requirements in response to action by the United States at the WTO.  Unfortunately, the revised system still appears to breach WTO rules and restrict U.S. agricultural exports.  Accordingly, we will continue to press Indonesia to bring its import licensing system into compliance with WTO rules so that U.S. farmers, ranchers, and businesses are able to have the access to Indonesia’s market that we negotiated in the WTO,” said Ambassador Froman.


Indonesia has adopted non-automatic import licensing requirements that impede imports of horticultural products, animals, and animal products into Indonesia.  The affected U.S. products include fruits, vegetables, flowers, dried fruits and vegetables, juices, cattle, beef, poultry, and other animal products.  As set out in the U.S. request for consultations, these measures appear to be inconsistent with Indonesia’s WTO obligations under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 1994 (GATT 1994), the Agreement on Import Licensing Procedures, the Agreement on Agriculture, and the Agreement on Preshipment Inspection.  

The United States previously requested consultations in January 2013 and August 2013 regarding prior versions of Indonesia’s import licensing restrictions.  After the August 2013 request for consultations, Indonesia replaced and amended its import licensing measures.  These changes did not remove the apparent WTO inconsistencies and introduced new restrictions.  New Zealand also requested consultations on the prior version of Indonesia’s measures and is filing a new consultations request today.

Filing the new consultations request, in coordination with New Zealand, will facilitate the resolution of the dispute by addressing the current version of Indonesia’s import licensing regime.  If the United States and New Zealand subsequently request the establishment of a WTO dispute settlement panel, the panel would examine the most recent version of Indonesia’s measures, as described in the new consultations request. 

USTR’s Monitoring and Enforcement unit in the Office of the General Counsel developed this trade enforcement action with assistance from, and in close coordination with, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center (ITEC), which was established by President Obama to enhance U.S. trade enforcement capabilities.

U.S. Grain Exports to Mexico Rise in Value to $7.3 Billion

U.S. exports of grain, oilseed and related products to Mexico averaged 22.2 million metric tons per year from 2008-2012 with an average annual value of $7.3 billion, according to a report by the Center for North American Studies at Texas A&M University. The result is a 22 percent volume increase over the average of the early 2000s and two and a half times the value, according to the research findings.

"Higher grain and oilseed prices on the world market were certainly one major factor," said Dr. Parr Rosson, professor and head of the department of agricultural economics, Texas A&M University. "The other factor was increased demand in Mexico for grain-fed beef, which has risen, especially in major cities across that country. Increased number of cattle in feedlots resulted in not only more tonnage being fed, but higher prices as well."

Yellow corn, most commonly used for animal feed and corn starch, was found to be the largest volume export of the product categories, accounting for 35 percent in 2011, according to the study.

Other economists on the study team included Flynn Adcock, international program coordinator with the Center for North American Studies, College Station; Dr. Mark Welch, AgriLife Extension grains marketing economist, College Station; and Juan Villa and Joe Antonio Perez-Vidales, researchers with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, College Station.

Yellow corn, most commonly used for animal feed and corn starch, was found to be the largest volume export of the product categories, accounting for 35 percent in 2011.

Soybeans, crushed for meal and oil, accounted for 13 percent, while hard wheat used for human consumption and grain sorghum used for animal feeding accounted for 10 percent.

Conab: Brazil Soy 86.6 MMT

Brazilian farmers will produce a record 86.6 million metric tons of soybeans in the 2013/2014 growing season, the country's crop agency, Conab, said Thursday.

That is a slight increase from the 86.1 million metric tons forecast last month, and a jump from the 81.5 million metric tons produced in the previous season. But it is a decline from the 90.3 million metric tons forecast in January.

The worst drought in 80 years in some soy- and corn-producing areas, and heavy rains in the most important soy-growing state, Mato Grosso, has hurt the harvest of both crops.

Conab's estimate for the total corn harvest in 2013-2014 was cut to 75.2 mmt in its report for May, from the 75.5 mmt estimated in April. Brazilian farmers produced 81.5 mmt of corn in the previous growing season.

In January, Conab had forecast a total corn harvest of 79 mmt for 2013-2014.

HOGISTICS™ Gives Producers a New Edge in Finishing Management

HOGISTICS™, a new tool enabling pork producers to more accurately predict optimal market hog weight and weight distribution, is now available from Zoetis. Hogistics uses a farm’s historical production data to provide more precise information for making more accurate marketing decisions so pork producers can capture more profit.

“With this knowledge, producers can plan pig flow six to eight weeks out and more efficiently plan pig placements,” explained Chad Grouwinkel, Senior Manager, Pork Productivity Solutions, Zoetis. “With HOGISTICS, you know when your market hogs will reach their optimal market weight window with a significantly higher degree of accuracy, which helps maximize profitability.”

HOGISTICS is a technological advancement over current tools that predict market weight. Existing technology doesn’t account for many variables that impact the growth rate of market hogs over time.

HOGISTICS is an automated, data driven, predictive analytic model that more accurately predicts market hog weight, weight distribution and mortality by weeks on feed. It acts like a producer’s own production system, taking into account an operation’s unique history, events and growth patterns. Beyond enabling producers to make more-informed marketing and pig flow decisions, HOGISTICS also measures the impact of important production events, such as adding dietary fat or a vaccine to prevent disease.

“HOGISTICS allows you to test scenarios and see what changes can mean to your bottom line before you actually implement them,” Grouwinkel said. “HOGISTICS is a unique system that helps producers maximize revenue and net profit.”

Producers using HOGISTICS are not required to input any data. It’s designed for use with current organized production data systems. The weekly market weight prediction reports can be accessed online and are in an easy-to-read spreadsheet format. Zoetis also provides support to help producers fully utilize all the benefits from HOGISTICS.

Top 6 Tips Before V6

Corn seedlings are most vulnerable and susceptible to damage from planting through the V6 growth stage. Identify early season problems to make important input decisions and save yields.

Travis Belt, Mycogen Seeds customer agronomist, encourages growers to understand the development stages of young corn and to scout fields early and often. He suggests scouting for these six problem areas from planting to V6.

1. Assess emergence and germination.

Uniform, poor emergence patterns can be blamed on various problems, including a jammed planter, excess soil moisture or insect damage. Germination failure can result from a seed’s cell tissues rupturing from cold temperatures after planting. Understanding the cause of poor stands is the first step toward corrective action.

2. Identify early season stress.

“Environmental conditions or insect pressure may cause early season stress to plants,” Belt says. Black cutworms, corn nematodes and slugs all are culprits that cause early season corn damage. Watch for wilted plants, stunted growth, yellowing and slime trails that indicate the presence of these pests.

3. Check for weeds. 

“Weed pressure, especially early in the plant’s life cycle, robs stands of valuable moisture and nutrients critical for maximizing yields,” Belt says. Early germinating weeds include ragweed, velvetleaf and lambsquarters. Belt recommends applying a postemergence herbicide for hard-to-control weeds.

4. Study visual appearance.

Look for clues to overall plant health in the appearance of young corn. Purpling sometimes occurs during sunny days and cool nights. Yellowing may signal inadequate heat, sunlight or nitrogen (N). Discoloring caused by temperatures will be corrected in adequate weather. N loss should be further investigated.

5. Detect nitrogen loss.

Belt says the best way to determine if the yellowing of corn plants is due to N loss is to take in-season soil samples or leaf tissue samples. If tests show a deficiency, plan for a sidedress application.

6. Weigh alternative options.

If poor field conditions delayed planting or if plants have a poor stand, reevaluate the growing schedule and input decisions. Before considering replanting, Belt says to compare the yield potential of the existing stand with the yield potential of replanted corn.

“Properly identifying problems in early season corn helps growers make well-informed decisions on insect management, herbicide application and replanting to keep plants healthy and save yields at harvest,” Belt says.

Soybean Growers Maximize Each Acre with Trident™ Bio-Inducer

With thousands of corn-on-corn acres expected to rotate to soybeans in 2014, and with spring weather delaying planting, growers must be more proactive than ever to maximize yield and income potential. Trident™ Bio-Inducer from Precision Laboratories helps soybeans start strong and perform consistently across all environments and soil types, including acres stressed by heat, moisture or irregular rotation.

Soybeans work with symbiotic bacteria to establish root nodules and fix nitrogen. Multiple seasons without soybeans, hot and dry or cold and wet conditions, all reduce populations of this key biological partner. Trident includes a specially selected, pre-stressed bacteria stimulated by a bio-inducer. Applied directly to the seed up to 90 days prior to planting, Trident helps establish strong stands, increase early vigor and improve yield. The extra nitrogen Trident provides to the soybean plant means nitrogen in the soil is depleted at a lower rate, allowing more nitrogen to be carried into the following season.

“The cheapest nitrogen source available to soybean growers is the nitrogen that plants can obtain from the atmosphere, but environmental stresses can reduce the ability of plants to obtain the required amount of nitrogen from bacteria in the soil,” said Terry Culp, vice president of Seed and Nutrient Chemistries at Precision Laboratories. “Trident gives each plant the partner it needs to fix more nitrogen so soybeans not only thrive on stressed soils, but they also perform their best in any environment.”

Soybeans fix nitrogen most efficiently by establishing efficacious nodules early. Trident concentrates nodulation at the crown of the taproot, the most efficient location for nodules to provide nitrogen to the plant. In independent tests, acres on an annual corn and soybean rotation averaged 2.2 bushels more per acre with Trident than with only a seed applied fungicide and insecticide.

“Great soybean crops start with strong stands, rapid early growth and an efficient root system,” said Culp. “Trident takes seedling support to the next level. Whatever the weather condition, cropping system or soil type, it helps growers harvest more soybeans on every acre.”

The Andersons Reports First Quarter Results

The Andersons, Inc. announced first quarter net income attributable to the company of $22.7 million, or $0.80 per diluted share, on revenues of $1.0 billion. In the same three month period of 2013, the company reported results of $12.6 million, or $0.45 per diluted share, on $1.3 billion of revenues.

The Ethanol Group achieved record operating income of $19.8 million in the first quarter. This compares to $2.5 million earned during the same period of 2013. The higher income is primarily due to improved performance of the ethanol limited liability company investments, which benefited from strong ethanol margins. Ethanol margins during the first quarter were impacted by low U.S. ethanol stocks, accompanied by improving domestic and export demand. The Ethanol Group also benefitted from improved production rates, ongoing service fees, and increased co-product sales of corn oil, E-85, and distillers dried grains. Total revenues for the quarter were $189 million. In comparison, the group's revenues for the same period last year were $199 million.

The Rail Group had record first quarter operating income of $15.0 million on revenues of $52 million. In the same three month period of 2013, the group earned $14.6 million and revenues were $46 million. The group's revenue and income benefited from higher lease rates and increased income from car sales. The group recognized $10.8 million in pre-tax gains on sales of railcars and related leases and non-recourse transactions in the first quarter, which is approximately $1.0 million more than the prior year. The average utilization rate for the quarter was 88.4 percent in comparison to 84.6 percent for the same period last year.

The Grain Group reported first quarter operating income of $11.3 million in comparison to $8.3 million for the same period of the prior year. Included in this year's results is a pre-tax gain of $17.1 million from the partial sale of its Lansing Trade Group holdings. At the time of the sale the group reduced its ownership percentage, on a fully diluted basis, to approximately 39.2 percent, whereas previously it held approximately a 47.5 percent ownership interest in Lansing. The Grain Group's earnings from operations were a loss this quarter due in part to significantly lower space income, which was the result of less carry in the corn market and significantly reduced wheat inventory. The group's earnings from its equity investments were also significantly reduced. First quarter revenues for the Grain Group were $583 million and $836 million for 2014 and 2013, respectively. Revenues decreased primarily due to lower grain prices, which decreased almost 30 percent.

The Plant Nutrient Group had an operating loss of $1.4 million during the first quarter on revenues of $108 million. In the same three month period of 2013, the group reported an operating loss of $0.6 million and revenues of $112 million. The first quarter results were lower than anticipated due to weather related delays in fieldwork; it appears much of this volume will shift to the second quarter. Margins from year to year are down slightly due to a slow start to the season.

The Turf & Specialty Group had operating income of $1.4 million on $44 million of revenues during the first quarter. Last year, the group reported $4.0 million of operating income on $47 million of revenues for the period.

The Retail Group had an operating loss of $2.3 million during the first quarter on revenues of $28 million. In the prior year, the group's operating loss for the same three month period was $3.2 million, and revenues were $31 million.

"The superior results seen last year in both our Ethanol and Rail groups have continued into the first quarter. The Ethanol Group worked diligently to increase its production in the first quarter when other ethanol plants were forced to reduce production. This effort allowed our ethanol team to fully capitalize on the strong margins in the market. Our Rail Group continued to perform well, working to increase both lease and utilization rates over time," CEO Mike Anderson stated. "The Grain Group, however, had a difficult quarter. Anticipated returns on stored grain inventories simply did not materialize in the quarter. While the Plant Nutrient Group was impacted by adverse weather in the first quarter, it should benefit from an anticipated significant corn crop planting in the second quarter, as long as the weather cooperates," added Anderson.

The Andersons, Inc. is a diversified company rooted in agriculture. Founded in Maumee, Ohio, in 1947, the company conducts business across North America in the grain, ethanol, and plant nutrient sectors, railcar leasing, turf and cob products, and consumer retailing.


The votes to determine the national winner of the 2014 Monsanto America’s Farmers Mom of the Year contest are in, and the South has spoken. Heather Dineen, a first-generation dryland farmer, who farms just outside of Dallas, secured the most votes to add “2014 National Farm Mom of the Year” to her long list of titles.

In April, Dineen was selected by the American Agri-Women and Monsanto to be one of five regional winners in the contest. These women were recognized for their commitment to their families, farms, communities and the agriculture industry, and will each receive a $5,000 cash award.

From this amazing pool of regional winners, America then had the opportunity to vote to determine who would be given the additional title of national “farm mom of the year.” Dineen will receive an additional $5,000 for the honor.

About Heather

Dineen was nominated by her husband, John Paul, who combined his kids’ nominations into one succinct essay. Although she may be relatively new to farming, it was clear throughout her nomination that agriculture has become her passion.

“There have been lots of struggles establishing and maintaining our farm, but Heather always helps us keep going whether she's earning grocery money with a paper route, sewing old clothes into new ones or just helping me fix equipment,” says John Paul. “We love farming, and no matter how hard things get, she always makes time to visit schools and share our ag story.”

Dineen manages the local Livestock 4-H club, is chairman of the commercial heifer committee, and takes time to educate people about farming. She hosts farm tours, takes students to the state capital, and designs a t-shirt line called, “Heart on My Sleeve,” which features trendy designs and ag facts/sayings that are intended to inspire conversations about where food comes from. After Dineen’s young son was killed in a farming accident, she also started a "Farm Safety 4Kids” chapter, teaching safety on the farm as well as ways drivers can keep farmers safe on the roads.

“We are proud to recognize Heather and the rest of our amazing 2014 regional farm mom winners for their significant efforts and dedication to their families, communities and the industry,” says Kris Zilliox of American Agri-Women. “As you can see, they truly represent what being a farm mom is all about, and we’re looking forward to hearing more from them throughout the year.”

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